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ESPORTS

ISSUE May 2020

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ESPORTS ISSUE #198

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CONTENT

Editor Laura Barnes laura.barnes@biz-media.co.uk +44 (0)203 143 8783 Graphic Designer Nikki Hargreaves nikki.hargreaves@biz-media.co.uk

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Advertising & Commercial Partnerships Sarah Goldhawk Sarah.Goldhawk@biz-media.co.uk +44 (0)203 143 8778

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Printed by Buxton Press Ltd ISSN: 1742-8440 Copyright 2020

Biz Media Ltd • 4th Floor 44 Maiden Lane • London • WC2E 7LN All contents © 2020 Biz Media Ltd. or published under licence. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any way without the prior written permission of the publisher. All information contained in this publication is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Biz Media Ltd. cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. You are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers directly with regard to the price of products/services referred to in this publication. Apps and websites mentioned in this publication are not under our control. We are not responsible for their contents or any other changes or updates to them. This magazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein. If you submit material to us, you warrant that you own the material and/or have the necessary rights/ permissions to supply the material and you automatically grant Biz Media Ltd. and its licensees a licence to publish your submission in whole or in part in any/all issues and/or editions of publications, in any format published worldwide and on associated websites, social media channels and associated products. Any material you submit is sent at your own risk and, although every care is taken, neither Biz Media Ltd. nor its employees, agents, subcontractors or licensees shall be liable for loss or damage. We assume all unsolicited material is for publication unless otherwise stated, and reserve the right to edit, amend, adapt all submissions.

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TheEditor Seeing into the future

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e do a lot of future gazing in the tech industry. Innovation is so fast-paced that sometimes we’re in the sci-fi-esque future we just mused about a few months back before even realising it. Gaming, virtual reality and augmented reality are great examples of tech industry sectors that always feel like they are zooming along at a million miles per hour and constantly impressive us with things we never thought possible. All you have to do is play your favourite video game from the 80s to realise just how far gaming has come. And the strides the VR market has made to create insanely immersive worlds speak for themselves. So in this issue of PCR you’ll be able to read all about the current and future plans for the esports market (p22), what’s happening in virtual and augmented reality (p28), and why gaming security is more important than ever (p34). As well as this, you’ll find the latest gaming and VR tech in our sector guides, and a big interview with XPG’s Dave Taylor (p16) where he talks about the company’s first ever gaming laptop.

“All you have to do is play your favourite video game from the 80s to realise just how far gaming has come”

Laura Barnes, Editor

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THE TEAM

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16 May 2020 06 Retail Analysis: How retailers are making up for lost sales 10 Industry opinions 16 The Big Interview: XPG's Dave Taylor 22 The serious business of esports 26 What retailers can learn from the current Covid crisis 28 The latest in XR 32 Top 5 Tech: HANNspree's Martin Kent 34 Gaming security 36 Sector Guide: Pro gaming machines and components 42 Crowdfunding Corner 44 Sector Guide: VR and AR tech 46 Life in the Channel: TP-Link's Lino Notaro 49 Logging Off

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Retail Analysis

Time for your online offerings to shine With many businesses having to drastically adjust the way they operate amid the COVID-19 crisis, Laura Barnes looks at how retailers are making up for lost sales by taking advantage of the online shopping boom…

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he COVID-19 crisis has changed many aspects of our work and personal lives. While many businesses have been frantically trying to implement remote working strategies that will ensure their employees can continue to do their jobs, those working on the UK’s high streets have fallen into two main camps: Those considered essential businesses, and thus remaining open, and those that have been forced – or have decided on their own terms for the safety of their employees – to temporarily close the doors. What is a non-essential high street retailer supposed to do to overcome this momentous obstacle? Well, it seems many have realised the online opportunities that have arisen thanks to remote workers and isolating consumers still needing to purchase tech and IT goods. We saw the effects of this within the first few weeks of the UK being asked to work from home wherever possible. British consumers almost doubled the number of IT monitors bought during the week ending 14th March compared to the week before, reports GfK.

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In contrast to the same period last year, the increase amounts to a staggering growth of 133.9% in volume, and 132.3% in value. The report shows that this spending is not limited to monitors, either. Purchases of keyboards jumped during that same week, giving a year-on-year growth of 68.8% in value, and so too did pointing devices (e.g mouse, track ball, stylus pen), although less dramatically – but still giving value growth of 29.7% compared to the same period of time a year earlier. Communication devices also saw a jump of 29.4% in value year-on-year for that same week – driven by sales of routers, repeaters, port replicators and docking stations. “Following the Government instruction to stay at home and avoid crowded places, IT manufacturers and retailers are witnessing a sales uplift as home-bound workers rush to invest in IT equipment to help them work comfortably from home. IT is not the only area we’re tracking that shows increased sales, though – with sales of freezers, fridges, hair

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Retail Analysis per month, key indicators of e-commerce success have risen consistently and simultaneously during the period of time a market has been dealing with COVID-19: visitor traffic, conversion rates and AOV (average order value) have all increased. “This information is critical for retailers scrambling to make up lost profits. It demonstrates that lost revenue from shelter-in-place and school closures can be recovered from increased online sales, and the overall impact can be further mitigated through promotions that increase at-home engagement as well as strategies to increase closure rates of shoppers,” says Fanplayr. As transactions move increasingly online, the revenue attributable to behavioural personalisation has shown a corresponding increase. Simon Yencken, founder and CEO of Fanplayr points out that as buying habits change from instore to predominantly online, companies generally lose the ability to speak directly to their customers particularly with the loss of third-party tracking. He says that Fanplayr’s behavioural personalisation is able to respond to anonymous online visitors by understanding their intent, based on their online behaviour, and then responding appropriately. This removes the need for thirdparty tracking to target and increase conversion rates.

clippers, and food deep fryers all showing significant year on year growth during that week,” comments Kelly Whitwick, UK retail lead for market insights at GfK. With Amazon being inundated with online orders, the online retail giant has decided to prioritise essential orders – things like food, health and personal care products. This gives tech retailers yet another edge for boosting their online offerings, as they can potentially offer quicker delivery options on non-essential items than the big guns. Ecommerce intelligence company Fanplayr unveiled the adjustment consumers are making in light of significant lifestyle changes forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. By tracking aggregate behaviour across clients’ sites, Fanplayr has seen a clear change in the purchasing landscape from retail to online. This channel change is mostly predicated on health and safety measures put in place by governments responding to COVID-19 such as shelter-inplace and school closures. According to analyses of sites with over 20 million visitors

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No longer a sin UK courier expert ParcelHero says that it has seen ‘green shoots’ that online retailers are returning to business. It believes there has been a change in the public mood as retailers have got to grips with the new normal for home deliveries. David Jinks MILT, head of consumer research at ParcelHero, claims many mothballed online stores are now returning to business as home deliveries of non-essential items become acceptable again. “Many retailers of all sizes closed the door on their online operations as well as their physical stores when lockdown was imposed on the evening of the 23rd March. The feeling was that home delivery services should be freed up for essential deliveries of items such as masks, hand gels and groceries. There was also concern that retailers and distribution centres would be unable to operate safely. However, now the Government has spelled out that it wants all online trade to continue where possible, not just for essential products,” comments Jinks. “On 8th April, the Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, urged ecommerce retailers to continue trading, saying: “The Government has always been clear that online retail can continue to operate and is encouraged, and that postal and delivery services will continue to operate.” In addition to the pent-up demand for products to shake-off lockdown lethargy, this has resulted in a number of sites re-opening and online stores returning to action. The feeling that it is somehow ‘wrong’ to order non-essential products has eased. “And it’s not just big names returning. Small online stores, from craft and hobby products to clothing and electronics, are coming back into operation where it’s safe to do so. Just

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Retail Analysis

recently, ParcelHero has seen a number of our online SME retail regulars returning, as companies come to grips with opening their distribution operations again, while maintaining safe social distancing for staff,” he says. “As the emphasis on essential deliveries dies away, we’ve seen shipments of DIY tools, musical instruments, games and craft products rise rapidly in the last few days. Clearly, shoppers now feel less guilty about ordering products to help them fill furlough time without hindering the delivery of essential goods.” Jinks concludes: “Consumers have decided it’s no longer a sin to start buying a few non-essentials, and that home delivery networks can cope with the extra traffic. We believe they are right. Retailers returning online may no longer be able to access their exact usual delivery service but there is still a wide choice to compare at ParcelHero.” Matthew Robertson, Co-CEO of NetDespatch, agrees that online retail has been bouncing back over the past couple of months. “Online retail sales rose dramatically in March, with a 74% growth in average transaction volumes compared with the same period last year, according to data from ACI Worldwide. The analysis, of hundreds of millions of transactions from global online retailers, demonstrates the extent to which people’s shopping habits have changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. “As you can imagine, this rise in ecommerce sales has been particularly profound in products related to staying indoors, such as home products and furnishings, DIY, electronics and garden essentials.” However, Robertson warns that any organisations wishing to take advantage of growing ecommerce opportunities also

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“Consumers have decided it’s no longer a sin to start buying a few non-essentials, and that home delivery networks can cope with the extra traffic” David Jinks, ParcelHero need to be mindful of the security landscape that this pandemic presents. “In particular, the increase in online sales has led to an increase in fraud activity. According to Forter, the leader in ecommerce fraud prevention, fraudsters are exploiting confusion and uncertainty caused by government and corporate policies,” he explains. “As people adjust to working from home, Forter sees a marked increase in social engineering fraud, associated with fake emails purporting to be from HR and corporate addresses. Here, fraudsters invite people to click for more information, instead taking victims to malicious sites. “The COVID-19 pandemic is also putting pressure on deliveries and local logistics. I have heard some talk in the industry about the possibility of autonomous vehicles (AVs) helping to alleviate the strain on existing delivery services while reducing the risk of exposure for citizens. However, there are significant regulatory hurdles to overcome before AVs can be deployed at scale.”

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industryopinion

Is VR gaming at a turning point? Christian Scheibel, PR Manager at Shuttle, looks at whether the time has come for VR to fully step out of its niche and attract a broader audience...

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with VR support once, the most significant flaw of VR becomes ooking back on the last decade, we’ve seen esports evolving obvious – health dangers. As VR affects the eye-brain connection, a even more and the PC gaming market growing year on good deal of users complain of eye strain, headaches and, in some year. Naturally, and depending on a game itself, this called cases, even nausea to name a few. Motion sickness is a matter, too. for other and more innovative technology for gamers to Imagine, you are just on the most thrilling of missions or delving actually dive into a game and control it, rather than just using into Skyrim’s deepest dungeons and you need to pause the game, traditional gear like monitors, keyboards, mice and controllers. In because it literally gives you a headache. So, right after a 2020, the following four makers of VR gaming hardware 2-hour playtime you will have to call it a day? Sorry, are the most relevant players in the market: Valve not for me. I just want to spend more time in these (Valve Index), Oculus (Rift), HTC/Valve (Vive), open-world games. Sony (Playstation VR) and Samsung (Gear). Besides a powerful gaming PC that forms In 2010 when the first prototype of the the basis of your VR experience, consumer Oculus Rift was shown, VR was in its “Coronavirus aside, I prices from £400 upwards to over £1,000 infancy and couldn’t do much more than think there is a good for the premium gear of Valve will top up some rotational tracking and 90 degreethe bill. The additional hardware required viewing. Things looked different when chance for sales of VR gear doesn’t come exactly cheap which means, the Rift was first shown to a wide to go up. Time will tell from the sheer costs alone. As such, VR is audience at the E3 games trade fair in not for everyone. 2012. Back then, Oculus set the real first whether VR is able to full To put things bluntly, whether Alyx, as landmark in VR gaming. Other makers step out of its niche” the latest and long-awaited incarnation of were soon to follow and rolled out gear of the Half-Life franchise, can be the actual their own adapting existing technology. game changer remains to be seen, but it’s sure Shortly after Valve and HTC came out with the to help give VR a significant boost. With the Vive headset in 2016, Sony released Playstation next-gen consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X VR for the PS4 generation of consoles in just the arriving (hopefully still) this year, it will be interesting to same year. 2019 saw the releases of the high-end Valve see to what extent Sony and Microsoft are pursuing the present VR Index and the Oculus Rift S. technology. Playstation VR is said to be compatible with the PS5. While the technology itself and opportunities are amazing, keep Finally, as I see it, VR gaming definitely has something going for in mind you will always need a game that actually supports VR. For itself, but it is yet to fully take off. Coronavirus aside, I think there is example, if you are an ardent football fan, you might have a difficult a good chance for sales of VR gear to go up, as the fanbase of time finding the game for you, as the number of games backed by mentioned games is still huge. At the end of the day, time and sure VR is still little. The main genre of games that VR targets obviously games will tell whether VR is able to fully step out of its niche and is 3D shooters and RPGs like, for example, Fallout and The Elder attract a broader audience in a prospering gaming market across all Scrolls V – Skyrim. The latter had its VR version introduced across platforms. different platforms in 2018. If you have tried this or another game

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industryopinion

Training, innovation and tech: The foundations of the esports industry Elodie Arbey, PNY EMEA Marketing Product Manager, highlights why the latest and greatest tech is needed to help flourish innovation and grow the esports industry...

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down to training, experience and innovation. The foundation of he UK’s gaming industry is worth an estimated £3.86 which are the students of today needing to know certain skills and billion. Courses and schools that help those who will being engrossed in the latest technology so they can become the support this multi-billion-dollar industry in the future developers, esports players, or business managers of tomorrow. are invaluable. And of course, all of these skills are transferable. An existing When you hear esports, you may only think of the professional branding expert could easily transfer their knowledge to this gamers and the big prize money, but the overall picture is much industry, and likewise a student training at one of these bigger than that. The global esports economy is showing institutions specifically for the esports sector can a year-on-year growth of 38 percent to nearly a transfer what they have learnt to a variety of billion US dollars. Most of this is from other industries. sponsorship, advertising, media rights and In order to become a pro-gamer, a lot of licensing of content – in other words, the training is required, often between 6-10 same business model as traditional sports. “The industry needs event hours per day. Not only do the students It’s not just about the players, there are managers to host games, need to build up their skills teams of developers, creators, and marketing managers to independently, but there also need to be business managers behind the industry. the tools in place that allow trainees to Just like football or rugby, esports help build and sustain the practice playing against others. In viewer numbers are exponentially larger fan base, and streaming addition, they should have access to than the number of people who actually demo-viewing sessions where they can play. This means that the business side of experts to allow the watch and analyse pro-gamers. esports also needs to be nurtured in these phenomenon to grow” These gaming schools are all about learning environments, such as EGS in providing students with the support to Bordeaux. When the gamers have the right achieve their e-sporting goals whilst helping technology, the games become bigger and better, them build the skillset they need for their but that requires management from a strategy professional career. The programmes enable them to perspective. become the pro-gamers, casters and streamers of tomorrow. The industry needs event managers to host these games, Without the latest and greatest tech, innovation will not flourish, marketing managers to help build and sustain the fan base, and and the growth of the industry won’t be sustained. streaming experts to allow the phenomenon to grow. Without The schools require the best graphic cards, SSDs and memory those additional components, the esports ecosystem would modules, as without this advanced equipment, students can’t collapse. optimise their gaming performance, thus meaning they won’t So how is the growth of this multi-billion-dollar industry progress as quickly. sustained? Like any professional industry or business, it comes

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industryopinion

What the networking industry can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic Richard Brandon, VP of Marketing at RtBrick, discusses why broadband is a critical resource, especially in the midst of the current pandemic...

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ince the days of sending digital photographs to one another to our more recent passion for streaming our favourite TV shows online, we have found more and more ways to use up the bandwidth that our broadband providers deliver to us and provide greater demands on their networks. What we’ve witnessed in recent months is truly unprecedented, with networks in almost every country around the globe coming under strain, and online TV providers reducing the quality of their streams to try and mitigate congestion. What is clear now is that despite the huge investments from carriers, we still don’t have enough broadband capacity to cope when the population turns to the network as its primary means of operating. This pandemic has left people around the world increasingly dependent on their high-speed broadband connections for their public information, their education, their work, their entertainment, their shopping and their sense of community. And the infrastructure is struggling to cope. In the midst of the crisis It is unrealistic to rethink and rebuild our broadband networks given we’re in the midst of a global crisis, dealing with personal challenges and those of our friends and neighbours. But once the dust has settled, and life returns to something closer to normal, what lessons will have been learnt for our networks? Assuming that this peak in network traffic will never happen again seems optimistic. Next time, the traffic requirements may be even higher, with higher quality TV, more video calls for work and more sophisticated e-learning platforms in demand. The answer seems simple. Invest in more internet capacity. However, the telecoms market is already a tough place to operate. Carriers are burdened with high spectrum licensing costs; operating costs continue to grow and a demand for investment in new infrastructure has to be funded from somewhere. Most operators would agree that ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) is unlikely to significantly increase anytime soon, so how can we square that circle? A second issue is the length of time it takes to deploy new

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infrastructure. Using today’s systems, it takes months, if not years, to increase the amount of infrastructure in a network to react to unanticipated traffic demands. The solution: cloud-native The answer to fixing these cost and time constraints can be found in the giant ‘cloud-native’ companies, who operate vast quantities of IT infrastructure at a much lower cost point that the telcos. Unlike telecoms providers, these cloud-natives build their infrastructure using open off-the-shelf hardware, running independent software, and deploy new capacity using zero-touch-provisioning systems that can scale to meet demand in days, rather than months. The answer for operators is analogous to the way the cloud-natives build their data centres, and is known as network disaggregation, which in simple terms means deploying network software separately from the hardware. This shift has been enabled by the arrival of so-called merchant silicon. Silicon vendors now have equivalent capabilities on their high-volume, low-cost networking chips that the traditional network equipment vendors used to have in their customised systems. This merchant silicon is being used to build a new category of powerful low-cost ‘bare-metal’ switches from companies such as Edgecore and Delta Networks, often constructed on the same outsourced assembly lines that manufacture the traditional router systems. These switches are a fraction of the cost of conventional telco switches and routers, but just as powerful. It’s going to be too late to implement this approach in time for this pandemic, but it’s not too late to learn the lessons of how reliant our society becomes on the internet during such times, and evolve our networks accordingly. By adopting a cloud-native approach for our networks, we could more than double the broadband capacity for the same cost, and just as importantly migrate to an architecture that allows us to turn up capacity at short notice. For now, we have to do what we can with the tools we’ve deployed, but as soon as we get the opportunity to turn our broadband networks into cloud-native networks, we need to take it.

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27/04/2020 11:26


industryopinion

The rapid shift to remote working life Paul Jarrett, Founder and Managing Director of digital product agency Sonin, looks at how remote working presents a valuable opportunity for businesses to evaluate existing operations...

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ffices up and down the UK remain deserted as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to grip the world. Despite an outstanding effort from people all across the country, COVID-19 still poses significant risk, forcing lockdown to be extended and the majority of UK workers to maintain their makeshift office from home. This in itself has presented a fresh set of challenges, ranging from reduced productivity to incorporating new means of communication with colleagues and clients alike. However, remote working life doesn’t have to be marred by frustration and inefficiency, and if anything, businesses should view this as an opportunity to re-evaluate their existing processes and make improvements for years to come.

able to contact you. Recreating your normal office routine should be encouraged wherever possible. For example, the ‘3pm slump’ when everyone usually gravitates towards the coffee cupboard should act as your cue to put the kettle on for a short, deserved rest. The app Hangouts is also a great way to catch up with each other, whilst offering a social space for team members in lieu of the break room. An opportunity for reflection On a strategic level, remote working presents a valuable opportunity for businesses to evaluate existing operations. While in the office, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision and go through the motions day after day. However inconvenient the circumstances might be, now is the time to take a step back and assess what does and doesn’t work. The focus for any forward-thinking firm must be on the value that it can bring to its customers, and remote working has likely forced many to adapt their traditional processes to maintain a high standard of service. Business leaders must evaluate if the tools and processes introduced have improved operations, and whether they will remain when things return to ‘normal’. Ultimately, it’s easy to view a working life in lockdown as a negative one. Yet, the business leaders who don’t spend this time resting on their laurels and think proactively about the future are bound to be the ones that find themselves ahead of the curve in a very different, post-Coronavirus world.

“Remote working has likely forced many companies to adapt their traditional processes to maintain a high standard of service”

Solving the remote working problem From an operational perspective, firms must ensure that they’ve covered off the necessities for remote working. This means accommodating real-time collaboration by providing access to integral cloud-based tools and shared-access folders Daily goals should be set to keep teams focused and help managers evaluate performance and communication must go beyond telephone calls. You need to see your co-workers to better understand the context behind what they’re saying, which is where video tech platforms like Microsoft Teams have proven invaluable. At a time when day-to-day communication is impaired, it’s important to over-communicate through apps. Simple things like setting Slack statuses to ‘On Lunch’ – saying when you’ll be back – ‘On a Call’, or ‘Grabbing a Drink’ can really help to keep colleagues abreast of your movements and when they might be

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APPOINTMENTS Synaxon UK

Synaxon UK has appointed Tirene Doepel as head of marketing. She will take control of all Synaxon UK’s marketing and member recruitment programmes and be responsible for building strong relationships with key suppliers. Doepel has joined Synaxon UK from Network Group, where she spent just over three-and-a-half years in senior marketing roles. Previously, she worked in the higher education, public and third sectors, chiefly on partnership development, community and corporate social responsibility programmes. Welcoming Doepel to the team, Mike Barron, managing director of Synaxon UK, said: “The appointment of Tirene has come at a fantastic time and we are very glad to have secured her services. She brings a wealth of experience from her work in other IT member organisations and in stepping up to this new role within Europe’s largest channel services group, she is demonstrating her ambition and hunger for success. It’s a great fit for both Synaxon and Tirene.” Doepel commented: “Joining Synaxon UK at such an exciting time – with the ongoing investment commitment the group is making – is a fantastic opportunity. I am really looking forward to working with Mike, the rest of the Synaxon UK team and our colleagues in Germany, as well as our members and supplier partners, to take the organisation forward and execute on our ambitious plans for 2020 and beyond.”

Brigantia Partners

Brigantia Partners has announced the promotion of Conor Kilduff, who will become a business development executive. Having joined the business as a graduate trainee sales executive in November 2019, the company says Kilduff has earned his rapid promotion thanks to his “excellent work during the current Covid-19 crisis”. Brigantia also recently hired Harry Evans, who joins as a trainee sales executive. Evans spent two days in the office before starting Brigantia’s regular new starters Pareto Law Sales Fundamental residential course. “Poor Harry was called home on the second day as the country went into lockdown. Harry is showing his enthusiasm, keenness to learn and true Yorkshire grit while working from home in difficult circumstances and is becoming a great new addition to the sales team,” said the company.

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This month’s movers and shakers in the tech industry...

BenQ

BenQ UK has recently announced the promotion of Carly Cheshire to its head of consumer. She previously headed up the B2C sales division. Having worked in the IT channel for over 20 years, Cheshire is well known amongst her peers, having built solid business relationships during her time in the industry. In her six years at BenQ, she has grown and developed the B2C sales division, strengthening its positioning in the UK market. Cheshire will now oversee all activity on the consumer division, including sales, product management, marketing and PR. “I’m very excited about the direction our consumer team is headed in this year. There have been some fantastic new appointments, which will reinforce our sales and marketing, as well as providing me with new opportunities to oversee the growth across our entire consumer portfolio,” commented Cheshire. In addition to her promotion, Dave Shackleford, who joined BenQ UK 12 months ago, has been promoted to line of business manager for LCD & esports displays, providing him with sole focus on the monitor portfolio. BenQ has also welcomed two new members to its B2C team. Damian Trendall joins as line of business manager for consumer projectors and Richard Mackey joins to lead the B2C marcom.

Softcat

IT infrastructure products and services provider Softcat has announced that Richard Wyn Griffith will transition to the role of managing director, effective August 1st, 2020, replacing Colin Brown, who will be stepping down from the role in July. Griffith joined Softcat in 2002, holding a number of roles, including opening and developing the London office in 2010, and, most recently, as director of solutions, services and marketing. Commenting on the appointment, Graeme Watt, CEO, said: “Colin has given and achieved so much in his time at Softcat. His decision to step down has not been an overnight one, and we have been planning this transition for some time since Colin initially signalled his intention. “Whilst we will be very sad to see Colin leave, Richard has gained the skills and expertise across many areas of our business in the past 18 years and he is the ideal person to take on this role. I would like to thank Colin for all his work and congratulate Richard on his new role.” Brown will remain with the business until at least November to assist with the transition.

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thebiginterview

Taking gaming to the Xtreme Laura Barnes speaks to Dave Taylor, Regional Sales Manager at ADATA Technology about its XPG gaming brand, including the launch of its first ever gaming laptop and how the company is working with the esports market...

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stablished by memory and storage manufacturer ADATA Technology in 2008, XPG is a brand that has been steadily growing in the gaming sector. Making an impact in the UK market over the past few years with its range of high-performance memory and SSD products aimed at gamers, esports pros, and tech enthusiasts, the brand has now made its first foray into the laptop arena with the XPG XENIA – a 15.6-inch notebook developed in collaboration with Intel, which sports an Intel Core i7 processor, a choice of NVIDIA GeForce RTX or GTX GPUs, as well as XPG’s own SSD and memory. PCR caught up with Dave Taylor, ADATA’s regional sales manager – who would like us to point out that his headshot is in “full lockdown mode” and does not represent his professional persona 100% – to chat about the importance of working with the esports market, his views on future innovation in the gaming hardware space, and how the company works with the channel. ADATA is involved in quite a few different areas of the tech industry. Can you talk us through some of the main areas you cover as a company as well as within your role? I Joined ADATA in the summer of 2016, as country manager for the UK and Ireland. At the time, the brand had been seen as tier 3 in memory and storage, but it was very clear that given the right focus and channel management, aligned with the quality and performance of the products, that we should be able to elevate and change the brand perception and move it to what we call “best bang for your buck”. The products regularly score high on testing and benchmarking, and given a stripped back UK cost centre, we

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can now aim a focused product range to not only the cost conscious consumer, but be able to offer a product that stacks up well against some of the more established market leading brands. My role encompasses nearly all facets of the UK starting with channel management and customer line up. I also oversee marketing, PR and social media, as well as organising campaigns to our reseller base and overseeing customer queries and RMA. As well as working on new solutions with customers outside the regular channel. I must, at this point, mention that in 2018 we did add another channel veteran, David

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thebiginterview Wright to work alongside me in the channel, and with him comes a wealth of knowledge as well as a great understanding of our customer base. We’ve heard a lot about the XPG gaming brand on PCR over the past few years, especially with working more with esports brands. Can you tell us a bit about who you’re working with in this space? Personally, I think that working with esports teams and the broader community is essential in trying to grow a brand from a standing start. Many other brands in the same area are a great pointer to the success and reach that can be gained in this way. At the moment, we sponsor Vexed gaming, based in the UK, and we have also worked with a few other teams in the past. We treat these relationships as a two way partnership, we not only supply funding to help the teams compete and survive, but we’re supporting other functions such as free or discounted product, promotion of team or players through social media channels, and giveaways and charities that are working in the gaming community. In addition, we have

“I think that working with esports teams and the broader community is essential in trying to grow a brand from a standing start” supported our channel partners and other brands in events or activations – from small retailers that want to have a gaming day in store, to large scale events such as Insomnia and EGX and most of the space in between. How important do you think it’s going to be for gaming brands to align themselves with esports teams and events in the future? I was lucky enough, at the start of establishing XPG in the UK, to be able to listen and learn from some of the most respected people that live and breathe gaming 24/7. One of

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the key pieces of information I use on a daily basis, is that esports should be treated no differently to traditional sports. As such if you really wish to penetrate the player, supporters and the next generation marketplace, keep your brand in focus of the community you are trying to engage in. Therefore, it is important to forge long lasting alliances on a local level. Events, teams or charities we have supported in year one, we choose to still support now. No matter the number of viewership or click through that most other brands will monitor success rates by. To phrase it in football terms – you just never know when you might unearth the next Andy Robertson! XPG recently revealed its first ever gaming laptop. Can you tell us about these new products and who they are aimed at? In the past three years the XPG product range has grown from roughly seven SKUs in just SSD and DRAM to currently over 35 product lines. XPG now encompasses cases, cooling, PSU and peripherals in addition to our DRAM and SSD. As you mentioned, we just launched a very high end gaming laptop in partnership with Intel. Our goal was to showcase the best components we can squeeze inside. It will be followed up by other models in the laptop market, as well as a small form factor PC that will allow upgrades to GPU memory and storage. Allowing the end user to keep abreast of all future hardware upgrades. I am sure we are no different to any other brand, in that we want to offer our customers a selection of products that match their requirements and hopefully gives them the best possible user experience. What innovation do you expect, or hope, to see in the gaming hardware space in the near future? XPG works very closely with many industry leading brands such as Intel and AMD, as well as motherboard vendors and system builders. With these important alliances, we will always be working on the next generation. I expect, in the next year, to see a growth in Gen 4 NVMe storage and DDR5 as a memory option. As the CPU manufacturers push the speed of their product, so will the consumer demand for other components to match and utilise these speeds. I also expect that with the roll out of 5G, and the already blistering speeds of broadband, we will see a shift to mobile gaming. My personal view is that gaming will not be just events, tournaments and gamers stuck away in bedrooms. We will see that gaming on various platforms will move to the main area of the household, where it will be integrated into the other aspects of our social time. Things such as communication, streaming etc. Just like the simple TV took over that corner of your living room and, as such, aesthetics and size will be a driving factor.

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thebiginterview

XPG’s new XENIA laptop is a 15.6-inch notebook, developed in collaboration with Intel and sporting an Intel Core i7 processor, a choice of NVIDIA GeForce RTX or GTX GPUs, as well as XPG’s own SSD and memory

ADATA and the XPG brand have been present at many tech and gaming expos over the years. How important is it to let people get hands-on with your gear? This has always been very important for a lesser known brand such as XPG. Not only does it allow us a direct communication with the end user, but we get a general overview on the market. Talking to customers from SI, retail and the wider gaming community, we can then look at next products and feed back to our product development team. How is the recent spate of event cancellations due to COVID-19 affecting your marketing and channel plans? The current events are something that no one can prepare for, but as a global brand we can discuss with other countries, and look at how we can change and adjust to make sure we still work in an effective and meaningful manner. Currently only 30% of our market is open in the UK, and although we are supporting these customers with offers and marketing to drive sales; we are also acting responsibly in stock management in these uncertain times. With regards to events, although we would love to be at events meeting people, this is not possible. As such we have implemented more giveaways, and increased social media presence, in order to keep XPG at the heart of our community. Thus you saw in April the first time we did a live product launch via YouTube.

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How important is working with the UK retail channel and what support do you offer? The UK retail and SI accounts for over 75% of our XPG sales. So they are more than important, and although we don’t work with high street retail, the etailers and independent retail space have always been an important factor in the growth of XPG. We have year-on-year growth of triple digits for the past three years, this has been done working closely with this channel. In terms of support, we offer samples for demo areas, banners and shop displays as well as XPG branded merchandise to bundle with sales of XPG products. We welcome all retail to approach us, or our appointed distributors, and we can look at supporting them. I’m sure that these discussions are a two way understanding on how to maximise benefits to both companies. What plans does ADATA have for the rest of the year and beyond? Any new product lines you can tell us anything about? XPG stands for Xtreme Performance Gear and, as such, we will always be pushing to exceed the expectations of the gaming community. All I can say is, we already offer xtreme components inside the case – and now offer you some Xtreme cases and peripherals. Maybe it’s time we looked at enhancing the performance of how you view the game.

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PCR’s 30 Under 30 list is back in July, where we’ll be showcasing the most talented individuals under the age of 30 working in the industry! From retail, marketing and PR, to IT services, distribution and manufacturing, nominations are open to those working in all areas of the UK IT and Tech industry. Your nomination must include all of the following in a single email to Laura Barnes at laura.barnes@biz-media.co.uk Your name (if nominating yourself) or your nominee’s name (if nominating a colleague) – The work email of the person you are nominating – A high-resolution headshot of the nominee – Company name and full job title – A paragraph on why you/they should earn a place in this year’s 30 Under 30 – Age (must still be under the age of 30 on 1st July 2020) Please provide all the information above by Friday 12th June 2020. Incomplete applications will not be considered, and those featured in 2019’s PCR 30 Under 30 list will not be included.

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Number

Here are some of the most interesting stats and facts from the tech channel…

CRUNCHING The global XR (augments, virtual and mixed reality) market is expected to grow over $30bn by 2030, according to IDTechEx.

35%

Over a third (35%) of consumers indicated they would shop more online (to avoid physical destinations) should the Coronavirus persist, found a recent Retail Economics report.

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4.5x

Gen Zs and Millennials need 4.5x more reviews to feel confident enough to trust a product online than Boomers, according to Website Builder Expert.

2/3

$30bn

WatchGuard Technologies’ latest Internet Security Report shows that evasive malware has grown to record high levels, with over two-thirds of malware detected by its Firebox security appliances in Q4 2019 evading signature-based antivirus solutions.

90% When considering network service to support UCaaS/CCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service and Contact Centre as a Service), 90% of respondents to Masergy’s survey rate a fully managed service with 24/7 monitoring and a software-defined network (SD-WAN) as highly important criteria.

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esports

2019 League of Legends World Championship finals at AccorHotels Arena, Paris

The serious business of esports Laura Barnes uncovers how big the esports market has grown over the past few years, what that means for tech brands, and why we may even see competitive gaming become an Olympic sport...

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egardless of how much you or your business is directly involved in esports, the chances are you’ve heard the tech industry bang on about the growing sector for a fair few years now. Looking back just five years, PCR was covering the news that London was about to get a 600-seat esports venue, we spoke about how this new “sport” was an interesting area for gaming brands to keep an eye on, and mused over the possible marketing opportunities. Seemingly not long after, events were taking place at Wembley Arena, prize money was creeping up in size along with audience figures, and before we knew it, reports were saying that tech brands were planning to invest over £200 million into esports throughout 2016. Since then, there have been fears that the bubble was on the brink of bursting. But what do the stats indicate today? Well,

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there were approximately 380 million esports viewers in 2018, and that’s expected to surge to roughly 557 million viewers by 2021, according to a report from Newzoo. And Goldman Sachs reports that total esports revenues reached $869 million in 2018, and is forecast to more than triple by 2022. Parimatch is an international online betting and technology company which focuses heavily on the esports category. As one of the first operators to identify the opportunity to bet on cybersport events, PCR asked Stepan Shulga, head of esports for Parimatch, about how the company has embraced this market. “We sponsor several esports clubs, including Virtus.Pro, the most successful and popular esports team in the field, and we also partner with esports content creators and high-quality video game providers such as DOTA2,” says Shulga. “We recently teamed up with ESforce Holding to host the

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esports

DOTA2 Parimatch League Season One. The tournament, which had a prize pool of $75,000, provided the opportunity for young players to make a name for themselves – and we’re currently in preparation for the second season. It is complicated and expensive to organise your own tournament for traditional sports, but with esports, it’s much more accessible.” From a gaming brand perspective, GIGABYTE is one such company that has been heavily involved in the esports market for many years, sponsoring some top esports teams, such as G2. The brand also participates in most of the significant gaming events across the world, such as PAX, PAX East, China Joy, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, Barcelona Games World, BGS and more, and is actively helping to grow the esports community by getting involved at all levels. “Gigabyte has dedicated itself to manufacturing high-quality and innovative PC components for over 30 years and our products are used in a wide-range of branded PCs. We began by focusing on PC power users, who mod their own desktops and play games. We have a very strong technical background when it comes to designing motherboard and graphics cards with the performance to satisfy these power users, and this is something we’re proud of,” explains Steven Chen, VP of GIGABYTE Mobile Business Center. “Apart from PC components for gamers and power users, we have also been in the laptop business for 10 years, also targeting gamers and creators who demand high performance hardware.” So what’s the most exciting thing in esports right now? Chen says it’s that gaming is no longer just a hobby, but a major industry with a passionate community. “In 2019, top esports star Johan Sundstein from Norway, won around $6.89 million competing in a major DOTA2 tournament,” he tells PCR. “The high prize value encourages players to treat competitive gaming as a profession, and it has revolutionised the whole gaming industry, spawning bigger and better gaming events with more viewers and engagement. “People watch streams of gaming tournaments in the same way as they watch conventional professional sports. This in turn makes the community care about the hardware the top stars use to compete and win.” Parimatch’s Shulga agrees that esports is one the fastest growing sports in the world right now, pointing out its huge popularity with young, millennial audiences. “Whilst the world of traditional sport already has an obvious structure and defined boundaries, there’s more of an opportunity to participate in the esports market and make a real impact. It’s a hugely rewarding sector to operate in. “With sporting events cancelled across the world right now, sports fans are turning to esports, which will see the industry boom even further,” he says. Getting involved in the game While that all sounds great, how and why should tech brands and retailers to get involved in esports? “The rise of esports is a huge opportunity for tech brands and retailers on both a brand and supplier level,” insists Shulga. “Firstly, esports audiences are vast, and esports fans are typically

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loyal and extremely engaged. Esports provides a huge platform for brand exposure and is a direct channel to the youth demographic. Beyond marketing opportunities, there is an entire digital ecosystem which tech businesses could capitalise on. Firstly, in the distribution and streaming of tournaments and esports content to worldwide audiences via digital platforms. “Then there is the huge network connectivity requirement and the custom hardware needed for the players. Increasingly, there is also demand for innovative and interactive formats, as well as VR and AR experientials. Shulga adds: “Finally, there’s an opportunity for creating tools that better connect players, and provide users with enhanced data analytics on their performance and others’.” Chen notes that the huge growth in interest in esports is also driving a lot of demand for esports game titles, and the hardware needed for gaming at a top level. “Streamers, broadcasters and other influencers are also a great way to reach this passionate audience,” he says. “Technology also helps to drive innovation in esports. For example, the latest highend CPU and GPU hardware allows games to look even more specular, and incorporate realism and effects that add to the experience. And new, more complex games drive demand for new hardware. “This is just like 20 years ago, when the PC industry was driven by Intel and Microsoft. When Microsoft released a new operating system, which needed more advanced hardware to run at its best, this was the motivation for upgrading our PCs. Now, the driver for gamers to upgrade their PCs and laptops is the release of advanced new game titles, driven by developments in GPU technology.” What’s next? It seems the bubble certainly has not burst yet on the esports market, but what can we expect to see happen in the arena in the coming years? Shulga believes that as esports is no longer niche, in the current climate, it will be more popular than ever. “Looking to the future, there will be a steady 25% increase in growth every year, with investment, viewership and revenues on the up,” he tells PCR. Chen muses that there is even a chance that esports might make its way to the Olympics, which would certainly solidify the seriousness of the sport. “Many countries now officially recognise esports as a sport and as a serious business sector. Many academic institutions even provide courses for esports, and there is even talk about whether competitive gaming could become an Olympic sport,” says Chen. “With prize funds supported by governments and major sponsors, esports is set to become even more prosperous. GIGABYTE believes esports will be just like basketball, football and other mass market sports. He concludes: “Esports brings joy to people, whether they are participating or watching, and as an entertainment business, we expect to see significant investment. This will drive this community and sector to keep growing and innovating. And, as it has done from the beginning, technology will be at the forefront of pushing esports into the future.”

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Partner Content from

The world’s largest esports company, ESL, has partnered with storage world leader Seagate Technology

Why superfast state-of-the-art storage is essential for esports

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ames and players are essential for a successful esports tournament. But every esports organiser knows that the industry cannot exist without fast and powerful storage solutions. That’s why ESL, the world’s largest esports company, has teamed up with Seagate as their official partner. The world of competitive esports is an international phenomenon with billions in revenue and hundreds of millions of fans. The best competitive gamers from all over the world compete in their game of choice, to raise a trophy and rake in millions of prize money. It is the world’s fastest-growing sport and next to football, the second sport that is truly global. The backbone of this growth is a massive dedicated gaming community. According to a report by Newzoo, an esports analytics agency, 453 million people watched professional esports athletes in 2019, from seats at events or from home via streaming services.

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For the professional esports athletes, finding success requires just as much dedication as traditional sports athletes. To stay at the top of their game, they have to adhere to strict diets and routines. Practices take 12 to 15 hours a day – they do everything to reach or maintain their peak performance level. To assist them on their journey from zero to hero, professional teams have trainers, managers, psychologists, dieticians and more. Big business As the scene became more and more professional, esports became a form of mass media entertainment. Since its modest, local LANbased beginnings, esports has begun to resemble traditional sports with an established infrastructure. The community wanted a move towards organised, stadium-based tournaments, and that’s where ESL stepped in.

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Partner Content from

Seagate’s NAS systems, equipped with Seagate IronWolf drives, enable ESL to work remotely and ensure reliable performance and high speeds while hosting online esports leagues

Today, ESL is the world’s largest esports company, with multiple international TV studios and fourteen offices around the world – from Asia all the way to the United States. They host world-wide competitions, stadium-size events, as well as grassroots amateur cups and matchmaking systems. They have shaped the history of esports, turned niche games into global sensations, and moments of brilliance into everlasting legacy. Players expect an SSD “Esports would not be possible without the PC architecture, internet and of course the games themselves. But storage is also a fundamental part of everything we do,” explains Dan Ellis, ESL UK head of business development. “Having the best storage solutions, like the Seagate FireCuda drives, is essential, both for the players as for our company.” During physical tournaments, ESL relies on SSDs. On stage, each PC has a caddy and all players receive an SSD with their copy of Windows and their game settings installed on it. As soon as they connect the SSD to a PC, they are ready to go. At the end of the game, players simply shut down the PC, remove the SSD and plug it into the practice room to continue practicing in the same environment. “SSDs are absolutely essential for esports,” says Ellis. “We need the speeds for booting up the PC and installing the game. It also adds an important layer of security. The SSD ensures players that no moving parts will be damaged, for example in case it is dropped. Finally, preparing a hard drive for a tournament can take a lot of time. An SSD does the job much faster.” Storage choices are not only important for the players on stage. ESL notices that the audience is really interested in the hardware solutions players are using. The fans trust that whatever works for the players and receives their endorsement, will also be good for themselves. That’s why an SSD must be high-performing, longlasting and secure. Elite performance Next-gen gaming is all about speed, compatibility and flexibility. Seagate solid state drives deliver the performance, simplicity and ingenious design to help gamers lift their skills to a higher level and realise peak potential. Purpose-built for esports athletes and

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optimised to deliver the intense speeds needed for the rigour of modern gaming, the Seagate FireCuda SSDs are the nec plus ultra for both amateur and (semi-) professional gamers. “It would be impossible to operate without these SSDs,” says Ellis. “If you want to perform at the highest level, you need the ultra-fast speeds, long-lasting endurance, lowest latency and large capacities. Those are all the ingredients of the incredibly fast Seagate FireCuda 520 M.2 SSD.” The Seagate FireCuda Gaming Dock is an alternative for laptop gamers, looking for a top-tier gaming experience. This is an elite 4TB HDD storage hub, with a dock to connect peripherals and an NVMe expansion slot. By installing a Seagate FireCuda 510 M.2 SSD in this slot, laptop gamers have the essential hardware upgrade to beat their PC gaming counterparts. Storage ecosystem Although SSDs have become indispensable for esports, hard drives remain very relevant. While SSDs are faster, HDDs are a great alternative when you need larger capacities. Players can install their most-played games on their SSD, while storing the rest of their game library on an HDD, for example. Both SSDs and HDDs are also very valuable for ESL as a corporate company. ESL covers a broad field of services in esports and gaming technology, storytelling, event management, advertising and television production – fully catering to the needs of the esports ecosystem. “We have a huge number of Seagate BarraCuda and FireCuda hard drives at our offices,” explains Ellis. “They are basically used for the content we create. We also run lots of game services that require SSDs. We believe Seagate has got a solid ecosystem of solutions, ranging from SSDs all the way to archive drives and massive storage, high-performance HHD.” To enable ESL to work remotely, Seagate provides ESL with NAS systems, equipped with Seagate IronWolf drives. These purpose-built drives thrive in multi-user environments with high workload rates, to ensure reliable performance and high speeds while hosting online esports leagues. “Seagate delivers world-class, cutting-edge, trustworthy storage solutions,” concludes Ellis. “That’s why we only work with Seagate drives, both internally as for our esports athletes.”

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High street retail

Retail will need to adjust to the commercial realities of Covid-19 Gekko Field Marketing’s MD, Daniel Todaro, discusses whether the Coronavirus will present the opportunity to re-appraise the retail experience and increase communities’ appreciation of the high street...

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o here we are amidst the most bizarre of situations that no one in their lifetime has experienced. There’s never been a global pandemic or an instance that has distanced human beings to this extent. I’m optimistic and believe that we will come out of this experience as better business people with a new perspective to how we go about running our companies. The pandemic has seen all but essential retail close with figures published by Google showing an 85% drop in footfall to retail

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destinations over the first two weeks of the pandemic, marginally improving by 3% to 82% in week three. It’s true to say that some businesses may regrettably not survive the economic impact of the situation, which is indeed unprecedented, but for some it could have been avoidable if those who hold the power acted more responsibly. Talking Retail published some embarrassing statistics surrounding the government’s Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which saw only 1.4% of applicants successfully receiving loans. Putting this

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High street retail

into perspective, of the estimated 300,000+ firms that applied, only 4,200 businesses have received rescue loans from banks. That was three weeks after the Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched the scheme alongside the Employee Retention Scheme, more commonly known by employees as the Furlough Scheme. This in itself provided some false hope for employers and employees. As to this day, it is still not fully understood by all because the Government is yet to publish full qualifying criteria or the portal for companies to apply. Now, if you’re one of those businesses that has generated virtually no revenue and is still covering your overheads with what cash flow you have remaining, I suspect a loan would be useful to ensure that you could at least pay your staff the 80% the government has promised to cover. What most don’t understand is that you still require the cash flow to cover your payroll, even at 80%, whilst you wait for the funds in the form of the grant from the Government. Whilst I do not wish to criticise the Government’s approach, as these initiatives are brilliant and what you’d expect from the world sixth largest economy to protect its GDP and lessen the impact on the welfare state, they are however reactionary. The speed of announcements for these knee jerk initiatives has unfortunately meant that the communication to all was poor. Compounded by misunderstandings as lawyers, accountants and advisors speculated on what the government would do forgetting to explain to small business that none of this advice being offered was not actually based on fact. As a small business you rely on many outlets to advise you accordingly and help guide a business in its decision making. My fear is that all this unqualified advice is making matters worse and creating more issues for when we are ready to get back to business as normal, as there remains many unknowns that impact future planning. It’s been reported that in March, retail declined 4.3% and nonfood purchases online accounted for 40% of all online sales. As a marketing agency that specialises in technology and leisure brands, this statistic is of particular interest to me. So what can marketers, sales people and retail do to ensure technology and CE retail are able to come back with a bang? Our fundamental societal roles have changed – working, shopping, education etc. – as well as our attitudes to the community roles we all took for granted. Those truly crucial to society - our NHS, bin men, local butchers, bakers, milk deliveries etc. have been elevated to heroes and saviours, doing all they can to serve their local communities. So, the question we’re all pondering is will it lead to a reappraisal of the role of independent retailers in the community? Will consumers look differently upon what they may have previously considered out of date. We are all shopping local, where stores are open, from the independent hardware store to the corner shop and long term, I know my shopping habits will now incorporate these stores often and not in an ‘emergency’. And what’s come to the fore more than anything is that local shops are more than just places to buy products. So with a new captive audience and acceptance of service to society, how can independent retailers revive their fortunes by

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socialising their new audience and retain them through experiences? We all understand the power of retail experiences, but we now need to plan ahead and look at this with a postCOVID-19 social lens. Because let’s face it, the first thing people will want to do after lock down is go to pubs, bars, restaurants, cinemas, shops and thoroughly enjoy themselves with those they’ve missed, and experience the feeling they’ve been deprived of for some time. This includes the experience of physical retail and reliving the enthusiasm of consumerism as a pastime, rather than having another brown box left outside your door. Therefore, whilst still in lockdown, plan how you’re going to come out fighting. Use the time to think about what you could do certain things differently to enhance the experience – smaller range, bigger ranging, specialisation, marketing, PR, advertising, training, services.

“When this is all over, if marketed right, it could create opportunities to entice shoppers back through the doors” Engage with your brand partners and encourage them to support you with offers, training and local marketing budgets. And then add to this how to socialise it – free coffee, fitting service, desk space to speak to someone face-to-face, new displays, improved window dressing, giving back to the community, offering key worker discounts? Shopping habits of the great British nation are undoubtedly going to change after a period of social distancing. Retail will need to adjust to the commercial realities of the COVID-19 crisis and the long term effects it will inevitably create. But when this is all over, if marketed right, it could create opportunities to entice shoppers back through the doors with reopening parties and offers to kick start buying again and encouraging the nation to treat itself. The treat aspect is essential to bring back the joy of shopping and in doing so creating an opportunity for brands and retailers to make shopping fun and personal again. Gekko is a full service field marketing agency, specialising in connecting brands with consumers in retail throughout the UK and Ireland. Find our more at www.gekko-uk.com

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The XR market

Changing realities Laura Barnes looks at how the VR and AR markets are expected to grow in the near future, and what opportunities this will open up for tech retailers to both sell and use the technology...

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oth the augmented reality and virtual reality markets are big business for tech companies. With potential application for both consumer and business use, the world of augmented, virtual and mixed reality, also known as XR, is constantly growing. Delving deeper into the VR sector, Research and Markets recently revealed that it is expected to grow to $44.7 billion by 2024. The penetration of HMDs (head mounted displays) in the gaming and entertainment sector, huge investments in the VR market, advancement of technology and growing digitisation, and the availability of affordable VR devices are all noted as major factors fuelling the growth of the overall market. Looking at the use of virtual reality in the gaming and entertainment sectors in particular, and Research and Markets says this has been a notable growth driver, but points out that the lack of awareness regarding the advantages using VR devices is a major challenge for the industry. “The market is clearly growing in a number of areas,” Ross

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“Virtual reality will soon be able to enrich remote meet-ups to the point where people actually feel like their sharing a physical space” Elliott Myers, Roto VR

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The XR market

Holt, global head of gaming at distributor Exertis, tells PCR. “Steam recorded a record number of VR users connected to their platform in March and whilst it doesn’t represent the overall VR market, reports estimate that there were 1.7 million users with expectations that it could reach 3 million monthly-connected headsets on Steam around January 2021. “Furthermore, the market continues to attract big players, evidenced by the recent announcement that HP, Microsoft and Valve are working in collaboration to develop the next generation of VR headsets for PCs.” Holt highlights Oculus as a “clear market leader” with its entire range (Quest, Rift S and Go) selling at unprecedented levels. “There has been increased demand for VR products in all of our countries, exacerbated by the current ‘stay at home’ situation. This has coincided with Valve (owner of the Steam gaming platform), releasing the newest instalment of the hugely influential Half Life series, Half Life: Alyx, in VR. “From a software point of view this is a very important release for VR, particularly as Valve redefine a genre with most of their titles, and Alyx has been met with rave reviews.” Elliott Myers, founder of gaming chair brand Roto VR, agrees that Oculus and the new Half Life title are big news in the VR world right now. “Oculus Quest and Valve Index are the go-to hardware devices presently,” he says, pointing out that Half Life: Alyx has just broken “every record in terms of downloads, quality ratings for a VR game (or any game, actually) and also simultaneous play (in VR)”. But what opportunities does that offer up to tech retailers, especially in the current climate? “Recent events have postponed many of this year’s XR announcements, but I think what COVID-19 is doing is forcing people to look at the future of humanity earlier than they would otherwise,” Myers tells PCR. “What do I mean by that? Well, remote conferencing has pretty much overnight swept away many traditional business practices, and from an XR-tech standpoint, virtual reality will soon be able to enrich these remote meet-ups to the point where people actually feel like their sharing a physical space – thus feeling less remote. This will underpin a future of less (and unnecessary) carbon-based travel of which plenty of investors in this sector would be happy to support. “According to Roadtovr, VR hardware and software has been growing exponentially since 2019, but this hasn’t really translated to traditional retail sales so much,” points out Myers. “Before COVID-19 there was a growing trend towards ‘retailtainment’, where customers were encouraged to spend time inor-around the store to pass time and try out products. But XR products in particular didn’t translate too well, as the swapping, cleaning, making physical space, etc, was just too clunky and unproductive. XR products are best sold online, which is a pity, because these types of products greatly benefit from customers trying them out first-hand.” Augmented market Looking closer at the augmented side of the XR market, and

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“There will be opportunities for retailers and tech resellers to sell more XR products whether that’s for mobile, smart glasses or headsets” Ross Holt, Exertis Reporter Link recently revealed a report showing that the global augmented reality market size is estimated to grow from $10.7 billion in 2019 to $72.7 billion by 2024. “AR technology is anticipated to continue its growth in the software segment through the emergence of various nestling projects that will evolve into large-scale productions,” says the report. “Recently, numerous companies have experimented with augmented reality prototypes. For instance, companies such as IKEA and Walmart have already launched AR prototypes to enhance the shopping experiences of their customers. Thus, the software segment is set to grow because of the high growth of the number of apps and platforms in the AR space.” Exertis’s Holt notes that AR glasses – where you can see the real world overlaid with digital objects – haven’t been developed sufficiently as a consumer product yet and are “some way off becoming mainstream”, highlighting that in the current climate, developments in these areas and new releases are likely to be delayed. “However, expect to see some lifestyle brands entering the market for AR glasses in the future,” he says. Both Holt and Roto VR’s Myers believe that there are some interesting developments to come with regards to XR being sold at retail, as well as being used by retailers themselves. “There will be opportunities for retailers and tech resellers to sell more XR products whether that’s for mobile, smart glasses or headsets. Gaming will be the biggest category in the consumer sector but applications in business are many and varied. Perhaps the biggest obstacle will be product supply and development in the current climate,” suggest Holt. Myers says he is “hugely excited” about VR in retail, indicating that stores will be key in communicating the concepts that will help them shift the boxed products. “We’d love to discuss the possibilities with potential retail partners,” he says. “Meanwhile, in a B2B sense, chains stand to benefit hugely from XR, as Walmart has shown by adopting thousands of Oculus Go headsets to help train their staff.”

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Partner Content from

Reap big rewards from cybersecurity for gamers

C

ovid-19 may have locked down the best part of Western Europe, but for gamers the self-imposed isolation has allowed them to game to their heart’s content. If you know any gamers, you won’t be surprised to know that they effectively sleep, eat, game and repeat, and then repeat some more. Although many countries are introducing a slow and gradual phased return from lockdown, it’s going to be many months before life as we know it gets back to normality. It may not be obviously apparent but this represents a tremendous opportunity for those who partner with BullGuard. The PC gaming market is huge. In 2018 alone, just under half a billion pounds was spent on PC gaming hardware according to GFK Entertainment. To leverage this opportunity, there’s one thing you need to know about gamers. Cybersecurity often doesn’t feature high on their list of priorities. Rather, their focus is understandably on PCs with immense processing power, intense graphic rendering and deep memory. Many gamers have had a poor experience with cybersecurity products given that they tend to slow down gaming

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performance. As a result, if they have a dedicated gaming rig, they often choose not to use antivirus software. If they are using a multipurpose PC and are running antivirus, they turn it off when gaming. Clearly in both cases gamers are exposed to a multitude of malware threats. This is where BullGuard Internet Security can help. Alongside the best protection against a wide range of threats, it delivers an industry-leading game enhancer which actually boosts the performance of games while BullGuard protection is running. In short, gamers don’t need to expose themselves to malware or turn off their protection because BullGuard’s Game Booster improves gaming performance while they remain fully protected. Burning need for protection Let’s drill into this a bit deeper. Cybercriminals are indelible opportunists and given its tremendous growth, the gaming industry is a prime target. Gamers are vulnerable to a wide range of attacks, from credential hacking, scammers offering game cheats, gaming-specific malware and in-game ransomware, to

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Partner Content from

password stealers, game cracks, phishing campaigns and software imitating well-known gaming platforms and dodgy third-party apps and games for mobile gaming. BullGuard Internet Security protects gamers with multi-awardwinning, triple-layer, AI-driven protection. In turn, Game Booster recognises when a game is active and other apps are also running. It then automatically isolates all other apps (which are not games) on one or two CPU cores and stops all annoying popups. As a result, other CPU cores are fully dedicated to the gaming app, enhancing gameplay without lag and ensuring the gamer is protected at all times. Gamers no longer need to sacrifice performance over online security. Endorsed by the experts In a test of comparable products by Chillblast, a specialist system and gaming rig builder, Game Booster came top with the results demonstrating that game performance was actually increased. Chillblast wanted to determine what impact antivirus software has on gaming. It put six high profile security suites to the test, including BullGuard, Norton, McAfee, AVG and Windows 10 home grown antivirus. Chillblast measured the frame per second (FPS) rate while running the antivirus software it was testing. BullGuard’s Game Booster came out on top, ahead of other brands, with the fastest FPS of 6650, well ahead of second-placed Norton with a FPS of 6544. It was also faster than a PC with no antivirus installed which only notched a FPS of 6570, clearly proving how BullGuard Game Booster delivers faster gaming performance as well as top protection. Colsey, a professional streamer and member of the Fierce PC Stream Team also tested BullGuard Game Booster when playing Assassins’ Creed, comparing it to a PC with no antivirus and a PC running Norton and McAfee. He measured a frame score and BullGuard again came out on top with a score of 7237, significantly ahead of Norton’s second-place score of 7024. Review website Tech for Techs also gave Game Booster its Gamer’s Choice Award saying: “BullGuard is a very good security programme. It is not a resource hog like some others on the market. It’s worth every penny… is easy to use and has plenty of extras you don’t have to pay for. Game mode/booster is a strong feature… you get more performance into a game and security is extremely strong.” BullGuard Internet Security and Game Booster are used as a matter of course by the Fierce esports team. The team is owned by Fierce PC, a builder of bespoke high-spec gaming rigs and is wellknown in the billion-dollar professional gaming tournament industry, competing in some of the biggest esports titles including Rainbow 6 Siege and FIFA. Jon Carter, MD of Fierce PC, says: “Professional esports players don’t want anything to interfere with gameplay. They want the absolute maximum out of their PC and this is where BullGuard Internet Security really comes into its own. You can carry on gaming, it’s an absolute no brainer.” Top revenue growth BullGuard partners who sell BullGuard Internet Security into the lucrative PC gaming market stand to reap substantial revenue and

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profit-boosting growth thanks to the BullGuard Advantage partner programme. It provides the best revenue share scheme in the cybersecurity business; 25 percent revenue share for all trial license activations and renewals. Consider the following PC refurbisher/system builder example based on the 25% revenue share. If a company installs 5,000 BullGuard 90-day Internet Security trials to their PCs and gaming rigs, given the typical conversion to paid results experienced in the first year, it makes £4,570 in revenue share. With the addition of annual license renewals every year thereafter, this climbs to £9,960 in the second year, £14,000 in the third year and £17.000 in the fourth year. This is a total of £45,500 over the four years by simply preinstalling BullGuard Internet Security trial licenses with no financial investment whatsoever. Max Sherafati, CEO of Mesh Computers, says: “BullGuard not only provides our customers with a solid, award-winning security product, they also offer a personal, hands-on account management approach which makes all the difference within the vendor/channel partner relationship. “Their unique revenue share programme provides our business with a lucrative opportunity to generate a revenue stream from offering a free trial option to our customers. This means that there is no financial obligation on our part, and a considerable income can be generated from customer conversions from trials to paid license subscriptions.” Everything to gain The free BullGuard Internet Security 90-day trial can either be preinstalled onto a machine or bundled with complementary products using a license card. It is a great way to leverage the value of BullGuard Internet Security by providing PC gamers with much-needed protection as well as increased gaming performance. And of course, not only does it add extra perceived value for your customers, it is also a great way of driving incremental revenue and profit for your business with 85% of customers renewing their license every year, which is one of the highest rates in the industry. With no financial investment on the part of the Reseller, its difficult to escape the conclusion that there is everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose.

Get in touch

BullGuard prides itself on partnering with the very best retailers, resellers, system builders and vendors to help keep consumers and small businesses stay safe online. For any organisation looking to become a part of the BullGuard network, please contact Rob Livings, Sales Manager UK & Ireland at BullGuard on 07825 288279 or by emailing rob.livings@bullguard.com. To learn more about partner qualification and channel benefits please visit www.bullguard.com/partners.

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Top 5 Tech

HANNspree’s Martin Kent Martin Kent, Territory Manager at HANNspree UK, walks us through five pieces of technology that have shaped his personal and working life...

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27/04/2020 11:36


1 Top 5 Tech

ZOOM Move over Skype! A new way of communicating with friends, family and work colleagues has rocketed up the application charts. I have only recently embraced the benefits of Zoom but during a lockdown, what better way to group chat. Zoom has been my main tool for communicating with colleagues in Europe and Asia, ensuring we keep the cogs turning despite these unprecedented circumstances. This great piece of communication tech even enabled me to attend a good friend’s online birthday party one Saturday night, during which I was able to catch up with many other friends who it feels I haven’t seen for a long, long time.

SPOTIFY Take my money! I get so much out of Spotify. For such a small monthly fee, the wealth of music available to me is amazing. I love that I can listen to a whole host of music from years gone by without rifling through boxes of tapes and CDs in the attic, only to discover that tape and CD players are almost extinct. Coming across an old favourite really puts a smile on my face, evoking many a memory. Creating playlists is really easy and I really enjoy that Spotify makes suggestions based on my music taste. This leads me nicely on to…

GOOGLE HOME Other virtual assistants are available! But I am currently using Google Home. What a fantastic way to make life simpler. We use Google Home on a daily basis to interact with a whole host of services, but we primarily use the VA in my family to voice command our music selections. I am ‘trying’ to educate my daughters about the music I enjoy, but in reality, we typically end up listening to their choices on repeat.

ICLOUD STORAGE iCloud storage is one of those really convenient tools that whirs away in the background doing a job that I, and I am sure many others, are guilty of neglecting. It’s great to have a helping hand to keep my data safe and back-ups automatically up to date. With over 3,000 family images, videos etc it would be disastrous if my iPhone was ever, lost, stolen or damaged. Thanks to iCloud storage I have complete peace of mind.

HANNSPREE HS329PQB DISPLAY Another lockdown tool and a not so subtle product plug! This smart looking 32” monitor lets me work easily from home. The giant screen provides me with plenty of space to display multiple documents, and the 2k resolution makes everything look fantastic. When I work for long hours, I am really thankful for the low blue light technology, and the super wide viewing angles means my family can surround the screen to share multimedia and more.

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Gaming security

Laura Barnes asks the experts about the most common cybersecurity threats to gamers and how they can better protect themselves...

A

ny avid gamer will recognise the image above. For those that don’t, it’s taken from the 1986 game The Legend of Zelda. Those trusty seven words are spoken by a mysterious old man who gives Link a sword to help him on his quest to rescue Princess Zelda. Today, some 34 years later, and those words are still important in the gaming arena. However, unlike the original reference to an in-game weapon, I’m talking about real-world weapons players can equip themselves with to stay safe whilst gaming. As online gaming drastically grows, cybercriminals are finding more and more ways to take advantage of both amateur and professional gamers to try to hack their accounts and the online platforms they are using. So what are some of the most common threats to gamers, how can they protect themselves, and how can the industry better educate customers about these dangers? PCR posed these questions to the experts: What are some of the most common security risks to gamers? Steve Miller-Jones, VP of edge solutions and solution architecture at Limelight Networks, a Content Delivery Network (CDN) service provider: “The global perspective of online gaming has changed drastically in recent years. New games being released every week coupled with high-speed internet connections has helped skyrocket the popularity of gaming online. But this

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popularity is a double-edged sword. High-profile gaming platforms with large subscriber bases provide cyber criminals with the perfect opportunity to take advantage of ill protected gaming content. With a wealth of personal and financial data up for grabs, these cyber threats and the associated service disruption is enough to turn gamers away for good. “With the gaming industry booming, we will undoubtedly see DDoS attacks during key events such as new game launches. Only recently, Call of Duty: Warzone players saw significant lags caused by DDoS attacks and application attacks against their authentication services. The applications attacked are starved of resources, and performance and quality are significantly degraded. Despite the mass scale outrage from game players, investigations into the source of these breaches can still take a long time to come to fruition. The reasons for such attacks are varied, but the intent is certainly to cause disruption, and can also be to try to use the disruption to hide additional attack vectors designed to gain access to valuable assets such as user data.” “Adopting proactive real-time detection helps to keep ahead of the cybercriminals and mitigate these and other attack vectors before they can cause impacts to gameplay, or worse, result in the theft of data. Monitoring web traffic is a quick way to identify the unwanted DDoS attack. In the event of an attempted attack, services such as Limelight’s DDoS Attack Interceptor can identify the attack and ensure that incoming requests are quickly moved to

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Gaming security

“Gamers should be playing it safe, always. Choosing a website or gaming platform that has an integrated cloud security solution is crucial” Steve Miller-Jones, Limelight Networks

on-network scrubbing, ensuring that only legitimate traffic is passed to your web infrastructure.” David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky, a multinational cybersecurity and anti-virus provider: “The gaming industry is hugely lucrative, and with over half of players regularly gaming online, it’s also becoming an increasingly attractive target for cybercriminals. As online games create social spaces for interactions, the presence of such a large online community of anonymous strangers and the unfiltered, unmoderated discussions can pose risks to the safety of children and adults alike. Cybercriminals are often looking to disrupt online operations and gain access to data such as passwords and bank card information. Online gaming danger also comes from consoles or PCs themselves, as people often forget how much personal information is in the files saved to these devices and fail to delete their profiles and information, putting their financial and private data at risk as a result. “Online games often involve spending real money to purchase in-game property, such as weapons and costumes for characters, so it’s crucial that people are vigilant and take responsibility for ensuring that financial information stays safe, and not making any financial transactions on unofficial sites.” How can gamers protect themselves from cybercrime? Steve Miller-Jones, Limelight Networks: “To maintain brand reputation and continue driving revenue, game developers must harness the power of high performing networks that safeguard their content. Being able to distinguish between attempted attacks and general traffic is essential when catering to big audiences. In the event of an attack, it is imperative to be informed of exactly what kind of attack it is to mitigate damage effectively and prevent similar attacks in the future. “A CDNs capacity ensures the ability to passively mitigate most attacks. A high-performing CDN will enhance the gaming

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experience by providing an “always-on” defence without any adverse effects to the performance. “Gamers should be playing it safe, always. Whether you’re a console gamer or not, choosing a website or gaming platform that has an integrated cloud security solution is crucial. Providing defensive protection to a user’s game play and safeguarding content delivery is not a CDNs only capability. It will also allow gamers to hide their details and blacklist any unprotected IP addresses. It’s always wise for gamers shields to always be up, without interrupting the gaming experience.” David Emm, Kaspersky: “Online gamers – both amateur and professional – are understandably concerned about having their accounts hacked, or being locked out of their accounts by forgetting their passwords. This is a dilemma that people face every day, with many choosing the less secure option of using either the same password for all their accounts, or simple passwords that are easy for hackers to guess. Only by taking appropriate precautions and using strong, unique passwords will people be confident that their valuable accounts are protected and that all their efforts have not gone to waste. It’s therefore important that people use unique, 15-character passwords, combining letters, numbers and special characters, and ensure that they don’t include easy-to-guess personal information. “We would also advise gamers to choose a security solution that has a minimal impact on system performance. This includes a dedicated gaming mode to reduce speed-lag and to suppress popups, as well as regular scans, etc. during game-play. This is important, since any hit on performance might lead gamers to disable or remove anti-virus programs altogether, leaving gamers exposed to online threats.” Do you think there needs to be more education around security when it comes to gaming? Steve Miller-Jones, Limelight Networks: “Online gaming has quickly become a global phenomenon, and with more users online, cyberattacks may also increase over the next few months. Users need to be more aware of how they can protect their gameplay by avoiding illegitimate content to keep their data safe and looking to their gaming platform provider to deliver fast and seamless game streaming experiences while protecting them from cyber hijackers.” David Emm, Kaspersky: “More education is certainly needed around the security of online gaming, given that threats can impact players both directly within a game and outside of it – and especially with people turning to online games and consoles more frequently in lockdown. We’d recommend gamers follow our tips at kaspersky.com/blog/online-gamer-threats/ to stay protected from phishing and fraud to inventory theft and device compromise. Kaspersky has also published a list of the top 10 mobile games for child development during social distancing, which you can find at kaspersky.com/blog/best-mobile-games-forkids-2020.”

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Sector Guide

Pro gaming machines and components Here we pick the best machines, components and hardware needed for the perfect pro gaming session...

GIGABYTE AORUS Gaming Laptops “In collaboration with G2 Esports, GIGABYTE designed its flagship AORUS 17X, AORUS 17G and AORUS 15G high end models, tailoring its notebooks to the needs of pro gamers. The new AORUS series are the lightest notebooks in the industry that feature true mechanical keyboards. Upgrades include three 10th gen Intel processors – overclocking-capable Intel Core i910980HK, Intel Core i7-10875H and Intel Core i7-10750H. As for graphics, in addition to GeForce RTX 20-series and the GeForce GTX 16 series, the all-new flagship NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER and RTX 2070 SUPER have been added to enhance media processing speed and gaming performance.”

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Specs: (For the AORUS Flagship Laptop) G2 Esports CS:GO Certified Omron True Mechanical Keyboard 240Hz Gaming Display WINDFORCE Infinity Next-Gen cooling system 10th Gen Intel Core i7/i9 CPUs NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20 SUPER, RTX and GTX 16 series graphics Contact: CMS Distribution - cmsdistribution.com

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Sector Guide

XPG XENIA Gaming Notebook “Designed in collaboration with Intel, XPG XENIA delivers Xtreme gaming performance thanks to its proven Intel® Core i7-9750H processor, paired with our XPG DDR4 32GB 2666MHz sorted DRAM, ultra-fast XPG SX8200 Pro SSD, and a choice of NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q / GTX 1660Ti GPU. XPG XENIA takes it up a notch with a mechanical keyboard that uses optical actuation and per-key RGB illumination, an ultra-light magnesium alloy body, and a spacious 15.6-inch IPS display with a 144Hz refresh rate. Level up your gaming experience with XPG XENIA.” Specs: Processor Intel Core i7-9750H Graphics GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q 8GB DDR6 Display 15.6” Narrow Bezel (85% screen to body ratio), FHD, 144HZ IPS 1920×1080 Storage XPG SX8200 Pro M.2 22x80 PCIe Gen3x4 NVMe 1TB Memory DDR4 SO-DIMM, 2666MHz, 32GB Battery 6 cell – 94Whr (>10 hr) Keyboard Silent Optical mechanical anti-ghosting keyboard per key RGB back lighting Touchpad Glass click pad Network Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200, Gigabit Ethernet I/O Ports USB3.2 Gen 2 x 1 / USB3.2 Gen 2 x 2 / Thunderbolt 3.0 x 1 / HDMI x 1 Dimensions (H x D x W) 356.4 x 233.6 x 20.5 mm Weight < 1.85kg Contact: XPG - xpg.com | Spire Technology - spire.co.uk

TP-Link Archer AX11000 Gaming Router “Higher speeds make less congestion for gaming rigs. Armed with Wi-Fi 6, Archer AX11000 becomes the next-level speed machine that offers astonishing Wi-Fi speeds up to 10756 Mbps with an extended range. More connected devices mean more fun, without dragging down performance. Revolutionary OFDMA is introduced to improve average throughput by 4× and cut the latency. Take advantage of incredibly low latency to dominate the competition, with your team crew together. With a dedicated gaming band for your game rigs, Archer AX11000 ensures your families’ Netflix 4K streaming is no match for your online games.” Specs: Delivers 12-streams Wi-Fi Speeds Over 10 Gbps: 4804 Mbps (5 GHz Gaming) + 4804 Mbps (5 GHz) + 1148 Mbps (2.4 GHz). Game Accelerator – Detect and optimise gaming streams to stay immersive. Game Protector – Keep your accounts and documents safe with Homecare security system powered by Trend Micro. Real-time latency, game duration and network resource allocation in a glance with fine-tuned UI. 2.5 Gbps WAN port and eight Gigabit LAN ports, 2 USB 3.0 in Type A and Type C. 1.8 GHz Quad-Core CPU and 3 coprocessors ensure your network performance always at peak run. OFDMA increases the average throughput and reduces lag. Link to your router via Bluetooth and set it up in minutes with powerful Tether app. Contact: TP-Link UK - tp-link.com/uk

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Sector Guide

ASUS ROG CROSSHAIR VIII HERO Motherboard “ROG Crosshair VIII Hero comes equipped with an optimized power-design layout and all the cooling headers you need to handle the prodigious power of the latest AMD Ryzen processors without performance-zapping thermal throttling. The monstrous compute power of multi-core processors necessitates a power circuit that rapidly responds to massive current swings. Featuring an array of 16 strategically paired power stages, the Hero’s VRM is geared for any workload and all operating conditions.” Specs: Motherboard Type: Desktop Form Factor: ATX Socket: AMD AM4 Chipset: AMD X570 RAM Technology: DDR4 (Dual Channel) RAM Slots: 4 x DIMM Maximum Memory: 128GB Contact: Spire Technology - spire.co.uk

Chillblast Fusion Wolf 2080 Super Gaming PC “Chillblast’s Fusion Wolf 2080 Super Gaming PC uses the same technology they supply their signature partner eSports teams with. The Fusion Wolf comes packed with a powerful 6-core Intel i5 processor behind a Corsair AIO cooler, and the blistering Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Graphics makes overkill for the latest high-intensity games and VR set-ups. With 16GB of RAM, and 250GB of Seagate M.2 SSD Storage, games load instantly, and the frame rates are more than high enough for competitive gamers. The affordable package comes wrapped in the slim, yet robust, Phateks Enthoo case – the perfect size for LAN gaming.” Specs: Processor: Intel Core i5-9600K Coffee Lake CPU, 6 Cores, 3.7 - 4.6GHz Case: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX Case with Window - Black CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro Series H80i GT Liquid Cooler Thermal Paste: Standard Thermal Paste Motherboard: Gigabyte Z390 I AORUS PRO WIFI Memory: 16GB DDR4 2666MHz Memory (2 x 8GB Sticks) Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super 8GB Graphics Card OS Drive: 250GB Seagate BarraCuda 510 M.2 PCIe Solid State Drive Hard Drive: Seagate 2TB 7200RPM Hard Disk Power Supply: Corsair RM650x 80 PLUS Gold 650W PSU Operating System: Windows 10 Home 64-bit Anti Virus Software: Bullguard Internet Security - Free 90 Day Licence Contact: Chillblast - chillblast.com | 01202 068 333

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Sector Guide

Palit RTX2080 SUPER White GameRock Graphics Card “The brand new gaming series, Palit “WGR: White GameRock” is specially designed for gamers who desire to have the ultimate gaming experience. GameRock series provides the best gaming features, the best thermal solution and the best graphics card quality, to make you become a real game rocker without any fears.”

Specs: Chipset Manufacturer: Nvidia Interface: PCI Express 3.0 Graphics Chipset: Nvidia RTX 2080 SUPER Memory Size: 8GB Memory Type: DDR6 Memory Interface: 256-bit Core Clock: Base Clock: 1650 MHz, Boost Clock: 1830 MHz Memory Clock: 15.5 Gbps Contact: Spire Technology - spire.co.uk

Asus ROG MAXIMUS XI HERO Motherboard “Fast, intuitive control is vital for effective command of your rig, so we’ve loaded ROG Maximus XI Hero with simple, flexible tools that let you tweak almost every system aspect. Enjoy intelligent automated tuning with 5-Way Optimization technology, or dive deep into the revered ROG UEFI BIOS to take full manual control. Hero also makes short work of fine-tuning everything from audio to storage, so it’s easy to get every part of your system up to speed. With Aura Sync to unleash synchronized effects that extend from motherboard to a vast ecosystem of compatible components, ROG Maximus XI Hero is primed for endless personalisation.” Specs: Motherboard Type: Desktop Form Factor: ATX Socket: Intel 1151 - Coffee Lake Chipset: Intel Z390 RAM Technology: DDR4 (Dual Channel) RAM Slots: 4 x DIMM Maximum Memory: 64GB Graphics: Supports Intel HD Graphics Graphics Ports: 1 x HDMI, 1 x DisplayPort Contact: Spire Technology - spire.co.uk

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Sector Guide

Archer TX3000E Wi-Fi 6 Adapter “Boasting a range of game-enhancing features, the Archer TX3000E can level up anybody’s gaming PC. The very latest Wi-Fi 6 standard guarantees extreme speed, ultra-low latency, and uninterrupted connectivity. Utilising the Wi-Fi 6 foundation, Archer TX3000E is designed to liberate your gaming from cables and fully optimise your gameplay. The 1024-QAM and 160 MHz bandwidth deliver powerful, continuous Wi-Fi to unlock the potential of your Wi-Fi 6 router. Compatible with the latest Bluetooth 5.0, the TX3000E can connect to as many gaming devices as you want including: controllers, headsets and keyboard giving gamers a smoother experience.” Specs: Breaks the gigabit barrier with speed up to 2402 Mbps (5 GHz) + 574 Mbps (2.4 GHz) Intel Wi-Fi 6 chipset unlocks the potential of your Wi-Fi 6 router Two multi-directional antennas with magnetised base designed for optimum signal reception Bluetooth 5.0 technology achieves 2× Faster Speed and 4× Broader Coverage than BT 4.2 WPA3 provides enhanced protection in personal password safety Specialised heatsink and gold plating to improve stability and reliability in hot environments Backward Compatibility – Full support for 802.11ac/a/b/g/n standards Contact: TP-Link UK - tp-link.com/uk

ASUS ROG STRIX RTX 2080Ti Graphics Card “The ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2080Ti teams up NVIDIA’s A-list GPU with an elite cast of specialists, setting the stage for epic gaming action. Gargantuan power delivery provides the muscle to push overlocking boundaries, while cooling that’s honed to perfection keeps the spotlight squarely on Turing’s performance. And with an arsenal of utilities that allow you to customise and tweak this extreme hardware, you call the shots.” Specs: Chipset Manufacturer: Nvidia Interface: PCI Express 3.0 Graphics Chipset: Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti Memory Size: 11GB Memory Type: DDR6 Memory Interface: 352-bit Memory Clock: 14000MHz Contact: Spire Technology - spire.co.uk

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If you want to maximise your exposure in the IT and tech channel, advertise in PCRâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s monthly print magazine! PCRâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s print circulation is sent, by request, only to readers who meet our strict criteria. They have to be the decision makers our advertisers want to reach. Talk to our sales team today to find out how we can showcase your company. Contact Sarah Goldhawk at Sarah.Goldhawk@Biz-Media.co.uk

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The Keyboardio Atreus The Keyboardio Atreus is a real mechanical keyboard, with full-travel keyswitches mounted in an anodized aluminum plate and the same generous 19mm key spacing you’ll find on a traditional desktop keyboard. Inside, it’s powered by a Microchip ATmega32U4 MCU, the same chip that’s inside an Arduino Leonardo and a Keyboardio Model 01. It comes with firmware source code, as well as a graphical configuration tool. It connects to your computer or tablet over USB. Unlike most mechanical keyboards, the Keyboardio Atreus measures just 24.3 x 10 x 2.8cm (9.6 x 3.9 x 1.1 inches), making it easy to take your keyboard with you everywhere. The Atreus’ layout puts all the keys in columns aligned to your fingers, so you never need to stretch or twist to reach a key. The keys are the same size as on a regular desktop keyboard, but they’re laid out in a much more compact way that matches how your hands work. Everything you need is easy to reach, and since the keyboard is so compact, your mouse or trackball is closer, too. Rather than being arranged in rows like a typewriter, the Atreus’ keys are arranged in columns, with each column just right for the finger that hits it. For more information visit: http://kck.st/3b0PEsA

Astro Slide 5G Transformer Astro Slide is the first 5G smartphone with a keyboard and claims to be the fastest 5G device announced to date. Powered by MediaTek’s Dimensity 1000 chipset with 8 super-fast cores plus advanced GPU and APU processors, it offers twice the performance of other 5G chipsets with significantly reduced power consumption, achieving download speeds of up to 4.7 Gb/s with dual 5G modems. Astro’s RockUp slider hinge transforms the powerful 6.53” touchscreen smartphone into a mini laptop, featuring Planet’s signature tactile backlit keyboard. Astro Slide Is great for emails, messaging, editing documents, making calls and taking snaps. Astro’s dual 5G and Wi-Fi 6 communications offer fastest upload and download speeds for true productivity on the go. Astro Slide runs Android 10 OS with a multiboot option for supporting Linux. Other specs include a hi-res 48MP rear camera, minimum 6GB of RAM and 128GB of Flash storage, fingerprint sensor and smart toggle button for security and control, and NFC for payment. For more information visit: https://igg.me/at/gogoastro/x#/

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Frame.IoT Arduino-compatible Wi-Fi dev kit The Frame.IoT is an Arduino-compatible board built for your Internet of Things projects and ships with the most popular components built-in – voted by the community. Powered by the ESP-32, the Frame.IoT is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) enabled. It is packed with a number of plug-and-play utilities, including USB-to-Serial converter, automatic bootloader reset and Lithium Ion/Polymer battery charging circuit. To make it project-ready, the Frame.IoT has a microSD card socket for all your data logging/storage needs, a super powerful digital audio amp to stream audio over the internet and blast notifications, a 16-pixel addressable RGB LED ring to light up your project, a toggle that lets you choose to power your peripherals over USB or battery, and an unencumbered momentary push-button to trigger any action you choose. If your prototype doesn’t need some of the components built-in to the Frame.IoT – no worries, as each component is connected via jumper pins. Simply remove the corresponding jumpers and you’ll free up the I/O for anything you want. For more information visit: http://kck.st/2QI8CMV

With so much talent in the channel, it can be difficult to sift out the freshest gear and potential tech giants of tomorrow. Stay ahead of the curve with PCR’s Crowdfunding Corner…

SenseForce Chair Extreme Four years ago, iFeel Tactile Systems aimed to bring a “new sensation experience into the entertainment world by making sound feelable directly on your body”. The team – made up of musicians, gamers, engineers and managers – started to develop and produce its first product in 2016: The SenseForce Pad Extreme, a mobile device which can be used on any seating furniture to let you feel sound directly on your body. For gamers who want to immerse themselves physically in the world of video games, the team has now launched a kickstarter for the integration of the Sound Feel System into the SenseForce ChairExtreme and the SenseForce Chair Extreme XL. The tech combines the look and feel of a comfortable gaming chair with the innovative Sound Feel System, which lets you feel sound while playing any game on any device. The SenseForce Sound System converts acoustic signals into tangible impulses. This works via four vibrating zones, which primarily translate low-pitched sounds into structure-borne sound. Your brain assembles the impulses of the four zones in such a way that you can locate the game contents on your body in any direction. For more information visit: http://kck.st/3a5nXyU

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Sector Guide

VR and AR gear Here’s our pick of the most interesting VR and AR tech for business and personal use… dynaEdge DE-100 Smart Glasses “dynaEdge DE-100 is a lightweight, intelligent and fully portable mobile edge computing device which offers the power of a full-performance PC through its proven 6th Generation Intel Core processor. The dynaEdge with smart glasses can actively empower field workers through a range of hands-free tasks and processes. The latest product updates and training can be delivered where they’re needed; document retrieval; workflow instructions; real-time data capture. Additionally, The Remote Expert function enables workers to show the situation they’re facing, instantly and in real time. Colleagues can then respond with training, support and data, all instantly heard and seen on the device. A rechargeable battery and WiFi / Bluetooth connectivity make it the ideal for workers out in the field.” Nick Offin, Head of Sales, Marketing & Operations at dynabook Europe, comments: “We are proud to be at the forefront of the wearable-enterprise space, introducing the first monocular Assisted Reality solution to combine the power of a Windows 10 Pro PC, the robust feature set of industrial-grade smart glasses, and industry-specific workflow efficiency provided through our partnership with Ubimax. This blend enables us to deliver next-level workflow and efficiency optimisation to frontline workers.” Specs: 6th Generation Intel Core (vPro available) processor Up to 16GB LPDDR3 on board memory Up to 512GB storage Bluetooth 4.2 Intel dual-band wireless USB 3.0 port, USB 3.1 Type-C port, mic/headphone jack. AR100 Viewer: 5MP camera, auto focus, 1080p 30fps video capture, flash LED, built-in speaker, dual microphones. Contact: Dynabook Europe GmbH – emea.dynabook.com

Roto VR Chair “Roto is the world’s first interactive, immersive 360 degree VR chair. Founded in the UK in 2015, by video games industry veterans, Elliott Myers and Gavin Waxkirsh, the Roto VR chair is a highly advanced interactive chair that addresses the physical problems of consuming VR whilst seated, such as motion sickness and tangling cables, whilst also massively enhancing the immersive experience with haptic feedback (vibration effects). Roto VR, recently raised £1.5 million in funding with Pembroke VCT as the lead investor.” Specs: Roto VR Base: 70cm x 70cm x 35cm. Weight: 15Kg Roto VR Headtracker: 4cm x 4cm x 1.8cm Roto VR Touch Pedals Roto VR Seat Headrest Lumbar cushion Arm rests Roto VR Control Box Roto VR Double Rumble Contact: Roto VR – info@rotovr.com | +44 02087365671

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Sector Guide Nintendo Labo: VR Kit “Nintendo Labo: VR Kit introduces simple, shareable VR gaming experiences that kids and families can build themselves. Nintendo Labo: VR Kit is the fourth kit in the Nintendo Labo series, providing the tools to make DIY cardboard creations called Toy-Con; play a variety of games with these creations; and discover how Nintendo Switch technology brings it all to life. Nintendo Labo: VR Kit offers six new Toy-Con creations to build, including the Toy-Con VR Goggles, which combine with the other creations, encouraging players to use natural movements and gestures to interact with the gaming world and elevating the Nintendo Labo gameplay experience. Fend off an alien invasion with the Toy-Con Blaster, visit a colourful in-game ocean and snap photos of the sea life with the Toy-Con Camera, and so much more.” Specs: Nintendo Switch game card containing software for use with VR Kit. All the components to build the VR Goggles and Blaster. Screen Holder Safety cap Contact: Nintendo – nintendo.co.uk

Oculus Quest Headset and Touch Controllers “Oculus Quest is our first all-in-one gaming system built for virtual reality. You can now play almost anywhere with just a VR headset and controllers. Set up effortlessly, whether you’re at home or somewhere new. Oculus Quest works with your environment, so you can play standing or sitting in spaces big or small. Oculus Insight translates your movements into VR no matter which way you’re facing and provides room-scale tracking without external sensors. Look around, duck for cover and turn the tide of the battle from anywhere in your playing space. Oculus Quest has positional audio built directly into the headset, so you can hear your teammates or what’s sneaking up behind you even without headphones. With Oculus Touch controllers, you can transport your hands and gestures directly into the game. Your slashes, throws and grabs appear in VR with intuitive, realistic precision.” Specs: Set up effortlessly, whether you’re at home or somewhere new Built-in sensors translate your movements into VR and provide roomscale tracking Your hands and gestures appear in VR with intuitive, realistic precision 15 W Power Adapter Frame-friendly Spacer AA Batteries Contact: Oculus – oculus.com

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Interview

“The sudden requirement for everyone to work from home has seen demand go through the roof ”

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Interview

LIFE IN THE CHANNEL

TP-Link’s Lino Notaro The Wi-Fi networking brand’s Retail Sales Director talks about how it’s new routers are supporting gamers, what it was like to win a PCR Award, and how the company is handling the current working from home situation... Tell us a bit about your current role at TP-Link. I’m currently sales director for the retail and ecommerce channels at TP-Link UK. Whilst managing a number of major accounts, I’m also responsible for a small team of account managers and marketing personnel. Between us we handle the complete ‘consumer channel’ outside of Amazon. I also spend time co-attending key meetings with my team, mentoring and sharing my experience. I’ve been working within the consumer channel for approaching 25 years, representing a variety of wellknown consumer electronic and computing brands, so hopefully I can share some of the knowledge which I have accrued over the years. What is your team working on at the moment? First and foremost we’re working hard to keep up with the insatiable demand for wireless networking devices. Whilst we had already seen very encouraging growth over Q1, the sudden requirement for everyone to work from home (for obvious reasons), has seen

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demand go through the roof! This has placed additional pressures not only on the retail team but also our supply chain which continues to overcome considerable challenges to keep our customers happy. Additionally, we’ve just launched our new range of great value, entry level wireless networking devices, by the name of Mercusys. This is a concise range, focusing on wireless and traditional networking, predominantly aimed at ecommerce players, to help them differentiate from the retail channel. We’re also busy launching our new range of Tapo smart home products, which will attract a whole new set of users to the smart home category. Tapo delivers great value in a competitive space, attracting users who still haven’t yet made the leap into automating their home appliances, lighting and security. How is the company handling the current working from home situation? The majority of our customer-facing sales teams and support staff are now working from home. This transition has actually been very smooth indeed,

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Interview

although I guess you would expect this, being a networking company. We can obviously provide all of the premium equipment one needs to get a great Wi-Fi signal in the home, so many of our staff have taken advantage of this equipment. That said, we do still have a ‘skeleton’ team based in our Reading office to continue assisting our DC, to ensure we fulfil all of our supply commitments to our customers. Needless to say, the workload for our supply chain is unprecedented, but our warehouse team continues to do a fantastic job. TP-Link recently announced new routers aimed at gamers, can you tell us a bit about these products? At CES in January, I was present at the launch of our

connectivity is an extremely important part of our market and thus demand is considerable. Performance and reliability in this segment is key, meaning that price points and budgets are less relevant for this type of user. Esports is an area where we continue to explore and associate our brand with. We believe we are perfectly placed to cater for this market with fantastic new products which deliver top performance. TP-Link was named Networking Vendor of the Year 2020 at the recent PCR awards. How did it feel to win and why do you think the judging panel picked you over the competition? It always feels humbling to see TP-Link achieve recognition from PCR and its judges.

“We have a fully committed team across the whole company, who care about succeeding with our partners and making a difference” new family of AX (or Wi-Fi 6) routers and Mesh (or Whole Home Wi-Fi) devices. Amongst other products, we showcased our Archer AX11000 TriBand router, alongside the brand new AX90. Both of these routers are super-fast, specifically designed for the avid gamer who needs the very best performance from their Wi-Fi network, to avoid lag or drop-out. We also launched our Archer TX3000E Wi-Fi 6 PCI-E card, enabling your desktop PC to benefit from the latest generation of Wi-Fi when connected to a Wi-Fi 6 router. Finally, we also presented a brand new family of Mesh devices, delivering Wi-Fi 6 – Deco X90, X60 and X20. We’re very excited about this ‘game changing’ segment, which will drive further growth for our partners over the next few years. How much demand is there for next-gen connectivity in order to support esports and AR/VR tech? Consumers who are looking for the very latest

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I would like to think that we were chosen for this prestigious award because TP-Link works hard to deliver innovative products to the consumer channel. Additionally, we are committed to supporting our partners as much as possible with regular promotions, educational content and ‘eye catching’ in store POS, alongside class-leading social media partnerships, to engage end users with our brand. I also firmly believe that we have a fully committed team across the whole company, who care about succeeding with our partners and making a difference. What does TP-Link have planned for the rest of the year and beyond? Whilst many of our H2 plans are currently ‘top secret’, we’ll continue to develop and launch class leading products within the networking and smart home categories, driving further growth for our partners. We may also be stepping into one or two new market segments too…who knows, watch this space!

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<Logging off>\\| Out and about in the industry

< Home is where the office is > As a huge portion of the IT and tech channel adjusts to working from home amid the current Covid-19 crisis, we thought it would be great to share some of the best working from home set-ups you, the readers, have sent us over the past few weeks. First up, Ingram Micro ensured that when its Dell account managers started working from home, they not only found a comfy corner to set up their work space, but they had a few treats to get them through this tough time.

Ingram Marketing Executive Amy Lansdell with her Dell t-shirt

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Here are a few snaps the team shared on LinkedIn:

Ingram Account Advisor Sean Collier showing off his personalised treats

Ingram’s Scott Maslyn with his Dell goodies

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“With Covid-19 we want to keep our sales teams engaged and motivated so we decided to create personalised boxes to send to each of our sales teams complete with a leaflet of incentives, a notepad, popcorn, personalised Toblerone, Jelly Beans and a T-Shirt,” explains Ingram Micro’s Amy Lansdell, who manages marketing for Dell.

Ingram’s Laura Roberts treating herself to a Dell face mask

Ingram Accounts Adviser Emily Fearn thoroughly enjoying the popcorn

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<Logging off>\\| Out and about in the industry Here are some more home office shots from around the IT channel:

Brigantia’s Business Development Executive Conor Kilduff working remotely from his home in Leeds

Brigantia’s Operations Controller Vicky James’ busy new home office setup

Brigantia’s Product Marketing Manager Rob Hall’s home office located in his music room

Here’s the home office setup of Paul Knittle, Director of Global Business Strategy at Wireless Analytics, complete with a lovely view

NEXT MONTH JUNE – Security The next issue of PCR will be focused on all things “security”. We’ll be looking at the shape of the current security landscape, and how best to secure new and emerging tech. We will also be running the following sector guides: – Security Hardware – Security Software If you would like to get involved in this issue, here’s how: For editorial enquiries contact Editor Laura Barnes at laura.barnes@biz-media.co.uk. For advertising opportunities, contact Sales Manager Sarah Goldhawk at sarah.goldhawk@biz-media.co.uk.

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