Could Microsoft do with more warmth and less hot air on XP?

08 Apr 2014

Having been launched in 2011, Windows XP is considered ancient in operating-system terms. But perhaps, in seeking to understand why it is seemingly having such a hard time getting users to upgrade from the 13-year-old software, Microsoft should take some genuinely ancient lessons on board.

Aesop's fable of The North Wind and the Sun teaches that brute force is not as effective a show of strength as gentle persuasion. The sun proves its power, and gets the traveller to do as he wishes, with pacific warmth, while the wind's bullying bluster is just met with more and more resistance.

One reseller has characterised Microsoft's attempts to convince users to migrate as "scaremongering". It is certainly fair to say that the vendor's awareness campaign has focused a good deal more on the claimed security perils of staying on XP past today's end-of-support date than it has on the benefits of adopting its newer technologies.

Much like a child with a cherished toy, it can prove impossible to strong-arm someone into parting from a technology they know and trust, and that still works. The most effective way to separate a child from its favourite plaything is invariably to capture its imagination and its attention with a toy it loves even more.

XP is clearly a product that people love and, rather than huffing and puffing, perhaps Microsoft could trade a little more on the warmth generated for its brand by the ageing software.

Cisco and Las Vegas; Confused? You will be...

27 Mar 2014

clock striking twelve with pound signIt's an oft-cited factoid that the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip have no windows and no clocks, so as to cultivate an environment where you lose track, not only of time, but of the reality of the outside world.

Having been here for five days now, I feel I can confidently confirm that this is just one of many ways in which this, frankly ridiculous, city tries to disorient you. The two hotels I have stayed in this week - while varying wildly in both price and pomp - have at least one thing in common: they ushered me to my room via the casino, and its attendant assault on the senses of noise, flashing lights, scantily clad women, and hard liquor.

Even in the early spring, the weight of the afternoon heat is enough to beckon you inside, where the hard-to-resist combination of pervasive air conditioning and ice-cold beer awaits you. And, once you're in, it can be very hard to get out. The mind-boggling monuments to excess that are Strip hotel-casinos are crowded, noisy, and labyrinthine.

And if do you get out - no doubt by having to circumnavigate a cornucopia of attractive hostelries, restaurants, and high-end boutiques - you join a boisterous but slow-moving bacchanalian parade of party-seekers openly guzzling enormous novelty drinks, while you all run a gauntlet of the opportunistic and the down-at-luck aggressively competing for a little bit of your attention - and your money.

(As a native Londoner, I'm no stranger to the variable merits of buskers. But this week marked the first time a street musician has met my usual quiet disinterest with an invitation to physical confrontation. Such a characteristically excessive reaction is enough to drive a man - at least this man - to drink. And air-con. And a comfy sofa. And - oh, look: that slot machine's progressive payouts are building nicely - surely 10 dollars can't hurt...?)

All of which makes Sin City a curiously apt location for this year's Cisco Partner Summit; "We want to make you uncomfortable," CEO John Chambers told VARs this week.

The vendor has big plans to progress way beyond its roots as a belt-and-braces networking company, and has outlined its intention to be considered the world's leading IT player. Its vision of the evolution of this industry centres on the so-called Internet of Everything, a somewhat confusing but highly impressive world in which items as diverse as rubbish bins and stalks of corn become connected devices.

Rival HP - which, coincidentally, is holding its channel get-together down the road this week - provided a salutary lesson in the havoc that can be wreaked by bewildering and upsetting a vast network of partners with a strategic about-turn. Cisco must know that its plans are a huge bet that could see it win big, or lose the shirt on its back. But that's Vegas, baby.

And it openly admits that not all its current set of loyal partners will ultimately follow it on the path it has mapped out. Chambers told attendees that one in three of the companies gathered in Nevada - presumably including his own in thatvegas equation - would not exist in 10 to 20 years.

At least, unlike its competitor further down the strip, Cisco is giving partners plenty of notice of its intentions. This intended next phase of its channel development began - at least publicly - at this event last year. But, as it gets more serious about cloud, smart cities, and the Internet of Everything, partners are going to need to place their bets.

Just like a Las Vegas casino, Cisco needs to make sure that, for the channel, the world outside its walls is not where you want to be.

Comrade Meg strikes again

06 Feb 2014

If the terminology of Meg Whitman's "five-year plan" to transform HP has a Soviet-style feel to it, her clinical elimination of the top lieutenants around her since she took the helm also evokes images of a supreme leader of an absolutist regime.

This is not a criticism: in times of war even liberal democracies vest their leaders with emergency powers or declare martial law. Whitman effectively HP's Meg Whitmanfound herself in the corporate equivalent of emergency rule upon seizing the baton in 2011. HP's share price and reputation was at a low following a string of CEO changes that, in her words, had "caused multiple inconsistent strategic choices and significant executional miscues".

Four of the top lieutenants Whitman paraded on stage at her first global partner conference in February 2012 have now either left or are rumoured to be leaving. IPG boss Vyomesh Joshi was the first to exit just a month later, shortly before Autonomy boss Mike Lynch - who was briefly given a grander job title of executive vice president of HP's Information Management division - left under a cloud.

And now it seems that former PC boss Todd Bradley and former enterprise boss David Donatelli are also being packed off to Siberia, according to a Reuters article.

Bradley and Donatelli, two of HP's most powerful executives, will leave HP in the coming weeks with seven- or even eight-figure payoffs after both being sidelined last year, sources told the news agency. This means Whitman will have disposed of four of the most powerful people around her when she took the helm as she looks to return HP to greatness.

Both Bradley and Donatelli were exited from their roles heading up its PC/printer and enterprise divisions respectively last summer, Bradley to helm HP's Chinese assault and Donatelli to a role identifying early-stage technologies for investment. They have not been seen regularly in HP's offices for months, sources told Reuters, and both are understood to be interviewing for potential jobs.

What this illustrates is that Whitman is willing to dispose of even the biggest of beasts within HP in her quest to ensure its five-year turnaround plan remains on track. Whitman was not happy with the pace of growth at HP's enterprise arm, while Bradley's CV was stained with his dubious achievement of overseeing the ill-fated TouchPad tablet in 2011.

HP may not have overcome all the obstacles that faced Whitman when she took power - it is yet to enter the smartphone game and shows no sign of regaining the PC crown it lost last year to Lenovo. But, judging from HP's share price, which has more than doubled since sinking to a nine-year low in Autumn 2012, Whitman's style of leadership is working.

It's also clear from talking to partners that Whitman is a popular leader in the channel - alongside Michael Dell she is one of the few that finds the time to sit down one-on-one with top partners.

And she certainly seems to have done a lot of the heavy lifting that will allow HP to become an industry super-power once again. Unlike the Soviets, this might just be one five-year plan that comes together.

VARmaggedon? Not on my watch

13 Dec 2013

Last week I was shocked to hear that a term I'd not previously come across - VARmaggedon (or LARmaggedon as some have it) - is fast making its way into common parlance in the channel. I immediately feared the worst: what catastrophic event is lying in wait to befall the UK's 10,000-plus-strong community of VARs, I wondered? And would the CRN team be required to don space suits and detonators to avert the crisis.

Thankfully, I was quickly assured it is nothing as dramatic. Apparently, the apocalyptic-sounding expression describes the journey many resellers are making to remain relevant in this era of cloud, apps and services.

VARs no longer want to be just purveyors of third-party IBruce WillisT kit but instead known also as vendors of services in their own right, and ones which the customer trusts as much as HP, IBM or Microsoft.

While I salute the sentiment, I only hope it does not weaken the channel's already wavering allegiance to the term VAR in favour of vague, more Americanised terms such as "solution provider" or terms used in other parts of the market such as "service provider". After all, few traditional channel businesses would draw half of their gross profit - much less their revenue - from services, and that is unlikely to change even as the cloud revolution gathers pace.

The very reason vendors have perenially turned to the channel is because of the close bond VARs enjoy with their customers. In other words, the reseller is already the brand the customer trusts the most and the colour of the boxes they're supplying is seen as less important.

Although I'd stop short of detonating a massive asteroid to save the term VAR, it would be a shame if the expression were abandoned altogether.

HP's Chromebook gambit suffers minor setbacks

19 Nov 2013

Sails and masts of a ship

When HP launched Chromebooks running Google Chrome operating system, it had high hopes for offering consumers and businesses an alternative to Windows-based PCs.

Now, it’s suffering a minor setback as it pulls Chromebook 11 models from circulation because over overheating power supplies. HP began pulling Chromebook 11 — the 11-inch version — of the Google-based PC from retail outlets and channel distribution because it had received a handful of reports that its micro-USB power supplies were overheating and creating a fire hazard.

“Google and HP are pausing sales of the HP Chromebook 11 after receiving a small number of user reports that some chargers included with the device have been damaged due to overheating during use. We are working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to identify the appropriate corrective action, and will provide additional information and instructions as soon as we can,” wrote Caesar Sengupta, vice president of product management at Google in a blog post.

HP and Google say Chromebook 11 owners shouldn’t use the original power supply and cord that came with their devices. Instead, they recommend using alternative micro-USB charger approved by Underwriters Laboratories. Many chargers that come with common tablets and smartphones will suffice.

There’s no telling when Chromebook 11 will return to market. HP Chromebook 14, the larger version of the Chrome-based PCs, are unaffected by the power supply issue.

While a setback, Chromebook 11’s power supply problem is likely just a minor incident. HP seems committed to the notion of carrying PCs that operate on different platforms and lessening its dependence on Microsoft Corp. for operating systems.

The HP Chromebooks are a direct response to Microsoft continuing to push its Windows-based tablets, Surface, to market in competition with similar tablets produced by PC vendors. HP CEO Meg Whitman recently cited Microsoft as a competitor because of the Surface tablet.

HP isn’t the only PC vendor offering Chrome-based machines. Lenovo, Samsung and Acer  all offer Chrome-based PCs. However, HP is the only vendor making a major push in the retail and business-to-business channels with the Microsoft alternative. By many indications, the Chromebook 11 was selling well prior to the suspension.

Chances are it will return to distribution once the power supply problem is diagnosed and corrected. There’s little chance this incident will slow the growing list of Microsoft alternatives.

 

As part of our special editorial relationship, CRN is republishing this article from Channelnomics

SPONSORED BLOG - ESET and channel support

04 Nov 2013

acrobats

The ESET philosophy is that the end-user is buying peace of mind...protection for their IT systems and a path to a less stressful, more enjoyable working environment.

Purchasing the licence is only the start of this process.

Channel partners form a key role in bringing protection to end users by providing high-level pre-sales and after-sales service and support to ALL end-users which we would not be able to provide ourselves.

This enables workers to focus on what they are good at whatever their business, with the confidence that their infrastructure will support them.

As our channel partners have such an integral role in our business we go out of our way to support them, and here is how we do it; All our resellers have a dedicated ESET account management team including a territory sales manager and an internal partner account manager.

This allows us to work closely with our resellers’ in-house sales teams whilst ensuring someone is available within our offices at all times to provide account support. We also offer monthly training sessions to engage with our partners and keep them updated with the latest product and technical developments.

Our technical training focuses on offering the best possible first-line support to which our customers are accustomed, whilst our sales & product sessions focus on providing attendees with a detailed understanding of the product range and advice on attracting and retaining new business.

A key benefit of ESET’s reseller support is our fast response; UK-based technical assistance is available seven days a week. Whilst we expect our partners to provide first-line support to their customers, should they not be available the end user can come direct to us.

Our marketing resource centre provides partners with a wide range of resources including web pages, banners and product datasheets. Many of the items within the resource centre have been produced due to requests from our existing channel partners, showing our commitment to listening, supporting and adapting to our channel partner requirements, and we continue to adapt this resource based on our partner’s feedback.

For unsurpassed marketing, sales & technical support join the ESET movement today!

Georgie Messenger is reseller marketing executive at ESET

Computer 2000 rebrand no laughing matter

08 Oct 2013

Despite it being arguably the UK's best-known distribution brand, the name Computer 2000 has been a comic gift for the comperes of the CRN's Channel Awards down the years.

Everyone from Jimmy Carr to Ed Byrne has not believed their luck to discover that one of our industry's main protagonists has a bizarrely outdated moniker that immediately conjures up images of the millennium bug, brick-like mobile phones and dial-up internet.

Not great for a firm striving to be at the cutting edge of technology.change11

That all changed this week when C2K announced its brand had been confined to the annals of history as it finally adopted the name of its parent - Tech Data - 15 years after it was acquired by the US-based goliath distributor.

So what took it so long?

Well, although Tech Data had wanted to roll its brand to the UK for years, outside of introducing the prefix 'TD' to some parts of the business it wasn't able to do this due to the existence of another similarly named local distributor, security specialist Tekdata.

Word has it that - after years of wrangling - Tekdata owner Micro-P finally accepted a fat wad of cash from Tech Data to make the name go away and in April Tekdata was rebranded as Micro-P Security.

C2K's name change rectifies an anomaly by finally bringing it in line with the rest of Tech Data, a much more powerful brand globally and one that is already known even among its UK reseller base.

But why did the two parties - Tech Data and Tekdata - finally reach a deal now? It's hard to say but maybe Micro-P felt it was finally the right time to retire the brand of a firm it acquired way back in 2007. But the agreement was also likely spurred on by Tech Data's desire to ditch C2K before the integration of recent acquisition SDG is completed. This means SDG's reseller and vendor partners will only have to endure one system change as opposed to two.

Tech Data UK marketing director Andy Dow would not confirm or deny whether money changed hands between the two distributors but told us it was "critical" the rebrand occurred before the SDG integration was completed."

"With Micro-P no longer using the Tekdata name, there was no conflict in the distribution channel and we were able to go ahead and use the name," he said.

Dow admitted that Tech Data "feels a lot more current" than C2K, adding that he was not even sure whether '2000' referred to a year or a number.

"Computer 2000 is a stronger name [than Tech Data] in the UK, however vendors deal with us as Tech Data across Europe and we spend a lot of time explaining why one country is different," he said. "Many resellers also refer to us as Tech Data - it's not a big change as this is a name they are familiar with.

In any case, the UK's largest distributor could finally go under the radar of this year's Channel Awards compere as they scan the list of nominees for comedy gold.

Amazon EC2 outages - lessons not learned

02 Sep 2013

John Paterson chief executive of Really Simple Systems

Recently Amazon's hosting service, EC2, went down for several hours causing customers such as Airbnb, Instagram, Netflix and Vine to go offline, plus a myriad of lesser known companies.

The lesson that cloud providers still don't seemed to have learned from the Amazon outage is that you should never have a single point of failure, and trusting 100 per cent of your hosting to one supplier - no matter how big they are - is a single point of failure.

Every datacentre and hosting provider goes down once a year; there are just so many links in the chain to keep unbroken 24/7/365.

If cloud providers are serious about uptime they need to spread the load across multiple data centres or hosting providers across two disparate datacentres, geographically separate and each with different power and internet connections and have a facility to switch the service when one system fails.

But that is tricky to do with services like EC2. It is technically possible to have a failover system for EC2 in place, but it would be costly to have a system sufficiently powerful enough to handle all your load just twiddling its thumbs for 364 days in the year.

Load balancing across that system and EC2 would be complicated, to say the least. You really need to have two hosting providers, of equal size and with identical architecture, then spread the load across each, but with both having the capacity to handle the whole load if needed in an emergency.

If cloud providers are serious about customer satisfaction, they need to change their mindset so that downtime is not acceptable, and build their architecture accordingly.

A blog that explores the views of some of the CRN editorial team as well as guest bloggers from the channel. Do get in touch with sara.yirrell@incisivemedia.com if you are interested in being a CRN guest blogger for a week.

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