From enterprise to SMB to consumer

Vendors are moving towards selling to individual customers

One of the most noticeable trends in the ICT industry over the past few years has been the shift by many vendors from targeting large enterprise customers to seeking sales among small to medium-sized businesses.

A recent example is IBM, whose CEO, Sam Palmisano, said at the company’s PartnerWorld conference earlier this year that “in two or three years, SMB will be the largest industry for us” and that the SMB market is “the biggest IT growth opportunity in the world today”. IBM is pushing a special SMB programme, Express Advantage.

Other examples of enterprise giants going for smaller customers include SAP, which bought its way into that market with its purchase a few years ago of the Israeli company that became its Business One division. In the storage sphere, Hewlett-Packard, EMC and Hitachi Data Systems have all launched storage-area network packages for smaller organisations in recent years.

However, there’s another big shift underway in the way enterprise IT vendors are trying to sell their wares — they’ve begun to target the consumer market.

Cisco Systems chief executive John Chambers has been one of the most vocal about this trend, which started for Cisco in 2003 when it bought Linksys, which specialises in networking gear for consumers and small businesses.

At this year’s Consumer and Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Chambers said targeting consumers is one of Cisco’s top four goals for future growth. The vision of consumer Cisco customers was laid out at the show in the form of a demonstration of a car and house wired by a converged voice, video and data network.

Another vendor that is eyeing the consumer space is EMC, whose CEO, Joe Tucci, said at the company’s EMC World conference last month that “there are no big decisions yet, but I do think there’s a [sizeable] play in the home for a storage mini-array”.

The idea that home users could become customers for storage products and services is shared by Hitachi Data Systems, which has its sights set on the ‘Terabyte home’, in which households with multiple computing devices, lots of data and thousands of images need assistance in storing it all.

In New Zealand, one highly visible manifestation of an enterprise vendor targeting consumers is the sale, from The Warehouse, of CA security software. CA has been trying for some time to do more business through channel partners, but who would ever have thought that the red sheds would one day be one of those partners? (CA has also recently inked a deal with Atari in Australia and New Zealand to distribute CA’s security products to home and small office customers and its small and home office director for Australia and New Zealand, Patrina Kerr, says more releases targeted at that market are on the way).

While the likes of CA, EMC, HDS and Cisco will continue to target large organisations and SMBs, the fact they’re also selling to consumers is very significant.

After all, considering that some homes today have more computing power than many businesses had not so long ago, the consumer market shouldn’t be ignored.

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