Signs Of Hope At Tech Innovators Event

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As the economy tightens amid a pullback in business and consumer spending, one issue looms large: Will the adoption of new technology be impacted? In other words, will businesses turn a deaf ear to any solution provider pitching the technology of a lesser-known or unknown brand, or will IT buyers simply assign capital expenditures to the goods of the large, established players. Well, these questions are difficult to answer, but based on responses from the attendees at our recent XChange Tech Innovators conference, it does appear as if customers today are, perhaps, more willing to listen to a good product pitch, if the right approach is taken. The key selling point, many VARs say, is the cost-effectiveness of a product and having ROI tools in hand for when the tough questions arise. So while the doomsayers predict the world is about to end, when it comes to new and emerging technologies, things may not be so bleak after all.

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Here are some interesting observations from companies peddling new wares. First, just a note about XChange Tech Innovators, or XTI as we call the event. We held the conference in San Jose, Calif., Nov. 16-19, with the goal of bringing together solution providers and vendors who either recently brought a new product to market or were launching refreshes to their lineups. This event was not limited to just emerging vendors but also established players such as IBM or Toshiba.

Despite the economy, small vendors such as Internet security provider Cymphonix or e-mail security solution provider Reflexion, are reporting strong growth and are, so far, unscathed by the slowdown. In fact, Cymphonix CEO Kevin Santiago said interest in his company's products has been increasing as customers look for low-cost alternatives. However, the biggest challenge they face is activating solution providers who have expressed an interest in their products. But an even bigger issue is building awareness of their companies, especially when marketing budgets are tight. Many of these vendors' executives also said their investors are not panicking or unduly pressuring them to sell out, but are asking them to manage costs and improve cash flow.

One such company, Digium, is trying to convince partners to sell its open-source VoIP-based products. It is not an easy sell, but the company believes the economic headwinds will bring a windfall for its solution, says CEO Danny Windham. Digium, along with several other companies, also participated in a forum we called "Fresh," which showcased just-released technology in a forum that kept solution providers on the edge of their seats. It was an amazing display that included a rugged computer from Panasonic and a scheduling program from Kerio. VARs who attended Fresh said they were impressed as they sought out more information on each offering.

So despite the trials and tribulations of the economy and Wall Street, it appears as if innovation is alive and well. The fact that solution providers are willing to invest time and money to back these brands is also a sign of what VARs' customers want—affordable technology.

How do you pitch your products to attract customers? Everything Channel SVP and Editorial Director Robert C. DeMarzo is at

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