More than 500 partners attended Intel's Solutions Summit

Intel reveals why the desktop is still an important part of its business

More than 500 platinum partners gathered at the Intel Solutions Summit in Abu Dhabi to explore the latest developments in computing, with Intel’s provider program shifting to focus on three core areas: retail, education and the Internet of Things. Phil Tottman meets channel sales manager Matthew Birch (pictured) to find out more…

Tell us about the key changes to Intel’s Technology Provider (ITP) channel partner program…

It’s a great program. Everyone at Intel is a huge fan of it, and the goal is getting the work out there about what it does.

The big developments are the new verticals that we recognise our customers very often play a specific role in. We have picked two or three key verticals: education, Internet of Things (IoT) and retail.

We create relevant materials and assets, and we reward customers in a relevant way, so this is a real transition of the program and our customers really value it.

Another thing not to forget is the points that come with ITP, they are of real benefit and really help our customers be more competitive and make more money at the end of the day.

What are the highlights from the Intel Solutions Summit this year?

For me it is how fast our story on the IoT is going, from a vision that we were talking about last year, into real products and real solutions that many of our partners are showcasing today. We are just getting that much closer to the partners we work with in the UK, taking those products and turning them into solutions. Also, seeing how quickly some of the form factors in two-in-one and tablets are coming out (and getting thinner and faster) is just incredible. 

What do you think about the speed in which the tablet and two-in-one market is being saturated?

One of my guys who focuses on this area keeps on top of the catalogue of products available. He says it used be a ten-page PowerPoint deck, but now it’s like a 200-page PowerPoint deck he has to deal with.

What real tangible opportunities does the Internet of Things present to the UK channel?

When I speak to my customers, one of the hardest things is getting them to take the vision of the Internet of Things and interpret it into: “What does that mean for me?” But I think the important thing is that they don’t overcomplicate it.

Quite often the customers that they are dealing with have a lot of opportunities that we would consider Internet of Things opportunities, it’s just the customer has never really thought of it that way.

Our customers can look at it like: “What problems do they have that I can address, not just looking at the hardware they use day-to-day, but what actual problems are there to be solved that can be with the increased compute and connectivity capabilities that we have today?”

Things like digital signage and transaction terminals can be a simple solution that can make a massive difference to the end user.

What is Intel’s primary focus now that it has branched out into so many different markets, like IoT?

We’ve always had a lot of things that we have been trying to do at any one time, and that becomes more true every day. But it is important that we do stay focused on the important priorities for our business.

IoT and data centre are at the top of our priorities, and then continuing in our push around mobility, with such things as two-in-one. They are the key things.

Considering desktop sales fell in the single digits in Q1 this year, and Intel’s desktop and mobile computing business is down eight per cent year-on-year, how important is the desktop market to Intel now?

It is as important as it has ever been, and there is still opportunity and growth there. I think there was a time when it got forgotten a little bit, when everyone’s focus was on all the new and exciting products that we were bringing out.

But there are lots of exciting developments happening in desktop, and it remains a really important part of our business. We are not going to walk away from that.

You’ve just launched your Compute Stick mini-PC. How will that affect the channel?

The first thought on it was: “Okay so that’s my next PC.” But the opportunities are much bigger than that. It will open up a huge opportunity in emerging markets, just because of the price point and ease of implementation. This is just as much of an opportunity in our markets and mature markets as it is in emerging markets, because of the different uses it creates that a PC or even a NUC can’t. It’s going to mean people will get more creative with what they can use it for.

What are the biggest challenges that you and your vendor partners face this year?

There is a lot of change to deal with in one year. It’s important that we find ways to capitalise on things that are going on. It’s a tough market, but the feedback seems to be that the market is still pretty good and there is still room to be successful at the moment.

We’ve got new products and silicon technology coming out. There’s a new OS coming out this year as well, so there’s lots of change, and I think the challenge is: How do we stay ahead of those changes and capitalise?

What’s next for the PC and tech market?

I think the areas where we are really seeing innovation and growth is in all-in-one and small form factors, particularly with our NUC products.

For a form factor that is less than one and a half litres, in order to get the same kind of capability five years ago you would’ve needed a massive tower, which would be really noisy, consume loads of power and take over a desk.

That small form factor is going to be a big growth area for us this year and next. Plus, all-in-one continues to be successful, and it will benefit from Windows 10.

I also find the amount of progress and products that are being created in the wearables space is incredible. There are a lot of sports-based wearables, but that’s just the starting point. It will go beyond that from wrist-based devices to a portfolio of wearables, such as those in your shoes.

Smart homes, buildings and cities are also just starting to take off. I think that’ll be an interesting one to keep an eye on over the next few years. Everyone has said it will definitely be a big industry, but no one has figured out how to really implement it yet.

Top IoT trends

We ask Rod O’Shea, Intel’s MD of the Internet of Things, about his views on the growing connected world. Here’s his top quotes and predictions:

  1. By 2030 there’s going to be a billion more people in the middle classes with an expectation of entertainment and connectivity.
  2. A third of ‘things’ are connected now, and by 2020 there will be another two thirds.
  3. Buildings are a huge opportunity in IoT, but the challenge in this environment is you typically have unconnected solutions. However we are starting to see those innovations.
  4. We are working with a really interesting pilot at the moment with spinal trauma. People who have suffered from it just can’t move, so we are using eye technology to help them manage with a screen.
  5. In retail there is a growing understanding that there is value in using IoT proactively to change campaigns, or change the layout of a store.
  6. The biggest risk regarding security is that it isn’t taken seriously enough, and that it isn’t really considered as a profound part of the solution.
  7. The Internet of Things is going to be key because of the changing demographics and the need for us to handle our infrastructure and assets in different ways.
  8. Some uses I least likeare the robot that walks your pet, and the application that changes the colour of a users’ glasses if their phone rings.
  9. There is a danger that people will see the less useful and mainstream deployments and will conclude that IoT is a fad, whereas in fact it is a technology that could create change for the planet.

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