ISSUE 84 SEPTEMBER 2010
We bring you some of the hottest hardware, peripherals and games driving the market
COMPUTER & IT RESELLERS • RETAILERS • SYSTEM BUILDERS LDERS • DISTRIBUTORS • VENDORS
SEPTEMBER 2010 ISSUE 84
HARDWARE · SOFTWARE · CONSUMER ELECTRONICS www.pcr-online.biz
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Issue 84 September 2010 Incorporating
PCR CONTACTS Editor
Andrew Wooden email@example.com
“There is no more obvious reason for the existence of the high-end components market than gaming.”
THE FORGOTTEN CHILD
Matt Grainger firstname.lastname@example.org
PC GAMING has for some time been considered the lame
marketed, zero-maintenance console cousins, the PC
Nicky Trup email@example.com Editorial Production Manager
duck of the gaming world in some circles. Next to the slickly sometimes seem like an afterthought to games publishers. The triple-A titles are there, but with a few notable
Helen French firstname.lastname@example.org
exceptions, they're mainly ports of console versions.
obvious reason for the existence of the high-end
Gemma Messina email@example.com
components market than gaming. No one is upgrading his
for the next version of Internet Explorer.
Lisa Foster firstname.lastname@example.org
But the market is definitely there. There is no more
system with flashy cases and ultra-powerful graphics cards In the past, the chief problem seems to have been representation. Like the wider PC industry, there are
Executive Advertising Manager
Katie Rawlings email@example.com
sometimes dozens of companies responsible for the many components that make up a gaming rig, and when it comes to fully made-up PCs the rivalry between vendors is even
Carly Bailey firstname.lastname@example.org
stronger. This situation is not conducive to anything
easy for Sony to talk about and promote the PS3.
Rosie McKeown email@example.com
approaching a unified voice on PC gaming, whereas it's quite The creation of the PC Gaming Alliance did much to alleviate that – and figures it released last month reveals the
Kelly Styles firstname.lastname@example.org
staggering extent of how many games PCs there are out there (see page 7). The other issue facing PC gaming is that it’s not exactly
Stuart Dinsey email@example.com Marketing & Circulation
Lindsay Banham firstname.lastname@example.org
clear just how many games are being sold, thanks to the now huge number of digitally distributed games. And sales figures are key to the games publishing industry – the commercial performance of a title can make or break a development studio. But there are measures being taken to bring something of a more accurate reading of the true state of sales from
Editorial: 01992 535646 Advertising: 01992 535647 www.pcr-online.biz
games trade association ELSPA, which is working towards releasing regular and accurate sales figures of digital sales. This alone should bring greater clarity into what is a very disparate sector, and with any luck provide a more stable foundation for development investment.
PCR - Total average monthly net circulation for January 1st to December 31st 2009: 11,443 Intent Media is a member of the Periodical Publishers Associations PCR is published 12 times a year by Intent Media - Saxon House, 6a St.Andrew Street, Hertford, Hertfordshire SG14 1JA Fax: +44 (0)1992 535648. © Intent Media 2010 No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior permission of the copyright owners. Printed by Pensord.
As is abundantly clear in this sector, there is no shortage of money to be made out of high-end hardware, and any furthering of the PC games sector can only be a good thing for anyone producing, distributing, or selling it.
Andrew Wooden, Editor email@example.com
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September PCR 3
PCR Contents REGULARS
ISSUE 84 SEPTEMBER 2010
Digital games With game download portals like Steam and Blizzard’s Battlenet on the up, we take a look at the impact of digital distribution on the transitory PC gaming industry ....25
News ......................7 Appointments ...106 Brigantia ............110
Computing Curator Simon Webb talks to PCR about the importance of remembering the lineage of the UK’s PC industry
Sony We talk to three of the electronics giant’s executives about their views on emerging technologies and product categories, from 3D to tablets
FRONTLINE 36 | MYSTERY SHOPPER 40 | INDIE PROFILE 39
Pages 45 - 82
Pages 83 - 92
Pages 93 - 102
We run through the product categories that can have a real impact on a PC’s power, from coolers to power supplies
A look at the entertainment titles that are driving sales of new hardware, from the long-awaited StarCraft II to the latest version of The Sims
With the sector back in growth, we ask industry figures what’s new when it comes to cameras, and present some of the latest products and accessories
Gaming peripherals ..............61 PCR brings you a selection of the hottest products on the market and asks the experts what gamers look for when it comes to peripherals
Graphics cards............................73 We investigate some of the latest developments in the graphics sector, from parallel processing architecture to 3D
Windows Phone 7 gaming An analysis of Microsoft’s plans to bring Xbox Live titles and functionality to its forthcoming mobile operating system..............88
Cherry General manager Michael Groom discusses the ﬁrm’s rise from its humble beginnings to its current position as a multinational peripherals maker
MP NEWS 104 | PCR RECOMMENDED 127 | OUT OF OFFICE 128 September PCR 5
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Who said PC gaming was dead? Industry capitalising on growing market PCs appeal to ‘hardcore gamers’ Digital downloads set to breath new life into the sector ELSPA’s new charts to reflect true state of all game sales By Andrew Wooden
IN THE WAKE of the record shattering StarCraft II launch, and Microsoft’s revival of key PC exclusive franchises at Gamescom last month, the UK IT trade has hailed the resurgent strength of PC gaming According to a recent report by the PC Gaming Alliance, annual shipment volumes for the PC gaming hardware market in 2009 were over two times larger than the combined Wii, PS2, PS3 and Xbox 360 console units shipped in the same period. The report also estimates the number of gaming PCs armed with discrete graphics cards to be $212.6 million for 2009, and expects this to grow to about $322 million by 2013. Key firms from the UK trade have come out this month in support of the sector, which through graphics cards, peripherals, networking, cooling, and other high-end hardware, plays a significant role in the health of the entire industry. “World of Warcraft boasts over 11.5 million subscribers and The Sims 2 has
shipped over 13 million copies,” said Craig Gore, graphics cards, processors and Microsoft product manager at KMS Components. “PC gaming is far from dead, and with companies like Steam working hard to protect the intellectual property rights of game makers, the industry will continue to grow.”
many claim this is not indicative of the demand for triple A PC titles. “PC gaming is massive and will continue to thrive. What we are seeing is development houses trying to control costs by focusing on gaming consoles which, naturally, use older hardware,” said Craig Connell,
“The console market appeals to casual gamers, but the experience is way short of the latest high resolution, multi-screen solutions that can run on the PC. The PC really is the platform of choice for the hardcore gamer.” Bill Donnelly, Sapphire VIP product manager Matthew Parrish added: “I don’t know who’s been saying PC gaming is dead but we’re certainly not seeing that in our sales figures. New games that push the limits of performance always stimulate hardware sales, which is why the launch of category A titles in the run-up to Christmas will boost graphics sales.” Consoles have seen the bulk of marketing and attention from games publishers in recent years, though
AMD’s regional sales manager for Northern Europe. Bill Donnelly, Sapphire’s global PR director, added: “The console market appeals to casual gamers, who can just hook up to the TV and play at very reasonable cost – but the experience is way short of the latest high resolution, multi-screen solutions that can run on the PC to give a much more realistic and immersive experience. The PC with its ability to be upgraded and tuned up
(overclocked) really is the platform of choice for the hardcore gamer.” In the past, the death knell of PC gaming has been sparked by declining sales of box copy games. However, this doesn’t take into account the explosive increase in digitally downloaded titles. Currently it is impossible to track how many games are being sold digitally – but regulatory body Elspa is trying to amend this with new charts designed to reflect the true state of PC games sales. “We are on our way to the first ever publication of a digital distribution games chart. But this is only the start of the process that will, we hope, lead to a chart that includes data from all sectors of the market on both PC and console formats,” said Sam Collins, commercial manager at ELSPA. When asked if digital distribution will strengthen the PC gaming platform, Collins added: “It is already and it will continue to do so. Digital distribution allows greater diversity of products delivered to a variety of PC based gaming platforms. PC as a games format is being reinvented.”
September PCR 7
NewsBytes NEW IPAD RUMOURED FOR CHRISTMAS LAUNCH The Taiwanese press has reported that Apple is working on a second, smaller version of the iPad. Specifically, the reports state that various Taiwanese companies are helping Apple build a seven-inch version of the iPad, including Chimei Innolux (LCD screens) and Cando Corporation (touchscreen technology). It’s thought that the ‘iPad 2’ will be in stores in time for Christmas this year. DELL REPORTS Q2 REVENUE GROWTH Dell has reported $15.5 billion total revenue for the second quarter. The 22 per cent year-on-year growth was driven by strong growth in business hardware and services, the hardware giant said. Servers, storage and enterprise services increased globally, but Dell also saw growth in consumer laptop and desktop business earnings. Emerging economies proved particularly successful, with Brazil, Russia, China and India up by 52 per cent, making them12 per cent of the company’s overall revenue. Net income overall was $545 million, up from $472 million a year before equating to a 16 per cent rise in net income.
VEHO MAKES A MOVE Consumer electronics vendor Veho has moved to a new, larger European headquarters in Southampton, from its previous base in nearby Eastleigh. The new unit will accommodate a team of 30 people with a warehouse big enough to cover logistics across Europe, and is part of the firms ongoing expansion. Veho founder Steve Lewis told PCR: “We are moving in to new bigger premises to accommodate Veho’s continual rapid growth.” The firm has also re-launched its website, which can now be found at www.veho-world.com.
8 PCR September
E-READER SALES UP 150% The UK e-reader market has shot up an impressive 150 per cent over the last ten months, according to research from GfK. The analyst also claims the average price of devices has dropped by 12 per cent, coinciding with a huge influx of new vendors in the market. Sales are projected at around 250,000 per annum within the next two years. Last month Amazon launched its market leading Kindle e-reader in the UK, selling out almost immediately. More are expected early this month. THE SIMS GOES MEDIEVAL EA has revealed that the next installation of The Sims will be set in the Medieval ages. The new version – expected to be available on PC and Mac next Spring – will let players create a medieval kingdom, including details such as heroes, quests, kings, queens, knights, blacksmiths, and bards. “The Middle Ages is a time of intrigue, legend, and excitement. It offers a perfect backdrop for a brand new series from The Sims studio due to the limitless stories that can be told,” said the general manager of EA’s The Sims Studio, Scott Evans. HANNSPREE GETS INTO FASHION Hannspree has signed up as the audio video sponsor of London Fashion Week. The consumer electronics manufacturer will support the show by providing a number of its Hannsnote netbooks in a dedicated bloggers’ bar, as well as strategically placing them around the exhibition centre for added convenience. The firm will also be providing its big screen LED TVs to stream the latest footage of the event around the venue. “We very much feel that the fashion community is a fantastic association for the Hannspree brand and are excited about the new relationships we are bonding,” said Lukas Chong, managing director of Hannspree Europe.
Intel hardware-based security hits next year CHIP GIANT Intel will release a hardware-based security product in 2011, having bought software specialist McAfee late last month. The firm claims that the security software industry ‘does not fully address’ the threats facing the billions of new internet-ready devices being pushed, and that a hardware focussed approach will yield better results. The security market is almost entirely made up of software products, so Intel’s plan on infiltrating it with a totally different approach – and the fact it has an enviably sized cash war chest to throw
at the project – could have significant ramifications for the sector. “Our joint expertise will better protect consumers and businesses and drive innovation across Intel’s product offerings, and, through our world-class labs, add R&D knowledge that could quickly bring entirely new innovations to market,” an Intel spokesperson told PCR. “Hardwareenhanced security will lead to breakthrough innovations. Bringing software closer to the silicon will allow us to strengthen security to more effectively meet the increasingly sophisticated threats of the future.”
Women’s rights group slams IT gender pay gap Equal pay advocates call for new approach as Government unveils pay reform WOMEN’S RIGHTS campaign group The Fawcett Society has called for a change to the way working life is organised following revelations that the IT trade has the largest gender pay disparity of any industry. A recent report from the CMI has revealed that while the average upper tier wage for men is £50,487, the figure sinks to £32,751 for women. In lower levels, men can expect to receive £20,187 on average, while women can expect just £19,068. “The CMI’s new findings suggest the IT industry to be the worst performing in terms of gender pay disparities, and supports Fawcett’s analysis that discrimination still exists and is experienced routinely by women in the workplace,” the Fawcett Society’s policy and campaigns officer, Preethi Sundaram told PCR. “The economic recession has worsened women’s economic
inequalities and this is reflected in CMI’s findings that show that over the last 12 months, 4.5 per cent of the female workforce has been made redundant compared with just three per cent of men.”
“The CMI’s new findings suggest the IT industry to be the worst performing in terms of gender pay disparities, and supports Fawcett’s analysis that discrimination still exists.” Preethi Sundaram, The Fawcett Society The findings from the CMI has also prompted the Government to take action; from October this year, businesses will no longer legally be able to stop employees comparing their salaries with their colleagues.
“Bringing an end to the culture of pay secrecy will make it easier for women to find out if they are being paid less than men,” said a spokesman for the Government Equalities Office. “If we are going to rebuild our economy and return to sustainable growth we need to capitalise on the wealth of talent that women have to offer businesses today.” However, Sundaram also urged those employers who have already closed the pay gap to raise their profile: “Employers in the IT industry who have implemented equal pay should actively publicise what they have done and how they have gained from it. The IT industry should be encouraged to extend its budgetary perspective – a longer term view will be more likely to show the harder-to-evaluate qualitative gains of tackling inequality – such as greater staff loyalty and morale, increased productivity, and talent retention.”
Chinese giant courts UK channel Delta Electronics creates Innergie brand for consumer-facing power supplies “We believe that, at this moment, both highpower and low-power products are going to be a much more important category for the consumer.” Samy Moustafa, Innergie
Chinese manufacturing giant Delta Electronics, the world’s largest provider of power supplies, is seeking the support of the UK channel as it looks to leverage its manufacturing muscle with its own consumer brand, Innergie. The Chinese firm is seeking to create a strong and well-recognised brand in order to position itself as a market leader ahead of standardisation of power supplies. To do so, it has created a range of consumer facing power supply products and accessories that will appeal to mobile device users. “We believe that, at this moment, both high-power and low-power
products are going to be a much more important category for the consumer,” Innergie’s EMEA director, Samy Moustafa told PCR. One of the first products, the mCube Slim, a universal power adapter that is no bigger than an iPhone will be unveiled at IFA, with other devices, such as a power adapter for the iPad that can charge the device in thirty minutes, in the pipeline. A key focus for the company is the reseller and independent retail channel, due to their unique ability to communicate the benefits of a product to their customers.
Samy Moustafa, Innergie
“I think that is a huge benefit to any company that wants to educate the customer before they purchase,” said Moustafa. “These guys will make sure they’re matching the right product to the customer because in the end they’re the face of the company to the customer. They’re an expansion of any brand.”
September PCR 9
Management shuffle at Gem as distie giant reveals further major expansion Peacock moves into group MD role New warehouse opens Distributor acquires second French firm By Lisa Foster
GEM HAS announced a tactical restructure, opening a new warehouse facility, shuffling senior management and further expanding its presence in mainland Europe. The group’s primary distribution division, Gem Logistics, has just opened the doors of a new warehouse site in Raunds, near Northampton. This new site will operate alongside Gem’s existing distribution, finance and customer service facility in Altham. The new warehouse gives the firm some 245,000 square feet in which to comfortably operate its current primary distribution business for partners such as Ubisoft and 505 Games among others, as well as offering the spare capacity to attract new business opportunities from DVD, music, toy and consumer electronics clients. “This new site will allow us to develop and secure our logistics business, as well as giving us the opportunity to work closely with existing customers to provide end user fulfilment, storefront distribution and outsourced logistics solutions,” said Alan Lynch, Gem Logistics’ operations director. “This new site helps Gem futureproof our business and allows us to meet the growing demands of our valued partner base.” The opening of the Raunds operation comes on the back of Gem’s latest European expansion, with the firm having finalised its acquistion of French distributor Comtrade at the end of August. Comtrade joins fellow French division Banque Magnetique
“It’s a very exciting time for the Gem Group. We are continuing to expand our footprint across Europe, taking the Gem experience and values to markets outside of the UK." Chris Peacock, Gem
under the Gem Group umbrella, with further European expansion and acquisitions now on the cards. The flurry of activity at the Gem Group has also seen a number of senior management changes, with UK MD Chris Peacock now moving into a Gem Group MD role. Similarly, erstwhile UK financial director Doug Yarker expands his remit to cover the Gem Group. With both Peacock and Yarker having moved into group roles, developing Gem’s European acquisition opportunities, former sales director Darren Houghton has been promoted to UK general manager for
Gem Distribution, with full responsibility for its sales, purchasing and marketing functions. Alan Lynch becomes Gem UK operations director. While retaining overall responsibility for the Altham logistics business, Lynch will relocate to the Raunds area to manage the entire Gem Logistics division. With Chris Watkin having recently joined the group as European business development director, Neil Willerton now on board as UK channel development director, Tracey Tennison broadening her remit to cover both purchasing and strategic sales and Dean Van Velson undertaking essential research and development responsibility in the area of digital distribution, Gem Group is clearly in a position of strength to meet the challenging demands of a rapidly changing market place. “It’s a very exciting time for the Gem Group,” said Chris Peacock. “With the acquisition of Comtrade, we are continuing to expand our footprint across Europe, taking the Gem experience and values to markets outside of the UK. “At the same time, the opening of our new warehouse in Raunds will allow Gem Logistics to continue to offer our partners a best in class solution, whilst giving us the space to attract and support new business opportunities. “These new developments for the business have meant a new structure for our management team, too, and I am delighted to announce these new appointments and promotions across the group.”
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No holiday for IT trade Large numbers of business owners don’t take time off for fear of driving customers elsewhere By Nicky Trup
MANY IT resellers did not take a holiday this summer and routinely use just a fraction of their annual leave due to financial concerns or the fear of losing business, PCR has found. Az Ashraf, managing director of Newport-based A2Z Computing, said he had not taken a holiday for two years. “It’s the workload and not knowing what’s going to happen in the current market climate,” he said. Darren Falkner, managing director of Falcon Computers in Sunderland, was left with 12 unused holiday days in the last financial year, and also spent around 50 of his regular days off at work. He said this was primarily down to opening a new store just before the recession hit. “I had ten people all wanting wages at the end of each week, bills to pay and huge rent and rates, so I buried myself into work,” he told PCR. “It’s
my company so I don’t mind; at the end of the day, you only get out what you put in. I do, however, plan on a more relaxed time this year round.” “It’s not easy to get away when you’re running your own business,” said George Nicola, owner of Tiptree Computers in Essex. “As I am basically a one-man band, when I do leave for a length of time I have to explain to someone how to get in touch with this supplier or that customer, and so on.” There is also concern that being unavailable could drive customers elsewhere. Jat Mann, managing director of the PC Pal franchise, said that his business has won a lot of custom over the summer from people whose “usual PC guy” is on holiday. A recent survey by the IT Job Board found that 34 per cent of IT workers do not use their full holiday allowance, with around 40 per cent saying that they don’t take longer holidays because there is nobody to cover for them.
September PCR 13
Industry body calls for universal 3D standard CEA hopes to open up the market to third party firms and cut retail prices By Nicky Trup
3D TECHNOLOGY will not become widespread among home users until 3D glasses are universal, according to industry body, the CEA. The Consumer Electronics Association, which puts together the mammoth consumer electronics expo CES in Las Vegas, is currently working with manufacturers, including Sony and Samsung, to create a standard for infrared active shutter glasses, so they can be used interchangeably across all brands of 3D TV. “The feeling is that to make a real market then you need replacement glasses, you need third-party glasses,” Brian Markwalter, the CEA’s vice president of research and standards, told PCR. “What you want is a situation where you can take your active glasses from your house to somebody else’s
and have them work. The feeling is that 3D is going to be event-driven, with sports games and stuff, so if you have six people over to watch something in 3D you don’t want to have to buy six pairs of $150 glasses.”
Brian Markwalter, CEA
“The feeling is that to make a real market then you need replacement glasses, you need third-party glasses.” Brian Markwalter, CEA The CEA hopes to have a first draft of the standard available in November, so that manufacturers can incorporate it into new televisions as early as 2011. Markwalter believes that the move could open up opportunities for thirdparty manufacturers, in turn lowering the cost for end users.
Retail Imaging Show reaches out to IT dealers ORGANISER OF the Retail Imaging Show is calling for collaboration with the IT industry, as it becomes more entwined with the imaging market. The show, which takes place on Friday October 22nd, is run in collaboration with Canon, Fujifilm, Sony, Panasonic, Pentax and Casio. Simon Skinner, marketing director at
“The Retail Imaging Show offers a natural step for anyone in the IT channel to explore the imaging industry.” Simon Skinner, Park View Media
Park View Media, argues these companies have an increasing amount to offer PC and IT based retailers. “The lines are becoming ever more blurred with traditional camera shops stocking more and more products like memory, LCD displays and software, whilst other areas of electronic retail are embracing the opportunities that
come from the imaging sector with ever increasing enthusiasm. “In a time where retailers are looking at opportunities to diversify their product lines, the show offers a natural step for anyone in the IT channel to explore the imaging industry, meet new suppliers, source high margin products and network in a dealer only environment.”
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ANALYSIS BUSINESS IT SPENDING
Industry Opinions With continued doubts over the long-term streangth of the UK economic recovery, we asked a panel of industry experts: Do you think fears of a double dip recession are going to impact consumer and business IT spending?
Co-Founder and Managing Director, Geeks-on-Wheels
EMEA Inside Sales Director, Kingston
Business Development Director, Channel Assist
UK Regional Marketing Manager, SanDisk
IN MY opinion the VAT increase in January 2011 will affect both business and IT spending in Q1, however I do not expect it to last. The main business segment affected will be within the public sector where there will be a major cutback on IT spending. I am not looking forward to January, but if we ring fence the public sector then I am quietly confident business and consumer IT spending will pick up from Q2 2011.
We operate globally in booming as well as sluggish markets. Even across EMEA we see different economic trajectories. Our sales data so far does not show any double dip. We know from several crisis periods in the past that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. When the economy stutters or the memory market is in turmoil, Kingston fares better than other memory vendors due to our sound business model. As a result we usually end up gaining market share.
CONSUMERS are likely to remain cautious about spending in response to the economic uncertainty and the pending budgetary VAT increase. Seasonal price promotions in the run up to Christmas and throughout the January sales are likely to be a key mechanism to drive sales. However, retailers will need to find more innovative ways to entice customers to purchase to sustain sales throughout the first half of next year.
THE LAST FEW months of 2008 marked the bottom of the industry down cycle, with all flash memory manufacturers operating at negative margins and reporting heavy losses. Yet, despite the recession, global demand for NAND flash has continued to grow over the past year and by the second half of 2009, flash manufacturers returned to 100 per cent capacity utilisation.
Sales Director, Meroncourt
Sales and Marketing Director, Westcoast
Founder and Chairman, Accountz
Managing Director, PR Zone
I THINK any talk like this depresses the market – the ‘doom and gloom’ culture is something we tend to be quite good at in the UK. Coming up to Q4 any further bad financial news will have a greater impact than it did last year. For last year’s Christmas period a lot of consumers continued to spend while they could and waited to see how things panned out for 2010. As we know, it’s not been a great year so I suspect they may be more conservative this time around.
THE ONLY fear I have of a double dip recession is constantly being told there is going to be one! There is a great latent demand for technology in the business community as UK businesses strive to improve security and productivity – Windows 7, Office 2010, virtualisation and cloud services will all deliver growth in this sector this year. I don’t think the channel has ever been stronger – channel coalition will stave off any recession talk!
THE MEDIA is already debating whether the economy has been contracting during the current quarter of 2010, and this has been driven by the fears generated over the increase in national insurance and the planned hike in VAT next year. But it could be argued that economists find the concept of a double-dip useful because it will help them explain away poor predictions (plus it makes for interesting copy!).
THE DOOM and gloom mongers spent the start of the year talking about how terrible the market was. Then Intel closed Q2 up 34 per cent and AMD up 43 per cent. At the same time, we saw record queues for the iPad. Consumer spending is there, but does your company have the right product? That said, the single biggest factor in whether the PC industry has a good time or a bad time, is completely out of our control. The dollar rate will dictate everything.
September PCR 17
INTERVIEW MUSEUM OF COMPUTING
History boys As the Museum of Computing celebrates the first anniversary of its move to its new premises in Swindon, Andrew Wooden talks to curator Simon Webb...
Below: Intel’s Gordon Graylish, flanked by Simon Webb, Jeremy Holt and the Museum of Computing’s volunteer staff at the grand opening
THE TECHNOLOGY industry is forever looking to the future, permanently preoccupied with the next big thing to such an extent that it can be easy to forget the lineage that got us here in the first place. There are some hoarding the secrets of past though – one such organisation being the Museum of Computing in Swindon. The museum is dedicated to the history of computers and digital
the code breaking of Colossus during WWII and goes on to trace the development of the mini computer. ‘Work and Play’ looks at the emergence of the personal computer, which Webb claims is the section where most grown men go misty-eyed. ‘Computing on the Move’ charts the history of the mobile computer, ‘Calculator’ covers mechanical and electronic calculators, and ‘Pong to Playstation’ provides a
“We aim to educate and enlighten people about the history about the history of one of the most important inventions ever. We also make sure that people have alot of fun.” Simon Webb, Museum of Computing development, and was the first physical museum of its kind in the UK. It opened in 2003, having initially been conceived by Jeremy Holt, a Swindon solicitor specialising in IT law some ten years earlier. While he was getting together support for the project, curator Simon Webb began putting the collection together. “When the University of Bath in Swindon offered us premises, Jeremy was delighted, and my wife Linda was thrilled at getting most of our house back,” says Webb. “We aim to educate and enlighten people about the history of one of the most important inventions ever. We also make sure that people have a lot of fun. The museum is a not-for-profit organisation run entirely by volunteers, we get no Government or local authority funding.” The museum is split into five zones. ‘Digital Dinosaurs’ starts at Charles Babbage and the Difference Engine,
18 PCR September
history of video gaming. Webb believes in such a fast moving industry, its more important than ever to record our computing heritage. “There are few areas where technology has moved so fast. We are in danger of losing sight of where we came from – a school pupil visiting may never have seen a slide rule! There are always lessons to be learned. One of my favourite exhibits is the Osborne 1, one of the first affordable portable business computers. A wonderful machine but when the company announced a new improved version, sales of the Osborne 1 stopped and the company folded.” Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. It’s a mantra that’s been flying around in financial circles since then beginning of the recession, and perhaps one that can be attributed to the IT sector as well. And it’s always good to take a trip down memory lane.
PCR AWARD WINNERS STONE COMPUTERS
Stone CEO James Bird (right) outside the firm’s new headquarters with group technical services manager Richard Stockdale
Rock stars We’ve been talking to the winners of this year’s PCR Awards to find out what each company has been up to since collecting their prestigious prize. This month, Stone Group CEO James Bird discusses winning the Value Added Reseller Award… "Our relationships with quality partners form an important part of our business, so to be recognised for success in this arena is very important." James Bird, Stone
STONE WAS built upon the principle that good old-fashioned customer service is integral to the successful delivery of IT hardware. As the UK’s largest privately-owned computer hardware manufacturer, this idea remains at the centre of the business today, and we strive to deliver the very best service to our public sector customers. This could not be achieved without partnering with best-in-breed manufacturers and software vendors. Being presented the Value Added Reseller Award at the PCR Awards is fantastic recognition of our commitment to providing our customers with the best possible service through our relationships with quality partners such as Intel, Microsoft, Samsung and AMD. These
partnerships form an important part of our business, so to be recognised for success in this arena is very important. Stone has recently increased the choice and product specification flexibility offered to its public sector customers by entering into a partnership agreement with AMD, which enables us to incorporate the firm’s Athlon II dual-core and quadcore processors into our product lines. Stone has also recently been awarded Mobile Computing Platinum Partner Status by Samsung, the highest level of reseller accreditation that Samsung grants. The award is presented in recognition of Stone’s selling expertise, focus on customer service and the fact that it is the only Samsung reseller to
be re-awarded supplier status as part of the National Desktop and Notebook Agreement membership scheme. These achievements have come at a busy time for Stone, as we have recently moved to our new 100,000 square foot premises. The configuration capacity of our production line has subsequently increased from 50 to 150 units per hour, meaning that we are now able to produce in excess of 500,000 units per year. The facility also includes a line to accommodate upgrades to branded notebooks. The PCR Value Added Reseller Award is a great reward for all our efforts in this area, and I would like to thank everybody who voted for Stone.
September PCR 23
ANALYSIS DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION
Digital Britain With a growing number of PC gaming purchases being made and downloaded online, the digital distribution model has quietly risen in prominence. Andrew Wooden examines the benefits and drawbacks that digital distribution brings to the industry and talks to some of its pioneers... “We focus on the players and what they want, and in some cases they want digital, and in others they want a retail box.” Mike Ryder, Blizzard
THE PC GAMING market is full of mixed messages. On the one hand, you’ve had people ringing the death knell of Windows-based gaming for years, then something like StarCraft II launches and 1.5 million people come out of the woodwork to snap it up in the first two days of availability. Anyone who’s visited games shops over the years will attest to how much less shelf space PC games get compared to the console titles. However the components required for putting together gaming rigs have remained relatively steady – suggesting that the market is still as strong. The implication of all this seems to be that the gap left by retail is being proportionately filled by direct download services, the most successful of which is Steam.
The PC Gaming Alliance – a conglomerate board representing major firms from the tech and games industries such as Intel, Sony, Microsoft, Nvidia and Capcom – is forcasting that by 2013 digital sales will somewhere north of $5 billion. Retail sales are expected to continue to decline to less than $2 billion. TRACKING SALES However it can be difficult to find out exactly which games are selling where in a standard weekly chart – as digitally distributed games cannot be tracked as easily as they are through physical retail channels. Sam Collins, commercial manager at ELSPA – the organisation tasked with overseeing and regulating the gaming industry – says that it is
working to overcome this with a brand new digitally focussed initiative. “The simple answer is that no one knows for sure. This is the driving force behind the new PC digital distribution chart recently announced by ELSPA. We are undertaking a closed three month beta trial using data from our membership and this data will be compiled by chart specialists GFK Chart-Track. We are on our way to the first ever publication of a digital distribution games chart. But this is only the start of the process that will, we hope, lead to a chart that includes data from all sectors of the market on both PC and console formats.” The existence of hard data will presumably give publishers a clearer idea
September PCR 25
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ANALYSIS DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION
“It’s given an outlet for many titles that retail wouldn’t have taken due to a lack of shelf space and lack of marketing budgets, and given those games a chance to shine.” Miles Jacobson, Sports Interactive
StarCraft II did well at retail but other games didn’t get the shelf space
of just how much demand there is out there and for which particular type of game. This could boost investment after years of seeing financial attention shift towards the console market. Retail remains a vital part of the network, however. Mike Ryder, VP and managing director of international operations at Blizzard, publisher of Starcraft 2 told us at the games launch: “We focus on the players and what they want, and in some cases they want digital, and in others they want a retail box.”
INDIE BENEFITS While it’s true that Starcraft 2 performed well both in terms of retail and digital sales, it’s key to remember that it was one of the most anticipated games of all time, having seen over a decade since its last instalment and enjoying massive popularity in many markets. The current lack of shelf
Above: Miles Jacobson; Below left: Mike Ryder; Below right: Sam Collins
space is making it harder for less prominent games to get a look in. Digital distribution, Miles Jacobson, studio director at Sports Interactive asserts, is providing a vital role for these titles, and for the wider market. “It already has [strengthened the trade]. It’s given an outlet for many titles that retail wouldn’t have taken due to lack of shelf space and lack of marketing budgets, and given those games the chance to shine. Games like Torchlight and World of Goo would
have struggled to get any shelf space at launch due to them being new IP’s with little marketing backing, and both did very well digitally.” It’s likely that a growing amount of emphasis is going to be put on digital distribution with regards to the PC gaming market, while this may be bad news for some bricks and mortar games retailers, it actually looks to be opening up more opportunities for the market as a whole, and by extension, for high-end hardware sales too.
September PCR 27
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28 PCR September
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Sony rock ‘n’ roll... With interests spanning the technology market and beyond, Sony could be considered about the broadest player in the industry – and it has big plans to lead the way in new, exciting sectors. Andrew Wooden talks to bosses from the B2B, consumer-focused and imaging divisions of Sony UK… “We’re much more concerned with what consumers think of us than what we think about others – if we get that right, then market share will naturally follow.” Anthony Brown, Sony
THERE AREN’T many companies with as wide a reach as Sony. From its origins as a transistor radio maker in the 1950s, the company has grown to be active in most of the key technology sectors, and is leveraging this diversity to dive straight into new and emerging ones.
The company’s history in the UK predates the vast majority of tech firms by decades. Sony United Kingdom was founded in 1968, and six years later it became the first major Japanese firm to open a factory here. Sony UK now employs around 4,500 people, and has two factories in Bridgend and Pencoed. The firm has outlived a number of market sectors it had a hand in developing, and it currently produces TVs, DVD players, cameras, camcorders, PCs, e-readers, stereo systems, mp3 players, games consoles, headphones, memory devices, car audio systems, movie licenses, record labels and more besides. Being involved in so many markets has put Sony in a strong position to take advantage of the latest technological trends – convergence being one of the most popular buzz words of the industry at the moment.
One example of this is 3D – what many see as the great white hope of consumer tech. As well as manufacturing PCs and TV screens capable of showing 3D pictures, the firm also has a hand in the media itself, through its Sony Pictures division. It also produces professional cameras that shoot broadcast-quality 3D footage, and a range of cameras and camcorders aimed at consumers. Sony’s plan for the next year is to plough straight into new markets such as this, and it will be looking to create growth across its multiple divisions. To get the full lowdown, we’ve spoken to Anthony Brown, category head for network communications, covering the Vaio, Reader and Walkman brands, digital imaging division head Rachel Banin, and Jonathan White, head of the B2B division at Sony UK.
September PCR 29
INTERVIEW SONY Anthony Brown Category head for network communications, encompassing the Vaio, Walkman and Reader brands
>>> “3D is a massive deal for us. It’s a market that’s going to see huge explosions this year and in the coming years. Our ambition is to be the brand which is completely known for 3D.” Anthony Brown, Sony
The consumer side of Sony’s PC business has traditionally been much stronger than the B2B division. How are consumer tech sales going, now that spending has been reined in? What we’re doing to drive growth in sales, which is something we’re enjoying at the moment, is not any special recipe. Culturally in Sony right now there’s a big shift. We’re much more concerned with what consumers think of us than what we think about others – if we get that right, then market share will naturally follow. And so far that does seem to be happening – we are growing in a market that has been quite depressed. Sony are almost in a unique when it comes to 3D, in that as well as the hardware it also owns a media arms that can be leveraged as part of a push, as well as the cameras. How much of a driver is 3D going to be in the consumer electronic market?
30 PCR September
3D is a massive, massive deal for us. It’s a market that’s going to see huge explosions this year and in the coming years. Our ambition is to be the brand which is completely known for 3D – that goes for the Bravia television range right through to the Vaio line up as well. In terms of its relevance to computing, to begin with it will be relatively small in relation to the wider market. If you think about consumers who would really benefit from 3D, you’ve obviously got games and those who use the PC very much for entertainment. I think it’s going to be relatively small in the first instance, but we can’t discount it as being niche going forwards. The Vaio PC division is a hugely important part of your business – do you think the emerging tablet sector is going to harm the laptop market? The tablet market is going to grow the category overall, but I also think some of those sales will be substitutional. If we look at the US, where there’s a little bit more history, though it obviously is still a very new market there, the netbooks sales were initially the
category that seemed to get hit. And I have to say so far in the UK we haven’t seen that trend. The feedback I’ve been getting from within the channel is that actually the bigger impact will be on low-end notebooks. Products like the iPad, which is obviously the one that’s very prominent right now, have taken a lot of the discretionary and impulsive spend out of the low-price notebook market. That seems to explain why the sector has been harder hit, which fortunately for us isn’t one that we operate within. That seems to have been hit hardest in terms of taking sales out of the marketplace.
process for the vast majority of consumers these days. They’re thinking more about how long something is going to last them, rather than the impulsive purchasing behaviour that we have seen in the past. That’s a direct result of the recession. We’ve talked about the recession for a long time now, but now for the first time its actually starting to affect consumers. We know from a lot of the research we’ve done that people’s disposable income for the first time is coming under a bit of pressure. It seems to me that the way people are reacting is not to buy the cheapest product in the PC market, but to see where they can get the best value.
What’s the biggest factor for consumers considering technology purchases at the moment? If you’d have asked me that question 12 months ago I’d have said price. Now I would say its value. Now there is a very different type of consumer behaviour – it tends to mean that there is a more considered purchase
INTERVIEW SONY Jonathan White Head of the B2B division
The bulk of your revenue comes from consumer sales, an area in which you are a market leader. How would you say you are positioned in the business space, and can you become a leader there as well? We don’t see ourselves as being a top three player within the business market – our product portfolio would not allow us to do that anyway. The key thing for us is that we don’t play in the entry-level notebook market like some of our competitors do, especially those that have had massive growth in the last two to three years – a brand like Acer springs to mind. We have consciously over the last 12 months made an effort to try and add value into the price point sectors where we’re stronger, and Vaio has always been about very strong product design or differentiating with the feature set. I have no intention, or the product set, to push Vaio into a major enterprise space, but what we are seeing, certainly within business and SMBs, is a bit of a fragmentation of the sorts of notebook PCs that people are buying. This has seen a return to people buying a product that has more longevity, and a longer life cycle. I do see growth for us. Which product area in particular has been growing? Last year we had a tough year for sure, most companies in the computer and AV industry had similarly tough years, but this year is much better, an awful lot better. We’re seeing improvements really across the board. Sony in a way is quite unique – especially in the B2B division in the UK. We can sell anything from a 3D outside broadcast system to a dictation machine. Obviously there’s a multitude of markets that take those products, but it means we can take an approach that some of our competitors cant take. Can you give us an example? Something we’re currently rolling out is based on classroom capture. This allows the teacher to record a lesson from a number of different cameras within the environment, and focus either on what they’re saying or what the whiteboard’s saying, what the videos are saying or what the pupils are saying. Once that information is captured, it can be played back from
the server. That’s a solution we have seen some good success with over the past year. All the different aspects of that – cameras, software, broadcast equipment – they come from all different divisions of Sony, so it is a good example of how we can put together a solution that involves lots of different areas. Another really interesting area is video security. Security is going through a massive change, from an analogue world to an IP world, where security is hung off an existing or a new IT network. That’s something we have seen massive growth in this year. We had a good start to the year in terms of sales of both cameras and IP units. That is a market IT resellers could get involved in, which is becoming more to do with IT than it is to do with just purely video security.
“We’ll see tablets used by some senior execs and in some vertical solutions, but as far as mass market adoption, just like the previous generation of tablets, they’re going to lag behind what you see in the consumer space.” Jonathan White, Sony
Is there a market for tablets in the business sector? As an organisation we expect to see quite a rapid expansion of the tablet market in the UK over the next 12 months. We look at it with interest, and I think the adoption might be more limited in the business space until a tablet matures to the stage that it can be used in an enterprise. We’ll see tablets used by some senior execs and in some vertical solutions, but as far as mass market adoption, just like the previous generation of tablets, they’re going to lag behind what you see in the consumer space, until there are those applications which justify an IT director investing in them in a business sense. In certain vertical markets tablets would make sense, in terms of enterprise I don’t think there’s the solution yet, and I think that will hinder any sort of rapid growth. White says Sony has no intention of joining the entrylevel notebook market, but instead focuses on value
>>> September PCR 31
INTERVIEW SONY Rachel Banin Head of the digital imaging division
Not so long ago it seemed cameras were sold almost exclusively on the number of megapixels they could handle. What would you say the main drivers in the market are now? Many of the camera markets are quite mature – people have been purchasing digital cameras for some time, but I think people are now expecting much more from their devices, and that continues to drive the market. So it’s really about people upgrading their devices and looking really good value for money in terms of what that can deliver, so a lot of devices now are capable of quite good quality still and moving images. We discovered that with the launch of our NEX product in July. It’s an interchangeable lens camera that’s capable if full high definition movie as well as really high quality still image Sony’s NEX camera range allows users to take 3D photos
32 PCR September
capture. We’ve tapped into the capabilities of a DSLR and put them into a compact size body. It’s meeting those sorts of needs which are really creating the opportunities for us at the moment in the marketplace.
"People are now expecting much more from their devices, and that continues to drive the market. It’s really about people upgrading and looking really good value for money in terms of what that can deliver." Rachel Banin, Sony So like smartphones and tablets, much of the development now is essentially about miniaturisation? It’s certainly an area where we see a lot of growth opportunity. The market has shown that there’s a huge consumer appetite for this sort of product, and we’ve really been seeing a lot of success with the NEX camera since its launch. If you look at the other end of the spectrum you’ve got less specialist devices. Like our range of mp4 video capturing Bloggie products. These combine the ability to capture high definition movie content with the convenience of instantly uploading
it to the web. It’s an example of a camera offering much more than it used to do. You have been one of the first to really jump on consumer 3D cameras. How big a factor is this going to be in the camera market going forward? The 3D options are on the new Cybershot models, but also on the NEX models. The results are really impressive and it gives a great effect. The core drive is getting professional quality features into a compact camera, and 3D is a plus on top of that. It’s something that gives a ‘wow’. If you’ve got the technology to display it it’s a really great feature to have. It kind of reinforces the sense of the camera being able to do everything. Are all these new features not bumping up the average retail price of cameras? In some areas the average price of cameras is increasing year-on-year, but you can see consumers recognising that when they upgrade their equipment in order to have a camera which has either the interchangeable lens, some more creative options, movie shooting, or a high zoom on a compact camera – if they are willing to invest a little more they get a much better camera for their money. The market data is reflecting that. But at the same time they are expecting their own device to do much, much more.
PCR’s monthly look at the issues facing the retail sector
FRONTLINE Statistics and analysis about the month’s best selling products and wider retail trends P 39
INDIE PROFILE We sit down with Betty Daniels of Refesh Computers in Hampshire P 40
MYSTERY SHOPPER PCR heads to the capital in search of a new speaker system
September PCR 35
RETAIL FOCUS FRONTLINE
From the Frontline This month Infinite Field Marketing has visited 250 stores across the nation to gather real ‘grass roots’ feedback and opinion on the bestselling products in-store and the issues affecting the industry... INTEL’S CORE I3 MAKES IT BEST SELLER DEBUT FOR THE FIRST time ever, our top selling laptop computer – the Packard Bell Easynote TM86 – hosts an Intel Core i3 processor. Despite the fact that these chips have only been generally available since the beginning of this year, they have rapidly grown in prominence as the ‘must-have’ mobile cores, due to their relatively high power and low energy consumption. In addition to this, the Easynote also carries 3GB of RAM and Intel’s integrated HD graphics. The Dell Inspiron N5010 also utilises a Core i3, and is intended to be a replacement for a desktop PC. It utilises an Intel Series 5 chipset with 3GB of DDR3 RAM and 320GB of storage memory. Despite this laudable checklist, the device has rather limited graphics support, with reviewers reporting ‘choppy’ frame rates for game and movie playback. The best-selling desktop – the Acer Aspire X3300 – has also been criticised for a lack of dedicated graphics, featuring Nvidia integrated graphics on an AMD chipset. However, it offers a good budget solution for everyday users. Meanwhile, many of the other entries show continued consumer interest in allin-one and touchscreen solutions, namely the HP Touchsmart, the touch enabled Acer Aspire Z5700 and the Sony Vaio VPC-L13 all-in-one. The keyboard and mouse sections also show a previously observed trend, with the top sellers being a mix of low-end cheap products and higher cost ergonomically designed devices. The implication is that many customers are willing to pay a little extra when they can see the benefits of a premium product. firstname.lastname@example.org
36 PCR September
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RETAIL FOCUS FRONTLINE
Infinite FMS is a specialist field marketing provider delivering bespoke solutions purely for the technology sector. With over ten years experience, we understand how to support manufacturers with the execution of their below-the-line campaigns, ensuring brands are reinforced, product messages are effectively delivered and sales objectives are achieved. Our services include product training, compliance & data capture, promotion & demonstration activity, Mystery Shopping & Roadshows. To learn more about how we can support you, please contact us on 01793 686504 or visit our website at www.infinitefms.com
Do you think the announcement that Apple will be giving away free cases will be damaging to the third party iPhone product market? The overall consensus seems to be that the length of time from ordering a free case to actually receiving the item has meant that many users have opted to buy their own version rather than wait for the free one. Yes 11% No 89%
NEWS BYTES UK E-TAIL SEES BIGGEST GROWTH SPURT SINCE 2007 UK online spending on electricals rose 17 per cent year-on-year in July, contributing to e-tail’s biggest annual leap since 2007. According to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, British shoppers spent £5 billion on internet shopping in July, the most in any month this year and an 18 per cent rise on the same period last year. David Smith, managing director of IMRG said: “With over half of the UK population online at least once a day it is no surprise that online sales continue to grow impressively year-on-year.”
VAT RISE THE ‘LEAST WORST’ OPTION FOR RETAIL
KEY RETAILER COMMENTS “Since Best Buy has opened we are getting more enquiries but fewer sales.”
“Customers are now looking for faster laptops as opposed to the screen size.”
BEST BUY AINTREE LAUNCHING THIS MONTH Best Buy will open its fourth UK store in Aintree, Merseyside, this month. Situated at the Racecourse Retail Park, the new store will be of a similar scale to the existing three sites. After the Aintree launch, Best Buy will open stores in Croydon and Derby in the autumn, followed by Bristol and Nottingham in Spring/Summer 2011.
“Business could be better, but we expect things to improve in the next few months when students return to university.” “We want more all-in-ones. Customers ask for them and we don’t really have a wide choice to offer.”
Next January's VAT rise will have a relatively small impact on retailers and could even provide a short-term boost to the sector, according to the KPMG Synovate Retail Think Tank. The RTT warns that the only real danger is that the increase could spark wider economic changes, such as inflation, which would affect consumer spending. According to the RTT, the rise in VAT is preferable to a shard increase in direct taxation, making it the "least worst” option for the sector.
WOOLWORTHS STORES REMAIN EMPTY
“Sony is bringing out some great bits of technology. The web access without turning it on is brilliant; a fantastic selling feature.”
40 per cent of former Woolworths branches are still empty, the Local Data Company has found. The figure is a small change from last July, when 60 per cent of the stores were unoccupied. From a regional perspective, all of the chain’s old units are occupied in the Channel Islands, while 80 per cent of the London stores are taken. By contrast, around 50 per cent of ex-Woolworths branched in Northern Ireland are still empty. 2.1 per cent of the 807 ex-Woolworths units around the UK are already on their second tenant since the retailer collapsed in 2008.
September PCR 37
RETAIL FOCUS REFRESH COMPUTERS Consumer and Business ^ŽŌǁĂƌĞ
Indie Profile This month Roger Humm talks to Betty Daniels, proprietor of Refresh Computers in Purbrook, Hampshire...
REFRESH COMPUTERS was founded in 2003, and bought by manager Betty Daniels in 2009. “I was happy to purchase the business in 2009, despite the recession, as we had built up a very loyal local customer base. We pride ourselves on offering friendly customer service and excellent levels of support. Often people just want a bit of help and advice, not just a sales pitch, and I believe that is where we excel,” says Daniels, a computer retailing veteran who has been in the industry since 1995. “We now have a new website that’s linked to our Sage accounts system and provides up-to-date stock levels for our site.” Refresh has also opened a repair and upgrade department, which is driving growth for the business. “We provide a wide range of computer services at reasonable prices,” comments Daniels. “Our technician Matt Wilson has been in the industry for many years and, as well as sorting out repairs, he is able to provide high quality and reliable advice on how to prevent future problems occurring.” When asked why customers choose Refresh, Daniels says: “People choose us because we give an excellent, friendly service and they can speak to us on any level, whether they are experienced or novices at computing.
“The growth in our industry seems to be moving toward media gateway category products designed to allow users to link their PC to a TV and stream their favourite television programmes, photos and music. We intend to become the trusted local experts in this field.”
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FACT BOX Year established: 2003 Number of outlets: 1 Number of staff: 1 Regular vendor lines: AMD, AVG, Intel, Epson, Freecom, JetTec, Microsoft, Netgear, Samsung, Trust Contact name and address: Betty Daniels, 22 London Road, Purbrook, Waterlooville, Hampshire PO7 5LJ Telephone: 023 9226 2900 Email: email@example.com Website: www.refreshcomputers.com Roger Humm is Head of Membership Relations at Brigantia Computer Experts – firstname.lastname@example.org
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RETAIL FOCUS MYSTERY SHOPPER
London This month Mystery Shopper goes on the prowl for a cinema sound experience for movies and gaming – what are the best 2.1 and 5.1 speaker systems available and what else might be needed to get the best performance? We find out on Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road…
SELFRIDGES I ARRIVED at the store shortly after it opened for the day, so most of the staff were occupied dusting and wiping down surfaces. After browsing the well presented theatre-style area, I approached a member of staff and explained my requirements. He led me to the Bose display, showing me the Bose Companion 3 (£199) and 5 (£299). He then informed me that there was ten per cent off hi-fi equipment, including Bose speakers. I asked if the Companion 5 was worth the extra £100, to which the assistant said that the Companion 3 would be good enough – despite the fact that I had mentioned that I would be willing to pay more if it was worth it. He told me that the
40 PCR September
Companion 5 has ‘bigger speakers and more wattage’ – failing to mention the main selling point – that it provides a surround sound experience from only a 2.1 set up. I then had to ask for a demonstration, which we used my iPod for. The sales assistant didn’t point to any key features such as the clarity or the more spacious sound of the Companion 5, though when I mentioned those benefits he agreed. But again there was no mention of the surround sound effect feature. As our conversation drew to a close, the assistant reminded me of the ten per cent reduction offer, claiming that I won’t find a better
RETAIL FOCUS MYSTERY SHOPPER
Turn the page for more Mystery Shopper results
price and that it will be a purchase which I will keep for many years. I could tell that my helper was still warming up after just getting into work, however failing to mention the main selling point of the Companion 5 suggests that he didn’t know about it. I was also disappointed that I was not automatically given a demonstration, something I would have expected every interested customer to receive as standard in a store which prides itself on providing a quality SCORE shopping experience.
WALKING OVER to the speaker section, I told an assistant that I liked to watch movies and play games. Examining 2.0 speaker sets located with the desktops, I asked about surround sound options. The member of staff said that they didn’t stock any, and instead moved my attention to the Bose Companion 3, almost warning me that it is ‘more around the £200 mark’. I said that as long as it gave considerably better sound it wouldn’t be a problem. While talking about the Bose speakers, the assistant highlighted the benefit of the subwoofer, keeping high/medium frequencies separate from the low, allowing for a larger and clearer range. The computer that the speakers were connected to was then turned on to give a demonstration of the sound quality. While it was booting, he debated whether to use the computer or a store iPod. Unfortunately he stuck with the computer which only had the sample Windows music, but that wasn’t a tragedy as the Mr Scruff track gave a good impression of the quality. However when he remembered I mentioned movies, he played the only video present – a wildlife video which included background music. My helper acknowledged it wasn’t a good demo. The member of staff recommended looking into a sound card which supports surround sound if that is the route I want to take, however said that the Bose speakers are one of the best solutions due to the sound quality and value. My visit had been a good one, the only disappointment being that the content used for the demonstration was just sample files. However the demo had been given without me needing to ask SCORE and the assistant had been knowledgeable and pleasant.
MANY STAFF in the store were already with customers as I entered, and after a few minutes of wandering I ventured to the back of the store where an assistant was standing in the TV section. He said confidently that he knew about speakers, and started by asking if I was looking for 2.1 or 5.1. Sadly, when I said 5.1, it turned out the store had sold out. Undeterred, I asked what 2.1 he would recommend, to which he showed me the Sony SRS D21’s at £49.99 – saying that they were pretty powerful. All of the PC speakers were still boxed up so any sort of demonstration was near impossible. After asking about higher end options the unsure sales assistant initially said the store didn’t stock any, before correcting his mistaking and taking me to the Bose-dedicated gondola end. Here there was a demo unit, showcasing the Companion 2 and 3. The assistant said that they would give a vast improvement in sound quality. I noticed the store also stocked the Companion 5, so I asked about the difference between the SKUs. This stumped him and after resorting to looking at the boxes we finally landed on the answer that the Companion 5 offers surround sound creation – something the staffer was able to explain in depth. Finally, I enquired about other possible upgrades to my desktop to improve my experience. The sales assistant suggested a larger monitor, around 19-inch to 22-inch. He also recommended the Companion 5 at £279.99 to get the best experience. The assistant was confident and relaxed. While at times clear that he was more used to selling TVs, he had a dedicated attitude and the ability to save SCORE situations by continuing unfazed and providing the right information.
September PCR 41
RETAIL FOCUS MYSTERY SHOPPER
This Mystery Shop was conducted by infinite Field Marketing Solutions, a leading provider of field marketing services to the technology sector. The solutions provided include Training, Market Research, Mystery Shopping, Demonstration Days, Roadshows, Merchandising and Compliance & Data Capture. Visit our website for details and to request a Case Study.
UNABLE TO find any speakers in store, I was greeted by an assistant who helpfully pointed them out. The store only had one 5.1 kit, the Logitech X540, which I was told wasn’t powerful. I told him I didn’t have a strict budget and was happy to spend more if I felt it justified. He then showed me the Bose Companion 5 – describing the surround sound creation but adding he’d “no idea about watts as Bose doesn’t share that information”. Asking if I could hear it, we attached my iPod. Curious about the difference between the Companion 5 and the Companion 3 sat next to it, he informed me that it was ‘the surround sound creation’, but failed to offer to switch the iPod to it, or to the Harman Kardon Soundsticks which he also very briefly mentioned. Talking about upgrades, he recommended looking at sound cards, despite not having any in stock, saying it would improve sound quality. I wasn’t overawed by the sales environment and although the helper had given me some good information, the lack of an offer to demonstrate the other units was disappointing. I didn’t feel he had given any good reason to buy SCORE from them. In this competitive area of London the visit was easily forgettable.
FOLLOWING MY request for help with speakers and surround sound, one staff member recommended the Logitech X530 for £49.99 (£20 off the original price). He also mentioned the Sony 2.1 system, but said that the 5.1 set up would give me a better experience. After asking if the store stocked anything better he showed me the Bose speakers, adding that they didn’t have any 5.1 in stock. He talked around the range but didn’t mention the 5.1 recreation on the Companion 5. He then gave me a demo with a difference, playing the music quietly, then turning it up to a good demo volume for a few seconds before nervously looking around for his manager, who would apparently disapprove. Asking if he would recommend a good 2.1 Bose or an average (based on price) Logitech 5.1, Vitor responded with the Logitech due to the surround sound experience, adding that when he watches films at home in 2.1 it just doesn’t compare. The assistant had been helpful and honest by not just pushing the expensive Bose. The ridiculous demo stood out, however. For the sales staff to be nervous SCORE about turning up the volume to make a sale, it renders the dedicated demo wall pointless.
AFTER ASKING for a 5.1 solution I was again led to the Companion 5. To the average customer this would have been confusing as there was no mention of the 5.1 recreation feature. I asked why I was being shown a model with two speakers and a sub when I had asked about 5.1 and was soon shown the Edifier M1550 small 5.1 speakers for £69.99. I asked which he would recommend and he said the Bose Companion 5, but warned it cost over £300. I then mentioned upgrades and after hinting at a card, either sound or video, the salesman showed me the FPS benchmarking of Resident Evil 5 for gaming, and continuously mentioned benefits for watching HD videos. However even when asked how I can get HD videos, he didn’t give any solutions, such as Blu-Ray. On leaving I was told that he would be able to cut the price of Companion 5 by ten per cent. Despite the salesman trying to be helpful there were points that let him down on this average visit. My first impressions were poor when he talked about the Companion 5 in response to surround sound without mentioning the 5.1 recreation feature. Also the SCORE lack of a demo without request disappointed, as did the failure to guide me on HD.
[SUMMARY] None of the visits were even bordering on being perfect. This surprised me considering the amount of competition between the numerous stores on Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. The theme of the day seemed to be poor demonstrations, with Selfridges and PNR needing me to request a demo, confusion in Currys Digital, poor
42 PCR September
content in John Lewis, just one demonstration in Micro Anvika and a fear of loud volumes in PC World. I was also surprised by there being no mention of Blu-ray. With such an emphasis on watching movies throughout the visits, and the fact I asked about upgrades to improve the experience, I expected adding a Blu-ray drive to be recommended.
The difference was made in the sales approach and confidence, as the stores' knowledge levels were similar in that it was good but often missed a few details. Currys Digital and John Lewis provided the best experience with demonstrations being given without needing to ask and the sales staff being helpful and confident.
Cases t CPUs t Displays t Flash Memory t Hard Drives t Networking t Notebooks t Peripherals t Software t Video Cards
Piano Black Cases Hitting The Right Note For Your Profit Margins Octigen KJ-3319 Midi Case 0LGL7RZHUFDVHZLWK:368 6KLQ\SLDQREODFN¿QLVK [´H[WHUQDOGULYHED\V [H[WHUQDO LQWHUQDO´GULYHED\V 6XSSRUWV0LFUR$7; $7;PRWKHUERDUGV $OOHGJHVGHEDUUHGIRUVDIHW\ 6LGHSDQHODLUGXFW 9,32UGHU&RGH
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Contact the VIP Sales team on 0871 622 7500 or buy online at www.vip-computers.com/uk © Copyright VIP Computer Centre Limited. 2010. Information correct at time of publication E&OE
Hardware PCRâ€™s monthly look at recent developments in the hardware market
GAMING HARDWARE Although certain components tend to take the gaming limelight, every part of a PC can contribute to the overall performance. We take a look at some of the latest parts
ÂŠ Copyright VIP Computer Centre Limited. 2010. Information correct at time of publication E&OE
As is often noted, a dedicated PC gamer who is willing to splash out on a high-end machine will want the high performance peripherals to match. We take a look at some of the latest products to hit shelves
The graphics card is often the defining component of a gaming PC, and recent advances have seen them gain an even greater role in a performance machine
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Sales: 0871 622 7500 www.vip-computers.com/uk
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CONTACTS C&J Computers: 020 8838 2568 EntaTech: 0333 101 1000 Ingram Micro: 0871 973 3000 M2m Direct: 020 8676 3030 Meroncourt: 01462 680 060 MT Electronics: 0121 331 8970 Realtime Distribution: 01480 435 881 Spire Technology: 01202 828 444 VIP Computers: 0871 622 7500
The sum of its parts Although the CPU and the graphics cards are often considered the most important components for overall performance, a number of other factors come in to play. For the discerning user, every part of the PC can be upgraded or customised to offer the very best performance possible. Matt Grainger examines some of the other product categories that can boost a PC’s power…
There have been two major developments within the memory sector in the last few years. Firstly, an increasing number of products now offer storage of more than a terabyte. Second is the advent of solidstate memory as a viable consumer product, offering vastly reduced latency and access times, as well as being much more robust than traditional drives.
CORSAIR FORCE 240GB SRP: £499.99 Distributor: Realtime Distribution
They say: Based on the SandForce SF-1200 SSD Processor, the Corsair Force Series SSDs are the ultimate performance drive. Your system will start up faster, applications and games will load quicker and you will see a huge improvement in overall system responsiveness Specs: 2.5-inch form factor with 3.5-inch bracket, maximum read 285mbps, maximum write speed of 275mbps
CORSAIR CMP12GX3M3A1600C9 DOMINATOR
SRP: £389.99 Distributor: Realtime Distribution They say: A kit of DDR3 SDRAM DIMMs based upon Corsair’s high performance Dominator family of memory which includes Intel’s Extreme Memory Profiles Specs: Three matched 4GB modules for use in high performance i7 tri-channel systems, Intel Extreme Memory Profile support, Airflow pro fan included
>>> September PCR 47
SRP: : £185 Distributor: M2m Direct They say: G-Skill has been continually working to develop the ultimate high performance memory in order to satisfy the demands of top overclockers and PC enthusiasts worldwide. This device pushes the hardware limit even further than ever Specs: DDR3, 2000 MHz, includes three 2GB modules, fits Intel X58 chipset
G-SKILL RIPJAWS V-SERIES 128GB BUNDLE
SRP: £99.99 Distributor: M2m Direct They say: G-Skill Ripjaws Gaming Series Memory is designed to optimise the high performance DIMMs for reliability in order to give gamers consistently fantastic FPS, while maintaining a solid overclock to prevent a mid-game PC failure from memory errors Specs: DDR3 dual-channel, up to 1899MHz, heatspreader design, fits Intel P55 chipset, up to 8GB capacity
WD VELOCIRAPTOR 600GB
SRP: £230 Distributors: Ingram Micro, VIP Computers They say: The PC enthusiasts’ favourite 10,000 RPM hard drive is still the fastest, most dangerous carnivore around. Now with an ultrafast 32MB cache, SATA 6Gb/s interface and twice the capacity of previous generations. Specs: 600GB spindle drive, 10,000 RPM, 32 MB buffer cache, 3ms average latency, SATA 6Gbps interface, 1.4 million hours mean time between failure
KINGSTON SSDNOW V-SERIES 128GB BUNDLE
SRP: £215 Distributor: Ingram Micro They say: Kingston introduces its SSDNow V Series drives to help consumers and organisations of all sizes and consumers enhance the performance of computers with a Serial ATA interface
Specs: 128GB capacity, sequential speed up to 200MB/s read, up to 160MB/s write, rugged build
September PCR 49
An efficient power supply is often overlooked as an important factor in a PC’s performance. Nonetheless, an effective PSU can ensure that every component works at its best, while an inadequate one can leave the user with nothing more than a wash of static and the smell of burning.
SRP: £115.90 Distributor: C&J Computers
They say: The award winning Modu87+ utilises dynamic hybrid transformer topology to offer extremely high efficiency with the most durable and stable output at any load Specs: Compliant with all current Intel and AMD processors, up to four high-performance 12V rails, modular cable management, future-proofed 10/12 pin connectors, full support for DX11 graphics cards, integrated 13.9cm cooling fan, supports SLI and CrossFire systems
ANTEC TRUEPOWER QUATTRO 1200W
SRP: £250 Distributor: VIP Computers They say: Combining 1200 watts of stable and quiet power with cutting-edge efficiency and style, the TruePower Quattro 1200 blasts ahead of the competition Specs: PowerCache delivers extra reserves when needed, SLI and CrossFireX certified, designed to support quad-core CPUs and GPUs, quiet 80mm cooling fan
XIGMATEK NRP-PC702 SRP: £69.99 Distributor: Realtime Distribution
They say: NRP-PC702, the latest Xigmatek high efficiency and eco-friendly power supply not only boots up your PC but makes efforts for our mother Earth Specs: 85 per cent AC/DC switching efficiency, DC quality with low ripple noise for better performance, 140mm silent cooling fan
>>> 50 PCR September
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A high-end case is often the first clue that the user is a serious PC enthusiast, but a good unit can offer more than just looks. It can improve air flow, support water cooling and offer a much wider scope for expansion and upgrade than a basic beige box.
ANTEC DARK FLEET DF-85 SRP: £174 Distributor: VIP Computers
They say: The DF-85 is the gaming case re-envisioned, with all the award-winning build quality that made Antec cases famous and plenty of airy, wide-open expandability with 14 total drive bays and seven expansion slots
SRP: £59.99 Distributor: Realtime Distribution
They say: Designed with gaming and cooling in mind, including tool-free hard drive and add-on card installation, a CPU cooler back plate window, four pipe holes for a water cooling system and space for up to seven cooling fans
SRP: £91.90 Distributor: C&J Computers
They say: The new ATX Midi Tower Volcanus is dedicated to enthusiastic gamers, a case which overcomes apparent opposites. The flames on the front and side panels meet an advanced and powerful cooling concept
Specs: Three separate access doors, washable fan filters, top 2.5-inch hot-swappable drive bay, 14 drive bays, integrated air cooling system, water cooling ready, seven expansion slots
XIGMATEK WHITE KNIGHT
Specs: World’s first fully white coated chassis, preinstalled 120mm front and rear fans with white LED, screw-less tooling for 5.25-inch and 3.25-inch and expansion bay installation, RPM speed control knob for three fans
Specs: Unique flame design on front and side panels, integrated 14cm front fan with LED backlighting, tool-free system assembly, two USB 2.0 ports, eSATA and HD/AC’97 audio, passive cooling, holes for water cooling, bottom mounted PSU
The motherboard is arguably the most important part of a PC. A good motherboard can improve the performance of every part of the machine, while a bad one can completely negate the benefits of even the best components.
ASUS RAMPAGE III EXTREME SRP: £174 Distributors: VIP Computers, Spire Technology
They say: The Republic of Gamers consists of only the best of the best and the Rampage III Extreme supports the latest processors and graphics cards with USB 3.0 on an X58 chipset Specs: Supports Intel Core i7, X58 chipset, USB 3.0 support, PCIe 2.0, tri-channel DDR3, 6Gbps SATA, eight-channel audio, bundled with 3DMark and Kaspersky antivirus
ASROCK X58 EXTREME 3 SRP: £150 Distributors: Spire Technology, VIP Computers, EntaTech, MT Electronics
They say: A reliable motherboard produced under Asrock’s consistently stringent quality control. It delivers excellent performance with robust design conforming to Asrock’s commitment to quality and endurance Specs: Supports Gulftown six-core CPU, Asrock DuraCap for 2.5 times longer lifetime, V8 power phase design, supports triple-channel DDR3 2000, supports SLI and CrossFireX including three-way and quad configurations, one eSATAII/USB connection, two SATA3 6Gbps connectors, two USB 3.0 ports
September PCR 53
ASROCK H55M PRO
SRP: £120 Distributor: Spire Technology, EntaTech, VIP Computers, MT Electronics They say: The Asrock 890FX Deluxe 3 is the only motherboard in the world to offer four USB 3.0 ports
SRP: £73 Distributor: Spire Technology, VIP Computers, EntaTech, MT Electronics
They say: The H55M Pro has been awarded ‘best for under $100’, ‘best for multi-monitor office’ and ‘best for service replacement/upgrade’ by Toms Hardware Specs: Asrock DuraCap, supports dual channel DDR3 2600+, supports CrossFireX and quad CrossFireX, two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, multiple VGA outputs (D-Sub, DVID, HDMI), supports HD and blu-ray playback, one powered eSATAII/USB connector, combo cooler option
ASROCK 890FX DELUXE 3
Specs: Supports Phenom II X6 6-core CPU, autooverclocking software, cool heatpipe design, supports dual, three-way and quad CrossFireX, one eSATA3 connector, eight SATA3 6Gbps connectors, four USB 3.0 ports
There are now two methods of cooling available to consumers: traditional air coolers use an array of fans and fins to disperse heat, while water cooling offers a more efficient – albeit more expensive – way to conduct heat away from the processor cores.
COOLIT VANTAGE ALC
SRP: £114.99 Distributor: Realtime Distribution They say: Vantage ALC provides an elegantly engineered cooling solution that is compatible with CoolIT’s Maestro software control platform that allows for remote control and monitoring, offering features thus far unseen in the PC market Specs: Out of the box support for 775, 1156, 1366, AM2, AM2+ and AM3 CPU sockets, three cooling performance modes (quiet, performance and full all-in-one water cooling)
54 PCR September
XIGMATEK THOR’S HAMMER SRP: £43.99 Distributor: Realtime Distribution
They say: Thor’s Hammer symbolises the strength and efficiency required of today’s cooling for overheating Core i7 CPUs Specs: Direct touch technology means heat pipes are in direct contact with the CPU for more efficient cooling, optional fan can be installed for extra cooling if required, efficient air flow provided by dual fin combination
Cases t CPUs t Displays t Flash Memory t Hard Drives t Networking t Notebooks t Peripherals t Software t Video Cards
The landscape has forever changed.
VISION Technology from AMD lets you enjoy a more vivid and smooth visual experience by combining cutting-edge processing and video power. Experience VISION Technology from AMD at www.amd.com/vision
AMD Phenomâ„˘ II X6 1090T Processor Black Edition Â‡*+]VL[FRUHSURFHVVRU Â‡6RFNHW$0 Â‡QPSURFHVVWHFKQRORJ\ Â‡$0'ZLWK'LUHFW&RQQHFW$UFKLWHFWXUH Â‡7KHUPDOGHVLJQSRZHU: Â‡+\SHU7UDQVSRUWÂŒWHFKQRORJ\ 9,32UGHU&RGH
CALL FOR PRICING ASUS ATI Radeonâ„˘ HD 5870 Matrix Platinum
ASUS M4A88T-M Motherboard
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CALL FOR PRICING
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ÂŠ2010 Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. All rights reserved. AMD, the AMD Arrow logo, AMD Phenom ATI, the ATI logo, Radeon, and combinations thereof are trademarks of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. Microsoft, Windows, and DirectX are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the U.S. and/or other jurisdictions. â€œCodemastersâ€?, the Codemasters logo and â€œDiRTâ€?ÂŽ are registered trademarks owned by Codemasters. â€œDiRT 2â€?â„˘ is a trademark of Codemasters Software Company Limited.Other names are for informational purposes only and may be trademarks of their respective owners.
Contact the VIP Sales team on 0871 622 7500 or buy online at www.vip-computers.com/uk ÂŠ Copyright VIP Computer Centre Limited. 2010. Information correct at time of publication E&OE
KIT AND TOOLS
The ability to tweak and upgrade a PC is not limited solely to components. Fan ports can be filtered and ports blocked to improve the overall functionality and lifespan of a PC, while multi-monitor support – a gamer favourite – can also be offered.
HIS DISPLAYPORT TO DL-DVI EYEFINITY ADAPTER
SRP: £70 Distributor: M2m Direct
SRP: TBC Distributor: M2m Direct
They say: The ultimate mini tool set for hardware installation, desktop installation and electronic device repair Specs: Includes screwdriver kit with four screwdriver heads, spirit level, dust cleaner for ports and vents, LED light
56 PCR September
LAMPTRON ADVANCED SLOT PROTECT
Specs: Supports up to 2.4MP resolution on six monitors, no additional software required, PC and Mac compatible
Specs: Enables ATI multiple display, supports up to six monitors, works with either single or dual link connections, requires ATI Radeon graphics card with Windows 7 or Vista
HIS GAMERS TOOLKIT
SRP: £60 Distributor: M2m Direct
They say: Imagine surfing the web, reading emails, watching a DVD and even working on presentations all at once without flipping through windows
They say: Prepare to experience riveting high-definition gaming with an ATI Eyefinity graphics card, expand your visual real estate across up to six displays and get lost in the action with revolutionary ATI Eyefinity Technology
HIS MULTI-VIEW II ADAPTER
LAMPTRON UV SENSITIVE FAN FILTER
LAMPTRON FAN CONTROLLER 6
SRP: £3.49 Distributor: Meroncourt
SRP: £3.49 Distributor: Meroncourt
SRP: £40.99 Distributor: Meroncourt
They say: Over time, dust build-up can become significant enough to cause contact problems with newly installed PCI cards or extra RAM memory. Not with Lamptron’s PCI/RAM slots
They say: Lamptron’s polycarbonate UV sensitive steel mesh fan filter is easy to clean, install and long-lasting
They say: The FC6 fan controller is a great alternative to those other boring fan controllers with single colour displays. Control your fans in style of your choice of seven different colours
Specs: Designed for RAM slots, PCI slots, PCIe x1 slots and PCIe x16 slots
Specs: 120mm, easy installation, easy to clean
Specs: Fits 5.25-inch bay, power output of up to 20W, control four 3pin channels, temperature monitoring, CNC milled face plate, available in black or silver aluminium
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HARDWARE GAMING PERIPHERALS
CONTACTS APR Media: 01823 669 166
OZONE ATTACK STEREO GAMING HEADSET
SRP: £19.99 Distributor: Meroncourt
Computer 2000: 0871 880 3000
They say: The revolutionary microphone allows setting the headset as a gaming intercom device or as a regular music and multimedia headphones
Gem Distribution: 01279 822 822 EntaTech: 0333 101 1000
Specs: Comfort leather cushions, adjustable ergonomic headband, adjustable microphone, mini jack 3.5mm connection, in-line controller with volume control and mute functions, braided cables for added durability
Interactive Ideas: 0208 805 1000 Ingram Micro: 0871 973 3000 Meroncourt: 01462 680 060 Realtime: 01480 435 881 Target Components: 01977 739 300 VIP Computers: 0871 622 7500
The competitive edge Competitive gaming is about more than just top-end components and a fast broadband connection. Getting the peripherals right can mean the difference between glorious victory and getting Zerg rushed. Nicky Trup takes a look at this lucrative sector… “In exactly the same way a professional sportsperson requires the best sports equipment, we see gamers demand the best peripherals” Chris Elt, SteelSeries UK
DESPITE some console lovers’ insistence to the contrary, PC gaming is alive and well. An estimated 61.5 million gaming PCs were sold last year, with PC gaming hardware representing more than double the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 shipments combined. According to the PC Gaming Alliance, revenue from hardware is set to rise this year to $61.3 billion,
compared to around $54.6 billion in 2009. And with so many new desktops and components being sold every day, the channel stands to cash in by offering top of the line performance peripherals to match. Moreover, certain recent high-profile games releases have driven demand for branded gaming peripherals. One title that everyone PCR spoke to highlighted was the long-awaited
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. The game sold 1.5 million copies in its first 28 hours of release, making it the best performing PC game of the year so far in terms of sales, and the fastest selling strategy game ever. In South Korea, where the original StarCraft is still one of the most popular titles 12 years on from its release, an airline decorated its jets in
September PCR 61
HARDWARE GAMING PERIPHERALS
SENNHEISER PC 360 SRP: £145.99 Distributor: Realtime
They say: It has an open design that makes sure you keep a cool head – and delivers a natural listening experience so you can stay in touch with your surroundings Specs: Hi-fi sound, noise-cancelling, microphone mute option, velvet ear pads, cushioned headband, integrated volume control
ROCCAT PYRA MOBILE WIRELESS GAMING MOUSE
MAD CATZ CYBORG RAT7 GAMING MOUSE
SRP: £54.99 Distributor: Meroncourt
SRP: £79.99 Distributor: EntaTech
They say: The Pyra packs a punch by offering judder-free gaming with zero lag. What’s more, its ergonomic shape makes it comfortable to use
They say: Features a new-generation ‘twin eye’ 5600DPI gaming-grade laser sensor that reads each axis separately for pinpoint accuracy
Specs: 1600DPI blue-optic gaming sensor, one millisecond response time, easyshift button duplicator, USB recharge function, sleep mode, compact size, suitable for right or left handed use
Specs: Tracks up to six meters per second, metal chassis, interchangeable palm rest, adjustable size, removable 30g weights, four DPI settings, five programmable buttons
STEELSERIES STARCRAFT II LIMITED EDITION ZBOARD AND KEYSET BUNDLE SRP: £59.99 (or £21.99 for Keyset alone) Distributor: Interactive Ideas
They say: Offers players the ultimate gaming tool as they jump back into the epic struggle between the Protoss, Zerg and Terran races in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Zboard specs: Anti-ghosting capability for up to seven simultaneous keystrokes, internal hub with two USB ports, full key customisation
GENIUS SLIMSTAR 335 KEYBOARD SRP: £19.99 Distributor: VIP Computers
Keyset specs: Game commands labelled directly on keys, three layers of nine customisable one-touch macro buttons, pre-set macros
They say: Designed for those who want to save their reaction time and vastly improve their overall performance playing any game Specs: 15 macro programmable keys, 11 standard hotkeys for media centre control, enhanced large keycaps, streamlined design
celebration of the launch, while here in the UK, fans stood in line for hours to make sure they were among the first to get hold of a copy at midnight. “StarCraft II is the biggest games release in the last few months and hardcore gamers were waiting outside shops so that they were able to play the game on the day of its release. With this level of enthusiasm, these gamers are eager to get their hands on StarCraft II specific peripherals,” says
62 PCR September
Roland Eva, marketing manager at Realtime Distribution. “Peripherals that are designed for a specific game allow greater customisation of buttons for elements within the game than non-specific peripherals.” A number of brands including SteelSeries and Razer have already unveiled StarCraft II ranges, while others have capitalised on the success of other games such as Modern Warfare 2, a previous best seller that was released late last year.
Whether it’s for the latest titles or old favourites, competitive gamers are extremely discerning customers when it comes to peripherals. “SteelSeries recognises gaming as a sport, so in exactly the same way a professional sportsperson requires the best sports equipment, we see gamers demand the best peripherals,” claims Chris Elt, sales manager for SteelSeries UK. “If a gamer is asked to make a significant investment for a dedicated gaming mouse, he or she rightly
“If a gamer is asked to make a significant investment for a dedicated gaming mouse, he or she rightly expects a premium experience” Greg Hartill, Mad Catz
life & soul
www.exspect.co.uk UK - 01782 74 87 32 Non UK - 0044 1782 74 87 21 Due to the company’s policy of constant improvement, the company reserves the right to alter speciﬁcation. “Exspect” and “Exspect logos” are registered trademarks of GEM Distribution Ltd. All trademarks and copyrights are property of their respective owners. “iPad” is a registered trademark of Apple Inc. This product is not endorsed by Apple Inc.
HARDWARE GAMING PERIPHERALS
STEELSERIES WORLD OF WARCRAFT MMO GAMING MOUSE
SRP: £69.99 Distributor: Interactive Ideas They say: The only gaming peripheral on the market that can be configured directly from within World of Warcraft for both Mac and PC users Specs: 15 programmable buttons with over 130 preset game commands, in-game macro support, up to 10 profiles with different lighting schemes
GENIUS METALSTRIKE PRO SRP: £29.99 Distributor: Target Components
TURTLE BEACH XLC HEADSET SRP: £19.99 Distributor: Target Components
They say: Combines high-quality stereo game audio with Xbox Live chat, eliminating the need for the mono communicator and external speakers.
They say: Gives you different levels of vibration feedback when flying your planes, while three levels of air control keep your hand cool and dry
Specs: Cushioned noise-reduction ear pads, folding multi-pivot design, flexible mic, 40mm stereo speakers, mic mute switch, 2.5mm plug for Xbox mic output, 3.5mm plug for audio line input
Specs: Vibration feedback function, three levels of air control, turbo function for auto repeat, 13 programmable buttons, eight-way ‘point-of-view’ switch, adjustable handle position
GENIUS SW-N5.1 1000 SPEAKERS SRP: £39.99 Distributor: VIP Computers
They say: Delivers great value 5.1 surround sound performance – ideal for listening to the latest games, movies or music on your PC
LOGITECH G510 GAMING KEYBOARD
SRP: £89.99 Distributor: Gem Distribution, Ingram Micro, Computer 2000
Specs: 5.1-Channel speaker system, 25 watt total power output, wood subwoofer with four-inch driver for enhanced bass reproduction, polished black finish, built-in two-inch driver on each satellite
SRP: £66.99 Distributor: Realtime
They say: With a GamePanel LCD and 18 programmable G-keys, this keyboard gives you instant access to the tools and intel you need to win
They say: Uses bluetooth technology to address your need for portability and ease of use with a wired mode option for gaming grade performance
Specs: LCD display for game stats and system information, custom colour backlighting, separate headphone and mic jacks, 18 programmable keys, multi-key input, game/desktop mode
Specs: 3G Laser Sensor, bluetooth connectivity, wired and wireless modes, tracking up to 100 inches per second, suitable for right and lefthanded users, sensitivity adjustment
expects a premium experience and one which will significantly add to their enjoyment as well as their game playing ability. Comfort, specifications and innovation all go hand in hand and if the product is a cut above the competition, gamers will invest,” adds Greg Hartill, UK business development manager at Mad Catz. According to Andrew Miles, Interactive Ideas’ marketing manager, the specific qualities gamers look for in
64 PCR September
“Hardcore gamers are always looking for a competitive advantage and gaming peripherals give them what they want” Roland Eva, Realtime Distribution
a mouse vary depending on the type of game. “First person shooter gamers, for example, require high-resolution optical or laser sensors processing the highest number of frames per second for the most reliable tracking during game play. They also require programmable buttons with software included to allow advanced macros for a number of individual characters and as many strokes per button as possible,” he comments. Eva adds: “Hardcore gamers are
always looking for a competitive advantage and gaming peripherals give them what they want. The speed and precision of a gaming mouse reduces the equipment lag between the gamers reactions and the computer. The weight of the mouse improves the precision of movement and the ergonomic design makes it easier to use for long periods of time.” However, it is not just ‘hardcore gamers’ who buy gaming peripherals. Many devices
HARDWARE GAMING PERIPHERALS
EXSPECT XBOX 360 PLAY AND CHARGE KIT
SRP: £9.99 Distributor: Gem Distribution
LOGITECH G700 WIRELESS GAMING MOUSE
SRP: £89.99 Distributor: Gem Distribution, Ingram Micro, Computer 2000
They say: Fully compatible with the official Xbox 360 controller, this kit enables the user to charge and play their console simultaneously
They say: Powerful control and wireless freedom without compromising performance
Specs: Charges during play or while the console is still on, interchangeable cover and battery included
Specs: 13 programmable controls, wireless connectivity, quick-connect charging cable
EXSPECT NDS PLAY AND STORE STAND
SRP: £9.99 Distributor: Gem Distribution They say: Store and play your DS console on this stylish stand Specs: Compatible with Nintendo DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL; allows users to play vertically or horizontally; stores up to three games, two styluses and one pen alongside the console; allows users to charge while storing their DS
VERBATIM RAPIER USB GAMING HEADSET WITH VIBRATION
SRP: £39.99 Distributor: APR Media
MAD CATZ CYBORG FLY 9 WIRELESS FLIGHT STICK FOR XBOX 360
They say: The built-in vibration of the Rapier Headset helps gamers live the action while its VOIP capabilities allow for voice chat and online conferencing
Specs: VOIP-enabled, built-in vibration, noise cancelling, USB, leatherette ear pads, adjustable headband, inline volume control, microphone mute switch
SRP: £79.99 Distributor: EntaTech They say: Compatible with flight simulation and flight combat games, the Cyborg FLY 9 is designed to deliver a wide range of adjustability, comfort and air-combat accuracy Specs: Integrated adjustment tool for changing handle length and angle, wireless connection, throttle and twist rudder controls, integrated lap mount, removable feet, also available for PS3
are now also proving popular with casual players. After all, “even a beginner gamer would require a shape, size and weight that suits their own personal needs for prolonged game play,” suggests Miles. “Most mice now are able to have the weight adjusted and some also allow size and shape to be changed to suit.” Hartill adds: “The beauty of accessories is that everyone who picks up a game aspires to be better. We try to make accessories which are
66 PCR September
“If a customer is spending £1,000 on a PC they will usually want the gaming peripherals to go with it” Glen Rhodes, Target Components
accessible to all but are feature rich, allowing gamers with the necessary skill to truly exploit their talents.” Glen Rhodes, product manager at Target Components, believes that a drop in price is something to do with this broadening appeal. “Compared to three or four years ago, the price of a high-end laser gaming mouse has dropped considerably, as have gaming keyboards and other peripherals. There are still some products out there that will only appeal to the more hardcore
gamers, but in general there is a lot more scope to sell these products to more casual gamers,” he says. And there are numerous advantages to the retail channel in stocking gaming peripherals. Not only do they provide an excellent margin opportunity but, says Rhodes, they are an obvious add-on sale alongside highend hardware. “If a customer is spending £1,000 on a PC they will usually want the gaming peripherals to go with it,” he concludes.
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Contact the VIP Sales team on 0871 622 7500 or buy online at www.vip-computers.com/uk © Copyright VIP Computer Centre Limited. 2010. Information correct at time of publication E&OE
HARDWARE GFK ANALYSIS
The winds of change The latest GfK Channel Survey reveals that the number of distributors being used by independent retailers has decreased, and that indies are still making most of their money from hardware sales. Tracy Goodfellow, GfK Senior Account Manager for IT, goes through the data… “Complaint handling and customer care have plummeted in importance over the past year – the focus is firmly on the money.” Tracy Goodfellow
THE GFK Channel Survey canvasses independent computer shops and IT Resellers. Participants are asked a series of questions to determine the market coverage and reach of the top IT distributors, and also to identify market opportunities for all involved in this segment. The latest report compares the 2010 results with 2009, and shows some interesting figures as the UK moves out of recession. But delve further back into the 2007 survey and the peak sales period, and the results show some remarkable trends.
Firstly, the average number of distributors being used across the total IT channel, and especially by computer shop specialists, is decreasing rapidly – in some channels by over 50 per cent over the past three years. And even more worryingly for those distributors still being sourced, almost one third of computer shops want to change their distributor. The top two IT distributors in the UK both supply around 25 per cent of their products to indie computer shops. But an interesting trend between the 2009 and 2010 surveys is that all of the top ten distributors are supplying less of their product into indie computer shops. So why is there this rapid decline in the number of distributors being regularly sourced, and what is driving the desire to change? The price of products being offered is always of high importance, as expected. This is top of every reseller’s list of reasons to change supplier, but the product assortment offered and the technical support available are also important factors. This poses an interesting question for the distributors, which have never typically focused on technical support. There are also some fascinating results around the payment and cost of products, which is hardly surprising given the financial crisis that we have
been through. Delivery costs, credit limits and payment conditions have increased in importance in the past year. With the impending VAT rate rise and consumer spending likely to slow down even further into 2011, these categories will have an even greater significance moving forward – especially in the face of declining margins. On the flip side, complaint handling and customer care have both plummeted in importance for specialists over the past year – the focus is firmly on the money. IT Hardware (as opposed to software and services) continues to make up the majority of revenue for IT specialists, but even more so for the independent computer shops who obtain almost two thirds of their revenue from this segment. However, IT specialists are also experiencing an increase in revenue from services compared to 2009 – quite likely related to the consumers’ requirement to make their existing equipment last just that little bit longer in the current tough economic climate. This survey highlights many interesting trends and different opportunities within the world of IT. If you would like further details please contact Tracy Goodfellow at GfK on 0870 603 8214.
September PCR 71
HARDWARE GRAPHICS CARDS
CONTACTS EntaTech: 0333 101 1000 KMS Components: 02920 713 713 M2m Direct: 020 8676 3030 Micro-P: 01282 776 776
GAINWARD NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 460 GRAPHICS CARD SRP: £189.99 Distributor: EntaTech
They say: Gainward’s award winning high-performance/wide-bandwidth hardware design powered by Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 460 GPU (40nm) integrating 1024MB/256bits high-speed GDDR5 memory which offers enhanced, leading-edge performance for the 3D enthusiasts. Specs: 700MHz clock speed, 1024MB memory, 1800MHz memory clock speed, 115.2 GB/s memory bandwidth, PCIe 2.0 Bus, 400MHz RAMDAC, VGA, DVI, and HDMI connectivity, two cooling fan slots
Overclockers UK: 0871 200 5052 Realtime Distribution: 01480 435 881 Spire Technology: 01202 828 444 Target Components: 01977 739 300 VIP Computers: 0871 622 7500
Graphic detail Having seen a huge amount of innovation and new technologies introduced in to the graphics card segment, the sector is enjoying a fresh burst of growth. Andrew Wooden examines these developments and talks to some of the key players in the graphics card market... “With DirectX 11 bringing us the best graphics to date and the 3D revolution in full swing, it’s certainly an exciting time for faithful PC gamers.” Craig Gore, KMS Components
WHILE ONE half of the industry is pushing towards greater mobility and scaling down what already exists – a trend that started with netbooks and culminated in tablets – the other half is being driven to advanced, technologically demanding, new functions – most notably 3D. The introduction of this new technology has been predicted to offer a huge boon to the industry, and no where is that more apparent than in graphics cards – which still do the bulk of visual processing. As well as breaking new ground, common PC usages such as gaming and media editing also require up to date dedicated graphics cards – making the components one of the most common upgrade purchases. At the moment, DirectX 11 and Windows 7 are the key driving factors
in the market, allowing users to make the most of their hardware upgrades. Advancements such as tesselation, which is heavily featured in DirectX, makes for better graphics, but it won’t do anything without the hardware. Most commentators agree that this and other factors, such as general demand for gaming, is driving the graphics card market into growth. “We are fortunate to be right bang in the middle of the next big thing right now,” says Craig Gore, graphics cards, processors and Microsoft product manager at KMS Components. “With DirectX 11 bringing us the best graphics to date and the 3D revolution in full swing, it’s certainly an exciting time for faithful PC gamers.” Peter Yeung, HIS sales and marketing director, adds: “The revenue
of the gaming market is expected to surpass that of the music and movie industries combined within a three year time frame. The gaming market is showing year–on–year growth of significant percentages. New game releases are more sophisticated, and more sophisticated content is more demanding on the PC. New games and the management of more rich content on consumers PCs means increased demand for a more realistic gaming experience and higher productivity during content editing. The upgrade segment is one of the fastest sectors of the hardware sales market because users rely on a better graphic card to view or edit their HD content.” New product launches will, of course, also drive up sales. “The graphics market will always see a peak
September PCR 73
HARDWARE GRAPHICS CARDS
XFX ATI RADEON HD 5770 SRP: £98.99 Distributor: KMS Components
MSI ATI RADEON HD 5550
SRP: £65 Distributors: Overclockers UK, EntaTech, Realtime Distribution
They say: Run up to three individual displays and resolutions when single large display is not needed Specs: 850 MHz GPU clock, DDR5 memory, 4.6GHz memory clock, 800 processor cores, fansink thermal solution
They say: Low profile graphics card, perfect for small form factor or home theatre PCs. Consumes less than 39 watts under full load, and provides superior stability and reliability with ATI Catalyst software. Specs: DDR3/GDDR5 memory interface, PCI Express 2.1 x16 bus interface, ATI Stream acceleration technology, 550 MHz engine clock speed, 352 GigaFLOPS Processing power, 4.4 Gigapixels/sec pixel fill rate
XFX ATI RADEON HD 5850 SRP: £239.99 Distributor: EntaTech
They say: The XFX Radeon HD 5850 with Eyefinity Technology, gives the firstever wrap-around in-picture experience to fully immerse yourself in the game, or maximize your productivity at work.
EVGA GEFORCE GTX 460 1024MB EE SRP: £179.99 Distributor: Micro-P
Specs: 1GB GDDR5 memory, ATI Eyefinity technology with support for up to three displays, ATI Stream technology, accelerated video transcoding (AVT), 40nm process, ATI Avivo HD video and display technology
They say: Full support for Nvidia PhysX technology, enabling a totally new class of physical gaming interaction for a more dynamic and realistic experience with GeForce. Designed for the new PCI Express 2.0 bus architecture offering the highest data transfer speeds for the most bandwidth-hungry games and 3D applications, while maintaining backwards compatibility with existing PCI Express motherboards for the broadest support. Specs: Nvidia GTX 460, 675 MHz GPU, 336 Pixel Pipelines, 400 MHz RAMDAC, 3600 MHz effective memory, 240Hz max refresh rate
around new product launches, but the average trend is an overall growth for graphics in the entire sector including integrated platforms such as Nvidia Ion based computing,” claims James Dean, Northern European PR at ZOTAC. FUSION OF IDEAS Often it’s the GPU manufacturers, mainly Nvidia and ATI, that push the direction of the graphics card market, in the same way that Intel and AMD’s CPUs often direct the general PC market. AMD (the owner of ATI) has made a particular splash with its
74 PCR September
Fusion launch this year. The firm claims it will kick start the ‘accelerated processing unit era,’ and that the new chips represent a ‘seismic shift’ for the computer industry, comprising processing capabilities previously spread across the CPU and the GPU onto a single die cast. “After the stunning live demonstration we gave at Computex, it has become very clear to the market that 2011 is the year of Fusion,” Craig Connell, regional sales manager for Northern Europe at AMD tells us. “When AMD bought ATI in 2006, it gained one of the world’s best
microprocessor engineering teams. Immediately, the branding for AMD Fusion began and that culminated in the public demonstrations that everyone has seen across the web. Without a doubt, AMD Fusion will revolutionise the market.” While this will no doubt have an impact, most are confident the holistic approach will not dent the discreet graphics card market any time soon. “In terms of AMD Fusion, I don’t think this will have any impact on the high-end discreet graphics market. ATI seem to have a firm commitment to driving the high end graphics card
market,” says M2m Direct’s sales and marketing manager, Hitesh Kothary. “Fusion may perhaps take territory in the low-end, low power, eco arena.” THE NEXT STEP There’s no doubt 3D is going to be a major driving force in the next generation of graphics cards. As mentioned, the potential of the sector on all aspects of the PC are significant – however high initial costs may mean it takes a while to make a significant impact on graphics cards. Glen Rhodes, product manager at Target says:
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HARDWARE GRAPHICS CARDS
ZOTAC GTX 460 AMP!
SRP: £209.99 Distributors: Realtime Distribution, KMS Components
They say: ZOTAC Boost Premium harnesses every aspect of your ZOTAC GeForce GTX 460 series graphics card and features five applications to enhance and edit high-definition video, experience and enjoy the web like never before and access digital entertainment content
GIGABYTE GTX460 OC 1GB DDR5 WINDFORCE SRP: £179.99 Distributor: Target Components
They say: Ultra durable VGA board reduces voltage ripples in normal and transient state, thus effectively lowers noises and ensures higher overclocking capability
Specs: 1024 MB GDDR5 memory, 810 MHz core clock, 1717 MHz shader clock, 4000 MHz memory clock, 256 bit memory interface, dual-link HDCP capable
Specs: GTX 470 graphics processor, 400 graphics adapter RAMDAC, 607 processor clock speed, 448 stream processors, 1215 shader clock, 1280 maximum graphic adapter memory, 3348 memory clock speed
SAPPHIRE HD 5770 FLEX EDITION SRP: £145 Distributor: Realtime Distribution
They say: The first graphics card to support ATI Eyefinity on three screens without the need for a DisplayPort monitor or expensive active adapter, and up to four screens from one card Specs: 800 Stream processors, 1GB GDDR5 memory, 850MHz clock speeds, 4.8GHz effective memory, dual heatpipe cooler and profiled fan with dust resisting sealed ball bearings
© Copyright VIP Computer Centre Limited. 2010. Information correct at time of publication E&OE
“3D Gaming is probably considered as the next big step in PC gaming, although the cost of buying a new GPU, a 3D capable monitor and probably an upgrade to the processor, power supply and motherboard will be an expensive one, and it probably won’t be the ‘next big thing’ till the prices come down and enter the mainstream.”
KFA2 NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 460 LTD OC EDITION SRP: £224.99 Distributor: VIP Computers
They say: The KFA2 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 graphics card sets the new standard for high performance gaming in the latest DirectX 11 games. Specs: 1GB video memory, GDDR5 memory, 810MHz engine clock, 256-bit memory interface, 46 stream processing units, 400MHz RAMDAC, 2560x1600 maximum resolution, hinged fan for easy cleaning
Meanwhile PC gaming – which is probably the largest driver in PC 3D tech – has been called into question over the years. With the explosive uptake in consoles, many publishers have shifted attention towards the Xbox 360 and PS3 rather than Windows based gaming – leading to recurring claims from those outside the PC industry that ‘PC gaming is dead’.
The opinion within the industry is diametrically opposed to this. “I don’t know who’s been saying that PC gaming is dead but we’re certainly not seeing that in our sales figures,” says Matthew Parrish, VIP product manager. “Of course we can’t forget the impact of content in this market – after all, there is no need for a gamer to upgrade if they have no
problems running their current software. New games that push the limits of performance always stimulate hardware sales, which is why the launch of Category A titles in the runup to Christmas will help to boost graphics sales.” Bill Donnelly, global PR director at Sapphire Technology adds: “Far from it. The console
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HARDWARE GRAPHICS CARDS
SAPPHIRE HD 5870 1GB VAPOR-X OC SRP: £365.99 Distributor: Realtime Distribution
They say: Vapor-X cooling enables the card to run cooler and quieter. A cooler card means more room to overclock Specs: 875 core frequency, 5000 memory frequency, 256 memory bus, GDDR5 memory, dual 400 MHz RAMDAC, 160.00 GB/sec peak memory bandwidth
HIS 5870 1GB ATI SRP: £325 Distributor: M2m Direct
They say: With DirectX 11 support, and DDR5 memory this is a fantastic, leading performance card Specs: 1024MB memory, GDDR5 memory, 400 MHz RAMDAC, Radeon HD 5870 PCIe series chipset
market appeals to casual gamers, who can just hook up to the TV and play at very reasonable cost – but the experience is way short of the latest high resolution, multi-screen solutions that can run on the PC to give a much more realistic and immersive experience. The PC with its ability to be upgraded and overclocked really is the platform of choice for the hardcore gamer.” WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? The graphics card sector is one of the most dynamic in the industry, and it’s
78 PCR September
ZOTAC GTX 460 1GB DDR5
SRP: £189.99 Distributor: Realtime Distribution
SRP: £209.40 Distributor: Spire
They say: The most anticipated card from Nvidia since the GTX480 gives unprecedented performance for the price and with up to 4 times the DirectX 11 tessellation performance of the competition without sacrificing high frame rates.
They say: Massive overclockability – pound for pound one of the best GPUs ever made Specs: 675MHz core clock, 336 stream processors, 1350 Mhz shader clock, 3600 MHz memory clock, 1GB memory size, GDDR5 memory, 400 MHz RAMDAC
not just gaming it has an impact on. Most software firms have by now woken up to the power of the GPU on a multitude of programmes, leading it to be used in more and more fields. “The multi-core GPUs on today’s graphics cards can increase PC performance in ways you could not imagine a few years ago,” says Marlon Sharland, graphics product manager, Spire. “Taking video transcoding as an example, Nvidia’s CUDA or ATI Stream technology can speed up the conversion process by up to 18 times faster than traditional CPU-only methods. Converting a movie takes
ASUS GTX460 1GB DDR5
about 20 minutes instead of hours.” Right now some of the latest tech, such as the aforementioned Fusion, looks like it could change the entire concept of the discreet graphics card in the future. Most agree however that there will always be a graphics card market in some form or another. “Discrete graphics has, and always will be, a rapidly changing market. Integrated graphics are improving drastically, largely because ATI and Nvidia make cut down versions of their discreet chips for integration,” says Andy McLean, Nvidia product specialist at Enta. “However, they will
Specs: DirectX 11, PCI Express 2.0, GDDR5 1GB memory, 675MHz engine clock, 3600MHz memory clock speed
never have the power or upgradeability of a discrete card. Many discrete cards also have extra outputs for HDMI, DVI and so on, and can also handle other usually CPU intensive tasks, Such as Nvidia’s CUDA being used for tasks such as video encoding. Daniel Bennett, product manager at Realtime adds: “Dedicated graphics cards will always exist because there is a requirement for them from enthusiast PC gamers. They will always want the most powerful and fastest graphics card that will enable them to have the greatest immersion gaming experience that money can buy.”
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Software PCRâ€™s monthly look at recent developments in the software market
PC GAMING A rundown of some of the most prominent, genre defining and technology pushing titles either on the market today, or to hit shelves this year
WINDOWS PHONE 7 GAMING
A look at the implications of Microsoftâ€™s new policy of making its Xbox Live arcade titles available on Windows phones
We take a look at the latest games releases and chart the best sellers
September PCR 83
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game? STARCRAFT II: WINGS OF LIBERTY Distributor: Centresoft AFTER A 12-year wait, the epically popular Starcraft franchise returned in July to massive critical and public acclaim. Selling 1.5 million copies in its first two days of release, the title has taken the throne as the fastest-selling strategy title ever made. Starcraft 2 is your classic real time strategy jaunt, though polished and balanced to create an incredibly slick, fastpaced experience. Online, it's
already become one of the most popular competitive gaming battlefields, with thousands of players hooked before the official launch, thanks to the open beta version. Players take control of either the human Terran faction, the insectoid Zerg, or the mystic Protoss, and wage war with a large array of sci-fi themed vehicles and troops. As well as the online gameplay –
NAPOLEON: TOTAL WAR Distributor: Centresoft NAPOLEON is an add-on to Empire: Total War – Creative Assembly’s latest strategy bonanza which began with Shogun: Total War in 2000. In this outing, players are put into the shoes of France's most studied military leader, as he rampages across Europe starting wars with anything that has a flag. The gameplay is split into turn-based empire building
(Activision Blizzard) RRP: £44.99 facilitated by Blizzard’s updated BattleNet platform – the single player game offers a continuation of the events featured in the first game. Seen from the Terran perspective, future add-ons are expected to continue the story from the other two races. The game is the best performing PC title of 2010, and will most likely go down as one of the legends of the gaming industry.
(Sega) RRP: £29.99 and real time battles. In the campaign map, armies are moved about the board, research is conducted for new weapons, and diplomacy with other nations can be initiated. The real attraction of the title though is the huge scaled real time combat missions, which represent some of the best looking moments in strategy gaming. Lines of musket men being smashed in
CIVILIZATION SERIES (2K Games) Distributor: Gem THE GRANDDADDY of the strategy genre, few have been able to hold a flame to Civilization’s various incarnations since MicroProse’s original went on sale in 1991. The series has never even tried to delve into more modern real time gameplays, sticking stringently to the turn-based formula that has made it one of the best loved gaming series ever.
It wouldn't be right to have a special gaming issue without a look at some of the titles themselves that are driving upgrades and new PC sales. Having a general knowledge of them is a good idea – but the market could present an area of expansion for retailers looking to branch out. Andrew Wooden gets fragged….
The scope of the game is about as wide as it gets – players start off commanding a settler unit around the year 4000BC, and are tasked with founding a city and then a civilisation that eventually dominates the world. The latest, Civilization 5 will be released at the end of the month. Rather than re-writing the gameplay that has worked
half by cavalry charges has never looked so good – and online the carnage can be played on a massive scale with eight players commanding their own armies. Napoleon is still flying high in the PC gaming charts, and is currently one of the foremost standard bearers for what the PC gaming platform can do above all others.
(Civilization 4 Complete) RRP: £29.99 so well for so long, the latest will represent more of an evolution – gaming tweaks designed to perfect what is already there, as well as more significant graphical updates. In this area in particular, Civilization 5 looks great, and has all the signs of being just as much the high-brow romp that previous games have proved to be.
September PCR 85
THE SIMS 3 Distributor: Centresoft PROBABLY the game most commonly associated with taking what is essentially an RPG – one of the most hardcore and geeky genres – into a massive mainstream audience, The Sims has a legacy presence on the gaming charts other franchises can only dream of.
(EA) RRP £39.99 Players take over an avatar and control it as it goes about its daily business. That daily business varies hugely, and is compounded with the wealth of add-on packs EA's development team churns out quite regularly. Players can try their hand at fire-fighting, catburgling and much more.
The entire series has been a massive boon to EA's PC division, and updates with the latest content, such as open world interaction, personaliseable sim-builder, and ‘create a world’ editing tools – all of which have helped it stay fresh. A casual gaming success story.
BATTLEFIELD: BAD COMPANY 2 Distributor: Centresoft FOR THOSE who feel constricted by what can sometimes seem like linear shooters, the Battlefield games attempt to offer players more freedom when attempting to blow up everything in sight. Hailed for its stunning desert, tundra and jungle terrains, Bad Company 2’s
(EA) RRP: £34.99
biggest USP remains this level of freedom of interpretation to missions. Players can circumnavigate or destroy terrain, buildings and other environmental objects so as to accomplish the mission in a different way with each play. The game’s copious access to various gun-strapped
WORLD OF WARCRAFT Distributor: Centresoft IF THE SIMS brought RPG genre to the masses by toning down the gaming stereotypes, World of Warcraft did the direct opposite, sticking vehemently to its classic roots of goblins, orks and magic men with beards. The game is explosively successful, practically created the MMORPG genre, and
(Activision Blizzard) RRP: £9.99 (2004) redefined how the industry thinks about multiplayer gaming. The fundamental gameplay is quite basic on the surface. Players take on one of many Tolkien-esque character classes – wizards, elves, minatours, or simply scary looking blokes in heavy armour – and embark on a series of quests, either solo or with
FOOTBALL MANAGER 2010/2011 Distributor: Centresoft THIS GAME’S addictive nature has been blamed for more broken relationships and productivity dives than even the Civilization series. Quite simply, this is the culmination of the pub discussion where football fans lay out exactly what they would do were they in charge of their team. Its initial appeal
vehicles has also helped it stand out from the crowd in the shooter stakes. One of the jewels in EA's hardcore gaming crown, this remains one of the best-selling titles since its launch in March this year, and will most likely wear that crown for some time to come.
others online, in order to level up their character. The application of this simple formula has proved immensely popular – and there probably hasn’t been a game in history that has sold so well so many years after its initial release (way back in 2004) – though regular updates have kept it fresh for fans.
(Sega) RRP: £19.99 (2010) RRP: £39.99 (2011)
to football fans is obvious, but it’s the level of detail, realism and updatable player and team data that has earned it such loyalty. The current 2010 version will soon be usurped by the 2011 successor, which promises advances in contract negotiations, a re-vamped training system, improved
interaction, a news subscription service, and something called 'dynamic league reputation'. This is surely one of the stable franchises of PC gaming, taking into account its Championship Manager heritage, which will most likely continue for many years to come yet.
Avanquest Click and Play Casual Range Distributor: Centresoft, Gem, Ideal Software, Interactive Idea AS WELL as triple A titles, those thinking about stocking games may consider cheaper budget range titles, which represent something more of an impulse purchase. Avanquest’s value for money click and play casual range includes a number of puzzle
86 PCR September
based-titles. Help Find The Crown Jewels sends players around the world to search for various hidden gems, driven by a number of mini-games. Hidden Mysteries – The White House and Hidden Mysteries – Buckingham Palace have a slight educational twist
embedded within many of the mini-games. These types of games tend to offer more longevity than the typical big-budget, full priced games, and can be an easier and often cheaper way of experimenting with video game sales.
SOFTWARE WINDOWS PHONE 7 GAMES
Travel games As Microsoft, and much of the wider technology world, prepares for the launch of Windows Phone 7, the software giant has announced it will be bringing Xbox Live games and functionality to the smartphone OS, in what may prove to be a key string to its bow. Andrew Wooden investigates… “It’s a clear signal that the software giant is putting games very high on the agenda of the new mobile OS – and it’s a move that makes a lot of sense”
88 PCR September
WITH THE smartphone OS space at its most competitive ever, and Microsoft finding itself in the unfamiliar position of underdog in the sector, its no surprise that the software giant will be looking to utilise every tool at its disposal to give the forthcoming Windows Phone 7 a fighting chance. It’s in this vein that it announced at Gamescom last month it would be porting games and applications from Xbox Live onto the mobile platform, unveiling the first string of titles which will appear at launch.
It’s a clear signal that the software giant is putting games very high on the agenda of the new mobile OS – and it’s a move that makes a lot of sense. In its current stage, Windows Mobile 6.5, Microsoft has a distinctly fewer number of developers putting together apps for it compared to Google’s Android or Apple’s OS X. However one area (amongst others) where it has an advantage over the competition is in gaming. Apart from porting a large number of games, giving the platform access to a huge catalogue from launch, the firm will also be attempting to transfer over the social interaction elements of Xbox Live to handsets. Its not the first time Microsoft has tried to extend the reach of the Xbox’s multiplayer credentials to other platforms. A few years ago, it tried to bring together its Xbox Live and
Windows gaming interests together by making the console compatible with PC gamers. The theory was gamers on both systems could play and communicate with each other. However this never really got off the ground, and seems to have been more or less abandoned. The firm’s plans with Windows Mobile 7 seem somewhat less ambitious, and much more manageable. It’s a smart move, and though games is just one area Windows Phone 7 will have to compete on, it’s a battle Microsoft could certainly win, even if the war goes the other way. The first games to appear include Bejeweled LIVE (PopCap), Guitar Hero 5 (Glu Mobile), The Harvest (MGS), Max and the Magic Marker (PressPlay), and Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst (MGS).
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GAMES NEW RELEASES
Game On PCR looks at the best-selling PC games and those due for release over the coming months...
GAME OF THE MONTH MAFIA 2 Publisher: 2K Games Distributor: Gem Released: Out Now THE MAFIA has long provided a rich pool of entertainment across many mediums, from the original Godfather novel to HBO's smash Sopranos. The morally reprehensible behaviour of almost all the characters involved proves fascinating to many looking for dark escapism â€“ and nowhere is that more immersive than the computer game medium.
The style of Mafia 2 is deeply cinematical, often echoing the films that have done more than anything to popularise the mob. Set in the forties and fifties, the action follows Vito and his friend Joe trying to climb their way up the seedy ranks of the gangster infrastructure and become bosses of their own. The gameplay centres around combat and car chases, with some strategy elements, and is coloured throughout by a strong thematic whiff of the period. This could do as well as the original.
ON THE RADAR
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
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Flight simulation Ubisoft
September 3 2010
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September 10 2010
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DC-3 - Legends of Flight
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Edna and Harvey: The Breakout Collectors
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History Great Battles: Medieval
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R.U.S.E Publisher: Ubisoft Distributor: Gem
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days Publisher: Eidos Distributor: Square Enix
FULL PRICE TOP 5
BUDGET TOP 5
STARCRAFT II: WINGS OF LIBERTY
FOOTBALL MANAGER 2010
THE SIMS 3: AMBITIONS
NAPOLEON: TOTAL WAR
THE SIMS 3
WORLD OF WARCRAFT: BATTLE CHEST
BATTLEFIELD: BAD COMPANY 2
THE SIMS 3: DESIGN & HIGH-TECH
W.O.W: WRATH OF LICH KING
HIDDEN MYSTERIES TRIPLE PACK
The top five charts are based on monthly sales figures supplied by Chart Track, charts are for April 2010
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Electronics PCRâ€™s monthly look at recent developments in the consumer electronic market
IMAGING With hundreds of new products and a slew of innovative new technologies, the digital imaging market has returned to growth in 2010. We examine this key market
CHERRY Cherryâ€™s general manager Michael Groom talks about dominating the German market and his plans to expand here in the UK
September PCR 93
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CONSUMER ELECTRONICS IMAGING
CONTACTS Computer 2000: 0871 880 3000 Gem Distribution: 01279 822822
Veho Qudo Digital Photo Album Viewer SRP: £99.99 Distributor: Westcoast
They say: The Veho Qudo eight-inch digital photo album allows you to share and take your digital images with you anywhere. Specs: Eight-inch digital screen, 2GB internal memory, SD card slot, internal lithium-ion rechargeable battery, leather case included
Hama: 0845 230 4262 Hannspree: 0871 666 0850 Imago: 01635 294397 Ingram Micro: 0871 973 3000 Kraun: 01293 823 891 Micro-P: 01282 776776 Midwich: 01379 649200 Nikon: 020 8481 6808 PSA Parts: 0208 544 7224 Sony: 01932 817622 VIP Computers: 0871 622 7500 Westcoast: 0118 912 6260
Pretty as a picture Having returned to growth this year, the digital camera sector is in a much stronger position, thanks to a huge proliferation in products and accessories. Nicky Trup examines this key market... “With the rise of social networking sites, digital camras have become an everyday accessory for today’s consumers.” Patrick Hamilton, Kodak
THE DIGITAL imaging sector can be a lucrative one for any tech retailer. After a shaky 2009, the segment is now back in growth, with new technologies driving demand from consumers, both for the devices and the accessories that go with them. According to figures from GfK Retail and Technology, 1.2 million cameras were sold in the UK in the second quarter of the year, with a total value of around £198 million.
Alistair Coyne, Midwich’s product manager for digital imaging, comments: “Camera vendors are adding additional features to their specs including high speed shooting modes, wider angle lenses, waterproof capabilities and GPS tagging to track where photographs have been taken.” The biggest technology of 2010, however, has been 3D – from the box office success of Avatar, to the first ever World Cup in 3D – the tech is
increasingly moving from the big screen into people’s homes. Christian Brown, Sony’s senior category marketing manager for home entertainment, described it as “a huge priority for the company.” The electronics giant recently unveiled its new Cyber-shot cameras, which capture several images as the photographer moves the camera, layering them to create a three-dimensional image.
September PCR 95
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS IMAGING
Casio Exilim EX-H5 SRP: £149.99 Distributor: Direct
They say: The 12.1MP resolution is ideal for enlarging and printing up to poster-sized images. The EX-H5 can also take high resolution HD video Specs: : 12.1MP, 24mm wide-angle lens, 10x optical zoom with mechanical image stabiliser, HD video recording in 1280 x 720 resolution
Kingston 8GB SDHC Ultimate - Class 6 SRP: £26.10 Distributors: Ingram Micro, Computer 2000
They say: Offers speed, performance and reliability to ensure you get your photos, files, movies or music faster without losing your data Specs: 20MB per second read and write speed, class six, compatible with SDHC devices, also available in 16GB and 32GB capacities
“Camera vendors are adding additional features to their specs including high speed shooting modes, wide angle lenses, waterproof capabilities and GPS tagging.” Alistair Coyne, Midwich
96 PCR September
Sanyo Xacti VPC-SH1 SRP: £349.99 Distributor: Micro-P, VIP Computers
They say: Incorporating a 30x advanced zoom and 35 mm wide-angle lens, it not only displays small details in style, but is also adept at capturing large motifs
FaceVsion TouchCam N1 SRP: £90 Distributor: Imago They say: Offers unparalleled video conferencing quality at an affordable price
Specs: True HD resolution, autofocusing lens, unidirectional dual microphones, fits almost any laptop or computer screen
Specs: Full HD videos, 10MP stills, 35mm wide-angle lens, incamera editing function, 50MB internal memory, stereo microphone, 30x advanced zoom
The downside, however, is that the images can only be viewed using 3D shutter glasses on a screen that supports the technology. While this could potentially limit the number of people who would use the 3D feature, tech firms are convinced that the glasses at least could soon be a thing of the past. Brown tells PCR that “viewing 3D technology without the use of glasses is currently in very early stages of development but it is
definitely on the horizon”, while Japanese vendor Sharp claims to be launching a no-glasses-needed 3D smartphone some time this year. As well as new technologies, social networking has also been a huge driver for digital photography. Facebook now has over 500 million users worldwide which, among a global population of around 6.7 billion people, means that around one in every 13 is a member. Add that to the countless alternatives
SanDisk Extreme HD Video SDHC Card 16GB SRP: £71.99 Distributors: Gem, Peak Development, Hama
They say: The perfect balance of speed and reliability for HD video and faster shot-to-shot performance Specs: Compatible with class six camcorders and video-enabled DSLRs, up to 20MB per second read and write speeds, also available in 4GB and 8GB
– Twitter, MySpace, Bebo, LinkedIn – and you’ll probably find that most people in the developed world have some sort of online profile. Many compact cameras now have inbuilt uploading buttons or software to allow users to get their pictures online as easily as possible. Kodak, in particular, has gone to town on this feature. “With the rise of social networking sites, digital cameras have become an everyday accessory for
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS IMAGING
Sony Cyber-shot WX5 SRP: £299 Distributor: Direct They say: Sweep multi angle shoots a high-speed burst of fifteen frames, creating a ‘3D-style’ image of your subject that can be viewed from different angles Specs: 12.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor, 3D sweep panorama, full HD movie recording, background defocus, 5x optical zoom, 2.8inch LCD display
Hannspree SD8073 Digital Photo Frame SRP: £59.99 Distributor: Direct
They say: Listen to your favourite music as you admire your special snaps Specs: Eight-inch digital LCD panel, 800 x 480 resolution, memory card slot, 64MB SDRAM/DDR memory, 256MB NAND flash memory, auto-rotate sensor, stereo speakers, interchangeable frame surround, supports various file formats
Kodak Playsport Video Camera SRP: £129.99 Distributor: Midwich
They say: This audacious little camera can plunge up to three metres under water and capture the entire experience in full 1080p HD
They say: Made in waterproof and non-deformable Dacron, resistant to cold, heat and humidity, assuring excellent protection for your digital camera and camcorder
Specs: Rugged design, 5MP stills, waterproof to three metres, 5.1 cm LCD display with glare shield, built-in image stabilisation, smart face tracking, rechargeable lithiumion battery
today’s consumers,” Patrick Hamilton, public relations officer for Kodak EMEA told us earlier this year. While undoubtedly still cameras dominate the imaging sector, the value of stocking other devices is not to be sniffed at. 100,000 video cameras were sold in the UK in Q2 this year, totalling £28 million. Consumer camcorders are steadily becoming more sophisticated, with little difference between some top-end
Kraun Digital Camera Bag – Small SRP: £4.90 Distributor: Direct
Specs: Zip closure, reinforced padding, external pocket for accessories, shoulder strap with plastic snap-hooks, internal dimensions: 110mm x 70mm x 45mm, also available in other sizes
devices and the low-end professional video cameras. 2010 has been a year of world firsts in terms of product launches, with Sony now selling the only consumer camcorder with an interchangeable lens, and Panasonic’s 3D video camera due to hit the market this month with a hefty price tag of £1,300. Some consumers, however, are perfectly happy just to use their compact devices for creating video.
“People are now using their cameras as well as camcorders for video, but alot of people are unaware of the additional memory needed to record video.” Nikki Willcock, SanDisk
SanDisk’s UK marketing manager Nikki Willcock claims this can cause problems from a memory point of view. “People are now using their cameras as well as camcorders for video, but alot of people are unaware of the additional memory needed to record video, especially in HD format,” she says. “Customers need to pick the right card for their camera usage. As a general rule, you can use a
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CONSUMER ELECTRONICS IMAGING
Sanyo Xacti VPC-CS1 SRP: £249.99 Distributors: Micro-P, VIP Computers
They say: Small enough to fit into your trouser pocket – to achieve this, Sanyo has specially developed a thin sensor module along with an ultra-slim lens Specs: Full HD videos, 8MP photos, 10x advanced zoom, slim design, incamera editing function, 50MB internal memory, 38mm wide-angle lens
Duracell Digital Camera and Camcorder Battery Range SRP: From £14.99 each Distributor: PSA Parts
Canon Legria HF M32 SRP: TBC Distributor: Ingram Micro
They say: Provides 64GB internal flash memory and SDXC memory card support for video enthusiasts who want to shoot for longer Specs: 64GB dual flash memory, SDXC support , HD video recording, 2.7-inch touchscreen LCD display, 3.3MP full HD CMOS sensor, 18x advanced zoom, face detection
They say: These products are more competitively priced than the original manufacturer’s equivalent and are not subject to the same supply constraints Range includes: Universal DSLR charger compatible with 90 per cent of DSLR products; chargers designed for specific brands including Canon, Casio, Fujifilm, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Ricoh, Samsung, Sanyo and Sony
“The SD Card Association introduced new speed specifications to guarantee new levels of performance. This is very useful for those who record high quality HD content.” Steve Hall, Kingston 98 PCR September
Secure Digital or CompactFlash card for both videoing and taking images on your camera. However, if looking to film in HD, ensure that you are purchasing a card with a speed class rating of six or higher as this will provide you with the necessary speed to transfer the data from the camera onto the card.” As well as capacity, users need to take into account the write speed of
Nikon Coolpix S3000 SRP: £109.99 Distributor: Direct
They say: Inherits its looks from popular predecessor, the S220, with even more features and a more powerful zoom lens, all packed into an even smaller body Specs: 19mm thick body, 12MP stills, wideangle lens, 4x optical zoom, 2.7-inch display, electronic vibration reduction, scene auto selector, smile timer
their memory card. “The SD Card Association introduced new speed specifications to guarantee new levels of performance – the Class 10 rating – which guarantees a minimum sustained transfer speed of 10 MBs. This is very useful for those who record high quality HD content and need a guaranteed sustained write speed,” states Steve Hall, Kingston Technology’s EMEA product development manager.
Memory cards are just one of a huge range of potential add-on sales to go with digital cameras. According to Coyne, consumers will often want a case or tripod for their device so it can pay off to create the opportunity for them to buy everything at once through bundling or strategic use of POS materials. “This works best when sold as a bundle when you can show a saving,” he suggests. “As they say: everyone wants a bargain.”
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS COMPANY PROFILE CHERRY
General manager Michael Groom says the company is continuously evolving
Cherry holds an 18 per cent share of the German market
Cherry on top Cherry has a long history in the electronics sector, spanning over 50 years. Today, it specialises in peripherals and is looking to boost business in the UK. Andrew Wooden talks to general manager Michael Groom… "We have dedicated resources in place to specifically target underperforming and emerging markets, and we have some exciting ideas and plans to help develop awareness of the Cherry brand." Michael Groom, Cherry
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Where, when and by whom was Cherry founded? Cherry Electrical Products was founded by Illinois-based design engineer and entrepreneur Walter Cherry in 1953, and quickly became known as the manufacturer of snap action micro switches, the technology that would go on to form the basis of the business. Having successfully applied this mechanical switch technology in the automotive and industrial sectors, Walter recognised an opportunity in the fledgling computer market, and in 1972 the first Cherry keyboard rolled off the production line.
Today, Cherry is held in high regard in the computer industry and by gamers and keyboard enthusiasts across the world. We are unique in that we manufacture in Europe and continue to offer a broad range of keyboards and mice for both business customers and consumers. Cherry caters for the entry-level market while also offering POS, smartcard, RFID, compact, and biometric solutions. Is the company very different now to how it was then? Yes. Beside the obvious technological changes, the company has continued to evolve. There was a major change
recently in terms of ownership – having been a private, family-owned business for 56 years, Cherry was acquired by German-owned ZF Group in the summer of 2008. This has brought with it a number of new opportunities, as well as the financial backing and support from a €13 billion parent organisation, which is what is we need to develop and be successful in our competitive marketplace. What would you say is the most successful area of your business? The Cherry brand is synonymous with quality and low lifecycle cost, both key
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS COMPANY PROFILE CHERRY
criteria in the demanding business environment. Although our consumer business is gaining ground, historically we have been more successful in the B2B sector, with Cherry solutions currently being used by major retailers, the NHS, airports and banking sector. Most recently Cherry Smartboards, SmartTerminals and SmartReaders have been selected by several UK police forces, where they will be used to ensure secure PIN logon. What do you have to offer retailers over your competitors? We offer beautifully designed, high quality products for the fashionconscious home or home office user. Our German design team is innovative and design-driven, and does not compromise on quality. We even offer five-year warranties on some of our new consumer range. In addition, we are happy to work with retailers to tailor marketing activities, we hold stock in the UK and provide local technical support. What plans do you have for future expansion around the world? In Germany the Cherry brand commands an 18 per cent share of the market. Our business there remains strong and we expect this percentage to increase year-on-year. We now have dedicated resources in place to specifically target underperforming and emerging markets around the world, and we have some exciting ideas and plans to help develop awareness of the Cherry brand through proactive marketing, in conjunction with our chosen distributors, resellers, and software partners.
“Our immediate priority is to raise awareness of the Cherry brand among UK consumers. We have a great range of products, but not enough consumers know about them.” Michael Groom, Cherry
we have started with our distribution channel partners EntaTech, Interactive Ideas, Northamber and Tekdata, while developing and strengthening our presence in both the consumer and business channels via online resellers, IT mail order, computer specialists and mass merchandisers. It is important for
us that the Cherry brand is visible and the product readily available. Do you think the Christmas buying period will be better for retail than last year? We have seen a good increase in sales this year over 2009, and remain quietly confident that this will continue throughout the Christmas period, although the economy does remain finely balanced. The proposed VAT increase for 2011 should add to a strong Christmas trading period as customers look to purchase before the year-end. Finally, aspirational tech products are usually high on most people’s Christmas wish lists, and we believe that our new range will capture consumers’ imaginations. Where do you see the company in five years’ time? Having achieved recognition as a mainstream brand and grown market share significantly in the UK and across Europe, certainly. Cherry products will be the discerning user’s lifestyle purchase of choice, and be one of the top three suppliers of computer input devices throughout Europe, across all markets.
COMPANY HISTORY: 1953: Walter Cherry establishes Cherry Electrical Products in the basement of an Illinois restaurant. 1954: In the first year, sales amount to $200,000 and the company earns a $15,000 profit. 1963: Cherry opens its first European division in West Germany. 1972: The firm expands its European operations to England. 1973: Cherry introduces the keyboard line. 1980: European operations are expanded with a sales and distribution centre in France. 2005: Cherry reaches nearly $400 million in sales. 2005: Cherry is awarded the ‘Best Production Plant’ in Europe. 2008: The company is acquired by ZF Friedrichshafen.
What are your plans for the UK specifically? Our immediate priority is to raise awareness of the Cherry brand among UK consumers – we have a great range of products, but not enough consumers know about them. We will, of course, be looking to retain and where possible grow our share in the B2B and public sector markets, but the emphasis in the immediate future will be on the consumer marketplace, and the launch of our new products. We plan to continue the good work
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Carly Bailey 01992 535647 Carly.Bailey@intentmedia.co.uk
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SKOBBLER REVAMPS FREE IPHONE GPS APP GPS firm Skobbler has released a new version of its free iPhone sat nav app, featuring a new user interface, which the company claims makes the software more accurate and easier to use. It is also now compatible with Apple iOS4. The app now includes Google local search, which allows users to navigate to their destination by just tapping one button. Skobbler cofounder Marcus Thielking said: “The improvements are a reaction to UK customer feedback and we are pleased that these measures make our navigation software even more user-friendly.” DELL BOLSTERS ITS NETBOOK LINE-UP Dell has launched the new Mini 1018 netbook, a design and spec refresh from the Mini 1012. The new model updates the Intel ATOM CPU to the DDR3 compatible N455 and adds buttons in front of the trackpad. 802.11n wireless capability has also been added. The Mini 1018 features the same hingeforward design as the Mini 1012 and Inspiron R series, along with a new textured palmrest. The touchpad, meanwhile, has discrete buttons and single gesture functionality. It comes in a high gloss black finish. NTP SNAPS UP IOCELL US-based digital storage specialist Iocell Networks has entered an exclusive UK distribution deal with Wokingham-based distie NTP. The first product to be stocked under the partnership is the NetDISK 351UNE external hard drive. “NTP is delighted to have been awarded exclusive distribution for Iocell’s impressive product portfolio in the UK,” said Michael Storey, sales manager at NTP UK. “We are now actively seeking UK-based retail partners in order to get these fantastic products into as many homes and offices as possible.”
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RAZER DEBUTS MECHANICAL KEYBOARD Gaming peripherals vendor Razer has launched what it claims is the world’s first mechanical gaming keyboard, available exclusively through Realtime Distribution. The BlackWidow keyboard features a tactile mechanical structure aimed at giving each key a crisp response similar to a mouse click. This is coupled with a key actuation point halfway through the full travel distance to create greater precision and accuracy. Razer claims the BlackWidow is the only mechanical keyboard to feature fully programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording and five additional gaming keys. LENOVO LAUNCHES NEW SMB SERVER Lenovo has introduced a new addition to its ThinkServer portfolio, the TS200v, which is available from Servers Plus. The low noise device is designed as an entry-level single processor server that is energy efficient and easy to manage. “The ThinkServer TS200v offers a unique value proposition to small and growing businesses,” said Garry Owen, Lenovo’s product marketing manager for SMB servers. “It’s an ideal system for small and branchbased business workloads, but with its class-leading remote manageability, gives the economics and a perfect platform for service providers to implement new and cost-effective managed on-site services to small businesses.”
DISKGENIE GETS CERTIFIED iStorage’s diskGenie device has become the first USB hard drive product to be awarded a CESG Claims Tested Mark certificate, which means that public sector organisations, including government departments, local authorities and the NHS can recognise that it has been independently tested under CESG authority. iStorage claims the diskGenie keeps data secure even if the drive is removed from its enclosure, through ATM-style PIN code access and 128 or 256-bit AES hardware encryption.
Interactive signs up Sleek Audio INTERACTIVE IDEAS has signed a distribution agreement with Sleek Audio, a US-based maker of high-end wireless earphones, in a deal designed to strengthen the vendor’s position in the UK and Ireland.
design and sound quality further than we have seen in the audio market previously,” said Interactive Ideas’ marketing director Michael Breeze. “Interactive Ideas looks forward to supporting Sleek Audio’s expansion
“We are delighted to be able to offer our customers a range of innovative earphones that push the boundaries of design and sound quality.” Michael Breeze, Interactive Ideas
The agreement will see the Enfield distributor adding Sleek’s entire range to its portfolio of peripherals and software. “By this agreement with Sleek Audio, we are delighted to be able to offer our customers a range of innovative earphones that push the boundaries of
into the UK market.” Sleek Audio claims to have created the first ever acoustically customisable earphones with wireless hybrid technology. The firm’s products are compatible with all brands of MP3 player.
Centerprise takes on peripherals duo Agreement is perfectly timed for new product launches ahead of Christmas, says distie “We look forward to working closely with Canyon and Prestigio and launching the brands into the UK market.” Emma Loveless, Centerprise
By Nicky Trup
CENTERPRISE INTERNATIONAL has signed exclusive deals with Canyon and Prestigio, which will see the Hampshire-based distributor play a key role in launching the two peripherals brands in the UK. Canyon and Prestigio produce peripherals and accessories, for which Centerprise is currently creating advertising campaigns and looking into other promotional activities. “We are pleased to announce the new partnership with Canyon and Prestigio,” said Emma Loveless, Centerprise’s business unit operations supervisor. “We look forward to working closely with them and launching the brands into the UK market.” Centerprise will be stocking the vendor’s entire range of products, which covers mice, headsets and a
variety of Apple accessories. According to Loveless, the deal is well timed, with the festive shopping season soon approaching. “CI is very excited to launch Canyon’s limited edition Graffiti range, which is coming out soon. The products in the range are aimed at the youth market and would make ideal Christmas presents,” she said. The Canyon and Prestigio brands are both operated by Cyprus-based ABSIS, with their products currently being sold in more than 40 countries worldwide.
Loveless and the team at Centerprise are working on marketing strategies to launch the peripherals brands in the UK
Realtime expands motherboard portfolio Gigabyte to become a ‘key manufacturer’ for the Cambridgeshire-based distribution outfit Realtime looks forward to a long and prosperous relationship with Gigabyte.” Julie Darrington, Realtime Distribution
SPECIALIST GAMING component and peripherals distributor Realtime has partnered with Gigabyte to add its range of motherboards to its portfolio. The deal will allow Gigabyte to expand its presence across the country. “Gigabyte is pleased with our new partnership with Realtime Distribution. We believe that its vast experience and expertise in the IT components market will enable us to reach new areas in the UK channel,”
Gigabyte’s range is aimed at PC enthusiasts
said Gigabyte UK product manager Andrew Ditchburn. Julie Darrington, Realtime’s purchasing director, added: “Gigabyte will be a key manufacturer in our enthusiast PC components portfolio because of its continued innovation in motherboard design and unique ability at being the first to market. Its motherboards are aimed squarely at PC enthusiasts which makes its portfolio an ideal match for Realtime.”
“With Gigabyte providing a three-year warranty across its entire product range and direct RMA, working with the firm has been a real pleasure. Realtime looks forward to a long and prosperous relationship with Gigabyte.” Among the vendor’s products are the P55A series motherboards, which include USB 3.0 and a solid copper layer within the PCB for improved energy efficiency and stability for overclocking.
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MARKETPLACE APPOINTMENTS/EVENTS APPOINTMENTS
Handa takes on new role at CU Lexmark promotes Law Midwich hires marketing and PR assistant CoolIT appoints new Americas boss GEM
for promoting the audiovisual and consumer electronics divisions. She completed a BA Hons in fashion marketing and communication last year. “I am really pleased to get a job with one of the UK’s leading distributors. As I feel this is an great opportunity to progress in my career,” said Haggarty.
NEIL HANDA is leaving his position as head of marketing at Gem after eight years with the distributor. He will join Computers Unlimited in a senior marketing position, to help drive business throughout Europe. Meanwhile, NEIL WILLERTON has joined Gem as channel development director. He previously worked for ISA as channel director and will have responsibility for mass merchants, telcos, catalogues and business development.
LEXMARK CHRIS LAW has been promoted to the position of supplies director for the UK and Ireland at Lexmark. Law has been with Lexmark since 2002, when he joined as business manager for the then consumer products division. His most recent position was head of business development in the EMEA
supplies team. “Chris exemplifies what the Lexmark team stands for and the technology we have to offer consumers and businesses: a trusted and valued service,” said Steve Purdy, Lexmark UK’s country general manager. “Chris’ expertise will drive the current retail and business-to-business sales for our
UK team and further encourage new customers to look to Lexmark for all their printing requirements.”
MIDWICH Distributor Midwich has taken on KATRINA HAGGARTY as marketing and PR assistant, responsible
MICHAEL GREY has joined PC cooling vendor CoolIT as regional manager for the Americas. He joins from graphics card vendor BFG Technologies. “We are delighted to have Michael join CoolIT as regional manager for the Americas. Michael has an outstanding track record and his experience as a product manager for BFG Technologies will no doubt allow him to excel in his new role,” said Barry Fairhurst, CoolIT’s worldwide vice president of sales and customer support.
DIARY DATES 2010 The UK’s channel calendar is full of important events. Here are some upcoming highlights of the year ahead…
PCR FOOTBALL CHALLENGE
TECHNOLOGY EXPOSED SEPTEMBER 15TH - 16TH ASCOT RACECOURSE, BERKSHIRE Midwich’s tech event features vendors from the audiovisual, consumer electronics, custom installation, print, digital imaging and barcode solutions segments. Visitors will be able to attend free seminars and are encouraged to bring their end user clients along. RETAIL CONFERENCE 2010 SEPTEMBER 22ND AMERICA SQUARE CONFERENCE CENTRE, LONDON Now in its fourth year, the Retail Conference offers free attendance to
retailers. The event, organised by Retail Acumen, includes seminars, workshops and networking for senior figures in the retail industry.
OCTOBER INGRAM MICRO SHOWCASE OCTOBER 6TH LONDON The event will take place at various tourist hotspots, including the London Eye and London Film Museum. The exhibition will be followed by an invite-only dinner and awards ceremony, presented by Hugh Dennis. PCR FOOTBALL CHALLENGE OCTOBER 15TH
POWER LEAGUE, BARNET, LONDON The first ever PCR Football Challenge is a five-a-side tournament dedicated to the UK PC and IT trade. It is expected to attract up to 32 teams from all areas of the channel. Email Katie.Rawlings@intentmedia.co.uk for more information and sponsorship opportunities. TCA MEMBER CONFERENCE OCTOBER 20TH RADISSON EDWARDIAN HOTEL, HEATHROW The conference allows the IT trade to come together to listen, talk, learn and network. Attendance is free to TCA & CompTIA Members.
If you would like to promote your event, please contact: email@example.com INGRAM MICRO SHOWCASE 106 PCR September
This information is believed to be correct, but potential visitors should confirm details with show organisers before making arrangements to attend
MARKETPLACE COMPANY PROFILE TP-LINK
Linked in Having opened a 5,000 square foot warehouse in the UK, Chinese networking giant TP-Link is looking to leverage its leading position in Asia to promote further growth here and across the world. Andrew Wooden talks to director of international business Jeffrey Chao…
Since Jeffrey Chao co-founded the firm in 1996 it has grown to employ over 5,000 staff globally
CONTACT Phone: 0845 147 0017 Web: www.tp-link.com
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Where, when and by whom was TPLink founded? Established in 1996 and headquartered in Shenzhen, China, TP-Link was founded by myself and Cliff Chao, with a vision to provide cost-effective networking devices to end users worldwide. Our subsequent successes have led to TP-Link becoming a global presence in the networking industry and the number one market share holder in China. TP-Link has grown very quickly in the last few years, not only in the networking industry, but in the IT industry in general. In 2009, we were ranked the number one SOHO networking company in Computer Partner magazine’s top 100 IT suppliers in China. With tens of millions of customers in over 100 countries, we offer a full range of networking products including ethernet, wireless LAN, broadband terminals for switching, routing and other major areas of scaled networking. To meet our growing demand, we employ over 5,055 employees
worldwide and have offices in China, Singapore, USA, Germany, Russia, India and the UK, with offices in Brazil, Italy and Vietnam currently being established. How has the company changed over the years? Since our inception in 1996, TP-Link has experienced remarkable and dramatic growth, fuelled by excellent products and business practice. We have seen exceptional year-onyear growth, with an international sales growth rate of 75 per cent in 2009 and product sales reaching 20 million units. We have also expanded from our roots in Shenzhen into the global market, now selling products in over 100 countries. TP-Link’s positioning as a technology company makes investment in research and development key to our core competitiveness. We invest over eight per cent of our annual sales back into R&D with a view to expanding our current range to include 3G mobile, digital home and network security fields.
MARKETPLACE COMPANY PROFILE TP-LINK
What are some of the biggest issues facing connectivity hardware at the moment? Apart from the usual suspect of bandwidth, hardware manufacturers need to take into consideration the impact of cloud technologies and services. Although not new, cloud services present a wealth of opportunity as they gain mainstream adoption. The challenge for us is to create products that incorporate the latest technology, while meeting a specific need and remaining scalable. As businesses seek to use cloud services to cut costs, hardware providers should look to do the same by providing the right tool at the right time for the right price. We continually invest in R&D to ensure our range of networking products are compliant with the latest standards. However, we also maintain a focus on managing costs. Without cutting corners on quality, we prioritise the affordability of our product range. Our networking products are designed to cater for the specific needs of end users, while remaining competitively priced. By predicting and meeting the needs of our consumer, we can ensure our place in the future of the networking industry. The sector isn’t the easiest in which to distinguish products – what is it that you are offering that isn’t already out there? Providing high quality, cost-effective networking communications equipment is TP-Link’s commitment to our supply channel and customers. We strive to ensure that we function in a way that makes our customers’ lives easier, to ensure long and mutually prosperous partnerships along the supply chain. TP-Link is committed to producing the highest quality products for our endusers. We produce our products costeffectively in order to pass savings on to both retailers and customers.
In 2010, TP-Link will sell approximately 50 million networking products across the globe, at an average of 140 thousand products sold every day. It is precisely due to this sales volume that TP-Link is able to control production costs and develop cutting edge products.
metres. Once built, this plant will see our manufacturing scale reach an entirely new level, with production technology and manufacturing achieving world-class status. Not only will standardised production achieve stringent quality control but cost control will also become even more prevalent, savings that will ensure TP-Link can achieve rapid market growth. In the coming years we aim to establish over 30 overseas branches whilst completing and securing our international sales channels. We are
“TP-Link has partnered with four distributors in the UK – EntaTech, Spire, Target Components and Goliath. And we want to work with other retailers in England so that we may better serve Britain’s end users.” Jeffrey Chao, TP-Link While ensuring we manufacture high quality products, TP-Link also provides the best after-sales service to ensure our resellers have as little to worry about as possible.
currently developing offices in Brazil, Italy and Vietnam. In the short term, our goal is to build on our status as China’s number one market share holder and develop our international presence by becoming one of the top three global SOHO networking brands. As part of our expansion we aim to vigorously pursue the 3G mobile, digital home and network security fields.
What plans do you have for future expansion around the world? In 2009, 41.8 per cent of our annual revenue was from the international market and we have successfully started our first six overseas branch offices, in order to provide quick and What about specifically in comprehensive services to our the UK? customers. Our UK branch office is TP-Link’s UK start-up already operational, to better serve the local market in sales, marketing, after-sales service and logistics. We are also continually developing and improving our manufacturing TP-Link is aiming to become one of the world’s top processes. Our new three SOHO networking brands industrial park is under construction, with a total plant area of roughly 40 million square
now has 5,000 square feet of office and warehouse space. We have also opened a local technical support hotline, established a general three-year warranty on all of our products and five-year warranty pledge on our managed switches. We will continue to strive to provide sales, marketing, aftersales service and logistics-related services to our partners and customers in the UK. TP-Link has partnered with four distributors in the UK – EntaTech, Spire, Target Components and Goliath. We are also working with the likes of Amazon UK, CCL, Novatech, Buy.com UK, Broadbandbuyer, IT247 and Overclockers. We are currently working to collaborate with more mainstream retailers in the UK and welcome the opportunity to work with other retailers in England so that we may better serve Britain’s end users. Our aim is to become one of the top three SOHO networking brands in England in the coming years. Where do you see the business in five years time? Based on the confidence of tens of millions of customers, TP-link is now growing to become one of the most competitive providers of networking products. We are successfully working towards becoming one of the leading networking brands, striving for a larger global market share and advancing in the world of networking to better serve our most valued customers with a product that makes their lives easier.
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The power of
leasing Iain Shaw discusses the advantages of offering cash-strapped business customers the opportunity to lease hardware they otherwise couldn’t afford... “Our advice is very simple – do not wait to be asked if you can arrange a lease but be proactive and put on all your business quotes that a leasing option is available.”
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LAST MONTH I said that I would be taking a look at how best to remove the cost objection should a potential sale present itself, either by way of a refresh for failing ICT infrastructure in an SMB, or for a new start-up business. This is an area that we know a great deal about at Brigantia, having started life in 1995 as a lease finance brokerage, working with around 75 independents in Yorkshire and the North East. It was through working closely with these indies that we realised they were being badly served by other service providers in areas such as business insurance and merchant services. And it directly led to the formation of Brigantia as a subscription membership organisation aimed at the smaller indie. We realised that other established membership groups were more interested in selling advertising space in glossy publications and taking expensive monthly subscriptions; an approach better suited to larger retailers and resellers than the typical small neighbourhood independent business. Over the years our membership offering has evolved and developed and we have worked with a number of lease
finance providers. The biggest issues we have come up against over the years is in finding providers that are happy to work with smaller indies that may only produce two or three cases each year, and who are thus not experts themselves in the processes involved in writing leasing business. Given that Brigantia numbers nearly a thousand outlets, this actually equates to a great deal of potential businesses.
CONTACT IAIN SHAW firstname.lastname@example.org 0870 160 3215 www.brigantia.com Iain invites opinions from PCR readers and will respond though this column
BE PROACTIVE Having experienced difficulties with our two previous service providers since the credit crunch hit hard, we have been on the look out for a replacement provider that was prepared to find a home for the varied types of cases presented by our members. Meeting Mark Johnson of Stockportbased broker Johnson Reed restored our faith. Johnson Reed is what a proper broker should be – approachable, attentive and with excellent funding lines across a wide variety of funders. The company is now a Brigantia associate service provider and has provided many new marketing resources and tools to assist our members in offering their business customers the option of leasing. Our advice is very simple – do not wait to be asked if you can arrange a lease but be proactive and put on all your business quotes that a leasing option is available. You do not have to be a Brigantia member to work with Johnson Reed or any other provider, but with our low annual subscription rates you gain access to our enhanced scheme with them and our management and group knowledge base as well. So if cost is the issue stopping the sale – lease it to them.
Keith Warburton is the president of The Technology Channels Association. CONTACT email@example.com
Authorisation denied Keith Warburton looks at the Microsoft’s revised policy for education software resellers, and considers whether new Ofcom rules will put an end once and for all to misleading broadband adverts... “How can it be right to advertise ‘up to’ broadband speeds when you’d actually have to be sitting in the exchange in order to get anywhere close to achieving them?”
WE WERE contacted recently by a TCA member surprised to learn that their Microsoft Authorised Education Reseller status had been revoked, having apparently not been informed of this by Microsoft. They found out that the policy relating to sales of Education Software had been changed in 2008. You may or may not have been aware of this; when we attempted to find our more it did indeed seem as if this policy change had caused scarcely a ripple when it hit the pond. Microsoft says that now, in order to become an AER or to renew AER status you must be a Certified or Gold Certified Partner or to have the Small Business Specialist Certification.
It is easy to understand how some resellers may be more than a little upset by this. If you have loyal customers whom you supply with a wide range of products and services, and are then told by a key supplier that they have moved the goalposts so that either you go to the time and expense of sitting exams or else you lose the ability to supply those customers, you are bound to feel that you are more or less over a barrel. On the other hand, we strongly support increased professionalism in the channel, and vendors’ certification processes can be an effective route to achieving that. Quite a few of our members swear by (as opposed to swear at) Microsoft’s programmes. SPEEDING UP Meanwhile, lack of professionalism, this time in advertising, is something Ofcom has accused ISPs of. How can it be right to advertise ‘up to’ broadband speeds when you’d actually have to be sitting in the exchange in order to get anywhere close to achieving them? And let’s face it, speed is all that these guys seem to sell. It’s like a car manufacturer’s only sales point being top speed, ignoring the fact that you’ll never achieve it on our roads due to the law or congestion, or both. Ofcom’s report says that while the average advertised ‘up to’ speed has increased by 25 per cent over the last year, the actual speeds achieved –
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measured against the advertised rates – have decreased. In 2009 the average actual speed was 58 per cent of that advertised, and in 2010 it was 45 per cent. The gap between reality and marketing puff is widening. As a result of this trend Ofcom tightened its (voluntary) Code of Practice to try to ensure that its signatories come clean and promote speed in a way that doesn’t blatantly exploite consumer gullibility or ignorance. It is suggesting that ISPs advertise a ‘typical speed range’ (TSR) instead. The TCA’s view is that it is highly likely ISPs will adopt a TSR in a year or two, but it will be buried somewhere in the detail unless Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority show their teeth and bite a few of the worst offenders. When we asked our reseller members about this we got some interesting responses, which you can see in the trade area of the TCA website. The bottom line is that they have to work damn hard to manage customers’ expectations, but are laying the blame for inadequate speed on BT’s copper wire. If we are relying on what is effectively 100-year-old technology to deliver services to our homes, what hope is there for the UK to make full use of the cloud? It’s a bit like Tesco trying to do their home deliveries using a horse and cart. What a thought! All that manure… just like those broadband ads.
Robert Peckham is a director of The Technology Channels Association. CONTACT firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the club Robert Peckham runs through some of the services Mac resellers can use to help generate business, whether they’re a small indie or a larger multiple... “If you’re a small, local Mac support provider seeking new clients from end users and small businesses, you should check out PCIQ. I’ve registered with them myself and can report that the system does work.”
AS REGULAR readers of my column should recall, every year at about this time I compile and present my updated list of recommended businessgenerating services that Mac resellers should all be looking at and getting on board with. Some of these ideas will only appeal to smaller dealers, while others are relevant mainly to larger resellers. But they all have the potential to increase or possibly transform any Mac IT services business. DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES So let’s work through the list, starting with my number one recommendation: join the Technology Channels Association. Apart from the huge financial and technical benefits of membership, it will also give your business the immediate credibility of belonging to the main association for your industry. And now we have a searchable online database where our members can be found. Next, make sure your company is listed on Conjungo, which is steadily working towards being the de facto directory of IT technology suppliers. If you’re a small, local Mac support provider seeking new clients from end users and small businesses, you should check out PCIQ. I’ve been tracking the growth of this service, as well as registering with them myself, and I can report that the system does work; they
are evidently getting large numbers of enquiries from Mac users all over the UK seeking local support. And while we’re on the subject of IT service referral websites, don’t forget Fix IT Local, which was the original, and is still the slickest and best-presented of these services. I’ve also recently been very impressed with a relatively new ‘general trades’ online directory – mylocalservices.co.uk – which relies heavily on user feedback to rate its listed companies, and a basic listing is free. For resellers who are more business support-focused, then the directory service you should get your company
onto is Applegate which, despite the obvious naming similarity, is actually the leading B2B services directory in the UK for more than just IT. Oh, and it's run by Jon Molyneux, a former head of Apple UK. If you’re a qualified expert in Apple Support for businesses, you can apply to join the growing Apple Consultants Network at consultants.apple.com/uk and you’ll get referred business from Apple itself. But this directory is not very easy to find. But before you look at any of these services, you should definitely join the Technology Channels Association. Or did I mention us already?
The TCA is the not–for–profit trade body with membership made up of businesses from all parts of the channel.
Visit www.tcauk.org for more information
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Fujifilm 3D camera arrives in the UK W3 lets users view their images on its inbuilt viewer, without wacky 3D glasses being required FUJIFILM HAS launched a new camera that can create both still photos and movies in 3D. The FinePix W3 purports to be “the world’s only true stereoscopic 3D compact camera HD with video,”
“Users can view their 3D content without the need for special glasses, all of which is neatly displayed on the 3.5inch digital display.” allowing their users to play their content on a 3D TV via an HDMI cable. The W3, which launches this month, records 3D movies in high definition, with stereo sound. It combines two high quality lenses and two CCD sensors, separated by a similar distance to a pair of eyes, in order to replicate the human
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visual system. The dual technology also means the user can take two 2D photos at once – for example, a wide-angle and close-up or with differing sensitivities and colour balances. Users can also view their 3D content without the need for glasses on the camera’s 3.5-inch display, or an optional eight-inch 3D digital viewer. According to the vendor, 3D photo printing will also soon be available in the UK.
Fujifilm says the W3 is the first of its kind offering stereoescopic 3D with HD video
Sony is game for headsets Consumer electronics giant launches two new gaming models SONY HAS launched two new gaming headsets, the DR-GA500 and DRGA200, designed following extensive consultations with gamers themselves. The DR-GA500 combines a Dolby Pro Logic IIx decoder with Sony Virtual Phones Technology to create ‘3D surround effects”. The signal processing hardware is contained in a compact external unit (pictured right), and the effect created is ideal for first person shooter games, says the equipment manufacturer. Both headsets feature 40mm driver units for high quality sound reproduction, and incorporate a compact boom microphone.
They are made from durable materials in Sony’s ‘triple enfolding’ design, which aims to put less pressure on the wearer’s ear. As an added incentive, from October 15th Sony is offering a free copy of
the new Medal of Honor single player game with both the DR-GA500 and DRGA200.
As an added purchase incentive, from October 15th Sony is offering a free copy of the new Medal of Honor game with both the DR-GA500 and DR-GA200
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Livescribe unveils Echo New smartpen takes on the business market 4GB and 8GB models available LIVESCRIBE is following up on the success of its Pulse smartpen with the launch of the Echo, which is aimed at the enterprise segment. Livescribe says that this latest device makes sharing, securing and organising information a simple task, with new collaboration and communication tools in the pipeline for later this year. Available in 4GB and 8GB models, the device can hold up to 400 or 800 hours of audio recordings. An inbuilt microphone captures meetings and lectures, which can be played back using the integrated speaker or transfered to the user’s computer via micro-USB, which also recharges the smartpen. The standard 3.5mm jack fits regular earphones or the Echo 3D Recording Premium Headset, which enables binaural recording. The Livescribe Echo also includes a 120,000 word dictionary, as well as
“Livescribe’s mission is to enhance the capture, access and sharing of written and spoken information.”
games and study aids. A high–contrast OLED display makes it easy to navigate the various applications. The smartpen features an ergonomic design with a rubberised grip and antiroll surface, as well as a replaceable ink tip, which allows the user to easily swap the cartridge once it runs out “Livescribe’s mission is to enhance the capture, access and sharing of written and spoken information to improve communication, collaboration, productivity and learning,” said Livescribe’s founder and CEO Jim Marggraff. “Today’s announcement of the Echo smartpen... marks a significant advancement in paper-based computing, as well as personal and professional information management.” The Livescribe Echo is available from Gem Distribution from September 1st.
The device also carries a 120,000 word dictionary
BitDefender releases new security range 2011 range addresses “new era of personal security”, vendor says
BITDEFENDER has released its latest security software package, Total Security 2011, which offers protection from viruses, spyware, phishing and identity theft. The software includes anti-virus, firewall and network management tools, file encryption, online back-up and automatic hourly updates. The customisable user interface allows consumers to change the software
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to match their own needs, as well as create shortcuts to gaming or laptop modes. It also includes a streamlined installation process, smart user tips, video tutorials and free 24-hour technical support. The vendor claims that new performance optimisation features let users keep their whole system safe without slowing down any other running applications. “Security isn’t simply a matter of locking everything out; it’s a series of carefully managed choices, balancing the needs of users with the realities of the digital world. Connectivity has taken the personal computer into new realms
– online gaming, e-learning, collaborative workgroups – launching a new era of personal security,” said Vince Hwang, BitDefender’s global director of product delivery. “BitDefender 2011 products address this significant change in the security landscape by continuing to provide superior protection from online attacks, while offering major improvements to system performance and the ability for users to personalise their settings to best match their individual style and needs.” The other security packages in the 2011 range are Antivirus Pro 2011 and Internet Security 2011.
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Nokia shows off ‘touch and type’ phone New mobile device gives consumers the best of both worlds, mobile giant claims NOKIA HAS launched the new X3 smartphone, which combines a touchscreen interface with a traditional 12 button phone keypad. The device, expected some time this quarter, is the vendor’s first ‘touch and type’ phone, designed to give the customers “the best of both worlds”. “We have given people a larger screen with clear icons and menus, plus kept critical keys such as the send and end keys. We’ve also added dedicated function keys for important links like music and text messaging,” said Mary McDowell, Nokia’s executive vice president of mobile phones. “We have designed the Nokia X3 to be a touch and type device because typing is ideal for SMS and social networking where fast and frequent input is needed, while touch is ideal for functions such as setting alarms, smooth
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"Typing is ideal for SMS, while touch is ideal for functions such as browsing and controlling applications." Mary McDowell, Nokia
browsing and controlling applications like music and games.” The slimline device measures just 9.6mm thick, making it one of Nokia’s thinnest phones ever. It has a brushed aluminium back cover and comes in five colours – black, white, pink, lilac and electric blue.
The X3 boasts a range of additional features including 3G, WLAN, a music player, an FM radio and 5MP camera with 4x digital zoom, which can also record video. Meanwhile, dedicated music and messaging keys allow the user easy access to Nokia’s Ovi services applications.
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Logitech launches peripheral duo
CALL YOUR ACCOUNT MANAGER TODAY FOR FULL DETAILS
Contact the VIP Sales team on 0871 622 7500 or buy online at www.vip-computers.com/uk
Wireless Combo boasts a long battery life, with only one small USB receiver needed
© Copyright VIP Computer Centre Limited. 2010. Information correct at time of publication E&OE
Peripherals specialist Logitech has launched a keyboard and mouse package aimed at notebook users who want to make their desk set-up that bit more comfortable. The Logitech Wireless Combo MK520 includes a full-size keyboard, which gives the user more room to
smooth tracking across most surfaces, except glass or mirror. “When you’re using a laptop, the Logitech Wireless Combo can make everything you do on your computer more comfortable,” said Marcus Harvey, Logitech UK and Ireland country manager. “The MK520
“When you’re using a laptop, the Logitech Wireless Combo can make everything you do on your computer more comfortable. It is designed to feel good hour after hour.” Marcus Harvey, Logitech UK
type, with concave low-profile keys that the vendor suggests ‘cradle’ the fingertips. According to Logitech, the keyboard has a three-year battery life and incorporates one-touch media controls so the user can mute their computer or skip to the next song at the touch of a button. Like the keyboard, the mouse is full-sized. It can be used by both left and right-handers, thanks to its contoured design and soft rubber side grips. It boasts a one-year battery life and a high-performance laser for
keyboard and mouse combo is designed to feel good hour after hour.” The included Logitech Unifying receiver is small enough to leave in a laptop when it’s not being used, and connects both the mouse and keyboard to the computer. Users can also add another compatible Logitech device without the need for an additional receiver. The receiver delivers 2.4 GHz of wireless connectivity, works at a range of up to ten metres and includes 128bit AES keyboard encryption for added security.
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Nikon updates DSLR range Imaging giant has added HD video functionality to its latest model
NIKON HAS launched a new DSLR camera, the D3100, which is the manufacturer’s first to be able to record full 1080p HD videos. The entry-level D3100 is an update of the D3000, which Nikon claims is the best selling DSLR camera to date. The new D3100 features a 14.2MP sensor, live view, new auto-focus modes and improved ergonomics. Users can record cinematic quality 24p video clips, or shoot at 24 to 30 frames per second at 720p for sharing online. Nikon says the D3100’s Nikkor lens delivers the sharpness needed for HD video, while ‘Vibration Reduction II’ technology helps to prevent the camera from shaking.
“This is the ideal camera for families who want to capture important moments in perfect quality, without worrying about settings.” Jordi Brinkman, Nikon
The D3100 is also the first DSLR to implement full-time auto-focus for DMovie video shooting. While in live view mode the camera automatically focuses on subjects, which improves shooting while using the LCD display. “This is the ideal camera for families who want to capture all the important moments in perfect quality, without worrying about settings,” said Nikon Europe product manager Jordi Brinkman. “It also has the popular Guide Mode as seen on the D3000, which now shows you sample images of what you can achieve with certain settings, for example if you change the shutter speed or aperture.”
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To advertise on these pages please call
Carly Bailey 01992 535647 Carly.Bailey@intentmedia.co.uk www.pcr-online.biz
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Blackbox reveals M10 headphones ‘Active Noise Rejection’ significantly reduces the risk of hearing damage, vendor claims AUDIO PRODUCT manufacturer Blackbox has launched a new set of headphones that claim to virtually eliminate background noise. The M10 headphones use active and passive noise rejection to practically block out external sounds, which the vendor claims make them ideal for the likes of frequent flyers and commuters, as well as DJs. According to Blackbox, the headphones cancel out 85 per cent of background noise using ‘active noise rejection’ technology, which allows the user to listen to music at a lower volume, reducing the risk of hearing damage. The ANR technology is provided by electro-acoustic and active noise-cancellation tech specialist Phitek Systems.
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Neil Truckell, Blackbox’s UK brand manager, said: “Background noise is debilitating, especially when stuck on a plane or train. The M10 is packed with everything consumers need to avoid disturbing background noise. The headphones combine highperformance noisecancelling technology, a stylish design and comfort, leaving you to enjoy listening to music on the go.” The headphones feature durable and ultra-soft pads and supplied with rotating ear cups.
Blackbox says its headphones cancel out 85 per cent of background noise
Synology boosts NAS range New device for businesses is compatible with a range of operating systems NETWORK ATTACHED storage specialist Synology has launched its latest product, the DiskStation DS411+, which it is aiming at small to mediumsized businesses. The NAS device delivers an average 112.99MB per second reading speed and 106.91MB per second writing speed under RAID 5 configuration in a Windows environment. It allows businesses to centralise data backups, protect critical assets and share files across different platforms, with the option of tailoring the user interface to a specific company or project. The DS411+ is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux systems, acting as a centralised backup target for
machines on the network and allowing users to share files. An encrypted FTP server is included, along with a web-based file explorer, Synology File Station 3. According to the vendor, HTTPS and IP auto-block support ensure high security while sharing files. Other features include low power consumption, scheduled power on and off, and hard drive hibernation.
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Orbitsound range hits the market British vendor unveils latest products to be designed by sound technology pioneer Ted Fletcher TWO NEW products from Orbitsound hit retail shelves this month – the T12 Soundbar and T4 Radiopod. The UK firm’s range has been designed by audio technology innovator and former producer Ted Fletcher, and claims to use scientific precision in the placement of speakers within its products in order to offer high-quality depth and clarity. The T12 v2 Soundbar is the successor to the highly popular T12, and is compatible with both iPods and iPhones. The device has been designed to fit around a flatscreen TV or to be tucked away in to a corner, using spatial audio technology to keep the sound quality consistent from any position in
“The devices use spatial audio technology to keep the sound quality consistent from any position in the room.”
the room. Orbitsound claims that the T12 can even cut a staggering 40 per cent off the user’s energy consumption. The T4 Radiopod, meanwhile, also features the spatial stereo technology. The iPod dock and radio features DAB, DAB+, FM and internet radio, and also boasts a digital alarm clock with snooze. Push-button controls and a dot-matrix display allow the user to flick through stations and podcasts.
Evo Labs offers HD media player New device supports wide range of movie, music and photo files, with a slideshow option EVO LABS has launched a new high definition media player, available exclusively through distributor Target Components. The E-HMP3500 supports hard drives of up to 2TB, and plays HD media up to a resolution of 1080i. The device plays a variety of video formats, including VCD, DVD and a range of file types including AVI, MP4, JPEG and MP3. Users can utilise the E-HMP3500 for a photo slideshow or even for karaoke, as it supports MP3 lyric display. A remote control is included for added flexibility, and the device also features USB input.
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“Users can even utilise the device for karaoke, as it supports MP3 lyric display.”
PCR Recommended Each month, in association with PC Pro, we check out two of the hottest bits of tech the specialist press are raving about. This month, the latest laptops from Dell and Acer come under the spotlight...
DELL PRECISION M4500
ACER ASPIRE TIMELINEX 4820T
URL: www.acer.co.uk SRP: £734
URL: www.dell.com/uk SRP: £1,576
“If you want a fast, well-equipped laptop, there are cheaper options. But the M4500 is aimed at the corporate, design and engineering worlds, where money comes second to flexibility and reliability. Here it succeeds.” DELL’S PRECISION range of mobile workstations promise serious performance, with equally serious prices: the 17-inch Precision M6500, came in at £3,090 excluding VAT. The new M4500 is more modest. With a 15.6-inch screen and 36mm depth you could almost mistake it for a regular laptop. From the outside only the severe magnesium chassis sets it apart. That, and an unusually comprehensive set of ports: four USB 2 sockets, four-pin FireWire, ExpressCard/34 and smart card slots, plus a multi-format card reader, Gigabit Ethernet and DisplayPort, and D-SUB video outputs. There’s no USB 3, but the USB 2 port supports eSATA. Things remain low-key under the lid, with a functional black design. It
offers a trackpoint with a touchpad, and instead of a numeric pad there are speakers either side of the keyboard. The screen on our review model was businesslike: a matte 1,600x900 panel, which is predictably lacking in vibrancy, but is bright and crisp. Depending on your needs you can choose an anti-glare display, which we suspect would restore some of the missing depth, in either 1,366x768 or Full HD resolutions. If you want a fast, well-equipped laptop, there are cheaper options. But the M4500 is aimed at the corporate, design and engineering worlds, where money comes second to flexibility and reliability. Here it succeeds, emulating the M6500’s credentials, but in a more portable, affordable package.
IT’S IMPOSSIBLE to please everyone all the time, but Acer’s Aspire TimelineX 4820T sets out to do just that. By fusing the light-footed panache and class-leading stamina of the previous Aspire Timeline range with
beneath its mild-mannered exterior therein lies stunning potential. Where its predecessors all made do with Intel’s low-voltage processors and paid the performance price, the Aspire TimelineX 4820T does nothing of the
“Neither the Acer’s weight nor size is liable to grab many headlines, but beneath its mild-mannered exterior therein lies stunning potential.” the power of Intel’s Core i5, Acer has sought to create a portable powerhouse for sensible money. Take a good look at the Aspire TimelineX 4820T and you’d be liable to mistake it for a modest CULV laptop. It’s certainly dainty. Weighing just 2.07kg and a mere 25mm thick, the TimelineX is highly portable for a 14-inch laptop, and it looks good with it. Brushed aluminium sweeps all around, the stylish black lid softening into a silver and glossy black two-tone effect inside. Neither the Acer’s weight nor its size are liable to grab many headlines, but
sort. The Intel Core i5-430M processor powers along at 2.26GHz, with Turbo boost punching it up to 2.53GHz when the occasion demands it. Acer has also managed to slip dedicated ATI graphics into the package. It would have been one heck of a coup for Acer to make a laptop to rival the Sony Vaio Z1 at almost half the price, but despite doing so many things right, it just doesn’t quite manage that feat. Those looking for a powerful portable for sensible money may be able to live with the poor keyboard and mediocre build quality, but the foibles may rule it out for others.
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OUT OF OFFICE
THE IT CROWD
THIS MONTH: Fancy dress, the London Triathlon and a World Record attempt...
IT’SA ME, MARIO The Museum of Computing held a fancy dress gaming day last month as part of its birthday celebrations. Members of the public were invited to dress as their favourite computer game character to get free admission to the museum. Pac-Man attended the event along with his ghosts and other characters including Super Mario, Princess Peach and Donkey Kong. Activities at the party included ‘old school’ gaming, face painting and mask making.
NICE TRI Interactive Ideas’ sales director Brett Savidge joined over 11,000 other entrants, including Formula One driver Jenson Button and TV presenter Vernon Kay, to take part in the London Triathlon. Savidge raised over £1,500 for the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity, which provides support and after care for cancer sufferers, as well as conducting research into the disease.
Brett Savidge raised over £1,500 for charity
Ha! You can't keep apple haters down. Wonder why no iPhone user would ever want to insult an Android or BB user: whereas other way round… Stephen Fry, actor/presenter/writer
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Reading about google's acquisition of jambool, slide and zynga - social network strategy by stealth... Martha Lane Fox, digital champion
OUT OF OFFICE
Send your pictures to: firstname.lastname@example.org
A day in the life
Below and left: After years of being pusued by ghosts, Pac-man finally decided to confront one of his tormentors
The Matrix’s Neo took time out of his busy schedule of somersaulting and dodging bullets to attend the museum’s birthday celebrations
“No two days are ever the same within the industry and the fast pace means there is no room for boredom. By injecting a bit of fun we are able to keep stress at bay.”
EASY, TIGER Lexmark UK’s general manager, Steve Purdy made an attempt to break the world record for hitting the largest number of golf balls in 12 hours. Purdy’s final total was 7,917, beating the previous record of 7,721 by 196 hits, but the result needs to be officially verified by Guinness World Records before he can be declared the official record holder. He raised just under £11,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, a charity providing clinical care for people with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease Purdy’s 13-year-old niece Zoe suffers from.
For a popular site, Facebook has to have one of the worst interfaces in Web history. Slow, poorly designed, non-intuitive, and confused. George Colony, Forrester Research CEO
Roy Abbott National Sales Manager, Anglia Telecom Centres
Mmmmm bookshop smells. Don’t think I could give up dead tree manuscripts. Sorry, Earth. Aleks Krotoski, tech journalist
I’VE WORKED in the mobile industry for too long to mention but I can honestly say that I still wake up in the morning with a smile on my face and look forward to what lies ahead in the working day. Although stressful at times, our industry is a fun one and a diverse one. With constant evolution in technology, products and offers, there is never any time to really get side-tracked. Attention to detail is essential as key network operator objectives need to be met. With this in mind my typical day revolves around working towards meeting these objectives, checking monthly performance and attending conference call after conference call with key players within the industry. My role means I get to see a lot of the UK as I am primarily based on the road, travelling all over the country to ensure our business development managers are fully supported in the field. With the volumes of emails and business communications that are sent throughout the day, my life really is made easier with a companion that remains close by my side, my BlackBerry, which allows me to keep in contact with the business and our partners throughout the day. Despite constantly being on the move, I work very closely with our marketing department, ensuring that we provide the right level of marketing support and incentives for our business partners, continuously feeding back on what we can do to help them. I honestly would say that no two days are ever the same within the industry and the fast pace means there is no room for boredom. By injecting a bit of fun we are able to keep stress at bay and by retaining a close relationship with our partners my days are even more enjoyable.
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OUT OF OFFICE
PCR Editorial Planner
HOT SEAT OCTOBER 2010 John MacDonald Joint Managing Director, Kell Systems
Advertising deadline: September 15th SECURITY SPECIAL Security software Digital Storage Displays E-readers To advertise call Carly Bailey on +44 (0) 1992 535647 or email Carly.Bailey@intentmedia.co.uk For editorial please contact Andrew Wooden on +44 (0) 1992 535646 or email him at Andrew.Wooden@intentmedia.co.uk
Describe yourself in three words Tenacious, honest and Scottish How do you relax away from work? Reading and movies What’s your favourite book? Catch-22, by Joseph Heller What’s your favourite film? You Don’t Mess with the Zohan What’s your favourite album? The Police - Zenyattà Mondatta What was your first computer? A BBC Micro Model B What’s your best memory of working in the industry? Currently watching the transition to blade servers Who’s the funniest person you’ve ever met? The comedian Greg Proops What did you want to do when you were younger? Fly helicopters to put out forest fires in Canada
Advertising deadline: October 20th Christmas special Notebooks, laptop bags and accessories Children’s entertainment software Novelty gadgets, kids' gadgets and executive toys
DECEMBER 2010 Advertising deadline: November 17th External hard drives Self improvement and creative software MP3 players and accessories Distributor opening times
JANUARY 2011 Advertising deadline: TBC Printers Smartphones ISPs Speakers and headphones
FEBRUARY 2011 Advertising deadline: TBC GAMING ISSUE Graphics cards Displays Gaming hardware Games Consoles
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