Tag Archives: Market research

Artificial Intelligence 2019 – The year of data

The era of big data with a simultaneous increase in computing power in recent years has propelled us to faster and greater analysis through Artificial Intelligence (AI). The year 2019 will see this trend continue especially given the expansion of data collection through streams such as IoT.

There are four trends which shed a light on the current BBC forecast of “the year of data”, namely, data storytelling, AI development, cloud computing and hardware trends. We also saw the start in 2018 of a potential change in the use of mobile computing for AI. Continue reading

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Displays: a glimpse into 2019

Desktop monitor sales are expected to continue growing in 2019, although not as strongly as over this year.

Business-targeted monitors may still benefit from the PC refreshes that are accompanying the ongoing transition to Windows 10. Moreover, as many companies move towards creating more productive and flexible workspaces, they are looking for ergonomic devices and this should spur sales of monitors with adjustable stands, high resolution and ultra-wide screens, but also thin bezel monitors allowing dual screen setups.

Many vendors still have consumer monitors on their radar, especially high-end and gaming monitors. Esports are projected to rise to double digits in 2019 and, with variety of revenue streams in this still-nascent market, there is significant room to grow. Indeed, announcements from some vendors this year suggest we will see more ultra-large monitors designed specifically for gamers and an increasing number of 27-inch-plus and ultra-wide screens. Even if this focus on premium monitors results in an overall decline in volume sales, revenues should remain relatively stable.

Large-format Displays (LFDs)
In 2019, digital signage and collaboration will continue to drive sales of commercial large format displays (LFDs). This product category is still growing because it remains innovative: every year vendors and customers find new ways of utilising digital signage to improve customer experience, speed up service, track and target demand or simply improve productivity. In the coming year, we should see a shift in focus from hardware and display features towards personalisation and new applications. Vendors will offer customers fewer off-the-shelf products and more full solutions that include LFDs with additional business-ready functionalities and models with embedded operating systems and Wi-Fi which offer more operational flexibility. However, such technologies and capabilities will elevate some risks, especially where displays collect customer data, so vendors will also focus on enhancing data security in 2019.

The increasingly mobile workforce, which is driving trends in the desktop-monitors market, is also likely to lead to increased demand for interactive LFDs designed for collaboration hubs in corporate environments. Fully integrated solutions will help to transform the workplace and engage employees by enabling seamless connected collaboration.

Finally, another set of products which vendors will continue to promote are the direct-view LEDs used in outdoor and large venues. These panels allow customers to build videowalls for spaces of almost any dimension, shape or curve and have no signage-installation limits. Costs are high but the many advantages direct-view LEDs bring mean we should see slow but definite growth in this category.

by DK

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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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Black Hat Europe takes centre stage as security spending rises

It was Black Hat Europe time again this week. For anyone in any doubt about the scale of the cybersecurity challenge facing organisations today, I’d encourage them to read up on the latest insights into forward-looking threats. What you will find out may be rather unnerving.

The good news for the channel, however, is that organisations appear to be responding to these challenges, in part thanks to the regulatory drivers of GDPR and NIS Directive compliance. CONTEXT data reveals that enterprise security revenues for IT distributors in the first ten months of 2018 were up 10.1% year-on-year.

Safety first
As the name implies, Black Hat Europe is unremittingly tech-centric: a show by and for cybersecurity professionals. But the very fact that it’s able to fill out a large part of the cavernous ExCel every year, and hold sold-out events in the US and Asia, is testament to how far the security industry has come since the show’s inception in 1997. In their opening keynotes, Black Hat founder, Jeff Moss, and Marina Kaljurand, chair of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, echoed these sentiments. No-one was talking about cybersecurity in 2004, she said, but 14 years later it’s very much at the centre of governments’ national security plans and corporate risk management.

This has been driven in part thanks to a steady stream of major cyber-attacks and breaches over the years: originating from both nation state operatives and financially motivated cybercrime gangs. Most recently, incidents affecting half a billion Marriott International customers and 100 million Quora users have hit the headlines. The former could be on the receiving end of a major GDPR fine.

As CONTEXT noted a fortnight ago, the data protection legislation will continue to be the biggest single driver for increased security spending in the months to come. We can also expect a bump in spending after the first major fines are issued. So far, just one regulator has imposed a financial penalty, when €20,000 was levied against German chat app operator Knuddels. This is likely to change soon. Although it has garnered less publicity, the NIS Directive is also important: maximum possible fines levied under the regime go as high as the GDPR. We can therefore also expect to see firms in certain critical infrastructure sectors like water, healthcare, and transport to increase spending.

Where is spending targeted?
In the meantime, we noted growth in IT distribution revenues across all major cybersecurity categories. The biggest came in data protection and recovery products (62%), albeit from a much smaller base. Endpoint security (11%) and enterprise network security (6%) spending accounted for most sales. These are likely to continue to increase going forward as organisations look to get ahead of current threats and stay compliant.

The growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) will help to drive this spending, as security teams look to gain visibility and control over an expanding number of smart endpoints. Research from Trend Micro at Black Hat highlighted serious vulnerabilities and security shortcomings associated with two of the most common M2M protocols, MQTT and CoAP. Over just a fourth-month period the researchers claim these channels exposed over 219 million messages globally, putting firms at risk from targeted attacks, industrial espionage and DoS.

To manage this kind of risk effectively going forward, security bosses will need to make the right investment decisions to support a comprehensive security strategy fit for the new regulatory regime.

by AS

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Engaging young leaders in building the tech industry of the future is not an option

Two weeks ago, I was at a panel meeting of the Smart Home & Buildings Association. SH&BA, which was founded in 2000, is the knowledge base for smart homes and buildings and people who live and work in them. At this meeting, young leaders from Google, Sky, Signify, Bosch Smart Home, Energenie, & the Beacon Agency presented their solutions to a competition on “how to overcome the barriers to smart home adoption.”

Tech Data, one of CONTEXT’s close partners and panellists, had agreed to sponsor the competition. Andy Dow, Group Marketing Director of Tech Data UK and a well-known figure in the channel had expressed delight to recognise the vital role that these young leaders have in shaping the smart home industry of today and the future.

After the winner was announced – 24-year-old Thomas Joy, co-founder of the Beacon Agency – we saw the video. You must watch it! SH&BA Young Leaders Winner – the Beacon Agency . Here is what one seasoned expert on smart home said when he saw it:

“As a CABA member, I learned about Beacon Agency’s video and am writing to share my praise. Their video offers some of the most sensible advice in the Smart Home space in decades…by mentioning AI and the need for tech to disappear discreetly into devices, it touches on a missing component of the “smart” home: the ability to learn and adapt automatically… I very much like Beacon Agency’s view of this market, looking at the service model instead a collection of partially connected but rather dumb products that quickly go obsolete as tech innovation evolves exponentially.”

To those of us interested in the future of smart home, Thomas delighted us with his considerable creativity and marketing flair for his vision of Smart Home as a Service.

So, this is the point – thirty-five years ago, a bunch of young twenty-year olds entered the new and emerging PC industry, and, sticking with it over the years, ended up by running it. We need to give the voice today to those young leaders who are going to run the smart home industry in future decades. This is vital because they get the underlying motivation of consumers and how to frame the proposition to them. This is perfectly illustrated in the Beacon Agency video – Thomas had very little prior experience of smart home, and yet he powerfully captured its potential.

As another seasoned smart home individual said, who has been working on smart home for the last twenty years, “we got in a top consultancy firm to assess smart home – they spent months on it and the most powerful concept they came up with was Smart Home as a Service”. Thomas got there quicker, and it is here for you to see. How do we build it? Surely with the help of our empowered young leaders.

TechData

Winner Thomas Joy is pictured with Teresa Johnston from Tech Data and Adam Simon, CONTEXT

by AS

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Filed under IT Distribution, Market Analysis, Smart Home

Blockchain – Real-world applications springing from the ashes of recent hype

In recent years the Middle-Eastern nations have been at the forefront of new technology adoption. An early indicator of the visionary adoption of new ‘smart’ technologies was announced in 2014, as Dubai’s leader and local government announced the Smart Dubai strategy. The aim is to “provide seamless services to the public” over 6 key pillars: Transport, Communications, Infrastructure, Electricity, Economic Services and Urban Planning. Hundreds of individual initiatives are now underway, many of which are seeing great success and rapid implementation, such as electric car charging stations, free public WiFi and monitoring stations for weather and pollution. Such huge successes in the project over the last 4 years have been repeated in other cities globally, and now many of these technologies are becoming common-place in the world’s technology capitals.

One initiative in particular, however, truly is ground-breaking and, once fully operational, will allow Dubai to call itself the world’s Blockchain capital. Through collaboration with tech giant IBM, the Smart Dubai team recently announced the Dubai Blockchain Platform – the enabler for many of the paperless, frictionless initiatives that form part of the 6-pillar strategy. IBM will build and manage the platform, which will be hosted locally in the UAE, based on their latest LinuxONE technology. This infrastructure will allow for super-high bandwidth performance and will pave the way to make the city’s systems centrally managed though a “united portal” in the coming years. As an early win, the Smart Dubai team announced that the ‘Dubai Pay Blockchain Settlement and Reconciliation System’ has already been embedded onto the platform, with the target of being the first applied initiative which will reduce friction in inter-department payments and automate many of the existing settlement processes.

Additionally, the platform will be opened up to businesses who wish to adopt Blockchain services and solutions. Until today the barriers to entry have been vast, from lack of knowledge and data science skills to the upfront cost of hardware and software required to develop a specialised system. IBM plan to create options for using the platform under a blockchain-as-a-service model, reducing those barriers and allowing for wider-spread experimentation and application. In the case of the IT channel in the region, the platform could be used as a testbed for a number of business initiatives, such as:

  • Partner Programme Management – Centralising the process of tracking purchases between a distributor and their resellers, and enabling them to rebate effectively through their loyalty programmes.
  • Through-Partner Marketing – Understanding the successfulness of marketing campaigns, through direct tracking of response rates, click-through and location information.
  • MDF Optimisation – Managed via smart contracts to ensure that funds are used appropriately, with an added bonus of tracking the ROI more efficiently.
  • … and many more

Therefore, Smart Dubai and IBM are opening up a centralised, relatively barrier-free and cost-effective method for testing the true potential of the Blockchain, beyond the hype which followed the spectacular rise and fall of cryptocurrencies in 2017/18. It goes to show that sticking with an initiative and quietly executing on it, whilst the rest of the world rides the wave of hype, really can pay off.

by TP

 

 

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Trump’s tariff war – the challenge for IT procurement departments

As the tech world prepares to take on the threat of an increase in US tariffs from 1st January 2019, we look at how the procurement function deals with macro-economic events which impact the cost of IT products. 7 years ago it was the Thai floods which caused a worldwide shortage of hard drives. The Thai market was the second largest producer of hard drives after China, and the floods impacted the supply of 30% of global production. The result was a large hike in prices, and delays in the production of PC’s. It was not all necessarily bad news for the manufacturers who were able to reset expectations and raise prices in a competitive market. But how do procurement departments navigate in a time of increasing IT product costs and how they can assess how real and long-lasting these changes are?

There is no shortage of such issues. Currently there is a shortage of Intel processors due to unexpected growth in the PC industry, according to Intel CEO, Bob Swann. For the earlier part of this year, (as can be seen on the graph showing ASP’s) the cost of RAM has increased significantly due to shortage of supply only stabilising in recent months.

RAM

Source: CONTEXT SalesWatch Distribution – Europe + Russia + Turkey

And last year there was a large increase in the price of graphic cards due to the increase in gaming PC sales and the use of graphics cards in bitcoin mining in Russia.

ASP

Source: CONTEXT SalesWatch Distribution – Europe + Russia + Turkey

In each of these cases the root of the price increase was a shortage of components. So the parallel with the threat of tariffs is very relevant, as the major impact of the currently announced tariffs is on components and raw materials – leather (the new HP Spectre Folio), glass envelopes and fans used in computers, screws, stainless steel, printed circuit assemblies, certain monitors, and, the item which has caused Cisco and Juniper to increase their prices, switching and routing apparatus. What no procurement department wants to hear the IT vendor say is “Sorry, the tariffs are causing increases in the cost of components which means we have to put the price up by 10%”.

So, we expect that there will be standoffs and all parties will try to work round these issues.

  • IT manufacturers will get creative in the coming months to plan as effectively as possible for the next round of tariffs and return to practices from another age which in an era of ever increasing free-trade may have been forgotten. Tariff engineering is one such term – the “adapting of an item [being imported] so that [the importer doesn’t] have to pay any levy.” Is this the time to engineer out the need for fans in a computer and to find another way of achieving the same goal?
  • Switching the place where a product is manufactured may also be a choice, but this needs long-term planning, and in all likelihood, the endgame of President Trump is not to create a long-term trade war but to get a new deal with China on their level of imports from the US, and with Mexico and Europe for revised car trading deals. Apple is one of the companies potentially under threat as 100% of their smartphone production is based in China. So far, through successful lobbying they managed to get the Apple Watch out of the first wave of tariffs. But will they be as successful with the second wave in January 2019 or will they have to consider relocating smartphone production?
  • IT procurement departments will be pushing for more and more visibility into underlying component costs. This will involve both open book cost visibility of vendors sharing their own procurement data, as well as recourse to 3rd parties who provide independent verification of price indices.
  • IT procurement will also want to track closely the impact of price movements over time – increases do not flow through the supply chain immediately whilst there is inventory at the old prices. Visibility into the supply chain is vital from sell-in to distribution (for those products which go through the channel) and then to end-user. When new prices flow through, the impact should be clearly identifiable at each stage. Then in the case of tariffs, which are likely to be short-lived, transparency about the removal of the price constraint is necessary for procurement.

One of the unintended consequences of the Trump tariff war, may be a greater collaboration and transparency between procurement departments and the manufacturers of IT products, and a consequent increase in efficiency.

by MK

For more insights, please join our webinar on the 6th December, titled Technology and the trade war – navigating your way through the tariffs

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