Category Archives: PCs

New for the IT channel in 2019: a look ahead with CONTEXT industry predictions

It’s been another fascinating year in the IT channel, and one characterised to a large extent by stability and reseller optimism. Distribution revenue was up 5.7% year-on-year in the nine months to 30th September, 2018, and the number of resellers partnered with distributors on the CONTEXT panel changed little from last year, with an increase in average spend per reseller. What’s more, in our ChannelWatch survey we recorded only four countries less positive about the next 12 months than when the survey was performed a year ago.

So, what can we expect of the year ahead? We asked our expert market watchers in three key categories. Continue reading

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The PC is dead; long live the PC

Quietly, almost without many realising it, the PC that most pundits had written off as an engine for growth in the IT markets has been making a comeback. And it’s not the sort of comeback with massive volumes, queues out of the door at Aldi or PC World as consumers snap up bargains at even decreasing prices. No, this is a story about businesses, large and small, buying increasingly better spec’d PCs to handle the increasingly complex digital revolution. Average unit prices are on the increase, and chipmakers are struggling to keep up with demand.

CONTEXT figures for the first two months of Q3 2018 tracking distributor sales of PCs to resellers throughout Western Europe illustrate the trend that industry forecasters say will push the market out of decline and into growth for 2019.  PC unit sales were up +3% year-on-year while revenues grew by +5%. Average selling prices (ASPs) were also up by +2% in early Q3 2018 to €573. But same as in Q2 2018, growth came from the commercial segment. While (despite the back-to-school impetus) consumer PC sales were still in decline, businesses bought  +7% more PCs than in the same period a year ago. This demand from business buyers was boosted by companies making the transition to Windows 10, the increasing shift to mobile devices, the general need for product refreshes, and there is no sign this demand is slacking off.

The PC resurgence seems to have caught chip manufacturers by surprise. J.P. Morgan reports that Intel isn’t making enough processor chips to meet demand and the Intel processor and chipset shortage will hurt fourth-quarter 2018 PC shipments by 5% to 7%. AMD, of course, is set to benefit and has had an amazing share price run of almost 200% this year, becoming the top-performing share in the S&P 500 index for 2018.

So expect to see more devices such as HP’s sleek, leather-clad and impressively slim new Spectre Folio. While from a price and specification point of view it is well placed, it’s not cheap. Alongside PCs such as Microsoft’s Surface, it’s just the sort of device today’s businesses are looking for as they gear up to tackle the digital age.

by JD

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Filed under IT Distribution, Market Analysis, PCs, Uncategorized

Eurozone Blues

1999 was a momentous year for CONTEXT. Not only were we facing the Y2K bug, but at midnight on 1 January 1999, the national currencies of participating countries in Europe, aka the Eurozone, ceased to exist independently. Their exchange rates were locked at fixed rates against each other.

By then we had built up a pretty successful pan-European price tracking and comparison service, PriceWatch. It had depended for years on our ability to monitor prices and VAT rates across different countries and currencies thus enabling customers to perform apples to apples comparisons across a huge swathe of IT products, from desktops to printers to displays.

The service started in the late ’80’s thanks to a chance comment from Unisys: was there anything we could do about tracking prices as the work involved was causing them a headache? We obliged, and started turning out huge folders, updated monthly, filled with pages of indexed specifications and prices, which then graduated into – gasp – an accompanying 3.5” floppy with the data in digital form. Many a CONTEXT old-timer will remember the wrapping and binder duty into the late hours of the night to meet deadlines.

The big question we faced was this: with the introduction of the Euro, was that the death knell for our European Pricing Service? The pundits said yes. Why would any manufacturer pay for data on prices when transparency was assured thanks to the common currency?

Of course, we need not have worried. In fact, if truth be told, the manoeuvring by vendors attempting to rationalise VAT rates and prevent grey market activity gave us more work than ever before.  The PriceWatch service grew, and is now an extremely successful component of the suite of information products we provide today across the globe.

by JD

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35 Years and counting… stories from the IT frontline

In this latest post, CEO and co-founder Jeremy Davies reflects on the IT infrastructure challenges during the first few years at CONTEXT.

One of the reasons why working at CONTEXT in the early days was exciting, was that our work combined the business side with deep interest in emerging PC technologies. Balancing budgets and wanting to keep ahead of the curve was both challenging and fun. Continue reading

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35 Years and counting… stories from the IT frontline

To mark CONTEXT’s 35th year anniversary, co-founder and CEO Jeremy Davies reflects on the state of computing during the early days at CONTEXT.

Starting a small business means adapting your needs to serious budgetary constraints. You need that 20MB hard drive, but can you afford it?

Towards the end of the 1980’s, the PC revolution was in full swing, but computers were not cheap. IBM’s PC came in at around £3,000 in those days, equivalent to £6,300 in today’s value. Margins were high double digits compared to today’s meagre low single points. At one point it is said that UK Apple dealers were making so much money, the Cupertino company asked them to stop the ostentatious displays of wealth and invest in their businesses. Continue reading

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Thoughts from DISTREE EMEA

This year there were 500+ participants in the flagship event, and the buzz was back. The focus was on new technology, and everyone attending the conference can feel good about where we are. No, it is no longer the A brands – that has been the case for a number of years. But we have to get over this – HP, Intel, Acer, Microsoft and others no longer support conferences as they did before – they focus more on the big international events.

But in a world where new technology is exploding with fast growth rates and boundless innovation, more than ever there is the need to bring people together so that people can sit down and meet the latest innovative brands. And that is where the DISTREE model works well, because of the scheduling of meetings which means that vendors know that, if they pay to come, they will get a minimum number of meetings. And we had many of the big players here this year – Tech Data, Ingram Micro, Also, Exertis, Cool Blue and Amazon, as well as dozens of other smaller distributors.

DISTREE

But it is not just about meetings, and that is where the interest of the event comes in. As Ilona Weiss, CEO of ABC Data put it in her blog after the event, it is the time to “pick up the rhythm of global markets and predict accurately the direction in which things are changing so that I can buy enough time for ABC Data to adjust its course.” This comes from the informal discussions with other tech leaders, and also the rich thought leadership on offer, with keynotes and workshops which illuminate and stretch people’s imagination.

This year CONTEXT organised an invitation only event for C Suite executives from selected distributors and other invited guests. The content was rich, and the tone was set by Patrice Arzillier, Managing Director of Exertis Continental Europe, and board member of Exertis plc. He opened up to a series of questions about Board investment decisions, their approach to acquisitions and the challenges they face.

The meeting was done under Chatham house rules in order to create the right ambiance for senior executive sharing, but with Patrice there was no need, as he launched into a frank and open dialogue with the other participants in the room. These times of exchange are vital for the health of the industry, and to give each other the chance to “adjust your course if necessary”. This discussion was enriched by the input from Peter Van den Berg, the head of the GTDC in Europe and a presentation from Michael White of Quadmark, showing the new financial drivers of distribution, emphasising the need to have different measures for different types of revenue stream, and to take into account all investments, not just working capital.

The other theme we covered was strategic collaboration, and the level of congruence between the presentations was remarkable – old style confrontational negotiations are out, and the smart money is on those who find strategic ways of collaborating. One of the speakers, Marcos Garcia Esteban, until recently Purchasing Director of Worten (the Portuguese/Spanish tech retailer), spoke of high-level contacts between retailer and brand to find innovative ways of delivering product. Distributors are the “midfield” players, he said, and can bring everyone together in the new technology ecosystem.

Adam Williams, who has spent the last 6 months bringing a smart home product to market, laid out the complexity of the new emerging technology market and echoed Marcos, saying that distributors are the best placed to act as brokers between the various parties. Lastly Alan Clayton, a mentor at the Investment fund SOSV, one of the largest providers of seed capital to technology start-ups, spoke of the role he saw distributors playing in bringing products to market. “I need someone who, as a one-stop shop, can broker space in the top retailers in Europe.” His final call to action was memorable, for distributors to become “Co-creators of global brands.” A great and positive thought to keep distributors going forward in the right direction.

by AS

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35 Years and counting… stories from the IT frontline

To mark CONTEXT’s 35th year anniversary, co-founder and CEO Jeremy Davies reflects on the early days of the IT industry and the beginnings of CONTEXT.

It’s now 35 years since CONTEXT began tracking the IT business. That’s quite a thought in itself. The fact that we have been able to create a business from scratch and – despite all odds – still be here, thriving, 35 years later.

But what’s even more stunning is to have been a witness to the changes that have taken place since those pioneer PC days. And what has kept us in business has been that change: not only have we watched it but we lived it, taking an active part as a small and growing business, embracing the latest technology as it unfurled and integrating the new as we built the platforms and processes needed to track the burgeoning IT industry.

So, a few facts to illustrate. In the 1980’s, magazines were king. Vendors advertised in Magazinemagazines, prices, specifications and even dealer lists. To track prices, one had to track magazines. This intensely manual job resulted in output that every month saw huge physical printed files sent out to subscribing customers. If you wanted to know specs and pricing, you opened a folder and leafed through pages of printed text. A huge step forward was achieved when data files began to accompany the printed “books”.

Surveying dealers was another challenge. To create our master dealer list in the UK, we got hold of the Yellow Pages directory, and telephoned every entry that had the word “computer” in it. We asked three simple questions: Do you sell microcomputers? Which ones do you sell? Which ones are you authorised to sell?The calls were done by a dedicated in-house team who, after building the list, started contacting resellers every two months, asking for sales figures. These were manually entered into paper spreadsheets, and the calculations done – you got it, manually. Printed reports then appeared every two months detailing these aggregated and projected sales of PCs, Printers and Software.

This is not to say there were no computers involved from the beginning. There was one. It was an Osborne 1 portable computer, running CP/M on a 4.0 MHz Zilog Z80 processor and 64 KB of RAM. Twin 5.25” floppies and a 5” screen completed the picture. As work volumes grew, we invested in our first IBM twin floppy PC. And then came hard disk drives… but that’s another story!

CONTEXTKensingtonoffice

CONTEXT’s first office was at 9-11 Kensington High Street, which is now a hotel

 

 

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