Archive by Author | Mike Rodwell

2012, a year to forget or a step in the right direction?

Few people would argue that this year has been one of very big highs and lows.  From a personal perspective, 2012 will be remembered for the Olympics and Ryder Cup (great), weather (expletive deleted!) and the continued challenges of the economy, both home but especially in the Eurozone.

It’s been pretty interesting in the IT space too.  The rise and rise of Apple (that has understandably cooled down a bit of late), the continued pressing of the metaphorical self-harm button within HP and an emerging feeling that Microsoft’s continued success is inextricably linked to the success of Windows 8.

We’ve reached a fascinating time in the Global business environment.  On one hand, there’s no doubt that (some of) the big are getting very much bigger.  You don’t need to look further than the IT distribution channel to see a great example of this.  The ‘big 4’ of Arrow, Avnet, Ingram Micro and Tech Data are all acquiring smaller companies at a rapid rate in order to leverage economies of scale in global logistics, emerging technologies and vendor negotiation.  We’ve seen already huge companies such as Apple and Samsung (deliberately put in the same sentence!) grow significantly this year and both lead with hardware.  In a world where purportedly you “have to be in services to survive”, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Apple and Samsung to take exception to this (Lenovo might join them).

On the other hand, some big companies have failed to capitalise on their position and or messed up strategically.  Notwithstanding HP’s woes, the ‘best’ recent example I can think of is Kodak.  The once globally dominant imaging company and inventor of digital photography kept digital on the back burner for fear of ruining their lucrative film margins.  Companies such as Canon and Nikon embraced digital and were soon followed by many others.  The rest as they say is history, certainly for Kodak.

Technology companies of all sizes are being acquired by larger players, often for what appears to be incredibly high valuations.  There’s a feeding frenzy going on and if you’re not in the thick of it, you’ll be left behind.  Or will you?  I would humbly suggest that HP succumbed to this frenzy during Leo Apotheker’s brief but calamitous reign at HP.  The recent $8.8bn write-down of their Autonomy acquisition (following a similar $8bn action on EDS) left Meg Whitman and her management team with a mighty task of re-establishing HP’s credibility.  Is it even possible to think that its future independence is in doubt?

It’s impossible to avoid Cloud at the moment and bemusing that an industry – that’s managed to confuse more people through the use of jargon and acronyms than any other – has now created a whole new market for a service that’s been around for years.  Still, once a good idea always a good idea and because of Cloud, lots of new businesses have been and will be created developing ideas and alternate solutions that challenge the established companies, including Computacenter, to up their game.  This should be good for the most important people in all of this, our customers.

The reason I love this industry is that although it excites and frustrates (often in equal measure!), it’s never, ever dull.  With emerging trends such as BYOD, Automation & Orchestration, Software Defined Data Centres, Mobilisation, Analytics, not to mention Cloud, this trend is set to continue.  For this reason alone, I’ll take 2012 as a step in the right direction and if I could have just two wishes for the coming year, it would be a return to stability for the Eurozone and a return to form for HP.

Wishing you a happy and peaceful festive season and successful 2013.

Is wireless the oil of tomorrow?

As usual, Canalys CEO Steve Brazier made several thought provoking observations during a presentation to the assembled Lenovo channel partner forum in Berlin earlier this month. The topic that really grabbed my attention was the increasing importance of wireless technology in everyday life. In a recent internal blog, I wrote about wireless and the fact that it’s now one of the most essential commodities in my life which still feels odd at times for something that can’t be seen or touched.

But think about it. Like most people, many years ago I was handcuffed to the PC in the study if I wanted to do anything ‘on line’ or run the gauntlet of the 10m cable and the then heavy and usually very hot laptop to remain part of the family in the lounge. Now I have smartphone and tablet at my disposal wherever I am in the house as well as smart tv, Apple tv and a myriad of other devices all communicating with the tiny little box in the study. Can you imagine life without wifi?

As more and more of us access increasingly rich content from our smartphones and other devices, the demand on wifi bandwidth will reach incredible proportions. How will this be delivered, who will ‘own’ the supply and will a whole new market emerge in the same way that oil is traded today? Entirely new businesses will be created to profit from this opportunity and unless existing companies adopt new strategies to evolve their business models, they may find themselves with a fight on their hands.

Within the business community, growth in BYOD is as inevitable as rain during a bank holiday. IS departments have little if any choice in the matter and instead should be focusing their efforts on building strategies for securely incorporating the multitude of new clients into the network. The subject of security has never been more important and if your own organisation is seeking advice or support on this or the future of wireless in the workplace, please speak to us.

Is an Ultrabook the answer?

I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting a single device to lug around the place. It needs to be light, powerful, have a great screen, look good, last for hours etc. I remember when the tablet was first muted and asked then which item(s) I already had it would replace. Having had an iPad for a while now, the answer is, it hasn’t. I still have a Smartphone (would be difficult but not impossible to use the iPad for this but you’d need big pockets and skin the thickness of Dom Joly) and my Notebook.

On occasion I take all three devices with me when I need to do some ‘proper’ work, specifically creating in addition to reviewing. When travelling overnight and especially abroad, I have left the Notebook at home a few times and this has made a very positive difference to the holdall weight but there’s always that nagging doubt…

On the face of it, the Ultrabook does appear to combine the functionality of the Notebook while coming closer to the weight and battery life of the Tablet. The new Intel Ivy Bridge processors will further improve matters in the battery life department and Windows 8 will support touch, perhaps the single biggest USP of the iPad (as well as ‘instant on’). Oh, and that screen…

I’m eagerly awaiting my first Ultrabook and although it won’t be loaded with Windows 8 when received, it will provide a strong pointer to the future. If you’ve never had an iPad then this is probably the ideal solution but if like me you have, it will be a tougher call.

Client computing has become sexy again and whether you love or hate Apple, we should all probably thank them as it’s their innovation and design that is driving the competing manufacturers to produce better products.

Opening the Treasure Trove

I started writing this blog while on a train travelling into London.  At Didcot Parkway it was interesting and somewhat nostalgic to see a bunch of people train spotting.  The ensemble was made up of two boys and four adults armed with a variety of books, cameras, tripods and binoculars.  I remember fondly a train spotting phase in my youth but in those days we didn’t have the multiple distractions of video games, social media and 100+ TV channels that exist today.  I can’t explain why but it made me feel good and perhaps just a tad envious to witness this very traditional hobby still being pursued.

Last week I hosted a dinner for the ‘class of 2012’ graduate sales trainees or Sales Associates in CC speak.  This is always an event I really look forward to as it’s fantastic to spend some quality time with young, enthusiastic and clearly bright individuals.  But perhaps the best aspect is their relative naivety in terms of business and IT in general that results in often simple but incredibly compelling observations about our business.  This lack of restraint in highlighting ideas is something that I believe all companies should aspire to.  The people that know the business best are the people that are delivering for the company day in day out so encouraging them to participate in process and service improvement is a treasure trove waiting to be explored.

Some organisations use surveys, some idea boxes, some focus groups and I’m sure some use all of the above and more.  What works for one company certainly won’t work for all and much will come down to the culture and management input that supports (or doesn’t) this employee involvement.  This latter point is critical.  If an employee believes his or her views will be heard rather than dismissed out of hand or worse ignored, they’ll be more likely to suggest additional ideas, spread the word and feel greater affinity towards the organisation.  This is the mother lode of all treasure troves!

Lots of treasure resulted from my dinner with SA 12 and as usual, I learned more than I could have hoped for.  What I didn’t enjoy learning was that none of them had ever bought a vinyl LP and no one knew what an XR3i was (my first CC company car)!  Oh well, will have to dust off that old ABC book and join the crew at Didcot for a spot of train spotting, sure the older guys will recognise an XR3i when they see one…

Lenovo, on a mission…

Lenovo has had a great run of late and firmly cemented itself into the top echelon of global PC vendors.  The success of the business is built on the significant share of its home market China where it has just reported a record 35% market share for its fiscal 3rd quarter.  In China, Lenovo is as much a household name as Apple and that level of brand awareness has helped the company succeed in the burgeoning consumer market as well as enterprise.  However, this isn’t the case in much of the rest of the world where Lenovo is still largely confined to corporate customers, its heritage from the acquired IBM PC business.

One of my predictions for this year was that Lenovo would draw level with or even usurp HP to become the #1 global PC brand.  However, this will very much depend on whether they are able to replicate China’s strength in the consumer segment in Europe and the America’s.  An interesting statement of intent was the recent appointment of Gianfranco Lanci to run the European business.  Lanci is a 14 year veteran of Acer and therefore has a close affiliation with the consumer marketplace and the differing retail channels.

So should we be worried?  Whether Lenovo do become #1 or not is largely academic and although this is understandably important to the vendors themselves, it will remain a major force in the PC industry as will HP and Dell.  What would be concerning is if Lenovo took their metaphorical eye off the ball in the corporate market in their quest to gain momentum within consumer.  Given their recent management restructure that included many new appointments, I think it’s highly unlikely but will be keeping a close interest nonetheless.

Blackberry & Apple, a fruity tale…

Welcome to this first edition of ‘Public’ Rod Blog, something I hope will become a small but welcome aside in your busy life.  My role in Computacenter (from now on referred to as CC) sees me responsible for the end to end supply chain from customer quotation, order, procurement and delivery.  These blogs however will focus mainly on a mix of what our vendor partners are doing or about to do, my take on whatever it is plus unbiased views on what is happening in the IT market as a whole.  I’ve been writing an internal version of the Blog for some time now hence the ‘Public’ label above.  They’ve stimulated some response and debate and that in itself has made them worthwhile.  I hope this new version will do the same but time will tell.  Most importantly, I won’t be trying to sell you anything, that’s the job of the experts and we know how sensitive they can be!

I’ll start at the beginning and where better than Apple?  I don’t need to repeat the superlatives that accompany their continued financial success but can even they have foreseen the runaway success of the last few years?  And when they announce a new iPad (and what was wrong with calling it the iPad 3?), the fact much of the world can’t use the 4G component doesn’t seem to matter?  Instead, “I’ll have three please” is more likely to be heard than a complaint!  Compare this to the once mighty Blackberry.  Just last week we read reports that parent company RIM had announced its intention to withdraw from the consumer market to focus on corporate customers.  I’ve since seen follow up articles that retract these comments saying they were “misconstrued”.  Whatever the reality, too little too late?  You bet.  For me it’s inevitable they’ll be acquired and why look anywhere else than HP, their own saga with Palm has left them bereft of a Smartphone and this, if we are to believe the analysts, is the largest segment of the market by volume.

As always, interesting times ahead.

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