EDITORIAL: Taking on the US

If there's one thing we enjoy more than beating New Zealanders, it's beating the US. As I've noted before, we have something of a love-hate relationship with our friends in Dot-com Crazy Land.

We take pride in beating them in the Olympic pool or on the track, but hate much of the cultural baggage they carry into this country via TV, movies and trashy magazines.

But at the same time, we arguably love much of the technology the US has bestowed on the world.

As our lead feature reports (page 49), the problem facing Australia and much of the Western world is investors love the US economy. And why wouldn't you? It's hard to ignore the passion and drive of its business community.

For all the bagging we might dish out on IT leaders such as Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy, these people are driving much of the technical innovation that's made the US economy so successful.

The problem for us patriotic types in the channel is Australia is typically at the butt-end of decisions and influences from the US.

For example, it's often said that we're nothing more than a sales and service outpost for the multinationals. Now I don't know about you, but that kind of attitude is enough to make me want to invent new words.

But emotion aside, the real issue is the Australian dollar's weakness, which is having a direct impact on channel companies and particularly distributors. Most distributors are used to currency fluctuations and can typically ride out the storms. But as time progresses, the falling Australian dollar is causing many companies to seriously question what we're doing wrong.

So where do we go to from here? I believe it starts at ground level.

If you take as true the assumption that the high tech industry offers a country the highest growth potential, and the most influential sector of that industry is the channel (particularly service providers), we have a good starting point for change.

It might be too idealistic of me, but I think Scott McNealy raised a valid point on the subject at his press conference last week in Canberra (see story on page 1).

"If we (Sun Microsystems) can get everybody buying our computers online faster than Hewlett Packard, we are going to win. He or she with the biggest directory wins. That is the race. I really do not worry about all the clicksters. It is the bricksters who add the directory and the online clientele faster. I think the real message is - can you get the Australian industry to go clickster too, not drop its brickster business."

Direct sales worries aside, it's a great message for those in the channel using technology to build "clicksters" out of "bricksters".

The strength of our economy has always been the ability to innovate. It's time more of the wider business community started thinking about how to leverage the Internet economy and make it our shining light.

The days of re-inventing the proverbial clothesline or Victor lawn mower are over.

So can we innovate on the Web faster than the US?

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