Interview: Rectron unpacks the hardware landscapeBy Ryan Noik 24 November 2017 | Categories: Outdoor
At Rectron’s recent Innovation Summit, the company pulled out all the stops to showcase some of the cutting edge products on offer that it is responsible for distributing. It also offered us the opportunity to chat with Spencer Chen, the MD of Rectron, about the state of the hardware market in South Africa this past year.
Coming off the back of what many businesses considered an especially challenging 2016, Chen noted that 2017 has been a difficult year for the market. “From a business point of view, the last quarter was particularly tough. We haven’t seen a downturn like that for a very long time; probably three or four years ago,” he noted.
He elaborated that there are several reasons for this. The first and most obvious one, is the slowdown of the South African economy. That is not the only cause however. He continued that generally, today’s hardware lasts longer than it once did, with notebooks previously being replaced every two to three years. Indeed, several years ago every year to two years brought great leaps forward in technology – with faster processors and better screens enabling people to really accelerate their computing experience from one year to the next.
The current times
Now, however, users have hardware that is certainly powerful enough to meet their needs for an extended period of time, which in turn means consumers and businesses are using the hardware they have for longer. The trend is only exacerbated by a difficult economic climate and reduced spending.
This is apparently particularly true for businesses, with organisations pushing out their hardware refreshes as much as possible, into the next quarter or even into the next year, in the hopes that their profits would have improved by that time.
Additionally, Chen continued, the growth of the cloud has also meant the computing power of workstations has become less resource intensive, making it more difficult for organisation to justify upgrading hardware when they are more likely to be availing themselves of cloud. Indeed, ‘do more with less’ certainly has become the mantra of the times, at least locally.
User experience is king
Chen added that a significant factor in the changing hardware landscape is the shifting in focus from technical specifications to user experiences. He pointed out that manufacturers used to consider Intel’s roadmap for its annual architecture changes as a bible of sorts. “Nowadays people don’t really worry about what technology is going into the new tablet or notebook. It’s simply not a key driver for consumers because the performance they already have is sufficient. Now they are much more concerned about what they use it for, and this in turn impacts on the priorities of manufacturers,” he elaborates.
So does that mean there is no longer much excitement or innovation on the hardware front? Not at all. Punctuating that point was what is happening in gaming, with virtual reality moving towards the mainstream. Again however, this is a driven by enhancing a user’s experience of games, not just pushing out more frames per second or prettier graphics.
That being said, Chen pointed out that PCs were less about generalist use and more focused on delivering superior performance for gaming or digital imaging, even edging into the region of high LSM items, with a formidable R100 000 price tag. There is no surprise then that this market is very small in South Africa.
Add to this the delectable Samsung QLED TV’s, and the Samsung Frame TV, innovative electronic picture frame that looks exactly like a classy picture on one’s wall, but doubles as a TV, and it is fair to say the hardware side of entertainment has never been more enticing - provided you have the budget.
Boon for businesses
As for business, if you think there is nothing exciting on that front, think again. Advantech’s UShop and Business Intelligence Solution was one of the standouts at the Innovation Summit. It proved that in the retail space, the smart use of 2D and 3D counting cameras, along with a Wi-Fi analyser and cloud based data analytics software, can offer mind-blowing features to retailers and shopping centres. More specifically, it can enable the latter to know exactly who is coming into the stores and how their customers needs can best be served. Information on everything from sales per shopper, the average dwell rate of particular customers, to the number of visitors to a shop and how many convert into actual sales can be seamlessly delivered.
Indeed, how businesses can leverage data analytics to increase sales could be an article or ten in its own right, suffice to say, it is cutting edge, 21st century use of technology at its finest.
To the point
And those are just a couple of examples of what is happening on the consumer and business hardware front. The Innovation Summit wasn’t only a chance to get a bird’s eye view of trends or go hands-on with some of the products available, it also highlighted another important facet of what has changed - education. Chen explained that in recent years, it has become more valuable than ever to help keep resellers informed of what is happening in the world of technology. Thus sessions during the day ranged from cloud adoption to how to best leverage social media to increase sales.
Indeed, even as an economic downturn may have but a dampener on sales, it hasn’t impeded the progress that is being made in the world of technology, even if that has become less apparent than it used to be. Moving forward however, resellers, consumers and businesses may just need to pay greater attention to those developments happening which don’t garner flashy headlines.
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