Author: Mike Magee

Intel forced to take axe to Ultrabook prices

titanicThe writing was on the wall for Intel-based Ultrabooks well over a year ago.

Overpriced, underwhelming, and facing massive competition from tablets and smartphones and trends such as bring your own device (BYOD), few families would take the risk of spending over $1,000 to have a bright shiny Ultrabook and keeping an eye on jobs and the general economic situation, large corporations weren’t going to splash the cash either.

So the news that Ultrabooks are set to cost far less for the holiday season this year is probably a case of too little too late. It also begs a number of questions about Intel’s business model which remain to be resolved.

Intel’s phenomenal growth was due, in a large part, to the monopolistic hold it had on the PC industry.  True, AMD was around to mitigate that, but it was only in the days of the AMD Opteron that Intel was forced to react.  Because it holds such a large X86 market share, that meant that the revenues from sales of its microprocessors allowed it to finance developing the next generation of its CPUs.  Building fabs is not a trivial matter and involves billions of dollars of investment.  Intel could afford to do this because during its so-called “tick tock” cycle, it was able to maximise profits on its current generation of semiconductors, while developing its next generation.

However, this continual growth could never be guaranteed, and disruptive technology, in the shape of tablets and smartphones, meant that given a choice, lots of people preferred to pay far less for tablets and smartphones rather than go for Ultrabooks at $1,000 plus.

And with this we come to applications and the realm of the other great X86 monopolist, Microsoft.  It’s certainly true that typing on a smartphone or a tablet is not nearly as convenient as using a conventional keyboard.  And if you are into solid beancounting, you’ll certainly need a sophisticated spreadsheet to manipulate the numbers.  Despite the now decades long promise of the paperless office, people still print stuff.  Microsoft, with Windows 8 and its tablet ready interface is too expensive.  It, like Intel, has lost its grip on the electronics market.

There’s another factor to consider, too.  Right now, Intel is in an interregnum period.  Paul Otellini, the current CEO, is due to leave at the end of May.  Intel is actively recruiting for another CEO, but that means, in the short term, that no-one is going to make huge company wide decisions.

In truth, it’s hard for me, as a seasoned Intel watcher, to see quite what rabbit the new Intel CEO, whoever she or he might be, might pull out of the corporate top hat.  Intel has been in fixes before, and because of its size and its sway can never be underestimated.  But it’s hard to see it making very much more than a ripple in the smartphone and tablet market, leaving it between a ROC and a hard place. It’s also hard to see where the complex supply chain it generates is going to end up, too.

Intel UK country manager off to pastures new

Graham Palmer, IntelA long standing senior executive at Intel UK is being promoted soon.

Graham Palmer, country manager of Intel UK, will become the country manager of Intel Canada, according to reliable sources.

Palmer has risen in the ranks at Intel over the 24 years or so he has worked at the chip giant. Known to practically everybody in the UK IT industry, he has held the post of country manager here for several years now.

At press time, Intel could not be contacted. A new UK country manager is expected to be appointed in the next week or two.

 

 

AMD makes pre-emptive strike against Nvidia

AMD, SunnyvaleDistributor sources close to AMD Germany say that the company will launch a new graphics product next month.

Codenamed Bonaire and with a part number of 7790 it is expected to cost around $155.  Performance is likely to be about 3,000 3D Mark Fire Strike.

Nvidia is preparing a a part to ompete with it, codenamed 650Ti Boost.  The unit is a 192 bit version of the 650Ti, but distributors are unhappy because it will interfere with 650Ti inventories.  It is likely to cost $180 or so and also scores about 3,000 3D Mark Fire Strike.

Pre-orders for channel partners for the Bonaire part are expected to be available towards the end of March.

Brother briefs channel man to boost relationships

Brother UK's Michael AndersonMichael Anderson has been appointed market development manager at Brother UK, with a brief to push its reseller sales.

Brother said that it has a strong product pipeline set up for 2013, and wants to capitalise on sales opportunities. Anderson’s brief is to support its reseller community.

Anderson has been promoted from inside Brother UK – he has worked there for three years, and will look after the development of its channel push, its marketing strategies and customer sales initiatives.

He said: “Brother has strong and successful partnerships with resellers and we plan… investment to these relationships over the next 12 months.”

He will report to Brother UK marketing head James Lawton-Hill.  Brother UK has 79 percent of the A3 inkjet market in the UK.

Dell signs secret pact with Icahn

Michael DellMichael Dell’s plan to spin off Dell Inc has hit a serious roadblock.

Last week Carl Icahn revealed he owned a big chunk of Dell and hit out at the original private equity proposal in conjunction with Microsoft and Silver Lake Partners..

And today, it seems, Icahn has stepped up the pressure by threatening it with legal action unless it accepted his plans to pump fresh cash into the multinational.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Icahn has signed a confidentiality agreement with Dell. But, the Journal said, the special committee that Dell set up to consider its future is reluctant to take the Icahn routemap.

Instead, it appears to be hoping that others will come forward to its aid. A number of partners has been slated including Dell rival Hewlett Packard – but it appears unlikely that HP will take a punt.

Meanwhile, business continues as usual, with Dell making a couple of product announcements.  It is creating a mobile strategies division that will develop custom applications for corporations, and advise large enterprises about mobility needs.

And it continues to push into the cloud – announcing that Dell Boomi will offer a data management and integration system, using MDM tools based on software as a service (SaaS).

iPad 3 case is a nice little number

Snugg ipad3 caseThere’s a lot of choice for iPad cases out there.  Out and about, on the train and the road, we’ve noticed a lot of Apple cases which are, frankly, pretty tacky.  If you’re someone who is status conscious, and you probably are if you’ve lashed out hundreds on your Apple device,  putting an expensive iPad 3 into a yucky case doesn’t really cut it.

Apple iPad3s can be considered rather fragile, so you really do need a protective case if you’re often out and about.

Snugg (thesnugg.co.uk) sent us, for review, a black leather iPad 3 case which sells for £29.99 in the UK.

At the same time as it acts as protection for your iPad 3, the unit also can be used as a stand, with two positions.  There’s also a strap you can shove your mitt into to hold the device – illustrated. This isn’t my mitt which is considerably older and more gnarled than this specimen.

This is a sturdy and well-made case with the black leather finish complemented by white stitching.  There’s space for you to insert your contact details so that if you leave it on the train and an honest person finds it, she or he can get hold of you.

HP tells partners to “look inside”® for CPUs

Look inside at The Venetian, Las VegasAt its Global Partner Conference (GPC) held at the Venetian, Las Vegas last week, we asked senior suits at the company whether Hewlett Packard was Intel only.

Executives told us foreign journalists that it was CPU agnostic, and that we should “look inside” to fashion our “ecosystem” experience.

A direct question elicited the response that if we looked inside HP servers we would find various microprocessors powering its servers, including ARM and AMD. Just look inside, we were told.  HP is not only an Intel company. Look inside!  Sounds like a Buddhist idea, but we’ll take HP’s word for it. For now.

Anna Cheng, a PR rep at Intel UK, declined to comment “on rumours and speculation”. Intel does own trademark “The Journey Inside“, which is pretty Zennish. ®

ChannelEye reviews the Venetian, Vegas

The Venetian, Las VegasI’ve never been to Venice, but I’ve been to the Venetian, Las Vegas before, although only visiting it rather than living in it.  In it?  And despite the tacky first impression of  gondolas, an artificially lit St Mark’s Square and accordian playing maidens in the lobby, there is more to this hotel than meets the eye.

I was staying at the Venetian because I was covering the Hewlett Packard Global Partner Conference and even though I was only there for two nights, I have decided that I like it. I like it a lot.  And it’s the people who work at the Venetian that make the place.  The check in lady was friendly, welcoming and efficient – the room was pleasant and bigger than the first flat I lived in – the staff were uniformly helpful, even when they weren’t wearing uniforms and went that extra mile.

Venetian, Las VegasAnd when I say that extra mile, I can tell you that if you are not fit, you will be fit even if you’re only staying for two nights. You will walk for miles and miles and miles, oh yeah. I was staying at room 9-525 and to get to the lift, sorry elevator, you are talking more than just a leisurely saunter. And when you get to the ground floor, it’s another trek to get, through the casino, to the Sands conference centre where the HP gig was on-going, or going on, as we’d prefer to say. The old Sands convention centre was awful – the new one ain’t too bad at al.

On the way to the casino, you will be entertained by nice lasses playing accordions and if you look up there’s a heap of paintings on the ceiling while your little legs attempt to make the grade.

Once in the casino, it’s another hike to get to the Sands conference centre and once you’re there there are floors and floors and floors and floors. But when it looked like I was getting lost, I just had to ask the staff and they sent me the right way on my safari.

Venetian: bar in the casinoOn the last day, I was due to be picked up at 5:45PM to make my way back to Blighty.  On the way back from the conference centre, I stopped by the bar in the casino.  I have got to tell you the barman working there (pictured) was one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and I can tell you I have met a lot of bar staff in my incredibly long life. I was fiddling around with Facebook on my StupidPhone and the barman said: “Talk to me! Stop playing with Facebook and talk to me!”  I talked to him. What a friendly and professional guy.

And so to the denoument of my stay at the Venetian hotel.  I had ambiguous instructions for where my pick up was supposed to, er, pick me up. I asked the bell hop, Luke from Kansas, to give me a hand to the pick up point.  We got to first one pick up point that didn’t work. Then we had to hike across the hotel to another which didn’t work either. Luke stuck by me.  In the end, one of the guys fired up his bus just to take me, on my own, to McArran airport, at no charge. So thank you driver Michael, and your fiancé, Linda, looks beautiful.

I would say what makes this hotel are the people that work in it. I have spent many hours in hotels and, also assessing corporations. The Venetian is a happy ship, that much is clear. I couldn’t fault the place, largely because of the pleasant people – in good moods – that work there.

PS I haven’t been paid for this review.

What HP really told its dear partners

HP Global Partner ConferenceLet’s face it, us journalists are like a dangerous bacillus for vendors. Although the press are important to HP, we must be kept in isolation, and any HP execs that come anywhere near us must be inoculated beforehand and go through extensive health checks afterwards to ensure they haven’t been contaminated.

So in the ICU unit at this week’s Global Partner Conference, we were kept carefully away from the 2,000 partners invited to the glittering jamboree at the very glittering Venetian hotel in swinging Las Vegas.

We attempted to visit a server briefing but we were ejected by an HP bouncer because he noticed that we were wearing a red badge – red standing for warning, of course.

It was hard to prevent us chatting to sources close to Avnet, Ingram Micro and Tech Data, however, and to sundry HP employees who hadn’t been inoculated. Because these chaps and chapesses haven’t been press trained, we will have to not name them and describe them as “sources close” to the companies. And we can relay the undoubted fact that although folk from the big distributors welcomed Meg Whitman’s pledge to be nicer to the channel, they will believe it when they see it, if you get my meaning.

We hacks didn’t get invited to the Gen8 Petting Zoo, which is a shame. We would have loved to see HP petting the channel. Nor did we learn about the new compact servers (need three pedestals), the future HP Smart Update Manager (SUM), the future HP BladeSystem interconnect and we weren’t briefed on HP’s Smart Storage Futures (power, monitor, internet).

We do know that Synnex is HP’s largest North American distributor, delivering over $3 billion sales every year. It’s HP’s number one distie and has over 45 percent channel share. A Mr Eric Doyle, from the Intel Corporation, delivered the message that Intel, HP and resellers are “better together”.  This Eric Doyle is different from UK hack Eric Doyle, who had a package waiting for him in reception. Confusion arose. The UK’s Eric Doyle was being asked to pay $7 to collect the Intel package. We didn’t see Intel’s Mike Magee there, either.

Dan Forlenza from HP and Aaron Arvizu from Intel impressed on delegates the importance of the enterprise tablet revolution. Those would be HP tablets with Intel chips inside, then. Scott Wiest, from HP, invited the resellers to “ignite new opportunities” with X86 servers and how to migrate IBM and Oracle Sun servers to HP ones, instead.

Ray Carlin from HP told partners that while there have been many predictions of the demise of bricks-and-mortar shops, lots of people still want to go into real shops. As ChannelEye knows only too well, people like to go into shops to eye up the goodies but fewer and fewer are buying there and after they’ve taken a dekko, go online to buy the kit instead.

All in all, the event was a very revealing snapshot of how HP treats its partners.  We were successfully confined to sealed test tubes and shipped out of Vegas with due despatch and without the plague breaking out in a widespread kind of a way.

HP’s Whitman brings cheers to its channel

Meg Whitman, photo by Mike MageeMeg Whitman, president and CEO of HP opened up her keynoting at the global partner event here in Las Vegas by stressing the importance of the channel. “I love the channel,” she said. “You are a huge part of our success and a huge part of our future.  “I want to provide an update to HP’s strategy and growth, demonstrate our commitment to the channel and to make it more profitable for the channel to do business with Hewlett Packard.”

“The last couple of years at Hewlett Packard haven’t been easy,” she said. But HP is turning itself round. “We know what needs to get done and we’re doing it.”  Last year she laid out a four year plan for Hewlett Packard. “My management team needed to come together with a realistic view of what we needed to do and what we needed to change.”

2014 will mean a recovery and the basis for future expansion, she said. “You won’t have to wait until 2015 to see progress. You will see the results this year. In 2013 we are on a very strong financial footing. Last year HP generated $10.6 billion of cash flow from operations. That’s more operating cash flow than Coca Cola, Disney and Fedex. A company with $10.6 billion in cash flow is a force to be reckoned wth.”

One of the biggest problems HP has had in the last few years has been churn in top management, she admitted.  HP has taken some of its old HR systems and revised them. Last year HP invested more in R&D, it launched a new advertising campain, and revised its entire communications and PR strategy.  HP has put an increased focus on the channel, she said.  HP created a party advisory board and surveyed 6,000 channel partners.

That showed HP was too complex to do business with, there are too mny complicated programmes and HP’s tools and processes were hard to navigate, Whitman said. It has implemented a single channel programme.  HP now has a very clear policy about taking business away from the channel and going direct. “This will simply not be tolerated,” she said, raising heavy applause from the channel audience.

“Partners are part of the DNA of Hewlett Packard and are an essential part of our future,” she said.  HP will make it simpler and more consistent to do business with its partners and strengthen trust and loyalty. HP has simplified the management of the channel and will work hand in hand in business growth.  “A fast no is far better than a slow no. A long yes isn’t satisfying either,” she said.

HP will rationalise sales and technical specifications and will simplify the support profile. There will be one partner programme across the whole of HP, she reiterated. HP will implement a simple compensation model generating rebates from the first sale. It will also remove caps and allow an unlimited pay out.  It will put more focus on making its compensation structure clear. There will be a new HP tool to simplify channel business. HP Financial Services will also chip in on the channel front.

She said that HP has a number of products so popular that there is a shortage, such as its storage portfolio and its Elite tablet, aimed at the enterprise market. She said that the leadership across the channel business had the power to do their best now. HP has kept its best and brightest executives but has brought in some new members of the management team.

HP to throw $5.1 billion into the channel

HP, tindall, channel, resellers, sands conference centre, palazzo, venetianAt its Global Partner Conference event here in Sands conference centre in Las Vegas today, HP boldly said it will spend $5.1 billion on the channel, worldwide, in financial year 2013. It will cut out some channel partners.

Dan Tindall, VP of worldwide channel sales (pictured) gave what he described as an overarching account of HP’s Partner One programme on different levels, including alliances and OEM deals.

It will introduce a simplified compensation model with rebates earned from the first units sold, better rewards for specialisations, and rationalised certifications.

“Our compensation model will be easier without gates,” said Tindall. HP will give increased rebates with a “more for more” model.  Expert One is one of HP’s programme – it is cutting own 44 specialisations to 22. HP will cut down the six month model to a three month model for rebates. It will simplify the programme in 2014 fiducial year too.

Tindall said it is improving the software tools for its partners. It will do joint business plans rather than the “ad hoc model” it had before on the MDF (marketing development funds) front. Resellers will be able to close deals faster.

Alliance One is for ISVs and improving it by education, programme certifications and test and development, particularly regarding the cloud, claimed HP. It will build up communities and let ISVs get to HP stuff immediately, online.

HP Autonomy will also simplify, or rather create a partner programme. That will all change. It will have one programme across all partners.  HP is at a point where the next phase of growth is partners, who give it reach into customers. Autonomy programmes were too complicated. HP Autonomy will follow the HP model and move it channel wise before 2018.

The worldwide programme will roll out on the 1st of May. HP sees no distinction between resellers in any territory.

Digital advertising revenues on the up

poundsUK publishers are showing more confidence in the future, with the Association of Online Publishers (AOP)  releasing information from its membership pool.  According to the AOP, digital advertising revenues grew 12 percent in the last quarter of 2012.

Classified, display and online video are all benefiting from the boost, the AOP said. Publishers are expected to concentrate less on cost cutting and more on growing revenues, the organisation said.

Head of research Tim Cain said that while the market is still tough, digital media owners have shown optimism for the past five quarters.

Of those canvassed, 63 percent said that launching new products or entering new markets is a high  priority in the next year.

The survey is jointly produced by the AOP and Deloitte.

Dell sells itself off to Dell and Co

Michael DellDell has confirmed it has sold itself to Michael Dell and associates for the princely sum of $24.4 billion.

Shareholders of Dell stock will receive $13.65 per share, when the transaction  concludes. That’s a premium of Dell’s share price of $10.88, which was its closing price before rumours of the sale started to surface.

The board of Dell, which includes Michael Dell himself, unanimously approved the merger agreement with Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners taking the company private.

Dell Inc has appointed a special committee to evaluate alternative proposals in a so-called go-shop period of 45 days.

Michael Dell said he thought the move was an “exciting new chapter for Dell” and its customers.  He said he has put a “substantial amount” of his own capital at risk together with Silver Lake.

After the transaction is completed, Michael Dell will continue as chairman and chief executive officer. Parties affiliated with Silver Lake include Microsoft, Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Credit Suisse and others.

Roman Abramovich buys big chunk of phone company

Roman AbramovichRussian magnate Roman Abramovich has plunged £70 million into phone company Truphone, giving him a 23.3 percent stake of the company.

Abramovich is the owner of Chelsea football club and is said to be worth over £8 billion.

Abramovich used his investment cmpany Minden, to take the stake.  The investment means that Truphone will take on 500 more staff over the next 18 months, with many jobs in the UK.

The British company was founded by Hames Tagg.  The technology lets you use a SIM card to access local voice, data and text services and at local rates in the 220 countries it covers, with local rates available here, in the USA, and Australia.

Truphone intends to open businesses in Hong Kong, Spain, Poland, Germany, and the Netherlands this year.

Samsung eats into Apple’s tablets

Samsung HQ in CaliforniaResearch firm IDC has released a set of figures showing that Apple’s dominance in the tablet market has started to slide.

But Samsung effectively doubled its market share in the last quarter of 2012, according to IDC. The Galaxy tablets sold nearly eight million units representing a market share of 2.2 million.

Apple, on the other hand, has seen its market share slip from 51.7 percent to 43.6 percent, although it sold more units.

IDC said that the last quarter of 2012 saw worldwide sales of tablets rise to 52.5 million units, a rise of 75 percent.

It’s not a direct correlation, but PC shipments fell in the last quarter of 2012. But even though Microsoft introduced the Surface tablet towards the end of last year, it only sold 900,000 units.  The price of the Surface is hurting sales, IDC believes.