D&H: Start Talking Ultrabooks, Windows 8 Now7:41 PM EST Tue. Aug. 14, 2012
D&H Distributing attracted more than 500 solution providers to its recent New England Technology Show in Quincy, Mass., where the distributor featured some of its newest products, including Microsoft Windows 8, Ultrabooks and more. CRN's Scott Campbell spoke with D&H co-president Michael Schwab to find out what products excite him these days and what areas solution providers should take a closer look at. Here's a look at what he had to say:
D&H and Microsoft had a big session on selling Windows 8 into small businesses here at the New England show. What are you expecting from the new OS this year?
It seems that in the IT community, we've got Windows 8, Server 2012 and a new Office launching. That's three new categories launching for the next five months, I guess. The key for success is training on the products on the programs. We started back in June in Hershey [at D&H's Summer Technology Show] and we're following up with it here and in Toronto in September for our Canadian resellers. At each show, we're demoing and communicating the details and product launches. We don't have pricing as of yet, so we can't take any backorders to gauge what demand is yet. Even from a tier-one [OEM] perspective, we don't have any SKUs set up yet for a new HP notebook or tablet with Windows 8. But, one observation of the demand out there in marketplace, particularly for the tablet, has been integration with legacy apps and full-featured functionality of PowerPoint, Word, Excel. Windows 8 truly does answer those demands. For as many Android tablets that we've sold, we think Windows 8 is a business-to-business solution that should see some immediate lift across multiple brands.
Have you noticed slower PC or tablet sales as a result of people waiting for Windows 8?
If you look at NPD reports or Gartner or IDC or anybody that tracks PC shipments, you can say there's been a lull in the market. Generally, my observation is before a major OS release, there is a period in time, say 60 days prior, where people take a wait-and-see approach. They buy what they need, understanding that things are fully upgradeable for a very cost-effective transition. But, the sense is customers also end up waiting. It goes back up the supply chain. You have end users wait, which means reseller wait, which means distributors are waiting, which means manufacturers waiting. The upside is when the product is released, there's a huge swing to positive demand of sales. The challenge now to then is making sure we're still selling current solutions.
Are you experiencing a bigger lull with notebooks or tablets as a result of waiting Windows 8?
The only difference is Windows 8 integrates a lot of touch as a feature set [of tablets], meaning notebooks don't have touch built into it. But, they don't have as many Windows 7 tablet offerings today. People say I can buy an Android tablet today or let's wait.
NEXT: The Future Of Ultrabooks
With all the talk around tablets, how is your business around Ultrabooks? And, are we still on track to see touch Ultrabooks by the end of the year or early next year?
The product road maps we've seen from manufacturers include touch Ultrabooks. If it's not out immediately [with Windows 8], it will be a fast follower. That's ultimately where we're going. You don't need a tablet and a four-pound notebook, but you can have a 2.2-pound Ultrabook that takes advantage of solid-state drives, battery life, portability and Windows 8. We're very bullish on Ultrabooks. The feature set resonates quite well, and the price points are getting where you can get more competitive in the marketplace. The [price] premium is not what it once was.
As demand for Intel Ultrabooks grows, what impact will that have on notebooks? Will we see sub-$200 notebooks?
My personal opinion is most manufacturers recognize that selling products at those price points, other than a Black Friday scenario, is not a good long-term strategy. We'll still see value pricing. Netbooks would have got you there with a 10-inch screen and a low-capacity hard drive, but I don't see the traditional notebook hitting the sub $200 price point. You'll see some tablets at those price points. You'll have $300-$400 notebooks, step-up notebooks and then Ultrabooks.
D&H seems to have an increasing focus on servers. What's new in that space?
We're engaging there, particularly on an SMB server opportunity. We have a couple of proof points that show this is a growing category. Our resellers can clearly add value with the two Tier One OEMs that we position: HP and Lenovo. Lenovo in particular has really stepped up their reseller engagement with servers.
They got into the business with the IBM relationship, but they had some restrictions about what they could source in the U.S. That seems to have broken free, and now their offerings are broader. The price points they offer to resellers and technology is very compelling to market as well. For those resellers that want to build their own, we have the Intel Modular Server solution -- their answer to a white box solution.
Speaking of Lenovo, what do you think of their new relationship with EMC? Will that help your VARs?
EMC, you remember, a number of years ago bought Iomega. Remember the Zip drive? That was their claim to fame. Since that time, Iomega has become a good reseller product line for NAS devices. They have the USB hard drives, but they really leverage EMC technology [with NAS]. Anything sub $10,000, you don't find an EMC line -- you find Iomega. For Lenovo to be a strong server player, they need a storage component as well. Lenovo is now taking the technology lead in the Iomega portfolio. Where HP had its own storage solutions, Lenovo saw this as a best practice to start from scratch.
NEXT: What's Wireless AC And What Are Its Benefits?
Do you think that relationship will cause friction with other vendors that EMC currently plays nice with, like Cisco?
There was a time when a lot of manufacturers more peacefully co-existed. Those lines are becoming more blurred. Cisco has server products today. HP was going head to head with them on networking. Each manufacturer recognizes today that for them to control their own destiny, they need to put forward the best product portfolio with first-rate technology.
But is it causing friction between more vendors?
I don't think so. And, one reason is all this noise or these changes or go-to-market changes happen at an SMB level. The bulk of revenue for Cisco comes at the enterprise. They recognized the need to partner at an integrated level. This is all happening at a 25-user [level], and less business is where this strategy is being distinguished.
What's a new technology or new product you're excited to see at this show?
One thing I'm excited about is this new wireless networking technology, [802.11ac]. Netgear is the first to launch it with us. We went from Wireless B to Wireless A to G to N and now Wireless AC. What's going to drive it is two things. One, people are streaming more video. When you're streaming data and delayed, you don't really know it. Maybe it takes a millisecond longer. It's not really noticeable. But, when you're streaming video and you get to buffering, all right, we need to figure out where's the bottleneck, where is the pipe too slow, how can we prioritize video or data. When you're watching a video training or doing a video conference call with your UCS system, how can you prioritize that video call and put secondarily data throughput? This AC technology allows you to increase bandwidth, distance and prioritize what gets the best usage of wireless data.
Most manufacturers will come out with it in the next 60 days or so. It will take some explaining as to why it's a step-up product and why is the price not more aggressive, but you get more value.
PUBLISHED AUG. 14, 2012