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ASI looks west

Components distributor aims to open Vancouver warehouse by end of year

A components distributor hopes to open a Vancouver distribution centre by the end of the year as it expands service across the country and moves into new product markets.

“We are in growing mode,” said Pendora Wong, general manager of ASI Computer Technologies’ Canadian division, at the company’s technology expo in Markham, Ont. last week.

She said the company, which counts some 3,000 active system builders and integrators as regular customers, will open a 2,780 sq. metre (30,000 sq. ft.) warehouse staffed by 20 persons in Vancouver in the fourth quarter to complement facilities in Toronto and Montreal.

Privately-held ASI, headquartered in Freemont, Calif., estimates that 90 per cent of its business is in computer components. However, Wong said the distributor is moving quickly into consumer electronics by adding LCD televisions, portable storage, VoIP phones and home theatre systems to its line-card.

Twelve months from now she hopes the CE business can account for 20 per cent of the division’s revenues.

The company doesn’t break out Canadian revenues, but business development manager Newman Ho said North American revenues totaled US$1.5 billion last year.

The bi-annual technology fair – the only Canadian stop in ASI’s North American tour – attracted some 300 resellers to hear daytime product seminars from Viewsonic, ATI, Promise Technology, Seagate, Supermicro, AMD, Microsoft, Asus, Western Digital, Nvidia and Intel. Another 600 joined in the evening for a trade show featuring 33 vendors and dinner.

Martin Vale, president of Sonic Science, a 20-year-old Toronto VAR that sells everything from professional sound effects for films to PCs, said he found most interesting the product strategies discussed by Nvidia and AMD.

William Carney, president of Carney Automotive Consultants, which specializes in building systems for car dealers, said he wasn’t impressed with the presentation from the Asus rep. However, he said he did gain a lot from the talks from Intel, AMD, ATI and Nvidia spokesmen about how their new products will integrate with Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Vista release.

Wong believes that the release of Vista and new PCs powered by new CPUs from Intel and AMD will mean the last months of this year and the first of 2007 will see “record quarters” in sales. Unfortunately, she added, it seems the release of Vista is being delayed even later than first forecast (Microsoft hoped to have a version for business PCs ready for the fall), but she is still optimistic it will be a spur to sales.

Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players for PCs will debut shortly, and while Wong believes the high-capacity format will be popular as consumer storage demands increase, she acknowledged that buyers will wait to see which format will survive.

ASI is trying to branch out beyond strictly components. It’s Toronto facility builds private-label PCs, notebooks and workstations for its partners. Ho wouldn’t say what the volume is, but did say that “it’s project-based mostly.”

He also had encouragement for Intel’s efforts to get system builders into the white book market, a segment they have been reluctant to embrace as Tier 1 manufacturers cut prices on brand-name models. But Ho said resellers should emphasize the “verified by Intel” logo on chassis supplied by manufacturers such as Compal and Asus.

By capitalizing on their regular customers trust, white books sold under a reseller’s name and bundled with support services should be attractive to buyers, he said.