New products generally represent a good opportunity for the channel to make a bit of extra margin by getting kit to market quickly. But that might not always be the case. The convergence of a number of technologies means a new family of products is already with us that could see conflict in the channel.
One such product is the digital camera. Who should sell it? The PC reseller or the traditional photographic equipment dealer? The enthusiastic amateur photographer might not encounter the digital camera if it is not readily available in the usual outlets, and yet to get the most from a digital camera a working knowledge of computer technology is needed.
Adrian Clarke, head of the digital imaging group at Fujifilm, says that while the photographic dealer would be a natural choice to sell digital cameras, the PC channel already has some of the right skills. 'At the moment, the camera technology is relatively simple, but the computer skills you need to get the best from it are more complex. There may be channel conflicts, but we will be working hard to avoid them. A key goal for next year will be to see that our photographic dealers can get the knowledge they need to make the most of the market for digital cameras.'
Sony has a number of products that cross over from the high street to the specialist market. UK PR manager Simon Goodman says vendors must pick the right reseller for the right product. 'Digital video products are very new and very technical - they need to be sold by people with the right sort of knowledge.'
As firms like Sony and Toshiba plan to unveil desktops PCs in the UK, it is unclear which channels will be chosen to sell them. A company with considerable presence in the home electronics arena may decide it wants to take advantage of brand awareness and push its new products through the traditional retail route. Toshiba is unlikely to want to tackle the likes of Compaq in the corporate desktop market, but may feel the familiarity of its name will win friends in the consumer market.
As the notion of value-add increasingly dominates the channel, it is no longer enough to just be a box-shifter. One of the new challenges will be how to adapt to products, which will cause dealers and resellers to redefine their positions.
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