Dot.com web-only dealers
One of the biggest problems facing the distribution channel at the moment is how to assess the credit-worthiness of the new `dot.com' web-only operations when it comes to stock levels.
Jungle.com, the Web offshoot of Software Warehouse that launched last year, has had a credit assessment problem as, while the firm is well- known to the software industry, it is completely new to the hardware side of the channel. Steve Bennett, CEO of Jungle.com and a major shareholder in the Web venture and Software Warehouse, saw the problem coming and took the only logical course of action - he allowed Jungle.com to reverse takeover Software Warehouse.
In doing so, he said, it gives Jungle.com a healthier credit rating, meaning it no longer has to source its inventory from Software Warehouse.
You can expect to see more reverse mergers in the channel this summer as dot.com Web-only sales operations look for the creditworthiness that `bricks and mortar' distributors and sales outlets already have.
Dixons could be hit by new PC probe
Dixons appears to have set itself up as a sitting duck after signing deals with sole-supplier contracts with Compaq and Packard Bell. Rival retailers Comet and John Lewis have lodged a complaint with the government as a direct result.
Both retailers say they that Compaq and Packard Bell are restricting consumers' choice through the exclusive distribution deals, since they could lead to higher prices and poorer service.
Packard Bell, owned by NEC, told John Lewis last December that Dixons will be its sole high-street outlet from this July. Compaq began a similar arrangement at the end of last year, stopping supplies to John Lewis and Comet.
Apart from on the Internet and via mail order, all other retailers are excluded.
John Lewis claims its research shows that 70 per cent of PCs were sold on the high street and that of these, 57 percent are sold through Dixons stores.
The British government's Office of Fair Trading has already looked into this market and ruled in October that Dixons did not have a dominant market position. But now, both Comet and John Lewis want the competition watchdog to take a second look.
Compaq gets heavy on dealers handling fakes
Compaq has announced it is adding a clause to its reseller agreements warning that resellers found knowingly dealing in fake kit will have their contracts terminated.
The firm has taken this unusual step after around 20,000 pounds-worth of forged Compaq-braned memory was found in the dealer channel earlier this year. Mike Morgan, Compaq's general dealer manager, said that the firm is in the process of introducing an addendum to all accreditation contracts.
`Partners found to be knowingly selling counterfeit products will constitute a material breach of their contracts, which will be terminated with 30 days' notice,' he said.
The idea behind the move is less to dissuade resellers from handling out-and-out pirated products and more to stem the flow of grey market imports to the UK dealer channel.
The problem with grey market imports, that is, products not designed for a given market, is that, although the price charged to the dealer may be right, there is usually no way to authenticate the origins of the products.
This makes it very easy for less than scrupulous suppliers to introduce pirated goods and software to the dealer channel - if the price is right, it seems, some dealers will turn a blind eye to the origins of the goods.
If, however, the dealer stands a good chance of losing his/her main dealership if the product proves to be pirated, then the reseller is almost certain to take more with where they source their kit.
NetWare 5.x grows 77 times faster than the market
Data just released by IDC (http://www.idc.com) confirms that Novell NetWare outperformed all the competition including Microsoft Windows NT for all recorded node shipments last year.
Overall, IDC says, the increased importance of NetWare 5 resulted in a market share increase from 50 per cent in 1998 to 55 percent in 1999.
In addition, the market research also confirms that average nodes shipped per licence during the year was actually 84 per cent higher for NetWare (averaging 35 nodes per licence) when compared with Windows NT (19 nodes per licence).
Elis Nemes, Novell EMEA's vice president, said that the growth in NetWare has been significant because the firm's customers are moving their businesses to the Internet.
`As customers expose their businesses to the Net, they expect to have robust, scaleable and secure platforms," he said, adding that Novell secures and powers one Net environments and its Net services software provide organisations with the power to change by adapting and accelerating their transformation to e-business.
Nemese went on to say that, as Novell NetWare has a first class reputation in all of these areas, "we are seeing significant growth in NetWare sales. Our customers are serious about using their networks for web-based applications, directories and management."
Novell claims that the significance of operating systems other than NetWare and Windows NT continues to decline and has fallen to a combined total of five per cent of all licenses shipped last year.
For 2000, IDC says it expects continued growth in the network operating systems (NOS) market in Western Europe. This growth, the report says, will be primarily driven by the launch of projects that were postponed because of Y2K.
Tapping the Web for training
Skillsco has taken the wraps off Skillserver.com, a Web site that is claimed to be the UK's first comprehensive listing of IT courses.
The site, which aggregates training schedules for the UK' largest Microsoft, Novell and Lotus authorised training companies, lists over 4,500 courses events in over 100 training centres.
Clare Curtis, Microsoft's skills manager, said that demand for Windows 2000 training continues to grow and any process that makes it easier for people to discover the options that are available to them can only be a good thing.
`SkillServer will help IT professionals find training resources faster, and as the site continues to develop in the future, we are sure it will become an excellent resource for IT professionals,' she said.
This approach is supported by Lotus and Novell. Audrey Hillenaar, UK & Ireland education channel manager at Lotus Development commented: `Training is an important focus for all businesses now and Skillserver.com can help companies identify the Vendor Authorised suppliers faster.'
Robert Furnival, channel sales manager at Novell, meanwhile, added that the site is a great tool that will help IT professionals find the training they need faster.
`Plugging the IT skills gap is not just about providing training, it's also about making sure people know about that training. SkillServer is a great way to do that,' he explained.
Donald Taylor, SkillsCo's managing director, said that this is what makes the portal the most comprehensive site in these areas. `Feedback from the pilot Web site shows that IT professionals looking for training will find the site indispensable as you can't get a clear overview of what's available anywhere else,' he said.
Dixons, 0044-1442-354515 (GB), http://www. dixons.co.uk;
Compaq Computer, 0044-208332-3000 (GB), http://www.compaq.co.uk;
Novell, 0044-1344-724312 (GB), http://www.novell.co.uk;
SkillsCo, 0044-208580-1902 (GB), http://www.skillserver.com