The Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA) show claims to be the world’s largest consumer electronics show. With over 1,800 exhibitors and 250,000 visitors from 31st of August-5th of September, it was certainly a mind-boggling place to experience. Continue reading
Category Archives: Mobile technology
Much of the value CONTEXT offers its clients comes from the insight we distil from data collected at every point in the channel supply chain. One of the main sources of this sales and pricing data is the distributor. So we took time out to get some deeper analysis with Ilona Weiss, CEO of ABC Data.
ABC Data is a leading IT hardware and consumer electronics distributor for Central and Eastern Europe, covering markets including Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The Warsaw-headquartered company sells thousands of products from over 400 suppliers, so it has great visibility into what’s going on.
Cloud drives growth
Smartphones and cloud services offer some of the biggest opportunities for 2018 and beyond, according to Weiss. in 2014, ABC Data bought Apple distributor iSource, which is a leading distributor of Apple devices in Poland. Moreover, ABC Data is extending its vendor portfolio all the time with new additions such as the Chinese giant Xiaomi. Being the first distributor of Xiaomi in Central and Eastern Europe, ABC Data was largely responsible for boosting the sales of this brand in the region. Recently, in close cooperation with the vendor, ABC Data has opened the first official Xiaomi store (called Mi Store) in the biggest shopping mall in Warsaw. The plan for upcoming months envisages extending the range of the Chinese company’s products in the distributor’s offer.
ABC Data’s cloud platform is a more recent investment, launched in 2017, but also seeks to tap a demand among business customers to drive innovation and growth through digitalisation. With ABC Data, cloud partners have access to a wide and diversified range of offerings, such as virtual servers, storage, tools for creating proprietary applications and solutions enabling data archiving and back-up. These are sourced from both global and local suppliers. Recently, ABC Data signed a contract for the distribution of Microsoft CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) products in the entire CEE region. As Ilona Weiss explains, cloud computing is the future of modern IT. It is gaining more and more recognition among companies and institutions in Poland, as well as from resellers and integrators associated with ABC Data, who are interested in selling cloud solutions provided to them by ABC Data.
This chimes with the findings of the CONTEXT ChannelWatch Survey from the end of 2017 that reported nearly half of global resellers are preparing to sell cloud services — especially back-up (53%), storage (47%) and business apps (35%). Like many of its counterparts, ABC Data is seeing a great deal of interest from the vendor community as business models become more cloud focused. With channel partners and vendors increasingly looking to offer combined solutions, Weiss sees an opportunity to grow by developing value-added distribution services in this space.
New investment areas
As for the rest of 2018, she claims that many businesses in the region will be investing in new desktops and particularly notebooks as part of the upgrade cycle. The trend will be particularly acute in the SMB space. Meanwhile, in the consumer market, the growth of digital entertainment is expected to lead to growth in the video gaming sector, which is very promising, she says.
Despite a turbulent past couple of years in the regional IT market, things are on the up and Weiss is optimistic about the future. The main cause for this is the room to grow in the above-mentioned areas of cloud and mobile, but also value added distribution and e-commerce.
Indeed, following the acquisition of the S4E company in mid-2016, ABC Data Group has significantly improved its position in the VAD area. In the coming months the group has plans to concentrate on further consolidating its position on the services market and adding value by, among other things, consistent development of its specialist products and services portfolio and by expanding its educational offer.
On the other hand, 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the creation and first tests of the ABC Data’s sales platform – InterLink, today available in 9 language versions to thousands of B2B clients in the CEE region. It has played a key role in popularising e-commerce solutions and online shopping in Poland and in the region. ABC Data’s CEO believes that it is precisely the innovative, intuitive and trouble-free e-commerce platforms and m-commerce solutions that are the mainstay of this business.
This is why the company is constantly focused on the development of further functionalities of the InterLink sales platform. Recently, the feature of fast online payments was added. Currently, the company continues to develop the mobile version of the platform, m-InterLink, available to ABC Data’s partners in individual CEE countries. The m-InterLink application was launched last year and has gained a wide acclaim among the Polish customers.
The Company is also constantly increasing the scale of ABC Data’s operations in the CEE region. The result of these activities is the systematic improvement of sales. Only in the first quarter of 2018, ABC Data achieved a 41% increase in sales revenues in Slovakia, a 26% increase in Romania and a 16% increase in the Baltic countries. – This is why I’m not afraid for ABC Data’s future – says Weiss – We are the only company in the industry that operates directly in eight CEE countries, and we are still developing our business – she summarises.
Like many regions encumbered with limited fixed broadband infrastructure, the Middle East is increasingly using mobile connectivity to drive adoption of advanced internet-based services. Among the many wealthy Gulf states looking to take the next step with 5G, the UAE and Dubai in particular stand out. Local provider du recently announced its first 5G network will land as early as this year. Continue reading
The world’s biggest mobile technology event was upon us again this week. Over 100,000 tecchies descended on Barcelona this week to showcase the latest and greatest smart devices and network technologies that is Mobile World Congress (MWC). Despite reports of an overall global decline in sales at the end of last year, just one look at the show this year will tell you that consumers’ love affair with their smartphones is far from over. However, MWC is increasingly also about showcasing other kinds of connected devices and technology platforms. Continue reading
Next week, nearly 4,000 of the world’s biggest technology companies will converge on Las Vegas for the annual CES show. Now in its 51st year, the Consumer Electronics Show has seen its pulling power reduced in recent years as big vendors like Google, Apple and Samsung save major announcements for their own events. But it’s still likely to attract something like 170,000 visitors, and is widely seen as a key platform for showcasing new tech products and prototypes that will set the tone for the year ahead.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the biggest trends to watch out for this year.
TVs: time for 8K
The past year has seen 4K and HDR TVs made widely available, with prices dropping lower all the time. This paves the way for some potentially big 8K announcements this year, with LG already claiming that it will be showing off a new 88-inch set. It will feature a 7680×4320 pixel display a massive 16 times better than the resolution of a standard HD set.
Other technology innovations in the TV space we may see more of are: local dimming features to boost picture quality; lower-priced OLED screens; improved voice control and streaming app support; and potentially some OLED-rivalling Micro LED technology from Samsung.
The smart home gets smarter
TVs comprise just one small part of an increasingly large smart home market, with voice-powered AI assistants from the big hitters like Amazon, Google and Apple increasingly positioned as the glue that holds everything together. Expect a slew of announcements detailing support for Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s HomeKit protocol in products as varied as smart clocks, speakers and even video door entry systems. Alexa seems to have the lead at the moment, but Apple is catching up fast thanks to new partnerships, while Google is said to be planning a major presence at the show, having booked out eight hospitality suites.
Keeping it real: VR/AR
Virtual reality might have garnered most of the headlines in recent years, thanks to a slew of eye-catching headsets, but its near neighbour augmented reality (AR) is likely to make a splash at CES 2018. In fact, there’s now a dedicated AR “Marketplace” in one of the Convention Centre halls — proof if any were needed that it’s a technology to watch this year.
Expect to see announcements from the likes of Carl Zeiss, Occipital, Kinmo, Kodak, Royole, Sony, and Netflix, as well as chip giant Qualcomm, which has been building out partnerships with some high-profile headset names such as the Oculus Go. Magic Leap is also a name to watch in the AR space and could well be showing off its new Lightwear headset.
Also with its own dedicated Marketplace arena, AI will see its profile raised further at this year’s CES with a deluge of new products, from connected cars to voice-activated smart home assistants. Honda will feature the tech in its new 3E Robotics Concept at the show with a range of products designed to advance mobility and make people’s lives better.
Named by Accenture as a top-five trend to watch at CES 2018, AI will feature in a range of announcements from other big names including Chinese search giant Baidu, which will show off its autonomous driving platform Apollo and “conversational AI” platform DuerOS.
CES and MWC may attract the bigger crowds early in the year, but for many, the original and best consumer electronics show remains IFA. The Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin – to give it its full name – has been around for nearly a century, but it can barely have witnessed technological change on quite this scale before. This year VR headsets vied for attention with the usual smartphones, gaming devices, and laptops.
But perhaps the biggest buzz could be found around the smart home, in the proliferation of connected appliances and voice assistant technology, as well as a new agreement behind the scenes designed to drive forward a global market said to be worth over $14bn.
As usual, all the major consumer brands were represented this year, from Samsung and Huawei to Sony, Asus, Acer, Panasonic and many more. Smartphone fans were treated to a first look at LG’s high-end V30 device, while Sony unveiled three new models: the Xperia X71, X71 Compact and XA1 Plus. As far as laptops, the Asus 2-in- 1 ZenBook Flip 14, Lenovo’s Yoga 920 ultra-thin notebook, and Acer’s “slimmest ever all-in- on desktop” the Aspire S24 all caught the eye.
VR fans were treated to a major announcement: the introduction of Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality headsets, with partners Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo and others all showing off their wares. Elsewhere there were new smart watches from Samsung, plenty to keep gaming fans interested, and even new 360-degree digital cameras from Acer.
But it was in the smart home that arguably the most eye-catching kit could be found, as the battle for consumer hearts and minds really begins to heat up. There were plenty of connected appliances on show, from a new Nest thermostat and Hive smart security camera to the Miele Dialog Oven and even a smart floor cleaner from Neato Botvac.
But notably it was in the virtual assistant space that vendors really vied for consumers’ attention, which isn’t surprising given that these platforms will increasingly sit at the centre of the smart home.
That’s why we saw Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Voice Assistant and Samsung’s Bixby, built into an increasingly wide range of products on show at IFA. Lenovo’s Alexa-powered Home Assistant for the Tab 4 offers an Echo Show experience for a much smaller price tag, for example. There’s also been signs that some players are prepared to work together: Amazon and Microsoft announced that their voice assistants would integrate to allow users to access Windows and Office through Alexa and Amazon sites via Cortana.
Driving smart home success
Behind the scenes was perhaps where the most significant event at IFA 2017 took place, with the signing of a major agreement between three smart home associations in the UK, Germany and France.
The UK’s Smart Homes & Buildings Association (SH&BA), Germany’s SmartHome Initiative Deutschland e.V. (SHD) and the Fédération Française de Domotique (FFD) represent over 600 OEMs, retailers, distributors, ISVs, integrators, telcos, and energy suppliers. Under the terms of the new agreement, they’ll form a European committee to better coordinate joint activities.
As Global MD for CONTEXT and Chair of the SH&BA, I believe the deal will help the organisations share key knowledge, develop common standards and drive sales. As smart home technologies become increasingly important to us all, that’s great news for the industry, and ultimately consumers.
For growth in the tech industry it’s all about Internet of Things and of course the Internet of Playthings – this year’s IFA will be an exciting place to witness this. The pre-show announcements point to make or break smart watches from Fitbit, new wearables from Samsung, a new connected toothbrush from Philips, a “behemoth” gaming machine from Acer, and new mixed-reality headsets from Microsoft.
The agenda of the various conference programmes, shows that IFA, just like its sister shows CES and MWC, give most airtime to the new, and hardly any to how technology companies can optimise the vast but legacy categories such as PC’s, printers and displays. So, for example, the keynotes will focus on digital health (Philips & Fitbit), “building the possible” (Microsoft – could this be related to their mixed reality offering?) and an intriguing topic of mobile and AI from Huawei – are they launching their own Siri/Cortana competitive offering? The IFA+ summit is focused on IOT, wearables, integrating tech in smart home, and the latest on immersive computing. It’s all about the next level – nothing stands still, although there is a timeless element about the IFA show, with its long history stretching back to 1925.
As you wander around the 155,000 square metres of space, and get to meet the 1,805 exhibitors, do not forget to put the innovation areas on your itinerary.
Here are two of them: in hall 6.2 there are 78 companies presenting smart home offerings – covering security, lighting, home automation, cloud platforms and gateways. Look especially for the advances in voice control and the linking of smart home solutions to this technology, which is less than one year old in Europe and has already made an enormous difference to the smart home market. Then, not far away, there is hall 26 – this is the innovation pavilion where IFA Next is housed (it used to be known as IFA Tec Watch). Here you will find start-ups and all those next generation products, the ones to watch.
In pavilion 26, there is also another smart home area, with another 10 vendors, and associations, which is also not to be missed. And especially at 4pm on 4th September, when three smart home associations – the Smart Homes & Buildings Association (UK), Fédération Française de Domotique (France), and Smart Home Initiative (Germany), will sign an international cooperation agreement working together to build the category across Europe. CONTEXT is associated with all three associations, having been a force in bringing them together, and already collaborated on a number of pan-European projects.
Lastly, and not least, CONTEXT is looking forward to hosting its annual IFA dinner with clients and partners – the opportunity to hear the latest CONTEXT research on Smart Home and Immersive technology, will be delivered in a delightful Berlin venue, providing a great opportunity to relax, meet up and network.