Editorial: Fear, uncertainty and doubt

It isn't a new sales tool by any stretch of the imagination, but looking to make the most of misfortune or instability among your competitors certainly seems to be flavour of the month in the IT industry just now.

Even as you are reading this, HP customers around the world will be fielding concerned calls from IBM and Dell sales reps (and resellers) asking if they have heard the news that Carly Fiorina has been ousted as the company's CEO. "What effect do you think this will have on the company's future direction?" these thoughtful sales counsellors might ask. "How do you know HP will be there to support your business in 12 months or five years from now when it is going through such major upheavals?"

In IBM's defence, it is simply returning fire. HP and Dell sales teams have only just put the phones down - after taking time out from their busy schedules to spread a little fear, uncertainty and doubt among IBM's customers - following the news that Big Blue had agreed to sell its PC business to Chinese competitor, Lenovo.

They say you reap what you sow. Although Dell is the winner in the short term, you can bet its competitors will get to use the same scare tactics sooner or later.

And it isn't just the major hardware manufacturers that are at it. In recent weeks Oracle's acquisition of PeopleSoft has questioned by Microsoft (which is offering PeopleSoft customers a discount to jump the fence and use its CRM products). Similarly, EMC has designed a program specifically to poach Veritas customers in light of the news that the latter was to merge with Symantec.

There is nothing wrong with these tactics. Hunters have been singling out the afflicted for attack since the dawn of time and these games have now become one of the more intriguing 'survival of the fittest' rituals in the enterprise jungle. And, speaking as a journalist, it can be a lot of fun to watch these companies kick sand in each other's faces as they jostle for market position. There's something wonderfully playschool about the whole spectacle.

But if the boys and girls in vendor land are very brazen about their attempts to find business opportunities in competitor upheavals, let's not forget that pretty much the same call is being made in the Australian channel right now.

Ingram Micro's acquisition of Tech Pacific at the end of last year has elevated it to a very dominant position in the market. But trying to keep somewhere in the region of 100 plates spinning all at once is no easy task, and the second layer of distributors will be watching very carefully for any sign that some of those plates are starting to wobble. If merging the back-end systems at Ingram and Tech Pac proves to be the major headache that many in the industry are predicting, there will be no shortage of volunteers to come in and clean up the mess.

Whatever the outcome in all of these battles, the market will take a new shape and keep on trucking. But major changes, just like the beginning of a new year, are a time for reflection and assessment of progress. As a HP reseller, what changes would you like to see the new boss make?