Category: News

Google Shopping ads now extend to mobiles

google-mobile-ad-listingsGoogle is bringing Google Shopping product listings to mobile devices. Google has been serving up product listings on desktop search results for quite a while, but now it is taking them to cramped mobile screens as well.

A simple Google search on a phone or tablet will now result in several listings popping up above the organic search results.

This ad unit is labeled as ‘Sponsored’ and displays rich product images, prices, retailers and more. It might be a boon for some users and m-commerce outfits, but sticking an ad unit in mobile searches is bound to irk quite a few consumers, especially those who didn’t fall for the oversized smartphone craze.

Google explained the finer points of its approach in an Adwords Blog entry and it was quick to point out that the new service will allow potential consumers to narrow down their searches and save money in the process. It should boost Google’s mobile ad revenue and it also opens up a range of new possibilities.

The listings are location-aware, which means they could come in handy on the road, or abroad. Comparing prices, exchanging money or just getting a quick bite to eat in a new city should be easier than ever, especially if Google Now goes mainstream and lends a helping hand.

However, when you’re not on the road and when you just want to search for something, the ads will do what all ads do best – annoy you.

Tesco leaves horse and gobbles up Giraffe

GiraffeTesco is still seemingly trying to use every trick in the profit book to boost its customer base and raise its profits.

The supermarket giant, which earlier this week announced it had launched a price promise voucher scheme, is rumoured to be sticking its neck out and gobbling up eatery Giraffe for £50 million.

It is thought that the deal could see the kid’s eatery being opened up within the supermarket’s stores, letting  it target a different type of customer and attract more footfall into its stores and helping it combat the profit warning it announced last year.

The move is just one of many which the supermarket hopes will improve its figures. Over the past months its restructured its stores to make them seem less clinical, while its also tried to make more of a presence in the tech space.

Last month it announced it was introducing a  Netflix rival – a free TV streaming service called Clubcard TV.

The beta trial is only available to Tesco staff for the time being, but when it officially launches it will be available to card-carrying Clubcard members.

Brits lag behind US in mobile commerce

us-revolutionary-warAlthough British retailers seem to have an upper hand in European mobile commerce, a new report indicates that they are lagging behind their American counterparts in m-commerce.

The study was carried out by multi-touch retail technology provided Skava, and it found that only half of Britain’s top 100 retailers have optimized their websites for mobile devices. In contrast, all of the top US retailers have already done so.

The study found that revenue from mobile accounts for about one percent of all online sales in Europe. However, it is growing at a compound rate of 43.1 percent. Forrester estimated mobile revenue will account for 6.8 percent of European online revenue by 2017. That amounts to 19 billion euro.

Forrester analyst Martin Gill stressed that UK retailers have to adopt mobile tech if they hope to move forward. However, he also believes they will face plenty of challenges.

“A number of factors encourage and inhibit the adoption of mobile commerce… consumer trust, the convenience and value proposition of mobile shopping, the ease of payment and the availability of products at the right price,” said Gill. “European eBusiness executives in many countries have been slow to provide mobile-optimized experiences and these factors — both supply and demand — will continue to limit the opportunities.”

The study found that smartphone and tablet users tend to interact with their devices quite a bit differently than PC users. Hence, retailers’ websites must be optimized to cater to new platforms. They also need to respond quickly to new market trends and devices, which is easier said than done due to the mind boggling pace of progress in the mobile industry.

UK backs retail sector’s luxury expansion abroad

jewelsAs many as 1,000 posh retail outfits will get assistance from the government to foster further international growth over the next two years.

The UK Retail Industry International Action Plan was developed by the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and the retail industry. The goal is rather straightforward, taxpayer money will be used to help the retail sector expand into expanding overseas markets.

Business Secretary Vince Cable believes retail has a big role to play in British exports, as the government tries to rebalance the economy.

“With this action plan UKTI will back small and large retailers across the UK to grow and expand into new export markets,” he said in a statement. “The UK’s dominance in e-commerce puts retailers in a world-beating position to capitalise on the fast growing demand for British goods and luxury brands.”

The plan is focused on luxury retailers, who aim to expand into bustling cities such as Beijing, Moscow, Mumbai, Istanbul, Shanghai, St Petersburg and other cities with plenty of nouveau riche in white Bentleys.

According to International Business Times, the global retail sector is set to grow by 8 percent through 2016, which is not the case with most European markets, including Britain.

However, it should be noted that British retailers are doing rather well abroad, even without government handouts.

“Emergency measures” required to fix London’s high streets

highstreet“Emergency measures” must be put in place to improve the state of the high street, the London Assembly has said.

In its Open for Business report, the organisation said a vicious cycle on the high street has led to an increase in empty shops across the capital – up five percent to 3,400 in the past two years.

Businesses should be encouraged to open pop-up shops in vacant premises to help boost struggling high streets, a London Assembly report said today.

It said outer London high streets were particularly struggling because of tough economic conditions and changes in the retail industry, as people chose to shop at out-of-town centres and online.

However, it also blamed the number of vacant shops as a contributor to the decline, claiming these stores discouraged shoppers, and led to the closure of other retailers that might otherwise have survived.

The Committee has now said it wants immediate action from the Mayor, the Government and local boroughs.

It claims businesses should be encouraged to open pop-up shops in vacant premises to help boost struggling high streets. It also wants an expansion of small business rate relief paid for through a reduction in landlord’s rate relief on empty properties and a new register of owners of vacant shops so landlords can be easily traced.

The report also sets out other ideas to boost high streets, including improving accessibility especially for walkers and cyclists and prioritising turnover of car park spaces over maximising income.

Andrew Dismore AM, Chair of the Economy Committee, said: “The Mayor, the Government and local boroughs need urgently to follow our recommendations to bring empty shops back into use, stop the rot and so help our local high streets thrive again.“

The Committee also suggests boroughs should have powers to control any plans for betting shops, payday loan shops or pawnbrokers, to encourage more diversity in London’s high streets.

Avnet takes HP storage route

avnettsAvnet has made its SolutionsPath methodology available with HP storage products.

The agreement has been signed to offer business partners in EMEA bespoke, customer-based storage services over a 12-month period.

The service, which is based on skills, training and business generation tools is also said to  deliver competitive storage capabilities.

StoragePath is part of the wider SolutionsPath methodology which focuses on making key high growth markets more accessible to partners.

The new deal will now offer customers the ability to be able to utilise Avnet’s common tool sets, local industry knowledge and technology capabilities to identify profitable storage strategies and bring business benefits directly to their customers.

StoragePath is also said to  help with customer profiling and advanced lead generation techniques to help channel partners tailor their offerings and deliver more compelling propositions to their customers.

Geeks more in demand than fashionistas

BillgatesIT and web design hirings are growing at a much faster rate than those in retail, research has found.

According to specialist technology recruiter Greythorn, 32,000 IT and web design jobs were created over the past year, marking a 12 percent rise, while retail job hirings rose by only three percent.

In the IT sector the biggest increase in jobs has been in web design which has risen 19.4 percent from 31,000 to 37,000 roles. The number of IT business architects and system designers has also risen 18.8 percent from 85,000 to 101,000 in the same period.

Graythorn said the contrast in hirings could be put down to the fact that online spending in the retail space had grown.

According to figures by the British Retail Consortium, online sales grew 10.9 percent in the year to February 2013, two and half times the rate of total retail sales, while the Office of National Statistics found an 8.7 percent increase in online retail sales despite a 0.6 percent year on year fall in overall retail sales.

Graythorn said that this had a knock on effect on the IT industry with large retailers hiring staff to work on their online and IT teams. One example is John Lewis which announced it would be hiring 100 new online staff, while making managerial cuts on the shop floor.

From their own figures, Greythorn said it had also seen growth of 89 percent in IT roles placed in online retail over the past year, compared with the previous twelve months.

Mark Baxter said as online shopping grew, companies were increasingly investing in improving the customer experience and the back office operations supporting online sales. He said this was a key stage in transferring to a high tech economy.

“The number of specialised new roles is growing and that is only good news for IT professionals,” he added.

As well as an increase in jobs, IT salaries are also typically higher than those in retail. The average salary of an IT system designer is £37,092, whereas a Retail Manager, with a similar level of seniority, earns an average salary of £21,237.

However, the recruiter pointed out that due to increased numbers and new roles, IT pay had seen slow growth with rises of 0.35 percent for IT system designers and 1.18 percent for software developers, and there has been a -0.45 percent fall in pay for web designers.

Pay growth in retail was described as a “mixed picture”, with strong rises of 3.13 percent for retail managers, but falls of -2.01 percent and -2.39 percent for sales cashiers and retail assistants respectively.

PEER 1 Hosting makes King a Channel chieftain

PeerPEER 1 Hosting has appointed Mark King its EMEA Channel Executive.

The global IT hosting provider has said that Mark will lead the EMEA channel programme, with his efforts focused on nurturing PEER 1 Hosting’s existing partnerships as well as bringing on board new partners who can join in building on its rapid growth.

Mark worked with  companies like Avnet in the IBM Business Unit. He says he is now keen to “drive dialogue between PEER 1 Hosting partners to ignite collaboration and enable them to develop intrinsic skills to advise, build, sell and integrate solutions together”,

The appointment follows a recent announcement by PEER1 Hosting, which has
expanded its strategic alliance programme. It claims that its partners who consult, build and deliver business critical services to medium and large organisations are vital to PEER 1 Hosting.

Ingram embraces Cisco partners

Jay MileyIngram Micro’s North America Services Division has made its Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) available to qualified Cisco channel partners across the US and Canada.

Powered by Cisco, the cloud service has already been available in beta with select Ingram Micro channel partners for several months. It is now set to be demonstrated live at Ingram Micro’s 2013 Cloud Summit April 7-10 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Featured on the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace, the Ingram Micro HCS is, it is said,  an end-to-end system that lets partners make subscription-based, “as-a-service” offerings around Cisco Collaboration technologies including Cisco Unified Communications, Cisco Customer Collaboration and Cisco WebEx.

The service is also said to include the full range of Cisco Collaboration functions along with the tools to deliver these to the end customer in an automated, standardised and efficient manner.

Ingram Micro is also taking advantage of the Cisco Advanced Services team to help its channel partners provision and deploy the service, as well as offering round the clock service management, monitoring and Level 2 and Level 3 technical support.

Jay Miley, vice president and general manager, Advanced Technology Division, Ingram Micro US said that by engaging Ingram Micro, and utilising its dedicated Cisco Business Unit and growing Cloud Marketplace to offer HCS-as-a-service, Cisco channel partners could “establish a new recurring revenue stream without having to invest in the upfront capital to get the business moving.”

Acer triples tablet shipment target for 2013

acer-logo-ceAlthough Acer is still one of the world’s leading PC makers, it hasn’t had much luck in the tablet market. The same goes for most PC makers, but things could be about to change. Acer has tripled its tablet shipment target for 2013 and unsurprisingly it aims to focus on cheap gear. 

According to Focus Taiwan, Acer’s tablet shipments in the current quarter could reach 65 percent of its total tab shipments in 2012. Back in February Acer said it would ship about 5 million tablets this year, up from 1.8 million units shipped in 2012.

The biggest seller is the Iconia B1, an entry level 7-incher with a price tag of just $150. Acer President Jim Wong pointed out that the Iconia B1 is part of a wider product line and not the only model, which means more cheap Acer tablets are in the works.

“We expect this year’s shipments to grow 3.5 times from last year,” he told a press briefing.

The cheap Iconia B1 is expected to account for 15 to 20 percent of Acer’s tablet shipments this year. The company said it would introduce new models with 8-inch and 10-inch screens by Q3, with prices starting at about $200.

The global tablet market is expected to grow to 240 million units this year, outselling traditional notebooks by more than 30 million units.

Industry thinks digi-wallets and NFC are overhyped

google-walletThe payments industry is slowly starting to adopt new mobile payments technologies, but industry leaders believe that the digital wallet concept is overhyped, along with NFC.

The Payments Innovation Jury, an anonymous group of 25 industry leaders gathered in a hollowed out volcano, reckons the next wave of e-payment innovation will come from Asia rather than Europe.

The secretive Payment Innovation Jury features members from 14 different countries whose names are kept private, so they can speak freely. Most members are or have been high level execs in companies such as MasterCard, PayPal and Visa, reports Venture Beat

In their latest report, the jury concluded that NFC and digital wallets are overhyped, and we tend to agree. Most members don’t believe NFC will live up to its hype and many reckon there is no demonstrable need for contactless payments from consumers. However, it is worth noting that NFC has plenty of applications other than mobile payments. More than half of the group believe digital wallets will replace credit and debit card payments, but a sizable number don’t agree.

“The Jury offered their views on which payments innovation has the greatest hype rating and therefore the biggest risk that the business case will not be achieved,” the report said. “Hype is particularly prevalent in payments, with many organizations trying very hard to talk up their chosen innovation in order to achieve the necessary critical mass.”

In other words it is beast to tread carefully, just in case. Many outfits are indeed trying to talk up their solutions, but we are still a long way from widespread adoption and standardization. One jury member argued that progress in Europe is hampered by standardization initiatives such as SEPA, but a lot of innovation is expected from Asia and Africa.

Interestingly, the group found that cross-border remittance services have a lot of potential. Sending money abroad via mobile payment solutions could be the most profitable niche over the next five years. It is a rather big market. Plenty of countries in Eastern Europe, North Africa and practically the entire third world have sizable expat communities who send money back home on a regular basis.

Computacenter says “stumble in Germany” resulted in profit loss

poundsComputacenter has reported a four percent profit loss for the full year claiming it “stumbled in Germany”.

The British company said its profits stood at £71.3 million in 2012, compared to £74.2 million in 2011.

It blamed the loss on higher costs from new contracts, which bled into margins in the services business in Germany, its second-largest market by revenue.

And 2013 doesn’t look to be an easy road with the company claiming that this year would be dependant on the speed of recovery from the “problem contracts” in Germany, which it said was unpredictable.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom with the company reporting group revenues jumping 2.2 percent to £2.91 billion  compared to 2011’s  £2.85 billion.

Mike Norris, Chief Executive of the company said: “We expect 2013 to be a year of progress for Computacenter. While the Group financial outcome for 2013 will be dependent on the in-year performance of Germany and the speed at which we recover from our problem contracts, which is unpredictable, we are confident that these contracts will improve.

“More importantly, winning, contracting and taking on new contracts successfully, is more fundamental to the long-term growth of the business and its strategic development. This will be underpinned by our new Group operating model, which has taken effect in the UK and Germany, since the start of 2013.”

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).

Tech execs still dislike Windows 8

msWindows 8 has failed to rejuvenate the PC market and even hopes of a Win 8 tablet push are slowly evaporating. Jun Dong-Soo, the head of Samsung’s memory division, recently said Windows 8 is no better than Vista, which is pretty much the worst insult one can bestow on a Microsoft product.

Dong-Soo pointed out that the PC industry is still shrinking despite the Windows 8 launch and he also said Redmond’s Surface tablets aren’t doing well, which is hardly a secret. What’s more, Dong-Soo is not alone. Computerworld reports that an HP exec recently said that the Surface RT is too pricey, slow and not very nice to use.

Acer president Jim Wong also believes Windows 8 is not successful. However, Wong told the Wall Street Journal that he expects sales of Windows 8 touch enabled devices to pick up in the second half of the year. This does not mean that we will see tons of tablets, as it is more than likely that the bulk of Windows 8 touch devices will be Ultrabooks and hybrids.

Many are now looking to Redmond for some action, any action will do. IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell told CNET that it might be time for Microsoft to start thinking about some changes.

“There were certain decisions that Microsoft made that were in retrospect flawed. Notably not allowing people to boot into desktop mode and taking away the start button. Those two things have come up consistently. We’ve done some research and people miss that,” he said.

In retrospect, the decision to ditch the start button was probably a wrong call on Microsoft’s part, as many Windows users tend to be rather conservative and fear change. O’Donnell says it is time for Microsoft to rethink its design, relying on input from PC makers. He argued that Microsoft should change the OS, allowing it to boot to desktop mode, as many users simply dislike the new Metro UI.

However, Microsoft is is still not saying anything on design changes or possible price cuts. O’Donnell believes Windows 8 sales are “horribly stalled,” so it might not be too long before the company is forced to take action. In doing so, it will tell the world that its Windows 8 strategy was flawed, on top of its flawed tablet strategy. And smartphone strategy, search strategy, social strategy, consumer electronics strategy and just about every other botched idea that came out of Redmond since Vista.

Alvea Services launches Infrastructure Service

Hands across the waterAlvea Services has launched its Infrastructure Service, aimed at helping companies with additional virtual servers.

The managed security and cloud-based computing provider, says its new Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) has been designed for organisations that may need to vary their computing capabilities at a moment’s notice to match the changing needs of their business. Rather than have to invest in an IT infrastructure that may lie redundant when full capacity is not required, they are claimed to be able to use Alvea’s new service to quickly and easily provision additional virtual servers when they need them.

The company says this is is particularly important for project-based businesses, those that operate around seasonal fluctuations in demand or those that may need additional resource for testing or short-term data processing.

A key feature of the new service is its secure data seeding capability, either via encrypted hard disk or high-speed internet transfer, which allows businesses to move their data to the cloud quickly and securely. There is also a simple user interface to give clients instant provisioning of IT security and cloud services with a pay-as-you go model so that IT departments can react quickly to the changing needs of their businesses and only pay for the computing power they use.

The new service has been built around a UK-based data centre to comply with data “sovereignty” and security requirements and is operated by IT security and data centre management specialists.

The service is delivered and supported by a network of IT and security resellers that provide technical support and advice on how Alvea Infrastructure can be integrated into an organisation’s existing IT environment.

To demonstrate the service,  Alvea is offering businesses free trials of the service, for a limited period of time, and inviting them to ‘try before you buy’ to test out the flexibility of the new service.