Stories by Bill Bennett

Will it be all white on the night?

Will it be all white on the night? August saw competition heat up once more in New Zealand’s bustling notebook market. As you can read in today’s paper, Korean electronics powerhouse LG is the latest big name to offer a portable range in this country. LG’s brand may not be as well known here in New Zealand as elsewhere in the region, but it still has widespread consumer recognition. Those of us with long memories will recall its former incarnation as Lucky Goldstar — younger readers are probably familiar with the company’s cheesy ‘life’s good’ tagline. Whether consumers can be persuaded to buy information technology from a firm better known for making domestic appliances remains to be seen. LG’s notebooks are competitively priced when compared with similar quality products from existing brands. Earlier in August Fujitsu PC appointed Morning Star to push its notebook range into the corporate sector. We reported this on the front cover of our 25 August paper. The Fujitsu story got second billing to Synnex’s Verified by Intel programme; another major notebook play. As Richard Harri, the company’s country manager, explained, the Intel programme is designed to help local assemblers tailor custom-made notebooks known as whitebooks. It does this by reducing key components to a limited set of building blocks that can be pieced together in various combinations to meet a customer’s exact needs and budget. Intel’s Lego-like approach to whitebook customisation is quite radical and relatively high risk. Whitebooks are the notebook equivalent of white boxes — locally assembled custom made no-brand computers. These have been more popular in markets other than New Zealand, where there’s been a long history of high profile distributors running into trouble — anyone out there remember Computer Imports and the Ellis brothers? White boxes account for a roughly 15 percent share of local sales — in other countries they have approached 50 percent of the market. The fortunes of white box manufacturers have ebbed and flowed depending on the activities of major brands. Right now, brands such as Hewlett-Packard and Acer are on the rise and white boxes are in retreat. Local assemblers have never really performed well in the notebook business. But the notebook business is growing much faster than the desktop business. So part of the current market swing back to traditional brands can be accounted for by the rising popularity of portable computers. Which is where Mr Harri and his whitebooks come into play. Could they, with help from Intel, help local assemblers win back market share from the international brands? To some extent the answer lies with the power of Intel’s brand. If consumers buy into the Verified by Intel marketing campaign then perhaps the tide will turn once more in favour of the smaller manufacturers. This is in doubt. Intel may be well-known, but its badge is a little more tarnished these days than in the past. A huge injection of marketing funds could help. Another big question mark is cost. Intel’s Lego-like construction approach allows third party component manufacturers to contribute blocks. This should create a strong supply, plenty of choice and keep prices competitive. But how will these advantages stack up against the big guy’s ability to pile ’em high and flog ’em cheap? Whatever the outcome, there’s one real positive: moving notebook competition into a higher gear should stimulate the market. We can all drink to that.

Renaissance eyes strong first half

NZX-listed distributor Renaissance has reported a 24% increase in before tax profits for the half year ending 30 June 2006. Profit for the period after taxes and minority interest was $2.29 million, a 19% increase on the same period a year earlier. Group revenues were $77.3 million, an increase of 11% on last year’s first half. Managing director Paul Johnston described his company’s performance as a “damn good result and one that probably bucks the current trend for IT companies in New Zealand.” A full report will appear in the August 11 print edition of Reseller News.

Google this

When Google launched its online spreadsheet earlier this month the world’s media focused on the web giant’s coming tussle with Microsoft.

Aussie retail giant eyes IT, New Zealand

One of Australia’s biggest home entertainment retail chains; JB Hi Fi, is planning to expand its operation into New Zealand, according to a report published earlier this week in the Australian Financial Review.

SOX logs off

In an email message addressing SOX Technology customers, former managing director Simon Hepburn said the telephony integration software company is to cease operation.

Retail giant eyes New Zealand

One of Australia’s biggest home entertainment retail chains; JB Hi Fi, is planning to expand its operation into New Zealand, according to a report published earlier this week in the Australian Financial Review.

Dell deserves to do it tough

If you’ve had the misfortune to buy a computer from Dell in the last few years, you won’t be surprised to hear the world’s largest computer maker is struggling to remain competitive.

Distribution giant shows strong profit

Ingram Micro is currently on a roll with its first-quarter global sales revenues showing 8% growth on the same period last year. Total revenues were US$7.6 billion. Quarterly profits jumped an impressive 45% to US$61.7.

McAfee: ‘Our SME package is ideal for NZ’

McAfee has high hopes for its latest security offering which goes on sale later this month, but Asia-Pacific marketing director Allan Bell says the package is likely to go down particularly well in New Zealand.