Say goodbye to the topsy-turvy, up-and-down IT market and say hello to the industry's long-lost friend: stability.
After several years of fallout from the dot-com bust, a series of fits and starts and a sprint out of the gate in 2004, the technology market in general and the channel in particular have settled into a steady, strong rate of growth and sales expectations, according to results of November's CRN Monthly Solution Provider Survey.
While solution providers surveyed saw their near-term sales expectations drop slightly from October to November, the results of the poll still showed historically strong optimism.
Compared with results from the CRN benchmark optimism survey from May 2000, solution providers in November of this year were 50 percent more bullish on sales of notebooks than they were at the height of the dot-com era four years ago, exactly as optimistic about desktops as they were then, and almost as optimistic about peripheral sales.
When solution providers were asked which products they would sell in the next 90 days, antivirus and firewall solutions, network hardware and wireless LANs were among the top 10 survey responses. During the past six months, more solution providers said they planned to offer hosting, accounting and Web design applications and services than any other product or technology.
"We had a real good November and we're having a real good December," said Steven Osheroff, president of A-Z Computer Marketing, a Centreville, Va.-based system builder and solution provider. "Everybody is having problems with spam, with security, with storage. That's where [integrators] are concentrating," he said.
November's survey also showed that custom systems, or white boxes, were solution providers' best-selling brand of desktop, PC server (tied with Hewlett-Packard) and Unix server, while Dell offered the best-selling notebooks.
Intel CEO Craig Barrett echoed Osheroff and other solution providers, saying earlier this month that he initially underestimated the strength and steadiness of the market through the year's end.
"[The fourth quarter] will turn out to be a normal--reasonably normal--fourth quarter," Barrett told CRN, adding that the economy has remained steady despite continued war, oil price fluctuations and other geopolitical issues. "You'd kind of have to expect '05, without any major disruptions, to continue in that sort of direction."