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Convergence drives IT mainstream

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Convergence, more accessible user interfaces and sought after functionality is seeing traditionally IT-centric devices such as computers, notebooks and home networking equipment becoming mainstream.

"While this trend has taken a little longer to manifest itself in South Africa than in the more developed US and European economies, the fact that today computers and computing products are available in mass-retailers such as Wal-Mart and Tesco is a strong indication that computers and computing is no longer for the enthusiast alone – it's a must have for every household," says Alan Hawkins, sales manager at Tarsus Technologies.
Hawkins says that technology is approaching the point of being regarded as any other white good. "Notebook computers, wireless networking infrastructure and external storage devices are becoming just like fridges, televisions and microwave ovens in the eyes of many consumers.
"The demand in the IT sector at a retail level is growing at such an amazing pace that it's only a matter of time before computers and IT technology make their way into furniture stores and general retailers in a big way," says Hawkins
Thierry Boulanger, general manager of HP South Africa's Imaging and Printing Group says that this trend has already started with ink cartridges and other consumables aimed at the home user market.
"We're moving away from a 'printer' concept towards the 'printing' concept," he says. "In that realm, printing tools like printers and consumables must become extremely accessible.
"There's a strong indication that consumables need to become as accessible as cellular airtime; that literally wherever a customer goes, their chosen consumable is easily available. This means that the 'printing' concept will almost certainly become ubiquitous and start moving strongly into less traditional retail channels," he says.
Damian Durandt, consumer product manager at HP South Africa's Personal Systems Group says that the consumer retail market is growing at a much faster pace than the traditional commercial markets.
"Estimates provided to us by independent analysts, GFK, show that the commercial market grew at 20% in the first quarter of this year, but that the consumer market grew at between 30% and 40% in the same period.
"While it's not quite double the pace of the commercial market, it's at least one and a half times faster – that's a compelling margin and one that makes the predictions of IT entering general and mass-retail channels quite legitimate," Durandt says.
"Although there is already some evidence of this happening, the major shift will happen in the next five years," Hawkins adds.
"There's definitely no turning back," he says. "Technology is becoming such a large and indispensable part of our lives that we won't even see it as strange that IT solutions are available everywhere.
"In a market such as South Africa, with a relatively low penetration of IT, this will be a welcome trend and one that will elevate computer usage by leaps and bounds," he adds.