Author: Mike Magee

HTC smacked on its own patch

Etiquette on the MTRMost disinterested people I have talked to hereagree that the HTC One is really quite a super phone but here in Taipei it’s losing out on the marketing front.

And it’s to South Korean Samsung, which has giant adverts plastered all over Taiwan.

In terms of marketing money, Samsung has incomparably more at its disposal and seems to know how to use it.

It wouldn’t be the first time and no doubt it won’t be the last time that marketing has beat a better product down.

So what’s HTC to do? There isn’t an easy answer to that either. It might try changing its logo – which is a feeble little thing – and talking to journalists more than it currently does.
Samsung advertising in Taipei

Free wi-fi in Taipei explained

Taipei free wi-fiThe public wi-fi system that is available throughout Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is a brilliant idea that should be emulated in the Smoke (London), in the City of Screaming Squires (Oxford), and, well, more or less anywhere. We’re here in Olde Taipei for Computex 2013.

It is a disgrace that wi-fi, which has really become a public utility, is still charged for in many a place – especially hotels in the UK at exorbitant rates.

We had a chance to sample Taipei wi-fi the other night, taking a snap and uploading it without any problem at all. It hasn’t worked since, so I set out to find out why.

Basically, the reason it hasn’t worked for me since is that I a Brit, and the wi-fi, which does work for aliens from different countries, requires a special protocol to be present, as you can see on this TPE Wi-Fi page.  Currently only 20 countries use the International mobile SMS authentication that the Taipei government accepts.

There is an alternative – you can go to one of six physical locations and get yourself registered – but of course you have to know where these places are, which might be tricky unless you know your way around the city.

One local told us that he used to use TPE Free all the time, but recently it asks that you log-in every time you connect which he finds a nuisance. That’s apparently been implemented because of security concerns.

Nevertheless, the existence of TPE Free has meant that here in Old Taipei, you’ll find many places which offer free wi-fi.  The swanky hotels that don’t really ought to be ashamed of themselves.

* For a great way to understand Taipei and Computex 2013, if you’re a first time visitor, we recommend We View Taiwan video log.

Asian tablets will win the day

Keep taking the tabletsAs I was having a mango and orange juice round the corner from the somewhat unique hotel I’m staying in here in Old Taipei, I had an invitation from Sascha Pallenberg, I popped round to pay a visit to Mobile Geeks, and it was something of an eye opener.

Sascha, and fellow reporter Nicole Scott, have offices in rather a swanky building on the 11th floor of an office block near the metro. Obviously they are gearing up for next week’s Computex but we had time for a chat about the state of the tablet market.

Sascha showed me two tables – one Chinese one sells for $35, while the other, a well built machine from Ramos, sells for $225.  Both are Android devices and Sascha tells me there are dozens, maybe hundreds of these babies manufactured in China, which obviously has implications for the big boys, the Taiwanese boys and, well, the whole world. Heck, you could bundle a $35 notebook with a carton of cigarettes, I suggested.

Can you obtain these machines in the USA and Europe?  Well, you can certainly get hold of the Ramos machine – check out its site here.  But most of the tablets, Sascha suggested, were destined for the Asian, Indian and African markets, where no one can lash out the amounts of cash Apple and others expect.

The real question for me is how vendors can possibly expect people to pay vast sums of money in the USA and Europe when it’s obviously not hard for the Chinese to master manufacturing and with a bill of materials at a considerably less cost.  Surely it can only be a matter of time before the majors are forced to slash prices to match the Chinese offerings – and then it will be a case of just how they can make such big margins as they do now, in the future.

And with the heady mix of Windows tablets, Android tablets battling it out, where exactly is this going to leave the old guard – Microsoft and Intel?

Disties offer gourmet delights

Big snail in Old TaipeiComputex 2013 begins next week – a jamboree where there’s a chance to meet a plethora of industry types from all over the world and those at the heart of the supply chain.

We’ll be covering all the important announcements on both ChannelEye and our brother pub TechEye.net.

And here we’ll be bringing you all the gossip and yak yak we hear on the grapevine and on the Nangang strasse.

Let’s start with a juicy story that demonstrates how business is done differently in Asia than in Europe. Well, we think UK vendors [what vendors, Ed?] wouldn’t find themselves in an analogous situation.  A well known vendor from Old Taipei found himself being entertained in the Philippines recently, with lashings of very strong beer and a delicious goulash like soup.  At the end of the evening, the vendor asked his hosts about the delicious stew – to be told that they’d been supping speciality dish horse penis soup.

All the main news  buzz over here is about aggressive acts by the Philippines against a Taiwanese boat recently.  That led, we hear, to a Canadian woman being unceremoniously ejected from one of the famous Taipei cabs because the driver thought she was a Filipino.

You might remember the other week that several HTC suits in America were beamed out of the company – prompting speculation that there was something afoot in the beleagured Taiwanese company. It turns out many of the suits were ex-employees at the Redmond Volehill and, strangely enough, the Microsoft culture didn’t fit with the HTC culture.  Once, of course, Microsoft and HTC were very pally indeed, introducing a smartphone superficially very similar to a really pioneering smartphone from a British company that ended up successfully suing Microsoft.

Meanwhile, some folks are very enthusiastic about Intel’s announcements next week of its Haswell technology.  Bitter and twisted hacks over at sis pub TechEye believe the chip giant isn’t going to do Haswell as people expected.  That, of course, remains to be seen but expect that Intel’s new CEO, already dubbed “Special K” and who was speedy to institute a purge of positions at Chipzilla, will be watching its progress with some degree of trepidation.  So will we, Mr K, so will we.

More – and there will be much more – later.

* If you’re new to Computex and to Taiwan, check out this site – We View Taiwan – for some really useful information.

Google – the egregious corporation

Google the OgleDoes being the Jack of all Trades and the master of none apply to Google? I fear so. Having oodles of cash has tempted Google into all manner of strange ventures but it’s pretty clear that some of its wacky ideas are way off kilter.

Take the supply chain, for example, and Google’s venture into being a hardware company. The evidence is that it simply doesn’t have a clue about the very complicated infrastructure in Asia – the original design manufacturers (ODMs) need to be cultivated and have learned from the School of Hard Knocks that most of the trouble in the world come from vendors that make microprocessors and operating systems.

To be fair to Google, it has been consistent. It has, like Amazon, destroyed more industries than it’s created.  Bookshops. What are they?  Books? Google will take care of that problem, thank you very much. Google has also undermined the publishing and the advertising industries. You might say that is a good thing, but ask any large publisher what they think of Google and you will hear a torrent of bad language that would make a navvie quake.

Then there’s news. Google News is one of the stupidest concepts on the planet and is well on its way to destroying journalism, with hacks everywhere not bothering to cultivate contacts but simply copying what other hacks have written. So much for investigative journalism – Google News has turned hackdom into a crazy carousel.

The Google search engine is, of course, bloody useful, but it encourages laziness too and the search results are tainted by Google adverts.

Google’s motto about doing no evil implies it is doing evil.  These mottoes invariably turn into their opposites – think of the League of Nations, think of the United Nations.  Any organization that uses the word harmony contains within itself the seed of chaos.  Catchlines are minetraps.  Google is a money making organization and altruism is no part of that.

Don’t let yourself be bullied by Google. Nor by Microsoft or Intel. Rant over.

Dell says small is beautiful

Dell logoHardware company Dell has introduced two server products that  it claims are best of class.

It has introduced the Precision T1700 tower workstation which it is says is the smallest and lightest compared to the competition. The Intel based machines come with Nvidia or AMD graphics and has PCI x16 Gen 3 slots.  The T1700 SFF (small form factor) also has two front USB 3.0 ports.

In addition, Dell announced upgrades to its rack family – the Precision R6710 is suitable for datacenters.  It can support up to four single wide graphics card and can also support Nvidia Grid for virtualized graphics.

The R760 has 16DIMM slots, a 6GB/s LSI2308 SATA/SAS controller and uses dual Intel E5-2687W 160 watt eight core processors.

The R7610 workstation starts at $2,179, but Dell has still to price up the two T1700 workstations, available from June 4.

Dell price cuts fail to boost revenues

Michael DellA report claimed that Dell will announce results tomorrow that don’t match the expectations of financial analysts.

The Wall Street Journal claims to have talked to a person close to the matter who indicates profits continue to fall, as Dell slashed prices in order to boost sales.

The results were supposed to be out on May the 21st but have been brought forward, the source said.

And it indicates revenue will amount to around $14 billion, and comes against the background of potential buyouts from Michael Dell himself, in competition with Carl Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management.

It’s not just Dell that’s been slashing prices, but some suspect there’s politics related to the potential buyout that’s pushing the company to announce its results tomorrow, rather than wait a few weeks.

Microsoft readies a Surface re-run

Microsoft SurfaceWhile Microsoft’s Surface tablets proved completely underwhelming, a report suggests that the company might have another bash at the platform.

According to Taiwanese wire Digitimes, the company is expected to announce next generation Surface machines at the end of June.

The company only managed to shift 1.5 million tablets of the first generation Surface – way beyond what it expected to achieve.   But the pricing was all wrong and the competition in this field is now very intense.

The wire claims that the second generation Surface will largely retain the same suppliers as Surface Mark I – including microprocessors from Intel and Nvidia, screens from Samsung and LG and touch panels from TPK.

The report also said that displays for Surface Mark II will be smaller – supposedly because there’s more demand for these type of devices, although it’s entirely possible that Microsoft wants to bring down the bill of materials (BOM) costs. It will certainly have to do something spectacular to make Surface tablets fly – particularly on retail costs.

Dell appoints hardware.com premier partner status

Simon FieldhouseHardware.com said it has been accredited as a premium partner by Dell because of its sales and technical certifications.

Simon Fieldhouse, global sales director at hawrdware.com said the accreditation is because of the knowledge and technical expertise of its engineers.

Edward Owen, regional channel sales manager at Dell said that hardware.com had made high revenues within their certification areas. He said the Premium Partner status is a level assigned to top solution providers.

Dell changed its PartnerDirect channel programme two years ago into two levels, Preferred Partners and Premier Partners.  The idea was to rward solution providers that can show knowledge of Dell’s portfolio products. Only small percentage of the certified group reaches the top tier, Fieldhouse said.

High sales volumes qualify for extra benefits.

Avnet sales grew by 0.3 percent

hamadaGlobal distributor Avnet has released its third quarter results and compared to the same third quarter last year, sales are as flat as a pancake.

To March 30, 2013, sales amount to $6,298.7, up only 0.3 percent compared to the same quarter last year.

Gross profit margin of 12 percent was also essentially flat.

Rick Hamada, CEO of Avnet, said the quarter met the company’s expectations and were in line with normal seasonal patters. “We continue to navigate through an ongoing uneven economic recovery,” he said.

Both the company’s operating groups showed year over year “organic revenue declines”.  As a result, Avnet will contnue to cut costs and imprpve its margin.  Cost reductions for its entire financial year will be arund $140 million.

Performance in its Avnet Electronics group fluctuated wildly, with the Americas showing a minus 9.6 percent growth rate, while Asia growthrate amounted to 14.1 percent. The EMEA division showed a growth rate of only 0.8 percent.

Adobe and Sapient expand their partnership

RembrandtSapient Nitro – a division of Sapient – and Adobe have expanded their offerings by integrating the EngagedNow platform with Adobe’s Marketing Cloud.

The idea is to spread the offerings across web, social networking, mobile phones and digital displays, Adobe said.

EngagedNow, according to Alan Herrick, CEO of Sapient, is create multi-channel offerings without having to design and develop the back end infrastructure.

What this means is that the two firms offer hosted and managed services using Adobe Marketing Cloud with Sapient’s EngagedNow. The companies will build integrated offerings for vertical markets including travel, sports, entertainment, retail and financial services.

The worldwide partnership was announced at a conference held by Adobe in London, today.

Enterprise software driven by Cloud, Big Data

cloud 2A report from IDC said the market for enterprise software worldwide showed conservative growth during 2012.

It estimated that the worldwide software market grew 3.6 percent year on year – half the growth rate of 2010 and 2011.

However, some market segments grew by between six and seven percent, including data access, analysis, CRM applications, security software and collaborative software.

IDC said that the management of information for competiive purposes is pushing along applications associated with Big Data and analytics.

From the vendor standpoint, Microsoft was the leader of the applications primary market in 2012 with 13.7 market share, followed by SAP, Oracle, IBM and Adobe. Of these vendor, IBM showed the highest growth rate.

System infrastructure software made up 27 percent of total software revenues but that only grew 3.3 percent during 2012, compared to the previous year.
IDC_software

AMD launches battle against Intel over APUs

roytaylorcropAn interview with AMD last week shed light on the latest battleground between Intel and AMD which underlies future changes in computing.  In a meeting with corporate  vice president for global channel sales, Roy Taylor, he said  both AMD and Intel are investing in microprocessor architectures which give equal prominence to both serial and parallel computing. And he claimed AMD is ahead of the game.

Using both the CPU as a serial processor and the GPU as a parallel or GPGPU (General Purpose GPU) processor these new devices form a category that AMD calls the APU.  The APU will be the bedrock of a new generation of x86 based HSA or Heterogeneous System Architecture devices. Current generation APUs such as Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge and the forthcoming Haswell parts from Intel, and AMD’s Trinity and Richland parts from AMD still use separate memory configurations, with each processor  having its own defined memory block.

But future devices in 2014, said Taylor, will use single memory configurations, allowing both the CPU and GPU to dynamically share a single memory array and be true HSA enabled processors.  Intel’s introduction of an L4 cache to speed up the performance between its CPU and GPU is also an indication of its intentions.

In defense of his argument for APU as a new microprocessor category, Taylor showed a diagram that illustrated the increasing commitment by Intel to a larger GPU configuration in its APU generations.  These indicated, he said, the need for successful HSA architectures to be balanced.
figone
APUs and Open CL
The growth and success of Open CL, which is able to take advantage of APU devices by using the GPU to accelerate parallel functions, is further ammunition to the establishment of the category, said Taylor.  Popular applications such as Handbrake for transcoding, and VLC Player for watching movies, take advantage of this open standard maintained by Khronos and supported by AMD, Apple, IBM, Intel and Nvidia. Open CL received a strong endorsement last week by the announcement by Adobe that it is using Open CL to hardware accelerate its Premier Pro product.

Since HTML5 also takes advantage of GPU acceleration it seems to make sense that in the future we will see APUs used wherever there is a need for a device which can replace the traditional but separate PC configuration of having a separate CPU and GPU.  “That configuration makes sense for higher end systems’”, said Taylor. But in the meantime currently available APU performance is surprisingly strong, he said.  To this end he went on to show the performance of AMD current APUs compared to Intel’s or configurations using both Intel and a separate Nvidia GPU together.
figtwo
figthree
When asked what this meant for the channel, Taylor said that at a time of austerity, being able to build relatively high performance desktop and notebook computers at a fraction of their traditional prices could have a huge impact. He may be right but only if system builders and e-tailers recognise the value of the new category and get behind it.

A quick read of the HSA Foundation website seems to show a significant ground swell behind the use of balanced compute architectures.  With companies like Qualcomm, ARM, Imagination Technologies and Samsung also investing in HSA it does seem that we can expect to see strong developments in this area.  It will be interesting to see what Microsoft thinks of the use of APUs to power Windows and whether the software community in general gets behind the category too.

We contacted Intel in Santa Clara for comment but at the time of press had not received a response.

PCs lose out to tablets worldwide

Dodo-birdA report from analyst company Gartner said that the traditional PC market will slip in 2013 by 7.6 percent as people open their wallets to spend on tablets and smartphones instead.

Gartner said the availability of low end tablets coupled with the features they’re now able to offer is fueling the move from PCs to tablets.  Said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at the company: “While there will be some individuals who retain both a personal PC and a tablet… most will be satisfied with the experience they get from a tablet as their main computing device.”

Worryingly for PC vendors and X86 companies, people no longer think of PCs as devices that they have to replace regularly.

She said: “This is not a temporary trend induced by a more austere economic environment; it is a reflection of a long term change.”

Gartner estimates that worldwide tablet shipments will be 197 million units this year, a 69.8 percent increase.

And the Android operating system is set to dominate a mixed market which includes PCs, as this chart shows.
gart2013Gartner said that smartphones are becoming more affordable. “The trend towards smartphones and tablets will have much wider implications than hardware displacement,” Milanesi said.

PCs plunge as smartphones and tablets soar

ipad3The latest survey of connected intelligent devices from IDC has revealed what we were all beginning to suspect – the day of the PC has gone, while tablets and smartphones continue their inexorable ascent.

The survey covers PCs, notebooks and smartphones.

IDC thinks that shipments of tablets will exceed desktop PCs in 2013 and topple notebook PCs next year. The tablet market is expected to grow year on year by 48.7 percent, representing 190 million units, and the smartphone market  will grow 27.2 percent to 918.5 million units.

Apple did better than expected in the fourth quarter of 2012, closing the gap with Samsung. That’s because of sales of the Apple iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini, meaning that Apple had 20.3 percent unit shipment market share compared to 21.2 percent for Samsung.  However, from a revenue point of view, Apple had 30.7 share compared to 20.4 percent for Samsung.  In short, Apple kit is more expensive.

During the rest of the decade, tablets and smartphone sales will continue to rise, as they are taken up by emerging markets.  Notebook PCs will only show single digit growth and desktop PCs will continue to fall. By 2017, desktop PCs will show to practically no growth.

Megha Saini, IDC research analyst, said that in emerging markets in particular, consumer spending starts with mobiles but move directly to tablets before they think about PCs.