Same as it ever was

Same as it ever was


There's a common feeling among New Zealanders that Spring started two weeks ago. That isn't exactly reflected by the weather, which in Auckland, at least, is still throwing regular tantrums, ruining weekend plans while rubbing our faces in tempting sunshine whenever we have to sit down to do work inside.

It is also not considered Spring from an astronomical perspective. That happy occasion doesn't happen until the vernal equinox on September 22.

I've written about this disconnect between cultural Spring and astronomical spring elswhere. And when September 1 rolled around, I had to point this out whenever anyone mentioned the start of the new season.

Oddly, and probably a coincidence, a lot of people have distanced themselves from me lately.

The salient point here, of course, is not that the seasons are changing, or that the days are, happily, getting longer, or that some time soon, we really will be in the thick of something resembling Spring.

This is more about how we are disposed to fuzzy delineations that hardly ever represent the change from one state to the next that they are supposed to signify.

There is, in my industry, a persistent feeling of vertigo when presented with the future. Technology has abetted, and conspired with, new modes of information consumption. Traditional media revenue streams are showing their seams, and print as a way to connect with an audience is entering the passe. If you're a histrionic alarmist, as I am, the media world can seem to be coming to an end. If we don't act quickly to cross that blurry, semi-permeable membrane between paper and digital, we're going to be tossed out on the street.

I get a similar feeling when I think about how resellers make a living. And how they will continue to do so into the future. Assembled to one side of a line I've drawn in my imagination, are those of an ancient mindset, determined to sell everything — hardware, software, service — as discrete quantities representing an ever more discrete margin. Opposite them are the relatively chosen few, the nimble players that have traversed the membrane to that commoditised, cloud-ified world, and figured out how to make it work.

Sometimes editing Reseller News makes me feel like it's still coldest, darkest winter.

But it's easy to feel gloomy when you're pessimistic by nature. The great thing about feelings, however, is they aren't alway connected to facts. That's true whether we're talking about a change of seasons, the evolution of news media, or the prospects of resellers in this brave new world.

Speaking to sources for the September 14 issue, even a pessimist has to admit the world is not going to end in 2012. At Tech Ed, I sat down with Polycom's Gary Denman, who sees potential for smaller resellers to be even more nimble than their Tier 1 counterparts in delivering Video-as-a-Service.

The same with Ricoh. That vendor's strategy of inverting its value proposition from one led by hardware to one led by consulting, and bringing all their exclusive dealers along with them, shows that the thinking out there is far more innovative than the ominous visions going through my head would suggest it to be.

It's not all black or white. Ricoh's plans apparently include the possibility that it will buy up smaller, competing resellers in its pursuit of supplying a broader range of customers with IT consulting services and office efficiency expertise. On the other hand, Ricoh is also keen to have its 13 exclusive dealers collaborate with other resellers in their geographies to help land bigger deals, to mutual benefit.

There is consolidation out there. You hear about it all the time. Resellers disappear as older folk go into retirement, or look for more stable businesses, or simply were made an offer they couldn't refuse. But there are also new guys popping up, youthful and imaginitive, like Stephen Carr of Amberley's Bright Star PC, which is growing apace through responsiveness to customers and a flexible business model. And Carr is only 24 years old.

So the point is, as Gary Denman told me, competition is tough and there will always be consolidation in the channels. But there will also be fresh blood. That is neither good news, nor bad news for anyone. It's just Spring.

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