Brother briefs channel man to boost relationships

Brother UK's Michael AndersonMichael Anderson has been appointed market development manager at Brother UK, with a brief to push its reseller sales.

Brother said that it has a strong product pipeline set up for 2013, and wants to capitalise on sales opportunities. Anderson’s brief is to support its reseller community.

Anderson has been promoted from inside Brother UK – he has worked there for three years, and will look after the development of its channel push, its marketing strategies and customer sales initiatives.

He said: “Brother has strong and successful partnerships with resellers and we plan… investment to these relationships over the next 12 months.”

He will report to Brother UK marketing head James Lawton-Hill.  Brother UK has 79 percent of the A3 inkjet market in the UK.

Avnet takes HP storage route

avnettsAvnet has made its SolutionsPath methodology available with HP storage products.

The agreement has been signed to offer business partners in EMEA bespoke, customer-based storage services over a 12-month period.

The service, which is based on skills, training and business generation tools is also said to  deliver competitive storage capabilities.

StoragePath is part of the wider SolutionsPath methodology which focuses on making key high growth markets more accessible to partners.

The new deal will now offer customers the ability to be able to utilise Avnet’s common tool sets, local industry knowledge and technology capabilities to identify profitable storage strategies and bring business benefits directly to their customers.

StoragePath is also said to  help with customer profiling and advanced lead generation techniques to help channel partners tailor their offerings and deliver more compelling propositions to their customers.

Geeks more in demand than fashionistas

BillgatesIT and web design hirings are growing at a much faster rate than those in retail, research has found.

According to specialist technology recruiter Greythorn, 32,000 IT and web design jobs were created over the past year, marking a 12 percent rise, while retail job hirings rose by only three percent.

In the IT sector the biggest increase in jobs has been in web design which has risen 19.4 percent from 31,000 to 37,000 roles. The number of IT business architects and system designers has also risen 18.8 percent from 85,000 to 101,000 in the same period.

Graythorn said the contrast in hirings could be put down to the fact that online spending in the retail space had grown.

According to figures by the British Retail Consortium, online sales grew 10.9 percent in the year to February 2013, two and half times the rate of total retail sales, while the Office of National Statistics found an 8.7 percent increase in online retail sales despite a 0.6 percent year on year fall in overall retail sales.

Graythorn said that this had a knock on effect on the IT industry with large retailers hiring staff to work on their online and IT teams. One example is John Lewis which announced it would be hiring 100 new online staff, while making managerial cuts on the shop floor.

From their own figures, Greythorn said it had also seen growth of 89 percent in IT roles placed in online retail over the past year, compared with the previous twelve months.

Mark Baxter said as online shopping grew, companies were increasingly investing in improving the customer experience and the back office operations supporting online sales. He said this was a key stage in transferring to a high tech economy.

“The number of specialised new roles is growing and that is only good news for IT professionals,” he added.

As well as an increase in jobs, IT salaries are also typically higher than those in retail. The average salary of an IT system designer is £37,092, whereas a Retail Manager, with a similar level of seniority, earns an average salary of £21,237.

However, the recruiter pointed out that due to increased numbers and new roles, IT pay had seen slow growth with rises of 0.35 percent for IT system designers and 1.18 percent for software developers, and there has been a -0.45 percent fall in pay for web designers.

Pay growth in retail was described as a “mixed picture”, with strong rises of 3.13 percent for retail managers, but falls of -2.01 percent and -2.39 percent for sales cashiers and retail assistants respectively.

PEER 1 Hosting makes King a Channel chieftain

PeerPEER 1 Hosting has appointed Mark King its EMEA Channel Executive.

The global IT hosting provider has said that Mark will lead the EMEA channel programme, with his efforts focused on nurturing PEER 1 Hosting’s existing partnerships as well as bringing on board new partners who can join in building on its rapid growth.

Mark worked with  companies like Avnet in the IBM Business Unit. He says he is now keen to “drive dialogue between PEER 1 Hosting partners to ignite collaboration and enable them to develop intrinsic skills to advise, build, sell and integrate solutions together”,

The appointment follows a recent announcement by PEER1 Hosting, which has
expanded its strategic alliance programme. It claims that its partners who consult, build and deliver business critical services to medium and large organisations are vital to PEER 1 Hosting.

Ingram embraces Cisco partners

Jay MileyIngram Micro’s North America Services Division has made its Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) available to qualified Cisco channel partners across the US and Canada.

Powered by Cisco, the cloud service has already been available in beta with select Ingram Micro channel partners for several months. It is now set to be demonstrated live at Ingram Micro’s 2013 Cloud Summit April 7-10 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Featured on the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace, the Ingram Micro HCS is, it is said,  an end-to-end system that lets partners make subscription-based, “as-a-service” offerings around Cisco Collaboration technologies including Cisco Unified Communications, Cisco Customer Collaboration and Cisco WebEx.

The service is also said to include the full range of Cisco Collaboration functions along with the tools to deliver these to the end customer in an automated, standardised and efficient manner.

Ingram Micro is also taking advantage of the Cisco Advanced Services team to help its channel partners provision and deploy the service, as well as offering round the clock service management, monitoring and Level 2 and Level 3 technical support.

Jay Miley, vice president and general manager, Advanced Technology Division, Ingram Micro US said that by engaging Ingram Micro, and utilising its dedicated Cisco Business Unit and growing Cloud Marketplace to offer HCS-as-a-service, Cisco channel partners could “establish a new recurring revenue stream without having to invest in the upfront capital to get the business moving.”

Acer triples tablet shipment target for 2013

acer-logo-ceAlthough Acer is still one of the world’s leading PC makers, it hasn’t had much luck in the tablet market. The same goes for most PC makers, but things could be about to change. Acer has tripled its tablet shipment target for 2013 and unsurprisingly it aims to focus on cheap gear. 

According to Focus Taiwan, Acer’s tablet shipments in the current quarter could reach 65 percent of its total tab shipments in 2012. Back in February Acer said it would ship about 5 million tablets this year, up from 1.8 million units shipped in 2012.

The biggest seller is the Iconia B1, an entry level 7-incher with a price tag of just $150. Acer President Jim Wong pointed out that the Iconia B1 is part of a wider product line and not the only model, which means more cheap Acer tablets are in the works.

“We expect this year’s shipments to grow 3.5 times from last year,” he told a press briefing.

The cheap Iconia B1 is expected to account for 15 to 20 percent of Acer’s tablet shipments this year. The company said it would introduce new models with 8-inch and 10-inch screens by Q3, with prices starting at about $200.

The global tablet market is expected to grow to 240 million units this year, outselling traditional notebooks by more than 30 million units.

Industry thinks digi-wallets and NFC are overhyped

google-walletThe payments industry is slowly starting to adopt new mobile payments technologies, but industry leaders believe that the digital wallet concept is overhyped, along with NFC.

The Payments Innovation Jury, an anonymous group of 25 industry leaders gathered in a hollowed out volcano, reckons the next wave of e-payment innovation will come from Asia rather than Europe.

The secretive Payment Innovation Jury features members from 14 different countries whose names are kept private, so they can speak freely. Most members are or have been high level execs in companies such as MasterCard, PayPal and Visa, reports Venture Beat

In their latest report, the jury concluded that NFC and digital wallets are overhyped, and we tend to agree. Most members don’t believe NFC will live up to its hype and many reckon there is no demonstrable need for contactless payments from consumers. However, it is worth noting that NFC has plenty of applications other than mobile payments. More than half of the group believe digital wallets will replace credit and debit card payments, but a sizable number don’t agree.

“The Jury offered their views on which payments innovation has the greatest hype rating and therefore the biggest risk that the business case will not be achieved,” the report said. “Hype is particularly prevalent in payments, with many organizations trying very hard to talk up their chosen innovation in order to achieve the necessary critical mass.”

In other words it is beast to tread carefully, just in case. Many outfits are indeed trying to talk up their solutions, but we are still a long way from widespread adoption and standardization. One jury member argued that progress in Europe is hampered by standardization initiatives such as SEPA, but a lot of innovation is expected from Asia and Africa.

Interestingly, the group found that cross-border remittance services have a lot of potential. Sending money abroad via mobile payment solutions could be the most profitable niche over the next five years. It is a rather big market. Plenty of countries in Eastern Europe, North Africa and practically the entire third world have sizable expat communities who send money back home on a regular basis.

Computacenter says “stumble in Germany” resulted in profit loss

poundsComputacenter has reported a four percent profit loss for the full year claiming it “stumbled in Germany”.

The British company said its profits stood at £71.3 million in 2012, compared to £74.2 million in 2011.

It blamed the loss on higher costs from new contracts, which bled into margins in the services business in Germany, its second-largest market by revenue.

And 2013 doesn’t look to be an easy road with the company claiming that this year would be dependant on the speed of recovery from the “problem contracts” in Germany, which it said was unpredictable.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom with the company reporting group revenues jumping 2.2 percent to £2.91 billion  compared to 2011’s  £2.85 billion.

Mike Norris, Chief Executive of the company said: “We expect 2013 to be a year of progress for Computacenter. While the Group financial outcome for 2013 will be dependent on the in-year performance of Germany and the speed at which we recover from our problem contracts, which is unpredictable, we are confident that these contracts will improve.

“More importantly, winning, contracting and taking on new contracts successfully, is more fundamental to the long-term growth of the business and its strategic development. This will be underpinned by our new Group operating model, which has taken effect in the UK and Germany, since the start of 2013.”

Dell signs secret pact with Icahn

Michael DellMichael Dell’s plan to spin off Dell Inc has hit a serious roadblock.

Last week Carl Icahn revealed he owned a big chunk of Dell and hit out at the original private equity proposal in conjunction with Microsoft and Silver Lake Partners..

And today, it seems, Icahn has stepped up the pressure by threatening it with legal action unless it accepted his plans to pump fresh cash into the multinational.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Icahn has signed a confidentiality agreement with Dell. But, the Journal said, the special committee that Dell set up to consider its future is reluctant to take the Icahn routemap.

Instead, it appears to be hoping that others will come forward to its aid. A number of partners has been slated including Dell rival Hewlett Packard – but it appears unlikely that HP will take a punt.

Meanwhile, business continues as usual, with Dell making a couple of product announcements.  It is creating a mobile strategies division that will develop custom applications for corporations, and advise large enterprises about mobility needs.

And it continues to push into the cloud – announcing that Dell Boomi will offer a data management and integration system, using MDM tools based on software as a service (SaaS).

Tech execs still dislike Windows 8

msWindows 8 has failed to rejuvenate the PC market and even hopes of a Win 8 tablet push are slowly evaporating. Jun Dong-Soo, the head of Samsung’s memory division, recently said Windows 8 is no better than Vista, which is pretty much the worst insult one can bestow on a Microsoft product.

Dong-Soo pointed out that the PC industry is still shrinking despite the Windows 8 launch and he also said Redmond’s Surface tablets aren’t doing well, which is hardly a secret. What’s more, Dong-Soo is not alone. Computerworld reports that an HP exec recently said that the Surface RT is too pricey, slow and not very nice to use.

Acer president Jim Wong also believes Windows 8 is not successful. However, Wong told the Wall Street Journal that he expects sales of Windows 8 touch enabled devices to pick up in the second half of the year. This does not mean that we will see tons of tablets, as it is more than likely that the bulk of Windows 8 touch devices will be Ultrabooks and hybrids.

Many are now looking to Redmond for some action, any action will do. IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell told CNET that it might be time for Microsoft to start thinking about some changes.

“There were certain decisions that Microsoft made that were in retrospect flawed. Notably not allowing people to boot into desktop mode and taking away the start button. Those two things have come up consistently. We’ve done some research and people miss that,” he said.

In retrospect, the decision to ditch the start button was probably a wrong call on Microsoft’s part, as many Windows users tend to be rather conservative and fear change. O’Donnell says it is time for Microsoft to rethink its design, relying on input from PC makers. He argued that Microsoft should change the OS, allowing it to boot to desktop mode, as many users simply dislike the new Metro UI.

However, Microsoft is is still not saying anything on design changes or possible price cuts. O’Donnell believes Windows 8 sales are “horribly stalled,” so it might not be too long before the company is forced to take action. In doing so, it will tell the world that its Windows 8 strategy was flawed, on top of its flawed tablet strategy. And smartphone strategy, search strategy, social strategy, consumer electronics strategy and just about every other botched idea that came out of Redmond since Vista.

Alvea Services launches Infrastructure Service

Hands across the waterAlvea Services has launched its Infrastructure Service, aimed at helping companies with additional virtual servers.

The managed security and cloud-based computing provider, says its new Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) has been designed for organisations that may need to vary their computing capabilities at a moment’s notice to match the changing needs of their business. Rather than have to invest in an IT infrastructure that may lie redundant when full capacity is not required, they are claimed to be able to use Alvea’s new service to quickly and easily provision additional virtual servers when they need them.

The company says this is is particularly important for project-based businesses, those that operate around seasonal fluctuations in demand or those that may need additional resource for testing or short-term data processing.

A key feature of the new service is its secure data seeding capability, either via encrypted hard disk or high-speed internet transfer, which allows businesses to move their data to the cloud quickly and securely. There is also a simple user interface to give clients instant provisioning of IT security and cloud services with a pay-as-you go model so that IT departments can react quickly to the changing needs of their businesses and only pay for the computing power they use.

The new service has been built around a UK-based data centre to comply with data “sovereignty” and security requirements and is operated by IT security and data centre management specialists.

The service is delivered and supported by a network of IT and security resellers that provide technical support and advice on how Alvea Infrastructure can be integrated into an organisation’s existing IT environment.

To demonstrate the service,  Alvea is offering businesses free trials of the service, for a limited period of time, and inviting them to ‘try before you buy’ to test out the flexibility of the new service.

PayPal launches iOS SDK

paypal-logoPayPal has released a new SDK for Apple’s iOS platform and the new kit is expected to speed up development, open up a host of new possibilities and make life easier for developers.

At the moment, iOS apps using PayPal have to redirect traffic to web based gateway systems, making the whole process more complicated, time consuming and slower. However, the new SDK should help integrate services in apps themselves, greatly reducing developers’ workloads.

PayPal CTO James Barrese hopes the new SDK will give developers more freedom to focus on innovating rather than handling the complex task of sorting out mobile payments.

“We listened when our developers said they wanted better capabilities from us, and now we’re doubling down on our developer programs to deliver the best tools in the industry,” he said.

Since the PayPal payment service will not be integrated into apps, consumer will be able to complete their transactions without leaving the app, greatly streamlining the process. PayPal also released a new API that should enable developers to integrate a clever card digitization feature. The new approach will let users simply take a picture of their cards, letting the app scoop up all the details from the photo, which is much easier than typing them in.

Best of all, PayPal claims its new Java Script PayPal button can be integrated into apps with just five lines of code, which is roughly a fortnight in developer parlance.

Review: Kyocera ceramic chef and paring knives

KyoceraCutting veg, fruit and meat can be trying at the best of times.

Although there are several ranges of knives on the market, some just don’t cut the mustard, meaning carrots take on uneven lines and meat ends up different sizes.

For that rustic look, this may work, but if you’re looking for presentation worthy of Masterchef recognition then those serrated metal knives may just not cut it.

Kyocera’s ceramic knives are however, a cut above the rest. We looked at the Kyocera FK-2PC-WH3 – White Blades: 5.5″ Santoku and 3″ Paring Knife Set in our review.

The company, better known for its document products in the UK, offers a range of knives that literally cut through anything, leaving the clean tidy look reflective of their Japanese heritage.

To the naked eye these knives aren’t much to look at with a white blade so thin it almost looks plastic. There are no serrated edges and to those know almost nothing about knives, may wonder what the expensive price tag is all about.

However, remove them from their careful, prestige packaging and begin chopping and you’ll see they are well worth the pennies.

What looks like a flimsy plastic blade is sharper than most mother in law’s tongues, easily slicing through even the thickest of vegetables and toughest of meats – although we didn’t manage to try it out on horse.

The blades, which must be hand washed, are also totally impervious to acids, juices, oils, salts and other elements and unlike their metallic rivals will never rust.

The thin ceramic also means the knives weigh less than a normal one, making them easier to hold and use, as well reducing fatigue during repetitive cutting. In our opinion they are the best knives on the market, and with a lifetime guarantee and free sharpening are well worth the money.

Vietnamese outfit uses sex to sell flowers

vn-flower-shopA Vietnamese e-commerce startup has come up with an innovative, yet rather tasteless way to sell flowers. It sounds surprisingly liberal for a socialist state, but HappyEndings.vn is using sex appeal to sell flowers, with a ridiculous intro. Sex sells, even though the approach seems a bit upside down. Flowers shouldn’t be sold using sex – it should be the other way around.

Mind you, despite the cheeky name and tacky approach, HappyEndings.vn is a legitimate and serious e-commerce outfit. “Happy ending” doesn’t really have a lot to do with sex, it is a term used to describe a pleasurable ending to a massage in some parts of Asia. However, the site intro has a lot to do with sex.

The site takes a provocative angle when it comes to product categories as well. They are named cheap bastard collection, playboy collection and sugar daddy collection. The last is aimed at big spenders, while the “cheap bastard” one is clearly not.

Better yet, the consumers seem to be loving the in-your-face approach, with plenty of humorous and dirty comments, reports InsideRetail.Asia.

Tesco throws down price war gauntlet to the competition

tescoTesco is vying to get customers galloping back through its doors following the horse meat scandal.

The giant is also throwing down the gauntlet to its supermarket competitors, offering its customers automatic price comparison coupons.

From today the retailer will compare its prices on branded and own-label goods with those at Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s. It said its customers would receive their coupons after every buy if its prices were found to be higher than its competitors. Online customers will receive their vouchers via email.

The scheme, which is similar to Sainsbury’s Brand Match scheme, will offer customers a maximum of £10 in coupons per visit.

The company will also be going head-to-head with Asda’s “Price Guarantee” that offers to refund customers the difference, via a voucher, if an online price-comparison website does not show that their shopping is at least 10 percent cheaper than it would be.

However Tesco has stipulated that customers must buy more than 10 different products to be eligible to receive money off in its scheme.

Chris Bush, Tesco’s new UK boss, said the company was working hard to build a better Tesco and the ‘price promise’ was an important part of that.