Full of Middle Eastern promise

Emirates Computers serves more than just the UAE, and deals in much more than just computers. Graham Stacey spoke to Hani Harik about trends in the Middle East, technological advances and what the future holds.

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By  Graham Stacey Published  February 2, 2003

|~||~||~|Hani Harik is president of Emirates Computers, a retailer and technology service provider serving much of the Middle East region. He spoke to Graham Stacey about the state of the local IT market.

What are the trends in Middle East computer use? Do we purchase the latest, fastest and best, or are we settling for adequate?
People are more and more interested in notebooks as a desktop replacement or a full time computer. The specifications in terms of performance and connectivity are closing the gap with desktops and the convenience of mobile computing justifies the slightly higher price tag. Wireless devices are picking up and are becoming the perfect companion for notebooks in an increasingly mobile world. New devices from Nokia, Microsoft and others are making it possible to access the internet, mail, even corporate applications and data, anytime, anywhere.
With respect to how soon we adopt technology and whether faster is better (or latest is best), my guess is that people are settling for the fact that equipment should last them three years. So if someone buys a new computer, you feel like he disconnects from what's going on in the market and focuses more on how to use his machine. This, of course, excludes the power users and gadget lovers.

Places such as America still get new products ahead of the Middle East. Why is this?
US made products are first launched in the US, Japanese products are launched in Japan, even before the US. It's only normal. Add to that the fact that markets like the US are many times bigger than the Middle East, that's why multinationals focus on such markets to generate demand. Nevertheless, we cannot complain because the time gap between product availability in the US and in the Middle East is measured in weeks at most, and in days in some cases. By the time someone hears/reads about a product and orders, it is already available. Some products, such as GSM wireless devices, make it to the Middle East before America and other major markets.

What has been the most important technological development of the last year?
The IT industry is not in its infancy anymore and 'single most important developments' do not happen as frequently (the last one was the internet). Many interesting technologies are emerging though. Wireless devices with more power and better connectivity to public as well as corporate networks, cheaper internet with higher bandwidth, smarter search engines, better web page indexing, knowledge management tools, MMS…Most interesting is the research conducted on new (natural) user interfaces and machine-to-machine communication and transacting.

You have previously stated that you are looking forward to the second generation of tablet PCs. What will the advances be?
Tablet PCs are like wireless devices: great ideas that somehow leave the user wanting more. Tablet PCs are great office tools, at least in theory. But in reality, electronic note taking is not practical because, despite tremendous advances in hand-written recognition, the technology is not yet polished or transparent. The tablet PC saves everything electronically but can not yet do full text retrieval (unless you recognise your hand writing first then save as a text document) leaving the user with the possibility of searching for titles but not content. Hopefully these snags will be fixed and the whole user interface will be more intuitive because the tablet PC is how a PC (or at least a notebook) should have been.

How important is the wireless networking market in the region?
Important enough, or at least as important as wired networking. Ultimately, we are moving towards a wirelessly connected computing environment. As such wireless networking is not just a gimmick.

Any other products you are looking forward to?
Better wireless devices with faster connectivity, PC-like applications and an easy user interface for fast data entry and retrieval. Why wireless devices? Simply because they are the perfect partner for work, personal tasks and entertainment. They combine most functions in a very portable package.

Are there any products you, personally, couldn’t do without?
I would like to think that I could do without any of the products I use, but a mobile phone is always useful. To tell the truth I am a gizmo person myself. I like to play with gadgets, and technology, in general, fascinates me.

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