At Partner Connect this year, the theme of the event was innovation in mobility, with a particular focus on BYOD. Vendors talked about their product road maps and offered insights.
First up on the day was Tom Byrd, head of competitive intelligence at BlackBerry, to talk about the ways in which resellers can build business around its devices. Byrd noted that the vendor is here to stay despite its recent troubles, with Enterprise Service 10 mobile device management (MDM) software and the Z10 smartphone offering a good chance to expand mobility sales.
Simon Yates, PC category director for the UK and Ireland at HP, talked about mobility in the context of MDM and Microsoft's latest releases. However, he warned that the field for the reseller has become a lot more diverse, with Ubuntu, Chrome and others joining Windows, Android and iOS as popular mobile platforms.
HP itself plans to follow the trend by expanding the selection of platforms it offers across a range of mobility devices. This diversity and complexity in the market is a good thing, especially for the channel, he said.
"The opportunity that this opens up is for HP to bring products to market across that space, but also for resellers to evolve their solutions. And it enables you to charge a premium for those services, giving you more opportunity to carve yourself out a niche," he added.
He pointed to the evolution of Google Chrome for the corporate and education markets - first on the laptop, and then on other mobile devices. HP already sells Ubuntu as the platform on some of its commercial desktops, and expects to roll it out on the mobile portfolio as well in the near future.
"Generally we have been a WinTel manufacturer, and that is the opportunity that we have seen. But there will be quite a lot of differentiation," Yates said. "This will enable you to use HP as a building block to help you to make money."
For example, HP is developing a series of so-called "jackets" for its ElitePad 900, a MIL-standard, rugged aluminium laptop running Windows 8 Professional, and other devices that will target specific verticals - such as a biohazard-resistant jacket for healthcare applications, or one with a smartcard reader for hospitality implementation. Resellers could then wrap services around that more diverse hardware range.
James Akrigg (pictured, right), head of technology for partners at Microsoft, had quite a bit to add on the subject of his company, which he said is aiming for a unified experience across all devices that will improve usability greatly for the consumer. Microsoft believes that about half of SMBs are making more mobile working a priority in the next year.
Akrigg talked attendees through the range of mobile offerings from Microsoft, including plug-and-play portable Windows 8 USB keys - the Windows8ToGo - the Surface tablet, and the Windows 8 Phone.
Key to all these was the ability to go anywhere, any time, and use the same interface, without having to fiddle with the GUIs of a variety of mobile apps when transferring from the desktop.
"Ours is the only OS that comes natively with a mobile version of Word, PowerPoint and Excel," he told the audience (pictured, left). "And 10,000 apps a month are released for the Windows platform. That is phenomenal growth."
Meanwhile, Windows MDM would manage diverse devices - including iOS, and soon Android as well, Akrigg confirmed.
Rob Eatwell, EMEA channel technical enablement team leader at McAfee, explained how McAfee would continue as part of Intel. One big opportunity through the McAfee SMB partner support programme was selling managed security services, but this meant working harder to carve out a niche as a trusted adviser in a world where rootkits had made it a riskier business than ever.
"Just when you thought you had control of your network, [people started to use] their [own] devices, so how can you say you can or cannot put things on it?" Eatwell said.
There was no putting the consumer genie back in the bottle now, he noted, and customers and their resellers need to recognise this fact.
Harnessing social media
Neil Sawyer, head of the IT channel partner organisation at Samsung UK, gave the final presentation of the day. He emphasised the vendor's intensified focus on the business market and the channel. Currently, it earns $500m (£330m) B2B but it wants to grow that, in part through harnessing the expansion of social media and BYOD as well as sales of its laptops, tablets and phones with a prosumer and more enterprise-secure focus.
"For the next five years, we have a real opportunity to drive our business into the B2B market," he said. "Corporate-funded BYOD will see 23.3 per cent CAGR 2011-2018 - and individual-bought BYOD 33 per cent."
It is also looking to offer better support to the IT channel, Sawyer said.
On the stands, Ricoh's UK channel director Steven Hastings was talking about that vendor's expansion into projection, high-end interactive whiteboards (IWBs) and other audiovisual offerings. As reported on ChannelWeb, the IWBs will launch to the UK channel in July.
"This is a whole new business area for Ricoh entering the channel in the UK," Hastings said. "And we will be looking for specialised partners to work with us on this to add more value. I think it will be for tertiary education, and marketed to the corporate world as well."
Paul Mullen, sales director at AndersDX (pictured, right) was showing a range of ruggedised PCs and retail tablets to partners. Resellers are sought - however, one of the most innovative products not on display was sparking the most interest, he said.
"We have a brand new technology called ShadowSense which is the first where you can use any device to generate a touch - a pen, a credit card, a gloved hand, a brush. It's a camera-less optical technology," Mullen explained.
ShadowSense means users no longer have to scrabble about to find the right gadget for their touchscreen, which should prove useful in a wide range of working environments such as hospitality, or outdoors. The technology was developed in Canada and AndersDX has an exclusive commercialisation relationship, he said.
Peter Cole, channel development manager at Fujitsu, said it was promoting both its hardware and its cloud solutions, such as gloviaOM - a Salesforce.com ERP add-on that enables order management on one platform - a potentially handy tool for resellers and their customers.
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