Over the years I have been privileged to witness a lot of changes in the computer industry, particularly in the area of the services a distributor provides to the channel.
Historically, distribution was all about getting stock here from Asia. It seemed our challenge concerned supplying stock to meet the huge growth in demand for PCs and peripherals.
At the most basic level, distributors were extremely efficient at moving a physical product from point A to point B, but will there be a need for that in the future?
It is hard to argue that over the next five or 10 years the need to move hardware will vanish.
As the business evolved throughout the 90s, avid PC builders and budding resellers slowly stopped asking distributors simply "Do you have any stock?".
Resellers started getting a bit more demanding.
They began requiring extended credit and door-to-door delivery, drop shipments, co-operative marketing, consignment stock and extended product ranges, often all expected as standard.
Now resellers are moving on even further, to offer their customers highly complicated and advanced solutions.
So the role of distributors continues to evolve, especially since many are asking whether distributors can find a role to play in the world of cloud computing.
The answer is yes, in my opinion.
To predict the future of distribution, you need only consider the value that distributors offer and look at some of the innovations we have brought to market.
Distributors do many things that add value, such as white-label drop shipment, content management offerings, self-billing, EDI, stock management and profit assurance programmes.
In spite of the hype and attention that cloud has received over the past few years, the phenomenon still remains an emerging trend and one embraced primarily by innovators and early adopters.
Cloud computing is real, of course, and I think we will see it go mainstream in 2012. This will undoubtedly change much of what we know today about building, selling and supporting computing power.
The supply chain is changing and distributors are going to be challenged to add value in a world where warehousing and physically shipping products will become of less importance.
Constant innovation in the distribution channel will be needed to not only prevail in the face of the advent of cloud computing, but other industry forces as well.
This is not much different to how we have had to approach business and address market pressures over the past four decades.
Cloud computing is not the first hurdle for distribution and it won't be the last. The physical product still needs to be moved on behalf of the channel, and the distributor can do that better than anyone else.
Dave Stevinson is sales director at VIP Computers
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