In the first of a series of head-to-head interviews, Enta's commercial group vice president Jon Atherton talks to director of partner sales at Microsoft UK Karl Noakes about Linux, ISPs, Gordon Brown and West Bromwich Albion...

Enta’s Jon Atherton interviews…

Jon Atherton:: Linux among ISPs seems to be the favoured solution; why is that?

Karl Noakes: I don’t necessarily believe that statement is true. I think there’s a lot of ISPs out there that are offering the Windows platform, as well as the alternative. I think the Windows platform is a richer environment and offers more opportunities. You should probably take a look at it, Jon.

JA: Does the independent reseller get a raw deal on OS, competing against the Dells of this world?

KN: It’s not necessarily about price, it’s about value and the add-on services that you provide. There are organisations whose business model is about selling on volume and price and there are other organisations that sell on value and provide value added services, so there’s room for all in the market.

JA: Is Fabio Capello a good choice for England manager?

KN: I’m sure he’s a good choice, but I’m equally convinced you don’t have to pay £6 million to manage the England team. I’d have done it for nothing. I’m gutted we didn’t qualify. It took a while to even watch a game to be honest. I think it’s just so sad that the England flags are not flying and we weren’t all down the pub drinking Magners.

JA: Microsoft OEM grew to ten distributors in 2007 from five; was this a wise move?

KN: We looked at the market, we looked at the opportunity, and there was room for those distribution companies that serve those specific markets. Decisions were made on how we can provide the best service and value for our customers. And the decisions that were made were in line with that.

JA: Will any of the promoted teams from the Championship, The Mighty WBA, Stoke and Hull, survive in the premiership and stay up?

KN: I think at least one – most probably West Bromwich Albion – will survive. They do need to beat Stoke for the first time in 20 years. And we only need to finish four from bottom.

JA: What non-Microsoft product/services should an independent reseller be selling/offering in today’s climate to attract customers and retain margin?

KN: It’s an interesting question. Even with the current market we’re in, there is still opportunity. And resellers need to invest to stay competitive. There’s a lot of traditional technology out there but equally there is a lot of new emerging technology, things like unified communications, mobile technology, collaborating over the web.

I think organisations need to be more productive or lean, through investments in IT in order to remain competitive. I think the big challenge in tough economic climates is to still see the benefits that IT can offer.

JA: Is that technological knowledge one of the strengths of the independent sector?

KN: They have to invest themselves in the knowledge of the technology. There is a skills gap in the market. The demand for technology is greater than ever before. I think the climate is almost masking the problem that resellers should be investing in training their sales people up.

There is a broader portfolio of technology than ever before, and equally, a lot of the technology that’s available now was the domain of the large enterprises; through the price points that Microsoft is bringing, it enables the independent reseller to offer solutions to SMEs that perhaps were beyond their pockets before.

My guidance to SMEs would be to make sure you look after the sales proposition and invest in doing that.

JA: Cameron or Brown and why?

KN: It’s the lesser of two evils, isn’t it? I think I’d go with Cameron. But I don’t know why. I’ve not been impressed with Brown at all, and equally I think it’s perhaps time for a change.

I see the pinch going on everywhere, all the price rises and Brown just seems to be a little bit arrogant. Not in touch with what’s actually going on. Perhaps we should go for Nick Clegg.

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