Next year will see system builders and integrators from all over Europe converging on Dublin for the latest biannual System Builder Summit. Over in the US, a similar event will be held in Scottsdale, Arizona. The idea is to bring all builders great and small together to hear the latest product directions from leading component vendors and discuss wider industry trends that are affecting the way they do business. To date, there is no such outlet for Australian system builders and integrators.
Necessity is the mother of invention, or so the saying goes, and the need for a similar event in the local market was raised by an overseas visitor. The Dutch-based vice-president of Phoenix Technologies, Kees Mulder, visited Australia last week to push the BIOS manufacturer's new range of applications. But he found contacting the local whitebox builder and integration players much harder than he had imagined. This, he said, was because there was no formal outlet in the Australian market for contacting them as a single community.
The concept has been mooted in the past but has so far failed to gain much traction. That has to change if the local PC manufacturing industry is to compete seriously with the multinational vendors. As Maree Lowe from ASI Solutions has pointed out, the demands being placed on Australian builders and integrators continue to grow and increased collaboration will be an essential part of staying alive.
There are two good reasons why system builders don't give up their time easily - firstly, they are very busy and even the senior management of all but the biggest outfits are involved closely with the manufacturing process; secondly, they are competitors at the end of the day and don't want to share their thoughts too openly with each other.
But the positives of establishing some kind of local builder forum outweigh the negatives and to accept these reasons for not doing it would be to ignore the fact that it works perfectly well in the US and Europe. A local event would give smaller builders better access to latest product information and roadmaps from leading vendors; there could be a technology showcase of locally developed products that builders can incorporate into their boxes as a value-add; and why not use the gatherings to form policy groups that could, for example, lobby government and big business to buy Australian?
And to take the whole idea one step further, why couldn't attendees form some sort of association that sees them put a badge on their boxes declaring they are proudly made in Australia? You already see this form of 'buy local' marketing on everything from cheese to shampoo, so why wouldn't it work in the PC industry too?
All of these initiatives would help to foster a sense of community among the local system builder channel. And as the PC industry continues to mature, developing this spirit and sense of togetherness is going to be essential if local builders are to avoid having their market share eroded by the multinationals.
HP became the latest major vendor to make an aggressive play designed to whittle away at whitebox when it launched its unbranded initiative with Westan at the end of last month. But it won't be the last.
If you have any suggestions that would make a local system builder event an attractive proposition, ARN would like to hear them.