GITEX captures market’s pedigree

The successful conclusion of yet another GITEX exhibition has reaffirmed the sophistication of the Middle East marketplace and, just as importantly, its significance to the global ICT industry. While other technology trade shows have scaled back in recent years, GITEX 2006 hosted a larger number of exhibitors than ever before to celebrate its 26th birthday in style. Consequently, the show experienced an unprecedented level of news and announcements from the mass of exhibitors on display. Fear not, for Channel Middle East was there to bring you all the major talking points from GITEX 2006.

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By  Published  November 30, 2006

For many, the aching feet and tired limbs serve as the ultimate reminder of just how big GITEX has become, but those wanting a more quantitative indication need look no further than statistics offered by the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), the organiser of GITEX. It claims that the exhibition, which spanned more than 13 halls, took up 62,000 square metres of floorspace — 33% more than in 2005 — and attracted a staggering 130,000 visitors.

The increase in size allowed DWTC to fit in 16% more exhibitors than last year, bringing the total number of companies on show to 1,347. A whole raft of new country groups participated for the first time with Syria, Hungary and Portugal all staging a pavilion to underline their domestic talents. What’s more, GITEX Shopper and the inaugural GULFCOMMS exhibition also proved a massive hit. Local retailers exhibiting at Shopper reported a rise of as much as 45% in sales compared to last year with total transactions surpassing the US$20m mark for the first time. GULFCOMMS, meanwhile, enjoyed a successful debut in Zabeel Hall and received strong backing from influential players in the telecoms arena, such as Etisalat, du and Nokia.

The market’s big guns all had major announcements to make over the course of the week. In the hardware space, Intel’s global director of digital home brand management, Charlotte Lamprecht, flew into Dubai to highlight the digital home technologies shaping the Middle East consumer market, while Samsung unleashed its latest range of products on the channel, including the world’s smallest laser printer and an entirely new concept MP3 player. Microsoft hammered home the theme of “People Ready Business” — a philosophy based on giving workers the technologies they need to drive business — in addition to launching its Office, Vista and Exchange products in the Middle East.

Rival SAP, meanwhile, disclosed a Middle East initiative to target SMEs.

So what else came to symbolise GITEX? Visitors that made it all the way down to Hall 1 were greeted by the crème-de-la-crème of the networking market who were out in force to showcase the latest infrastructure technologies. Naturally, VoIP proved to be a prominent theme with discussion on the regulatory environment of VoIP usage in the UAE taking centre stage. USRobotics was one of several vendors playing up to the VoIP theme by launching a number of new products — including two Skype certified handsets — throughout the five-day extravaganza. “VoIP is a very big opportunity in the Middle East because of its ease of use and effectiveness,” declared Sumit Kumar, Middle East and North Africa boss at USRobotics.

One company with something on its mind other than VoIP was US-based Packeteer, which claimed that wide area file services was the real hot topic during GITEX. “The Middle East market is an area of real growth for us — we have seen 50% to 60% growth year-on-year,” revealed regional manager Bhaskar Perui. Elsewhere, APC was bombarded with questions about its US$6.1 billion takeover by Schneider Electric, but refused to let that overshadow a number of key technology launches, including its new range of datacentre cooling solutions. Cabling and fibre optic firm Mayflex, meanwhile, used GITEX as a launchpad to locate new partners following the recent opening of a Middle East HQ in the UAE.

The VoIP theme was also evident in Hall 2 where US-based manufacturer Belkin took the opportunity to launch its new Skype Wi-Fi telephone. GITEX 2006 marked the third time Belkin had exhibited independently from its distribution partners and provided the ideal vehicle for the company to increase its visibility, according to regional chief Andre Van Rensburg. “Wireless technology is taking off here and we want to be part of that growth,” he commented.

Meanwhile, India-based PC vendor Zenith and UAE-based Al Fida both made the most of GITEX by appealing for new wholesalers across the region, while Bullguard inked a deal to bundle its security software on PCs assembled by Sky Electronics.

Not everyone was exclusively trying to establish new sales channels in hall 2, however. Electronics giant Canon was more concerned with displaying the strength of its offering after taking the cover off a staggering 50 new consumer and business products during GITEX. As well as the launch of what it hailed as the world’s smallest camcorder, the company also unveiled a new line of large format printers. “We are building on our previous ranges with a more distinct segmentation of products aimed at better defined target groups,” revealed marketing manager Mohammed Salama. “GITEX enabled us to reach and communicate to the widest possible audience all under one roof.”

Those who took time out to visit Hall 3 were greeted by many of the world’s top PC players, including HP, Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba — the latter of which arrived at GITEX with its first 3G laptop in tow. The company’s Protégé M400-3G is set to hit the Middle East commercial market this month, according to communications chief Manuel Linnig.

“3G laptops will even move across to the consumer side eventually. However, they’ll remain a business proposition for the time being due to their cost,” he said. The IT sector’s leading hardware players didn’t have hall 3 all to themselves as there was strong representation from a number of distributors, including Almasa and Forefront Technologies, which was out to promote its alliance with US storage vendor Plasmon. There was also a smattering of electronics firms such as Creative, LG and Panasonic, which attempted to lure visitors to their stand with the latest range of attractive consumer models and gadgets. Korean giant LG led the Blu-ray charge by debuting a range of PCs, DVD players and multi-drives featuring the technology. Chip giant Intel let its products do the talking by giving customers a glimpse of its quad-core Xeon 5300 and Core 2 Extreme processor families, while Logitech — which recently opened a new office in Jebel Ali — championed its range of intercommunication devices.

The might of the hardware and components space could also be found in Hall 4 with the likes of Fujitsu Siemens, Sun Microsystems, and ASUS all bidding to demonstrate their commitment to the Middle East channel.

Printer manufacturers such as Brother and Epson went head-to-head on a new range of MFPs and SME-focused printing models, while in the software arena Symantec wowed visitors with its latest security offering. The vendor claimed to have earned a tenfold return on investment at last year’s show and will be hoping the release of its updated instant messaging software will generate a similar result once it gets round to analysing its performance this time around.

Meanwhile, the crowds flocked to Sony’s interactive stand as it revealed just what a vital role high-definition technology has to play in its Middle East channel strategy. The company believes its showing at GITEX will encourage local consumers to embrace the high definition revolution. “Our conviction regarding the potential of high definition to revolutionise the electronics industry is well established,” added Masaru Tamagawa, managing director at Sony Gulf. Asian rival Hitachi did its best to ensure Sony didn’t steal all the limelight by displaying its 60-inch highdefinition plasma TV at the show.

Hall 5 contained the most diverse set of exhibitors with everyone from portable barcode solutions distributor Tetra to Saudi Arabia-based fleet management provider AEC looking to grab as much attention as possible.

Local IT services outfit Mideast Data Systems illustrated the scope of its offering by showcasing products from the likes of Microsoft, Symantec, HP and Cisco, and all but confirmed it would be back again next year. “MDS has been a consistent participant in GITEX for more than 20 years and we believe that GITEX is the most important IT event in the region which we cannot afford to miss,” revealed president Sami Abi Esber.

Sharjah-based Supplies Depot was also in attendance for the second year running to reaffirm its rising status in the growing Middle East after-market printing sector, while security specialist ARC showed off its IXP 200 access control system to clients from Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.

Meanwhile, the exhibition came at just the right time for printing outfit Olivetti. “It was essential to exhibit at GITEX because we recently re-launched the Olivetti brand worldwide,” said international sales manager Peter Dombrowsky. “We are working very closely with our regional partner Oligulf to increase our brand visibility in the Middle East region. GITEX played an important part in that strategy.”

Visitors to Hall 6 were reminded of the increasingly cosmopolitan flavour of GITEX as exhibitors from far-flung fields such as Germany, Malaysia and Taiwan set out their stalls. A strong Chinese contingent also made the trip to Dubai and included the likes of technology equipment supplier Hangzhou Paradise Bird in its ranks. “Last year, my partners came and they saw so many innovations that we decided to attend this year,” revealed general manager Marwan Halwani. Asian outfit Ritek also showed up in an effort to find new distribution partners for its disk media products. The company already works with volume distributors such as Almasa, but is keen to replicate the channels it has in the UAE and Saudi elsewhere in the Middle East region.

Elsewhere in hall 6, mobile device leader imate demonstrated its commitment to developing more mid-range Windows mobile phones by giving customers a view of its JAQ3 model, while 3M Telecommunications showed off its Volition fibre solution high-speed 10G LAN cable and residential system. Meanwhile, NetApp ensured there was something on offer for the enterprise visitor by promoting its data centre systems for large corporate firms in the Middle East. “The NetApp Manageability Software family provides a data management toolset that actively manages data from a business perspective,” said Thomas Ehrlich, director for North East EMEA at NetApp. He added that the company now regards GITEX as a vital part of its regional market strategy.

Names such as Zebra, Barracuda Networks and Vasco packed into Hall 7 which had a distinctly international scent to it courtesy of a wide range of exhibitors from Australia, France, the UK and the US. Dubai-based Nawaiya made sure that there was some local participation as it unveiled a new handheld device offering live satellite feeds.

Sami Issa, chairman at Nawaiya, said GITEX served a key role in identifying new channels to target. “Our vision at Nawaiya is to supply the Middle East market with its very own technology brand,” he revealed. “Handheld devices that are available in the region are mostly global brands which are modified to suit the region. We think there should be a brand which from the ground up is developed in the Middle East, for the Middle East.”

One theme that quickly came to characterise hall 7 was the number of foreign exhibitors attempting to secure distribution contracts that would help them break into the region. US-based IT asset management firm Laptops4resale — which focuses on the remarketing of used laptops from vendors such as Dell, IBM and Toshiba — was scouting for wholesalers, while compatriot Princeton Technologies had its eye on storage and memory distributors in the GCC region.

The VoIP trend noted in hall 1 and 2 also found its way into Hall 8 with Taiwan-based telecommunication solutions company Multisuns promoting its full product line with an emphasis on its top selling voice logging systems. VoIP firm Genusys was also in buoyant mood as it predicted that the easing of restrictions across the Middle East would eventually create a boom in the market. “The market will be huge,” said Anis Rahman, CEO at the company. “In Qatar there are plans to open up protocols; in Bahrain some private companies and one government already have VoIP — the UAE will follow.”

Egyptian software star ITWorx had other matters on its mind as it officially announced the launch of a Riyadh office at GITEX. “We have been operating as a significant software services firm in Saudi Arabia for more than two years via our offshore services,” explained country manager Osama El Saman. “With onthe- ground existence, we can provide better services to our customers — not only by listening closer to their requirements, but also by acting on them more rapidly.”

The Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Maktoum Hall proved an essential visit for anyone looking to get to grips with major trends in the software channel. Microsoft and SAP both made their presence known, while Oracle ensured it had plenty of floorspace available to showcase the full range of its enterprise portfolio. The firm also announced a tie-up with Fujitsu Siemens and the launch of a combined technical centre in Turkey.

US rival CA was in good form as it unveiled its new corporate tagline of “Transforming IT management” and revealed that it would enhance the built-in capabilities included in the release of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007.

“Our development teams are closely working with Microsoft to ensure that CA’s information and storage management products work in tandem with the newly launched Exchange Server 2007,” said Abdul Karim Riyas, regional pre-sales director for storage management at CA.

Meanwhile, security software specialist Sophos outlined plans to expand in the Middle East as it prepares to launch its new security application HIPS. The company intends to supplement offices in Egypt, Saudi and the UAE with additional facilities in Kuwait and Qatar, and is also on the look-out for new partners to carry its product suite.

Another popular haunt for software firms was the DIC Zone where the likes of accounting vendor Sage rubbed shoulders with business intelligence heavyweights such as Business Objects and Cognos. Novell also impressed visitors with a range of secure identity management solutions and its Identity Management Bundle aimed at the Middle East banking sector.

Enterprise software solution provider Epicor Scala made its face known too, as it discussed its range of software propositions for the manufacturing, service and retail sectors. “We have identified certain key sectors like retail and hospitality, which have directly benefited from economic growth in the region,” said regional sales director Basil Daniels. “We believe this presents a tremendous opportunity for Epicor to further its reach.”

The importance of GITEX to the regional IT channel cannot be underestimated given its role as a forum for distributors and resellers to interact with vendors and access the latest technology. With ICT spend in the Middle East set to reach US$17 billion in the next four years, there is every chance that GITEX will break new records again next year.

"GITEX enabled us to reach and communicate to the widest possible audience all under one roof."

"We have been a consistent participant in GITEX for more than 20 years and we believe that the show is the most important IT event in the region which we cannot afford to miss."

"We are working very closely with our regional partner to increase our brand visibility in the Middle East region. GITEX played an important part in that strategy."

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