In a 2002 survey conducted by Evans Research, 59 per cent of reseller sales targeted verticals such as education, government, and financial, small and medium businesses. IT resellers as a whole did not focus on warehousing, retail or manufacturing sectors, which collectively accounted for 12 per cent
of respondents. The same survey revealed that 62 per cent of reseller revenues stemmed from hardware sales and service contracts. Armed with the knowledge that the desktop PC market was reaching saturation, resellers were looking for another strong hardware revenue source. The mobile computing device market was the next logical choice, as these devices are the next step for computing technology. Resellers could bridge their hardware expertise in the desktop and server segments over to mobile and handheld markets.
Microsoft and its partners launched the Tablet PC and its own operating system (OS) in November 2002. Combining a portable form factor and pen computing with the power of a notebook computer, the Tablet PC was an innovative product for mainstream users. The Tablet PC operating system, designed on the Windows XP platform, is unique in its ability to merge existing corporate IT Microsoft-based operating systems with its handheld computing device platforms. Warehouses and inventory managers had been using pen-based handheld devices for years. Units from Symbol Technologies and Intermec, for example, were used to scan product codes and control inventory long before the Tablet PC launch. The concept of pen computing was one that Microsoft users had deployed and perfected prior to the mainstream launch of 2002.
Tablet vendors tout the benefits of this technology in corporate environments such as insurance and legal. Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba, with convertible form factor products, brought the technology right into office spaces. The corridor cruiser, who has multiple daily meetings in hallways and boardrooms, is profiled as the perfect user for the products. Through reseller partnerships, other Tablet PC partners showcase the technology’s benefits in inventory management scenarios. Targeting warehouse environments, partnerships such as Fujitsu and Filitron brought the technology into the field for testing. Vendors such as Electrovaya, with Tablets equipped with extended battery life, Xplore and Motion Computing, also look towards warehousing applications for sales opportunities.
The mobile computing market is seeing tremendous growth within all areas. Resellers are becoming the go-to source to bring these products to market, especially within niche markets such as supply chain logistics. EMJ announced an agreement with handheld device vendor Intermec. This agreement effectively brings Intermec’s products into the hands of roughly 3,000 resellers. Psion Teklogix, a mobile computing vendor, recently announced increased focus on the reseller channel as a means to boost its presence with the Canadian marketplace.
New technology such as specialized operating systems and Wi-Fi are driving more and more uses for mobile computing. Intel’s Centrino launch product brought extended battery life to mobile computers and into wireless computing scenarios. The launch of Centrino was combined wireless connectivity, as seen through the Hot Spots campaign, and resulted in an increased profile of the 802.11b technology. New handheld PC products such as Palm’s Tungsten C products combined wireless email, cell phone and personal digital assistance with wireless computing. Wi-Fi is now targeting mainstream consumers and corporations alike.
Resellers can work with partners to tout the corporate uses for handheld and tablet computing. These benefits include telephone calls, contact and file management information and pen computing. Resellers can also work with partners to increase the usage of handheld and mobile computing devices. By increasing the durability of some of the non-traditional handheld devices, these too can be used in the warehouse environments for which they were originally created. Now, thanks to technology, they will also come with the benefits of integrated front office software.
Michelle Warren is a market analyst for Evans Research of Toronto.