Handheld Terminal VARs…

Let me give you a warm, fuzzy feeling about the marketing opportunities that lie ahead.

Handheld terminals. Client devices. Productivity tools. Regardless of the name you choose, these products will make you money. If you've ever listened to any advice I've given you, definitely listen to this. Sales of handheld computing devices will soar over the next five years.

There are a number of emerging markets providing new sales opportunities for VARs, integrators, and the automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) industry. But let's focus on two specific markets - electronic commerce (e-commerce) and hospitality. These markets will yield big profits for VARs who are prepared to satisfy the demand for AIDC technology.

E-Commerce/Internet Sales Lead The Way
As Internet sales increase, so does the demand for handheld computers. Why? The answer is simple, according to Teklogix International, Inc. Vice President of Marketing Bruce Brown. Profits are razor thin in Internet sales, so order picking efficiency is a must. AIDC technology makes order picking and warehousing functions more efficient.

"I prefer the terms 'client devices/productivity tools' to 'handheld terminals,'" said Brown. "Handheld terminals bring to mind a specific type of device. In the future, I believe we will see products that are customized for specific applications. For instance, a terminal used in a meat packing plant will need to withstand cold temperatures. It should be designed to accommodate workers who are wearing gloves."

Annual sales growth in the handheld terminal market is currently 18% to 20%. Brown said Teklogix's growth has been in the 28% to 32% range. "These growth rates will increase," said Brown. "Sales of other data collection devices will increase, as well. VARs and integrators must expand their product menus to include voice recognition headsets, wrist-mount terminals, forklift fixed-mount terminals, and other technologies. Supplying a variety of technologies to solve warehousing and order picking problems will be the key to increased sales."

Tapping The Untapped Hospitality Market
According to Ameranth Technology Systems Inc. President/CEO Keith McNally, the hospitality market penetration for handheld terminals is only 1%. Ameranth partners with Symbol, Microsoft, and Comtec Information Systems to provide mobile printing and computing solutions to the hospitality industry. The niche markets in hospitality include restaurants, hotels, casinos, theme parks, and cruise ships.

Ameranth's mission is to "eliminate lines, waits, and inefficiencies, wherever they exist in the world, through innovative integration of Internet and wireless systems." McNally said, "As an example, we can bring mobile check-in/check-out systems to hotels. People can check into their hotel while they are still en route in an airport shuttle.

"There will also be a resurgence of bar codes. More than 99% of frequent customer cards use magnetic stripe technology. Bar codes, including 2-D symbologies, are about 1/5 the cost of magnetic stripes. I believe we'll see a transition from magnetic stripe to bar code technology in the frequent customer card market. And that will stir sales of handheld terminals, which often are equipped with scanners." [Editor's note: This opinion is shared by Dr. Jerome Swartz, chairman and CEO of Symbol.]

A Call To Action
As loyal readers of Business Solutions magazine, I urge you to heed this advice. Don't pass up this opportunity. E-commerce, logistics, warehousing, and supply chain are just a few of the many burgeoning markets for handheld terminals. Terminals will become smaller and more ergonomic - making them even more acceptable to end users. This is a market you do not want to miss.

Rick Morgan