Context’s Jonathan Wagstaff: ‘VR is driving top-end graphics card sales and will make an impact at Christmas’

With PCR Boot Camp 2016 only one month away, event speaker Jonathan Wagstaff from Context discusses why retailers should be taking notice of Smart Home tech, what products are selling well at the moment, and why it’s going to be an interesting year for VR.

Can you give us a teaser of what you’ll be talking about at Boot Camp?

Smart Home is changing the way that household technology is being delivered to customers – nine channels are competing to get ahead in this market – but how well are ICT retailers and indies positioned? Who should they be watching out for? And how can they establish themselves as credible players?

We will present the results of CONTEXT’s two recent UK smart home surveys, one from September 2015 and the other conducted in January 2016. This will look at attitudes to smart home, the underlying motivations of consumers and how much they want to spend in this area. We will see the most popular products and uses of smart home, as well as the technologies that inspire most confidence.

How important is an event like Boot Camp?

We are card-carrying members of the Boot Camp fan club. We work in IT and tech across the whole of Europe and beyond, and it is vital for people to get together. In this digital age, there is still nothing that can replace the relationships you build in one-to-one discussions.

Boot Camp is an excellent way of bringing together the IT channel – vendors, distributors, large retailers, independent resellers – in a convivial atmosphere, and with the added benefit of leading edge presentations too. We appreciate the opportunity that Boot Camp gives us to share our findings on IoT and the smart home with the tech industry.

What is your background in the IT and tech industry?

I joined CONTEXT in 2014, having previously worked in systems integration for Accenture and then as a consultant for Essex County Council. Since starting at CONTEXT I’ve overseen EU-wide data-collection projects for major vendors, before taking on the responsibility of managing the UK & IE distribution, reseller, and retail panels last summer.

I’m very proud of the work the channels and retail team has done in the last year, growing and nurturing our panels (in the UK our distribution coverage is well over 90 per cent), and in thought-leadership on IoT and the smart home.

We’ve built strong working relationships with all stakeholders in the smart home industry bringing significant insight to this burgeoning sector, well beyond the data trends. The response to our consumer surveys and subsequent reports has been overwhelming.

How is the UK PC market looking at the moment?

The good news for the UK is that PC volume growth through distribution fared well compared to the rest of Europe in 2015. Stock clearing contributed to this performance, however we have also noted the success of new detachable and convertible mobile systems.

Detachables, which we define as portables that can be used in slate or notebook mode and come with a detachable screen, saw sales increase by 219.9 per cent in Q4 2015 compared with Q4 2014. Likewise, convertibles – portables that can be used in either slate or notebook mode where the screen is not detachable – were up by 95.1 per cent during the same period. We see this growth being driven by the limited content creation capabilities of slate tablets, and by the strength of user experience provided by Windows 10.

How is VR affecting sales of PCs and components?

Well, we’ve also been tracking the build-up in the channel to the launch of the two consumer VR headsets in the first half of 2016. This includes a sharp increase in sales of top-end graphics cards to meet the system requirements to power this new technology, and PCs/notebooks marketed as VR-ready machines.

We expect the end of the year to be very exciting for VR with the launch of Sony’s headset for the PlayStation. This could really drive VR into the mainstream and impact the Christmas market.

How is the industry reacting to the rise in IoT and connected devices?

High profile concerns about the security of connected devices such as VTech children’s toys, coupled with the growing range of smart home platforms, is raising questions around security and privacy.

CONTEXT recently brought together government, vendors, retailers and industry bodies at a summit to agree a collective approach for addressing this area. Key considerations include the responsibility of consumers, whether mandatory updates to passwords and security settings should be built into devices, and the role retailers can play in educating consumers at the point-of-sale.

The smart home industry is still at a very early stage, so it’s imperative that consumer trust is nurtured if it is to realise its potential. We will soon be publishing a guide for consumers and a manifesto for the industry, which we hope will create a more secure ecosystem.

Don’t miss Wagstaff’s talk at the 2016 PCR Boot Camp IT conference and expo on May 18th in London.

It’s FREE for PC retailers and resellers to attend – for more info or to register, visit

There are only four weeks to go until this year’s PCR Boot Camp conference and expo at the Emirates Stadium takes place.

If you haven’t already signed up to attend for free, here are ten reasons why this event is not to be missed.

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