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Audio

ISSUE December 18

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THE AUDIO ISSUE #183 December 2018

THE SOUND OF THE FUTURE


TheEditor Step into Christmas WE’VE ALMOST REACHED the end of another eventful year in the tech channel. There have been highs and lows as always, but one thing’s for sure, there’s never a dull moment. While other industries are winding down for their Christmas break, tech retailers, vendors and distributors are doing everything they can to make the most of the biggest seasonal sales event of the year. It’s no longer just about those precious few weeks up until Christmas Day, with many Black Friday events this year starting a week or two before the actual Friday, and deals continuing throughout November and December. So, I praise all of you hard workers out there who have found some spare time to flick through this mag, which this month is packed full of reflective and future-gazing articles. As well as chatting to Microsoft about how AI and cloud are set transform businesses in the near future (p16), we also look at some of the biggest stories of the past year (p26). As you may have noticed from our cover, this month we’re also focusing on the audio product market. You’ll find some great opinion pieces about audio from p10 onwards and we ask some big names in the industry to provide insight into how retailers can get in on the action (p30). Along with all this, we have two sector guides covering the latest headphones and speakers, so plenty to get stuck into. The next time you hear from us will be with be with a bumper issue hitting desks at the beginning of February. So, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the PCR team and we’ll see you all after you’ve recovered from the January sales!

“While other industries are winding down, tech retailers, vendors and distributors are busy making the most of the biggest sales event of the year”

Laura Barnes, Editor

laura.barnes@futurenet.com

THE TEAM

Editorial: 0207 354 6002 Advertising: 0207 354 6000

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Sarah Goldhawk

Account Manager sarah.goldhawk@futurenet.com

Marc Miller

Graphic Designer marc.miller@futurenet.com

Matthew Eglinton

Production Manager/Executive matthew.eglinton@futurenet.com

James McKeown

Content Director james.mckeown@futurenet.com

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MICROSOFT INTERVIEW

p16

Contents December 2018 PCR Awards 2019

20

A look at all the awards categories and why you should enter.

Biggest Stories

26

A round up of the highs and lows of the last 12 months.

Dealer Discussion

22

Sound Advice

30

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Dealers reveal their successes and struggles of 2018.

Experts offer up tips for retailers wanting to stock audio products.

Regulars 6 Retail Analysis: Making the most of seasonal shopping events 10 Industry opinion 14 Number Crunching 25 In My Team: Ortial Technologies 34 Appointments 35 Events 36 Sector Guide: Headphones 40 Crowdfunding Corner 42 Sector Guide: Speakers 46 Life in the Channel: Exertis Unlimited's Glenn McClelland 48 Logging Off

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PCRmag December 2018 | 5


Retail Analysis

Jingle

Hell? Holiday sales are well underway, but is grabbing a bargain causing a headache for consumers? And are the ever-expanding discount events giving retailers hell? Laura Barnes investigates..

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etailers and consumers alike have already been battling through Black Friday madness and crawling through the abundance of Cyber Monday deals, but the discount rollercoaster is far from over as shoppers scramble to find last-minute gifts in time for Christmas and plan out their attack on the January sales soon after. For retailers this means an almost continuous plan of action for taking advantage of every type of customer and shopping habit to ensure they nab every potential sale they can. While this holiday season provides an abundance of great offers for consumers and more opportunities to make sales for retailers, is the pressure of Christmas time causing Jingle Hell for everyone involved? On the consumer side of the coin, a new report from online loyalty programme Rakuten.co.uk has revealed just how stressful this season can be for shoppers. Its research found that more than a quarter (28%) of the customers it surveyed feel stressed when it comes to

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Christmas shopping. 27% outlined worries about how much it’s all going to cost as a cause for concern. With so much expectation and hype surrounding key shopping events, 46% of those surveyed admitted to shopping differently at this time of year – just to get through the task ahead. “Our own research has found that stress levels rise in the peak season, with more than a quarter of customers surveyed admitting to feeling stressed, and nearly half revealing they shop differently at this time of year,” Sebastiaan Rasterhoff, head of open e-commerce Europe at Rakuten.co.uk, tells PCR.

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Retail Analysis

“Shopping should be a fun, not feared experience, especially during the festive season” Sebastiaan Rasterhoff, Rakuten.co.uk

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“However, shopping should be a fun, not feared experience, especially during the festive season. “There are numerous ways that shoppers can get the gifts and deals they actually want, without feeling overwhelmed or that they need to overspend.” Always be prepared Rakuten found that one of the ways shoppers are managing the stress is by being more prepared. More than half (56%) of customers are giving themselves more time to shop online in the months leading up to the main event. For 16%, Christmas is a year-round concern and sees

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Retail Analysis

them stocking up on gifts throughout the year to help spread the cost and make their lives easier. However, not everyone is as organised, as 15% of those surveyed still believe that the last-minute trolley dash is still the best approach. “The ability to shop online should take the stress out of shopping, no matter how you prefer to do it and how much time and budget you have. Being loyal to a brand or retailer can also lead to better deals and offers in the long-term,” says Rasterhoff. Seeking out deals online seems to be a key part of the Christmas shopping psyche. Almost two-thirds (64%) of customers Rakuten spoke to actively hunt out the best prices and shop around comparing different brands before making a purchase. However, one in five (19%), prefer to shop with brands they know and trust. But, no matter how good the deal is, high quality (66%), brand trust (64%) and free delivery (64%) are the top considerations for converting online browsing into buying. Retailer Insight What retailers can take away from this survey is that it’s impossible to find a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to appealing to customers. But what’s encouraging to hear is that more and more shoppers appear to look for bargains throughout the year rather than just during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the weeks leading up to Christmas. While this does mean retailers need to be continuously appealing to consumers, it also shows that not everything hangs on those precious few weeks. Another interesting, if not slightly concerning, point that the survey reveals is how much less stressful shoppers find buying goods online compared to in-store. Almost three quarters (74%) of people agreed that buying gifts online is less stressful than shopping in person and over two-thirds (68%) said they could usually find better bargains online as well. If consumers already have this mindset, the chances are they are expecting to see better deals online compared to instore, and as such may head online first before heading out to their local high street. So, if you’re a retailer with a web store, it’s more important than ever to utilise it this Christmas, especially when it comes to mobile users. Smart Shopping The proportion of Brits using their smartphones to make purchases online during the lead up to Christmas is up a massive 44% compared to the same period last year, according to the latest Ve research. Its study examined 50 million online browser sessions across 3,000 retail websites during the third quarter of 2017 and the same period in 2018. Martech company Ve, which develops eCommerce technologies for retailers, found that the growth in sales is followed by a further 6% increase in browsing via a smartphone, placing mobile as the dominant channel for

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“Greater efforts need to be made by UK retailers if they hope to capture the attention of consumers in a mobile-first environment” David Marrinan-Hayes, Ve browsing in the UK – registering more sessions (53%) than desktop PCs and tablets combined. “Ve’s data indicates that UK retailers are beginning to meet the mobile-first expectations of the modern online shopper and in good time, given the continued demise of the desktop PC and even the tablet – all of which are fading towards irrelevance as the mobile experience improves,” says Ve CEO David Marrinan-Hayes. “The main challenge for brands is to develop and deploy mobile experiences that are relevant and bring value to each potential customer. Done correctly, personalised messages and content delivered direct-to-mobile via SMS or Web Push Notifications, can be welcome interruptions and lead a customer into making a purchase.” Getting personal Marrinan-Hayes believes brands must build campaigns that interact with individuals in a “uniquely personalised way” if they hope to retain customers using those channels. “By no means is the desktop or tablet experience dead in the eyes of consumers. However, greater efforts need to be made by UK retailers if they hope to capture the attention of consumers in a mobile-first environment,” he warns. “This means investing in greater levels of personalisation and delivering onsite experiences that are contextually relevant to each user. At Ve, we’re working closely with a number of UK retailers to understand their users more and develop experiences that are tailored for them, from product discovery through to an eventual purchase, and beyond.” Retail sales aggregator LovetheSales.com reported that 72% more UK retailers took part in Black Friday this year, compared to 2017. “2018 has seen one of the toughest years for retailers for a long time. Uncertainty around Brexit and reduced spending confidence from consumers have been significant issues,” says LovetheSales.com founder and retail analyst, Stuart McClure. “Retailers who are known for eschewing the Black Friday furore are returning to it in 2018. This is testament to the fact that its been a tough year, and that many need the seasonal boost to their sales.” So, whether you’re sick of discount deals or not, it’s clear that the seasonal shopping events are here to stay.

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industryopinion

Smart speakers make smart solutions Hama’s Senior Product Manager Ben Jones outlines exactly what a smart speaker is, and how this booming sector could help PC retailers diversify...

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enabled devices, it’s about integration into consumers’ homes and e are currently entering an age of technological lifestyles as a whole. Where once the only demand for this type of convenience, with wireless connectivity and voice smart speaker was for use within the main living space, we are now control in popular demand and consumers looking seeing the same consumers coming back and purchasing additional to their devices to make significant time-savings in speakers, often upgrading the original unit with something with their busy day-to-day lifestyles. In 2018, it is no longer just about more volume and bite, such as our Audio Pro Addon C5A. Smaller possessing individual gadgets, such as the latest smartphone, tablet models are then relocated into the bedroom or kitchen, expanding or speaker, instead it’s about connecting and combining key the system further into the home and promoting future sales. functions of various electronic devices and accessories in the The multi-room audio streaming capabilities of the Audio Pro creation of a customised ‘smart’ environment in our homes and C-Series and other similar connected speaker systems allow users to offices or worn about our person. play different music in different rooms around the home by linking Dominating annual growth trends in the connected home sector together across a WiFi network, all controlled centrally via an is the smart speaker category, with one in 10 people in the UK app. During the course of 2018, Hama UK, along with a now thought to own one. Though this may not sound that host of other brands, has been seen to adopt the same significant, consider it alongside recent reports from “The rapid rise wireless smart living concept and successfully integrate marketing intelligence firm IDC Worldwide of smart tech voice assistant software into its own products and tech. predicting an extremely encouraging 39.1% four-year places retailers It is no longer just nearby smart speakers that voice CAGR, and one can begin to understand the scale of control is limited to – cars, smartwatches and growth anticipated. However, despite these figures, in an extremely lightbulbs have all been seen to incorporate this the exact definition of a ‘smart’ speaker remains a advantageous technology. Security and home monitoring is an equally somewhat subjective one, causing some confusion position” hot topic, predicted by IDC Worldwide to make up 19.4% amongst both retailers and consumers alike. of the smart home market by the end of 2022. So, what exactly is a smart speaker? Though considered a The rapid rise of smart technology within the consumer reasonably broad term, the majority of the tech industry seem to marketplace suddenly places PC retailers in an extremely have agreed that for a speaker to be deemed ‘smart’ it has to have advantageous position for both the coming year and beyond. Not some degree of integrated voice control. Up until now, the most only will they find they are able to benefit from the resulting prominent voice control service has been Amazon’s Alexa, laying demand for technical support and network products with regards to claim to the lion’s share of the market and dominating heavily over the smart home setup, the once gaping chasm between PC and audio competitors, such as Google Home, Siri and Cortana. No real retail has ultimately been transformed into a marginal divide. surprise, considering Amazon was arguably the one that invented As users stream music and sync to other devices throughout their the market in the first place through release of the Amazon Echo home via their home network, mobile device and/or laptop, it will be back in 2016 (2015 in the US). the PC retailers they look to, allowing these stores valuable Competing on a multitude of levels, dominating in this diversification into the growing and profitable audio market. marketplace is not just about in and out sales of their own voice

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industryopinion

Key takeaways from the print industry in 2018 Carlo Longhi, Director and General Manager of UK Indirect Channels at Xerox, analyses the print industry over the past year and discusses how best to plan for a successful 2019...

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he festive season is upon us and that can only mean one thing: the process that is ‘2019 Business Planning’ has officially begun. Whether it fills you with excitement or leaves you with the urge to reach for the mulled wine, it is tempting to focus all your efforts on looking forward rather than looking back, which would be a misstep. It’s important to take stock of 2018 from an individual business perspective and critical to assess the industry landscape as a whole. The print industry had another hectic year and there were a number of different milestones which could hold the key to unlocking exciting opportunities for 2019. So what were the most important takeaways?

more research into the cloud-based apps and services the SMB market is investing in, revealing new opportunities for integration. 3. Apps are in demand The shift towards the cloud has also fuelled the growth in app development, particularly for multifunction printers (MFPs) as channel partners are increasingly recognising the potential of apps to address customer pain points and facilitate more personalised services. Examples include Xtandit’s ‘Quiver Secure Scan’ that enables customers to securely scan their documents, and EtiQube’s apps, which enable device geo-localisation and consumables re-orders. Apps enable customers to transform their MFP into a truly customised device. As they surge in popularity, we should expect to see an even larger breadth of apps available in 2019.

1. GDPR became a reality 4. The shift from physical to digital continues We couldn’t discuss 2018 without mentioning the landmark The print industry is accelerating its transition from moment that was the implementation of the EU General physical to digital. This shift has started to extend Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). With GDPR “Vendors are beyond hardware as more SMB customers look towards shining a spotlight on security like never before, we’ve now more trusted partners to support their transitions, allocating seen organisations assessing their data processing focused on more resources towards managed services and activity much more closely. As part of this, many solutions. With smaller budgets than large enterprises, channel businesses are running GDPR-specific events showcasing the SMB customers are increasingly looking for plug and to address industry concerns, educate and debate best benefits of the play options and vendors that can be a ‘one stop shop.’ practice. Going forward we should expect to see print cloud” There are already many solutions gaining traction, such businesses attempt to get to grips with how they can be as hybrid mail, and those that deal with scanning and GDPR complaint without compromising on marketing e-invoicing are helping to drive down costs and improve file efforts, and looking to channel partners and vendors for advice. access, longevity and management. In the coming year, solutions like these will give vendors the opportunity to offer a flexible team that 2. The journey to the cloud has got a little shorter can educate, implement and support in real-time. In previous years, IT resellers have held back on offering cloud services due to customers’ reluctance to move to something less When it comes to 2019 planning, there’s plenty of opportunity for tangible. This year however, we’ve seen a change in this mindset channel partners to identify lucrative new offerings via apps and the with an increased adoption of cloud-based platforms like DocuShare cloud, as well as finding new ways to grow in a market which is Flex. Vendors are now more focused on showcasing the benefits rapidly evolving. The most successful will aim to take lessons from of the cloud and providing a more flexible and collaborative this year to get out in front – so what are you waiting for? approach for partners. Print vendors have also started to conduct

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December 2018 | 11


industryopinion

UC plays a key role in the digital transformation journey Jane Craven, UK & Ireland Sales Director at Sennheiser, looks at how adopting a UC strategy can benefit businesses...

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Businesses must integrate multiple communication applications igitalisation has completely changed the way we live and with each other and with applications to increase productivity, work. Innovations, including artificial intelligence, reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction – ensuring they cloud computing and automation have impacted every remain agile and competitive in the face of digitisation. industry and as a result have unlocked a wealth of Even as the value of clearer communication grows, we are also opportunity. Businesses across all sectors are beginning to realise seeing a shift from face-to-face communication to digital channels. and exploit the wider benefits of unified communications. To accommodate more seamless workplace collaboration the face of For most businesses, adopting a unified communications strategy modern working is changing – many businesses are adopting open is at first a cost saving measure. However, most businesses soon floorplans featuring expansive, unencumbered spaces deployed come to realise the benefits that go far beyond this original with unified communications systems. In the age of alwaysimpetus. From technological innovation and the enablement of connected, web conferencing has become increasingly flexible working and collaboration, unified communications commonplace as a cost effective and practical platform for empowers an increasingly mobile modern workforce. A “We are seeing internal meetings and training which allows workforces unified comms strategy means that you are connected, to connect across the world. that you have a seamless experience and that you are a shift from This evolution has driven principles of supply and future proofed. At Sennheiser we believe it is face-to-face demand across all sectors. The modern workplace and imperative for businesses to invest in the audio communication the workforce will continue to evolve, bringing solutions that will empower the workforces to strive opportunities that can only be realised and challenges in this new environment. to digital that can only be mastered with investments in the right We know that digitalisation is driving smarter, channels” audio solutions. Before or beyond its extension, business optimised working which touches on virtually every must get to grips with the existing UC infrastructure to exploit aspect of business. Yet countless hours per day are wasted on the full benefit of seamless integration. duplicated or wrongly routed communications. This can amount to In the coming years UC adoption is only set to continue, millions in lost revenue a year. Audio solutions can answer process technology is going to advance the potential for collaboration. By optimisation and can improve business capabilities by speeding up extension the solutions that we use are also going to continue to decisions and making collaboration more efficient and clear. innovate. At Sennheiser we believe that this means the proBusinesses are beginning to understand how UC can combat consumerisation of business needs. Technology solutions that can vulnerabilities which are increased by the forward march of seamlessly integrate to your needs, whether personal, business or digitalisation. Firms are increasingly investing in upgrading their functional. The groundwork has now been laid and the next steps audio technologies and opting for secure pairing processes between will certainly be exciting! headsets and connected devices to mitigate security risks.

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industryopinion

Why retailers need a unified approach to inventory Rob Shaw, Managing Director EMEA at Fluent Commerce, explains why retailers need to transform the way they approach in-store and online fulfilment...

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convenience. If a retailer’s online espite media coverage offering can be as seamless as the painting a bleak picture of experience they offer in-store, this will the retail industry, encourage consumers to spend more. consumers are spending In-store tooling must be adopted by just as much as always, and online a retailer’s employees to provide a retail in particular has seen a 16.8% real-time view of inventory, and year-on-year growth. It’s true that the everything associated with that industry has its challenges, but product. Previous research has opportunities do exist to succeed if revealed that over two-thirds of retailers take the right approach. consumers expect store associates to For those with multiple stores, use a mobile device to perform simple taking a unified approach to and immediate tasks, such as looking inventory visibility will enable up product information and checking retailers to optimise the way inventory. As a result, in-store tooling inventory is used and accessed across is vital in empowering a retailer’s the entire estate. To do this effectively employees to make the shopping retailers need to transform how they experience as convenient as possible, approach in-store and online helping to enhance brand perception fulfilment and find cost-effective for the customer. ways to serve customers through a Above all, in-store tooling has to be seamless omnichannel strategy. user-friendly and quick for employees Retailers are facing a constant to use, streamlining the time it takes to identify stores and battle to balance customer expectations and profitability. This is distribution centres that may have the desired item. If the where in-store fulfilment comes into play. With the cost of customer cannot obtain the product when they want it, this could maintaining and running physical stores rising, it’s more important lead to poor brand perception. Should the desired product not be than ever to maximise investment in existing floor space, engaging available, retailers should look to offer alternative products, similar the customer with immersive in-store experiences that will help to to items the customer has already selected or browsed online. This set them apart from the competition. Retailers need to take full connected approach is crucial in fostering customer advantage of stores, enabling them to offer items based satisfaction and brand loyalty. on the customer’s location as quickly as possible. “Retailer’s need The alternative option of using online-only retailers Utilising a unified inventory management – where customers can browse recommended and solution that provides the customer with a clear to transform how alternative products and complete the buying process in picture of exactly where stock is located is crucial they approach just a few clicks – is all too easy. It is therefore essential in meeting customer expectations and making in-store and for retailers to provide a similar proposition in-store the experience as convenient as possible. through a unified approach to inventory. Having a live view of all stock available online, online This emphasises the need for retailers to treat their in-store and at distribution centres will allow fulfilment” stores and online platforms as one, offering relevant online retailers to personalise their offering; identifying the and in-store inventory to customers based on their location. nearest piece of stock or online inventory to fulfil Providing a real-time view of product availability at their preferred customers’ needs. This helps to minimise the time the customer store as well as different locations satisfies the customer’s has to spend on obtaining products, providing greater convenience requirement to have the product as soon as possible, providing and ultimately, a superior experience. However, retailers shouldn’t greater convenience and fulfilment options, and meeting the needs view this solely as customers shopping online; the key driver of the of demanding customers and those seeking instant gratification. connected e-commerce experience is about offering increased

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December 2018 | 13


Stats

Number

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

CRUNCHING

60%

A recent survey from CompTIA has found that the current chronic IT skills shortfall is most acutely felt in emerging technology with 60% of respondents saying they have found skills shortages within areas such as AI, automation and IoT.

8/10 CompTIA’s report also found that eight in 10 UK managers expect that Brexit will have at least some negative impact on the tech workforce.

MILLION The Government has committed further investment to the UK’s booming AI sector by announcing an additional £50 million to attract and retain the world’s top talent. 14

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31%

Almost a third of shoppers would be happy to see computer screens or robots in high street stores, according to new survey results from Aspect Software.

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AWARDS

2019

There are 18 awards open for entries right now for the 2019 PCR Awards across retail, reseller, channel services, distribution and vendor categories. Enter before December 13th at http://pcr-awards.com to be in with a chance of winning!

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“Our job is to empower our partners to grow their businesses�

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thebiginterview

Partner possibilities Laura Barnes sits down with Joe Macri, Vice President of Commercial Partners at Microsoft UK, to talk about the most disruptive trends in the channel right now and how the company is helping its partners take advantage of them... Joe Macri is no stranger to the changing technology landscape. Throughout his 22 years – and counting – at Microsoft, the VP of commercial partners has not only lived through the past three CEOs, but has taken up various roles in many different parts of the business, and the world. Macri started working for Microsoft in the UK back in 1996, establishing its SMB business, and working with channel and distribution partners. He then moved to Ireland to take up his next role as the general manager of the tech giant’s Irish Commercial Business. For 10 years after that, Macri had international roles, initially marketing and operations in Western Europe, and after that, leading Microsoft’s public sector business for Europe, Middle East and Africa. 15 months ago he returned to the UK to lead the One Commercial Partner business. With a focus on helping partners to navigate the latest trends, including artificial intelligence and cloud-based services, PCR caught up with the Microsoft stalwart to find out exactly how they plan on doing it... You’ve experienced many different parts of the business by the sounds of it? I have! The unifying thing is ‘partner’ actually. Although this is the first role that I have had leading a partner organisation, when I was working in public sector I was very aligned to our partner ecosystem, and SMB partners are the core of what we do. I’ve worked in very different parts of Microsoft and in very different regions, and I’ve had the

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experience of all three CEOs, so I’ve lived through a very interesting time in the company’s history. You’re focusing on AI and cloud with your partners right now. Why is that? From enterprises right through to smaller businesses across public and private sectors, if I had to choose three trends, the first that I see driving a lot of things is that every industry is being disrupted. We always hear examples of AirBnB and Uber, but well beyond that, we’re seeing significant disruption in the retail sector, financial services and healthcare. There is disruption, and as a result, every business leader is focused on digital transformation. We actually ran a survey just under a year ago and about 38% of those leaders believed that the current business model will not be in existence in five years. Retail is probably one of the industries that’s seeing the most disruption. You hear reports of what’s happening on the high streets almost every day. There is a very strong belief that with the disruption comes the opportunity for transformation. The next trend is the rise of artificial intelligence. Obviously there is a lot of press around this. IDC’s estimation is that by the end of 2018, three quarters of applications will use some form of artificial intelligence. Gartner has said that by the end of 2020 over 85% of enterprises will be using artificial intelligence. So clearly it’s happening. While those two trends are opportunities for our partner ecosystem, the final trend is that we are seeing there’s a bit of a lag on growth around digital skills, specifically that we actually have a skills shortage.

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thebiginterview

Microsoft partner AnalogFolk recently used AI to create a marketing campaign with Marmite where consumers use an app to figure out just how much they love or hate the spread.

I read with interest that the British Chambers of Commerce have talked about this being a “crisis at critical level”. The point they were making is that it is putting the future UK economy at risk. What initiatives do you have in place to help partners utilise these trends? With our partners, their business models are evolving. We have almost 22,000 partners in our MPN network (Microsoft Partner Network). 2,500 of them are gold or silver certified. There’s a huge ecosystem employing around 570,000 people. If I was to paint the picture of our partner ecosystem five years ago, I would have said there were all types of partners: fulfilment partners, professional services, hosters, and ISP. In response to transformation and change, what we’re seeing is firstly, fulfilment services are highly consolidating, with more and more announcements, almost every day, that someone is buying or merging with someone else. So we see that trend happening. We’re also seeing a real shift from professional services to cloud-based managed services – a shift away from large,

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complex IT projects to much smaller, agile outcome-based and cloud-driven projects. Another trend we’re seeing is intellectual property developing in scale, specifically ‘Softwareas-a-Service’ type solutions. To go back to your question of what Microsoft is doing, there are really three things that we are focused on right now. Our first job is to absolutely empower our partners to grow their business on our platform, serving our customers’ needs. If you think about that trend around cloud-based managed services, the work that we do around solution provider programmes to enable that for our partners is how we achieve this. That means working with our systems integrators, our hosters and our channel. We’re actually working with all of our partners on that strategy, and that is growing, in fact, it’s fuelling our growth. That is now about 12-13% of our commercial business and it’s driving 20% of our growth. It’s the fastest part of our business. Most importantly, for every £1 that Microsoft does, our partner ecosystem typically does £8.95. It’s a rough estimate but it shows how we provide economic growth for our

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thebiginterview partners. So, that’s our first strategy: to help our partners grow their business. The second way is, that with every new innovation there is opportunity. Once in a while we have a technology platform shift. We’re in the midst of a major shift driven by AI and what we’re seeing is that we have the opportunity to create new channels to market. So, we’re doing work with digital agencies. These are marketing agencies that have become digital, and this is a new channel for us. We’re doing work with our ISP partners developing AI solutions so there’s some really exciting stuff in that area. The third thing we’re doing is focusing on the transformation ecosystem, and how we help our partners transform themselves. It’s one thing to create new opportunities, another to create new channels, but how do we help the current partner ecosystem transform? So, we’ve got a number of skills around engagement and helping them modernise their business models.

“We’re in the midst of a major shift driven by AI, giving us the opportunity to create new channels to market” How are the digital agencies you’re working with helping brands? There are almost 25,000 marketing agencies in the UK, it’s a very large ecosystem in its own right. They have undergone their own digital transformation. We estimate that about 15,000 of those have become digital agencies rather than just marketing agencies. And the vast majority of them have done provisioning of Infrastructure-as-a-Service, websites, hosting and basic services for their clients. With the advent of AI, what we’re seeing is how they really help their customers modernise brands. Microsoft has signed a partnership with a company called Wirehive, who work with a lot of digital agencies and already, together we’ve recruited 200 new agencies to our platform – and we’ve got more coming. It’s something we’ve been investing in quite successfully. In terms of how they do what they do, I’ll give you a couple of examples. The first one I like a lot. I’m Australian and I love Vegemite. A lot of people either love or hate Marmite in the UK. Our partner AnalogFolk worked with the Marmite brand to create the ‘TasteFace’ app which uses AI. As soon as you taste Marmite, it analyses your instantaneous reaction to tell you whether you’re a lover or a hater. It’s just been a

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wonderful consumer engagement strategy for Marmite. For the record, I’m a 96% Marmite lover. So that’s one example of how agencies are using AI to improve branding spirit. Another is fan engagement. An agency called Greenwood Campbell worked with Bournemouth Football Club to develop a fan-engagement chatbot to really engage with their fans in real-time during the game as well as in-between games. It’s interesting to hear the variety of applications for AI, as many people think it’s just about scary talking robots… You’re absolutely right. There is a perception that this is not a good thing. Our focus is on how AI can augment and empower the worker. An example of this is our partner, Thoughtonomy, which has worked with the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS trust. They have developed a solution using virtual workers to compliment the care team, to improve patient experience and boost employee satisfaction. A specific example of what they’re doing with AI is that they are using that technology to cut the time it takes to process a GP referral. It currently takes about 15-20 minutes. Using the virtual workers is cuts down to just five minutes. There’s also associated cost savings, which is important for the NHS, but what’s really important is that it frees up valuable time for the care worker to spend time with their patients. That’s a great example of how AI can do some good. Do you think the eruption of AI is being affected by the skills shortage? Absolutely. I think there’s a link between this and the type of skills needed. At Microsoft we have a focus on apprenticeships and we have a pledge with our partners to have 30,000 apprenticeships in three years. We’re about 18 months into that and we’ve already had 8,000, so we’re well on our way to get to that number. At the other end of the spectrum we’re helping those who previously worked in the Armed Forces to re-skill and get into other parts of employment. We also focus on not only building a career and people changing careers, but on girls in technology. We have a global initiative with DigiGirlz, which gives girls the opportunity to engage in STEM. It’s not just about the skill, it’s about the diverse perspectives people can bring to that skill. We’re actually doing some exciting work around diversity and getting people skilled and into those gaps. We’re doing a lot of work around people with disabilities. We’ve got a vision-to-language technology called Seeing AI. It’s a wonderful app that helps people who are visually impaired have better interactions. Essentially, getting a more inclusive approach is important. Something that’s important to us as a company is making sure we, as well as our partners, use AI in an ethical way.

December 2018 | 19


PCR Awards

THE CATEGORIES The PCR Awards will recognise the very best of the UK tech channel. Vendors, distributors, channel services, resellers and retailers will all be celebrated in front of a room of 500+ industry members. Guests will enjoy an unmissable night of networking and hospitality as we reflect on the achievements of the channel. The following 18 awards are up for grabs in 2019: RETAILER CATEGORY: System Builder Independent Retailer National Retailer Online Retailer RESELLER CATEGORY: SMB Reseller Corporate VAR MSP Specialist

In it to win it Entries for the PCR Awards 2019 are in full swing, but if you haven’t submitted your company for a Retail, Reseller, Distributor, Channel Services or Vendor Award yet, here’s why you should... The PCR Awards return to The Brewery, London on Wednesday 6th March 2019. With entries closing on December 13th, if you haven’t submitted your company for an award, by the time you’ve read this feature you’ll be all set for putting together a fantastic submission for our expert panel of judges to read through. 20

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CHANNEL SERVICES CATEGORY: Dealer Services Provider Marketing & PR Cloud Services DISTRIBUTION CATEGORY: Software, Services & Support Distributor Hardware Distributor Consumer Electronics Distributor VENDOR CATEGORY: Software, Services & Support Vendor Peripherals & Accessories Vendor Components Vendor PC Vendor Networking Vendor


PCR Awards

ENTRY GUIDELINES A company/person may enter into as many categories as they see fit. An entry will be judged on its content and quality and not by how many times it has been entered/nominated into the same category. The entry deadline is 13th December 2018. You will be able to make changes to your entries up until this date, but any changes made after this date will not be counted. So head over to http://pcr-awards.com to get cracking on your entries!

A ROYAL RECEPTION It’s all very well us banging on about why the PCR Awards are not to be missed, but it’s your peers that are really going to convince you that entering and attending the Awards is a great move for your business. Here’s what some of this year’s winners had to say about the show:

“Winning the PCR Awards can do so much for your business. You owe it to yourself and your business to enter.” – Jennifer Griffiths, Co-Owner and Store Manager, Chips Computers “A fantastic event with invaluable networking opportunities that allows indies of all sizes to compete head-to-head with the titans of the tech industry. It should not be missed.” – Mark Laurie, Director, Utopia Computers “A fantastic evening spent catching up with old friends (and foes!). A great opportunity to network with senior industry execs.” – Mike Barron, UK Channel Director, Synaxon UK “My team and I always look forward to the PCR Awards. It is an excellent event and very well organised. The one time in the year that we can be assured of catching up with all our industry contacts. An added bonus is that it is a great party atmosphere and a true celebration of all that is best in our marketplace.” – Pete Morley, UK & Eire Country Manager, BullGuard UK “Another fantastic event, well done to all involved.” – Daniel Rowbottom, Operations Manager, Wyvern Business Systems 

ENTER NOW So now you know what awards are up for grabs and why the 2019 PCR Awards are not-to-bemissed, what are you waiting for? Head over to http://pcr-awards.com now and submit your entries before December 13th!

THE SPONSORS Every year the PCR Awards partner with big names in the industry, and 2019 will be no exception. Already announced as Awards Partners so far are: HEADLINE PARTNER DISTRIBUTION CATEGORY PARTNER EVENT PARTNER

December 2018 | 21


Retail talk

DEALER DISCUSSION: STRUGGLES AND SUCCESSES OF 2018 In our new regular retail feature, industry community Tech For Techs asks retailers, resellers and service providers for their insight on various topics. This month, they discuss their struggles and successes of the past year...

CORMAC O DONOGHUE – CROSSHAVEN COMPUTERS https://www.crosshavencomputers.ie “I have decided to take the step and become an MSP and start selling 10 hour prepay tickets to businesses. I told all the businesses I work with and they all want to sign up. This should bring in a cash injection for my business. I’m hoping to upgrade my old car to a new one with my business name...I should have done it sooner!” ◆◆◆

IAN HARDEN – IPC SOLUTIONS http://www.ipcsolutions.org.uk “For me, being a part-time IT guy and mainly selling online and working part-time from home, my turnover has roughly been the same year-onyear. Over the last two years, the profit has gone up but nothing to support me if I gave up my full-time

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job as I just haven’t got the time to concentrate on the business more. So, I decided to drop a day at work in May, thus giving me Fridays and Saturdays to work purely for me. I drop about £6k from my salary to do this so needed to make £100 a week pure profit to replace those earnings. This has been done easily. My turnover to date is higher than last years already. I’ve had an e-commerce site developed so I have a shop online although no sales yet – it needs some SEO and time spent. “I have gained a support deal with my local council taking over the supply and support for there IT and it’s been in place since August and has bought monthly income and lots of sales – and private work from their councillors. I’m also able to book jobs in. “My online sales have also increased on eBay and Amazon and starting to grow via Facebook although this is slower. So, I’ve decided that over the

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Retail talk

next year I will take the next step when I get a proper plan in place. I have good trade suppliers and some possible new ones that can provide proper cheap tech products so I can sell more at higher profit margins. The next step: move to a small business park and have a shop!” ◆◆◆

BEN ASHCROFT – BUGS AND BYTES COMPUTING https://www.bugsandbytes.co.uk “I left part-time employment last month to go fulltime self-employed with my business, Bugs and Bytes Computing. It was bloody nerve racking at the time, leaving a steady income and doing it, but so far it’s paying dividends. The hardest thing has to be getting used to a different wage every week though! ◆◆◆

DARREN HAMBLETT – YORKSHIRE REPAIRS https://www.yorkshirerepairs.co.uk “Setting up my consultancy that runs alongside the main support company and residential business. The consultancy deals with one-off high-end work with clients all over the world. But its main goal is to make enough recurring revenue for when we move to the US in eight years.” ◆◆◆

STEVE HAMES – SJH COMPUTING https://www.sjhcomputing.co.uk “Biggest success for me is moving from my home office into a proper office on an industrial estate. Since then business has just picked up and I’m busier than ever. The biggest struggle for me has been fluctuation of prices. One week I can quote for something and the following week the price has gone up. Obviously prices haven’t gone up on everything, SSD prices have come down which makes upgrades easier to sell.” ◆◆◆

SAM JAMES – FRESH PCS https://freshpcs.co.uk “Best thing for me is gathering reviews, building more of a social presence and setting apart from the competition with fixed fee pricing. Biggest struggle is as it grows, being a one man band I’m having to think about hiring, the risks involved, not quite having enough coming in to hire willy nilly but on the flip side I’ve already worked with

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another member I met in Tech For Techs to share the workload.” ◆◆◆

LISA HENDRICKSON – CALL THAT GIRL https://callthatgirl.biz/ “It’s been an interesting year for me, first half of the year I had a few ideas that failed. Felt very frustrated and was considering exit strategies by mid summer. I picked up a book called the Pumpkin Plan and learned right away I need to get rid of a lot of crap on my plate. I am working through the book slowly but have learned so much and the crap I got rid of actually turned to gold in many ways. Things happened I wasn’t expecting and it’s been exciting watching the new things roll. “Now in the 4th quarter, I’m working on new support plans for Office 365 (goal was Nov 1st to launch but now it’s looking more like Q1-2019) and doing more training, with goals of eventually doing in-person training. That’s the longer game there, but the short game is awesome right now.” ◆◆◆

DANIEL POTTER – GATEACRE COMPUTERS https://www.gateacrecomputers.co.uk “We are starting to move away from break-fix (domestic) into more corporate work. We are looking into keeping the domestic side running by employing a full time member of staff to manage that side of the business. We are currently using Google Ad Words with some success, however it’s the corporate side and the reputation I have built in it for the last 5-6 years that makes up the vast majority of our turnover.”

TECH FOR TECHS Launched in January 2018, Tech for Techs (TFT) is a new community for technicians of all kinds, including on-site call out services, retailers, resellers, managed service providers, vendors and distributors. Free to join, TFT is run by the team behind retailer Chips Computers and offers up insight and information in the industry, as well as product reviews, price comparisons, free directory listings and more. Visit www.techfortechs.co.uk for more information.

December 2018 | 23


IN MY TEAM

Ortial Technologies Memory solution provider Ortial Technologies outlines its biggest successes of the year and reveals what trends the company expects to see in the storage market in 2019... Who makes up the Ortial Technologies team? We are a small multi-disciplined team, headed up by Simon Atkinson. Simon is an IT and storage veteran with over 20 years of experience within the channel, in which time he has developed new brands. At Ortial we have dedicated department heads. For the sales team that’s John-Paul Williams, in product management that’s Mark McCarter, for purchasing and warehouse we have James Carass, and finally, the graphic design and marketing department is headed up by Sophie Phillips. Utilising our multi-skilled team allows Ortial to run lean and keep our prices competitive. What have been some of the company’s biggest successes of 2018? First up was hitting our seven-figure revenue target. We also won the Storage Awards Marketing Team of the Year. As well as this, 2018 has seen us launch new SSD and M.2 product ranges.

What is Ortial’s main ethos? Quality of product is at the heart of everything we do, and we aim to compete with the established brands on quality. At Ortial we look to win more business by helping our partners increase their margins and competitiveness, versus the incumbent brands, with our lower cost products but with higher value features, such as longer warranty terms and local end-user support. What predictions do you have for the storage market in 2019? We expect to see continued growth coming from the data centre sector as well as performance SSD driving the PC gaming market for larger capacities and faster speeds. And finally, who is mostly likely to sing karaoke at the Christmas party? James Carass, our purchasing manager. And he will probably be belting out “YMCA”.

Contact: Web: www.ortial.com, Email: sales@ortial.com, Tel: +44 (0) 330 1243777

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December 2018 | 25


Year in review

OH WHAT A YEAR! SCANDALS AND SECURITY If 2017 was the year of ransomware, its successor focused on high-profile data breaches. From the turn of the year, industry experts and government officials rammed the importance of data security down our throats as GDPR fast approached. And while it was easy to get bogged down in the minutia of what the new European Union legislation actually meant, the number of high-profile data breaches in 2018 only highlights the importance of the regulations being enforce. The need to protect one’s data was thrust into the public’s stream of consciousness with the fallout from the Facebook/ Cambridge Analytica scandal in March. The British-based company harvested around 87 million Facebook users’ personal data from an external researcher who had told Facebook he was collecting it for academic purposes. Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix later admitted to using prostitutes, bribery sting operations, and honey traps to discredit politicians on whom it conducted opposition research, and saying that the company “ran all of (Donald Trump’s) digital campaign” as well as assisting the Leave.EU Brexit movement. In response to the media reports, the Information Commissioner of the UK pursued a warrant to search the company’s servers. Facebook banned Cambridge Analytica from advertising on its platform, before Cambridge Analytica filed for insolvency in May. While a brief backlash, dubbed #DeleteFacebook, saw people turn their back on the social media site, the imperious nature of Facebook is likely to continue its march in 2019. Mark Zuckerberg’s subsequent testimony in US court has kept data protection in the public realm alongside other high profile data leaks such as Carphone Warehouse surrendering the data of around 10 million customers, or more recently, British Airways admitting that 100,000s of customers’ payment details had been stolen over a period of 15 days. Sticking with data scandals, 2018 has been a rocky road for cybersecurity giant Kaspersky. From the end of last year, allegations of data misuse have been squared at the Russian security firm. The first major UK firm to succumb to the concerns circulating around Kaspersky was Barclays. Quick on the heels of the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) decision to advise the UK Government against using Kaspersky products, Barclays pulled the plug on dealings with the firm. The UK’s commitment to cybercrime and

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From high-profile data breaches to heart-breaking liquidations, it has been a rocky year to remember for the IT channel. However, emerging technologies and start-ups a plenty continue to fly the flag for the tech community and give reason to look forward to 2019. Rob Horgan reports on the highs and lows of the last 12 months...

data protection was brought to the fore in July with the creation of Britain’s inaugural cybercrime court. Away from data, Amazon’s Prime Day woes stick in the mind as a low point for the tech community as millions of disappointed customers took to Twitter to lambaste the online retail giant’s sever meltdown on the day of its flagship sale. Like Facebook’s 2018 woes, you feel Prime Day 2018 is a mere speedbump in the road to continued domination for another one of the big five. Meanwhile, Samsung’s governance scandal reached the courts this year with disgraced vice chairman Jay Y Lee given a five-year jail term for a string of corruption offences. Lee was convicted of bribing former president Park Geun-hye to strengthen his control over Samsung. The conviction is part of a wider corruption investigation into Park, who herself faces conviction before the end of the year. Things could have been worse for the tycoon as prosecutors campaigned for a 12-year sentence. The start of the year also saw several major hardware suppliers left red-faced in the wake of the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. Affecting Intel x86 microprocessors, IBM POWER processors, and some ARM-based microprocessors, the bugs allowed a rogue process to read all memory, even when it is not authorised to do so.

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Year in review

HIGH STREET’S INEVITABLE WALK OF DEATH The slow, painful, drawn-out death of once-loved high street giants is as sad as it is unfortunately inevitable. The last year has seen Maplin throw in the towel, while others such as Carphone Warehouse and John Lewis limp on valiantly despite their bottom lines looking less than perfect. And it is not just tech retailers feeling the squeeze. House of Fraser was snapped from the jaws of death by retail predator Mike Ashley, a year on from his acquisition of GAME. Big box stalwart Toys ‘R’ Us entered administration in March, while Homebase is winding up 42 of its stores. Even the most British of empires such as WH Smith and Marks and Spencer have been left behind in the everchanging landscape, both reporting massive losses for the last 12 months. And while 2018 will be remembered as the year that many fell by the wayside, the demise of out-of-date retailers has been on the horizon since Woolworths pulled the plug in its centenary year a decade ago. The problem with Woolworths, like Maplin and co, is the failure to adapt to the changing demands of its customer base. Just as Woolworths customers no longer wanted to buy pots and pans on the high street, the general public has wised up to paying £18 for a HDMI cable. When Amazon offers the same products for half the price, the high street retailers have got to try something new.

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One big box retailer seeing an unlikely renaissance is Argos, following its takeover by Sainsbury’s. First off, installing its voice shop on Google Home devices was a masterstroke both for Google, to compete with Alexa – and for Argos, as it competes with Amazon’s traditional market place. In doing so Argos is the first UK retailer to offer a voice shopping service on the Google Home speaker. And while some industry experts warn that consumers may not be ready to fully utilise this kind of technology just yet, Argos’ digitally-led approach is what should hold it in good stead moving forwards. And while traditional retailers are losing out to their online competitors, etailers see bricks-and-mortar stores as the logical way to expand. Amazon opened its first cashierless Amazon Go stores in Chicago and Seattle, before launching its first pop-up fashion store in central London. Amazon has reportedly considered opening as many as 3,000 Amazon Go stores by 2021. Meanwhile Google has also announced plans to cut the ribbon on its inaugural physical store, with Chicago earmarked as the location for the first permanent Google store. Elsewhere Nintendo has seen a return to its glory days, building off the back of its 2017 Switch success. Combining tech with education, the Labo range has kept momentum up for the gaming giant.

December 2018 | 27


Year in review

MOVERS AND SHAKERS From top executives leaving their posts to high-profile acquisitions, the past 12 months have served up a generous sprinkling of movers and shakers. Close to home, the fates of stalwarts of the IT channel have been stark in comparison. While Beta Distribution entered administration in October, CMS Distribution had reason to cheer, announcing a turnover increase year-over-year by 38% to £447m to mark its 30th anniversary. Despite interest from a number of parties in taking over Beta, no sale of the overall business was achieved and the directors took the decision to place the business into an insolvency process. Foreign exchange rates have been offered up as the initial catalyst behind Beta’s demise. Beta wasn’t the only channel partner to fall foul this year, as Firstnet Solutions’ venture came to an end in February when the company slipped into liquidation. Speaking of stalwarts bowing out, this year saw PCR’s Women of the Year Lifetime Achiever Clare Sutcliffe leave Raspberry Pi. Her legacy at the company has been left through her coding clubs and Sutcliffe is a great ambassador for encouraging children and women to embrace STEM subjects. Carphone Warehouse has also had a shakeup in its management structure this year, with chief executive Seb James bowing out in April, with Alex Baldock taking the reins. The changes at the top have also seen Humphrey Singer stand down as finance director and Andrew

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Harrison leave is role as deputy CEO. Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich also called time on his reign this year. Leaving under somewhat of a cloud, Krzanich left the company following an investigation into a “consensual relationship” with an employee. Sony has also appointed a new CEO in 2018, with Kenichiro Yoshida moving across from heading up the finance division. Elsewhere Toshiba sold its chip unit for $18 billion to a consortium led by Bain Capital and flogged its PC unit to Sharp, as Toshiba looked to recoup money following the disastrous collapse of its nuclear arm Westinghouse. Meanwhile Foxconn acquired Belkin in March for a cool $866 million, and Fujifilm announced its merger with Xerox in January. A court battle ensued, but the judge ruled that the merger was done in good faith and so it stands. However, the sale saga of the year belongs to Broadcom in its pursuit of chip rival Qualcomm. With anticompetition watchdogs on high-alert and US President Donald Trump personally blocking the deal, the prospective $117 billion takeover came to an abrupt end in March after months of speculation. Meanwhile Google announced a $1.1 billion deal to acquire most of HTC’s smartphone design division, taking more than 2,000 staff members on board. There has also been changes at PCR Towers. In March, PCR publisher NewBay was acquired by publishing heavyweight Future.

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Year in review

INNOVATE, INNOVATE, INNOVATE! On the back of high profile data breaches, a litany of liquidations and a glut of corruption scandals, it would be easy to be pessimistic about the past 12 months within the IT channel. However, among all the stink and corruption, innovation has gathered pace and drives positivity through all corners of the channel. Advances in artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, blockchain, 5G, microprocessors etc. give reason to cheer and celebrate the disruptors and innovators within the industry. 2018 will be remembered as the year Moore’s law began to slow down, but that is not through lack of innovation but because of it. In March, IBM unveiled the world’s smallest computer at its Think 2018 computer show. Smaller than a grain of salt the 1mm squared chip requires a microscope to see it. Consisting of tiny computer bristles with several hundred thousand transistors the tiny IBM chip reportedly has the computing power of an x86 chip from back in 1990. The tiny devices are part of IBM’s vision for future technology that will be ‘cryptographic anchors’ embedded in everyday objects, used to ensure the object’s authenticity in combination with blockchain tech. Costing less than 10 cents to produce, the tiny chips are seen as an anti-fraud measure. For example, they could be applied to expensive gadgets so you can be sure you’re buying the real thing and not a knock-off. Or these tiny computers could even be embedded in things like malaria pills as (edible) ink dots, again to ensure that patients are getting the genuine drug and not a fake. To keep pace with Moore’s law, chipmakers are now

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turning to ‘chiplets’. Chiplets are part of an industry-wide effort around a new doctrine of chip design that Intel, AMD, and the Pentagon all say can help keep computers improving at the pace Moore’s law has conditioned society to expect. Instead of carving new processors from silicon as single chips, semiconductor companies assemble them from multiple smaller pieces of silicon. Away from computers, smartphones are always a good barometer for hardware innovation and 2018 hasn’t disappointed. From Samsung’s launch of its unbreakable phone to the latest iterations of the iPhone, smartphone progression is showing no signs of slowing down. Speaking of not slowing down, 2018 will be remembered as the year the UK got serious about its 5G roll out. Not only has EE set up 5G trials in London, but Vodafone has continued its run of firsts by completing the UK’s first holographic phone call using 5G. In September, the company made a call from its Manchester office featuring England and Manchester City Women’s Football captain, Steph Houghton MBE. Using 5G technology, she appeared as a live 3D hologram on stage in front of an audience at Vodafone’s UK headquarters in Newbury. The call followed the announcement in June this year that seven cities would become Vodafone 5G trial areas by the end of the year. In Ofcom’s April 2018 auction, Vodafone secured the largest slice of the 5G spectrum and has since announced that Cornwall and the Lake District will receive 5G during 2019, and has also promised 1,000 5G sites by 2020.

December 2018 | 29


Sound Advice

Wired for

SOUND

If you’re selling computers and sending your customers elsewhere to get the audio equipment to use with them, you’re missing a trick. Andrew Wooden asks the audio world for some tips on how retailers can get in on the action and start diversifying into this area…

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Sound Advice

N

“Headphones are possibly the best margin makers” Gary Brown, Digitek Trading

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imble diversification has always been a key trait of the successful PC retailer. To stay competitive, you’ve got to align your product offering with demand and trends, and those that do it best can find themselves with new lucrative lines of revenue. Impulse buying trends have their place in this – like fidget spinners. A flash in the pan for sure, but everyone and their dog was stocking them at one point last year. But you have to sell an awful lot of novelty trinkets to pay the rent. If you’re thinking of diversification on a more strategic level, you also want to keep it within the realms of what you’re known for. There’s no doubt there’s money to be made in selling gluten free artisan kale smoothies – but it might look a bit odd next to the graphics card display case. The audio market however slots in nicely with the core PC business. You may already be stocking audio in some capacity, maybe the odd basic PC speaker or headset. But diving deeper into the various niches of this sector could bring in a new revenue streams through different customers. And since your existing customers are bound to want some form of audio set up with their new PC, why send them elsewhere? “PC retailers are extremely well placed to sell audio. Due to the emergence and rising ownership of portable mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs, the boundary between audio/consumer electronics and PC products is becoming increasingly blurred. In order to meet the demands of the modern consumer, many PC retailers are moving away from stocking just the traditional standalone PC and diversifying into the instore repair of phone and tablet screens,” says Ben Jones, senior product manager at Hama UK. “This creates the perfect opportunity to make add-on sales by offering relevant audio accessories, such as wireless speakers and headphones, that can be paired with these devices in addition to most Bluetooth or WiFi-enabled PCs and laptops instore.” Gary Brown, director of Digitek Trading, adds: “With the rise of Bluetooth speakers and headphones, these items have become multifunctional and can be used with not only mobile phones and smart TVs but increasingly with laptops and desktops, so they are a must-have item for PC retailers.

Speakers, headphones and earphones are all essential lines to have in your store.” Know your audience If you’re already involved in the gaming market, be it through consoles, monster PC gaming rigs, controllers, or software, having a good stock of gaming audio equipment is a no-brainer. And this is where some of the higher margin items sit. If a customer has just dropped £3,000 on a brand new system to play Total War: Warhammer at the highest resolution and frame rate possible, they’re not going to want to run the audio through some tinny speakers. This is a key thing to consider when putting together gaming bundles. “Thanks to the rise of esports, chat functions like Discord and TeamSpeak, and people playing in teams both at home and in gaming venues/events, headsets are definitely the key audio product right now,” says Sean Cleaver, marketing specialist – technical PR at Asus. “One of the most popular games in the world, Fortnite, is best played with a headset so you can hear everything around you when playing. It’s arguably the biggest product area for audio in PC gaming. If you think about it, PC retailers are probably at the forefront of audio products with computing and have been for a long time. Sound cards and big speaker systems have become on-board audio chips on motherboards and headsets, but these are all still a big part of PC retail.” It’s important to tailor your selection so that it crosses over with your core trade. And if it’s not the latest and greatest gaming-based set ups that fit with your business, it’s important to research which lines offer the best margin and the most stable RRPs. “Knowing your demographic is key. For instance, there’s no point in stocking a range of gaming headphones if your current target audience are mostly businesses,” says Brown. “That said you have the advantage over the online retailers because customers can come into your shop and listen to headphones and speakers. Do your research and search out the brands which stick to RRPs. That way you will be able to maximise your margins. I would say headphones are possibly the best margin makers. The home audio market is very

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Sound Advice

lucrative, but by far the biggest margin makers often overlooked by PC retailers are cables. Jack, phono, optical and HDMI should all be stocked in store.” Jones adds: “Speakers, with their high price points, often look the most profitable for retailers out of the current portfolio of audio products on the market, but it is typically headphones which hold the greatest margin. These are often a lower risk product for those retailers initially branching out into audio, as they tend to turnover quickly and can be easily placed in more spaceconscious stores.” Stay on trend The concept of virtual reality has been floating around for decades in various forms and with varying success, but there’s a real fervour to this current push by the tech giants to get it into the homes of the mainstream. Some of the best home offerings are based around a powerful PC – and if you’re going to all the bother of creating an immersive visual experience, it would be a shame to skimp on the sound quality. If you are selling PCs capable of VR, there can be crossover in sales of high-end audio. “There is already some crossover that we see with ASUS and Republic of Gamers products especially,” explains Cleaver. “Virtual Reality is best experienced with headsets. Bluetooth compatibility also allows headset users to connect to their smartphones. So there are plenty of tech areas that benefit from audio.” The smart home – that other great tech trend that has been banded about for years – seems to also be coming into its own now as technology catches up with concept. The sector has been trailblazed by systems such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home Hub. PC stores are bound to be involved in the hardware side of this, and there could be opportunities for bolt-on audio sales as well. “‘Connected’ and ‘multi-room’ are huge buzzwords in the audio industry this year, with many of the latest speaker releases now enabled for music streaming across a home WiFi network in addition to at least some degree of voice control functionality,” says Jones. “Therefore, not

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“‘Connected’ and ‘mutli-room’ are huge buzzwords in the audio industry this year” Ben Jones, Hama UK only are PC retailers able to tie in audio sales with those of home networking kits and hardware, but also alongside those of ‘smart’ devices such as wireless security systems to aid consumers in creating the ultimate connected home environment.” As with all tech segments that evolve and adapt quickly in line with trickle down innovation from the giant manufacturers and consumer buying patterns, keeping an eye on what’s on the horizon is key if you are thinking of moving into audio. So, what’s the next big thing going to be in these market segments? “Smart speakers are a huge growth area, not just a speaker but a gateway to your smart home,” says Brown. “Audio brands are also adding HiResolution audio to their ranges, not just in their speakers but in headphones and music players.” Jones adds: “With convenience and portability in big demand, smartwatches and wearable computers/tech are inevitably the next thing on the agenda. How long before we see an Alexa watch for example? “It won’t be long before we are able to control and stream our music through multi-room audio systems with a simple voice command to the wrist. And it’s voice control that we are likely to see dominate, not only in terms of the audio industry, but across the entire consumer electronics and PC sector,” says Jones. “Its exponential growth is predicted to continue well into 2019, with many audio products, including our own, geared to incorporate this new technology as a major selling point.”

The Asus Republic of Gamers Delta headset.

The Volkano Xeon Series speaker, distributed by Digitek.

Hama UK’s Reflective Stereo earphones.

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People

APPOINTMENTS Exertis Exertis has announced a number of appointments over the past month. Amongst them, Mike Buley has been promoted to the new role of managing director for the consumer division. He will lead a strong and highly talented team of senior managers that have extensive experience and are widely respected within the retail sector. “Consumers are more empowered than ever, and technology has the means to meet and exceed their expectations. Exertis is well placed with its range of retail services to help our customers in areas such as drop shipment, electronic software distribution, category management, in-store displays and marketing,” said Buley. Exertis has also promoted Richard Hinds to the newly created position of chief operating officer. Reporting to Exertis UK & I managing director Paul Bryan, Hinds will have responsibility for the finance, purchasing, IT, logistics and customer services functions. Top to bottom: Mike Hinds was previously group finance director Buley, Richard Hinds for Exertis UK & I. and Chris Bale “I am delighted to be taking on this challenging role in what is an exciting time for Exertis as we continue to grow our business both organically and by acquisition. The UK and Ireland businesses are in great shape and I am fortunate to be inheriting a highly capable team that has many years’ experience in their respective roles,” said Hinds. Another appointment from Exertis comes in the form of Chris Bale, who takes on the newly created position of head of transformation, reporting to Exertis International’s MD Gerry O’Keeffe. “I am delighted to welcome Chris to Exertis. He has gained extensive experience in business transformation and change management from his previous roles. His appointment will enable our businesses across Europe to improve their operational efficiency and productivity through not only sharing best practice but also adopting new ways of working that can drive growth, enhance profit and take advantage of new opportunities,” said O’Keeffe.

Dixons Carphone Dixons Carphone has appointed Eileen Burbidge MBE as an independent non-executive director of the Board and a member of the Audit Committee. Burbidge is a partner at Passion Capital, one of Europe’s leading early stage technology venture capital firms with a significant 34

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

focus on digital propositions. Since co-founding Passion Capital in 2011, she has built a prominent reputation as a technology thought leader and has been named one of the most influential people in IT in the UK. She was a previous member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group and is still presently the UK Government special envoy for Fintech, chair of Tech Nation and tech ambassador for the Mayor of London’s office. “I am very excited to be joining the Board of Dixons Carphone. The company has tremendous brand equity across its breadth of retail offerings and services,” she commented. “It also holds leading market positions in so many different countries, with fantastic opportunities and some interesting challenges ahead. I look forward to working with Alex and the Board as it seeks to enhance its customer relationships and unique market position.”

Maverick AV Solutions Tech Data’s specialist solutions business Maverick AV Solutions has appointed Robert Cross as its new business manager for the Nordic region. Cross will oversee the Maverick teams in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, with a focus on improving international sales, channel account management and developing new and existing relationships within the region. “I have admired what Maverick offers its customers for some time. The collaborative solutions and portfolio for corporate applications are second to none in the market at the moment, and I am thrilled to now be part of the team,” said Cross.

Exabeam Emerging player in the cybersecurity space Exabeam has appointed Manish Sarin as its new chief financial officer and Rajiv Taneja as executive vice president of engineering. L-R: Rajiv Taneja and Manish Sarin Sarin will report to CEO Nir Polak and assume responsibility for Exabeam’s finance organisation, in addition to overseeing legal and human resources. Taneja will also report to Polak while leading the software engineering team and providing strategic direction on product innovation. “Exabeam has seen tremendous growth in billings and customer additions this year,” said Polak. “I am thrilled to add Manish to my leadership team and work with him on our financial strategy, as we look to displace Splunk in the SIEM market, evaluate acquisition targets and evaluate a public offering.” www.pcr-online.biz


What’s On

EVENTS

Find out what tech and retail events you should be attending in the coming months…

CES 2019

PCR AWARDS 2019

8th-11th January 2019, Las Vegas

6th March 2019 – The Brewery, London

With more than 3,800 tech firms set to exhibit in Las Vegas, CES 2019 will continue to offer up the latest consumer tech and next-gen innovations. CES is the world’s gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies and has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for 50 years.

The PCR Awards are back once again in 2019 to celebrate the very best in the tech channel. Returning to The Brewery on 6th March, the awards will boast a mix of networking, partying and recognition of achievements in the UK PC and tech industry. Distributors, vendors, retailers, resellers and service providers will all be recognised through a variety of awards. Guests will also have the chance to network with 500+ members of the industry. Deadline for entries are open until December 13th. Submit your entries now for a chance to take home an award at http://pcr-awards.com

WOMEN IN TECH NETWORKING 10th January 2019, Tower 42, London Women in Tech is a networking and investor event with the aim to foster the female entrepreneurial and investor ecosystem. The event seeks to make a difference by hosting keynote speakers and pitches from five female entrepreneurs, followed by networking.

BETT 2019 23rd-26th January 2019, ExCeL, London Education technology show Bett is back in London for another round of inspiration and discussion surrounding the future of education. 34,700 attendees are expected to visit the show. They come together to celebrate, find inspiration and discuss the future of education, as well as the role technology and innovation plays in enabling all educators and learners to thrive.

GAME DEVELOPERS CONFERENCE 18th-22nd March, Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is the world’s largest professional game industry event. GDC brings together 28,000 attendees to exchange ideas and shape the future of the industry with five days of education, inspiration, and networking at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. The conference features 750 lectures, panels, tutorials and roundtable discussions on a comprehensive selection of game development and VR/ AR topics taught by leading industry experts. The expo showcases the latest game development tools and services from 550 leading technology companies.

CLOUDFEST MWC BARCELONA 2019 25th-28th February, Fira de Barcelona, Barcelona MWC Barcelona (formerly Mobile World Congress) is the largest mobile event in the world, bringing together the latest innovations and leading-edge technology from more than 2,400 leading companies. The event also features extensive learning opportunities from dozens of partner-led programmes, GSMA seminars, summits and more. Over 107,000 key decision-makers are expected to attend.

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23rd-29th March, Europa-Park, Germany CloudFest is a series of conferences geared toward cloud, hosting, and internet service provider professionals. Focusing on three distinctive pillars, growth, connectivity, and learning, the events offer attendees access to the latest technologies, innovations, and trends that make modern, digital online communication possible. CloudFest takes place at Europa-Park, Germany’s largest-scale theme park. It draws people from all over the industry – from hardware and data center companies, to application developers and content creators.

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Sector Guide

Headphones Whether you’re selling to gamers, fitness fans or audio professionals, a decent pair of headphones or earphones can be a great add-on or bundled item. Disties and vendors showcase their best audio offerings… Audeze Mobius 3D Audio Headphones Specs: Planar magnetic drivers, audiophile-grade cinematic sound, full 3D emulation with support for popular surround soundmodes, Integrated head tracking, pin point sound localisation, anatomy calibration to tailor the sound to the user, Waves Nx technology for realtime 3D processing. “The perfect set of headphones if you like music, movies and, above all, gaming. The 3D audio has to be experienced, and never fails to impress.” – Steve Old, Commercial Brand Manager, Premium Audio, Exertis. Contact: Exertis Unlimited

Hër On-Ear Bluetooth Stereo Headphones Specs: 23 hours talk time, 21 hours playback time, 840 hours stand-by, built-in microphone, Bluetooth 4.1, lightweight, flexible ear cushions. “Hër headphones are stylish, comfortable and have a razor-sharp sound. Designed in elegant nude and beige colours, they complement both current trends and any outfit – ideal for fashion conscious women or for that perfect Instagram picture! The matte metal and soft leather are highquality and the flexible ear cushions and lightweight style (just 200g) are a comfortable fit for long periods of time. Universally applicable and with full freedom of movement with Bluetooth 4.1, they can be used anywhere – at home, the gym or a busy train on the morning commute.” Contact: GO10

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Sudio Nivå Earphones Specs: True wireless earbuds, Bluetooth 4.2, Android and iOS compatible, built-in microphone, 3.5h battery, charging case. “With its remarkably compact construction and 10m range, Nivå lets you free the sound. This true wireless model features Bluetooth 4.2 technology and 3.5 hours of battery life, all without overlooking Sudio’s distinct, minimalist Scandinavian style. And while we’re on the topic of style, Nivå’s charging case doubles as a contemporary design piece that can go anywhere you do for an additional four charges – bringing total play time to a whopping 17.5 hours.” Contact: Hama UK

Sharkoon Skiller SGH3 Headphones Specs: 53mm speaker diameter, 20Hz – 20,000Hz frequency response, 100mw max power, inline volume controller. “With a straightforward design in matte black, the Skiller SGH3 from Sharkoon emphasizes casual and discreet. Thanks to its professional 53mm drivers, the Skiller SGH3 doesn’t just cover the wearer in a stylish look, but also provides a concise sound environment with clear voice transmission and strongly emphasized bass. Thanks to the included, external Sharkoon SB1 Sound Card and hardware equalizer, the perfect sound is only a couple of clicks away.” Contact: VIP UK


Asus ROG DELTA RGB Gaming Headset Specs: Over-ear, USB-C connector, USB 2.0 adapter included, 1.5m cable, noise cancelling, 20Hz–40kHz frequency response, detachable microphone. “Four Hi-Fi-grade ESS 9018 DACs (in one ESS 9218 DAC) provide lossless audio processing with each DAC devoting its processing power to a subset of the audible frequency range, from lows, mids, highs to ultra-highs. The four signals are then combined, which produces clearer sound with an impressive 127-dB SNR that’s much higher than any device in the market. As a result, you can hear and place in-game sounds with pin-point accuracy, letting you precisely judge enemy distance, direction of footsteps, gunshot locations and more. Hear every detail and enjoy crisp, clear sound for a true-to-life audio experience.” Contact: Spire Technology

Hama Connect Balance Headset Specs: Bluetooth 4.2, integrated microphone, volume and remote, 6h battery talk time, sweatresistant, flat cable, S/M/L silicone earbuds, balanced neckband, 100Hz – 10kHz frequency response. “Hama Connect Balance headphones have Bluetooth and battery units uniformly positioned on either side of the neckband, evening out in-line weight distribution and preventing earpieces pulling to one side and becoming dislodged during use. Active or at home use, battery powered convenience in addition to in-line microphone, playback and volume controls allow easy hands-free operation and calls, whilst a flat, tangle-resistant band provides optimal comfort.”

WASDKEYS H200 MultiPlatform Stereo Gaming Headset Specs: Compact and lightweight, integrated microphone, built-in inline controls, 2m cable length, 200g weight. “As a gamer do you endlessly need to switch your gaming headset as you move from PC to PS4 console? Well, WASDkeys who are brand new into the UK bring you the H200 Gaming Headset; the answer to all your gaming desires. This astounding gaming headset has been built for gamers with superior technology and elegant style, plus it is fully compatible and ready for both PC and Sony PS4. Its integrated high-sensitivity microphone supports in-game communication, as well as online chat, plus, in-line controls provide you with maximum command of your audio.” Contact: Meroncourt Europe Limited

Contact: Hama UK

Razer Nari Essential 7.1 Wireless Headset Specs: THX Spatial Audio, enhanced comfort, lag-free wireless performance, 16-hour battery life, flip mic with quick mute function, 12m wireless range, 2.4GHz wireless frequency. “Immerse yourself in superior sound technology and ergonomic comfort. With nextgeneration surround sound, senses will be heightened when exploring vast worlds with lifelike fidelity. Say hello to the Razer Nari Essential. Tipped to be Razer’s best selling wireless headset. Built for wireless gaming audio, the 2.4 GHz wireless frequency delivers gaming immersion with incredible lag-free performance for up to 16 hours with its long battery life. Featuring THX Spatial Audio and enhanced comfort from the cooling gel infused ear cushions, high-density foam, plush leatherette covering and auto adjusting headband.” Contact: VIP UK www.pcr-online.biz 

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Sector Guide Asus TUF Gaming H5 7.1 Headset Specs: 3.5mm jack, USB adapter, boom mic, virtual surround, stainless-steel, Aura sync, 1.2m cable, 50mm driver.

JLab Epic Air Elite True Wireless Earphones Specs: 8x silicone gel tips, Bluetooth, remote microphone, noise reduction, playback controls, rechargeable battery. “The Epic Air Elite true wireless earphones from JLab provide a great sound with the liberating freedom of true wireless via Bluetooth making them ideal for exercise lovers. Sweat-proof and customisable for a secure and comfortable fit, they can be worn with no discomfort or worries about the work out getting a bit intense! Switching songs and taking calls can be done easily through a smartphone with simple touch-and-tap controls. Featuring a battery life of six hours in each earbud and 32 hours in the charging case, they have the best battery in the true wireless category and also have a unique design with the overear hook. The Be Aware audio allows users to be safe whilst on an outside run as it passes through ambient noise. Also having three EQ settings: Signature, Balance and Bass Boost, there is a setting to suit everyone and their listening tastes.” Contact: Exertis Unlimited

Apple AirPods Specs: Designed by Apple, automatically on, automatically connected, one-tap setup for all your Apple devices, Quick access to Siri with a double tap, more than 24-hour battery life with charging case. “AirPods will forever change the way you use headphones. Whenever you pull your AirPods out of the charging case, they instantly turn on and connect to your iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad or Mac. Audio automatically plays as soon as you put them in your ears and pauses when you take them out. To adjust the volume, change the song, make a call or even get directions, just double-tap to activate Siri. Driven by the custom Apple W1 chip, AirPods use optical sensors and a motion accelerometer to detect when they’re in your ears. Whether you’re using both AirPods or just one, the W1 chip automatically routes the audio and engages the microphone.” Contact: Target Components

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“The new TUF Gaming H5 headset is designed to provide incredible sound quality and tough durability. With on-board 7.1 virtual surround sound, exclusive ASUS Essence drivers and an airtight chamber design, TUF Gaming H5 upgrades your in-game audio experience with rich, immersive sound. Its lightweight design provides great comfort for extended gaming sessions, and a stainless-steel headband ensures the headset will stand up to the rigors of frequent gaming and travel. TUF Gaming H5 comes with a 3.5mm connector, enabling the headset to be used with multiple platforms, including PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and mobile phones.” Contact: Spire Technology

Razer Nari Chroma 7.1 Wireless Headset Specs: THX Spatial Audio, cooling gelinfused cushions, game/chat balance, lag-free wireless performance, powered by Razer Chroma, 20Hz – 20kHz frequency response, 12m wireless range, 2.4GHz wireless frequency, up to 14 hours battery life with Razer Chroma lighting/24 hours without. “When it comes to gaming immersion, sound plays a critical role. It engages your sense of hearing to determine the atmosphere and mood, creating a lifelike experience that lets you truly embody your game character. Standing by this philosophy, we’ve built a headset with THX Spatial Audio to bring you 360° positional sound, giving you greater spatial awareness. We’ve also added ergonomic design features to make this one of the most comfortable daily drivers for gaming. This is the Razer Nari.” Contact: VIP UK www.pcr-online.biz


Sector Guide White Shark Gaming GH1841 Lion Headset

Koss BT540i Headset Specs: Precision-tuned Koss PLX40 dynamic elements, Bluetooth with aptX, dual microphones, Li-Ion battery, 10Hz – 25kHz frequency response, premium leather memory foam cushions, travel case, USB cable, Koss limited lifetime warranty.

Specs: Suspension style headband, memory foam ear cups, blue LED lighting, built-in soundcard, USB 2.0, plug and play 220cm cable length. “Hear the roar of the apex predator as White Shark Gaming step into the UK with their brand new, range of products. The stylish, graceful and powerful GH-1841 Lion USB Stereo Gaming Headset features a suspension style headband, and has excellent comfort. Powerfully built, the Lion delivers boundless stereo sound thanks to the superb integrated soundcard that produces breathtaking audio. With state-of-the-art design, which includes blue LED lighting, this headset will add dazzling atmosphere to your gaming sessions; plus, the Lion also includes a high sensitivity microphone for in-game and online chat.”

“Featuring state of the art Bluetooth hardware and software integrated with aptX codec technology, the Koss BT540i is the most advanced Bluetooth headphone designed and engineered by the wireless headphone pioneer, Koss. The built-in lithium-ion battery delivers more than 12 hours of listening time on a single charge, with detachable audio cable included should the battery run out. The BT540i folds flat and comes complete with travel case for easy portability.”

Contact: Meroncourt Europe Limited

Contact: Hama UK

Asus ROG STRIX Fusion 500 RGB Gaming Headset

Alfa Genus V2 Earphones

Specs: 50mm driver, 7.1 surround sound, boom mic, Aura sync, on-ear, 2m braided cable, USB connection, 50mm driver, uni-directional mic, ROG Hybrid ear cushion, 20 – 20000Hz frequency response.

“The Alfa Genus V2 has been multi-award winning ever since we launched this product two years ago. Furthermore, a great aspect of the earphones is the ability to tune the sound with intertangeable tuning filters.”

“ROG Strix Fusion 500 turns your gaming up a notch, with exclusive headset-to-headset RGB light synchronisation technology so your MOBA or esports team can crush the competition in perfect sync. ROG Strix Fusion 500 features a Hi-Fi ESS 9018 digitalto-analogue converter and a 9601 amplifier for more realistic audio, as well as a 50mm ASUS Essence driver, exclusive airtight chamber technology and 7.1 virtual surround sound. Get ready to shine on the battlefield!”

Contact: Rock Jaw Audio

Contact: Spire Technology

Specs: 8mm dynamic drivers, 3x interchangeable tuning filters, compatible with iOS/Android/Windows smartphones, 108+/-3db sensitivity, 20 – 20000Hz frequency response, 1.2m cord length, gold-plated 3.5mm right angle jack, mic with universal pause/play button, silicone, memory foam and double flange eartips.

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Crowdfunding

Somiflash: The world’s smartest 1TB flash drive Somiflash claims to be the world’s smartest 1TB flash drive. Despite Its compact size, it comes with dual interface wireless 802.11ac and USB3.1, offers data sharing for up to 12 devices simultaneously, and has 10 hours of continuous battery life. The Somiflash can reach 100% charge in an hour, has a sharing speed up to 1300mb per second, and users can add an SD card of up to 256GB. With the Somiflash, users can easily watch wireless 4K video, and the flash drive comes with a dedicated android and iOS app. It is available in 256, 512 and 1024GB models. For more information visit: https://igg.me/at/somiflash/x

Grove Junior: Programmable, magnetic, electronic blocks Grove Junior is a platform of electronic modules that make STE(A)M learning “simple, practical, and most importantly, enjoyable” – as its makers put it. From the easy snap-and-play magnets, to the block-based programming, Grove Junior comes with a number of educational projects to help kids learn 21st century skills, foster creativity, and develop their critical thinking step-by-step. Grove Junior has over 25 modules, including a control board, a battery and various sensors and actuators to help you learn basic electronics while building fun creative projects. All modules come with a pair of specially designed magnetic adaptors that allow you to snap the modules together. And it all works in different orders and directions too. For more information visit: http://kck.st/2PrZmha

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Crowdfunding

Funcl wireless headphones Funcl W1 and Funcl AI are powerful-yet-affordable Bluetooth 5.0 wireless headphones. Funcl W1 feature up to 18-hours of battery life, touch control, and ergonomic design. Whereas Funcl AI are ideal for mobile gamers, delivering 24-hours of battery life, aptX Hi-Fi sound, and low latency. Equipped with the latest Realtek chip, Funcl W1 promises great sound quality and low power consumption. At only 4.4 grams, Funcl W1 promises to “make you feel nothing but music in your ears”. Powered by the Qualcomm smart audio chip, Funcl AI delivers extremely low latency (60ms) when working with devices supporting aptX. As well as this, the free Funcl AI app makes working with the AI assistants on your device more intuitive. For more information visit: https://igg.me/at/funcl/x

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

TinyJuice self-adhesive wireless charger Most smartphone users know the benefits of a portable charger. While cable chargers are handy they can be bulky and inconvenient. TinyJuice is planning to change all that with its pocket-sized wireless charging power bank. Its NANO-Suction surface will stick to the back of your phone, so you don’t need to worry about losing the connection between the phone and the charger. It also functions as a phone stand and a finger ring for added convenience. TinyJuice supports fast wireless QI charging, and its battery has a high conversion rate and a high power 5v output, which means it can charge your device fast and safely. Most iPhone models have around 2900mAh of internal battery capacity. TinyJuice has a 3000mAh battery, which means this handy device can double your battery life with a single charge. For more information visit: http://kck.st/2OlrLQB

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Sector Guide

Speakers When it comes to buying speakers, nowadays, consumers not only demand the highest audio quality for the best price, but they also want portability as well as easy connectivity to their prefered devices. Here are some of the best speakers on the market for gaming, music and more... Jarre AeroBull HD1 Specs: 200w of aerial high definition 2.1 sound, deep bass rendering, micro USB, DC power plug, power and volume buttons, 2.1 amplifier type, 45Hz – 20kHz frequency response range, True Wireless for Stereo Wireless Mode, 10m/30ft wireless range, available in white, red and black. “The Jarre AeroBull HD1 provides an exceptional audio experience with expansive clarity and resonance in a unique format.” – Richard Booth, Commercial Brand Manager, Premium Audio, Exertis. Contact: Exertis Unlimited

Genius SP-HF800A PC Speaker Specs: 80 – 20kHz frequency response, 20w total output power, ultra-rigid MDF board cabinet, 1” tweeter for soft and smooth treble sound, two 2” woofer drivers for extended bass, adjustable volume and tone controls. “Complete your listening experience with the Genius SP-HF800A. The 3-way elegant design delivers clear and balanced sound, and can connect to iPad, tablet, PC, desktop or Notebook. The 2-inch high-performance speaker units cover the full-spectrum of sound and the one-inch tweeter gives the SP-HF800A crystal clear treble sound. Not only providing a great sound, SP-HF800A is a fine boutique beside your PC with copper-coated cones and golden-plated rings. For personal sound preference, just adjust the Tone controls. SP-HF800A also has a secondary line-in jack on the front panel for connecting to any playback device with 3.5mm jack without disconnecting the speakers from the PC.” Contact: Target Components

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Sector Guide

Audio Pro Addon C5A Speaker Specs: Multi-room WiFi connectivity, Bluetooth 4.0, Alexa far-field microphone, 4x preset buttons, Apple Airplay and Spotify Connect compatible, 40W Digital D amplifier, 50Hz – 20kHz frequency response, RCA and 3.5mm stereo inputs. “The same great Hi-Fi sound as our original, awardwinning Addon C5, but with an extra twist; the possibility to control your speaker simply by your voice. With Amazon Alexa you can ask your speaker to play your favorite song, as well as many more different tasks, like giving you the weather forecast, to control your living room lights or answering any question that you might have. Alexa is the perfect smart assistant in your home.” Contact: Hama UK

Razer Nommo Pro Speakers Specs: THX certified full range 2.1 gaming speakers, Dolby Virtual Surround Sound technology, illuminated control pod with easy quick access functions, downward firing sub-woofer, powered by Razer Chroma. “Phenomenal gaming speakers need to do more than just be loud, they need depth and range to transport you to another universe. Whether on a battlefield dodging shells or watching a horror movie, every little sound adds to the tapestry of the experience. Featuring THX certified 2.1 premium audio, Dolby Virtual Surround Sound technology, Dupont Kevlar coated 3-inch drivers and silk dome tweeters, the Razer Nommo Pro produces a powerful audio experience that’s immersive and lifelike.” Contact: VIP UK

White Shark Gaming GSP-602 Rhythmus Speakers Specs: 2.0 stereo, 3-inch front firing speakers, wooden enclosure, integrated controls, 2x 3w RMS output power, 90Hz – 20kHz frequency response, USB 5V power supply, “If you are looking to intensify your audio experience, then the GSP-602 Rhythmus USB 2.0 Speakers are an outstanding choice with 3-inch front firing speakers that are surrounded in a highquality wooden enclosure; which provides an output of 3w per satellite speaker. White Shark Gaming are brand new into the UK, and bring their perfectly balanced, characteristic audio superiority that handles games, music and videos with flawless dynamism. Compatible with PC, music players, TVs, DVD players and more, the Rhythmus includes a 3.5mm interface with integrated volume controls.” Contact: Meroncourt Europe Limited

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Sector Guide

Geneva Lab Touring L Speaker Specs: FM/DAB+ radio, Swiss design, Bluetooth 4.1 with auto-connect, up to 30h portable battery power, 60Hz – 20kHz frequency response, Class D amplifier, 6 station presets, 3.5mm jack input, AC power cable included. “Introducing the big brother of Geneva’s highly regarded Touring/S with DAB+/FM radio and Bluetooth speaker, the Touring/L is a powerful, portable Hi-Fi system that’s made to move.” Contact: Hama UK

SBOX SP-092R Speakers Specs: 2x 3w output power, 2x IC8002 audio amplifier, 90Hz – 20kHz frequency response, volume control on back of speaker, 3.5mm stereo interface, 1m cable length, USB DC 5V power supply, available in black, blue and white. “Add some get-up-and-go to your audio with these fabulous compact USB stereo speakers that arrive with tremendous style and charm. SBOX is brand new into the UK, and these little wonders will deliver output of 3w per speaker of phenomenal multimedia sound. They come in a range of bright colours with a distinctive design, that will be perfect for any environment. So be among the first to connect them to your 3.5mm stereo audio source, and experience amazing sound delivered with style and flair. Includes a 1m cable, with volume controls on the back of the speaker.” Contact: Meroncourt Europe Limited

Moshi Spatia Airplay Speaker Specs: 50Hz – 25kHz frequency response, Spatia app, 100dB @ 1w/1m sensitivity, compatible with all devices that support Airplay. “Spatia is a wireless AirPlay sound system that fills your house with spacious, high-fidelity sound. Apart from its elegant and sleek look it has a spectrum of innovative technologies that deliver a powerful, yet balanced sound. The singleenclosure, three-way system features five individual speakers: two 1-inch silk dome tweeters, two 2.75-inch mid-range drivers, and a 4-inch downward firing subwoofer. Spatia comes equipped with AirPlay technology, allowing you to stream audio over your WiFi network from any iOS device or computer with iTunes. Spatia also has a dedicated app that allows you to customise and save preferred sound profiles. As an added bonus, a curated suite of ambient sounds is included for sleeping and relaxation. With room-warming sound and a unique design, Spatia is the premier choice for those seeking highfidelity sound and style in a wireless home speaker. Contact: Moshi

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Sector Guide Audioengine A5+ Wireless Specs: 2.0 powered bookshelf-style speaker, Bluetooth, 150w peak power total, 50Hz – 22kHz frequency response, 3.5mm mini-jack, RCA L/R and Bluetooth aptX inputs. “The Audioengine A5+ provides refined stereo imaging in a flexible multi-source music system.” – Richard Booth, Commercial Brand Manager – Premium Audio, Exertis. Contact: Exertis Unlimited

Razer Nommo Chroma Speakers Specs: Full range 2.0 gaming speakers for PC, custom woven glass fiber 3-inch drivers for power and clarity, rearfacing bass ports for powerful lows, versatile controls for gaming, music and movies. “Powerful audio can completely immerse you in your experience, bringing games, movies and music to life. With optimised drivers built for full range sound and extreme clarity, the Razer Nommo takes listeners to a new dimension that blurs the line between fiction and reality. Featuring custom woven glass fibre 3-inch drivers to deliver ultra clear sound with uncanny sharpens to hear distinct layers and audio details, rear-facing bass ports for a fuller, richer range of audio. The bass knob sits on the right speaker, enabling the output to be fine-tuned perfectly and thanks to automatic gain control, the bass scales results are distortion free.” Contact: VIP UK

Hama DIT2100 Digital Tuner Specs: Hi-Fi tuner for FM/DAB/DAB+/Internet radio, UNDOK WiFi multi-room streaming, Bluetooth connection to phone/ tablet/PC, Spotify Connect, line in/out, optical and coaxial outputs, 2.8” TFT colour screen, exchangeable WLAN, DAB/FM and Bluetooth antenna, 30 memory slots, alarm, remote control. “The sleek and compact Hama DIT2100 brings a whole new world of audio into the home. Equipped with access to global DAB+ and internet radio services, the DIT2100 offers

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international reception of over 20,000 radio stations and 10,000 podcasts worldwide. Simple to mount above or below countertop, additional UNDOK multi-room compatibility permits seamless streaming and music sharing between rooms/nearby speakers, whilst Bluetooth connectivity creates the option of tapping into pre-existing audio libraries on smartphone, tablet or PC.” Contact: Hama UK

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“We want more retailers to take advantage of our services to grow their business�

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Interview

LIFE IN THE CHANNEL

Exertis Unlimited’s Glenn McClelland The distributor’s Commercial Director discusses the growth of its audio division and how the sector is set to evolve in the future... Tell us about your role at Exertis. I am the commercial director responsible for all Exertis UK consumer audio (CA) brands and own-brand accessory lines. My role is to support these brands in the marketplace and provide services that make it easier for retailers to do business with Exertis and for their consumers to buy audio products. Our aim is to be the one-stop shop for audio category brands and to provide services that differentiate Exertis and add value to our retailers. How has Exertis’ consumer audio division grown in recent years? Exertis has always distributed CA brands in the UK but through organic growth and acquisition of companies like Computers Unlimited, Kondor and more recently Jam Industries, we have expanded this category in terms of brands, expertise and global presence. In addition, our Exertis Pro AV Solutions division, recently enhanced by the acquisition of Stampede, also provides audio solutions for the B2B market, with Jam Industries targeting the pro audio production sector. In the UK, our premium audio collection comprises of 35 market-leading and award-winning brands across every major audio category. We have increased resources with dedicated teams of audio brand managers and sales (both internal and external) – duplicated globally in Exertis’ other countries and subsidiaries. We now have audio showrooms in our Exertis office in Harlow and our Kondor facility in Christchurch, where our customers can experience and listen to our brands. Furthermore, we have used the expertise of our teams to design and develop our own brands of attachment accessories (for example, speaker wall mounts and floor stands) that enhance the audio experience for the consumer and provide incremental profit for our retailers. These products are then sold

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around the world in partnership with multi-national audio companies. We currently enjoy about 21% of the UK market share and about 6% of the world market including all Exertis companies. What is your team working on at the moment? We currently offer a growing range of value-added services, alongside our traditional distribution model – in-store category management, merchandising, POS design, PR and social media, data insight and reporting, bundling, website design and hosting, life cycle management, virtual warehousing, customisation, training, digital services, pop-up stores, and finally, finance and credit lease programmes. Our aim is to ensure more of our retailers take advantage of these services to grow their business. What are the best things about working in tech? It’s constantly evolving. We love hearing from existing and new audio brands about their product road maps and potential new products. We like the creative environment: new ideas, new unique selling points, new routes to market, new marketing assets, new off-line and online strategies, and even whole new categories of products which consumers don’t yet know they might want to buy! Picking the winners and succeeding is very satisfying. We also share a passion for music with a personal interest in our brands. What are you hoping to see in the consumer audio market in 2019? There will be a continuing trend towards wireless products, Bluetooth, multi room and sound bars. The headphone market is still growing and, of course, the great disrupter is voice-enabled speakers and other connected home products. More accessories with a demand for unique lifestyle and higher-end products. Less me-too and more innovative designs.

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

<UKFast’s Christmas mission>

UKFast is backing Children’s Charity Wood Street Mission to provide thousands of children up to the age of 14 with presents this Christmas. Up until 14th December 2018, the company is inviting people to donate new, unwrapped gifts for children aged 0-14 and drop them off at the UKFast Campus in Hulme, 1 Archway, M15 5QJ. “You’ll be able to select a tag containing a child’s name and age from our Christmas tree at reception, attach it to your gift and leave their present in our Santa’s sleigh,” explains the company. “At Christmas, parents and carers can visit the free Wood Street Mission Christmas Shop in Central Manchester to pick presents their children would most like from your donations.” Set up in 1869 to alleviate the effects of poverty on local children and their families, the charity provides thousands of children with presents every Christmas. This Christmas, the charity is appealing for donations of new toys and gifts as well as treats such as selection boxes and advent calendars. UKFast managing director Gail Jones said: “The team here at UKFast have always backed our drive to ensure children in the Greater Manchester area have something to open on Christmas Day, so we are thrilled to be supporting Wood Street Mission’s Christmas Appeal this year. “It’s wonderful to hear that the campaign covers other celebrations including Chanukah too. We are appealing for help not only from within UKFast but also the wider community, whether that’s donating gifts,

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creating awareness or helping to organise the presents. Everyone can play their part and make a child’s day.” You can donate at the UKFast Campus or online. Full details of how to get involved can be found at https://www.ukfast.co. uk/2018-christmas-appeal.html

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<A prize-winning partnership> At a recent Panasonic Toughbook European Partner Event in Germany, CI Distribution was recognised as the ‘EMEA Distribution Partnership of the year’. “I’m very proud to receive this award on behalf of the CI Distribution team from Kevin and Adam at Panasonic Toughbook Europe, we have been fortunate to see our business grow significantly over the past three years in revenue, breadth and stature, largely down to the vision and friendship we share with Panasonic,” said Jon Atherton, CI Distribution’s director. Adam Read, Panasonic’s UK&I channel manager, added: “CI Distribution has been pivotal to the growth of Panasonic Toughbook in the UK and setting the standard for distribution across Europe. CI has shown phenomenal growth over the years we have been working with them.”

<BT cooks up

a festive feast> On Tuesday 6th November BT celebrated Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. As one of the most celebrated festivals in the Hindu religion, the team at BT’s Bolton office thought it would be great to celebrate the festival with an impressive feast. The office gathered around for the buffet a day prior to the festival so those on annual leave for Diwali could also be involved in the celebrations. “At lunchtime we served a selection of Indian starters and home cooked dishes that staff brought in to share with others,” said BT. “It was a great day enjoyed by all and it gave people a chance to understand the cultural events outside of what some are used to. “We recently won a Diversity of the Year award and it’s easy to see why!”

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<Logging off>\\ www.pcr-online.biz @pcr_online

<Biggest tech news from… December 2012> Now you’re up-to-date with the latest issues in tech retail, let’s take a trip down memory lane to some interesting stories from yesteryear... Dell drops out of smartphone market 2012 was the year Dell decided the smartphone market wasn’t for them. In December of that year, we reported that the vendor had no plans to re-enter the smartphone market claiming that it “requires a lot of investments to really be successful” and will instead focus on developing Windows 8 tablets. “It’s a content play with Android. Amazon is selling books and Google is making it up with search. So far we couldn’t find a way to build a business on Android,” commented Dell’s head of consumer, Jeff Clarke, at the time.

Comet closes a further 125 stores On 1st November 2012, electronics retailer Comet announced it was filing for administration. As news story after news story was written about what would happen to the company and its workers, it was in December that appointed administrators Deloitte decided to close an additional 125 Comet stores after being unable to find a suitable buyer for the business, putting an additional 5,000 job at risk just weeks before Christmas. The closures continued until there were no stores remaining open by the end of December 2012.

John McAfee appeals for return to the US McAfee founder John McAfee made quite a few headlines in 2012 and 2013 after he went on the

run from Belize authorities after his neighbour was shot dead. In December, McAfee launched an appeal to be allowed to return to the United States rather than face extradition to Belize, where he was a prime suspect for the murder. McAfee was arrested after illegally crossing the border from Belize into Guatemala where he attempted to claim asylum, although that request was denied. McAfee was released from detention in Guatemala and deported to the United States that same month. As of January 2014, Belizean police have presented no new accusations, and they have not persisted in seeking McAfee’s imprisonment for any crimes.

Microsoft Surface tablets hit thirdparty stores After previously only being available direct from Microsoft, the firm made its first Surface Tablet available from third-party stores just in time for Christmas 2012. “The public reaction to Surface has been exciting to see. We’ve increased production and are expanding the ways in which customers can interact with, experience and purchase Surface,” said Panos Panay, general manager, Microsoft Surface. Since then, the range has gone on to be very successful, with a Pro version launched in January 2013 and new models unveiled every year since.

Send stories to Laura Barnes Laura.Barnes@futurenet.com

NEXT MONTH Tech trends The next issue of PCR will be a combined Jan/Feb magazine focused on all the latest products and news from the 2019 CES show – the biggest consumer tech show in the world. We will also be looking at what tech trends we can expect to see emerge throughout the year. As well as this, we will be rounding up the latest laptops, notebooks and tablets in our bumper product sector guide.

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