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Bob Dutkowsky has been CEO of Tech Data for about six years, which makes him the longest-tenured CEO of all the multi-billion-dollar, publicly-traded distributors in the U.S. That's enough time to have seen several tech cycles come and go, which gives him a broad perspective on where the company -- and the channel -- are headed. He recently visited with CRN editors at UBM Channel's Framingham office to touch base on a number of different subjects including the iPhone and iPad phenomenon and whether or not Windows 8 can make a dent. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:
Tech Data has changed a lot under your tenure. Can you take us through some the changes, maybe starting with mobility?
We're living a transition as we speak. Three years ago, we didn't sell tablets. Two years ago, we sold $300 million in tablets. Last year, we sold $1 billion in tablets.
[Related: Video: Tech Data Thriving With Apple, iPads]
How much of that is due to Apple's iPad?
If a vendor or a customer accounts for greater than 10 percent of your business, you have to disclose it. For years, we disclosed HP like that, but for the first time ever, we announced Apple was greater than 10 percent [last quarter]. It was 12 percent. Now last year, we did $26.5 billion in sales, and $1 billion was tablets. That's not 10 percent, so that means we're also selling Macs and AirBooks. We don't sell the iPhone, so it really is the computing side of Apple, which has become a major piece of the Tech Data story.
As Apple's foothold in the tablet market only appears to grow stronger, is there room for competition?
We see a big opportunity. The world wants alternatives. The technology ecosystem is never comfortable when there's only one choice. No two users think the same about technology. What works for you might not work the same for me. The iPad is an exceptional product. It fits the consumer and business spaces. My three-and-a-half-year-old grandson knows how to turn it on, key in the password. He can't read or write but he knows every icon know and when he's tired of a game, he swipes it away.
This is where something like Windows 8 plays really well. There are plays where the iPad doesn't fit, business environments where another architecture could play better. Windows 8 is one pane of glass, meaning phone to content delivery device to PC, there's a consistent look of feel with touch [capability] across everything. CIOs can secure the whole environment. There are places where that fits, where an Intel-based PC [fits and where] iPad as a content device doesn't fit.
We think Windows 8 will be an exciting architecture. We have a massive partnership with Microsoft and all the guys building Windows 8 enabled platforms.
Back to Apple, Tech Data is missing the iPhone? Do you think you can convince Apple to let you carry that too?
We've been trying to get the iPhone, which as you know Apple deals directly to points of sale and has its own logistics capability.
How often do you get to make that pitch in front of Apple, to add the iPhone?