Six things you need to know from the PCR Boot Camp North 2015 conference

We round up the best bits from the day's discussions...
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The conference stream at today's PCR Boot Camp Northsaw executives from across the supply chain share their insights on the key issues impacting tech dealers.

The session ran during the morning of the event at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, comprising a mix of keynote talks and panels that informed, educated and inspired the gathered audience.

Here are six things discussed in each talk or panel that you should know about, including the opening talk from headline partner Microsoft.

1. 'There's a huge market for upgrades and upselling' – Microsoft

Microsoft's UK OEM sales manager Lisa Gamble-Smith opened proceedings, talking about the opportunities around Windows 10 and Office 2016.

While Windows 10 is still a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and 8, Lisa made the point of using the OS to draw customers in, before upselling around it. 

"There's a huge market for upgrades and extra upsells," she said. "There are CRM and content collaboration opportunities, and server opportunities too, with the cloud and hybrid cloud growing."

She also mentioned some interesting facts, for example 96 per cent of Windows PCs that have Office installed use the latest versions of Office, there are 1.1 billion Office users worldwide and 122 years of gameplay have been streamed from Xbox Ones to PCs.

2. Key market trends in tech

GfK's supply chain director Carl West outlined some of the key trends in the UK tech market. Here's our pick of his seven pearls of IT wisdom:

  • Tech is outperforming the retail market (retail sales are up 3.7 per cent; tech is up 6.6 per cent)
  • Consumer confidence is at an all time high. GfK's consumer confidence index has increased three points in August 2015 to reach a headline score of seven
  • There's a strong demand for budget £149 laptops right now. "Let the big boys deal with that, or bump it up to £200 with service add-ons," Carl advised smaller dealers and indies.
  • Unit sales are up but value sales down (Total IT value growth is down 7.8 per cent but volume growth is up 7.1 per cent)
  • This Christmas, supersize monitors are doing well, as well as NAS drives and SSDs
  • Forget coffee machines - "everybody has gone nuts for drones", said Carl
  • 91 per cent of customers are aware of the smart home and 65 per cent have some knowledge of it, but 37 per cent say high prices are a barrier to adoption. 

3. Distributors face tough questions from retailers

We asked you to send in your questions and you did in droves - it made for some deeply informative, valuable and controversial comments from top IT suppliers.

When asked if disties moving into new areas, potentially away from their core business, the panel (chaired by Channelstar Media director and industy expert Simon Meredith) agreed that IT distribution is changing, cloud services are changing and that we can't shift away from that.

VIP's Rich Marsden said: "It's a challenging market, margins are slim. If you're not looking to move into different areas, you're not going to be here. Everyone should be looking to diversify because this is a tough market.

In terms of indies buying from etailers instead of disties, Enta's Darren Perks replied: "Distribution is your gateway to the vendors. It gives you access to programs, marketing funds, rebates and channel programs."

The other panellists agreed, with Rich saying buying from Amazon or Ebuyer means "you'll miss out on support".

Westcoast's Alex Tatham added: "Whether you buy from a retailer or from us, I'm probably going to get some money from it anyway. A distie's role isn't just to support the retailer - it's to support the vendor too. Is the vendor going to change? I don't think so."

When asked about online price feeds not always being the lowest, or different for different customers, Exertis' Jon Sutherland replied honestly, saying he would never go out with the cheapest price to begin with, and encouraged retailers to engage with their account managers. 

4. 'We're at a turning point with the Internet of Things' – Intel 

Anna Cheng, Intel's UK Tech and Enterprise PR Manager, looked at the future of computing in her talk, exploring wearables, IoT, gaming and more.

She mentioned the first luxury connected smartwatch developed by Tag Heuer and Intel, and revealed some stats from GfK, including its estimation there will be over 50 million smart wearables sold in 2015 globally. Anna also spoke of the growing Internet of Things space.

"We're at a turning point," Anna said. "There will be 200 billion [IoT] objects by 2020, $6.2 trillion global worth of IoT by 2025 and smart homes will be as common as smartphones by 2025.

Anna also mentioned the Cancer Cloud initiative, and the ability to capture someone's DNA digitally (taking up a few TBs of space), and said we'll see more of that next year. 

She also spoke of Intel's RealSense gesture-tracking tech, the explosion in eSports (it's generated $4,638,150 of prize money so far), and Intel's Diversity initiatives, and mentioned that wireless charging is coming soon with Intel's latest sixth-gen products.

5. 'VR is the future, but we won't see 4K or 8K gaming going mainstream just yet' 

Our panel of PC gaming industry experts (Yoyotech's CK, AOC's Paul Butler and Overclockers' Steve Ling) discussed the future opportunities in this space.

On virtual reality, CK said: "VR is the future. There's huge growth and plenty of opportunities for gamers and retailers."

On displays, Paul added: "The gaming monitor market is huge - we've got our best numbers ever. There's good opportunities for indies to sell high resolution screens. But we won't see 4K or 8K mainstream in gaming just yet."

CK said that getting 4K mainstream is the next step for the market to take.

Steve agreed with Paul that ultra wide and curved gaming monitors are selling strongly, and explored the opportunities within VR and what's next.

6. 'Now is the time to embrace cloud' – Cisco 

Cisco's UKI cloud leader Jo Laking spoke about the second wave of cloud adoption and how traditional retailers should be thinking of entering this growing space.

"We want to help partners make their first foray into cloud," she said. "It is something that's happening now, the adoption is having some impact on business. Historically cloud has been around cost reduction but it's now about giving businesses a competitive advantage.

"To compete with the big guys you need to offer differentiated services. It's not always the big that beats the small, it's the fast that beats the slow."

Further coverage of Boot Camp North 2015 will be appearing on the site and in PCR magazine after the event too, so be sure to check back for more analysis and insight.

You can stay up to date by following @PCR_Online on Twitter and using the #PCRBootCampNorth hashtag.

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