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Gold Column

The summer
We're now into the summer quiet sales period which will give many resellers a chance to take a long look at their future in the channel and, if they haven't already gone down that path, look to the Internet as a way of boosting sales. Many end users, however, continue to be worried about the security of the Internet and are therefore afraid of releasing their card details online. A new and free-to-use service called Card Guard, however, could change their mind.
The service from E-safety-1st at http://www.card-guard.com only charges users a modest fee when they wish to retrieve their encrypted transaction records from the company's servers. Dave Whalley, a co-founder of the firm, said that service is unique in the online and plastic card industries. "We founded the company in September of last year and are now releasing the software to the public on our Web site," he said, adding that a merchant version of the system - designed to protect online merchants from problems and fraud - is being readied for release later this year. In use, the Card-Guard software sits in the background on the users' PC, recording any plastic card transactions the user makes. Copies of these transactions are then encrypted, using Baltimore Technologies' software, and saved to the user's hard disc.
If a dispute or problem occurs, then users can send a copy of the encrypted transaction to Card-Guard and the firm allows secure access to the decrypted copy of the record to the user and/or the merchant concerned. Sounds good? It certainly does, and the beauty of the service is that it can be flagged on reseller Web sites as a free means of assuring customers about their security.

Network starter kits for under 20 pounds
Corega.com has launched what it claims is the lowest-cost Ethernet LAN starter kits to link two PCs. Priced at just under 19 pounds, the kit is roughly half the price of the nearest competitor. Terry Davis, the firm's marketing manager, said that, despite their comparative low-cost, no compromise has been made on quality or performance of the easy to install, auto-configuring plug and play LAN starter kits.
Available in seven varieties, the starter kits consist of two PC cards to link a pair of PC's each having a spare PCI slot and running Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT or Linux. Installation under Windows 98 or 2000 is accomplished using the diskettes supplied and the Cat5 UTP cable comes complete with connectors ready assembled to plug in. Also in the sub-7O pound retail middle range, Corega has a five port Ethernet hub, five PCI cards and five cables, each 3 metres long, ready terminated to just plug and play.
And selling for just under 180 pounds, there is the top of the range eight user 10/100M auto-sensing hub and PCI cards. The kit is supplied with eight cables, each three metres long, ready terminated for ultra simple plug and play installation. Ron Davis, the firm's CEO, said that the kits are in direct response from requests from resellers, who are reporting an increased demand from home users and small offices wanting to link a pair of PC's or a PC and laptop at full Ethernet or even Fast Ethernet speeds.
Interestingly, Davis added that there is a strong demand from PC gamers to link PCs at low cost and high performance, some even getting 200 or more PCs and laptops together for massive gaming sessions.

Compel denies takeover by SCH
Compel has rejected media reports that it has approached rival Specialist Computer Holdings (SCH) about a friendly takeover, claiming that it wants to continue as an independent distributor. Compel has been under pressure since it issued a profits warning in May, since when it has been fighting off a bid from Computacenter, another rival, which is offering 85 million pounds to shareholders. The London Financial Times says that Compel had approached SCH, its largest shareholder with 11.4 per cent of the firm, to see if it would merge the distributor into its group.

PC's sluggish in first quarter
Despite a slow start in the first quarter of 2000, IDC remains optimistic for the whole year and maintains an overall forecast of 16.1 per cent unit growth for PC shipments in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). The research firm predicts, however, that PC shipment revenues will suffer, as a result of an increasingly competitive environment, and year-on-year growth in value is expected to remain below 10 per cent. IDC says that the Internet and lower prices will continue to drive consumer sales in Europe whereas Windows 2000 should help stimulate business demand in the second half of the year.
Also contributing to the overall positive outlook, the booming notebook market is expected to increase shipments more than 25 percent in Europe as whole. Karine Paoli, IDC's PC tracker, said that business users' wait-and-see approach towards Windows 2000, as well as CPU shortages, will limit the prospects for a strong business rebound in the second quarter. 'In this context, the fast-growing consumer and consumer markets will remain particularly strong in France, Germany, and the UK, where continued aggressive pricing in the retail channel, brand competition, and increased demand for Internet access will continue to stimulate purchases and renewals," she said. According to Paoli, consumer notebook sales, which took off in the fourth quarter of last year and which recorded impressive growth in the first quarter of this year, will also continue to sustain high levels of growth throughout the year. IDC also predicts that notebook market should continue to boom in Europe. Driven by both business and consumer demand, and after the impressive growth recorded in the past two quarters, portable sales should continue to record strong double-digit growth rates throughout the year.
The research firm also predicts that consumer notebook sales will outstrip business - consumer sales are expected to experience over 53 per cent, against business sales with around 22 per cent unit growth. Server shipments, meanwhile, are expected to record limited growth once again in the second quarter, largely due to a wait-and-see approach from businesses toward Windows 2000. Stronger demand is expected to pick up in the second half of the year, however.

Sophos anti-virus starts reseller programm
Sophos has launched its partner program, which aims to offer resellers handling its anti-virus products a respectable slice of the profits. The UK-based anti-virus firm is rolling out its program worldwide and says that it wants to attract new resellers by delivering comprehensive support for all of its partners.
The Partner Program is billed as offering dealers access to free training and sales tools, allowing them to advise customers on sound anti-virus practice. In addition, there is a new certification scheme where accredited partners gain higher profit margins, marketing assistance and qualified lead generation incentive schemes to reward individual sales performance. Sophos says it is also supporting partner sales efforts by managing all aspects of software subscriptions directly, advising partners of customers' license expiry and will automatically e-mail newly available virus identities to end users. Mark Forrest, the firm's sales and marketing director, said that dealer sales now account for 50 per cent of the firm's turnover.
"This initiative underlines our enthusiasm to work with our partners and provides a solid platform to support their success. Ultimately, we are committed to providing first class anti-virus protection and support: working with quality partners helps us achieve this aim," he explained.

Corega.com, 0044-7002-267342 (GB), http://www.corega.co.uk;
International Data Corporation, 0044-20-8987-7209 (GB), http://www.idc.com;
Sophos, 0044-1235-559933 (GB), http://www.sophos.com


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