Intel used its Solutions Summit (ISS) in Abu Dhabi to highlight to the 500 partners in attendance the opportunities it can generate from the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT was a central focus throughout the event, now in its 17th year, and the chip maker announced a number of changes to its Technology Provider programme which included added benefits and resources for partners selling IoT in the retail sector.
Matt Birch, Intel's channel sales manager, highlighted the growing opportunities partners could harness from IoT, and said this was one of the central messages of ISS.
"I think our current partners will embrace IoT and also we will find ourselves with lots of new partners and customers because of the explosion of IoT. It feels to me that it's here and not that it's coming," Birch said.
"IoT as a market is set to grow hugely. I have no doubt that my partners will take advantage of it, and I will see new partners coming to me. And while I don't think my channel will double suddenly, I do expect new verticals and industries to start working with my channel."
Given the recent revenue boost Intel has enjoyed thanks to IoT, it is perhaps no surprise that it was such a constant talking point in Abu Dhabi. In 2014 Intel recorded revenues of $2.1bn (£1.37bn), up 19 per cent on 2013, from IoT.
Speaking during his keynote address, Christian Morales (pictured below), Intel's EMEA vice president, said the decreasing costs of supplying IoT means it is becoming a bigger opportunity.
"IoT has a $19tn value to the economy. And the trend we are looking at now is a lot of the important ingredients to make IoT successful [are becoming cheaper]," he said. "Like the sensors, where the cost has gone down twice in the last 10 years, the cost of processing has gone down 60 times in the last 10 years, and the cost of bandwidth has gone down 40 times. All those ingredients and innovations taking place are making this opportunity to accelerate and grow, even faster."
Level playing field
One issue that has been raised previously is the disparity between how Intel treats its A-brand partners and its smaller system builders.
When asked what Intel is doing to make sure there is a level playing field, Birch said the speed that the smaller partners can produce solutions can give them an advantage.
"They [system builders] can often bring solutions to the market quicker than the bigger guys can, because they have long design and research and development cycles. And so the opportunity for our partners locally is they can generally take our products and solutions and turn them around fast and win on our latest technologies with our customers."
IoT was not the only talking point during ISS, with Intel's Skylake microprocessing chip, slated for release in the second half of 2015, also highlighted in many speeches. Although the exact launch date has not yet been revealed, Morales indicated the release dates for Skylake and other forthcoming Intel products would be similar for all Intel's partners.
"Usually we launch products across the board, to large multinationals, local OEMs and channel partners. The timelines are going to be very close. Like we have seen until now, even sometimes channel partners are coming to market [and] having a time-to-market advantage," he said.
During the convention, changes were announced to Intel's partner programme to provide benefits for partners who focus on IoT, education and retail. And according to Richard Peel, Intel's EMEA channel director, the programme has now developed to recognise all the work that Intel's partners do, and it does not favour system builders over traditional resellers.
"Wwe have recognised the evolution of the marketplace and the channel. We have seen that companies want to be recognised for all their business with Intel, not just the stuff historically they have built around Intel chips," he said.
"I remember sitting in various feedback sessions with partners saying you only seem to recognise the stuff I put together in my shop where I screwdriver it together, and actually I do a lot more than you recognise. So that argument has gone away because we recognise all of their business. Whether they resell HP or a Dell, we will recognise and reward them to the extent where they now get Intel points on those sales."
Speaking with Paul Jacobs, business unit manager at Intel partner Tech Data, it was clear he was happy with Intel's rhetoric during ISS. Jacobs was particularly enthused by the IoT-heavy message throughout the convention.
"Intel is a classic example of a company trying to stay at the forefront of digital IT. I have been to a few of these events and the CPUs [and] servers are all a bit better, more reliable and with more usage. And it's been that way for 20 years, as they keep going on about Moore's Law of twice the capacity every year. But for us, IoT is the real key," Jacobs said.
And according to Mark Glasspool, director of product marketing at Tech Data, the noises Intel made during ISS are encouraging for the distributor.
"We are 100 per cent happy with what Intel is doing with IoT. It needs someone like Intel, who has its fingers in so many pies, to pull it all together. It's got to be the real big boys across multiple platforms who will drive this. That's why Microsoft, Google and Intel are all so critical because they can cover multiple technologies and multiple platforms. But the good news is, it's high on Intel's agenda," Glasspool said.
But Jacobs said he doesn't expect Intel to stay in the IoT field forever.
"The reality is, Intel won't stay on it [IoT]. They are only doing it at the moment because their chips are in all those little devices, servers and datacentres that are collecting the data. What they are doing is what they always try to do, which is to evolve the technology so they sell more chips. It's more relevant to the Microsofts and the Samsungs because they will create the software devices, and they will see the revenues from that quite quickly," he said.
But the effect IoT is having on the channel is clear, with Glasspool saying that a number of Tech Data's reseller partners were asking him about IoT during the convention.
"We have had conversations with four or five of them [resellers] today that have been around IoT or connected products – the likes of Misco and Stone – all these guys are interested in different ways because of the breadth of products that are sold with IoT."
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