The auction option

The procurement officer at your company now has a new way to shop for hardware.

eBay Canada, the little brother of the U.S.-based, has opened the doors for technology vendors to sell their wares through the popular Web auction site. According to eBay Canada statistics, over 200,000 computer items are available to buy on any given day on, and there has been a 191 per cent increase in computer equipment bought by Canadians on the Web site from December 2000 to December 2001.

Casey Rovinelli, category manager of computers, networking and IT for eBay Canada in Toronto said that IT business makes up more than US$2 billion worth of transactions a year on eBay, so it’s not surprising that technology vendors are looking for a piece of that.

“Our mantra is making inefficient markets efficient, and eBay is simply a good channel to push IT,” he said.

According to Rovinelli, companies such as IBM, Sun Microsystems, Palm, Dell and Hewlett-Packard are now participating in selling everything from laptops and software to networking products and PC peripherals.

While any online shopper can purchase from these vendors through eBay Canada’s Web site, it is the hope of both Rovinelli and the vendors that enterprises will bookmark eBay Canada’s site as a stop along the technology procurement path.

Issa Jouaneh, EDS Canada’s director of Internet services for the Greater Toronto Area, doubts that this is going to be the case.

“For a serious large enterprise to go onto eBay and buy hardware is pretty unlikely, but it’s definitely possible for small and medium enterprises,” he said.

The primary reason for this, Jouaneh said, is because of the vast improvements made in the area of supply chain management over the past few years. Most large enterprises focus on a discreet number of vendors that they purchase hardware, software and services from, he said.

“Their flexibility to go out there and buy on eBay is limited. For somebody with 500 workstations to buy a one-off workstation or a local LAN is possible, but from a strategic perspective, I don’t see it as a long term solution,” he said.

Whether or not large enterprises latch on to the idea of buying infrastructure online, Rovinelli is confident that the enterprise community will appreciate the option of using a new procurement channel.

“We’re opening up a market that didn’t exist before. We’re letting manufacturers who are stuck with excess inventory and don’t want to muddy the channel sell to new customers,” he said.

Joseph Siahou, director of Shore Consulting Group in Toronto has made several purchases for his organization from eBay, but has only done his deals with private sellers, which he said can be risky. As to whether he’d buy directly from a vendor on eBay Canada, Siahou has some reservations.

“I think I probably would if it was a good deal, but it can be hard to find a good deal online when the entire world is the market,” he said.