Updated : April 28, 2014 00:26  am,
By R. Narayan

Toshiba is keen to get its channel to focus on services in addition to selling the hardware because the company believes that is the way ahead to Business growth.

Toshiba is steadily shifting the focus from pure hardware to hardware plus services to increase Business opportunities for itself and partners. Towards these objectives, the company has kickstarted with services in the B2B front and is eventually also looking at delivering services in the B2C segment as well.

Santosh Varghese, GM of Digital Products and Services at Toshiba Gulf says, “We have started with initiatives on the B2B front. From the trends that are further gaining speed and on the basis of shape of things to come including the buzz around IoT, there are going to be an increasing number of devices connected and that need to be managed.”

Toshiba unveiled the Toshiba Smart Client Manager (TSCM) 2.0, a unified management platform last year that enables IT professionals to protect user data from HDD failure, cut down on power consumption, reduce business risk and complexity, and control access from a single console with enhanced security. This is scalable to 250,000 endpoints per server with the new Mobile Device Manager (MDM) plug-in.

Further to this, the company also recently announced the Toshiba Cloud Client Manager (TCCM) wherein, using a standard web browser, IT administrators can now do device management in real-time, without the need to invest in servers and dedicated management software.IT administrators can manage power consumption, configure hardware update patches, manage Mobile devices that users bring in to the environment etc. This can be used to manage third party devices in addition to Toshiba devices but you will of course be able to use more functionalities of this with Toshiba devices.

Santosh adds, “It is about better device management and making services such as patch management, managing hard drive issues faster. These are bringing in avenues for the channel to offer more services to customers and create additional revenue streams. There is a tremendous opportunity for the distributors and the resellers to offer such additional services of value and also offset the shrinking margins in hardware.”

Toshiba has plans to widen the scope of device Management services to include even health lifestyle devices as well as smart metering devices. For instance there are smart metering devices that are becoming more popular and Toshiba has a portfolio of smart metering devices from a company it bought over a couple of years ago called Landys GYR. Landis Gyr makes smart meters that allow utilities to check energy use remotely and can be connected to equipment that shows customers when rates are highest.

Santosh says, “With more devices that are coming in including wearable health lifestyle devices coming in that also need to be connected and managed, there is a need for infrastructure management to be inclusive of such devices. These are the kinds of directions that Toshiba is heading towards and which is why it is fair to term it a hardware plus services approach that benefits the entire ecosystem of customer, partners as well as ourselves.”

Santosh also elaborates that the PC market has seen a revival of sorts, driven by the current migratory phase from windows XP systems seeing good momentum in the commercial segment.

He argues, “The PC is not going away. It will be always there but there will be a lot more of devices coming in and all of them need to be managed. Multiple services and apps will come in that help manage. We have been able to sustain our market share. We have been able to ramp up volume in markets including Libya and Egypt although in some of the GCC markets, sales saw a dip.”

Replacement cycles in the consumer market is seeing a dip though. Such conditions are making it more pertinent to bring in more services.

He adds “The B2B PC sales is seeing good traction as the windows XP migration is happening and will continue for some time. We are running a replacement program wherein we have tied up with a company that buys back old machines for recycling and then the customer gets new machines. There is also a replacement cycle in the consumer market which is longer than earlier but is still happening. The Notebooks market is still substantial in the region, close to 7 million units. There may not be significant growth and therefore the way to increase revenues is by having a hardware plus strategy. We will work with certain value added resellers on this execution.”

The manufacturer is still innovating to meet what users need further with more enhancement in the hardware. For instance, Toshiba updated the Kirabook, one of its premium Ultrabooks. It has a very high resolution touchscreen.

Santosh says, “We are also coming out with 4K resolution of 3840 by 2160 pixels in our consumer range. Ultrabooks are popular because they feature faster boot up because of SSD drives. We have several models including hybrids for users who may need additional storage capacities.”

Touch as a feature hasn’t caught attention as it was expected to. Touch enabled models still make up a modest percentage in the sell-out volumes.

Santosh comments, “Units with touch are making up around 12 -15% of the market sales. Maybe because touch as a feature is best to work with a relaxed mode, rather than when doing computing at work. High price points are also a deterrent. So 2-in-1 mode with touch as an option is best for users who don’t need touch at all times.”

Toshiba has also lined up new Cloud Books in about two months from now, which will feature Windows OS, 16 or 32 GB SSD along with online storage free from Microsoft. Further, the company continues to partner with Google and focus its Chrome books in the Education vertical in the region but doesn’t offer in the consumer segment.

Santosh opines that Online retailing is catching up. While at the present volumes maybe low, he expects that to pick up volumes in a year’s time. Therefore the company is also planning out the rollout of an online web store in the next few months. However, the manufacturer will route the Business through partners who are willing to work through this model.

The company has also increased its focus in the storage drives and accessories Business. Toshiba has recently unveiled a wireless SD card called the FlashAir II. The Class 6 NAND-based FlashAir II creates its own Wi-Fi hotspot that supports up to seven simultaneous hosts, making it possible for sharing stored data with a cluster of smartphones, tablets and PCs.

He says, “We have a strong share in the external storage market- close to 30% share behind WD and Seagate. We have grown 120% in the external storage segment in the last two quarters. We also started distributing Memory cards and accessories. We have started the retail selling now. We will get more aggressive on this. We have crossing 15 million USD in the last 6 months. We have launched an innovative WiFi SD card.”

In Tablets, the vendor will focus on the Windows 8 Tablets segment although it offers Android models as well.

Santosh adds, “There are not many players and we will be working with Microsoft to differentiate the products. That will be the focus. We will be in the Android space as well but we wouldn’t be competing on price. That is not our objective.”