Category: News

Bitcoin hopes to take on big players

bitcoinBitcoin is slowly gaining more support from mainstream businesses, but it is still largely relegated to transactions involving virtual goods, gambling or some even shadier activities. Bitcoin Store hopes to change all that.

The outfit focuses on consumer electronics and gadgets and according to The Verge,   it has a pretty good variety of products to offer. Since it’s not the first Bitcoin retailer out there, the company hopes to make a name for itself by undercutting the competition, including the likes of Amazon and NewEgg.

Bitcoin Store head of marketing Jon Holmquist said the whole point of the site is to demonstrate that both consumers and businesses can save a bit of cash simply by using Bitcoin. He said that Ingram Micro is the site’s supplier and that all large electronics sites use the same supplier.

However, the Bitcoin Store somehow managed to get into the highest pricing tier for Ingram Micro, which means it is the first time that a Bitcoin company is getting products at the same price as conventional retailers.

“It really showcases how much cheaper it is to pay with Bitcoin,” he said. Holmquist went on to point out that pricing on the site changes automatically as Bitcoin exchange rates fluctuate.

He also pointed out that the site’s owner, Bitcoin guru Roger Ver, decided to keep all Bitcoins amassed from sales, as he believes Bitcoin will continue to rise in value.

Tyan launches cheap, powerful server stuff

Tyan1Tyan has launched products aimed at people looking for powerful and cheap computing performance.

The server platform design manufacturer has shown off the Tyan TA77-B7061, its latest and flexible 2U GPU supported platform; the S7042, entry-level dual socket motherboard -GT62A-B5512 and the GT20A-B7040, the “cost-effective” 1U server at CeBIT.

The TA77-B7061 is said to help consumers who are looking for accelerated data-processing and efficient computing performance as a result of supporting up to four GPUs in a 2U server chassis, it is also said to save server and rack space through the use of Intel Xeon Phi processors, NVIDIA Tesla K20 Series and ATI FirePro.

The TA77-B7061 supports Intel’s Xeon E5-2600 Series Processors, (8+8) DDR-III R/U/LR-DIMM,  PCI-E x16 G3 slots, PCI-E x8 G3 slots,  GbE ports and 2.5” HDDs.

The S7042 motherboard is targeted at the SMB market, claiming to offer these sectors a cost-effective platform.  It is claimed to have multiple expansion slots and a cost-optimised dual socket motherboard designed for SMB and workstation environments.

Those looking for strong performance with a weak price tag are said to benefit from the GT62A-B5512 which is a one way 1U rackmount server, which is claimed to target nearline storage, and  bring down the cost of server deployment.

HMRC to introduce massive PAYE changes this April

hmrchqIn just under a month, HMRC will demand all employers, and by extension, all employees will have to move to a new PAYE system – Real Time Information.

In April, the RTI will immediately become effective. For such a considerable change in employment law, the changes have not had much visibility. According to the HMRC website, from 6 April employers must report PAYE information to MRC in real time – in effect meaning employers, accountants, bookkepers or a payroll bureau will have to submit data to HMRC each time an employee is paid, when they are paid. Using a payroll system, they will have to send the information electronically as part of the routine payment process.

The website boldly asks if you are ready for RTI. A survey late last year from the Federation for Small Business revealed that as many as a quarter were not, at the time, prepared at all. Asking 1,700 small firms, 25 percent had not heard of the RTI programme, and just 16 percent of those asked were fully aware of all the details.

Critics have slammed the move as purely political, as the changes are propping up the payments of Universal Credits. HRMC claims that it is aiming to make it more simple to report new starters and leavers, plus making the entire payroll process more simple. At the time of the FSB’s survey, in October 2012, most respondents were not confident that RTI will help achieve those aims. Over sixty percent of small businesses it contacted had not had any correspondence from HMRC.

With just under a month to go for businesses to understand the changes, one SMB told ChannelEye that RTI is a disaster in waiting.

“This year is going to be a disaster,” ChannelEye heard. With barely any visibility to such a massive and immediate change, there are bound to be teething problems if not all out chaos for small business. “Just stand back and watch it all go pear-shaped,” our source said.

A spokesperson for the Federation of Small Businesses said, speaking with ChannelEye: “HMRC has completed a pilot programme and has written to small businesses but we still believe that some businesses won’t know the extent of the changes they will have to make.

“It is going to be a huge learning curve and possibly mean additional costs for small firms if they have to buy new software or use their accountant for longer,” the spokesperson said. “All small firms will have to report in their payroll and we think that the smallest of firms will need to have much more education than the largest of firms.

“HMRC should use the results of the pilot programme to put clear guidelines and a clear education plan for small firms together,” the spokesperson said. “We are pleased that HMRC has said that they won’t implement fines in the first 12 months of the scheme, but they must educate firms within that time if mistakes are made.”

CPU scammer jailed for 10 more years

JasbinderA criminal who was running a multi million pound scam on the back of mobile phone and CPU sales has received a further 10 years in prison for failing to pay a £14 million confiscation order, HMRC has said.

In a statement, HMRC reported Jasbinder Bedesha was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison in 2008 for his role in a missing trader VAT fraud. Mobile phones and CPUs would be imported mostly from Dubai, via Europe, into the UK, and then be sold on through other companies – but with VAT added. Once they were sold on several times they would be exported back to Europe, so the conspiracy could then claim back VAT credit on the purchase of goods. This, of course, was never paid to begin with.

Cash from the scam was laundered through companies in Dubai and Spain before dividing the profits.

Assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, Dave Cowie, said in a statement the further ten years shows revenue and customs’ muscle, that it will “pursue every avenue to return the proceeds of crime to the nation or defendants will face severe consequences”.

He said HMRC will continue its investigations to find the missing cash.

This was a planned and “ruthless” attack, Cowie said, to steal “vast amounts of public money”.

“They enjoyed extravagant lifestyles, exclusive homes, performance cars and designer jewellery,” Cowie said, “ultimately at the expense of law abiding tax payers”.

 

Dell Sonicwall’s SuperMassive firewall works on LittleTiny power

dellsigDell SonicWall, the acquisition that rolled the company into Dell Software Group, has announced an enterprise class firewall that promises, the firm says, to deliver robust security, performance and scalability, the SuperMassive 9000 series.

The firewall is capable of providing threat protection at multi gigabit speds with close to zero latency, Dell Sonicwall said. Included in the series are the 9600, 9400 and 9200 models which all offer IPS and application control performance in speeds up to 12Gbps. Dell claims the products are power efficient with total cost of ownership and power, space and cooling requirements optimised with specifically for enterprise data centres.

Dell rolled out a client at the University of South Florida’s Pediatrics Epidemiology Center, which said that the organisation saved heaps of cash with the investment and performance increased “10-fold” after deploying.

Dell SonicWall’s exec, Patrick Sweeney, urged companies to consider the damages volume, form and sophistication of malware can have on corporate networks. “At the same time, enterprises struggle to balance the need for network access and performance with network protection,” Sweeney said.

Dell boasted that the SuperMassive 9000 series can get to threats before they enter networks, by casting its eye on all traffic worming its way in. This is largely thanks to Dell’s Reassembly-Free Deep Packet Inspection, or RFDPI, tech, which looks at every packet across all ports.

 

Ingram Micro rides high on reseller programme wave

IMIngram Micro said that its time and investment in its resellers is paying off and has launched more partner programmes as a result.

The distie, like many, centres its efforts around education and training for its partners, which it hopes will boost morale and help them sell more products.

And according to Arnet the company is riding the wave of success as a result of a range of initiatives launched over the past year. This includes its enablement training programs, aimed at the SME market, and helped bring in the bucks for the resellers in this sector.

The distie has also launched major programmes including  the Microsoft Training Academy and Microsoft Customer Immersion Experience, which it claims are doing so well that they have been over-subscribed and forced the company to lay on more of these events over the next month, while its Symantec and VMware launch and learn events have also paid off.

The company, which said it a statement that it believed “education and training were key enablers for its reseller partners” has now launched two more programs for March.

Veeam Campus is a program claimed to provide training and certification for Veeam products, while Cloud Advance has been created in partnership with UberGlobal and Microsoft to assist resellers in identifying and capitalising on cloud service opportunities.

The distie warned that interest in both new programs was strong already and early registrations were filling quickly.

IM resellers can register for both free programs immediately.

Seagate to phase out 7200rpm notebook drives this year

seagate-hddSeagate is planning to kill off 7200rpm notebook hard drives by the end of the year, but the decision is raising quite a few questions, and eyebrows.

Ultrabooks and high end notebooks have already shifted to SSDs, or in some cases hybrid drives, hence Seagate’s decision should come as no surprise. Traditional 7200rpm drives tend to generate quite a bit of heat and they need a lot more power than SSDs, so they’re anything but an ideal choice for thin and light notebooks.

David Burks, Seagate’s director of marketing and product management, told X-bit Labs that the company will stop building 7200rpm notebook drives “at the end of 2013”. Seagate already offers a range of hybrid 2.5-inch drives to OEMs and retailers, but it is expected to refresh its lineup later this year. The phase out should coincide with the introduction of next generation Seagate hybrid drives.

Western Digital recently showcased its first 2.5-inch hybrids, with a lot more NAND cache than Seagate Momentus XT series hybrid drives, but neither company has made a serious effort to enter the SSD market, which is overcrowded as it is.

However, although Seagate will stop producing 7200rpm notebook drives this year, they will probably be on the market for the better part of 2014. Since Western Digital is a relative newcomer to the hybrid market, it might keep building 7200rpm drives a bit longer, although it is more than likely that WD will drop 7200rpm drives in favour of hybrids as well.

iPad mini sales figures prove Steve Jobs wrong

iPad-miniLess than three years ago, Apple boss Steve Jobs famously proclaimed that 7-inch tablets would be dead on arrival. However, according to the latest NPD DisplaySearch statistics, small tablets are doing rather well and Apple’s own iPad mini is overtaking full size iPads.

The iPad mini got a lukewarm reception when it launched last year. Many tech hacks did not like it, although the usual shills went out of their way to prove that it is the best thing since sliced bread, but on the whole it was just a repackaged iPad 2 with a somewhat smaller screen. However, it did have a couple of things going for it. It was a lot smaller and lighter than 9.7-inch iPads, and it launched at $329.

Many didn’t believe Apple would experience much cannibalisation, as the iPad 3, with its gorgeous Retina display, was in a league of its own a year ago and the iPad mini seemed like a compromised product with subpar specs. It was thought there was enough of a gap between the two form factors to prevent cannibalisation. That assumption was wrong.

NPD’s figures show that shipments of 9.7-inch panels fell off a cliff over the past couple of months. Total shipments in December were 7.4 million, but late last year Apple kindly asked Sharp to reduce production to a minimum, so January shipments were just 1.3 million. Meanwhile shipments of 7.9-inch panels increased, hitting 5 million units in January.

NPD DisplaySearch reckons Apple was planning to ship 100 million iPads in 2013, but that figure has now been revised to 88 million units. Apple originally expected it could sell 60 million 9.7-inch iPads and 40 million minis, but now it seems that it will sell just 33 million 9.7-inchers and a whopping 55 million iPad minis.

Apple was never afraid of cannibalisation. If it came up with a new product, it would let it eat into sales of existing products, no questions asked. It is better to cannibalise your own sales than to have someone else do it for you. However, Apple might be getting a bit more cannibalisation than it bargained for, coming from a dead-on-arrival 7-inch tablet. It is also worth noting that the iPad mini was the first iOS product Steve Jobs did not sign off on. Intel has never mastered the art of cannibilisation.

Google Play gift cards set to hit UK

googleplaycardsGoogle Play gift cards are coming to the UK, just three months late for Christmas. Google has apparently leaked a few details on its Google Play Support page, indicating that British Googleites will soon be able to pick up virtual gift cards.

Google launched its gift card service in the US last August, in four denominations: $10, $15, $25 and $50. Britain is getting three denominations, £10, £25 and £50. However, it is still unclear when Google will roll out the new service and the company is not commenting. With plenty of references on its own pages, it shouldn’t be long before we see the cards on sale across Britain.

The leak was unearthed by Android UK News, which also reports that the maximum credit allowed will be £2,000. That should be more than enough for any Google Play addict.

The big question at this point is who will carry them? Carphone Warehouse and similar outfits are the obvious choice, but we could be in for a surprise.

Google might be too late for Christmas, but in a few months time Brits should be able to spoil their offspring with hassle free virtual gift cards.

Windows 8 fails to woo people’s hearts and minds

msNobody expected Windows 8 to have a huge impact on the sluggish PC market, but now it seems that things could be a bit worse than Redmond would have us believe.

According to monthly statistics from NetMarketShare, sales of Windows 8 are not picking up much speed. In fact, in February Windows 8 ranked behind XP and Windows 7, with 38.99 per cent and 44.55 per cent share respectively.

At 2.76 per cent of web traffic, Windows 8 is even trailing behind Vista, one of Microsoft’s biggest lemons, which is still terrorising 5.17 percent of PC users.

The share of Windows 8 PCs on the web saw very little growth, just 0.41 percent from January, when it commanded a 2.26 percent share. In December the share was 1.72 percent.

The trend must be raising some eyebrows at Redmond, but there doesn’t seem to be much anyone can do to speed up Windows 8 adoption now. Although cutting the price is always an option, it would probably result in a brief spike, followed by plenty of angry questions from shareholders.

A quick glance at a couple of European price search engines reveals a relatively high number of Windows 7 desktops and laptops in practically every market segment, although Windows 8 is gaining a lot more traction in the high end and in Ultrabooks. However, volumes are what matter, as the same OS ships with a £1,000 Ultrabook and a dirt cheap 15-incher. Speaking of the latter, thousands of 15.6-inch and 16-inch laptops are still listed as shipping with Windows 7. Many of them can be upgraded to Windows 8 at no cost, but then again plenty can’t.

Holiday PC sales failed to impress and it appears that there are tons of early- to mid-2012 Windows 7 laptops and desktops in the channel. In fact, out of a few thousand 15-inchers listed at Skinflint, just 183 SKUs ship with Windows 8 Pro and 578 with Windows 8. However, 1396 SKUs are shipped with Windows 7 in four distinct flavours. The trend is even more evident on the continent.

At this rate, it will take a few quarters to get rid of Windows 7 inventory. In addition, very few consumers seem to be upgrading their existing PCs to Windows 8, despite the fact that the vast majority of Windows 7 PCs will easily run the new OS. In fact, most will end up even faster, without any hardware upgrades. However, money is tight and few people are willing to upgrade their operating system, especially as Windows 8 doesn’t bring a whole lot of headline features to the table.

Toyota GT86 lets its hair down, goes convertible

gt86-330pxToyota’s GT86, one of the hottest coupes to launch in 2012, is about to get a Mediterranean friendly convertible version. Toyota has spilled the beans on the new cabrio, with a set of detailed and absolutely gorgeous press shots ahead of the Geneva Motor Show.

The concept is dubbed FT-86 Open, but by the look of things it won’t remain a concept car to drool over – it will probably go on sale, as is. Toyota is apparently still mulling serial production, but we have no doubt that it will find plenty of takers if it chooses to launch the Open. In fact, the car practically looks production ready, so Toyota might be just playing hard to get in order to boost interest.

gt86-interior

Needless to say, the FT-86 Open shares the same platform and rear wheel drive powertrain, praised by reviewers across the world. It means it should get the same Subaru 2-litre boxer with Toyota’s D-4S injection system, capable of delivering 200bhp and 151lb•ft of torque and a six-speed manual gearbox. There is still no word or performance, but the coupe version can hit 60mph in just 6 seconds, although the cabrio should end up a bit slower (and heavier).

gt86-side

The roof is an automatic, fabric affair, none of that foldable hardtop nonsense, which means it shouldn’t end up too heavy, or lose a ton of boot space with the roof down. Better yet, it looks good, very good. It looks even better than the coupe, a bit more elegant and tame and it should appeal to a wide range of potential customers, including fashionistas, proper petrol heads and ladies, who tend to prefer cabrios over coupes.

Since it is still basically a concept car, although it appears to be production ready, there is no word on pricing or availability. However, the GT-86 coupe starts at £24,995, which sounds like more than a fair price in this segment, so the cabrio shouldn’t end up too pricey, either.

Iron Mountain makes the UK superbrands list

ironmountainCAInformation management company Iron Mountain has found itself in the 2013 Business Superbrands qualifiers, finding itself among household names such as Samsung, Intel and Apple.

Although it is not in the top 20 – dominated by the heaviest hitters – the company has posted a proud release to let the world know of its increasing brand presence, specifically in the European mid market.

Iron Mountain has been following a strategy that targets European mid market companies. Its campaigns, the company said, have centred on showing off its brand appeal to smaller companies, using a combination of PR, web marketing, direct mail and event channels to raise awareness.

The company said that it works with 150,000 organisations across the world as well as finding itself in the majority of FTSE top 100 businesses for storing and managing critical information. In a statement, the company said despite this reputation, it was “largely unknown in Europe”.

Since 2011, the company has been involved in brand research in the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Hungary.

The long list of the so-called superbrands is available in PDF format here.

Top ten business superbrands, from top to bottom, were Apple, BA, Google, Visa, Virgin Atlantic, IBM, SHell, Microsoft, London Stock Exchange Group, and Mastercard.

Superbrands claims that its league tables are based on the “opinions of marketing experts, business professionals and thousands of British consumers”.

Three tech companies were in the top ten of the consumer index. Apple was in second place, Microsoft in third, and Google at six. We are not clear about the exact metrics used, but Stephen Cheliotis from the council said they’re judged on “quality, reliability and distinction”.

Sophos about to shake up its channel again

sophos-HQNew broom at insecurity outfit Sophos, Michael Valentine, has warned that he plans to shake up the company’s channel, just 24 hours after he first put his bottom on his seat.

Valentine has just started his job as Sophos’ senior veep and will manage the global channel programme. He wants to apply his own philosophy to the company’s channel, with subtle changes aimed at reigniting business, particularly in the US and Canada.

He thinks that Sophos needs to attract new partners, particularly if it wants to get money out of the US which has been a lacklustre market.

Talking to CRN in the US, Valentine said that the North American space is where Sophos was doing the least amount of business, and the gap is absolutely huge. Sophos has the product set and the new management allowed to run it and it needs an enriched channel program, he claimed.

In addition to antivirus software, Sophos’ endpoint security platform provides software for encryption, vulnerability monitoring, data loss prevention and mobile device management. It also has unified threat management appliances and firewalls to sell following the acquisition of Astaro in 2011.

Valentine said it was too early to provide any details on changes to the Sophos partner program, but he wants to strengthening Sophos’ three-tiered program with additional support and attention to partners.

This will be yet another shake-up for the Sophos Solution Provider Partner Programme which was rejigged under Emmanuelle Skala, vice president of global channels. There is also a new redesigned partner portal also provides deal registration, product and promotion information.

Europe to binge on cheap tablets

nexus7The tablet boom is still going strong and according to Forrester Research, plenty of growth is expected over the next few years. Tablet ownership in Europe is expected to quadruple by 2017.

At the moment, an estimated 14 percent of European online consumers own a tablet, and the number should hit 55 percent by 2017. But who stands to gain from the boom?

Can HP clean up its channel conflict act?

clean_up_after_yourselfThe maker of expensive printer ink HP has fast discovered the problems of hacking off the Channel.

For a number of years now, HP has had a problem in that its direct-selling sales teams have been nicking deals from their channel partners. While this has been good for the company in the short term, it has led some resellers to wonder why they should line up deals, when HP would just nick them from underneath them.

We reported on HP’s channel conference here, and here.

Unsure if it was going to keep its hardware business, HP did not seem that keen to tackle the problem. After all if Leo Apotheker’s plan paid off, then there was little reason to care about hardware partners, as they were going to be dealing with a new business, who would presumably be kinder.

As a result hardware sales dropped, in part because of the lack of morale of HP’s hardware partners. More than 70 percent of HP’s sales are delivered through its channel.

All that changed when the new CEO and president Meg Whitman decided to keep HP’s hardware business. She realised that without a fully functioning channel, the whole business was rubbish.
She ordered the company to develop better rules of engagement for HP’s direct sales team which did not step on the toes of the channel.

Speaking to the recent Global Partner Conference, Whitman said that partners had “literally built” HP’s business over the years, and she warned that any move which took business away from the HP channel and going direct would not be tolerated.

“Everyone in the HP organisation is crystal clear on the behaviour we expect. I am holding myself and the executives accountable for that,” she added.

But that did not mean that HP was going to close down its direct sales operations. Indeed the rules that Whiteman has been pushing forward might be hard to implement.

Her view was there are accounts that HP will take direct, but there must be “no mystery” in the process, and that partners who have done months of work on a deal will be paid even if transacted by HP.

The agreement basically makes a few pledges. Partners are not restricted from selling to anyone but the bigger accounts still have to involve an HP field rep.

HP has promised to leave the midmarket to the channel which which is a significant change.
The company’s opportunity registration policies are being used to govern behaviour. If HP accepts a partner’s registration, the company will not sell direct on that opportunity.

HP has set up a “value express pricing” programme, where HP channel partners will be rewarded for the value they provide.

It also has promised for there to be mandatory training on the new rules.

While this sounds good, it is hardly tangible. Under what circumstances would HP take a customer away from its channel partner? How much work would have to be done before a partner got paid?
In fact it might also be difficult for HP to fire sales staff that do pinch deals from partners. While they may be breaking HP’s policies, they are not breaking any laws. Sales teams are not famous being open to what they perceive as rivals when they are looking for commissions.

The only way a channel deal can be protected is if they are go for certifications and will use registration. This makes the deal more open, but it also makes it vulnerable to gazumping by HP’s internal teams.

As Jack Mele, vice president of sales at Data Impressions pointed out, it will only work if the Whiteman’s corporate edict trickles down the way it should.

However it is better than nothing, according to Search IT Channelmany in HP’s channel welcomed the change. Craig Sehi, of Sehi Computer Products said that HP’s new “rules of engagement,” were a welcome relief and was sign that HP is listening to its resellers.

But it is clear that HP has a long way to go before it can calm its jittery channel and get them working together.