Tag Archives: CONTEXT

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!


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



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Filed under Company news, Enterprise IT, IT Distribution, IT Pricing, Market Analysis, PCs

What a Journey! CONTEXT Scoops Best UK Workplace Award

We always knew CONTEXT was a good place to work, but now it’s officially one of the best in the country, according to Great Places to Work. A massive “thank you” should go out to all those whose hard work made this possible.

The value of Great Places to Work
Great Places to Work (GPTW) is a highly respected industry voice on a mission to help improve workplace culture and CSR. As part of its efforts it releases an annual Best Workplaces ranking, announced this year on 3 May. Its unique methodology is what sets it apart. It comprises two elements: a Trust Index employee survey; and a Culture Audit, where experts appraise any HR and management policies designed to help drive engagement.

This methodology makes it a particularly credible way to measure workplace culture and engagement. In fact, many organisations apparently use it as a stand-alone work assessment tool, helping HR analyse where it’s performing well and which areas might need attention.

Engagement and innovation
After identifying the award as a focus for us back in 2013, we’ve done much to transform the company, and we will not get tired of looking for new ways. A CONTEXT-wide questionnaire identified seven areas of improvement, ranging from salary and benefits, to training, communication, and – my favourite – more fun! A focus group was set up to tackle each, with an executive team sponsor and employee(s) on each group.

The succeeding three years has been a constant journey of improvement which has seen us introduce a range of fantastic new initiatives. These have included:

  • Summer family outings at Hever and Leeds Castles
  • End-of-year Christmas party River Thames cruise
  • Much greater focus and investment in training
  • IT training and English classes
  • Two People Days, company-wide meetings designed to foster bottom up feedback during which we listened to and learnt from each other on areas in which we could improve
  • New air conditioning
  • A two week salary bonus in 2016 – 2017 bonus still pending Q2 results
  • A range of innovative new benefits – including healthcare benefits, early leave on your birthday, discounts in local restaurants and stores, etc
  • A new STAR recognition system

Getting better all the time
It goes without saying we’re all delighted to have been named as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces. It’s testament to all the hard work that’s been put in over the past three years, and will help us grow as a company by attracting the brightest and best going forward.

But I also have to say, this is the beginning. We’re onto something special here and we’ll certainly not be resting on our collective laurels. The challenge going forward will be to continue listening to and engaging with our employees, working to introduce more innovative new initiatives, and ultimately, to continue making CONTEXT an ever greater place to work.


by JD

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What is the state of Smart Home Retail in Central London?

Our Smart Home consumer survey in August showed that only 29% of UK respondents had seen smart home products in a retail store, compared to 39% in Germany, so I decided to see what I could find out about the state of smart home retail in London. “Where are your Homekit products?” I asked on arriving at the Apple store in Regent Street. “What is that?” answered the front of store welcomer. Trying another ecosystem, I went to Currys PC World in Tottenham Court Road “Can you show me where the SmartThings products are?” The welcomer did better– he pointed me to a stand full of smart and connected products. But it was not the SmartThings stand, about which he evidently knew nothing. I then went to John Lewis’s to their Oxford Street store to see the new ideal home area which they have recently refurbished at multi-million pound cost. There were approximately 3 square metres of Smart Home Products in the technology area and nothing was to be seen in the ideal home area which sits on two floors. Smart home is definitely not front of mind in London.

To say that is to ignore one retailer – Maplin in Tottenham Court Road. Here it is almost the opposite extreme as they have developed a full merchandising concept of “Connected Home” with around 50% of the space branded under this banner. This includes cameras, tablets, home automation as well as TV & home entertainment, computer cables, hard drives, smart lighting – the connected home is shown off in its broadest possible definition.

If bricks and mortar retailers don’t make more of an effort they risk becoming irrelevant, and this is a missed opportunity, as consumers are asking for more information about smart home products, and every indication is that sooner or later, this category is going to grow exponentially. In our August survey, 60% said they did not understand enough about smart home products. The other risk is that they leave the space for online retail. 56% of survey respondents had heard about smart home products online. Some of the most successful players in the market are pure play etailers – specialists such as Vesternet in the UK and Conrad in Germany, and generalists such as Amazon across Europe. The specialists are becoming very good at explaining to customers what they need, and how to build a smart home. With Dixons recent announcement that they are launching a ‘home gadgets’ emergency service, they are getting closer to the consumer needs on smart home, but we need more imaginative displays and merchandising in store, as well as knowledgeable trained staff, in order to build up this category.

by AS

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Filed under Home automation, Retail in CONTEXT, Smart Technology

Opportunity knocks for the Channel in IP Camera market

by Alex Mesguich, VP of Enterprise Research

The IP camera market has reached a tipping point in Europe, accounting for around half of all revenue from surveillance and security camera sales. This is mainly due to businesses looking to migrate from legacy CCTV technology.

In addition to legacy systems being discarded, a number of key events have shaped the IP cameras and connected home markets over the last year including Nest’s acquisition of DropCam. With a impressive year-on-year unit sales growth over the last couple of years, we anticipate more mergers in the IP camera space where smaller, specialist players are snapped up by larger IT electronics giants wanting a piece of the cake in this area.

Amongst the European countries, France has been the largest market in Europe, accounting for an 18% share with the UK third (12%).

D-Link is by far the largest vendor of IP cameras in Europe, having steadily grown its market share from 2012 (58%), to 2013 (66%) and 2014 (68%).

For the IT channel, this is good news indeed with many of the IT solution and managed service providers jumping on the IP video surveillance trend. The popularity of IP based video surveillance cameras that offer high quality video and in-built recorders is set to stay. Particular hotspots for IP surveillance sales will be end user application areas such as transportation as well as retail, education hospitality and healthcare.

CONTEXT has launched a new category to the CONTEXT SalesWatch Distribution reporting specifically for IP Cameras. For more information please visit the website.

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Get Connected for the Smart Channels Summit, DISTREE EMEA, 26 February 2015

We have to win the hearts, the minds and budgets of consumers

Winning the hearts, the minds and budgets of consumers will be key for Retailers looking to succeed in Smart Channels. Currently only 5% of consumers know where to buy a Smart product, according to a study quoted by Hans Carpels at the CEO Retail breakfast in Las Vegas last month. Retailers will need to apply savvy strategies to capture consumers against a backdrop of a number of players looking to gain market share in a market increasingly targeted by home improvement companies, IT vendors, big-data driven insurance companies and smart home technologies.

The opportunities are huge: At the IFA last autumn, Jeremy Rifkin said that we are moving from a world of 13 billion sensors today to one that will use 100 trillion by 2030.

Hosted by CONTEXT, the Smart Channels Summit, held at DISTREE EMEA on 26 February,  will explore six themes to capture Wearables, Connected products and Internet of Things (IoT):

  • Educate the consumer: Stéphane Bohbot shares the role of LICK stores’ associates as coaches, helping consumers understand this new world of Smart possibilities
  • Make the ICT Retail channel attractiveJohn Olsen demonstrates EURONICS approach and Vincent Slevin will show ways that Samsung provides enhanced customer experience through its Retail solutions. After the recent launch of the first private-label 3D printer from Auchan, Flavien Dhellemmes asks if Retailers can go faster by investing in private label
  • Keep hold of your customers: with so many new forms of competition, a Smart hub solution like the Iris adopted by Lowe’s in the US, will be presented by Jean-Claude Kiessling from Qivicon (Deutsche Telekom)
  • Make service a differentiating factor: Join the discussion with three key Retail experts, and other panel speakers 
  • Pick winning products and categories: D-Link’s Smart portfolio from Luigi Salmoiraghi, and the collaborations he needs with Retailers to make Smart Homes a reality. Fred Brown, well-known to attendees of DISTREE conferences as the host of FRESH (an introduction to the latest, most innovative products), will share his expertise on identifying winning new technology products
  • Make it easy for consumers with a long-term and interoperable technology offering: expert guidance given by Benoit Van Den Bulcke, and we will hear about the AllSeen Alliance from EURONICS.

This rich panel of speakers has been brought together by CONTEXT as part of what we call #newretailthinking – the ability to find new models and new formats in the old world of ICT Retail. CONTEXT will provide insight into best practices from across the world, and will chair this summit. We look forward to connecting with you there!

Join us at the Smart Channels Summit DISTREE EMEA, Monaco on 26 February 2015.

Meet with fellow ICT Retail professionals to focus on how the Retail channel will evolve to deliver smart technologies, solutions and services to consumers.

The session, hosted by CONTEXT, is entitled: “Smart Channels: Retailing Connected Devices, Wearables and Internet of Things (IoT).”

To register your interest simply visit: http://www.contextworld.com/en/smart-channels-summit1 or contact me,  Adam Simon, Global Managing Director, Retail Business Development asimon@contextworld.com

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Apple results break world record for sales. So how did they do it? And what does it mean for the market?

On 27 January 2015, Apple made the most significant announcement in their history post-Steve Jobs: they are the most profitable company, EVER!

So how did they do it? And what does it mean for the market?

We have always assumed that when Apple launched a product, it created the market. But, in most cases, the markets already existed.

From the first computer to the iPod and the iPhone, there were a number of start-up companies, and some larger ones, already operating in these segments.  Apple’s typical business model is to set out to redefine the segment, regardless. Consequently, through clever marketing and positioning, consumers think that segment has always belonged to Apple. Take the iPod, for example.  At the start, household brands such as Sony owned the market for portable music players. For mobile phones, it was Nokia. The portable organiser market was more fragmented with no real leader. Seeing their opportunity, Apple introduced the iPad, securing dominance that would then strengthen their position over the other two markets.

The last 18 months have not been easy for Apple. Samsung have taken the lead in the smartphone segment and various Intellectual Property battles have taken the shine off their offering. But with the launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, they’ve set about redefining the large-screen smartphone market and have succeeded in an instant, as highlighted by the staggering results in the first quarter following the product launch.

So what might be in store over the next three years, particularly in the current hot area of wearables and Connected Home?

Before addressing this market, Apple needed a sales boost in their sweet-spot smartphone segment thanks to the iPhone 6; to regain share and show the world that they can and will own the market again when it comes to user experience and apps. This is particularly relevant as tablet and smartphone sales are posting a reduction whereas apps sales are seeing a significant growth and are an increasing source of profit. The iPhone 6 is laying the path for the Apple Watch, which is due for launch in April and will be a significant product for the company. Why? Because it allows Apple to remain close to their users, either in the pocket or now the wrist, and track key user behaviours, but more essentially provide the platform that will allow consumers to make payments and interact with technology, particularly home appliances and cars. They have already launched Apple Pay, a payments method which is now rolling out as more merchants embrace the new technology. On the B2B side, Apple is partnering with IBM, the latter very eager to focus on software around big data, social and mobile whilst at the same time shedding their server hardware business to Lenovo.

But what about the consumer interaction with “Things”?

The Internet Of Things is clearly an arena in which Apple will be a big player in the future amongst other such as Cisco, who are keen to justify their dominance in Networking. They are working on their Connected Home developer kit, HomeKit, which should launch in April, perhaps even at the same time as the Apple Watch. There are already plenty of players in those two segments, both start-ups and very big brands such as Google (via Nest/Revolve) and Samsung (SmartThings), but we should expect Apple to redefine the segments too. If this does not happen from launch, Apple will quickly correct it, making all their profit work towards success.

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IoT and Retail: Is 2015 the breakaway year? CEO Breakfast CES

CONTEXT CEO Retail Breakfast, CES 2015.

CONTEXT CEO Retail Breakfast, CES 2015.

In January, we were in Las Vegas at CES hosting our first Retail CEO breakfast with Régis Schultz, CEO of Darty and Hans Carpels the President of EURONICS International. They were joined by senior members of the Darty and EURONICS teams as well as other European retailers and senior representatives from the industry.

We asked our two Retail CEO’s to talk about the new products and formats they are deploying in 2015. They both confirmed that wearables and smart home products are a big focus for retail in 2015 – this could be the breakaway year.

For Hans Carpels IoT is one of the main topics for 2015, but the landscape is complex and fragmented, and it is not easy to serve as a retailer. Interoperability of devices is a major concern of consumers, and a as a way of recognising this, EURONICS announced at CES and that they have joined the AllSeen Alliance, led by Qualcomm, and are thereby targeting a leading position in smart home solutions. The EURONICS offer will depend on the size of their stores with 800 square metres being multi-specialists and the smaller formats being hyper-specialists. Carpels did not exclude the possibility that there may be some hyper-specialist stores entirely dedicated to the sale of connected products and wearables, the same as the Lick and Fnac formats in France, and which we have not yet seen in other European countries.

When Régis Schultz addressed us he lamented the fact that for a company that aspires to sell technology their own salesmen and stores are not adequately equipped. He has set it as a strategic priority to change that with the Digitalisation of Darty, one of the planks of his 4D strategy.  For Régis who started his career in an FMCG company where they always spoke about consumers, the whole raison d’être of retail is to transform the ‘consumer’ into a ‘customer’- that’s where the real value lies and where the profit comes. So it is impressive to note that the attach rate of installation to the sale of Nest products is 75% and that their service department is also installing Nests for customers who have bought their thermostat from sources other than Darty.

Regis spoke of the creation of the Darty button. The customer presses it – it’s like a technology panic button and you are called back by the Darty service centre who are on call 24/7. 1,000’s of people have subscribed to this service and it demonstrates Darty making a reality of profitable service revenues linked to the IoT – and other retailers have shown that they are keen to follow Darty’s lead.

We ended the breakfast taking the temperature of confidence about 2015. “From a product and solution side, we’re really upbeat. There are many new products and areas where we can add value.” said Carpels. “But we have to be realistic,” he continued. “There is a lot of education of the consumer to do. Only 5% of consumers know where to buy IoT solutions”, he quoted from a survey. I asked them if they thought that a product such as Nest smart thermostat could take off this year – with its £180 retail price tag there was a lot of doubt from our two CEO’s that consumers at a time of falling energy prices would see the value compared to a normal thermostat. But the jury is still out which makes 2015 an exciting year. He also spoke of France and Italy as stressed economies with real issues in Russia, Kazahkstan and Ukraine, in all of which countries EURONICS has operations.

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