IT Weekly Middle East Newsletter 20th February 2005

Napoleon once claimed that the British are a nation of shopkeepers. If so, then surely the Middle East is a region of shoppers: everybody loves a bargain here.

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By  Peter Branton Published  February 20, 2005

The art of being a careful shopper|~||~||~|Napoleon once claimed that the British are a nation of shopkeepers. If so, then surely the Middle East is a region of shoppers: everybody loves a bargain here. Those of us who are lucky enough to have been in Dubai over the past month will have had the chance to get some great deals during the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), an annual event designed to attract tourists and boost trade. Other countries in the region also have their own shopping festivals, for much the same purpose. While DSF is famed for the savings you can get on electronics, right now there are all sorts of bargains available for the corporate IT buyer as well. After several years of comparative quiet, the IT industry has been under-going a period of upheaval recently. Carly Fiorina’s ousting at HP is merely the latest symptom of this. In recent months we have seen the completion of the Oracle-PeopleSoft merger, Symantec’s decision to buy Veritas and IBM’s selling off of its PC unit to Chinese firm Lenovo, among other, lesser, events. Any such upheaval creates uncertainty in the market, leaving customers anxious as to what they should do: do you stick with your existing supplier even though it could be about to perform a U-turn in strategy, or do you jump ship and move to a new company you have never dealt with before? Of course, suppliers know that customers have these sorts of thoughts, and are quick to take advantage of them. For instance, Microsoft has been targeting PeopleSoft customers in the region, offering them support and pricing discounts to switch over to its Business Solutions software. Another instance can be seen last week when we carried an interview with Christoph Schell, general manager of HP Middle East’s personal systems group, in which he said that IBM’s decision to sell its PC business to Lenovo was creating uncertainty among its Middle East customers, an uncertainty that Schell’s sales team was exploiting by talking to those customers and offering them deals. Expect Acer and Dell sales people to be using similar tactics right now to try and woo HP customers who are wondering what direction the company will take now that Fiorina has left and a new CEO has yet to be appointed. After all, what goes around comes around, and business is business, and so on and so forth. Does any of this actually benefit the customer though? The short answer is yes, if they are cautious. Competition in general is seen as something of a “good thing” (its what business is built on, and IT Weekly is a business title, first and foremost) and it can lead to lower prices and better services. Can lead. As with any “bargain”, the issue is what real value do I get out of this? Buying a “top-in-the-sale” item just because its half-price isn’t much of a saving if you don’t really like the colour. But if you buy such a top and really don’t like it, you don’t have to wear it again. The situation is not so easy if you’ve just invested your company’s IT budget for the year in a system that doesn’t deliver the functionality your end-user departments need. Or you’ve bought PCs that aren’t powerful enough for the job. While pricing discounts may be on offer right now that are attractive, look at the overall cost of the solution before you buy. If the hidden cost is that you will have to spend more money again to get what you want, then think again. ||**||

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