GE Access Eyes Move Into Markets For VoIP, RFID

Although GE Access hasn't signed any RFID and VoIP vendors, the Westminster, Colo.-based distributor made it clear to resellers at the conference that they should already be thinking about expanding their businesses into those markets.

"The time is right A year ago was even too early, but now there is opportunity behind the technology," said GE Access CEO Anna McDermott. "We jumped on VoIP a year ago, and we've had tremendous results."

Entering the VoIP and RFID arenas would be a radical departure for GE Access, given its history as a Sun Microsystems server distributor, but Sun would continue to play a major role in the solutions, McDermott said.

"These are different technologies than we distribute now, but there is groundbreaking work being done in those areas," she said. "We look at new markets and when the time is right for us to get into it and when is the time right for our partners."

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In the new markets, GE Access would go up against more established RFID and VoIP distributors such as Westcon Group and ScanSource. Ingram Micro and Tech Data also have VoIP practices. McDermott declined to identify which VoIP vendors GE Access is targeting, but she said they would be "market leaders" and that she hopes to close deals by the year's end.

"Distributor telecom numbers are increasing steadily and strongly. Voice-over-IP is driving this," said Tim Curran, CEO of the Global Technology Distribution Council. "It's becoming a major category for both broadline and enterprise distributors in competition with specialty distributors."

GTDC members reported 35 percent year-over-year revenue growth in telecom equipment in June, as well as a 27 percent unit-sales increase, according to the research firm NPD Group.

Several GE Access VAR partners said they're already mulling RFID or VoIP solutions. "GE Access' comments support our own thinking," said Don Swanson, president of dcVAST, a Downers Grove, Ill.-based solution provider. "If the customer benefits by reduced costs, then it's a great value for us to provide. There's also a significant professional-services and support opportunity, which aligns with our business model."

GE Access probably won't carry RFID products, but the distributor will support vendors such as Sun, whose products are used in solutions for industries such as retail, health care and manufacturing, McDermott said. In May, Sun opened an RFID test lab in Dallas.

"RFID represents a huge opportunity for network computing infrastructure," said Greg Stroud, vice president of iForce partner sales at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun. "You have millions of things to be potentially tagged. That will lead to a huge upswell of data that needs to be managed. And it's totally a partner play."