TOUCHMATE, Intel walk hand in hand in VAR Online

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"Intel and regional IT heavyweight Intel have a long business relationship, a thriving association set to continue in the foreseeable future"

You have a long-running relationship with Intel extending from your PC business and now tablets. Discuss

TOUCHMATE has been a long-term partner for Intel, a relationship running to 25 years now. Back then Intel had only a small presence here in Dubai, but TOUCHMATE was running an assembly factory in Al Awir and supplying Intel-based PCs to retail chains and the corporate sector. That PC production business is still going strong as evidenced by a recent order for supplying 500 PCs to DEWA. So PCs have been a mainstay for our business for a very long with Intel supplying us with all their versions of CPUs to us since then This is backed by our ever-increasing consumer focus where we have opened many retail showrooms as well. Retail is also a major source of business for us with lot of marketing activities always going on with promotions, new product launches at power retailers and supermarket in the region.

Intel recognized your contribution to their EMEA strategy appointing you to the Board of Advisors for Intel based tablets. What does this role entail?

In the last two years, I have been working with Intel in their Board of Advisors because Intel has realized the huge potential for growth for tablets and smartphones in the region. TOUCHMATE is a leader in the tablet market here with over 35 tablet models we manufacture and sell in the Middle East and Africa. My advice for Intel has been to get into the regional market quickly and not wait for the market to mature. Consequently, TOUCHMATE was the first brand to launch Intel tablets in the region. Intel now has about 30 ODMs based out of China and Intel tablets will be available with a full range of products all over the world. It has taken the company one year to hunt for the right people, work on the design, configurations, price structures, etc., and now everything is ready and we are going to bring more of their products quickly into the market. Intel is widely known for the performance and quality of their CPUs but price was for the main part the main barrier. Today however, the difference between an Intel and Android tablet is marginal.

With Intel, Microsoft is not far behind. Are there plans to launch Windows-based tablets under the TOUCHMATE brand?

Microsoft recently announced that Windows 8 will be free in tablets below 9 inches in addition to a one year free offer on tablets. This should translate into more uptake of Windows-based tablets within the next six months. TOUCHMATE will soon launch models with Intel Bay Trail CPUs which support Windows 8, with the aforementioned free Windows 8 and the one year free offer of Office. This new strategy, combined with our regular promotions including our popular two-day two-person Free Holiday in an exotic locale for our customers, should see our market share grow even stronger. In the last two years, ARM-based entry-level manufacturers have had a large share on the market but in the near future, we should see Intel and Microsoft a having a greater impact in the market.

We’ve been close partners with Intel and Microsoft in the last 20 years, always launching any new technology from Intel and Microsoft PCs. I see the partnership between TOUCHMATE , Intel and Microsoft continue to grow even more in the region. These two companies especially take care of partner margins-if I sell a product with Windows, there is some profitability for me and similarly for Intel-based products. The same cannot be said for other CPU manufacturers and OSs.

What is your take-away message from the recent 2014 Intel Solutions Summit?

Intel has done their part and now it’s our part to make the product popular and make sure we bring the new products out quickly to the user. Performance, quality and battery life is far better when they are using Intel and Microsoft especially in the productivity segment.

Discuss your market positioning as the increasing number of tablet brands continuing to challenge established players

According to retailer Carrefour, TOUCHMATE was the leading tablet brand by quantity sales in the UAE. Value wise, we were number three last year after Apple and Samsung. We are very happy with these statistics and this proves that the buying public is very happy with the finishing and quality of our products as well as the promotions and offers. We have our own factory in China and so can ensure quality control, a great value proposition for our customers. In short, we combine quality, integrity, price, offers and user benefits.

The market continues to thrive as the public continue to seek more innovative technology. The refresh cycle for smartphones and tablets is about one year because innovation is happening so fast. Secondly, technology has become very cheap. Today, we are selling one of our tablets for AED199 in retail stores while a fully loaded 3G tablet is running at AED 499. When you combine that with a 200 dollars free holiday from TOUCHMATE for instance, it inspires buyers to replace their gadgets much more regularly.

How does TOUCHMATE leverage its status as a locally-based company?

Although we are based here, Touchmate has today become an international brand with products available in 65 countries. With our roots here, we are able to understand the local market and local demand in a way that multi-nationals cannot do. Our service centres are also all over the UAE. We had a choice to sell multinational brands but we settled for our own and proud of what we have been able to achieve. And ours is a story of Dubai which has also strived to become a global city. The government has offered us great support in our own quest to put Touchmate on the international digital map. The authorities for instance dropped custom duties from 5% to 1% ensuring that Dubai remains an internationally recognized ICT Hub.