Category: News

Magor Communications intros cloud partner programme

clouds3Magor Communications is set to launch the first phase of its new Stratus Partner Programme at a conference later this week.

The visual collaboration company will use the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) conference, which kicks off Jan. 29 in Amsterdam as the mouthpiece for the new initiative, which is claimed to help resellers offer their customers “alternatives to traditional video conferencing.”

The Stratus service is said to work differently from other products as it uses software architecture to apparently allow users to engage and interact on any device.

As it runs through the cloud, the company says there are more opportunities for partners who will be able to leverage the cost reduction of cloud deployment and support many creative use cases for video to their customers.

At ISE the company will be on the search for new partners who are looking at new revenue opportunities. In return the company claims it will give those who join up access to a variety of options for billing, endpoint monetisation, vertical product development and “other benefits.”

ChannelEye will be attending the event and giving you the low down later in the week.

Nvidia reportedly working on phone and tablet reference designs

nvidia-gangnam-style-330pxNvidia has been frantically trying to carve out a foothold in the mobile SoC market over the past couple of years and with every new Tegra generation it saw its number of design wins double.

However, that doesn’t seem to be enough for CEO Jen-Hsun Huang. According to Mobile Review, the chipmaker is planning to kick things up a notch, by directly entering the smartphone and tablet business with a bit of help from its partners.

Nvidia is said to be working on reference smartphone and tablet designs. The designs will be built by contract manufacturers, under Nvidia’s direct control. The partners are apparently small regional players, basically retail chains who already offered cheap Chinese tablets under their brands. It is unclear whether traditional Nvidia AIBs will also join the effort, but it seems more than likely, as some of them have already started making inroads in the tablet space, without Nvidia’s support.

The idea seems to hold water. Nvidia could control the feature sets and performance of reference designs, while regional players could take care of distribution and retail. Nvidia partners could end up with cheap, yet competitive devices capable of taking on first-tier devices with fancier brands. The drive is said to be scheduled for May and June, roughly Computex time, and Mobile Review’s Eldar Murtazin believes tens of 7- and 10-inch tablets based on Nvidia’s reference design could show up.

Nvidia already has extensive reference design experience and plenty of partners in the graphics market, so such an approach would be nothing new for the company. However, last year Nvidia also offered Kai, a reference tablet design based on the Tegra 3 SoC. It did not find many takers. Back at CES, Nvidia unveiled Project Shield, a Tegra 4 gaming console built under its own brand, but we haven’t seen any Tegra 4 design wins yet. The chip is apparently a couple of months behind schedule, due to some technical issues which necessitated a re-spin.

We should see more Tegra 4 gear at the Mobile World Congress and Nvidia is also expected to launch a cheaper, A9-based quad-core SoC in the latter half of the year. The reference design approach could help Nvidia gain quite a bit more design wins this time around, provided it doesn’t flop like Kai.

Triple dip recession threat leaves channel unbothered

gosborneAccording to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the British economy shrank 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, reflecting wider economic woes in the Eurozone and further afield.

The figures were lower than expected for the last three months of 2012 and have sparked fears that, if the economy does not pick up, the UK will enter an unprecedented ‘triple dip recession’ – although arguably, Britain never left the recession at all. Chancellor George Osborne has warned that tough times still lie ahead for the country, but shirked advice from the International Monetary Fund that he and the Coalition should ease up on the policy of austerity.

On the GDP figures, Osborne said: “We have a reminder today that Britain faces a very difficult economic situation”.

The figures serve as a “reminder that last year was particularly difficult” and that the country faces problems at home “because of the debts built up over many years and problems abroad with the Eurozone, where we export most of our products, in recession”. The opposition accused Osborne and Prime Minister David Cameron of being “asleep at the wheel”, although the macroeconomic environment is unrelentingly difficult and both Labour and Conservatives differ on many minutae of policy – with the wider climate beyond their control.

GDP, meanwhile, was flat compared to the same time last year. Production output decreased by 1.8 percent for the quarter, negating a 0.7 percent increase between the second and third quarters. Service industry output was flat from Q3 into Q4, although that followed a 1.2 percent boost between Q2 and Q3 2012.

Britain enjoyed steady GDP growth from 2000 right up until the world markets crashed in 2008, and according to the ONS, the decline of economic conditions in 2008 and up until now has had a significant effect on construction and production – though the service sector wasn’t hit as hard, and is now slowly returning to 2008 levels.

In October last year, channel analyst house Canalys’ CEO, Steve Brazier, said that, despite the difficult economic climate, there is still opportunity in the channel. Although growth was not exactly meteoric, Brazier said that by carefully steering the ship, channel players could weather the storm, although the market will be tough.

 

Senior analyst at Canalys, Rachel Brindley, offered some thoughts to ChannelEye on just what channel players can do to push through the crisis. She tells us the situation isn’t exactly all doom and gloom.

“Some partners will struggle if this economy goes into a triple dip recession,” Brindley said, “but there is a chance that it could happen. That being said, a lot are well placed – those who focus on customer service, keeping existing customers very close, growing their services business an diversifying their portfolio into things like managed services and data centres, will rise to the difficult times we’ve been going through”.

“Generally,” Brindley said, “those that focus on their customers, and diversify their business away from traditional hardware and box shifting will come through OK, it will come down to careful planning and taking opportunities in spaces like the data centre and looking at what’s going on in the networking space”.

Hard drive prices slowly returning to pre-flood levels

hddcloseupThe hard drive industry was hit hard by heavy flooding in Thailand back in 2011. Several plants, providing vital components for Seagate and Western Digital, temporarily went off line following the disaster. The shortage caused a massive surge in hard drive prices and its effects are still being felt.

Keen to provide a bit of perspective, Xbit Labs compiled an interesting chart of hard drive average selling prices, based on data from Seagate’s and Western Digital’s SEC filings over the last four years. Pre-flood average selling prices (ASPs) were between $45 and $55, but they soared to the $70 mark in Q4 2011. The recovery was painfully slow and although some rather optimistic analysts claimed the market would stabilize by mid-2012, we are still feeling the muddy aftertaste of Thai flood water.

According to the latest figures, average selling prices decreased to $62 – $63 per unit and they are still considerably higher than pre-flood prices. Prices are currently at 2008 levels, which means they are still too high for comfort. Of course, the effects of the global economic downturn and recent PC slump were not factored into 2008 pricing and ASPs should be significantly lower today, even after they are adjusted for inflation.
This is bad for consumers and system integrators alike, as they have to adjust their own margins to compensate for the higher prices.  What’s more, hard drive makers are probably not too keen to reduce their ASPs, as further cuts would negatively impact their margins while they are still reeling from flood-related losses. Western Digital CEO Stephen Milligan confirmed the company has more capacity, but it is throttling it to what it sees as demand, which is a polite way of saying WD is trying to keep prices artificially high.

It is even worse for end consumers looking to upgrade their PCs or get some cheap portable storage. Back in mid-2011, per-terabyte retail prices were at their lowest point, about €25 in European markets and a 2TB 3.5-inch drive cost roughly €50. By November 2011, per-terabyte prices hit €35 to €38 and they went on to peak at €50 to €55 by April 2012. Retail prices today are still significantly higher than in 2011 and they are in the €38 to €40 range across Europe.

Xbit also concluded that ASPs peaked in Q4 2011. In the meantime, SSD prices continued to tumble, but SSDs are still too costly to completely replace traditional hard drives. However, SSD shipments are expected to double in 2013, as they are the preferred storage option for Ultrabooks.

Hybrid drives are also entering the fray and they can be found in quite a few budget ultrathin notebooks, although their days in proper Ultrabooks are numbered. So far Seagate is the only hard drive maker to offer 2.5-inch hybrid drives in retail, but Western Digital is also entering the market and it showed off its first consumer friendly hybrid drives at CES.

Traditional hard drives are not going anywhere yet and it is evident that WD and Seagate have enough room to maintain a huge price advantage over SSDs, as they are artificially inflating prices. They can’t bridge the performance and power consumption gap, but by offering hybrid drives they can bring the best of both worlds to value-minded consumers.

 

Apple’s down but it’s far from out

Apple, iPadConsumer behemoth Apple reported its first quarter financial results yesterday and while it posted revenues of $54.5 billion and a net profit of $13.1 billion, compared to revenues of $46.3 billion and profits of $13.1 billion in the same financial quarter last year, profits were flat.

Gross margin fell to 38.6 percent compared to 44.7 percent in the same quarter last year. Apple is forecasting gross margins between 37.5 percent and 38.5 percent for its second quarter, with estimated revenues between $41 billion and $43 billion.

So, what’s the problem? CEO Tim Cook said that supply problems were a matter to be concerned about, despite media reports.  And Apple has got a stash of cash in its corporate coffers – not far short of $137 billion in both liquid ashes and in cash.  That gives it a pot of gold that would let it buy other companies to make a splash in new or other developing markets.

A bigger problem is its existing slew of products, including the wildly successful iPad and the solidly popular iPhone.  It does face a challenge on the tablet front – particularly so from Google and Amazon devices.  Microsoft Windows 8 using Intel chips may not be so much of a challenge.  Intel cannot necessarily lower the price of its microprocessors, given its business model and Microsoft appears to believe that tablet devices running the touch version of Windows 8 should command the same prices as Apple iPads, or be even more expensive.

Apple’s share price (AAPL: Nasdaq), stood at $460.15 at press time.

New generation Intel ultrabooks set to drive SSD growth this year

ssdA new wave of low-cost and attractive Ultrabooks could help double shipments of solid-state drives (SSDs) this year, IHS iSuppli has said.

According to the analyst company’s Storage Space Market Brief worldwide SSD shipments are set to rise to 83 million units this year, up from 39 million in 2012.

Shipments are set to continue to rise 239 million units in 2016, which the company said amounted to around 40 percent of the size of the hard disk drive (HDD) market.

SSDs can serve as an alternative to hard disk drives in personal computers and work by storing data using NAND flash memory semiconductors rather than through traditional rotating media.

In its report, IHS looked at traditional solid state drives in both the consumer and enterprise segments, as well as cache SSDs that along with an HDD component make up a composite storage products such as those found in Intel’s Ultrabooks.

The company said that Ultrabooks had played a part in the slump of SSDs last year. It said that despite SSD shipments rising by 124 percent, growth  had fallen short of expectations because sales faltered – due to poor marketing, high prices and a lack of appealing features.

It said the future depended on the new generation of Ultrabooks, which if, as predicted, take off this year, will see the SSD market growing at robust levels.

Intel, which has been plagued by poor Ultrabook sales despite all of its bluster, is still trying to break into the market, introducing a new range loaded with Windows 8 and Haswell microprocessor architecture.

However, other factors are also involved when it comes to the SSD market, with IHS pointing out that average selling prices for NAND flash memory have come down, in the process establishing new price expectations.

The lower prices are attracting deal-seeking consumer enthusiasts, as well as an increasing number of PC manufacturers that are now more willing to install the once-costly drives into computers.

Over in the enterprise sector, SSD use is also growing as a result of product introductions from major vendors and startups.

Ingram Micro makes changes to top level staff

IMIngram Micro is making some changes to its employee and portfolio line up.

Over the week the distie has announced a range of movers and shakers within its senior management level.

Yesterday it said it was saying goodbye to its executive vice president and chief information officer Mario Leone who was leaving the company at the beginning of March.

The company is yet to announce a successor for Leone who had been at the firm for four years, however, has said that while it looks for a suitable candidate Nimesh Dave,

Ingram Micro executive vice president, global business process and cloud computing, would step in and take responsibility and oversight of the company’s worldwide information and business systems.

And it seems the company is also making some top level changes over in North America with the news that it has promoted Kirk Robinson to senior vice president, Commercial Markets and Global Accounts for this region.

The promotion will mean that Robinson who has been with the company for 20 years, will now oversee ownership of the distributor’s global accounts and supervision of additional strategic key business units. He will also be responsible for managing the business leaders responsible for Ingram’s SMB, public sector and VAR business units.

Singing his praises the company said throughout his career with Ingram Micro, Robinson had made a “notable impact” on the success of its sales teams and was responsible for leading key initiatives including the launch of the distributor’s proprietary Business Intelligence Centre in 2009, which had “since grown into one of the company’s most valuable service differentiators.”

It added that under Robinson’s leadership, the commercial markets division and its SMB business unit had “reached record growth rates” and enabled hundreds of new channel partners.

Robinson joined Ingram Micro in 1993 as a sales representative and worked his way up to sales director. In 2003, he moved into the marketing department as senior director, channel programs and in 2004 he was promoted to customer and solutions marketing vice president. In September 2006, Robinson was named vice president of North America channel marketing. Then, in May 2010, he was appointed vice president of VAR sales, market development and business intelligence. Shortly thereafter, Robinson became the vice president of Ingram Micro’s US commercial markets business.

But it doesn’t end there, as well as promoting and losing staff, the company has also said that it will be making bigger moves in the physical security marketplace,  announcing that HID Global’s secure identity products will now be available to its US channel partners through the Ingram Micro North America Physical Security Business Unit.

The company said it had added this as security threats became more complex and business needed more robust services. It added this presented a growing business opportunity for channel partners specialising in this space.

Acer suffers in weak PC market, moves to ditch value brand

acer-logo-ceAcer is taking a beating on the back of a slow PC market and fears that it expanded too much, too quickly.

The Taiwanese outfit is the fourth largest PC maker in the world, and it peaked in 2010, when it briefly ranked second. However, things have gone downhill and on Wednesday Acer announced it expects to post a full-year net loss for the second consecutive year. It is also looking at a $120.1 million write-down on several value brands under its umbrella.

During the PC boom in the late nineties and early 2000s, Acer went on a massive shopping spree and picked up a number of value brands, including Packard Bell, Gateway, eMachines and E-Ten. The write down on said brands dragged Acer to a net loss and the company plans to discontinue the eMachines brand altogether.

Other PC makers are facing similar challenges, as they struggle to reinvent themselves and gain a toehold in emerging sectors, like smartphones and tablets. Acer has a small presence in both sectors.

The company’s phone business is practically negligible and its attempt to expand its presence in China in 2012, with smartphones based on Aliyun, a heavily customized Android-based OS, was promptly ditched after Google threatened to cancel the company’s Android license. Acer had a bit more luck with Android tablets and it is moving into the Windows 8 tablet space as well, but its efforts have been overshadowed by the likes of Asus and Samsung.

Even as it struggles to remain competitive in the PC market, burdened by underperforming value brands, Acer prospects in the heavily contested smartphone and tablet markets look even bleaker.

Brokerage houses Nomura Holdings and UBS are anything but optimistic and UBS cut its target price and maintained the “sell” rating on Acer stock after the report. Nomura was somewhat kinder, but it also maintained its “reduce” rating on Acer, Taipei Times reports.

“Longer term, we think Acer still needs to face the reality of how to rebuild the brand positioning/image for Packard Bell and Gateway amid intense competition and slowing PC industry growth,” said Nomura analyst Eve Jung.

Tablets set to take more PC market share

Apple iPadA market research company said that tablets are set to cannibalise more PC sales as their popularity continues to grow.

ABI Research estimates that 145 million tablets will ship this year, with 50 percent of sales outside the USA. Price, new entrants to the market and increased shipments into enterprise will help drive the growth.

Business sales will account for as much of 19 percent during 2013, and a variety of slates using Intel chips and Windows 8 will begin to make more impact this year, according to Jeff Orr, senior director at ABI.

Meanwhile Israeii company Perion said it conducted a survey of 4,400 iPad users about how they used their machines.  Ninety percent of those surveyed said they used their iPads to read and write email.

Women are more likely to read and write emails from their pads, while the favourite app is Apple Mail at 41 percent, Gmail at 31 percent and Hotmail at 13 percent. Eighteen percent of people use browsers to access webmail rather than using clients.

Gartner: Cloud providers need to look at security services to survive

cloud 2Cloud providers must look at offering robust security options to ensure they stay ahead of the game, Gartner said.

Rubbing its crystal ball, the analyst company has gone as far to say the US government could declare cloud services as a critical national infrastructure, as a result of expanding public clouds, along with the ever-persistent threat on private and public sectors’ infrastructures.

It said that in the future this could mean that future network security is based increasingly on virtual security appliances.

By 2016, Gartner said public cloud infrastructure will include and be mandated to critical national infrastructure regulations by the US. It said that this is a result of the economic downturn, with governments continuing to sniff out ways to reduce their IT operating expenditures, eliminate duplication across their IT organisations and optimise their compute resources, making cloud deployments an attractive option.

Apparently several key governments have created initiatives for the adoption of cloud-based services, however, Gartner pointed out that they are yet to see any negative impacts from the technology. Disruptions, brought around by attacks on cloud service providers, were minimal.

By 2015, 10 percent of overall IT security enterprise product capabilities will be delivered in the cloud.

However, Gartner warned that as the economy becomes more dependent on the cloud, the threats against these networks would grow, eventually impacting national security.

The company is advising security providers to prepare their technologies to address potential mandates for critical infrastructure protection of public cloud environments.

It warned that those who lag behind with their security could face difficult sales and be squeezed out of the market by cloud providers who had threat management processes in place.

Growth rates for cloud-based security services are set to overtake those of traditional on-premises security equipment over the next three years with operational cost reduction, flexibility of deployment across multiple IT environments, and fast implementation and product updates among major factors driving demand.

Gartner also pointed out that as cloud matures, security offerings will also evolve, with data loss prevention, encryption and authentication all becoming must-have services offered alongside the cloud.

As new players establish themselves with innovative offerings, existing companies will look to acquire them to expand their portfolios with new capabilities and remain competitive.

Fixing Nexus supply problems is Google’s new priority

nexus4-ceThe botched Nexus 4 launch has already turned into a rather embarrassing episode for Google, but Larry Page is trying to reassure investors and analysts, although it could be too little, too late.

Page mentioned the problems during Google’s Q4 earnings report, but he did not say much and he did not provide any new details.

Phones 4U gets ads banned by watchdog

phonesPhones 4U has earned itself a ban over two adverts after the Advertising Standards Authority  (ASA) described them as “misleading”.

The retailer fell foul of the toothsome watchdog after people complained that its “upgrades 4u and u and u” ads, aimed at trying to show that people could upgrade with the retailer on any network and not the one they were signed to, were misleading.

They said that  the claims didn’t apply to customers on all networks, including Three and Tesco mobile, as the voice over in the comical broadcast ads suggested.

Both ads  focused on a range of “comical characters”, being told they could upgrade their phones despite their traits.

The voice over said:  “Listen up you lot. You can upgrade your phones at Phones4U”. The ad featured a number of characters with a range of habits such as smelling of fish, keeping a lot of cats and wearing gilets. The voice-over indicated that they could all get upgrades saying “Upgrades for you and you and you at Phones4U”. The on-screen text stated “T&Cs apply”.

In the second ad the voiceover said: “Listen up you lot. You can upgrade your phones at Phones4U.” A woman asked, “I’m scared of long-term commitment. Can I?” The voice-over replied, “I hear you lady. With our exclusive jump contract you could update your phone every 6 months … Upgrades for you and you and you at Phones4U.” The on screen text said: “T&Cs and exclusions may apply”.

When questioned by the watchdog, Phones 4U tried to plead its innocence, telling the ad police that the purpose of the ads was to tell customers that it was possible to upgrade their handsets at its shops. It said there was a common misconception that this could only be done with an existing network provider and that it aimed to show that it offered upgrades on the majority of network providers, even if the customer did not originally get the handset or contract from its stores.

However, the shop chain acknowledged that some networks such as Three and Tesco Mobile were not partnered with it, and so customers of these networks would not be able to upgrade. It said that it had covered itself against this claiming that its  “T&Cs apply” text showed there were exclusions, as well as offering further literature on its site to back this up.

However, the ASA remained unimpressed, claiming that the content in the ads suggested that everyone could upgrade as a result of the characters used. It said that while some customers would understand “upgrade” as meaning a new phone, they may not have expected to change networks to do so. And while Phones 4U had tried to cover its back with the on screen text referring to T&Cs, the ASA wasn’t convinced these made it clear that it was only possible to upgrade on certain networks.

As a result the company was ordered not to show the ads again in their current form.

However, the ruling is probably a drop in the ocean for the chain which yesterday announced that it would be expanding its services to the mobile network industry.

The company said it plans to launch its first mobile network –  “Life Mobile” – which will run as a mobile virtual network operator on mobile operator EE’s 2G and 3G spectra when it launches in March.

High street footfall drops

highShoppers on the UK’s high street are continuing to decline, recent figures from the British Retail Consortium have shown.

One retail analyst has suggested the drop is partly thanks to a vicious cycle, where stores are forced to focus on their online efforts – but neglect shop fronts as a result.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) released figures showing that shopper numbers had fallen by 1.2 percent in December, compared to the same time in 2011.

Shopping centres reported the greatest fall with a 2.8 percent decline, followed by out-of-town retailers, with a one percent fall, while high street locations saw footfall stumble by 0.5 percent.

The BRC said that the decline for the month as a whole came despite a rise of 7.5 percent in shopper numbers in the immediate week before Christmas.

The figures coincided with data released by the Office for National Statistics last week, which found that, although UK retail sales grew 0.3 percent in December, this figure was the lowest rise on record since 1998.

Patrick O’Brien, a retail analyst at Verdict, said there are a number of factors at play.

“Some shoppers stay away by online shopping, and this has let to retail chains investing less in their stores which in turn has made them less attractive creating a vicious circle,” he said, speaking with ChannelEye. “As a result, some high streets are looking very shabby indeed, and shoppers are tending to make one big trip to destination shopping centres such as Westfield Statford instead of several trips to the high street.”

Co-op Group hit by job cuts, scrapped IT system

Co-operative_headquarters_manchesterIt’s been a bad week for the Co-operative Group, with stories of job cuts and full-year profits almost written down to nothing.

The sorry story starts with the Co-operative’s banking arm, which reportedly spent its money on an IT system that could be scrapped. Sources told the Times that the cost of doing this could set the bank back by  £200 million – almost the cost of its full year profits.

The company had taken on the Finacle IT platform upgrade project in 2009 as part of  a £700 million integration programme linked to its partnership with the Britannia Building Society.

However, it has since had second thoughts about the system following a potential purchase deal of 632 branches from Lloyds Banking Group.

If the buy goes ahead, according to the Times, the Co-op will scrap the system and instead adopt the infrastructure currently used by Lloyds. This could land it with a huge hole in annual profits, which are set to be announced in mid-March. Last year’s earnings by the bank stood at £201 million.

A section of its retail arm is also struggling.  According to the BBC, the company has announced that 338 jobs could be slashed in the Midlands after plans to close its Fashion and Home department stores.

The announcement comes after the group reported “substantial losses,” and “changing retail behaviour” at its department stores in Derby, Ilkeston and Chesterfield, in Derbyshire; Coalville and Wigston in Leicestershire; and Stafford.

However, the Group said it will try to turn some of these stores into different entities, which could help keep job losses to a minimum.

Emerging markets open up to increased data centre investment

datacentrebatteriesAccording to a report from Tariff Consultancy Ltd, which focuses on data centre development in 11 emerging markets, Russia and Turkey are way ahead of the pack.

TCL looked at Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, and the Ukraine. Of these, the four largest are Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and Bulgaria respectively, though in the group, Russia by itself is expected to account for half of all data centre floor space by the end of the year.

Generally speaking, the size of the data centres are relatively small, TCL noted. In the 11 regions, the average size was just over 800 square markets, which is a great deal less than in established markets. The largest facility has up to 10,000 square metres of raised floor space. However, over the next five years, the total space should rise to 143,000 square metres, up from 109,000 at present – or a 30 percent increase going into 2018.

Pricing will also increase, with the average rack space rental increasing 10 percent up to 2018. The most expensive pricing is in the Russian market.

Trends outlined in the report mirror a transformation in the regions which are seeing more and more development and investment, both from foreign investors and by government, with a view to boost economic growth in the countries. This could also, of course, prove a boon to channel players looking for new markets to open up in. Ultimately, TCL concludes, the development of data centre space in these emerging markets proves high spec housing and hosting is no longer exclusive to established markets.