It’s been another fascinating year in the IT channel, and one characterised to a large extent by stability and reseller optimism. Distribution revenue was up 5.7% year-on-year in the nine months to 30th September, 2018, and the number of resellers partnered with distributors on the CONTEXT panel changed little from last year, with an increase in average spend per reseller. What’s more, in our ChannelWatch survey we recorded only four countries less positive about the next 12 months than when the survey was performed a year ago.
So, what can we expect of the year ahead? We asked our expert market watchers in three key categories.
Mobility and Win 10 drives PC demand
Buyer demand will remain strong in the commercial sector, driven by migration to Windows 10 and the upcoming end-of-support for Windows 7 in 2020. Security and mobility will also be key to purchasing decisions. Organisations today must handle and enable secure and compliant access to huge and growing volumes of data by remote workers. This will require state-of-the-art hardware, such as ultra-slim portable devices. That’s not to say deskbound systems won’t benefit from strong demand in 2019 as a large proportion of commercially installed machines continue to be of this type. We also expect space-saving form factors including mini PCs to do well over the coming year. However, we’re also likely to see continued PC vendor consolidation across Europe and market headwinds resulting from the tight supply of Intel processors and macroeconomic challenges in some countries.
On the consumer side, PC sales will be weaker as buyers rely increasingly on smartphones for day-to-day tasks and delay refreshing their kit. One category set to buck the trend is ultra-slim laptops, while gaming PCs and convertibles are also expected to remain in demand. While they make up a small part of the overall market, they have the added benefit of providing good revenue and margin opportunities.
Hybrid cloud and IoT drive enterprise changes
The coming year will see further adoption of “as-a-service” offerings in infrastructure, platforms and software models across the enterprise sector. But these will form just one piece of the corporate IT puzzle as part of a hybrid cloud approach for most organisations. Public cloud deployments have the edge in terms of scalability and costs. But many firms will want to keep private clouds, perhaps in the form of on-premise datacentres, for security and compliance reasons and because they enable faster reaction times. For resellers and distributors transitioning from selling boxes to subscription-based services this will require a change of business model.
Elsewhere, we’ll see more converged products in 2019 combining server, storage, networking and software into tried-and-tested offerings. The server is not dead, but it will increasing be located in multiple different locations, and new processors will be designed for specific workloads like crypto-mining. As IoT sensors drive the volume of data collected by enterprises, firms will need to expand and automate storage infrastructure and improve networking capabilities to avoid bottlenecks. As always, some have already started adopting new technologies to support this, while others still need to work out how best to combine multiple offerings to best suit their needs.
MFPs drive printer growth
When it comes to printer hardware, European sales will be flat in 2019. However, adoption of multifunctional devices (MFPs) in laser and inkjet by consumers, SMEs and enterprises will drive some growth. Keep your eyes open for any new technologies designed to improve printing speeds and volumes whilst reducing cost per page. There will also be growth opportunities for vendors due to increasing demand for compact laser printers in 2019.
Managed print service (MPS) providers will see market consolidation and a continued transition to contractual business models. Channel players will be able to add value for customers to help them better predict costs, improve uptime and enhance security. Overall, the migration towards digital communication in media and advertising will have a big impact on the imaging sector worldwide, especially in mature markets. But demand is expected to grow in the packaging printing segment.