Category: Opinions

Dell-EMC deal will rock the channel boat

Dell logo* DELL has confirmed it will take over EMC for $67 billion.  VM Ware will continue as a publicly traded company.

It now looks almost certain that Dell will announce it is taking over EMC today – a move that will cause ripples right throughout their respective channels.

The deal, said to be worth over $50 billion, is expected to be concluded either today or tomorrow, although EMC, being a listed company, will have to be offered to other prospective suitors.

A prospective suitor this time last year was HP, but HP Inc and HP Enterprise aren’t that interested any more.

For Dell, there are clear advantages to the acquisition. It has been building up its channel portfolio for several years now and at last week’s Canalys Channels Forum, senior executives said that at least 70 percent of its business was now going through two tier distribution. The acquisition will also put Dell into the top league, along with IBM and HP one and two.

Dell has also had a pretty smooth path when it’s taken over other countries, managing to successfully integrate them in a comparatively short period.

Obviously, there will be some consolidation involved and doubtless some people will be made redundant as part of the proposed takeover. But sorting out the channel implications will require some deft and delicate moves on Dell’s behalf. Reports suggest that EMC’s VM Ware division may itself be subject to either a sale or some equity investment.

Apple’s iWatch disappoints

tim-cook-glareOne thing that is weird about the Tame Apple Press is that if Apple makes a big cock up it really has nothing to say.

If Apple’s iWatch was even a little bit interesting, the press would have been over the top in its enthusiasm. There would have been a ton of coverage and lots of snaps of  the grimly smiling Tim Cook looking like an evil magician on his way to a baby boiling conference.

Sure there was the usual staged Nuremberg rally, where Apple staffers, fanboys and the Tame Apple Press cheered the arrival of the iPhone with the usual standing ovulation. But they would have done that anyway.

What was interesting was how muted the rest of the press coverage was. Warning signs tipped up when the Italian television news, which only reports bollocks like this,  gave the iWatch a token 30 seconds. Most of that 30 seconds was a free advert for the iPhone and hardly mentioned the watch at all. By contrast the iPhone 6 got 15 minutes when it launched and Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi smuggly umming and erring his way through a 20 minute speech was covered verbatim.

A search through the wires this morning showed the usual suspects giving an uncharacteristically muted coverage. The News Republic did not even mention the watch, and instead talked about Cook’s tweet about not sleeping before the launch.

So why the disappointed response? Apple’s iWatch has arrived nearly two years behind its rivals and it basically has nothing to offer for its huge price tag $350 price tag.

Apple to enter this limited market had to really wow people with new functionality and it simply didn’t. Jobs’ Mob’s first real “innovation” since the death of Steve was an overpriced copy of what was already on the market.

What could have improved the watch’s chances was a killer app involving health care readings, but beyond a basic heart rate meter Apple could not get it to go.

Another thing which could have made it more interesting was it being independent from its iPhone.
However the watch needs the phone to function, meaning that if you are Christy Turlington Burns and you take the thing on your run you have to lug your heavy iphone with you. If you are carrying the phablet version of the phone that is really heavy. It might make you a better runner to carry all that weight, but since most iPhone users are carrying a few extra pounds anyway it is probably not a good idea.

So if you want the watch for sport, the iWatch does some of what you want, less efficiently, for three times the price of a sports product.

If you want the watch to complement your iPhone then it fails there too. Why do you need something on your wrist that your iPhone already has in your pocket?

All this does not mean the iWatch will fail. In fact it is a screaming indictment of modern civilisation that the iWatch will probably sell in reasonable numbers. Apple might be able to save the product in version two by getting the health functionality going. But they are empty sales. They are people buying something they don’t need, because it has an Apple logo. You can only get away with that so often.

But this is not the sort of product that even the Tame Apple Press wants to peddle. Instead they are wandering away whistling, not daring to point out this Emperor has no clothes on in case Apple blacklists them.

But smarter minds, who are worried that Apple has run out of ideas, are selling their shares. A mate of mine who has had them since the iPhone, dumped the lot when he heard that Apple had removed a ton of health functionality from the product. He reasons that ultimately Apple will fail because it has become too big and run out of ideas. The iWatch proves it.

Icahn tries to talk up Apple shares

Carl_IcahnThe Tame Apple Press has teamed up with Apple shareholder Carl Ichan to see if they can talk up the price of Jobs’ Mob shares.

Icahn who owns pots of Apple shares thinks that they should be making him pots more cash – and what better way to do that than claim that they are undervalued.

Of course a shareholder thinking he should get more money for his stash is not news, but the Tame Apple Press seems to have decided to give him a leg up while promoting the value of their favourite toymaker.

Reuters, which is set to eclipse the New York Times as Apple’s favourite Public Relations expert, actually ran a story this morning where Ichan claimed that the iPhone maker’s stock should be trading at $216, far above its record high of $124.92 yesterday.

“At $216 per share, Apple – already the world’s most valuable company – would be worth about $1.3 trillion, or about the size of South Korea’s gross domestic product,” Reuters’  breathlessly said.

The company is valued at just over $700 billion currently.

Icahn said Apple should be trading at 20 times earnings per share, which taken together with net cash of $22 per share works out to $216 per share.  He didn’t say why he thought that, other than the fact that if he can convince enough thicko’s out there he is right, the share price will go up and he will be laughing all the way to the bank.

He added that if Apple introduces a TV in FY 2016 or FY 2017, we believe this “20X multiple is conservative.”   Apple TV, the Tame Apple Press had not heard that one.  It is also unlikely to be a big money spinner. The TV market is down the loo at the moment and there are plenty of nice looking Tellies out there sitting on shelves.  Jobs Mob is also yet to come up with a future proof idea since its Tablet fad started to die out.

To be fair Icahn, who is  Apple’s top 10 investors, does not only think he can convince people that the shares are worth more.  He thinks Apple should buy back more shares and raise its dividend.

Apple had cash reserves of about $178 billion as of December 27 and said last April it would return more than $130 billion to shareholders by the end of 2015.

Still Ichan’s alliance with the Tame Apple Press did make him a little richer.  Apple shares closed 2.3 percent higher at $124.88.

Intel hears Bell and changes its approach

Genevieve_Bell_Workers_in_the_world For years Intel has been an engineer’s company, pushed the technology of its chips, and followed a religion based on shrinking and tick following tock.  However, it seems that its mindset is changing – and it appears to be something to do with the influence of its vice president anthropologist Genevieve Bell.

Yesterday Intel held a product announcement for its 5th Gen Intel Core vPro Processor. In the bad old days we would have been given a spec sheet of all the product’s wholesome goodness and be told how great it was. We would have popped back to the office with a picture of a chip and wrote it up something like “Intel wants a world without wires”.

But the actual technology almost took a back seat – instead there was Bell.

Bell told us about how the workplace was changing along similar lines to the Industrial revolution. The needs of the Industrial revolution created a demand for documentation and lead to the evolution of the typewriter. The typewriter transformed the office and lead to a more diverse workplace, with more women entering for the first time.

Bell argued that technology is doing the same thing now and the workplace is changing and becoming more diverse as older people now work longer and with more ethnic diversity.  This change is as a result of evolving technology and a move to more creative and collaborative business practices.

So what does this have to do with the 5th Gen Intel Core vPro Processor? Answering that question suddenly laid bare Intel’s cunning plan and explains  Chipzilla’s actions of the last few years. The concept of Intel actually having a cunning plan is surprising, after Intel appeared to miss the so-called mobile revolution, we thought its direction was similar to that of a headless chicken, but Bell seems to be encouraging a different role, which it if pulls off could see Intel at the centre of significant workplace change.  Intel is thinking less about the technology, and more about how that technology is going to change the workplace. It is creating small technology combos which could make for bigger changes – not, as it has done in the past in technology, but in the workplace.

Tomasz Klekwski, Intel’s EMEA business market manager said that the technology itself was not enough to bring about the sorts of transformations which Intel wants to take place.  In other words, it is not just the chip – it is how the chip fits into the organisation and what transformations the organisation has a result.

5th Gen Intel Core vPro Processor, for example, has wireless features which enable companies to dump a huge amount of fiddly networking cabling.  It creates technology which can wirelessly and automatically connect to video screens in meeting rooms and charge and connect laptops but also build hot deskwork environments.

All this is a mobile future but it is far different from the consumer based technology being pushed by Apple and its new chum IBM which emphasises tablets, BYOD and simply packages consumer tech for businesses.

It is a vision which has an Intel notebook at its centre – admittedly one that might turn into a laptop, is super-thin and with a long battery life, but Chipzilla’s traditional money-spinner nevertheless.  But listening to Bell and Tom Garrison, Vice President, PC Client Group sell the idea in its historic context it starts to make sense.

As Garrison pointed out – consumer ideas do not work well in the business, and the money is rarely in consumer devices but more in engineering business changes.

The concept that this is all marketing bollocks is not far from the mind of any sceptical journalist, but if you accept the historical approach to the rise of technology touted by Bell you had to admit, Intel is onto something better than simply repackaging consumer fads.

If she is right, then it did not matter too much that Intel missed the mobile computing trend. Sure, it was big enough and should have had a chip in place, but mobile phones and tablets, even the Internet of things are going to be the side-salad in any serious business evolution. It will be small things that make a difference and if you know what the business is evolving into you can make the products it needs.

Intel will have a hard time selling this vision – both to IT journalists and its own staff.  The first thing we noticed yesterday was that Intel suits dominated the poorly dressed media – in fact we had the impression that the meeting was more being held for them. Secondly many hacks walked away from the event to write headlines like “Intel wants a world without wires”. Or to sing the praises of the 5th Gen Intel Core vPro.

But as the meeting pointed out, much of the technology of the 5th Gen Intel Core vPro has been around for a decade and slowly evolving. What Intel is noticing is that people are finally starting to switch on and use its functionality. This suggests that companies are getting what IT hacks and technology companies haven’t – it is not about the technology stupid it is how it creates a change.  If Intel is the only one to gets that, it will be the only one which makes a lot of money as the workplace changes.

Comcast deal highlights US political corruption

comcast-center1The Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal is showing the extent of corporate control over corrupt US politicians in all its ugly glory – not that anyone seems to care.

According to The Verge three politicians sent letters to the Federal Communications Commission that were ghostwritten by Comcast. The letters were signed by the politicians that mimicked Comcast talking points and cut, and pasted Comcast’s own statements.

What was happening is that Comcast official sent the politicans the exact wording of the letter he would submit to the FCC,  finishing touches were put on the letter by a former FCC official named Rosemary Harold, who is now a partner at one of the nation’s foremost telecom law firms in Washington, DC. Comcast has hired Harold to draft letters that contained phrases that the FCC wanted to hear to approve the proposed merger.”

A letter from Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown “was almost wholly written by a Comcast Government Affairs specialist.” The other politician featured in the story was Mayor Jere Wood of Roswell, Georgia, whose letter to the FCC was written word for word by “a vice president of external affairs at Comcast.”

And what did the politicians get from signing the letter? Brown has received $9,500 from Comcast in donations, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Advocacy groups generally haven’t made any secret of their signature gathering tactics, even issuing press releases boasting that as many as 400,000 people signed petitions urging regulators to reject the merger.

Of course, this is the Land of the Free so no one is resigning over what would be seen in civilised countries as bribery or, at the very least, subversion of democracy.

 

Cameron: Free speech turns you into a radical

stupid cameronBritish Prime Minister David “one is an ordinary bloke” Cameron has come up with a new reason to censor the internet – he thinks that all this free speech radicalises you.

Cameron said that people were not radicalised by poverty or foreign policy, but by free speech online.

What is a little spooky is that deranged ravings like this are being backed by the UK’s major Internet service providers – BT, Virgin, Sky and Talk Talk – have this week committed to host a public reporting button for terrorist material online, similar to the reporting button which allows the public to report child sexual exploitation.

They have also promised that any terrorist and extremist material is captured by their filters to prevent children and young people being radicalised.

Of course it is based on the premise that people are so stupid that they only have to read something on the internet to want to start cutting off people’s heads in the name of Allah.

The other problem is that while images of sexually exploited children are obvious, what makes for extremist or “terrorist” material, on the other hand, is almost subjective. Personally I think anyone who calls for the abolition of free speech is a terrorist, but I doubt I would get much support from shutting down the Tory Party website.

Cameron said:  “we should not allow the internet to be an ungoverned space.” But regulation and rules do not automatically create a panacea. The human body works rather well without being legislated by government, and no one thinks that it would be better off if it were told how many beats per minute the heart ticked. In fact legislating the internet has as much point as criminalising aneurisms. No matter how many laws you have, they will still happen, and the internet will find ways around any rules.

However, what Cameron fails to get is that allowing people to speak their minds is one of the reasons we are supposed to be different from the terrorists in the first place. Radicalisation is born of ignorance of truth and a rebellion against perceived controls. Creating more ignorance and more controls is only playing into the hands of those you disagree with.

Cameron is refusing to look at the root causes of radicalisation, which would be something far less simple and more entrenched than reading something on the internet. Radicalisation is more likely to be caused by the very alienation and isolation which these sorts of moves engender. Cameron insists it can’t possibly be poverty or UK foreign policy:

“And let us be frank,” said David Cameron. “It’s not poverty, though of course our nations are united in tackling deprivation wherever it exists. It’s not exclusion from the mainstream. Of course we have more to do but we are both successful multicultural democracies where opportunities abound.

“And it’s not foreign policy. I can show you examples all over the world where British aid and British action have saved millions of Muslim lives, from Kosovo to Syria – but that is not exactly the real point. In our democracies, we must never give in to the idea that disagreeing with a foreign policy in any way justifies terrorist outrages.”

He claims the root cause is an “extremist narrative,” while ignoring that for such a story to be accepted it has to have a fertile soil for seed to be planted. By blaming extremist preachers and the Internet Cameron is avoiding how responsible he is for creating the problem.

If you would like to see your ISP install a David Cameron button so you can report instances of Cameronism we suggest you write to your local MP. If we are going to have censorship, we might as well censor those who would censor us.

Why Apple’s corporate plans are doomed

Map09_oh_noes_two_elementalsKing of consumer toys, Apple is attempting its biggest push into the consumer market, according to Reuters.

Reuters claims that Apple is hiring a dedicated sales force just to talk with potential clients like Citigroup.

This is on top of its partnership with IBM to develop apps for corporate clients and sell them on devices, the iPhone maker plans to challenge sector leaders HP, Dell, Oracle and SAP.

Of course no one is saying much in the way of details, Reuters seems to think that the deal with Big Blue will mean that Apple will be welcomed into the corporate world and give HP and Dell a kicking.  This will result in the collapse of Microsoft, Samsung and Google’s own efforts in mobile work applications.

Apparently Job’s Mob is working closely with a group of startups, including ServiceMax and PlanGrid, that already specialise in selling apps to corporate America. Apple is already in talks with other mobile enterprise developers to bring them into a more formal partnership.

For example, PlanGrid is a mobile app for construction workers to share and view blueprints. ServiceMax is a mobile app that makes it easy for companies to manage fleets of field service technicians by ensuring they have access to the right information.

ServiceMax, whose existing customers include Procter & Gamble (PG.N) and DuPont, has co-hosted eight dinners with Apple over the past year in locations across the United States. About 25 or 30 chief information officers and “chief service officers” typically show up at these joint marketing and sales events.

But there are huge problems with Reuter’s desire to see Apple in charge of the world. The most obvious is that Apple makes toys it does not make corporate devices. Corporates are obsessed with security, Apple’s iCloud can’t even protect b list celebs from having their naked pictures being hacked.

Tablets were an Apple inspired Fad and any belief that corporates will rush to buy them never really happened. If they are ever adopted by corporates, they will be a low-level function which will require something a lot cheaper than Jobs’ Mob wants to support. Apple really needed BYOD to take off, which it didn’t.

Apple’s success has been due to its cult following, but religion does not work very well when it comes to business. Apple lacks functionality with business systems, corporates also take a dim view of the sort of things that Apple user agreements desire from their followers. Apple is also slow to confirm security flaws, and even slower to fix them. Its insistence on its own security, rather than that of the client also does not sit well with big business.

In short, to get business customers, Apple needs to change its mentality – something historically it has been unable to do. It not only has to deal with the experts in business, such as Microsoft, HP, Dell and SAP, its traditional rivals, such as Samsung are also harbour similar ambitions.

Samsung has confirmed that it is stepping up its efforts to sell devices to large enterprise clients and hired former chief information officer Robin Bienfait to spearhead that effort. It might hit the same experience problems that Apple has, and there is no reason to suspect it will be any more successful.

Apple’s IBM partnership might not be that key to the corporations either. It relies on IBM’s sales team selling Apple projects. IBM has as much experience selling consumer products as Apple has selling into business. Jobs’ Mob also has no clue about business software, which is the key to getting into the business market — for decades its networking technology has been the weak point of the few Apple installations in corporates.

Apple appears to hope that if it can hook the client on the software and content, they will keep them coming back for the hardware. However, that simply does not work in the corporates. Hell, Microsoft was unable to get corporates to upgrade to Windows 7 because they could not see a need.  What chance does Apple’s business model have against that attitude?

Tim Cook is gay – so what?

tim-cook-glareThis morning the Tame Apple Press is full of praise for Apple CEO Tim Cook “coming out as gay as if it is really important.

Writing in Bloomberg Businessweek, Apple CEO Tim Cook, unprompted, has said that he is gay. It was news that comes as no surprise to anyone, so why in 2014 was it news?

Cook’s sexuality has been known  for ages, in fact when he took over, I mentioned it in his biography only to have it cut out by the news editor. “Who the hell cares?” he diplomatically pointed out. Indeed.

If Cook had come out in Oscar Wilde’s time, when it was illegal, it would be news. However, this is 2014 and being gay is normal. The sort of people who do not think it is normal are the sort of people who have all sorts of undesirable prejudices and no one wants to be like. Even the concept of “coming out” is a relic of a time when homosexuality had to be secret and not considered normal.

Why does it matter? The Tame Apple Press says that such an announcement will “save lives” because kids will no longer be bullied for their sexuality. After all if Tim Cook can come out then the other kids will say “It is ok the guy who makes our great gadgets is gay so we will accept you”. Clearly the Tame Apple Press has no understanding of the minds of bullies.

So if it does not really make a difference why is Cook saying it?

Apple has been in the press a lot lately and the news has not been good. Its iPhone 6 bent and caught fire, it was implicated in the bankruptcy of its Sapphire Glass maker, Apple Pay was rejected by retailers, its iCloud was hacked and celebrities had their naked selfies exposed, the iWatch is late and will probably be a turkey.

Fairly or unfairly there are mutterings are that “none of this would happen under Jobs” and “Apple is not the same”,

The feeling is that Apple needs a “personality” as a leader and Cook is decidedly lacking in that regard. This announcement was like a back-story episode in Season 2 of a sci-fi drama. We have known that someone is two dimensionally evil, hates aliens, or has a phobia about custard, but in this episode we are shown the reason. This is “fleshing out of the character” is not designed to provide information, but is supposed to make a 2D character more three-dimensional.

The problem is that Tim Cook’s only back-story is that he is gay – the very thing that for the last two decades humanity in the Western world has decided is normal. As a result, he is still as two dimensional as his phones because really… who cares what Cook bonks?

 

Bono sells Robin Hood image to defend Apple

bono-cash-facebookSuddenly it is hard to use the words “credibility” and “Bono” in the same sentence.

The U2 popular beat combo  artist  has done his best to champion all the right causes over the years. He has been a significant leader in the fight against poverty, and has helped to create the ONE CampaignDATA(RED) and EDUN, a clothing company which is striving to stimulate trade with poverty stricken countries. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize three times for his efforts to help the poor.

This is why the U2 frontman stepping in to defend Apple’s method of screwing up the tax system of Europe is particularly hypocritical and nasty.

Bono is currently in a business partnership with Jobs’ Mob so having him stand up this weekend and defend Apple’s right to save a bob or two by shafting the health and welfare policies of the EU damaged any lefty street cred that the former 80s rocker might have had.

The U2 frontman believes large companies that avoid paying billions in taxes bring prosperity, rather than harm the economic growth of the country. Unfortunately, Bono, they do not.

Apple has paid an average tax rate of 2.5 percent over the past five years, despite turning over a profit of around $109 billion. This is a fraction of Ireland’s standard tax rate of 12.5 percent.

While Ireland was busy making its deals with big technology companies like Apple to act as a tax haven, the country was going through its biggest debt crisis ever. Apple might have provided jobs in Ireland, but its impact on the Irish economy has been minimal.

Bono said that Ireland was a tiny little country, which did not have scale, and our version of scale is to be innovative and to be clever, and tax competitiveness has brought our country the only prosperity we’ve known.

“We don’t have natural resources; we have to be able to attract people.”

Because of its generous tax allowances, he added, Ireland has reaped the benefits of “more hospitals and firemen and teachers because of the tax policies.”

Now this is a bit of rubbish from the bloke who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for his campaign to alleviate world debt. Tax avoidance schemes rarely help the economies of any nation and take away cash from countries that need the cash.

Ireland might not have attracted the likes of Jobs’ Mob, or Google, or other tax avoiders, but it would have had a fair taxation system. The other countries in the EU which Apple was avoiding paying tax would be able to afford betters health care standards, teachers and firemen.

 

 

Kaveri makes this Acer Aspire E5 sing

Acer E5-551_1AMD has been making a big noise about its Kaveri chip range of Mobile APUs and we got a look at what it could do to Acer E5-551 15.6 laptop.

AMD A-Series APU family, codenamed Kaveri, is starting to pop up in systems from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, and Toshiba. According to AMD, the new mobile APUs mark the debut of Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) features and Graphics Core Next (GCN) Architecture for mobile. Acer’s Aspire E5 is first to arrive in the UK and will be sold through Debenhams so this makes it interesting from a user or a channel perspective.

The AMD A8 Kaveri chip is now powering the new Acer E5-551 laptop is designed for multi-tasking from gaming and light photo-editing to running multiples instances of software and streaming music. The E5-551 features a DVD reader and writer for long plane flights where you need a better movie. It is also well placed for the school market as it can practically anything a school kid could throw at it.

The machine is priced for about £409 which makes it a good budget model for smaller companies who are providing portables for those who have to do work, rather than just look at tablets. Normally there is not much between computers in this range. Most have WXGA screens based on TN technology and conventional hard drives and plastic bodies.

 Acer E5-551_9The Spec

Processor: AMD Quad-Core A8-7100

Mainboard: AMD A76M

Memory: 8192 MB, DDR3L, 1600 MHz, dual-channel, 2 memory banks, both filled

Graphics adapter :AMD Radeon R6 (Kaveri), Core: 533 MHz, DDR3L, shared memory, bus: 64 Bit

Display: 15.6 inch 16:9, 1366×768 pixel, AU Optronics AUO47EC, TN LED

Connections2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: 1 combo audio in/out, 3.5 mm jack, Card Reader: SD/SDHC/SDXC,

Networking: Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit-LAN (10/100/1000MBit), Atheros Communications AR9565 Wireless Network Adapter (b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth

Optical drive: Matshita DVD-RAM UJ8E2Q

Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 64 Bit

Weight: 2.5 kg

Battery: 56 Wh Lithium-Ion

 Acer E5-551_10Design

The Aspire A5 design is, bluntly, a bit of a snooze and not its strongest feature. Certainly, it is thinner than many laptops in this range but it is not that thin. It is lighter and easy to carry than others we have had. Certainly in comparison to the bricks that are available in this price range it is certainly not bad. Besides, for £409 design is something that happens to other people’s computer.

The plastic case also seems to pick up every type of grease that a hand can generate and make the machine slimy.

 The chip

The important part of this computer is an AMD Quad-Core A8-7100 which is a quad core with eight GPU cores to carry out the AMD Radeon R7 series graphics. The idea of the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) is that it allows the CPU and GPU to work together by quickly dividing and directing the right tasks toward the appropriate cores to improve performance and efficiency. The chip managed to make running software a breeze and it even passed our Firefox running trillions of opens tabs trick without any problems.

 The Graphics

The graphics on the Kaveri platform is far better than Intel’s equivalent HD graphics cores integrated into the Haswell chips. This makes Kaveri armed laptop owners able to play reasonably demanding games and videos. Playing Civ 5 was not only possible it was a quality game on Acer E5-551, something that I have only seen on our other home laptop, which has a dedicated card, when there was nothing else running. HD films came out very well, limited only by the screen which for a budget machine was still not too bad.

Connectivity

The machine has an HDMI socket, Ethernet connection, two USB 2.0 sockets, a USB 3.0 connection and a VGA out.  Not bad not great.

Communication

The Atheros AR9565 Wi-Fi module supports the IEEE 901.11 b, g and n standards,  Bluetooth, version 4.0. The signal connections were fairly standard and nothing to right home about

Battery

The 56 Wh Lithium-Ion managed 4.5 half hours before needing a recharge, which was not too bad given the thrashing we were giving it.  Again, this is due to the lower power draw of the AMD A8 chip.

Noise and heat

There was no noise coming from the machine at all. This was unheard of in any laptop in this price range, particularly one with an ordinary hard drive. One could almost believe it is fanless. The heat levels were also not to bad.  The laptop did get warm, but not hot and was comfortable to put on your lap.

Keyboard

The flat, roughened keys were not bad and were capable of fast touch typing.

Touchpad

The ClickPad which is a large, single-surface which you press when you want to ‘click’ was reasonable in comparison to the alternatives we have used.  Generally, if you are not going to have a touch screen on a laptop you are always going to be better with a mouse. When such use was impossible though once you got used to it was fine. Most of the touchpad surface can be pressed, which is interpreted as a left click except for in the lower right of the Clickpad.

 Hard-drive

The hard drive is 1TB which is more than enough for any portable music or movie collection.  It is not an SSD but we never heard it in operation.

Summery

The Acer E5-551 would be a normal budget laptop where it not for the Kaveri chip making it into something special. It enabled speed, enhanced graphics, extended battery life, and quiet operation something which we have not seen from Intel equivalents in the market.  It is still a budget machine, limited by the lack of a quality screen, but for that price it it is jolly useful.

The Eyes have it

four-stars

 

 

 

Good value for money.

 

Intel backs misogynistic gaming Taliban

taliban-1Intel has stuck two fingers up at all women everywhere by bowing to a misogynist campaign to silence women who complain about sexism in computer gaming and the IT industry.

Intel has pulled an advertising campaign from video gaming website Gamasutra after it dared to back a campaign calling for better gender representation in video games.

A group called Operation Disrespectful which normally targets writers, journalists, and developers who fail to agree that women should be sex objects, apparently leant on Gamasutra’s advertisers – in this case Intel. Operation Disrespectful supporters have been linked to campaigns of harassment against prominent women in the industry – calling for them to be raped or beaten up.

Operation Disrespectful called on its supporters to contact companies that advertise on video game-focused websites such as Gamasutra and Kotaku in order to complain about five specific articles that suggested the concept of the “gamer” as an identity was fading away.

Now the group has claimed a victory now that Intel has pulled its advertising from website Gamasutra.

Intel has confirmed the move in a chat to Recode. “We take feedback from our customers very seriously especially as it relates to contextually relevant content and placements.”

So in other words, if the majority of gamers are sexist idiots who want to treat women like scum then Intel does not want to hack them off.

Intel called a serious of articles by Gamasutra editor-at-large Leigh Alexander “controversial.” Her article argued that the games industry has now ballooned that it had outgrown its niche origins, making a gamer’s image – that of a spotty Herbert playing in his mother’s basement and never seeing a real girl no longer correct.

But the piece quickly drew flak from those who are still living that image and are particularly resentful of “feminist gamers” who want a more realistic depiction of women in games.

Operation Disrespectful was born from the #GamerGate hashtag which was first used by anti-left actor Adam Baldwin when he made reference on Twitter to independent game developer Zoe Quinn. Their antics have the backing of US right-wing groups such as the American Enterprise Institute.

Intel admitted it was difficult to work out how pervasive support for #GamerGate is in the wider gamesplaying community, but it is clear that it does not want to take any risks.

Gamasutra, which will presumably lose income because of Intel’s decision, is an outlet that caters to video game developers, hosting diaries from industry professionals and maintaining job listings for those who make games for a living.

However, it is clear that Intel failed to understand that the #GamerGate “movement” is exactly the sort of thing which is keeping the gaming community in the dark ages. While women are increasingly playing games, they have to deal with an industry which sees women as sex objects to be bullied by men. If women want to play computer games it is probably better that they use gear from AMD, Nvidia and ARM and see the Intel inside logo as a symbol of all they hate about the gaming community.

In backing a campaign like #GamerGate, Intel has insulted women gamers, and indeed women everywhere. Since half of Intel’s customers must be women, maybe it is time for them to boycott a company which supports pressure from those who treat them in the same way as the Taliban.

Why smartphones and tablets need to get dumber

dumbFor a while now smartphones have been trying to load more technology into an ever shrinking body.

Some of this has led to design problems, such as Apple’s incredible bendy phone, but also a problem that the phones are simply too expensive.

Chips in smartphones are now reaching the point where they need the graphics and processing power of a five year old PC.

The answer, which the mobile phone makers have so far ignored, is not to make smartphones smarter, by providing them with ever more features, but to make them dumber and shift the processing power and functionality onto the internet. This has already been seen with the development of Chromebooks.

This is the same logic which has been used, on and off, to promote the use of dumb terminals in PC networks. Instead of requiring huge amounts of processing power at the client side, you shift all the processing work and storage to a server.

With the rise of 4G, this becomes possible on mobile units, such as tablets and phones because the bandwidth between the unit and the ISP becomes that much greater.

What this would mean is that instead of trying to stuff technology onto a mobile or tablet, you can put only hardware that would connect you to a server, a couple of cameras, a microphone, GPS and speakers and a battery. RAM requirements would be much smaller, as would any storage, processing and power needs. The battery life would be much longer because it would not need to run high powered processors.

The unit cost of such a gizmo would be much less with the touchscreen being the only significant outlay.

Such a device would certainly work well on wi-fi, but what would stop it now is the risk of a user entering an area where the bandwidth is not up to snuff.

It would also require the telcos to set up their own cloud-based networks for customers to use that could process the traffic and do all the work that the mobile used to do. This is something of a business opportunity which they have either not seen, or do not think they can manage yet.

However, if I am right, it does mean that ultimately Apple style technology heavy, high-margin devices will become redundant. The devices could be made super-cheaply in China and they would be sold by the telcos.

Each phone would be pretty much the same, and the only difference between them would be the services that the telco offers on its server side.

A bonus of such a system is its security. If a phone is lost or stolen, all the data is stored in a cloud and can be found by reconnecting a new phone to that account. This means that hackers have to take on a cloud security system rather than jailbreak a device. Unless your telco is Apple, that should be a little trickier, particularly if the dumb terminal offers a better form of ID than a password.

 

Press flip-flops on Fablets

apple flip flopIf you want to see how Apple’s control of the US trade press is distorting reviews and facts about its products you do not have to look much further than the reviews for the fruity cargo cult’s Fablet.

When Flablets first started appearing, Apple made a big thing about how bad they were, and the Tame Apple Press automatically rubbished them. Despite this they were a huge success, and Apple was forced to copy its rivals and produce one.

Has the Tame Apple Press stuck to its guns and said that Fablets are rubbish? Er no, they have just contradicted their previous views because Apple now tells them to say something different.

Tech Crunch’s Darrell Etherington wrote this week that “The additional size makes for a less ‘perfect’ ergonomic quality, something the iPhone 6 definitely achieves, but there’s still lots to love about the industrial design of the 6 Plus … For most tasks, I find the iPhone 6 Plus to be a two-handed device – but I also find that I’m absolutely fine with that.”

But this is the same magazine that wrote about the Galaxy Note: “Unfortunately, you might look a little crazy with that huge thing up to your face. I found that it was really difficult to get comfortable with the device, never feeling like I had complete control over it as I would with a smaller phone.”
What is the difference? Tech Crunch’s favourite company now makes Phablets so anything it said in the past is officially rubbish.

Josh Geller, from BGR, wrote this week that “Apple has finally taken the wraps off the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple fans are going crazy with anticipation over the largest iPhones ever released, something needs to be said. And that something is, “Thank you, Samsung.” We got it wrong.”

At least he admits he got it wrong, but what was Geller thinking when he wrote this: “The most useless device I’ve ever seen … This is a phone, after using it for a few hours, that feels like it is too big to be taken seriously. That’s the end of it. I don’t care if you like large screens on mobile devices, I don’t care if you love Android, and I don’t care if you love 4G LTE — this is a device fit for use only by such a small subset of the human population that I can’t fathom how AT&T and Samsung are putting so much marketing resources behind it.”

Lauren Goode at the Wall Street Journal admits that she is biased toward Apple and will say whatever the cargo cult put out is great.

“Maybe I’m getting old, and my eyes are getting worse. Or maybe I’m stuck in Apple’s reality-distortion field (help). But something strange happened this week. I started to like a phablet.”

This is the same writer who told us “It’s still too big for a smartphone … After testing it over the past week and a half, the awkwardness that came with carrying such a large, “notice me” phone outweighed the benefits of it, for me.”

The New York Times’ David Pogue was clearly trying to get back into Apple’s good books when he wrote “The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are absolutely terrific phones. They’re fast and powerful and well designed. There’s not a single component that hasn’t been improved. These phones are a delight to behold and to be held.”

This is the same numpty who said about the Samsung Phablet that its “sheer size basically makes one-handed operation impossible. Samsung’s given the Note 3 an entire settings menu dedicated to trying to make it easier to use one-handed, but even with my adult male-sized hands it’s a struggle to reach even half of the screen without dropping the device.”

For some reason his “adult hands” do not drop Apple devices, just those made by a rival.
While it is mostly Amercians journalists who are keen to sacrifice their credibility to butter up Apple, the UK’s Guardian is also keen to toady up to Jobs’ Mob.

Charles Arthur wrote this week: “Too big. This thing’s too big. Waaay too big. It’s … actually, that screen is pretty nice, isn’t it? Wow, you really can get a lot of content on there, can’t you? Hey, my hand’s getting used to the size. It’s quite comfortable, isn’t it?”

However the Guardian has a strong view about other people making Phablets. Samuel Gibbs  moaned that the sheer size of the device basically makes one-handed operation impossible. Samsung’s given the Note 3 an entire settings menu dedicated to trying to make it easier to use one-handed, but even with my adult male-sized hands it’s a struggle to reach even half of the screen without dropping the device.”

What a difference two years makes, and the fact that the outfit is your favourite toymaker.
It seems that the trade press has gone a long way since we had to send back bottles of whisky from suppliers at Christmas because they represented low-level bribery. Instead, it is clear that trade journalists are Apple’s glove puppets and no longer can be relied on to tell you the truth.

 

Microsoft about to do a Windows 8 on Windows 9

windows9.1 leak Microsoft normally follows a pattern with its operating systems – one successful version is followed by a total stuff up. 

Theoretically that should means that Windows 9 should be great, but leaked screen shots of the coming attraction shows that Microsoft could be headed for yet another disaster.

The update, codenamed Threshold and possibly called Windows 9 or just plain Windows, takes some features from Windows 8 and grafts them onto the classic Windows 7 desktop. This is a sop to most Windows users, like me, who hated having to dumb down their computers by running tablet software as the interface.

When running in windowed mode, Windows Store apps will get a button in the top-left corner. Clicking the button brings up a list of functions that previously appeared in the Charms bar, including Search, Share, Play, Project and Settings. This menu will let users switch the app to full screen mode as well.

There will be some new buttons to the desktop taskbar — a search button sits immediately to the right of the Start button, followed by a button for switching between multiple desktops. The latter feature, possibly called “virtual desktops,” will let users switch between several sets of desktop apps and layouts.

On the right side of the taskbar, users will find a new notifications button, with a pop-up menu that will presumably show messages from Windows Store apps.

The screenshots show that Microsoft is keeping the Charms bar, which many expected would be culled.

While all of this is subject to change as Microsoft has not even released a public beta yet, but it is clear that Windows 9 is not really going to be much different from Windows 8.

This is a major problem, particularly as Windows 7 will be starting to look a little elderly by the time Windows 9 hits the shops. Part of the problem is that Microsoft refuses to understand that people do not want their PCs running like a tablet. When you are sitting at a PC you are there for serious work and serious programs, you do not want to have to jump between screens looking for software you do not want.

How often PC users will want to visit the app store is anyone’s guess, yet Microsoft appears to be trying its hardest to make this easier.

What is annoying is that the software behind the interface is much better and more reliable than Windows 7, but the software is crippled by its interface.

This will create huge problems for Microsoft. When it put out Windows Vista people just stayed using Windows XP. Now, rather than use Windows 8, users are sticking to Windows 7.  If Windows 9 is just Windows 8 in drag then people are going to want to stay with Windows 7 even longer.  That is going to make it even more venerable and established that XP was.

Microsoft needs to get back to design basics and work out why people use a desktop.  Hint: it is not because they want a more powerful tablet.

 

Next year’s server wars may be cancelled

soldiers-2The major battle in the server space planned for next year may be only a minor skirmish with the usual suspects winning.

Intel needs to see off the expected competition from ARM and is going to chuck a lot more cash in the area to keep its position as market leader. What we are seeing from the Intel Developer Forum is that its answer will be a a new Xeon D family of chips.

Xeon D chips will be the first server chips based on the Broadwell architecture, and will go into dense servers starting next year. But these are not your normal server chips, they are effectively systems on a chip which means that they will be deliberately targeting anything “low level and power efficient” that ARM is expected to come up with.

It means that Intel does not think that its Xeon E3 and Atom chips code-named Avoton will be up to the task of taking on ARM. The Xeon D chip will be faster, but more power hungry than Avoton, which is based on an architecture called Silvermont used in mobile chips.

But Intel thinks that the Xeon D will provide more performance-per-watt, which punters will find attractive.

Intel does have some other advantages in any coming server war. Intel’s chips already go into more than 90 percent of servers, and server makers like Dell have said that the chances for success of ARM servers are diminishing due to product delays. Intel also has a head-start on software development over ARM.

ARM’s server chips are based on the ARMv8 architecture, and have integrated networking, storage and I/O controllers. Its key weapon against Intel is still lower power consumption, something Chipzilla is fast catching up on.

A variety of companies had indicated interest in making server processors based on blueprints from ARM,  but so far ARM 64-bit server processors have not been made available commercially.

Chip makers like Applied Micro and Advanced Micro Devices have delayed shipment of ARM-based chips.

Dell is offering prototype ARM servers for benchmarking and application development. Hewlett-Packard announced plans to use ARM processors in its Moonshot “dense” server, which uses x86 chips, but hasn’t announced a definitive release date for the ARM edition.

The other player in any coming war AMD is also expanding its low-power server processor lines,  which could also will hurt adoption of ARM servers.

The other big hurdle for ARM is the fact that most firms already have software and hardware based around x86. To adopt ARM-based servers, companies will not only have to invest in new servers and components, but also port applications to the architecture.

This could make a switch to ARM very expensive in terms of capital and final cost of ownership. Then there are some licensing issues surrounding the adoption of ARM servers, as companies will have to pay more for software per core used in them, Norrod said.

ARM is also finding its allies thin on the ground. ARM server pioneer Calxeda folded operations and earlier this year Nvidia scrapped server chip plans. Samsung has also abandoned ARM server chip development.