Editorial

Parallel universes

They say the most obvious sign of a maturing industry is the increasing propensity of legislative authorities to bring some sort of influence to bear over them. Generally, that comes either in the form of new or revised taxes or regulatory changes through tighter policies or deregulation.

The IT industry in Australia is no newcomer to increasing attention from Federal, state and even local governments. In recent times, for example, we have seen government agencies put their noses into ISPs' business by regulating their role in Internet content filtering.

We have also seen them play moral minder by placing a moratorium on the granting of online gambling licences, and now there is the temptation to yield to the lobby groups proposing adjustments to laws restricting the parallel importing of software.

You would have to suspect there would be many a furrowed brow on executives at the local subsidiaries of global vendors. Potentially there are many new challenges to be faced arising from overseas suppliers and their economies of scale, labour cost and government regulation advantages over their Australian counterparts.

Should legislation be passed legalising parallel importing, where price is the key buying motive, there will be an added incentive for distributors and large resellers to bypass local channels.

Distributors are really the piggies in the middle of this debate. While on one hand they stand to see some previously watertight, exclusive distribution agreements circumnavigated by their resellers, they are also the ones with the infrastructure in place to add value to existing product ranges through playing the parallel import game. It would be interesting to see which way the various big and small distributors jump.

Under the surface, as the final point of contact with users, resellers are the ones that will determine the success or failure of any parallel importing initiatives. If they are convinced that service and support levels will not diminish and the product and its documentation comes up to scratch, I am sure that parallel importing of software will explode.

On the other hand, if there is less money to be made for them in an industry already witnessing the dramatic erosion of margin for middlemen, many are likely to avoid it like the plague.

Meanwhile, as you are reading this editorial, there is every chance you are muttering under your breath about the numerous logistic problems arising from the current Federal Government's legacy to Australia - GST.

There is also some chance that you are being bowled over in the rush of corporate and domestic customers looking to take advantage of cheaper hardware. I hope it is the latter but suspect it is the former of the two scenarios on your plate this week.

On behalf of the ATO, welcome to the world of being a tax collection agency.

It is probably only fair to give the new tax system some bedding-down time before coming to hasty conclusions as to whether it is a friend or foe of the Australian IT channel. However, ARN is determined to assist the reseller community with the GST transition and keen to highlight how it has impacted on you.e-mail me at gerard_norsa@idg.com.au and give me the good oil on how the new tax era has dawned in your part of the woods or with your opinions on whether parallel importing is good, bad or ugly for resellers.

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