Value has been in vogue in the distribution space this year, with the big boys trying desperately to shift the “broadline” tag, and many smaller players enjoying success.
The UK’s biggest distributor, Computer 2000, has been stressing its credentials as a “collection of specialists”. The rest of the big four - Avnet, Ingram and Arrow - have also been bringing in new technologies and skills in specialised areas such as mobility and security.
Meanwhile, two of the UK’s larger VADs joined forces when Exclusive Networks bought VADition. Below them, many specialists continue to prosper, while several new names entered the UK market.
The tablet PC boom continued, with Apple, Asus, Acer and some other A-named vendors seeing demand for their devices soar.
Apple remained by far the leader of the pack, but a serious challenger may be the Amazon Kindle Fire, which several analysts have tipped to make a serious dent in the fruit-based vendor’s market share in 2012.
HP, RIM and Dell all struggled to match the sales of the A-Team, because their prices were too high or - in the words of the X Factor panel - they did not connect with the audience.
The big got bigger in the channel this year, with the UK’s largest resellers continuing to enjoy growth.
CRN’s recent rundown of the UK’s top 100 VARs found that every one of the top 10 enjoyed growth in their most recent financial year. Numerous firms between the £10m and £30m mark struggled to grow and maintain profitability.
Unsurprisingly, the top dogs remain bullish. Being handy with a slingshot might be a useful skill for the many channel Davids in 2012.
A year ago the globe’s two biggest PC vendors were surely looking in the mirror, flexing their biceps and telling themselves “You’re a tiger! GRRRR!” as they prepared for an epic battle to be number one. A year on, they must be less cocksure.
Acer has been haemorrhaging market share across the globe as a $150m (£96m) stock surplus piled up. Both the Taiwanese firm and its (former) biggest rival have also changed bosses this year.
Léo Apotheker finally wore out the patience of HP shareholders with his “we’re exiting the PC business” malarkey. Meg Whitman was brought in, but Q4 profits still plummeted 90 per cent. The former eBay boss can only hope she generates more positive feedback than her predecessor in 2012.
Few traditional resellers, characterised by their dogged pursuit of hardware margins and reluctance to move into the services market, had a good 2011.
There have been numerous reports this year of smaller, old-school VARs hitting the wall, making redundancies and looking for bailouts from their acquisitive rivals.
Judging by the current state of the economy, and with market watchers forecasting an even tougher 2012, this is one trend we can expect to see continue over the next year.
Storage supply chain
The devastating natural disasters in Japan and Thailand took their toll on the storage supply chain this year.
The Japanese earthquake and tsunami knocked out production at several tape storage vendors’ factories in March, resulting in supply shortages and price hikes that lasted well into September.
The storage channel was rocked again in October by flooding in Thailand, which besieged HDD-making facilities at the Western Digital and Seagate plants in the region. Analysts have warned it could take the market up to 18 months to fully recover.
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