As the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend picks up pace, solution providers are facing new opportunities to deliver networking, security, and cloud offerings in the enterprise. But according to display and tablet manufacturer ViewSonic, BYOD opportunities for resellers are extending far beyond the commercial world, as more and more vertical markets seek customized, rather than out-of-the-box, mobile devices.
Colleen Browne, director of North American reseller and enterprise sales at ViewSonic, told CRN that ViewSonic partners are finding creative new ways to introduce tablets to their clients in vertical markets. These new opportunities have been spurred primarily by the demand for single-function tablets, Browne explained, or tablets that have been customized to perform a specific task, within a specific vertical market.
"We’re running into some interesting opportunities [with partners] that are not necessarily about mobility with tablets, or not necessarily about the traditional enterprise use of the tablets," she said. "These different opportunities with partners speak to the tablet as a single-purpose device, but they offer multiple advantages for the environment in which they are being used and I would say, too, for the reseller."
Browne gave an example of a ViewSonic reseller who customized tablets for a national fast food chain service, programming them as mini touch-screen menus that customers could use to place their orders at a table in lieu of waiting in line. Another reseller customized ViewSonic tablets for use in a large retail chain, positioning them as personal control panels in dressing rooms for users to manage lighting, music and other settings.
According to Browne, the best way for resellers to identify opportunities for customized or single-purpose tablets among clients is to look through the lens of an end customer.
"The opportunity for these single-purpose devices or solutions are only limited to a reseller’s imagination, because we’re all customers," Browne told CRN. "Any reseller can walk into any service or retail organization, look around, and say, 'How would I like my experience to be?' And then go work with a software partner or find those partners who can help bring that solution to be."
Rick Jordan, director of mobility sales and strategic alliances at Tenet Computer Group, a Toronto, Ontario-based solution provider and ViewSonic partner, told CRN that customized apps and software have become crucial to offering his end clients a full end-to-end mobile solution. So much so, in fact, that Tenet has dedicated a segment of its business specifically to app development.
"We actually have a dedicated team of development personnel here on-site," Jordan explained. "So if a client wants to look at something custom, we can do that."In addition to customized apps, Tenet Computer Group offers a homegrown network management app, Mobile Alerts, and a corporate directories app, cDir. It also teamed up with fellow solution provider MicroTech to launch this month a new BlackBerry app PINpoint that ensures users documents and contact lists are always up-to-date with a network’s existing resources.
Jordan, Tenet's mobility sales and strategic alliances director, said that the development and offering of customized apps is Tenet’s way of ensuring a whole soup-to-nuts offering for customers. With today’s increasingly mobile workforce, a pure hardware offering is no longer enough.
"If you think back five or 10 years ago, there were companies that could survive just selling hardware. But now, if you’re just selling hardware, you’re like a duck sitting in open water," he said. "So now [it’s about] doing customization, getting into software development, being an ISV… you know, really taking care of the customer."
ViewSonic's Browne noted that these traditional or hardware-focused resellers can, in fact, move into the customized or single-function tablet space -- they just need to form some new partnerships first. Like resellers in the digital signage market, which also requires a unique mix of hardware, software, and AV technologies, partnerships may sometimes be needed to offer a fully customized, end-to-end mobile offering. These alliances, she said, often present new opportunities of their own.
"I would say you’d be hard-pressed to find a traditional VAR that can put together all of these components," Brown said. "Sometimes you just have to go to third-party partners to assist, and that’s not a bad thing. You can surround yourself with very strong third-party partners and all of sudden you’ve developed a group of like-minded partners who feed off of each other and who, before you know it, are coming up with ideas and new opportunities as a group."