Staff do not fear AI

TerminatorDespite all the scare stories, staff are ok with AI and business automation, according to a new study.

Number crunchers at Ricoh found that users are looking forward to exploiting the benefits of AI and are less worried about their jobs.

There have always been some suspicions that resellers pitching ‘digital transformation’ face some resistance from customers working in IT departments fearing for their own futures. IT staff would not be keen on rolling out more automation and sitting back while the machines take over.

Staff quizzed by Ricoh Europe revealed that 65 per cent expected automation technology would help them be more productive and 52 per cent expected artificial intelligence to have a positive impact on their roles.

Ricoh Europe vice-president corporate marketing Javier Diez-Aguirre said that employees were saying much which echoed the macroeconomic productivity concerns troubling governments worldwide.

“Too much of the working day is taken up with tasks and processes that could be automated or streamlined. By freeing up this time, technology empowers employees to work smarter and focus on adding real value to their business,” he said.

Users are hoping that technology will give them quicker access to data, give them the chance to work from home more often and reduce repetitive tasks.

There is a sense that failing to take steps to embrace the latest technology could have damaging repercussions with 36 per cent of those quizzed by Ricoh expressing the fear that a business that does not invest will fail within five years.

“Business decision makers should take a long term, holistic view on the costs of their core processes. Cutting investment may free up short term capital, but the benefits of increased productivity promise to pay great dividends in years to come,” added Diez-Aguirre.

Those fears about failing to invest have also been researched by Ricoh, which released findings last month that indicated that 15% of mid sized firms in the UK felt they had missed out on revenue opportunities because they did not have access to the best technology.

Lack of training, inefficient deployment and IT teams failing to spot interesting products and services were the main reasons things were going wrong.

“Despite the vast range of technology that is available to organisations, it is clear that mid-sized businesses across Europe do not feel like they are getting good value from their choices. Improved efficiencies and better collaboration and communication between staff are crucial constituents of making a successful business,” said Diez-Aguirre.

Microsoft expands finds new Surface Hub distributor

surfacetabWestcon-Comstor is joining Tech Data’s Maverick as UK distributor for Surface Hub as the software king of the world has expanded the reach of its Surface Hub audiovisual (AV) display.

The delayed Surface Hub launched in the UK last year and had until recently been available only through specialist AV partners.

The product, which is available in 55″ and 84″ models, launched with just 20 partners across all of Europe, but the partner base in the UK was broadened earlier this year.

Ryan Asdourian, Microsoft’s Windows and Surface lead in the UK, said: “The addition of the Surface Hub to Westcon-Comstor’s portfolio will ensure that they are able to offer the VAR community the best possible collaboration solutions for customers throughout the UK and Ireland.

“We have been delighted with the reaction to the Surface Hub since it was first introduced to the UK market in 2016 and the addition of Westcon-Comstor as a distributor, combined with its strong portfolio of wraparound services such as Skype for Business, will ensure that even more organisations are able to transform the way their employees collaborate, share and communicate.”

The Microsoft Surface Hub partner base in the UK now includes Insight, Computacenter, Misco and SCC

Wayne Mason, EMEA unified comms general manager at Westcon-Comstor, added: “We are focused on providing organisations with the best possible collaboration tools to ensure employees are able to work together more easily and effectively.

“The Microsoft Surface Hub absolutely ticks the box both from a technology perspective and in the culture of collaboration it creates. With our ability to wrap additional services around the Surface Hub and a comprehensive portfolio of complementary solutions for Skype for Business we are creating a very strong offer for the VAR community.”

Solar Communications buys TWL

solar eclipseSolar Communications has written a cheque for Cardiff-based TWL which  gives it access to more unified comms skills and widen the customer base to pitch SD WAN, contact centre, cloud storage and on-site services.

This is the first buy-out the company has carried out this year. Last year it bought Response Data Communications and Denwa. The company is understood to be making two more acquisitions this year.

A company spokesman said that the deal will bolster Solar’s status as a Mitel Gold partner, while also improving its Welsh presence.

Solar is understood to be approaching its larger customers ask it to take on more of their services, which the TWL acquisition will allow it to manage.

The outfit has been winning some big deals with some larger organisations and they’re asking it to take on other services for them as well, such as cabling, local area network management and their WiFi management.

The idea is to start attracting the high mid-market and small enterprise customers, and TWL can help provide those particular skills.

Solar recently filed its full accounts with Companies House, with revenue for the year ending 31 December 2016 up 11 per cent to £14.8 million.

But Solar is expecting to do well after Mitel’s acquisition of ShoreTel, with the Wiltshire-based firm currently the only ShoreTel Platinum Partner outside the US.

The move gives Solar a base in South Wales to add to offices in Chippenham, Harlow and Manchester.

TWL staff and the founder and managing director Andrew Nicholson are remaining with the business to help with the transition and make sure that the deal goes smoothly.


Spreadtrum gets Verve

The_Verve_History_SingleVerve Connect, a UK-based communications company specialising in “Connected & Entertained Everywhere” products, is teaming up with Spreadtrum Communications, a fabless semiconductor company that develops mobile chipsets for consumer electronic products.

The pair will supply UK customers with a number of competitively priced handsets on the Spreadtrum platform. The two new handsets, the IMO Q2 and IMO Dash are available at Tesco, across 950 of its
UK retail stores. The handsets are also available to purchase from other carriers and retailers including Virgin Media, Argos, Amazon, and more later.

Verve Connect launched its IMO branded mobile devices with customers including Virgin Media, Dixons Carphone and Talk Mobile, the company is now partnering with Spreadtrum to use the Spreadtrum SC7731C & SC7701 chipset platforms to provide UK consumers with a great value smartphone the IMO Q2 and a solid no-frills 3G feature phone the IMO Dash.

Wu Sa, Verve Connect Managing Director, commented: “We are delighted to be partnering with Spreadtrum to launch these two handsets. IMO is dedicated to delivering the best quality and value devices in the market, enabling consumers to enjoy mobile phone experiences that tier 1 brands offer, without breaking the bank.

“Spreadtrum are a great fit for Verve Connect to partner with, as we both have aspirations to grow our business in Europe with our mutual ‘make it happen’ attitudes, and our collaboration and innovation will help us both achieve our joint business objectives.”

“We are pleased to be working with Verve Connect to deliver our technical value proposition through IMO devices to Tesco and other UK customers,” said Judy Chung, Vice President of Spreadtrum Communications. “Our collaboration has enabled an increasingly large number of UK customers across all consumer segments to achieve a strong mobile user experience without any compromise in performance or design.”

Verve Connect and Spreadtrum are also teaming up based on Spreadtrum SC9853I, SC9850 and SC9832A platform to provide a series of new devices, targeted at key carriers with VoLTE & VoWiFi functions for 2018/2019.

Beta Distribution helps in Netgear’s channel plans

banner_6469Beta Distribution is part of Netgear’s plans to reach more networking resellers by expanding its distribution roster.

The vendor covers both the enterprise and consumer markets and the distributor is keen to take it out to its customer base.

Beta product manager Ben Jackson said that the combination of the Netgear name and reputation in the market and Beta’s reach into a wide spectrum of resellers, from etailers to MSPs and everything in between, means this is a tremendous opportunity for both companies.

Netgear joins other vendors Samsung and Billion in the networking products listings that Beta can offer resellers.

Oliver Randall, UK sales manager at Netgear, said that the partnership should enable it to add to its channel footprint as Beta has the reach into the reseller community.

“Our product portfolio has expanded over the past two decades from Ethernet hubs to switches, advanced WiFi systems, network attached storage and smart home. Beta has the inhouse expertise, both in Account Management and technical knowledge, to very effectively support the product range into the reseller,” he added.

Netgear has been building its channel numbers up over the last two years as part of a campaign to increase its B2B sales.

The firm has not only rolled out more product for the enterprise market but has supported the channel with a global programme and greater help for those entry-level partners trying to get involved with the networking market.

National Desktop and Notebook Agreement goes live.

CNS-Solutions-CSWA-Exam-Student-Taking-Exam-2The National Desktop and Notebook Agreement (NDNA)  is now live with resellers awarded spots as indirect partners for a host of PC vendors.

Managed by London Universities Purchasing Consortium, the four year agreement  will see Academia, DTP and Misco provide desktops and mobile devices from Acer, Fujitsu, HP Inc, Lenovo and Toshiba. Dell will take all its business direct.

The 11 resellers on the framework are: Academia, Bechtle, CDW, DTP, European Electronique, Getech, Insight, Misco, SCC, Stone and XMA. Stone Computers will also supply its own devices direct to customers, while XMA will supply its Viglen brand.

The framework is broken up into three lots: Lot 1 is for desktops, Lot 2 is for notebooks and mobile devices, while Lot 3 is a “one-stop shop” for both categories.

The value of the NDNA is between £400 million and £440 million, which is much bigger than its predecessor’s £310 million.

One thing is noticeable. Samsung is no longer involved, while Fujitsu is brought in on Lot 2. Softcat is a notable reseller absentee, having previously been in all three Lots with Dell and Lenovo.


Microsoft makes more money from clouds

lightning-cloudMicrosoft is starting to make significant piles of cash from its cloud thanks to the efforts of its channel.

This year Office cloud revenues surpassed traditional licences for the first time and Richard Ellis, Microsoft Office Division lead, says much of the impetus behind the growth in the company’s cloud business has been driven by the success of its cloud solution partner (CSP) programme.

“The CSP framework is a great example of the huge opportunity for partners,” he says, “giving them the ability to bill, invoice and provide managed service and support to Office 365 customers using our infrastructure. It allows partners to set their own pricing, their own support contracts and work with ISVs to add value.”

There are 35,000 CSP partners globally and the number is growing at the rate of 6,000 a month. “CSP is enabling partners to grow their revenue share with customers,” Ellis claims, revealing that CSP partners enjoyed 10 percent year on year average revenue per user growth.

Ellis said most partners were aware of Vole’s shift to the cloud and are taking advantage of it. “It’s for every partner to assess what their own services are and what their value proposition is to their customers. That’s always been crucial and it will be crucial going forward. Partners need to be very clear what value they are adding.”

Tech Data’s shares crash

Tech Data’s shares Wall Street Crash, Wikimedia Commonscrashed after its numbers failed to impress analysts and it complained of missing vendor rebate targets.

For those who came in late, Tech Data’s moves to buy out Avnet Technology Solutions received the thumbs up from Wall Street, with its share price rising 27 percent for the year to date.

But now its market value has dropped 19 percent as the company missed its quarterly profit targets and disappointed Wall Street with its guidance.

This is Tech Data’s first full quarter since it sealed the Avnet mega-merger in February, and the deal has made it even bigger than everyone expected, with Q2 revenues surging 40 percent annually to $8.9 billion.  Growth in both Europe and the Americas was in the low single digits.

Avnet TS has also breathed fresh life into Tech Data’s margins. Gross margins hit 5.8 percent for the quarter, up from 4.98 percent a year earlier, as the more enterprise-focused Avnet business made its margin-enriching presence felt.

But Tech Data’s gross margins and earnings should have been even higher than this.  The outfit blamed the shortfall on execution issues, increased competition and a fall in rebates from some of its key vendor partners.

Despite this, Tech Data’s shares are still up by about five percent for the year to date as CEO Robert Dutkowsky argued that the giant is a “stronger and more complex company today than it was a year ago”.

A “significant piece” of the shortfall was generated by Tech Data missing its vendor rebate targets, Dutkowsky revealed on a Q2 earnings call.

Dutkowsky pointed the finger at Avnet’s biggest vendors when he said that the problem lies mainly with “a few very large vendors”… “and these are not vendors that we have had a long history of managing at the volume and scale and scope that we had to manage through this quarter”.

During Q2, only Apple (12 percent), HP Inc (11 percent) and Cisco (11 percent) generated over 10 per cent of Tech Data’s sales, but it inherited a big relationship with IBM through the Avnet union.

Dutkowsky said that a relatively small sales shortfall in technologies it carries in its newly enlarged datacentre arm can result in it missing margin-rich rebates, due to the project-based nature of the business.

A number of vendors on this side of its business changed their rebate programmes during the quarter, affecting its profitability, he indicated. To make matters worse, several major vendors didn’t grow at the rate they planned during the quarter, Dutkowsky added, making it even harder to hit rebate targets that were assigned based on projected growth.

“We’re learning to manage the challenges and the complexities and that’s why we can say that that fits into that category of execution, and we know we can execute better in this area and we will,” he said on the call.

Monoprice is over here now

220px-The_Yanks_Are_Coming_FilmPosterThe US electronics and accessories retailer Monoprice is setting up shop in Europe.

The move is part of an aggressive growth into the European consumer market through the launch of localized versions of its e-commerce platform.

The Monoprice site will be available first in the United Kingdom, followed by Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, where its growing global consumer base will have access to hundreds of the brand’s offerings.

The company’s new sites will provide European consumers direct access to a diverse selection of premium products at a fraction of marketplace prices.

Monoprice CEO Bernard Luthi said that global adoption of consumer electronics is evolving rapidly but the higher costs of products available in the market pose a challenge to continued growth.

“We see that international consumers experience similar frustrations as those shopping for affordable electronics in America. With Monoprice’s expansion into key markets abroad, we are thrilled to bring our brand guarantee of simplicity, fair pricing and confidence to consumers and businesses throughout Europe.”

Each website will be tailored to the country’s language and currency for localised, intuitive use. Monoprice’s product managers and experts will curate a seamless online shopping experience, offering a variety of high-quality solutions across multiple product categories. Initial products will include 3D printers, headphones, small appliances, wall mounts, and AV/IT, personal and commercial products.

Monoprice currently leads the US 3D Printer market and sees this expansion as a significant opportunity to drive category growth globally.

Monoprice’s expansion is part of a multi-angle approach which includes in-country logistics and relationships with large marketplace partners. This approach signifies a strong commitment to European consumers and ensures orders have inexpensive shipping and faster delivery directly to customers’ doors.

Punters want fewer vendors, claims Dell

Michael Dell says that customers want fewer vendor partners and he Michael Dellknows of a company which has swallowed so many companies that they only need to deal with just one.

Dell said in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the VMworld conference in Las Vegas that one of the things that he had seen with all his business cocktail mixing is that customers actually don’t want to have more partners – they want fewer..

“We’ve seen really a fabulous response – revenue synergies greater than we thought, coming faster than we thought. Dell, EMC, VMware go together like peanut butter and chocolate,” he said.

Dell is facing pressure from cloud providers such as Amazon and Microsoft and merged with EMC last year to bring together two traditional hardware companies in one of the biggest corporate tie-ups in history, valued at about $67 billion when it was announced. As part of that deal, Michael Dell also picked up majority ownership in companies such as VMware, whose virtualisation software lets businesses cram bigger workloads onto servers. VMworld is an annual event that features that company’s latest products.

One of the issues that analyst said at the time was that it could mean that customers might not like having the “one-stop-shop” that Dell was offering. After putting all your eggs in one basket is never sensible, unless you like omelettes.

Dell is saying the opposite and customers prefer the simplicity of dealing with a monolith for everything.

Sedgwick appoints Mike Reeves

Sedgwick Mike ReevesThe provider of technology-enabled risk and benefits solutions, Sedgwick has appointed insurance industry veteran Mike Reeves to development of new business and markets for its burgeoning international division.

Reeves joins Sedgwick after retiring from a distinguished 40 year career at a large global adjusting firm. There, he served as executive vice president of global markets and played a key role in the formation of a division dedicated to providing loss handling services for large and complex organisations.

Reeves is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters and an associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute. In his new role, he will work closely with colleagues from Sedgwick and subsidiary Vericlaim’s London-based and international operations teams.

Sedgwick president and CEO Dave North said: “Mike Reeves brings a wealth of industry expertise to his new role at Sedgwick, and we are delighted to welcome him to our team.

“He joins us at a very exciting time in our international development. Mike’s renowned market knowledge and profile will be invaluable in helping us achieve our global aims and promoting our continued global expansion.”

Reeves will report to president of Sedgwick International and CEO of Vericla Stewart Steel who said that Sedgwick’s presence outside North America is among the most rapidly expanding areas of the organisation.

“I look forward to working closely with Mike and our partners around the world to promote Sedgwick in key insurance markets.”

DataCentred off centred and in administration

Sharp-1024x6851Administrators have been appointed after datacentre and cloud operator DataCentred recorded losses of almost £1.8m in the last financial year

The Manchester firm provides software and cloud-based services and has secured a number of high-profile clients in recent years, including a deal with the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, which is using the company’s public cloud platform to store archived Second World War interviews.

HM Revenue and Customs built a multi-channel digital tax platform with help from DataCentred using the open source infrastructure-as-a-service platform OpenStack.

FRP Advisory has been appointed as administrator to find potential buyers.

The firm, set up by Dr Mike Kelly, had been given backing as recently as a year ago to grow the business with a £500,000 loan from Barclays and £500,000 coming from existing investors, which included The Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

In its four years of trading DataCentred had built up a network of clients and there are hopes from the administrators FRP Advisory that the business and assets can be sold to a new owner.

In the meantime there will be plenty of users wondering if they could be vulnerable if their cloud supplier got into trouble and the advice from some in the industry is to review that process.

The advice from Databarracks is to make sure that customers are encouraged to have backup copies of data outside of production so they have control if the worst happens to their supplier, however some customers will be thinking that is the point of going to the cloud in the first place.


Apple signs Accenture deal to grab corporate customers has teamed up with Accenture to increase the adoption of iOS in enterprise customers

The move is part of Jobs’ Mob’s bid to get itself into the enterprise market following similar deals with IBM.

The hope is that Apple can turn around its flagging tablet and iPhone business by getting lucrative corporate deals.

Accenture will be creating a dedicated iOS practice in its digital studio network and Apple staff will be based in those teams. The two firms will be creating tools and services to help enterprise users of iPads and iPhones.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said that starting 10 years ago with iPhone, and then with iPad, Apple has been transforming how work gets done.

“Yet we believe that businesses have only just begun to scratch the surface of what they can do with our products.”

He added that given Accenture’s strong background in helping customers with digital transformation the two businesses could help modernise more user experiences.

From the Accenture point of view the firm’s chairman and CEO Pierre Nanterme said that it had also got experience developing mobile apps and iOS was “the superior mobile platform for businesses.

“By combining Accenture’s vast digital capabilities and industry expertise with Apple’s market leadership in creating products that delight customers, we are in a perfect position to help our clients transform the way they work”, he said.

Cannon appoints Pittick to B2B Indirect Sales

1958944-1-eng-GB_james-pittick-610Canon has appointed James Pittick as Director of B2B Indirect Sales, Canon UK and Ireland. In his new role, Pittick  will coordinate all partner business across the B2B organisation, continuing to support Canon’s current partner network as well as identifying new partners to support the growth targets for Canon’s indirect route to market.

The appointment comes as part of Canon’s reformed B2B approach which reflects an evolving marketplace, helping customers to explore new opportunities that will improve their business.

Pittick commented:  “Canon has an increased focus on its indirect routes to market and as such, I will be overseeing our continued support to help our traditional partners grow. In addition, I will be looking to identify new types of partners whose current portfolios could benefit from our technologies & services, including strategic alliance partners, software vendors and VARs. I’m looking forward to the year ahead when we will be announcing further initiatives to benefit the channel.”

Pittick joined Canon in 2008 as a Regional Sales Manager and since then he has held several senior sales and strategy roles at the company. Most recently Pittick  was head of the Sales, Strategic and Enterprise Business where he was “tasked” with “engaging” key enterprises and international organisations across both the private and public sectors. James will report directly to Rob Ferris, Director, Document Solutions at Canon UK & Ireland.

Rob Ferris said: “James will use his considerable experience working at Canon to drive the strategic development of our channel sales strategy. Canon strives to inspire its channel partners, guiding them through a challenging market to realise the opportunities it offers. We work closely to share our insights and develop their businesses. James will be at the very centre of making that vision of true partnership a reality.”

We guess the quote came from the autocorrect software Ferris uses.

HPE’s Meg predicted to leave by Yule

meg-whitmanThe news that HPE boss Meg Whitman was in the running for the Uber CEO job has led to some industry types to claim that she will be out of her HPE job by Yuletide.

Whitman, who has been HPE CEO since 2011, had been linked with the top job at Uber, but in July she publicly denied she would be moving to the ride-sharing firm.  She did not get the job that went to Dara Khosrowshahi – formally CEO at online travel firm Expedia.

However, Whitman gave media interviews this week and said Uber’s board approached her again over the weekend.

Uber had asked what it would take for her to change her mind

“I was not a contender for this job until the weekend — and I’m not even sure I was then”,  an apparently confused Whitman said.

However analysts are surprised by all this particularly as HPE is not doing that well and is going through one of its many restructurings. It cannot be seen as a good thing to learn that your CEO is planning to clean out her office and exit the building.

Most of the hacks covering the story think that Whitman will have gone by the end of the year.