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The VIA VT6010 Mini-iTX mainboard reference design kit consists of a PC motherboard, as well as the company's C3 microprocessor line, and Apollo PLE133 chip set.

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The VIA VT6010 Mini-iTX mainboard reference design kit consists of a PC motherboard, as well as the company's C3 microprocessor line, and Apollo PLE133 chip set.

Emerging markets are more likely to get shipments through distributors than direct because they have many more specialized white-box manufacturers in each of those regions,” Ross said. The U.S. has traditionally been the strongest, with Korea and Europe following. This year the U.S. is the weakest.”

Distributors accounted for 56% of Intel's processor sales in emerging markets such as China and India, growing to 60% in the third quarter, compared with the same period a year ago. Distributor shipments in Latin America grew 100%. Sales through distribution outside North America account for roughly 80% in sales, Kilroy said.

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We're seeing a market-share shift from the large PC OEMs to the white-box manufacturers worldwide,” said Eric Rothdeutsch, an analyst at Robertson Stephens Inc. in San Francisco.

When component supply is tight, the large PC OEMs typically get better allocations, and in that environment the OEMs tend to gain share from the local suppliers,” he said.

But the reverse is true now because product supply is plentiful, prices have come down, and the local supplier is on a more equal footing with the large PC OEM.

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Analysts expect IT spending to pick up in the second half of 2002. But at the same time, many are skeptical about the longevity of the percentage increases of sales through distribution.

The big question, according to analysts, is whether the gains smaller white-box makers have made this year will be sustainable once the market recovers, or will the pendulum swing back in favor of direct sales to large PC manufacturers?

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Eyretel’s (Calverton, MD — 301-586-1900) Performance Manager software lets you evaluate agents based on their adherence to schedules, their efficiency in handling calls and on what they communicate to customers.

You assign key performance indicators (KPIs) to each piece of information that you factor into agents' evaluations. KPIs are measurable goals, such as the percentage of time agents are available to take calls or the amount of time they devote to certain types of calls. Eyretel includes a set of KPIs with Performance Manager, such as metrics for the number of calls agents answer per hour. The software enables you to view agents' scores for KPIs against averages for your center, averages for groups of agents or scores for individual agents.

The comm server's open architecture lets you avoid the difficulties of programming a proprietary PBX (i.e., calling a manufacturer or a reseller technician to handle moves, adds and changes (MACs)). With communications servers, an in-house programmer can easily rewire extensions or, say, set rules for routing messages according to agents' skills. You can also connect redundant servers to comm servers to safeguard against emergencies. That saves you the cost of installing additional switches and working with a disaster recovery service.

Kathleen Simpson, a research analyst for Gartner Group (Stamford, CT), explains that the companies she's worked with that have call centers appreciate comm servers for their versatility. Our clients don't go out and say, 'I want a comm server,'” she says. They look for specific functions and applications. Whether or not it's on a comm server or PBX, they don't care. But the comm servers fill the need for the applications that they have.”

Comm servers are enjoying strong growth. A study from market research outfit Cahners In-Stat Group (Scottsdale, AZ) forecasts the market will achieve $4 billion in revenue by 2004, up from $122 million last year. These numbers may be conservative.

The Cahners report, released in July 2000, profiles some 11 companies. Not among them, however, are industry heavyweights Alcatel, Avaya, Mitel, NEC, Nortel and Siemens. These manufacturers, all of which now offer open-architecture switches, collectively account for more than 90% of PBX sales. Add to this sterling list Cisco, Ericsson and 3Com – all recent entrants to the North American PBX/comm server market – and it's probably a safe bet that the market share of traditional PBXs will soon be in the low single digits.

Vendors see the handwriting on the wall, and it shows in their latest offerings. Of the 55 telephone systems that our former sister publication, Teleconnect , surveyed this year, 45 offered unified messaging; 49 and 48 featured PC call control and contact center functionality, respectively; and 42 provided third-party app support. What's more, a non-proprietary operating system powers about half of the products.

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