Ctrack pushes European markets

Shane_TrackingOnline vehicle tracking outfit Ctrack is expanding its European operations and appointed a new manager to drive the push.

Richard Lane has been named as the company’s new European distribution & partnerships manager.

Ctrack currently has distribution operations in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain and Portugal to complement its owned operations in Germany, France and Benelux.

The new management role requires Lane to find suitable partners in countries where Ctrack currently does not have a presence.

In a statement, the company said it is is keen to take advantage of untapped vertical markets such as insurance telematics.

Lane was previously responsible for channel sales within the UK & Ireland. He joined Ctrack having spent four years at Cybit, and subsequently Masternaut, responsible for developing and managing its reseller programme.

John Wisdom, European managing director of Ctrack, commented said that Lane had been responsible for extending the reach of the business within the UK by establishing an effective partner and reseller network.

“We are looking to use his proven expertise to take advantage of opportunities that exist in new European markets to maximise the growth of the business across the region,” he said.

 

OFT launches public IT investigation

poundsThe Office of Fair Trading has just launched an investigation to scrutinise government IT procurement and the companies that supply it.

The top IT software and service providers earn roughly £10.4 billion a year through public sector contracting. That said, public IT projects are known for their disastrous implementation and frequent high profile bungles. Top providers often lock the public sector into excessively long contracts which must be seen to the end, and in some cases drag on even longer.

This is not a phenomenon specific to the UK. The public sector often finds itself duped into taking on bloated contracts that arguably provide little value for money, and serve more as a cash-cow for funnelling public money into private pockets without noticeable gains or efficiencies to the public.

The OFT announced that it wants to ensure market competition is up to scratch so that all firms can, at least, bid for projects without contracts automatically going to the biggest players.

“Healthy competition in any market drives down costs, drives up efficiency and promotes innovation,” an OFT statement read. “While a lack of competition can hinder productivity and, in turn, economic growth”.

G-cloud, a government project to open up procurement away from the the IT giants and offer SMEs a fighting chance, has been fairly successful but elsewhere the big hitters still dominate.

Phil Dawson, CEO of Skyscape Cloud Services, offered his comments on the investigation. “For far too long, IT giants and incumbent suppliers have been allowed to reign supreme,” Dawson said. “It is precisely this dominance that has created a stagnant public sector market, which is exactly what the G-cloud programme was established to tackle”.

“Through G-Cloud, public sector organisations are able to avoid inflexible contracts and the locked-in clauses which have been all too common with some of the big incumbent providers,” Dawson said.

The OFT will be examining whether there are barriers stopping smaller businesses from competing, as well as the difficulties associated in the public sector for switching suppliers.

This review aims to look specifically at if market supply is hampering competition rather than a general overview of public IT.

An approach oriented along the lines of G-Cloud would certainly be welcomed by British SMEs, as these companies can offer services that do not lean as heavily on the public purse.

To push further still, perhaps it is worth exploring open source products and services as other flexible, and potentially far cheaper, options.

A reorientation in public IT towards smaller firms, however, could easily upset top corporate lobbyists of the biggest businesses. A push towards open source alternatives would agitate even more.

Red Hat EMEA channel conf details announced

redhatOpen source profiteer Red Hat has announced dates for the fifth Red Hat Europe EMEA Partner Conference in Madrid this year.

The event will run from 29 September to 2 October 2013 and will open with keynotes from top executive veep in sales and services, Arun Oberoi, and CTO Brian Stevens. Veep of partners for Red Hat EMEA, Petra Heinrich, will also be speaking about general partner strategy.

There will be a series of panel discussions on current and future trends in open hybrid cloud, middleware, platform offerings and product strategies. As is expected from this sort of thing, there will also be breakout sessions and talks on best practices about enterprise IT, specifically focusing on using open source tech and making the shift from physical to virtual and cloud platforms.

Red Hat is calling on distributors, ISVs, OEMs, system integrators and other partners, potential or existing, to discuss with each other and gain access to Red Hat’s top execs. Platinum and gold plus sponsors, IBM and HP respectively, will also be attending.

The company asserts, in a tone which would not sound out of place read by Genesis P Orridge over an abrasive and menacing tape loop: “The Red Hat EMEA Partner Conference will be comprised of three pillars. Pillar one is built on datacentre integration with the key themes of partner enablement and IT modernization. Pillar two is built around middleware and the requirement to migrate legacy applications in an open environment. The third pillar focuses on solving the new workload challenges inherent in open hybrid cloud and big data environments.”

HP Software UK in channel push

HPHP’s channel director for UK & Ireland has said the channel is crucial to expanding business in the territory – while also handing ten percent of direct sales over to resellers.

HP Software has lofty plans to double its size and this will mean a slight strategic shift in how the division operates.

Speaking at an HP event, CRN reports Toffis acknowledged the channel business share is leaning on direct sales.

Toffis pointed out that partners are key to the company’s aggressive growth strategy, not just in the UK, but worldwide. “We know we can’t do that without partners,” Toffis said. “We need partners to help support us in the growth and we’re investing to be able to do that”.

Recently, HP tinkered with its Partner One T&Cs, slashing the amount of certifications required by half, in a bid to bring in more channel partners.

At the moment, HP’s UK, France and German operations mostly run through direct sales, but here in Britain over half of all sales do involve a partner on some level.

Last year, HP announced its intentions to introduce a One HP strategy across the board – that is, to unify the operations of its many, many divisions and simplify the way each of these engages with partners. HP execs, speaking with ChannelEye, have individually confirmed this is on track, and so we could expect to see similar movements across other UK&I market segments.

Carphone Warehouse to become tablet warehouse

kate-mossCarphone Warehouse is planning to expand its tablet offering this year, following strong demand in 2012. The company saw plenty of growth in tablets in the latter half of the year, hence it is planning to invest more and grow market share in tablets.

Carphone Warehouse said it will continue to develop the tablet category, both through standalone sales and handset/tablet bundles.

“The development of 4G services is expected to improve download speeds significantly and therefore to stimulate demand for tablets with connectivity to mobile networks as well as wi-fi services,” the company said. “We achieved increased relevance in the tablet market, in part through bundling with mobile phone connections. During the year, we have increased our market share across all our categories and further built our trusted brand. “

As one of the leading retailers in the ever growing mobile sector, Carphone Warehouse had a rather good year. In its annual financial report, the company revealed an 11.5 percent spike in generated revenues, although earnings rose just slightly.

Earlier this week the company also announced that it has enlisted Kate Moss to design a range of smartphone and tablet covers, as part of its new “fashion tech” line of accessories. Not exactly relevant, but it gives us a good excuse to use a gorgeous thumbnail.

Ingram Micro Mobility could go MVNO

ingram-micro-mobilityIngram Micro Mobility is looking into the possibility of launching its own MVNO, which could help it fuel further mobile growth in the UK. Ingram Micro’s UK and Ireland VP James Bannister told Mobile News that the company is actively looking for new ways to boost mobile revenue.

Bannister said the company would not try to become an established airtime distributor, but it would explore other airtime options, such as SIM packing and shipping phones with SIMs. 

“We may launch an MVNO, but we will do it differently to our competitors, so watch this space is my message,” he said.

Bannister said he doesn’t see the assisted sales model as a big opportunity, as it assumes people can’t get access to the product, but that approach doesn’t work since most IT customers already have someone to take care of that. 

He added that Ingram’s acquisition of BrightPoint was very positive for the company, as it brings a strong balance sheet and a long-term commitment to make the UK business into “something sexy”.

Microsoft and Solidsoft go for medical system

pillMicrosoft’s Windows Azure cloud platform has been selected to power the new European Medicines Verification System (EMVS).

The system will be developed by Solidsoft, a Microsoft Gold Partner. The system was conceived by European Stakeholders Model (ESM) Partners, which represents the majority of the European pharmaceutical industry. 

The system will handle information on more than 10 billion medicines dispensed throughout all 28 European Union member states. All meds will feature a unique, encrypted product identifier which will be scanned at the point of dispensation and then verified for authenticity in the Azure cloud.

“We look forward to the start of the implementation of the European Medicines Verification System. Patients need to be able to trust in the medicines they take and this is a timely and important step towards finding a solution to the urgent problem of counterfeiting in the EU,” said Richard Bergstrom, Director General of ESM partner, The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). 

Solidsoft CEO Garth Pickup said the cloud has changed the dynamics of large IT projects forever.

“The almost limitless scale provided via the Microsoft Windows Azure platform means that this massive project can be delivered to the EFPIA at much lower cost than on-premises. It will also easily scale to the 10 billion+ transactions it will handle each year in real time,” he said.

Mark Smith, Director for Health & Life Sciences at Microsoft UK, said the Windows Azure platform innovative companies to take on large projects, leveraging the vast computing resources of Microsoft’s data centres.

May console sales worst in 13 years

consolesMay seems to have been the worst month for console sales in 13 years, before the introduction of the PlayStation 2.

According to Wedbush Securities, sales of console games were just $175 million in the US, down 31 percent from $255 million last year. Wedbush was expecting a drop of 16 percent and sales around $216 million.

Unit sales of console software were down 26 percent, while ASPs were down 8 percent. This is hardly surprising, as new consoles are rolling out and few consumers are willing to buy software for old systems. However, PC game sales were even worse.

Sales of PC gaming software were down 84 percent year-on-year. Hardware sales were down 31 percent and the US spent only $96 million on PC games in May.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter believes sales should pick up in June, as several new AAA titles make their presence felt, but no big improvement is expected until next generation consoles start shipping in volume, reports wallstcheatsheat.com. Positive growth should return in September, as a number of new game releases are timed to coincide with the availability of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

New consoles are expected to have a massive impact on sales toward the end of the year and 2014 should be good as well. However, handheld consoles will face even more competition from mobiles and tablets.

IBM to invest $1bn in flash R&D

ibm-officeIBM has announced it will invest $1 billion into flash R&D as well as launching a series of SSD based systems.

Flash will be integrated into all IBM server and storage systems as well as a new flash only storage system.

Not only is flash a “key tipping point”, according to head of IBM software and systems, but eventually data centres will be completely comprised of solid state drives, reports Solid State Technology.

IBM has also announced plans to open 12 centres worldwide which will allow its customers to test flash products in various scenarios. They will be able to test flash performance in various scenarios that require heavy workloads like in stock exchange transactions and credit card processing.

Data Memory Systems has taken the announcements to mean all enterprise Tier 1 storage should be totally flash based, reasoning that the shift toward cloud and big data makes processing data quickly a necessity. Because traditional HDDs have not increased phenomenally in speed over the last years, flash can potentially increase processing speeds by 90 percent for certain tasks, for example in banking and trading where speed is critical.

It is not the end of traditional hard disks yet, as they still offer cost benefits now, but IBM’s decision to invest so much in flash storage shows the direction the industry is headed.

Logicalis scores Juniper Network Elite status

JuniperLogicalis has nabbed itself Elite Partner status for Advanced Security at Juniper Networks’ partner advantage programme, the top level for partners.

Logicalis has got itself Firewall/VPN & IDP and Policy and Access Control authorisations, which the company hopes will score it some more brownie points with companies thinking of hiring it.

MD at Logicalis UK, Mark Starkey, said the company had worked with Juniper Networks for quite some time, so getting the Elite status should help it sell itself to businesses concerned with advanced security in emerging trends like mobility and cloud.

“This accreditation provides us with access to the latest technologies and advanced training at Juniper,” Starkey said.

Darryl Brick, director of partners UK&I at Juniper, said that Logicalis is now offering advanced security from data centre through to small and medium enterprise, so customers can “take advantage of some of the most advanced security technology and services in the market”.

IHS ups tablet panel shipment forecast

Keep taking the tabletsIHS has increased its forecast for tablet displays by six percent for 2013.

The numbers were boosted by orders from Chinese white-box tablet makers who seem to be growing at a much faster pace than big brands. A total of 262 million displays for tablets should be shipped this year, up from a previous forecast of 246 million units. Looking back at 2012, this represents 69 percent growth. 

Gartner slashes 2013 IT forecast

pc-sales-slumpGartner has revised its forecast for worldwide IT spending due to very soft demand for PCs. The outfit believes sales of traditional PCs will continue to lose steam in the second half of the year and there seems to be no end in sight. 

The analyst firm estimates spending on IT will total $3.7 trillion this year, which is actually up two percent from last year, but it is still far short of 4.1 percent predicted earlier this year. A number of other factors are hurting demand. Big G said unfavourable exchange rates and constant currency growth in Western Europe are not helping, either.

Windows 8 and Haswell failed to jump start the PC market, Gartner notes , but there might be light at the end of the tunnel. New devices and new form factors are coming, but at this point it is very unlikely that a bunch of hybrids and touch-enabled Ultrabooks can turn the tide. They will help, but they won’t reverse the trend.

Although IT departments aren’t expected to go on a spending spree over the next six months, things could change in early 2014, as they get ready to phase out XP boxes in Q1 and early Q2. Despite that, there doesn’t appear to be much room for optimism this year.

Windows 8.1 will launch on a number of new devices, but nobody is expecting it to make much of an impact. Intel Haswell and AMD Richland chips are out and the first products are already shipping and they will soon be joined by low-voltage Atoms and AMD Jaguar based APUs. On top of that, new Ultrabooks and hybrids are coming, too.

However, businesses rarely go for Atoms and Jaguars and IT departments tend to view new form factors like hybrids and thin clamshells as unnecessary gimmicks, so most new products that will enter the fray this year will be consumer oriented.

Citrix appoints Arrow pan-euro distributor

teenwolf-teen-wolf-32822640-400-300Citrix has appointed Arrow Electronics  as its first pan-European distributor to further expand the European channel for the SaaS.

Under the deal, Citrix SaaS products will be available on the ArrowSphere cloud services platform.  This means that Arrow resellers can market and sell Citrix SaaS products through their webstore or using ArrowSphere white-label webstore functionality.

The ArrowSphere webstore platform was launched by Arrow in July 2012 and is “live” in the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Denmark. The ArrowSphere platform will continue to roll out to other markets in Europe.

Robert Gratzl, vice president and general manager EMEA for Citrix’s SaaS products  said the agreement with Arrow is an important step in extending our pan-European reach and helping our customers embrace mobile workstyles and new ways of working.

“We selected Arrow and its ArrowSphere webstore platform because they were taking a highly innovative approach to SaaS products to their reseller and customer community,” he said.

The collaboration is another step in the expansion and implementation of the Citrix SaaS Advisor (CSSA) programme launched in May.

It aims to use a local and regional approach with strategic partners to deliver Citrix SaaS applications as part of a broader solution means it is easier than ever for partners and customers to benefit from Citrix technology.

Free games to lead app downloads

dandroidFree to play games are set to drive app ecosystems, leading the charge of the 160 billion plus consumer apps Juniper Research expects to be downloaded by 2017.

In Juniper Research’s report, Future App Stores: Discovery, Monetisation & Ecosystem Analysis 2013 – 2018, the analyst house found the majority of downloads will be in the games category. 40 percent or more downloads are expected to come from this segment.

We can expect an increase in social network functions in these games – not only in terms of leaderboards but to promote the apps themselves.

But developers are still working out the kinks when it comes to monetisation. There is a downward pressure on pricing which often means paid-for apps need to be enormous hits to get the pay-off from investment. This will, Juniper thinks, lead to more free to play games as it becomes the most popular option at the point of download among consumers.

The app store model itself, according to Juniper, has already cut out network operators from grabbing their share of the profit.

Report author Siân Rowlands said that it’s still possible to squeeze cash from customers through carrier billing, which can be popular for customers without a bank account. “However, operators must realise they won’t see as great a revenue share as they did during the pre-app store era,” Rowlands said.

It’s predicted that just five percent of apps will be paid for at the point of download in 2017 – less than 6.1 percent this year.

Intel releases digital signage software

minority-report-gap1Chipmaker Intel has developed a new content management system so vendors and other retailers can organise, control and tailor their digital signage marketing programmes.

The Retail Client Management (RCM) system works across multiple devices and aims to provide an interface for marketing teams.

It means that they can create new campaigns and promotions in minutes, customise content instantly and control each screen individually in a secure environment, claims Intel.

Marketers can use the tool to create multiple zones within each digital sign, and supports most formats, including HD video, Adobe Flash, static image and Web content.

This is supposed to help create a consistent impression.

Joe Jensen, general manager of Intel’s Retail Solutions Division, said that digital signage was changing the advertising landscape and becoming a preferred channel for marketing professionals looking to reach customers with relevant content near the point of sale.

“With Intel RCM our customers are able to create and manage attention-grabbing campaigns while ensuring they are reaching the right customer, at the right time, with the right product,” he said,

Intel RCM was designed to play nice with the chipmaker’s Audience Impression Metrics suite, which anonymously counts the number of viewers, gender and age group, and the time spent looking at each digital sign.

This means that brands can tailor advertising content based on audience demographics.

Using Intel AIM suite, retailers can also gauge the effectiveness of content by measuring the length of time viewers spend looking at displays, and which ads captured the attention of passersby.

The platform is also optimised for Intel Core vPro processors with Intel Active Management Technology so that it can handle remote management and diagnosis of digital signage networks.