Author: Mike Magee

Intel thinks anthropologist will fix its business

bummerGenevieve Bell and another 100 or so social scientists are trying to save Intel’s “flailing business”.

Bell, an anthropologist and an Intel fellow, and her team, are racking their brains to figure out what gadgets people will use in the future, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

We told Intel years ago it should bung StrongARM chips into small, portable devices that consumed little power.  But Intel can be rather hard of hearing.

The Mercury News reckons that Intel’s fate is in the 200 pair of hands in Bell’s team seeing as PCs ain’t what they used to be.

The newspaper quotes Bell as saying she couldn’t imagine being in a better place, while another researcher is quoted as saying that Intel “is highly attuned to long term thinking”.

Really?

Sharp readies cloud push

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeSMEs are not taking sufficient advantage of the opportunities and cost advantages of the cloud, according to a survey by Sharp.

It has launched its Cloud Portal Office today, a subscription based model aimed at SMEs with data held at Amazon Cloud Services in Dublin.

Chris Hale, product manager of software at Sharp UK told ChannelEye that people running small to medium enterprises often didn’t realise the savings that could be made by having their data in the cloud, rather than in their offices. There were advantages from the security aspect too, with backups held remotely in case of fires or other catastrophes.

Hale said companies often had little idea how much it cost to maintain their own IT equipment costs.  The Cloud Portal offering, while launched today, will go live on the 2nd of December next giving it time to train its own direct and its channels’ indirect sales force.

SMEs, Sharp said, are “not only failing to realise the business benefits the cloud can bring, but also can lose control of networks and introducing vulnerabilities”.  Of the 1,500 plus employees surveyed across Europe, 83 percent didn’t think that they had an official cloud network in the workplace.

Microsoft shows clear signs of OS desperation

windowscomputexMost people were reasonably happy with Windows 7. For that matter, most people quite liked Windows XP. No one liked Vista.  And it’s pretty clear that Windows 8 has gone down with the most enormous thud.

Even Microsoft seems to acknowledge that – our sister publication TechEye is reporting that it is saying Windows 7 isn’t that secure.

Actually, it’s Microsoft that isn’t that secure. And its insecurity is linked to Intel’s insecurity too.  Microsoft, like Intel, was way too late to jump on the tablet bandwagon and its efforts to get into the smartphone market have been somewhat of a big fail too.

The truth is that it’s all about money and has very little to do with security. These endless patches from Microsoft for operating systems have always been a nuisance and demonstrate that on the OS front, at least, the software giant hasn’t really invented anything.  It’s all been borrowed or acquired.

You can’t get a new PC from a retailer now without it being installed with Windows 8.1. Want Windows 7? You’ll have to buy it separately. And if you believe Microsoft, it’s not that secure anyway.

At the launch of Windows XP in London all those years back, Steve Ballmer told us that it was the most secure version of Windows ever. Some of us remember what happened with that one.

I have a machine here that’s running Windows XP and there’s no way I’m “upgrading” it to Windows 8.1.  That will leave me insecure, according to Microsoft.  Insecure I will be, then. But I do get the definite feeling that I’m not alone in sticking with an OS I like and without the tablet feel I expect on a tablet, not on a PC.

Intel seems to have lost its way

Sean MaloneyThe news that Intel’s Galileo is on its way just underlines to me how the chip giant has lost its way.

The “open source” computer costs $70, and uses its Quark microprocessor. Intel clearly thinks it will compete against the highly successful Raspberry Pi but clearly it hasn’t got a chance to play catch up.

The launch mirrors Intel’s late attempt to climb on the tablet bandwagon by cutting the price of its Atom microprocessor to compete with ARM and Nvidia based chips.  But it hasn’t got an earthly here, either.  Manufacturers are very chary about using anything with the Intel name associated with the tin. Again, that’s underlined by vendors’ reluctance to be associated with Intel.

Cheap is everything in the tablet market now and even though Intel’s chips might be, er, cheap as chips, the economics of this don’t really make a lot of sense to anyone. Sure, Intel has heaps of capacity but that in itself is part of the problem. State of the art fabs are really expensive these days and the volume game just doesn’t fit Intel’s business model.

In reality, the chip giant really has very little new to say. The new broom in the shape of CEO  Brian Kzanic appears to be attempting the Herculean task of cleaning the Augean Stables not just of the dung but also of a heap of very good people who have let their legs do the walking.

Datacentre business no doubt is still healthy for Chipzilla, but on the other hand independent market research shows that the notebook market is on the wane.  Sure, enterprises will refresh their notebooks but with the arrival of BYOD, there’s a level of ambiguity which must leave Intel more than a little bemused.

In truth, Intel has had zilch to say in the last three years as smartphones and tablets transformed the “traditional” Wintel model.

As part of the antitrust agreement following the demise of DEC, Intel found itself with StrongARM devices. At the time, we asked top executives from the firm why it didn’t just cut the Gordian Knot and produce a highly portable ARM based device?  The answer, of course, was that Intel was on the Centrino notebook gravy train. Sean Maloney, now a non-executive director at Chinese foundry SMIC, realised that the Atom chip might well cannibalise the notebook market but nobody at Intel appeared to have looked further than the next three quarters and see its dominance becoming more and more eroded.

Of course, Intel has oodles of cash in the bank but oodles don’t last forever.  Re-engineering its business model is, for Intel, a far from trivial task. As an Intel watcher for the last 30 years, I will be most interested to see what happens in the next 12 to 18 months.

Partners line up to give MS an 8.1 gong

windowscomputexWindows 8.1 goes on general release today as a free upgrade for people with Windows 8, and it will also be on new Wintel machines worldwide too.

As we reported from Computex earlier this year, Microsoft was essentially forced to re-institute the start button and to make other improvements following a more than lukewarm welcome from the channel and from end users at launch.

Microsoft has a partner blog, here, and according to The Final Step, to CCS Media and to Centrix software. James Hardy, at CCS Media says: “I genuinely believe that Windows 8 offers more in a touch device that can be found anywhere else on the market. Windows 8.1…. provides IT departments with the ability to customise devices to suit the needs of their business.”

We’d be interested to hear from other partners what they believe to be true about Windows 8.1 – we suspect that not all of them are going to be quite so gung ho about the upgrade as the three companies listed above.

Bad IT stresses out people, big time

ProzacIT failures are taking their toll on British business and stressing out workers, a survey has found.

Loudhouse undertook the research for IT services company NG Bailey, polling 500 full time workers.

If computer kit worked properly, the respondents said they could save an average of 4.3 hours.  A staggering two thirds claimed that bad IT often stops them being productive – half of them claims that happens at least once a week.

And what’s worse, is that 44 percent of the workers say that broken IT stresses them out, with one in three working longer hours to make up for the failures. Nearly a third say that bad IT makes them miss deadlines.

Bob Dunnett, MD of NG Bailey’s services division, said: “CIOs and financial decision makers should weigh up the cost of improving their IT services with the implications of below-par IT on employees’ wellbeing and their company’s bottom line.”

Big Data is a waste of space

Mammoth big dataBeancounters here and on the other side of the pond say that companies are struggling to cope with the enormous amount of data they are gathering. And that could cost them dear.

The Chartered Institute of Management Accounts (CIMA) and the  American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) surveyed 2,000 finance professionals – including CEOs and chief financial officers – and found to their dismay that 86 percent of organisations struggle to make sense of the data they’re storing.

And nearly half (44 percent) surveyed said their organisations don’t have the right tools in place to understand the trend. Only 53 percent are investing in tech to harvest and get insight into the data.

The main reasons organisations are struggling is that they can’t bring the data together; aren’t sure if the data is good quality; are unable to get information from non-financial dta and identifying trends and insights.

Nevertheless, according to Peter Simons, an analyst at CIMA, companies do understand that big data is a real business asset. He said as many as 93 percent of the respondents think finance has an important part to play to help their organisations  benefit from data.

Intel’s Q3 shows a profit dip

Brian KrzanichA UK executive at Intel once pointed out to me that a billion of anything is a lot of something.

And Intel released its third quarter results late yesterday evening, turning in a net profit of $2.95 billion, down from the same quarter last year of $2.97 billion. The Q3 net profit is based on sales of $13.48 billion but turned in a gross profit margin of 62.4 percent.

Intel expects the fourth quarter to be flat, but claimed at an analyst conference after its results were released that there are signs of an uptick in the X86 market.

Its customers, including giants like Dell, HP and Acer, and industry analysts such as Gartner and IDC may beg to differ that the PC market is recovering.

Meanwhile the chip behemoth admitted that sales to consumers continued to be sluggish. Right now the firm’s strength seems to be in the server market, where margins are high.

Brian Krzanich, Intel’s CEO, needs to do something to address the company’s so far woeful performance in tablets and smartphones. Most handset makers use chips based on ARM technology which are far cheaper than Intel processors.

While Intel has been a leader in process technology, it is having trouble getting the right yields on 14 nanometre technology – and it admitted as much last night.

Hitachi improves its cloud services

cloud 1Hitachi Data Services (HDS) said that it has introduced private cloud services and other improvements.

The private cloud services include consulting and transition services to companies and a cloud automation suite to its Unified Compute Platform, reference architectures with Cisco and data security capabilities for its Unified Storage.

The company said that the private cloud services use an open architecture with storage, compute and network layers; APIs; open interfaces; portals and global services.

It claims that using its private cloud services will bring customers savings, and is up 70 percent faster to deploy than traditional approaches.

HDS costs the materials by a pay-per-use model driven by service levels and including all hardware, software and services.

Salesforce integrates multiple IDs

Salesforce_Logo_2009Giant CRM company Salesforce said it has released a service connecting employees, customers and partners to any app on any device.

Called Salesforce Identity, the service is intended to make accessing data universally, wherever it is stored.

The company said that the service lets firms create a connected app and strategy, which can then be managed from a central location.

The service includes a single sign on, authorisation identities for mobile devices for Salesforce CRM and custom applications built using its Platform Mobile Services.

It also lets social collaboration be built into a system, including Facebook and Google. Pricing starts at $5 per user a month, including single sign on, mobile identity, cloud directory, multi-factor authentication and other services.

Argos takes on Tesco with tablet

Argos MyTabletRetail outlet and online firm Argos has launched the MyTablet for less than £100 – in a bid to challenge Tesco’s recent tablet introduction, the Hudl.

The seven inch unit comes with pre-loaded games and apps and also includes an Argos app so you can shop for items including, er, tablets.

The unit has a 1024×600 LCD, and 8GB of memory – but you can expand the memory to 32GB using a Micro SD card. The processor is a 1.6GHz dual core chip, while the OS is Google’s Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2.

Argos said the unit is aimed at teenagers and has built in parental controls. It comes in pink or silver colours. The unit has two megapix camera and a front facing camera. It supports wi fi and Bluetooth and apps pre-loaded include the BBC iPlayer, Angry Birds, an e-book reader, Facebook and Twitter.

The unit goes for sale tomorrow from argos.co.uk and argos.ie, as well as the 700 shops it has in the UK and Ireland.

Nermin Hadjarbegovic, our Bosnian reported:: “This is just a publicity stunt.”

Distribution is a balloon

MongolfierA maker of jewellery is showing a 90 percent picking improvements at its pan-European distribution centre using warehouse management software, it claims.

That’s according to BalloonOne, which integrated its warehouse management system with gem firm Pandora’s Microsoft Dynamics AX planning software.

BalloonOne says that 80 percent of orders Pandora received use pick and pass for a high volume of product lines in each pick.

Pandora is also using BalloonOne’s Accellos to automate its invoicing process.

Kristian Willumsen, VP of supply chain development at Pandora, says: “By comparing year on year performance, we are seeing picking improvements as high as 80 per cent.”

Smart watches are a surreal notion

Salvador DaliThere’s not that many youngsters I know who wear wrist watches these days, apart from as a fashion accessory, maybe sometimes.

After all, the majority of kids have a smart phone on them, which is really a supercomputer that tells you everything you need to know, including the time.

So a report from Digitimes Research has me wondering whether the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.

The report suggests the entry of the Apple iWatch will boost the smartphone market, which, in the developed countries at least, has reached saturation.

Average selling prices of smartphones are falling but Digitimes Research seems to believe that if Apple releases its iWatch in the second half of next year, the brand power alone will boost the ASPs.

The research reckons that smart watch shipments will amount to 5.92 million units next year, 22.79 million in 2015 and 75.66 million in 2016, but that’s only if Apple gets its watch out.

Older people tend to wear watches and our eyesight isn’t as keen as youngsters’ – so the development of larger display smartphones has been something of a boon.

You can read more, if you can see the screen on your smart watch, here.

Scotland takes Windows 8.1 tablet plunge

Scottish flagMicrosoft said the Scottish government is to adopt Windows 8 tablet PCs.

The government will take delivery of Samsung Series 7 Slates, Dell Latitude 10s and Samsung ATIVs running Win8.

Trustmarque, an MS Gold Partner, created a proof of concept.  Mark Garrity, head of the UK public sector at Trustmarque, said that the success of the move underlines a strong partnership between his company and Scotland.

The deployment will include MS User Experience Virtualisaion which lets users log in to any computer on the same network.

Staff in the pilot project included 20 top government execs and 20 techniques.

No details were given of the value of the deal.

BYOD: security, it’s heard of it

byodA survey by Context said that despite the prevalence of BYOD (bring your own device) in the work place, security cannot be guaranteed.

Context says there’s a clear trade off between convenience and security. It examined three products: Airwatch, Blackberry Universal Device Service and Good for Enterprise, in conjunction with IOS and Android devices.

While these products all provide good levels of BYOD security, Context found the underlying operating systems limits what they can achieve.

Alex Chapman, senior consultant at Context, said: “There is no realistic way to guarantee the security of a workable BYOD environment, but organisations can take significant steps towards mitigation of security risks if they combine technical security controls with clearly defined acceptable use policies. MDM…can only lock down mobile devices to the extent that underlying operating systems will permit and BYOD implementations can only lock down devices to a level that users are willing to accept.”