Once again, it's the Internet that takes the headlines this issue, as Jungle.com is now offering digital downloads of commercial software - at a hefty discount - to end users.
Dealers are not getting left out in the cold, however, as Pine's dealer-only portal has opened (see below), but there are still some threats to the traditional dealer channel.
Dell, for example, has just opened a new UK Web site where consumers can sell their old computer systems regardless of brand and bid for used or refurbished Dell systems.
The site, located at www.dellauction.co.uk, is aimed firmly at end users, but also has a high degree of cross-promotion with Dell's other Web sites.
Consumers were allowed to offer their PC systems for sale on March 27, and early indications suggest that this is going to be a popular site for consumer PC users.
Jungle.com taps into instant online software sales
Jungle.com, the Web sales offshoot of Software Warehouse, has become the first UK retailer to offer digital sales of software. The firm has teamed up with Buyonet, the e-commerce specialist and software Web store for the project.
Using Buyonet's digital download technology means that as well as browsing, ordering and paying for products via the jungle.com Web site, customers can have business software packages instantly delivered to their PC.
Buyonet is now hosting the Jungle.com software download store, mirroring the look and feel of the main Jungle.com web site to ensure visitors receive a seamlessly integrated service.
Steve Bennett, Jungle.com's CEO, says there are more than 3,000 software packages to choose from on the download store, including Buyonet's software inventory and a further 200 products exclusively available on Jungle.com.
According to Bennett, the download shop offers consumers the opportunity to shop at Jungle.com 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and downloading from the site cuts out wasteful packaging, so customers receive up to 40 per cent off the price of the boxed product.
Once the customer has made their selection and paid for it, Bennett said that Jungle.com can guarantee the convenience of immediate delivery, as customers can download their chosen software package directly from the site.
Early reports, Bennett claims, suggest that the download store has proven to be very popular with the firm's customers. "We expect more and more people to shop this way as bandwidth improves and lower Internet call charges are introduced", he said.
Pine's dealer Web portal
Pine Technology has designed and launched a new e-commerce site aimed totally at dealers and resellers. The Web site, known as Dealer.Net, was designed in-house at Pine to ensure all products and services were tailored to dealer requirements, rather than a standard shopping trolley approach to sales.
The site allows resellers to access all of Pine's products with discounts, and special offers, from CD media to PC cameras and the latest in MP3 technology.
According to Pine, it approves all dealers before they can use the site, assuring that its customers' customers are protected, and get the best service possible.
The site is not just about the order process, however, as dealer customers can check the order and delivery status online, while delivery charges are included in all items on the site.
Although UK-centric to start with, from July onwards, European dealers will be also be able to make transactions, split their orders between various warehouses, and use their preferred language and currency, which is then stored and automatically used in future visits. Marnie Sutton, vice-president of Pine's sales and marketing operations, said that the site has been in development for some time, to suit both Pine, its customer base and in turn, their customers.
Slow start to PC sales Q1 2000
Although PC sales got off to a slow start this year in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region, IDC's latest report on PC sales for the region remains optimistic for the year as a whole. The report predicts that the Internet will continue to drive consumer sales, while Windows 2000 should help stimulate business renewals in the second half of the year.
IDC says that it expects PC shipments this year to grow by 16.4 per cent, with more than 38.8 million PCs will be shipped in the region this year.
The market, however, will remain constrained by fierce competition and sharp price decreases on all form factors, affecting value growth. Karine Paoli, IDC's EMEA PC tracker, said that consumer sales will continue to drive the overall market in unit terms, fuelled by Internet demand and fierce price competition in the retail channel.
"The intense competition in the consumer market and the increasing share of the new Internet channel will contribute to increase the pressure on margins," she said.
According to Paoli, the challenge for PC vendors is more than ever to improve their business model, increase efficiencies, and create outside-the-box revenues in order to meet these new market requirements.
Bad debts force Millbank out of channel
Profit margins have taken their toll at Millbank Computers, one of the UK dealer channel's longest-running distributors, which has collapsed into liquidation after failing to recover from a series of bad debts.
An initial creditor's meeting was held on March 22, but it seems that bad debts, coupled with falling profit margins, are the reasons for the distributor's failure.
Originally established a general computer distributor in 1978, Millbank started to concentrate on electronic point of sale (EPoS) technologies a couple of years ago.
ICL pulls the plug on distribution arm
Millbank's departure from the distribution business (see above) is mirrored by ICL having pulled the plug on its trade distribution division - one of the oldest operations in the UK dealer channel.
The division, which generated sales of around 60 million pound a year, sold Compaq, Fujitsu and IBM hardware to resellers. The division will be stripped down, but will continue to sell, but only to end users.
As with Millbank, ICL is a veteran in the dealer business, having launched its PCs in the 1980s and entered distribution in 1992 when it bought Technology Plc, then a thriving distributor.
Dell Computer, http://www.dell.com, http://www.dellauction.co.uk;
Jungle.com, http://www.jungle.com; Pine, 0044-1908-218812 (GB);
IDC, 0044-20-8987-7218 (GB), http://www.idc.com
ICL, 0044-1753-604668, http://www.icl.com