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EDITORIAL: Go the channel

EDITORIAL: Go the channel

Phew, what a week! Where news is concerned, the adage "when it rains it pours" could not be more appropriate.

Firstly, our scoop of Smartbuy's deal with Tandy ends weeks of rumours about the alleged suitor.

After hearing of MD Tony Gattari's struggle to reinvent the business from pure dot-com e-tailer into a startup e-commerce service provider for bricks-and-mortar retailers in the face of intense investor pressure, I can only say "well done mate". Dot-com reinvention must surely be one of the greatest IT business challenges the channel faces now and over the coming years.

Failure to secure this deal would have brought Smartbuy to a screaming halt and killed Tony's dream of being, in his words, a "proud Italian fruit shop owner".

Of course Smartbuy still needs to prove it can make the new model work, but I get the feeling that actually doing the work will be a breeze compared with the stress of securing the first customer and ongoing investor support.

Next, our news of NetStar's merger with telecommunications integrator Convergent Communications is arguably one of the networking industry's best open secrets, but it's still a great news story for both companies. What's interesting is that the convergence of data and voice networking is now finally a reality, but perhaps not in the way some vendors imagined.

Voice over IP is possible but, according to NetStar, the reality is most companies are still looking to integrate existing PABX systems with data networks. The concept of dumping the PABX is still a pipe dream. So if the market is any indication, NetStar is definitely on the right track with this one.

Finally, the other big news story for the channel is Dimension Data's acquisition of the remaining 24 per cent of Com Tech.

Com Tech is one of the Australian channel's most successful, yet quietly achieving companies. Starting from an IT procurement and integration base, it has become a multifaceted IT services business that is highly profitable, respected and well managed.

So on that note, I feel compelled to defend the company after a backhand it copped from The Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday last week. In announcing the news, the SMH labelled it "a little known Sydney IT systems integration business". Yet later on, the irony became apparent when it said the acquisition "erases one of the most successful names in the Australian information technology industry".

Then it went on to say "Com Tech is not a story of Australian innovation". Well I'm sorry, but profitable channel companies don't appear out of nowhere in a fiercely competitive environment, particularly where vendors are doing everything possible to cut them out of the supply chain. I'm sure Com Tech staff would also beg to differ with the SMH on this one.

As a journalist, I know that occasionally mistakes happen despite the best of intentions. But clearly this gaff illustrates just how poorly the mainstream press understands and misinterprets the influence and value IT channel companies bring to the table.

All this might sound like I'm on my high horse, but when ARN first launched in 1991 we also had to educate the IT industry that the channel existed and played an integral role in the IT purchasing equation.

It was our passion then, and the feelings have only intensified over time. I'd love to hear your comments on how well the channel is treated by the press or in Australia's corporate boardrooms because I could wax lyrical on the subject for hours.


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