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Google will barge into enterprises as IT titans squabble, Apple snoozes

World looking good otherwise, says channel supremo

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Channels Forum 2013 Google is on the cusp on becoming a serious player in corporate IT, as the traditional enterprise vendors invade each other's markets and Apple folds inwards on itself.

That was the nightmare vision Canalys CEO Steve Brazier painted for dealers and distributors as he kicked off the research firm's Channels Forum 2013 in Barcelona this morning.

Brazier said the tech industry, following five years of financial turbulence, now faces a relatively benign economic environment as the risk of a Euro meltdown and further banking collapses has abated.

"We think we have muddled through," he said. But while the economy has rallied, improvements haven't fed through to the IT world just yet - at least not uniformly.

In the smart devices sector - which, for Canalys, spans tablets and traditional PCs - 57 per cent is now powered by Google Android, while Apple's grip slipped to 17 per cent. Intel-compatible Windows kit took 23 per cent, down from 32 per cent a year ago. Growth was overwhelmingly driven by handheld slab sales.

"We expect Google to continue to take share," said Brazier.

"Apple is under pressure again," he continued, "like 20 years ago." The iPhone giant needs to react decisively, Brazier claimed, but so far "there's no sign of that". As for Microsoft, it really needs to become "desirable again".

Away from the client sector, structural changes in the industry meant that the web of alliances and competition between the traditional enterprise IT "titans" was being subjected to increasing "tension" as they struggled to remain relevant and chase growth.

Apple, Facebook Amazon and Google were dominating debate in the industry, Canalys said. Meanwhile, white-box original device manufacturers (ODMs) were taking chunks of the data-centre market. None of these were "channel friendly companies", he said.

As a result, traditional enterprise players were pushing harder into one another's traditional turf, as much as trying to unlock new markets, said Brazier.

Microsoft, for example, had integrated its hypervisor HyperV into its enterprise operating system offering, while VMware for its part was forging its network virtualisation platform NSX with Juniper, HP and Dell. Meanwhile, Microsoft was targeting hardware vendors with its Nokia buy and Surface strategy.

The Redmond Windows giant was also gunning for Cisco with its efforts in unified communications, while Cisco, through the acquisition of Whiptail and others, was encroaching on EMC's lawn.

Ironically, Oracle's early effort to extend its footprint by buying Sun, was failing to deliver: Oracle's hardware business is in decline.

Dell had to get out of price-war mode post-privatisation, Brazier said, while Lenovo had to get serious with the enterprise.

Whether this increased tension delivers growth is open to debate. Brazier noted "the channel-friendly titans have grown just 15 per cent in the last five years". He also said "Intel will never get the same margins in future that they have been used to".

Jos Brenkel - HP's senior vice-president for worldwide Sales Strategy, Printing and Personal Systems - said in a later session that it is inevitable that Android will become a business solution, as companies embrace its consumer look-and-feel underpinned by enterprise-class management systems. ®

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