All systems go

Confidence levels are starting to climb once again in the Middle East IT channel community. Vendors, distributors and resellers are looking forward to a bumper fourth quarter as the Middle East market gets back on track and consigns to channel history the events that dented confidence during the first half of the year.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  August 30, 2006

Confidence levels are starting to climb once again in the Middle East IT channel community. Vendors, distributors and resellers are looking forward to a bumper fourth quarter as the Middle East market gets back on track and consigns to channel history the events that dented confidence during the first half of the year.

If there was a channel confidence index for the Middle East market — and there probably should be — it would have recorded a definite upswing in recent weeks. There are some significant events coming up in the latter half of the year that have resulted in many of the companies plying their trade in the regional market suddenly starting to see the glass as half full rather than half empty.

Gitex Dubai promises to once again unite the channel and produce significant sell-in potential as distributors and resellers from across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region descend on the UAE for what is now the third largest IT exhibition in the world. Consumers will also flock to Gitex Shopper on the lookout for bargains.

Recent figures on server shipments, desktop and notebook sales for the first half of 2006 once again showed healthy double digit growth rates in MEA in terms of volume and value. Considering some of the problems that the channel faced this is certainly encouraging data. If the MEA channel can achieve that level of growth despite issues such as the credit crisis, accusations of channel stuffing and geopolitical uncertainty, what is the market capable of achieving during a period of relative stability?

After Gitex, the market also has an extended Dubai Shopping Festival to look forward to, commencing in mid-December. Sell-in for this retail extravaganza will be coupled with the traditional fourth quarter sales spike in the business channel as end-users look to spend the remnants of any budget before the end of the year.

The summer slowdown is now behind us and the channel seems ready to grasp the opportunity to make the most of the pick-up in demand that is expected to occur in the next few months. The traditional summer job shuffle also now appears to be coming to an end with several interesting appointments occurring.

Will Hazem Bazan reinvigorate Dell’s position and standing in the Middle East market? Formerly at HP — one of the most channel-friendly companies in the IT industry — it will be interesting to see how much freedom Bazan receives to develop an effective channel for Dell in the Middle East.

Talking of job switches, it is also worth pointing out that David Brierley, formerly regional manager at business intelligence vendor Cognos, has made a shock switch to fierce rival Business Objects assuming the position of general manager.

For those that recall the circumstances surrounding the defection of Business Objects’ regional partner BSG to Cognos, the latest fun and games in the business intelligence market should come as no surprise. Look out for more details on Brierley’s switch on www.itp.net

Having spoken to several major vendors and distributors in recent weeks, the renewed sense of optimism in the market is clearly evident. If there is any market in the world that has the ability to recover from a sluggish quarter, it is the Middle East market.

There remains huge untapped demand for IT products across the region. The channel needs to make sure that it is doing everything it can to reach the untapped pockets of demand, develop new markets and build up the skills and services available in the market to boost solution sales and ensure that projects and implementations are a success.

It is all systems go for the remainder of 2006 as the Middle East channel demonstrates its famed resilience and collective determination to build a better market for everyone.

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