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White book market gets a boost

Tech Data, Intel team to improve opportunities for system builders to make their own laptops

Tech Data Canada is offering system builders Intel-approved components for building laptops, the latest effort to get the channel into creating a white book market.

One aim of the program, which so far includes chassis manufacturers Asus, Compal Electronics and Quanta Computer, is to get vendors to agree to standardize parts or interconnects for barebones chassis, which will lower costs.

But David Allen, Intel’s North American distribution sales manager, said the plan also lets system builders fight brand name manufacturers.

“We’re really allowing the channel to offer customized, differentiated notebook offerings with strong support that allow them to compete against major OEMs for the first time,” he said.

The education market, which is price sensitive, could be one sector white books could be targeted at, he said.

Intel is backing the program in two ways: First, to assure buyers, systems assembled using approved parts will carry a “Verified By Intel” (VBI) logo. Second, to assure system builders the packages they assemble are solid, Intel will be the company they will call for component problems. VBI components will carry a two-year warranty.

“We’ve been encouraging resellers to get into the mobile business because the market is changing,” explained Doug Cooper, Intel’s Canadian manager.

Sales of laptops to consumers now exceed desktops, he noted, and while desktops still outnumber laptops in the business market, that won’t last long.

“If resellers don’t react to the change they’re going to be left with a skill (building white boxes) that’s no longer viable,” he said.

The move could be what system builders and buyers need to legitimize white books, said Michelle Warren, an industry analyst with Evans Research of Toronto. Buyers, especially businesses, are staying away from white books because they are no-name brands.

“The biggest hurdle for them is the brand name,” she said. But if Intel’s assurance can get into the minds of buyers system builders will benefit.

Approved components
So far seven components have been approved, including connectivity standards for hard drives, optical drives, LCDs, keyboards and rechargeable batteries. Not only is it hoped this will help keep costs down, it will also make it easier for resellers to stock spare parts.

System builders here will initially only be able to order components through Tech Data Canada. To start off they’ll have a choice of chassis with 14.1-in. or 15.4-in screens, a range of SATA or PATA hard drives from Fujitsu, Hitachi and Seagate, optical drives from Panasonic and Lite-On, and 2200- or 2400mAh batteries.

Ray Gonsalves, the distributor’s director of product management, said interest among Canadian system builders he’s talked to has been strong.

“What Intel has done is create a standard that ODMs (original design manufacturers) can come aboard that allows interchangeability of components, which is the missing piece from the white book market,” he said. “Until now each ODM had proprietary parts. We’ve seen what that did for the white box market. We anticipate this will be a much more viable opportunity for system builders to build their own offering.”

He estimated system builders will see a 10-to-15 per cent saving non-VBI components. However, he also noted that a number of components such as operating systems, memory and hard drives aren’t covered yet that could affect the overall price.