Author: Mike Magee

HP divides but will it conquer?

Meg WhitmanThe decision by HP to split itself into two companies has the whiff of desperation about it.

One wing will sell printer ink and PCs, while the other will position itself selling into the enterprises with services and hardware.

Meg Whitman said that the move is intended to give both wings flexibility in the different marketplaces they represent but the end result is more likely to be confusion than clarity.

And it is worth contrasting Hewlett Packard with Dell. The latter has managed to re-engineer its entire business over the last five years and be successful in selling into services, into software and for the PCs that have brought it smelling of success. It uses its different services and products to leverage its sales. And it doesn’t  panic, Captain Whitman.

The devil is in the HP detail.

The newly spring Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc could well end up competing with each other but that isn’t the least of their problems.  The move will mean a big shift in its relationship with its partners – some of which sell the entire range of HP kit and services through distribution. Those details will take quite some disentangling.

HP is in the fourth year of its five year plan but this looks a bit of its plan that wasn’t originally part of its five year plan.

Whitman said that by moving one HP to two HPs it will be in a better position to compete, support its customers and partners and also bring in extra cash for its shareholders.  That’s what she hopes.

HP one and HP two hope to complete the separation by the end of its financial year 2015.  Whitman will serve on the boards of HP one and HP two. That will be jolly interesting when the two companies finally get their infrastructure act together.

The official release doesn’t say how HP one and HP two will share their technology, and employees – who have since big restructures over the last three years – just exactly feel about all or any of this.

Wall Street seems to like it – HP’s share price rose as the news was confirmed yesterday.

Desktop 3D printer upgraded

Tiertime 3D printerTiertime said it has launched a new desktop 3D printer, called UP BOX.

It costs $1,900 and is aimed at both professional and educational market.

The machine will churn out larger units with a max size of 10x8x8 inches, while the print resolution is now 0.1mm and printing speed 30 percent faster than its predecessor.

Other features include automatic calibration, an air filtration system that cuts down noise and making sure no noxious fumes escape. Perhaps most important to some is  LED based “mood lighting” that tells you where you are on the printing front.

The unit comes with software, a build platform for warp free ABS printing and a one year limited guarantee and service.

The unit will be available in November, through Amazon and other shops, worldwide.

Obituary: Dave Evans – 1950 to 2014

It’s going to be difficult to say how much I miss my dear friend Dave Evans, who died last Saturday, after fighting hard with cancer for way too long, but I’ll have a bash.

I first met Dave in 1989 when he worked at ICL Today and I was editing PC Business World.  Both were IDG publications, although ICL Today became Fujitsu Tomorrow.

But we only really met properly at an Ingres launch in some giant castle in Shannon, Ireland. Ingres had shipped in must have been hundreds of journalists and proceeded to treat us to so much booze that out of the hundreds of hacks, only five turned up to hear at the very early press conference that Ingres had been bought by a company – a company that time forgot. Dave was there.

At that time, Dave worked, I believe, for Fujitsu Tomorrow but it wasn’t long before Computer Weekly noticed his talent and snapped him up as its features editor.  John Riley writes eloquently about this in a Facebook post on news of his death:

”Dave was a beautifully fluent writer who could somehow always conjure up compelling copy out of the most unpromising leads. It’s fitting that he was the first journalist in the UK (maybe the world!) to order a beer electronically (at the Mondex e-cash card press launch in 1995.”

I am unsure how Dave E’s next gig became Computing – the VNU rival to Computer Weekly. But there we renewed our acquaintance because Dave was the acting, some might say, re-enacting features editing at the ‘Ting.

At that time I was working on the VNU Newswire and regularly, at say 11AM, there’d be a knock on the door and Dave would say: “Fancy a cup of tea, Mike?”  A cup of tea meant a visit to the John Snow in Broadwick Street and I’d watch him strike out yards of copies from freelancers on paper, and then use his antique Psion Organiser to write entire features of his own.

Back in 2001, I was sitting in a pub in central London with Dave and Tony Dennis  – it was a Monday – when a call came through on my mobile telephone device. Sun Microsystems’ general counsel complained about a story we’d written. Dave whispered to me: “Tell her you’re with your lawyer, and he’d like to speak to you.” I said OK and handed him the phone. He said: “Why don’t you eff off you effing idiot,” and then hung up. That was the kind of delightful guy he was.

Before his tech journalism, Dave Evans was a mainstream journo, working at the Currant Bun, the NoW, the Daily Mail and doubtless many other publications in Fleet Street. In a strange coincidence, we found ourselves in Fleet Street on 9/11 as it’s called. I had a meeting and went down to see the second plane crash into the second tower. Dave had met loads of important people in the course of his Fleet Street journalism job.  Imagine it!

But this is my overwhelming feeling about dear Dave Evans. He was a deeply compassionate and kind man, went completely out of his way to make people feel welcome, and was a top readable journalist with both wit and wisdom. He was also a very dear dear friend of mine, I love him, and I will miss him. He is survived by his wife Ann, his daughter Carla and his son in law, Ed..

His funeral will be at Beckenham Crematorium, on the 24 September 2014 at 1:30PM, followed by a wake. Ann and Carla would prefer donations to any cancer charity rather than flowers or cards. If you are going to attend, please email scottishplay2011@gmail.com.

Apple eclipses Intel

Intel-IDF-'14-Copy-SizeAs far as we can see, Apple’s announcement of its iWatch put chip giant Intel in the shade yesterday.

Yesterday  was supposed to be Intel’s day, but as it doesn’t really have very much to say about anything except wearable technology, it didn’t really stand a chance.

We’ve noticed that Apple has received accolades from what our own Nick Farrell calls the Tame Apple Press. He defines TAP as uncritical media outlets – magazines to you and me – both journalistic people and publishers that swallow marketing pap and regurgitate it as if Apple, or Intel for that matter,  was capable of telling any kind of truth.

Let me tell you, from past experience, Apple chooses very carefully the journalists it invites to its launches. As, for a matter of fact, does Intel.

It was, I think in 1990, that Apple announced something or other in London and dragged along the late Douglas Adams to give a witty presentation that wowed us all. However, I noticed that after the event had finished, Adams was talking to the Apple spinner about his reward – quite a lot of Apple DRAM.

Intel tries to play a similar game but is really cackhanded about it. It’s not really very good at marketing. Back in the old days it decided to set its legal department in my direction, and in other directions too. Then, under the captainship of Andy Grove, Intel was a bully and we all know that bullies need standing up to.

The corporate spin departments of these computing multinationals believe they can manipulate, bully, or even exclude journalists from the scene.  Just in the last 25 years I’ve been personally told by the likes of Microsoft, HP and Intel that “I’d never work in this industry again”.

Intel has turned into Mr Nasty yet again,in the 21st century,  but the truth is that it has had little or nothing to say for at least the last six years.  Apple doesn’t seem to have much to say either unless you’re one of the famous fanbois that really must have something strapped to your wrist.

The truth is that commodisation of the IT industry has weaved its wicked way – Apple won’t even release its famous iWatch until next year. Intel getting into wearables is risible. And Microsoft is struggling to even give the impression that it has a stratagem.

The second decade of the 21st century just goes to show that these monsters of the late 20th century are just straw dogs, and the way ahead is way different from they think. Here’s what an Intel spinner had to say about yours truly, in relation to Mark Hachman:

“From: Francisco, Daniel J Sent: 24 March 1999 23:35 Subject: RE: more from Mike Magee on Compaq Merced Since we’re giving our two cents:) It’s really a juggling act. We’ve had some luck (ie, Mark Hachman, EBN, and PC World editors) with tough love approach, telling them they’ll get more access to us if they are more objective and less sensational/negative in their articles. The trick is actually not giving them the “special” access after we go down that path. In the case of Magee, his reporting doesn’t indicate that he values the exec access and the efforts to build a stronger relationship. Hachman was the same way when we started working with him. There is no value for the special access until it stops and is given to someone else. Then they realize the benefits of “working with us.” Hachman’s writing has come full circle. And following this last IDF and his ridiculous coverage, I’d be hard-pressed to lobby for Magee to come to future IDFs, especially on Intel’s dollar. Dan”

Dancing Dan Francisco – he’s a nice chap but still a corporate spinner after his INTC corporation experiences. Idiots.

Intel falls into ARM’s arms

Intel-logoIn one of those strange twists of fate that dog the semiconductor industry, it appears X86 giant Intel is now one of the biggest licensees of ARM tech on the planet, now it is a foundry business. ARM, of course, offers an advantage over X86 servers in terms of both functionality and heat. Intel is considerably boosting ARM revenues, according to well informed sources close to the facts.

Actually, INTC has always had a lot of foundry business. It was forced by American authorities to guarantee that production of DEC’s Alpha microprocessor continued until the end of the decade, as we reported earlier at the INQster and the Rogister years back. Intel also had and probably still has a StrongARM licence – an opportunity Chipzilla signally missed back in the days.

It also still makes HP chips. Perhaps that is because of the peculiar nature of the partnership between Intel and HP.

Intel reacted very badly to the news.

Anna Cheng, the UK spinner for Intel, sent a snottogram to the Eyes saying that the world+dog knew it made ARM chips. She said that she objected to the fact that the Eyes blank carbon copied other people at Intel – including Chuck Mulloy – asking for clarification. She scolded the Eyes for not going through proper channels.

We responded by saying that we had in our possession many Intel “confidential” emails describing me – in no uncertain terms – as an old buffer.

ARM refused to comment, but it is quids in because of Intel’s decision to fab up the unique British designs…

Intel replays marketing card

Intel-logoBecause Intel has so few products to show at its expensive upcoming Intel Developer Forum in September in San Francisco, it will play its old three card trick and show off new logos and marketing plans instead. Ailing Intel, it seems, has run out of “innovation”.

That’s according to reliable sources within the corporation that told the Eyes that newly formed CEOs need marketing ideas because product ideas are few on the ground.

The source – based in Asia – told the Eyes that it had attempted to convince ex CEO Paul Otellini that the marketing needed changing to a retro kind of thing, but had come up against determined opposition from the then CEO.

But facing ruin because it was slow off the mark with chips for tablets and for smartphones, instead Intel will attempt to bamboozle the world with marketing. The newly born CEO – and the INTC board are  up for it.

The re-branding will re-position Intel as a 21st century company that doesn’t really invent technology any more. Just manufacture it.

Although we don’t have the new logos and that yet, expect a blast of marketing publicity that talks a lot about not very much at all, faced with the opposition. Oh, that’s not AMD, by the way.

Apple needs to wake up and smell the coffee

ipad3Fruity cargo cult Apple has huge difficulties calling a spade a spade without out hyping it up into something it is clearly not, writes Nick Farrell.

After all, marketing was what made Apple’s iPad a success, while Microsoft’s tablet, languished on the shelves for years.  But sometimes Apple’s desire to market everything does the trick.  An example is calling its support staff Apple geniuses clearly in the spotty face of all evidence.

However it appears that when Apple advertises for someone to make the coffee, they need to have hyped the role to make it sound like it is crucial to business design operation.

A job advert appeared on the website calling for someone to brew fresh coffee for its employees, and it calls the position an “iCup Technician”. Apparently they will work in Apple’s “iCup Services” department.

The technician must be “on call” for employees’ coffee needs during business hours at Apple’s Santa Clara Valley, campus.

This person must have “prior experience with coffee machines,” someone who “continually grows in knowledge” and has “some computer skills”.

Of course it looks better on your resume to say you are an iCup technician than to say “tea lady” but we would thought many future employers would see through it.  After all it is not, as the name implies, someone who designs space age talking coffee cups.

Balabit box offers security superguard

praetorianHungarian security company Balabit showed off its Shell Control Box (SCB) at a press gig this  week.

This is a clever gizmo which sits between a data centre and people accessing the data which has an active alert function and which can reconstruct changes people have made to systems as well as preclude certain users from doing different things.

Gabor Marosvari, product marketing manager at Balabit, showed data that demonstrated that 88 percent of internal problems and caused by abuse of privileges,  and 71 percent of all misuses are made using LANs, with 21 percent of those using remote access.

Firewalls, security information and event management (SIEMs) and password managers aren’t enough to protect systems, Balabit claims.  Balabit’s SCB, however, controls privileged user access to remote servers, heads off malicious actions at the gorge, records activities and reports actions for compliance and decision support, it claims. If an intrusion happens, the system can be set up to email the god or goddess that runs the SCB system, and to text them too, if required. It supports the following protocols.

scb

Balabit also claims that it has little competition in the sector. Wallix, CyberARK, Xceedium and Dell Quest use jump hosts; Observe-IT, Centrify and TSFactory are agent based, while Intellinx is a network sniffer.

Balabit, which received an £8 million series A funding from C5 last week, targets banks, central government, telcos, cloud and MSPs, big manufacturers, large enterprises and enterprises using outsourcing.  It doesn’t have any offerings for SMBs, and the cheapest implementation is likely to cost in excess of $10,000. Customers include Raiffeisen, Orange, Telenor, Handelsbanken and Ankara University.

Of course, the big question is that it will be one or two superusers, such as auditors, that has access to the device that monitors an entire enterprise.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes – who will guard the guards themselves? Because she, he, or they are humans too, subject to the emotions, passions, greed and chicanery that affects all of our species.

Balabit spreads its reseller wings

hungarySecurity outfit Balabit said that following an £8 million cash injection from C5 in the UK, it is set to extend its indirect model to new territories.

Balabit’s Baldor Kiszei  told ChannelEye  here in Hungary that 95 percent of its revenue stream is already indirect, but it has ambitious plans to extend its existing model to the UK and to the USA too.  It has just hired local man Robert Billingham to build up relationships in Blighty and perform similar tasks in different territories.

It will open a US office in the first quarter of next year, said Kiszei.

“Balabit is a channel driven company,” he said. “Businesses are all different in every country. Historically we targeted local integrators.” They’re essentially VARs – he said but, Balabit has ambitious plans to grow its channel in France. It’s already using Nomeos and iTracenet but is expected to strike a deal with Orange France very soon. It already has five employees in France and so we can expect to see sales staff rise in the UK too.

He said that 15 percent of Balabit’s revenues were generated in the USA in 2013, but basically that’s through its software offerings.  It also intends to penetrate the potentially lucrative Middle Eastern market.

Avnet promotes Murphy as UK head

Miriam Murphy, AvnetMiriam Murphy (pictured)  is to become a senor VP of Avnet’s northern region – that’s the UK and Ireland.

She replaces interim head of the territory Tony Madden, who has run the UK business over the last six months.

Murphy is a long time employee of Avnet and she was responsible for expanding its IBM business across 14 countries in the EMEA region, according to Graeme Watt, president of Avnet EMEA.

Murphy said the channel is changing but there are some opportunities for distribution and for partners in security, big data, analytics, conveged infrastructure and other services.

Dell engages in channel love in

dellbudaTen years ago, the very word Dell was enough to send VARs, VADs and, let’s face it, the rest of the channel into streams of invective, punctuated by words you wouldn’t want your nan to hear you speak. Like the expletive “direct sales”, for example.

But, it seems, everything has changed and now Dell loves the channel and, incredibly, the channel seems to love Dell too.  Channel Eye took time out from our incredibly stressful schedule to spend a day at a security partner reseller conference in Budapest and got to chat to several senior executives and resellers too, for that matter, who spelled out the sea changes that have happened at the Round Rock company.

While Dell is still seen by many as the PC tin maker that put the wind up conventional and indirect players like HP and the rest, it’s made a number of acquisitions in the last few years that mean the barque is now being steered in an entirely different direction. Those include SonicWALL, Quest and others.

The changes have been engineered at the highest level – that is to say by Michael Dell himself – with the assistance of senior exec Cheryl Cook. Unbelievably for an old channel hack like me, 32 percent of Dell’s business now goes the indirect route, worth an estimated $20 billion of revenue, under the umbrella of Partner Direct.

Channel Eye interviewed senior members of the EMEA channel team, including Andy Zollo and Marvin Blough – executive director of Dell’s worldwide channels and alliances. We also had the opportunity to talk to Patrick Sweeney, executive director of product management at the corporation.

Sweeney said: “Dell is in the process of becoming an end to end supplier of scalable systems. Dell continues to build PCs, but relies on value added resellers (VARs) to be trusted advisors [to customers].” He said that Dell is now a serious player in software and security and offers products that he claimed favourably compete with the likes of Cisco, Fortinet and others.  The company, he said, invests heavily in R&D, has a wide breadth of products and the idea of Dell as a major player in security and software is promoted by Michael Dell himself when he makes major announcements.

In fact, Dell has something like 124 VARs in the EMEA region. The trend is that larger companies have started to rely on VARs to help them through the IT maze, whether that be in the cloud, in big data, or in security.  Florian Malecki, who is the international product marketing director at Dell, said his company also relies on value added distributors (VADs) to generate events and training schemes.

How does it all work? Under the Dell umbrella of Partner Direct, the company operates certification for its channel partners at different levels, said Zollo. The tiers are premier partners, preferred partners and registered partners, but, he said, Dell is about to introduce a fourth category – managed service providers (MSPs).  Dell continues to roll out partnership initiatives and concedes that while it still has direct customers, the trend is to move towards an indirect model to allow it to penetrate different markets.  It’s impossible to operate a direct model in the many markets it now plays in.

Zollo says that the company has a “direct touch” sales team that cross sells all the products it has – and this umbrella model means that Dell GCC is able to operate across a wide area of customers and partners.

Who would have thought it? Dell was once a company that wouldn’t even talk to channel publications like ours. But it looks as if it will be talking to us more and more in the future. It relies on its VARs and its VADs for deep levels of specialisation, training and support.

We guess that HP must be gazing at all of this with quite some alarm. And Lenovo, for that matter.

Dell to extend its channel model

dellchannDespite the BBC World Service this morning claiming that Dell will carry on making desktops, notebooks and servers in perpetuity, there’s another string  to the hardware giant’s bow.

And here in Budapest there’s a three day security conference which is exclusively about software. And, of course, security.

This all follows Dell’s acquisitions of Force 10 and SonicWALL – it hopes that will help it build its data centre business.

Andy Zollo, VP of Dell EMEA, opened up by asking how long the Brits stayed up last night. Apparently until 3AM, it seems. Growth areas include the cloud, big data, and mobile. Mobile he said generates 592MB per month for each device. And 50 percent of mobile device traffic is video. He said by the end of this year there will be more mobile devices than people on the planet.

Dell’s revenues from security in EMEA accounts for 51 percent of revenues. Its products it is positioning include security and data protection.  It has formed a security named account team covering different sectors with around 2,000 customers across Europe. It intends to build its channel presence in the future. There was a lot of direct business while SonicWALL was largely indirect.  Zollo says Dell EMEA is placing its best on the indirect model.

PC market stays in the doldrums

A not so mobile X86 PCHopes that the mobile PC market would show some spunk in the fourth quarter of 2013 were dashed by insipid sales.

According to market research company IHS, although the quarter showed the strongest global sequential growth in four years,  the results were still disappointing.

Shipments of mobile PCs worldwide amounted to 52.6 million units and that’s a rise of 9.4 percent compared to the third quarter of 2013.  But the industry, said IHS, wanted to sell 55.3 million units in the quarter. Compared to the fourth quarter of 2012, sales showed a five percent decline – the sixth year on year decline.

So what’s the problem?  According to Craig Stice, director of computers at IHS, Bay Trail and other platforms were expected to bring cheaperPs to the world.  But the vendors wanted to keep stock levels lean and entry level PCs failed to show high volume.

IHS counts its mobile PC sector as including laptops and PC tablets but as the world+dog knows, people think smartphones and non PC tablets are more appealing.

The industry is hoping against hope that when Windows XP shuffles off its mortal coil, people will buy more PC kit.

Microsoft is at the crossroads

A knight at the crossroads, Victor VasnetsovIn many cultures, both in Asia and the West, crossroads are considered to be baleful places, associated with darkness, with death.

Why so?  A crossroads is a place where you have to make decisions, to head off in a different direction, not really knowing what lies at the end of the route you choose.

Microsoft is at the crossroads.

The appointment of Satya Nadella as Microsoft’s CEO, replacing the somewhat understated Steve Ballmer, is a considerable challenge for the software behemoth.

And Bill Gates is back – spending a third of his hours – to help with Microsoft’s product strategy.

There are a few problems with the Gates move.  Despite Microsoft’s undoubted success in the past, much of it was a product of accident coupled with very cunning marketing.  It was, for example, IBM’s decision to adopt DOS as the operating system for the first PC which pulled Microsoft from obscurity into the limelight.  Although Microsoft released its first version of Windows it was many years before Windows took off. Microsoft was never very good at inventing anything.

The stimulus for businesses to adopt the IBM PC was a clever piece of software from Lotus, 1-2-3.  Even that spreadsheet was not a first because that honour belongs to Visicalc, for Apples. But Apples were and are expensive and in the 1980s large businesses adopted PCs because they would never be fired for buying IBM.  The fact that PCs had Intel microprocessors inside meant that businesses were tying themself into a cartel which included. at that time, Microsoft and AMD too.

When companies and individuals first started adopting Windows, Microsoft had the field to itself for the introduction of application software was offered as a bundle.  Its software was, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. judged inferior to offerings from the like of Lotus, Ashton-Tate and Borland – just as examples.

But now Microsoft, like its joined at the hip partner Intel, is lagging behind in the technology stakes, with both joining the smartphone and tablet revolution way too late.  And we’ve seen a steady decline in sales of the PC for many quarters now. The gravy train has hit the buffers, or perhaps the cash cow is dead.

What’s interesting in the management reshuffle yesterday is that Symantec and former IBM senior executive John Thompson is now chairman of the Microsoft board, essentially meaning that Microsoft’s three main movers and shakers is a troika.  Thompson should not be underestimated.  He is a highly intelligent, astute businessman who has been trained in the school of hard knocks.

The big question is whether in the next 10 years will we see all those giants of the PC age – HP, Dell, Intel, Microsoft and the others – relegated to the second division or maybe even the fourth.

That’s why Microsoft is at a crossroads. And there’s no compass nor GPS nor Google Maps to show it the right route to take..