Category: News

ICT sector goes backwards

First_Beauty_PageantIn a time when the ICT sector is banging on about equality, companies are still trying to cash in on the girl geek status.

This time, Datanews has taken the industry back to when girls were famed for their love of pink phones and fluffy gadgets, creating the title of ‘Young ICT Lady of the year’ 2013 as part of its ‘She goes ICT’ competition.

The beauty pageant, disguised under the tech umbrella saw 27 “talented and ambitious” women fighting it out for the title that was won by Karen De Smet, UMAX project manager at Itineris.

She beat off competition from Katty Verresen from RealDolmen and Mercedes Diaz – we can’t be sure this wasn’t a stage name – from Accenture after being “grilled” by the jury on why she should win.

Karen De Smet graduated from Suma Cum Laude with a Master’s in Business Engineering in 2009. She started her career as a functional consultant at Itineris but as a result “curiosity” she began learning about different sectors within the company and by the end of her first year, was already acknowledged as a consultant with high potential.

A few months later she took on the combined role of Functional Lead and Release Coordinator for one of the largest utility players in the Dutch market (Eneco).

When the job opening for Functional Solution Architect for a project at E.ON arose; Karen’s name quickly popped up on the shortlist of potential candidates.

Her new role entailed guarding and ensuring the overall perspective of the end-to-end product envisioned by and for E.ON.

Today, Karen is the project manager at E.ON, where she successfully implemented the Itineris’ UMAX “solution” for utility suppliers together with her team of Itineris consultants.

Canon snaps up IrisLink

Canon logoPrinting powerhouse Canon is bidding to take over all shares of scanning and document managing company I.R.I.S. Group SA, which runs irisLink.

There has been talk for some time over a potential takeover,but it has today officially entered a public takeover bid for all shares, warrants and stock options. The acceptance period runs from 6 February and ends 20 March 2013.

Offer price per share is EUR 44.50. Canon bought a 17 percent stake in the company in July 2009. According to an official statement, the deal will allow the two to “cooperate more closely” in developing technology – so it seems that IrisLink will still exist as it is but with Canon cracking the whip.

Iris president Pierre de Muelenaere said in a statement that Iris’ portfolio should complement Canon’s strategy nicely. The board of directors and management are unanimously supporting the bid so it looks like a sure thing. Sitting here in Louvain, Belgium, In a lengthy keynote, Muelenaere is highlighting the cloud and managed services, the latter which made the company become “more international” over 2012.

“Our customer doesn’t need a product anymore, they need a solution,” Muelenaere said.
Denis Hermesse, CFO, said that over the last year there has been a very difficult business background. He quoted a recent IMF release that revised the world economic outlook down again, particularly in the countries that do business with Iris. Customers need to “identify expense reduction” and that is the background over 2012.

Despite that, Hermesse pointed out that the company’s gross margin at EUR 61.4 million – revenue was EUR 100 million, and otherwise the company was stable over 2012. There has been a 12 percent increase with VARs and BPO, with Hermesse pointing out this is repeated growth. In the Canon segment, Iris increased the business by 15 percent. “We still have some cash,” Hermesse said, while Muelenaere added that over 2013 the company will be investing in growth initiatives, that 2012’s results were satisfactory, but he hopes 2013 will be better.

 

Zycko prepares for Flash flood

flash_gordon (1)The demand for Enterprise class SSDs is going to grow like topsy according to value-added distributor Zycko.

The outfit has just signed a partnership deal with Micron to provide its Client, Enterprise SATA and Enterprise PCIe SSD solutions to channel resellers.

David Galton-Fenzi, Zycko’s group sales director said that as the price of SSD drops and performance increases, the technology will take a leading role in data access and storage.

The SSD enterprise market has grown year-on-year and against this backdrop, Zycko has been looking for a manufacturer who can give it the products for its client list.

Meanwhile Micron wanted a partner to develop the enterprise market for its products. “In that sense the timing and nature of this partnership is perfect. There’s a gap in the market that Micron can fill with its cost-effective SSD solutions, known for their exceptional quality, low-latency and reliability,” said Galton-Fenzi.

The read speeds of the Micron Enterprise PCIe SSD are perfect for the rigorous virtual I/O demands of the current breeds of optimised data centres.

“It’s clear the SSD market is going to quickly grow and Zycko’s reseller network will be well positioned to help their enterprise customers benefit from best-in-class SSD technology,” Galton-Fenzi added.

He said that SSDs were reaching a price tipping point where the technology is becoming part of every major business storage network.

HMV to shut 66 retail shops across Britain

hmv-administrationHMV’s administrators announced Thursday that 66 retail stores across Britain will close their doors over the next two months.

HMV, which entered administration in January, currently operates 220 stores in the UK. Deloitte said the affected stores employ 930 staff, but no fixed date has been set for their closure yet.

Staff quickly took to Twitter, talking about redundancies made across HMV offices and distribution centres.

Deloitte, HMV’s administrator, is in talks with restructuring specialist Hilco about a possible takeover of HMV. Hilco is said to be in talks with suppliers and HMV’s landlords, as part of an effort to save about half of the shops in the UK, Express reports.

“This step has been taken in order to enhance the prospects of securing the business’ future as a going concern,” Nick Edwards, joint administrator at Deloitte, said. “We continue to receive strong support from staff and are extremely grateful to them for their commitment during an understandably difficult period.”

HMV became a hugely profitable enterprise following the introduction of CDs and cheap video tech in the eighties. It quickly expanded around the world, opening shops in North America and on the continent. Its retail operation peaked in the naughties, with 325 shops up and running. However, HMV failed to recognise the threat posed by online distribution to its traditional retail approach and by the late 2000s it was in more trouble than it could handle.

HMV is not the first retail outfit to face collapse due to online competition. Camera chain Jessops and DVD rental business Blockbuster were forced to close last month.

The HMV stores set to close over the next two months are:

England: Ashton-under-Lyne, Barnsley, Bayswater, Bexleyheath, Birkenhead, Birmingham Fort, Blackburn, Boston, Bournemouth Castlepoint, Bracknell, Burton-upon-Trent, Camberley, Chesterfield, Croydon Centrale, Durham, Fulham, Huddersfield, Leamington Spa, Leeds White Rose, Loughborough, Luton, Manchester 90, Moorgate, Orpington, Rochdale, Scunthorpe, South Shields, Speke Park, St Albans, St Helens, Stockton-on-Tees, Tamworth, Teesside, Telford, Trocadero, Wakefield, Walsall, Walton-on-Thames, Wandsworth, Warrington, Watford, Wellingborough, Wigan, Wood Green, Workington

Scotland: Dumfries, Edinburgh Fort, Edinburgh Gyle Centre, Edinburgh Ocean, Edinburgh Princes Street, Edinburgh St James, Falkirk, Glasgow – Fort, Glasgow – Silverburn, Glasgow Braehead, Kirkcaldy

Northern Ireland: Ballymena, Belfast Boucher Road, Belfast Forestside, Coleraine, Craigavon, Derry, Lisburn, Newry, Newtownabbey

Wales: Wrexham

Retailer scorns Blackberry’s “sold out” claims

blackberry-z10UK retailers have rubbished claims by the mobile phone maker formerly known as RIM that its white Blackberry has sold out.

BlackBerry boss Thorsten Heins buzzed enthusiastically that the BlackBerry Z10 white model is completely out of stock after only being launched last week.

While retailers have said that the BlackBerry Z10 has seen an exceptional first sales week it was not quite what BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins painted, when he claimed that the white version was sold out already and the black was hard to stock up again.

Mobile retailer Phones 4u has confirmed that while over 55 percent of its 680 stores sold out of the BlackBerry Z10 over the launch weekend, the lighter hued handset is, unlike Heins’ comments suggested, still available.

In fact Trusted Reviews said that if you are prepared to do the leg work you can easily find one. In the UK London-based Phones 4u outlets are the exclusive supplier for the white BlackBerry Z10.
Oxford Street has both colours and was telling worried punters that they did not have to run to pick one up as they had shedloads out the back.

Regent Street only had the white BlackBerry Z10 left.

Heins does need the Z10 to be a success, but does seem to be overestimating how well it is doing. Analysts claiming Heins is attempting to boost the hype surrounding the new device, particularly as many of them think that the phone is too little too late to save RIM, er Blackberry.

Scott Hooton, Chief Commercial Officer at Phones 4u said that while a few stores did sell out of the Blackberry Z10 on launch weekend, but the outfit replenished its stock within hours.

 

Alcatel – Lucent CEO steps down following $1.85bn loss

alcatel-lucentThe chief executive of struggling telecom equipment maker Alcatel – Lucent is leaving the company. Ben Verwaayen took the helm four years ago and tried to return the outfit to profit. He failed.

Alcatel – Lucent posted a $1.85 billion loss for 2012, compared to a $1.49 billion gain in 2011, so Verwaayen’s departure should come as no surprise.  Verwaayen announced his decision to step down in a statement Thursday, saying that now is the appropriate moment for Alcatel – Lucent to seek new leadership.

“Alcatel-Lucent has been an enormous part of my life. It was therefore a difficult decision to not seek a further term, but it was clear to me that now is an appropriate moment for the Board to seek fresh leadership to take the company forward,” said Verwaayen.

Philippe Camus, Chairman of the Alcatel-Lucent Board, said: “After due reflection, the Board has accepted Ben’s decision to step down as CEO.” Camus went on to thank Verwaayen for his efforts to stabilise the company over the past four years.

It remains unclear who will replace Verwaayen and he is likely to stay on until a successor is found. The company said it would consider in-house candidates as well as candidates from outside the company.

Although Verwaayen did not manage to turn things around, he can hardly be blamed for Alcatel – Lucent’s woes. The company was created following a $11.6 merger of Lucent Technologies and Alcatel in 2006. It has been downhill ever since. Verwaayen, the former head of the  BT Group, joined the company in 2008, after the previous American-led management was ousted.

Alcatel – Lucent has been trying to restructure and reposition itself in the telecom infrastructure market, but so far it did not have much luck competing against the likes of Ericsson and Huawei.

Google buys Channel Intelligence for $125 million

google-ICGoogle is continuously trying to improve its e-commerce business and its latest acquisition should give it a nudge in the right direction. The search giant bought e-commerce solution provider Channel Intelligence for $125 million in an all-cash deal.

Channel Intelligence is active in 31 countries and it offers a wide range of e-commerce services.

The company has been a partner of Google Shopping for years and the two outfits worked together on Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) and Product Listing Ads (PLA) products. In addition, Channel Intelligence offers a range of free services, including Facebook integration and product search widgets and an e-commerce back end, dubbed Shopping Engine.

Channel Intelligence announced the deal on its website, adding that all of its services will be available for years to come. The company has been around since 1999 and it tracks about 15 percent of all online transactions in the US. It is behind $2 billion in sales through referrals every year.

ICG group announced Wednesday that the transaction should be finalized in the first quarter of 2013. ICG is expected to realize $60.5 million in connection with the transaction.

“Building upon the perseverance and strong foundation laid by CI’s founder Rob Wight, I am extremely proud of the work we accomplished at CI,” said Doug Alexander, CEO of CI and President of ICG. “With the talent and hard work of the entire CI team, we successfully navigated a very complex marketplace, ending a record year that culminated in this very exciting acquisition.”

Wright said he is thrilled to see the recognition of CI’s value. He said the company’s vision was to simplify the online shopping experience and that he is very proud to see the vision executed to such a “great outcome.”

Get drunker by using diet soda as a mixer

boozebeltCutting calorie intake is a good idea, but it appears that mixing diet soda with alcohol might not be the best way of going about it.

A new study released in the journal Alcoholism, which we get for obvious reasons, suggests that diet soda can make long drinks quiet a bit more potent. Regular soft drinks stimulate the stomach in much the same way as a meal, but sugar free drinks don’t.

As every teen learns the hard way, having some food in your stomach delays emptying, hence it delays alcohol absorption as well. Since diet beverages don’t trigger the stomach to delay emptying, they allow alcohol to reach the bloodstream more quickly.

“The results were surprising,” Cecile A. Marczinski, assistant professor in the department of psychological science at Northern Kentucky University, told ABC News.  “We are talking about significant differences here. (…) Participants who drank diet soda with vodka had blood alcohol contents as high as 18 percent more than when sugar-containing mixers were used.”

Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Institute of New York, pointed out that southern European countries have lower rates of alcoholism in spite of increased alcohol intake for similar reasons.

“They always drink while eating,” he said.

However, based on our extensive experience and field trials, we can offer an alternative explanation – people in southern European countries tend to lie more. Just ask Greek creditors.
Marczinski argued that the choice of mixer can make a significant difference and that mixing diet soda with spirits could potentially have harmful consequences.

“In the long run, it’s more harmful for your body to be exposed to a higher alcohol concentration than a few extra calories,” she said.

However, the jury is still out on Marczinski’s findings. Boris Tabakoff, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said the study involved subjects drinking three to four drinks over a five-minute period.

“Few if any bars will serve you a drink that strong,” he said. “If you want to chug your alcohol to the point of consuming the equivalent of three to four drinks in five minutes, you should not worry about calories.”

He added that alcohol is packed with calories, so calorie-conscious drinkers would be better off limiting their alcohol intake than choosing sugar-free coke or Perrier with their whisky.

Surface Pro showered with negative reviews

 

surface-pro

Microsoft’s tablet push seems to have hit yet another snag. The first reviews of Redmond’s new Surface Pro tablet are in and they are not good at all.

Envisioned as business friendly tablet with unparalleled legacy compatibility, the Surface Pro was supposed to challenge the iPad and high-end Android tablets by wooing traditionally conservative corporate customers to embrace a tried and tested platform, more or less.

At least that was the idea and on paper everything seemed right. The Surface Pro is powered by a proper x86 chip and it runs Windows 8, ensuring compatibility with legacy applications. It also has a full HD screen, physical keyboard and a pretty high price tag, which should be justified by its unique feature set. However, reviewers gave the Pro no quarter.

The Verge reckons it is still a better choice than the Surface RT, which really isn’t saying much since the RT doesn’t appear to be a good choice at all. However, consumers can get a decked out hybrid for about the same money, which led The Verge to put forth a simple question: who is it for? Oddly enough, the Apple loving New York Times was a bit more lenient, concluding that the Surface Pro could be the right machine for a lot of people.

“It strikes a spot on the size/weight/speed/software spectrum that no machine has ever struck. You can use this thing on a restaurant table without looking obnoxious (much),” wrote NYT’s David Pogue.

AllThingsD was not impressed, concluding that the Pro is too power hungry and too difficult to use in your lap. “It’s something of a tweener — a compromised tablet and a compromised laptop.”

Engadget’s Tim Stevens tried to be a bit more positive, but it soon ran out of kind things to say. “When trying to be productive, we wished we had a proper laptop and, when relaxing on the couch, we wished we had a more finger-friendly desktop interface,” he wrote.

Business Insider was blunt as usual, saying the Pro is just like the RT version, only heavier, thicker, more expensive and with half the battery life. “It looks like a tablet, but you can snap on an optional (but essential) keyboard cover that turns the Surface Pro into a pseudo-laptop. So why would anyone buy that?”

So what exactly was the Surface Pro’s undoing? Quite a few of things apparently, but most of them are not restricted to the Surface Pro – they apply to all upcoming Windows 8 tablets. On the hardware side all appears well, but vendors have to use power hungry x86 chips in all Windows 8 tablets, rather than frugal ARM SoCs employed by Apple and the Android alliance. The OS itself is bloated, hence a lot of speedy solid state storage is required to come up with a feasible Windows 8 tablet. Android and iOS are a lot leaner. Less efficiency also translates into limited battery life and bigger batteries, increasing production costs and bulk. Modern Android tablets and the iPad mini measure just seven to eight millimeters at the waistline and no Windows 8 tablet can come close to that yet.

Still, legacy app compatibility and unbeatable productivity features could easily outweigh the drawbacks? Well they could, in 2009. Countless developers have spent long hours working on productivity apps for iOS and Android over the past three years, so Redmond’s productivity edge has been blunted. BYOD is another trend that is forcing companies to rethink their approach and embrace cross-platform software solutions.

As far as legacy apps go, Windows 8 tablets seem like the obvious choice, but there are a few caveats. Windows 8 still lacks native, touch friendly apps. Most legacy apps can’t handle touchscreens very well, which means the traditional keyboard and touchpad combo is a must. With that in mind, there is no good reason for those in need of legacy support to get a tablet, as an Ultrabook or hybrid will do just fine.

Windows 8 tablets were cleverly marketed as a natural extension of ultraportable notebook lineups, so many vendors were (and still are) a lot more interested in Windows 8 tablets rather than Windows RT gear. Between Surface RT’s slow sales and the unflattering Surface Pro reviews, Redmond’s tablet strategy seems to be imploding faster than a North Korean uranium warhead.

 

 

Public sector drawing up cloud contracts

cloud (264 x 264)Vendors will find themselves bidding for lucrative European government cloud projects soon.

According to the IDC Government Insights report for Cloud Trends for Western European Government Sector more than 56 percent of local government survey respondents and 42 percent of central government respondents have adopted or are planning to adopt internally hosted private clouds.

More than half of public sector groups are adopting or planning to adopt provider-hosted private clouds. Public clouds come second, with 28 per cent of respondents, and hybrid cloud is a distant third.
Among central governments, citizen Web portals and assembly management are the areas most under consideration.

Silvia Piai, research manager, IDC Government Insights said that the reseach suggests that public and hybrid cloud will gradually replace private clouds.

The study, with the catchy title, “Western Europe Government Sector IT Cloud Computing Trends, 2012–2013 (IDC Government Insights #GIPP12U, January 2013)”, is the third in a series of studies which say more or less the same things.
Not only are central and local governments about to make large cloud investments, but eventually Public clouds will become more important.

Microsoft confuses on Azure

clouds3Software giant Microsoft is trying to encourage its channel to come up with more cloud offerings by cutting the price on its Azure licencing.

Microsoft lowered Windows Azure price on SQL Reporting Services, which is used for business intelligence-type applications.
The SQL Reporting Service is now measured at increments of 30 reports at $0.16 per hour. The previous charge was measured at $0.88 per hour in increments of 200 reports.

Writing in its bog Vole claims that “the smaller report increment will give customers better use of the service and lower effective price points”.

Like most of the postings that Microsoft has made on its cloud offerings this one is as clear as mud. That is one of the things that resellers have been moaning about when it comes to Azure. The licensing arrangements are so Byzantine you have to be Constantine the Great to understand how they all work.

Customers have to pay for the compute time, data storage and data access and the bandwidth of the data transferred out of the cloud. Those various services get priced per GB. Then there is a monthly fee rolled into the overall cost if an organization uses SQL Azure.

To make matters worse, at the end of last year, Vole started reducing the price for Windows Azure Storage (WAS), claiming that costs could be reduced by 28 percent. WAS offers geo-replication storage support, as well as lower cost “redundant storage”. The geo-replication storage service is turned on by default.

However according to RPC magazine the service cannot be that good because when there was a two-day Windows Azure service disruption in December, Vole did not bother using it. If it had, Microsoft would have lost customer data.

Microsoft is apparently planning a few price more cuts which look even more complex as they are discounts based on spending tiers.

All this is because of the effectiveness of Amazon, particularly Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Amazon cut data transfer prices by as much as 83 percent. In addition, Amazon decreased some EC2 on-demand prices by up to 13 percent.

All up this is making the life of the reseller trying to sell Azure based offerings a little harder. Price cuts would make things a lot more competitive, if the original pricing structure was not so complex. Trying to sell such a complex structure to a client is a tough sell, particularly when the customer does not know what they are getting into.

Lenovo has nothing to fear from Dell deal

lenovo-logoOne of the few successful PC makers this year, Lenovo has said that it has nothing to fear from Dell going private.

For those who came in late, Michael Dell along with a consortium of chums which include Microsoft, bought up the with his name on it to make the hardware maker private.

The move will mean that Dell will not have to answer to any nasty smelly shareholders and Microsoft will be assured that it has a hardware base for its Windows 8 plans.
In a statement, Lenovo said that Dell’s actions will make no difference to its outlook. In fact the wording, which failed to mention Dell by name, seemed to imply that there had been calls for it to do something similar.

If Lenovo had been thinking of doing something similar that would have been surprising, nevertheless, the company seemed to be answering an unasked question “what will it do now?”.

In a press release Lenovo said it did not have to do anything, thank-you very much. Its strategy was clear, its financial position is healthy and its business is very strong.

Lenovo was “focused on products, customers and overall execution rather than distracting financial manoeuvres and major strategic shifts”.

Lenovo has enjoyed growth in sales and profits thanks to its strength in China and emerging markets so it never really need to change anything it was doing.

Since buying IBM’s PC business in 2005, Lenovo has grown fast and overtaken Dell in the PC market. It is the world’s second-largest PC vendor, is now only slightly behind market leader HP.
So Lenovo’s response to Dell’s sale is that “well we are not going to do anything like that” which is fair enough. We didn’t think it would.

Abiquo launches 2013 Global Partnership Programme

Hands across the waterAbiquo has launched its 2013 Global Partnership Programme, aimed at helping partners make the most of the Cloud.

According to the company, the global programme will aim to help resellers take advantage of this technology, which some companies may struggle to do.

Stuart Kerr, Abiquo director of partner alliances told ChannelEye: “The cloud can affect some businesses because of the way it works.

“If you look back traditionally resellers used a range of products from tech to licenses to fulfil their client’s needs. However, the cloud provides all in one solutions.”

He said the programme had been developed in response to increased demand and expansion opportunities worldwide, and “would also look at finding resellers in areas that the company hadn’t yet “reached out into.”

There are also four levels for partners to choose from, which Abiquo claims will help meet their customers’ cloud demands.

It is also hoped that the programme will help the company extend its ability to offer resellers a product that fully meets their customer’s needs as well as offering IT administrators and managers, for the first time the chance to really control every aspect of their cloud.

This ranges from billing to user identification.

Abiquo’s range of cloud software products are targeted at partners operating in the telecoms, healthcare, government and education sectors and are offered in four different options.

The company also says it has already formed a partnership with NEC, making it easier for their customers to deliver self-service cloud services to their enterprise customers.

The channel expansion will target partners in the appropriate vertical sectors and demonstrate Abiquo’s expertise in providing software solutions for these skilled industry areas.

No cash cow from dog chips – it’s barking mad

ChihuahuaCompanies hoping to make a few bucks out of new dog chipping legislation could end up disappointed with an analyst pointing out that that there’s not a lot of margins in this industry.

Malcolm Penn, an analyst at Future Horizons, has also advised chip companies looking to be favoured by the government to put away those expensive bottles of whisky, with favouritism illegal in this country.

The comments come as an anticipated announcement by the government is expected to order that all dogs are microchipped by 2016.

It is thought the moves will help owners reunite with lost or stolen pets, relieving the burden placed on local authorities and animal charities by stray dogs. It will also mean it will be easier to track the owners of dangerous dogs.

The chips will contain an electronic record of their owners’ name and addresses, as well as a unique identity number, which will be stored on a database in case the details are needed.

According to the Dogs Trust, more than four million dogs and cats in the UK have been fitted, with up to 8,000 new registrations every week.

However, prices on this process are varied. The Dogs Trust suggests that owners are looking at around £20-£30 to chip their dogs, while others claim that the cost could be as little as £5.

Malcom Penn pointed out that the cost would be far lower.

“These chips are not so complex, maybe five cents a pop for the IC manufacturer, and pet quantities are not that great – around 8 million dogs and cats – with a ‘renewal rate’ of say 1 million per year, assuming an average eight years life . So, US$5 million per year ongoing plus the one off surge.”

He also pointed out that although Infineon is the world market leader here, the UK  is unlikely to have a favoured supplier, as it’s illegal under EU regulations.

Ingram Micro says ta ta to senior chief

IMMegadistributor Ingram Micro said its Senior Director of its Volume Technology Group, will be leaving the firm in March.

Desmond Ling, who moved to Australia in 2011 to take up the job, has now decided to return to his home country of New Zealand to spend more time with his family.

His boots will be filled by Julian Phua who will rejoin the company on the 18 of this month under the title of  Commercial Director.

He will return to the company after a six year stint as general manager of product development and supply chain at Cellnet in Brisbane.

Prior to that stint, Phua spent almost 10 years at Tech Pacific and then Ingram Micro between 1998 and 2007.