Tech Data Attempts To Simplify Information-Appliance Market For VARs

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Tech Data is attempting to simplify the complex market for information appliances,various handheld devices that enable mobile users to share information.

The segment poses many challenges for solution providers, including a lack of a single standard operating system or platform and the need to team with multiple wireless service carriers. The distributor said it will proactively sort out the myriad options facing solution providers. At the same time, it will help hardware vendors and wireless service carriers work together, Tech Data executives said.

The bottom line is the bottom line: Tech Data believes the result will be high-margin opportunities.

>> Distributor shipped 6.7 million orders in 2001..
>> Handles 20,000 sales and 5,000 technical support calls per day.
>> Fullfilled 1.4 million online orders in 2001, totaling $5.4 billion.



"We're looking at huge growth numbers over the next five years," said Dan O'Brien, vice president of peripherals product marketing at Tech Data. "We're well ahead of our competition in our understanding [of the market and execution," he said.

The distributor is currently seeing "stable" sales volume of PDAs, tablets, digital imaging equipment and scanners, but company executives are more optimistic about future growth because of falling hardware prices.

Tech Data's main focus now is to "establish better relationships with the carriers" and ensure that vendors and carriers are working together in product development, O'Brien said. Although Tech Data is working with various vendors and the top five to six carriers now, O'Brien said the company expects an eventual consolidation to one common system for both voice and data.

O'Brien would not reveal which carriers and vendors he considered to be tops in the market, citing competitive advantage.

The greatest challenge in the information-appliance market is the lack of a standard operating system, platform and carrier. Tech Data wants customers to seek its technical advice when determining the interoperability of products and wireless carriers.

Ariel Technologies, a Las Cruces, N.M.-based solution provider, believes integrating notebooks and devices into a wireless network can be a hard row to hoe. "But there's a lot of interest there," said Al Perez, president of Ariel.

Tech Data executives said wireless information appliances are making great inroads, high-margin opportunities and solid upgrade paths for solution providers in vertical markets, such as health care, real estate, law enforcement and insurance.

"We believe firmly that we are the first ones to have sorted it all out as a business," O'Brien said.

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