PC dealers are fighting back against the threat from the direct marketeers like Gateway and Dell. A report published last week found that despite the rise in direct sales, the indirect channel has grown in importance in the eyes of the UK's corporate IT buyers. The study, IT Barometer Report, was commissioned by PC maker AST from Banner Research, and interviewed 226 IT professionals responsible for desktop systems in British and Irish companies with over 200 employees. The results show that dealer relationships have become even more important to corporate IT managers over the past year. "If this trend were to continue over the next two years, the relationships with dealers would overtake some of the other factors (in a buying decision)," said Richard Bind, Banner's research executive. "Direct manufacturers can never compete with resellers," insisted Martin Clarke, sales and marketing director for UK dealer Lapland. "Resellers are independent and when problems occur with multivendor systems, they will not fob you off on to another company. Even without support contracts, a dealer is obliged to provide support." However, others disagree. IDC analyst Terry Jones argued: "The general shift is most definitely toward direct buying. Among some of the largest vendors there is a movement toward having the channel assemble PCs themselves, but the general thrust is towards Dell, in particular, for corporates." The report also found that Internet usage was increasing at a steady rate with two thirds of UK firms now using it regularly. Internet selling is also growing. "There is no doubt that the case for selling on the Internet is growing," said Jones. "There are many benefits for the seller - it's an easy way to take orders and, in the end, if prices come down it makes it easier for the buyer too. It takes the hassle out of shopping, because for businesses it is convenient and widespread and cheap to manage."
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