Following Toshiba Client Solutions’ change of name to dynabook and the launch of the first dynabook-branded laptops in Europe, Technology Reseller caught up with Nick Offin, Head of Sales, Marketing and Operations for Northern Europe, to discuss developments at the mobile computing pioneer acquired last year by Sharp, part of the Foxconn Group
Technology Reseller (TR): Why has the dynabook name been chosen for the new company?
Nick Offin (NO): Dynabook isn’t a new name: it has been in existence for about 30 years, predominantly in the Japanese market. We felt that as a global brand, dynabook made sense for the new entity. It clearly differentiates us from the Toshiba of old and gives us a start-up feel in the sense of being a new business with new aspirations – albeit a start-up with 30 years of heritage behind it.
TR: What does Sharp’s ownership mean for the company?
NO: Foxconn is a large conglomerate – a $150 billion enterprise that owns Sharp and other technology assets, such as Belkin. We sit within the Sharp umbrella, but clearly have our own identity, as opposed to being a sub-brand of Sharp. Our plan is to take the best of the technologies that Sharp has been developing, particularly around visual displays, and to utilise the economies of scale the Foxconn group offers us to really push forward the dynabook brand and the dynabook business across the globe.
TR: What Sharp technologies in particular will you be making use of?
NO: Sharp are one of the leaders in the move to 8K technology, so it is not a huge leap to think that we would want to utilise that technology in some of our products. They also have an IoT practice, and are developing aspects of IoT that could co-exist with what we have been doing in IoT with Edge Computing and Eyewear. Those are two clear areas where we could benefit from current Sharp technology.
TR: Have you had much success with your IoT products to date?
NO: We are getting a lot of interest in Eyewear and assisted reality (AR) and other vendors are coming into the market all the time, which has to say something about the opportunity that people see in the market. We are early with a Windowsbased system, which has given us some good introductions and good conversations with companies here in the UK and across Europe. Companies are now seeking to understand how they can use Eyewear. For us, it’s the start of a journey in a market that is just about ready to take off.
TR: It can’t be a quick sale.
NO: No, it is classical solutions selling – introducing proof of concept, selling the concept to the management team, waiting for them to get their budget and then rolling it out. That’s quite different to the ormal notebook selling cycle.
TR: Have you had to take on a different type of channel partner to develop the market?
NO: Some existing channel partners are making that bridge, but we are also looking at different routes to market. A lot of the systems integrators are heavily involved in the IoT market, with embryonic evangelisation and early adoption. So, there are opportunities for new channel partners to come into the mix.
TR: Are you making use of Sharp’s dealer network as another route to market?
NO: Sharp’s business is slightly different. They have a managed print service business that over the last three to five years has been more of a direct play for them. But there are opportunities for their AV and displays partners in our market areas and for us to introduce some Sharp technologies to our dealer network, a classical IT dealer network. For example, Sharp are launching a Windows Collaboration Device, which is generating some interest in the IT market. There’s some cross-over there.
TR: How do you plan to develop the IoT Eyewear product?
NO: For us, Edge Computing was the conduit to Eyewear. Edge Computing, and the IoT devices that link into it, is an important growth area that differentiates us from the normal notebook business. We are looking at where we take that Edge computer next. The integration of 5G technology makes obvious sense. That’s where our thoughts and development plans are leading us – making it more of a mini all-in-one device that can be used both as a desktop and out in the field attached to a multitude of IoT devices in a connected environment. That’s where we see this product category going.
TR: What do you see as the main trends in your core laptop market?
NO: In one respect, the trend is to go thin and light, with growth in the Ultrabook segment, where we have a great line-up today, which we will enhance in the coming months, and in 2-in-1 devices. We are exploring how we can benefit from the economies of scale that Foxconn brings us; how we can develop the Ultrabook line-up and build on the great products we have today; and how we flesh out our portfolio so that we can compete price performance-wise at different points of the market i.e. high-end Ultrabooks, mid-range devices and low-end devices, where historically we used to sell a lot into schools and education. Our first port of call is to open up our range, plug the gaps we’ve got and drive the business forward that way.
TR: Where do you have gaps that need filling?
NO: Perhaps gaps is the wrong word. What we are trying to do is flesh out the high end range, where we have 13-inch devices, 14-inch devices and 2-in-1 devices. It would make sense to bring a thin, light, high-end 15-inch device to market. We are also looking at where we can make a clear technology leadership move in the whole thin and light segment. In Japan, we have launched a very thin and light, sub800g, 13-inch device. For us to have an ultra-light device like that would be a good technology leadership statement. Then, it is how we address the trend in mid-range devices for USB-C and that type of input. Those are the areas we are looking to cover.
TR: Is there much regional variation in the types of products you have available?
NO: There are some regional nuances. In Japan, the market doesn’t buy a lot of 14-inch devices, but in the UK and Europe 14-inches is probably now the biggest segment. It makes sense to take what they have in Japan and see what we also need from a European and global perspective. What our new ownership gives us is the ability to bring products and devices to market a lot quicker, in terms of the development cycle and production cycle.
TR: What are some of the challenges your resellers face at the moment?
NO: To work out how to benefit from the cloud. How do you move from a traditional managed service model to a cloud service model where customers want that type of experience? Also, as big cloud players come into the marketplace, like Amazon, partners are looking to diversify, for example into the IoT marketplace. Over time, partners have learnt how to adapt their models; smaller ones probably adapt a lot quicker and the larger ones probably consolidate more. For us, the channel is constant, in the sense that it remains our core route to market, but for channel partners it is always evolving, always changing.
TR: What do your partners ask you, as a vendor, to do or to provide them with?
NO: They want us to provide them with the best, most competitive range and they want us to bring new segments to market that they can get behind, like Edge Computing. It’s important for all vendors constantly to refresh what they offer and how they bring products to market. We are no different.
TR: You mentioned doing more with 5G, do you see that as giving your business a big boost?
NO: From a mobility perspective, 4G/5G today and 5G going forward will give a boost to mobility over the coming months, as 5G becomes normalised in the marketplace.
TR: Are Sharp and Foxconn involved in foldable screens?
NO: Sharp is one of the market leaders in panel displays, in terms of their technology and their R&D, and it wouldn’t be far removed from the truth to say that they have invested in foldable screen technology and that that will play a part as we move forward. It’s still early days, but the ability to make devices smaller by having a folding screen is obviously something that will emerge in the fullness of time.
TR: What other developments from dynabook should we be keeping our eyes peeled for?
NO: We want to be seen as a leading brand that brings new technology evolution to the marketplace, so keep your eyes open for how we enlarge our product offering by utilising the opportunities that are available to us in this big new group we are part of, particularly in the second half of our financial year, which starts in October, when we should have some very interesting launches and technology statements.