Category: Opinions

Overseas online sales to soar to £28bn

poundsAccording to  research from OC&C Strategy Consultants and Google, British retailers could see their overseas online sales soar to £28 billion by the end of the decade.

Researchers concluded that growth in online sales will outpace domestic growth and eventually account for 40 percent of total online sales by 2020.

British retailers are already doing quite well abroad. In fact, international consumers spent £7.4 billion on British online retail sites last year, making up about 14 percent of total online sales. This year British retailers are expected to net £10 billion from cross-border sales.

OC&C Strategy Consultants and Google found that growth will come from multiple regions, with western Europea leading the way. Sales in western Europe are expected to hit £9.8 billion by 2020, up from £1.5 billion last year. Central and Eastern Europe will see plenty of growth as well, with sales reaching £6.9 billion by the end of the decade, up from £400 million last year.

Sales in Asia are expected to hit £4.5 billion by 2020, while North America will lose its position as the top market for British online retailers. The North American market is currently estimated at £800 million and it is set to expand to £2.7 billion in 2020. The American market is simply more mature than the rest of the world, which translates into slower growth.

“We have seen a significant increase in the volume of searches for British retailers and brands coming from overseas,” Peter Fitzgerald, director at Google, said. “The majority of non-UK searches are currently coming from Europe, followed by North America and Asia, driven by the increased popularity of British brands abroad. Retailers can use search data to identify pockets of demand and move quickly to meet the needs of customers.”

Anita Balchandani, partner at OC&C, said e-commerce has already transformed the retail game, which was once anchored in local markets.

“There are a number of reasons why growth in e-commerce is changing the rules of internationalisation. Firstly, geographical proximity no longer determines which market is best suited for expansion – the internet allows customers seek out the best offers from around the world,” she said. “Secondly, the nature of risk has changed. International expansion is much less capital intensive and this is creating growth opportunities which have a more controlled exposure to risk. Thirdly, the speed with which companies expand has also accelerated – over 40 of Britain’s top-100 etailers serve customers in more than 40 countries.”

Disties stick up for Windows 8

Windows-8A recent report laying a fair chunk of blame on Windows 8 for the demise of PC sales has been queried by distributors.

Speaking with ChannelEye the sources have said it was unfair to lay the blame just on Microsoft and Windows 8, pointing out other factors such as Apple kit and the ongoing economic crisis.

Their comments come as IDC published its latest Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, where it pointed  the finger at Windows 8 for disrupting the market in tough trading conditions.

It found that shipments totaled 76.3 million units in the first quarter of 2013, a decline of 13.9 percent compared to the same quarter in 2012.

The Windows 8 launch was blamed partly for the decline. Bob O’Donnell, IDC Programme  Vice President, Clients and Displays said it not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but had also slowed down the market as a result of the “radical changes” to the UI. This included the absence of the Start button, plus the costs associated with touch had made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices.

However, disties have stuck up for the company.

One told ChannelEye: “I don’t think it’s fair to put all the blame on Microsoft for disrupting the market, PC sales were flagging long before it bought out Windows 8 to the forefront. If you really want someone to blame then look towards Apple, which has totally changed the landscape with its fancy products.

“It’s tablets, not PC innovation that’s disrupted the pace of PC life.”

Another pointed to the economic climate, saying the recession has a huge part in the slow growth and decline of PC sales as consumers opt for laptops that can be used by everyone in their family.

“Businesses are also cutting down on IT spend, usually opting to repair or reuse their current kit,” the distie said.

However, there were a few choice words for Microsoft’s OS.

“Windows 8 has a small part to play in the way it has disrupted the landscape, offering people touchscreen products and making older, less feature-based PCs seem less glam,” the distie said. “Maybe people are waiting for other operating systems to come out mimicking this, hoping that competition will drive down the prices and get them the bargain they are looking for.”

Hard drive market shrinks, again

hdd-hugeEuropean outfits don’t seem to be gobbling up nearly as many hard drives as they should. According to consultancy firm Futuresource, shipments have gone from bad to worse over the past two years.

The total capacity purchased last year dropped year-on-year for the first time in history and there are no signs of recovery yet.

A multitude of factors contributed to the slump. The disastrous Thailand floods in 2011 pushed prices up for several consecutive quarters, and just as supply started to improve, the tablet craze and PC slump hit hard, compounded by the ever increasing popularity of cloud services. The fact that SSD prices are tumbling did not help, either. Hard drive shipments peaked in 2010, with 28.1 million units, but they dropped to 25.9 million in 2011 and 21.5 million in 2012.

Mats Larsson, senior market analyst for Futuresource, told The Guardian that he doesn’t expect the market to recover to 2010 levels anytime soon.

“We think this year shipments will show between 5% to 10% growth – likely about 7%,” Larsson said. So although some growth is expected, it’s not nearly enough to come close to 2010 levels.

The other issue is the size of drives purchased last year. While it is still growing, it is not keeping up with the drop in unit sales. As a result, the total capacity dropped from 25.4 petabytes in 2011 to 23.6 petabytes in 2012.

Larsson said some retailers held back on buying drives last year, in the hope that distributors would drop prices. That didn’t happen. Hopes that increased demand for tablets would result in higher NAS shipments were also quashed. Shipments of NAS systems in 2012 dropped to 1.12 million units, down from 1.27 million units in 2011.

Dell could go down like Richard III

Battle_of_BosworthTin-box shifter Michael Dell has found himself in the middle of a three-way proxy war for control of his company and might go out like Richard III screaming for a horse and ending up under a carpark.

Dell hit the headlines by allying with Silver Lake in a bid to take his company private. Really, that should have been the end of matters. Dell owns a big chunk of company stock, he founded the company in the first place and it desperately needs a restructuring.

Shareholders should logically be pleased to see a return on their cash at all, as the value of the outfit is likely to get a lot worse before it gets better, if it gets better. For some reason they are not.

Instead we are seeing the various big shareholders ganging up to try and take control before Dell can get the company private.

The question is what they hope to gain. In the middle of a recession, where Dell’s traditional buyers are saving their pennies, the company is paralysed. The only part of the IT industry that is moving at all is the mobile sector and Dell is not a big player there. Dell is doing alright in enterprise.

Logically a company in Dell’s position should restructure, cut back to basics and survive on its cash reserves until things pick up.

This is the opposite of what shareholders want. They want the company to show continual growth so that the share price will increase. By going private, Dell is protected from the wrath of shareholders and can look to the longer term.

While all sides are talking about having the best interests of the company and shareholders at heart, it is fairly clear that the only one who really cares about Dell as an ongoing concern is Michael Dell himself.

Blackstone, Carl Icahn, and Silver Lake Partners all have ideas to take the company private. But their idea can only be to take over and flog off all the company assets and distribute the last of the cash.

This can be the only reason why they are swarming around Dell like flies.

Otherwise any observer who lifts the bonnet of Dell has to take a sharp intake of breath and admit that in the short term Dell is buggered. Its core business market is rotting and its quarterly sales in its consumer sector are sliding.

A management plan presented to the board last July expected $5.6 billion in operating income this year. That was later reduced to $3.7 billion, but is likely to be revised lower still.

Global shipments for PC makers declined 3.2 percent last year and are predicted to fall more than 10 percent in the current quarter. Dell has not really seen any benefits from the launch of Windows 8 or the Ultrabook.

This puts Dell’s board in a difficult position. So far they have supported Michael Dell but now they have to work out if offers from Blackstone and Icahn will lead to a better bid than the one from Michael Dell and Silver Lake.

They will have to look at the deal in terms of cash. They can’t take the perspective that it’s better for the company to go with Michael, they always have to say “the average shareholder will do better”.

The three rival offers are critically different. Dell and Silver Lake will buy out shareholders for $13.65 a share, valuing Dell at $24.4 billion. If the preliminary offers from Blackstone and Icahn do not firm up, this is the best shareholders can expect. Currently you can pick up a second hand Dell share for $14.50 so a lot of people will be out of pocket.

To make matters worse, few people will invest in Dell shares while there is a big argument about the outfit’s future. Corporate buyers thinking about getting in a few Dell boxes want to know if the company is going to be around in a few years.

Blackstone’s offer of more than $14.25 a share to all investors who want to cash out would mean that Dell is worth $25 billion.

Icahn, on the other hand, is offering to buy 58 percent of shares for $15 apiece.

At the moment, analysts say that Blackstone has the highest chance of success. That could cause Dell some major headaches. For a start it is likely that Michael Dell himself will be removed from the company.

There are rumours that Icahn submitted his proposal only to keep discussions going, because he thought Blackstone may not submit an offer. It is likely that he will walk away from the deal but wants to make the most of his billion dollar investment in the company. He will want a large special dividend before he ties up with a rival bid, probably Blackstone.

Michael Dell’s own involvement with Blackstone would seal it, but it does not seem to be playing out that way. Earlier this week the Blackstone deepthroats were telling the press that he would be fired if they had anything do do with it. Officially, though, Dell has said that he will “explore in good faith” the possibility of working with Blackstone or Icahn.

He claimed he would be like Switzerland in favouring a form of armed neutrality.

But Blackstone wants to asset strip Dell’s financial services unit, worth an estimated $5 billion, and has apparently asked ex HP chief Mark Hurd about running the company. Dell, who is always a little hands on, has good reasons why he would not want this to be the case.

Either way all this is going to get a lot messier and is going to take months to sort out. What the three factions have to realise is that Dell, the company,  could be killed off by their final Battle of Bosworth.

Intel forced to take axe to Ultrabook prices

titanicThe writing was on the wall for Intel-based Ultrabooks well over a year ago.

Overpriced, underwhelming, and facing massive competition from tablets and smartphones and trends such as bring your own device (BYOD), few families would take the risk of spending over $1,000 to have a bright shiny Ultrabook and keeping an eye on jobs and the general economic situation, large corporations weren’t going to splash the cash either.

So the news that Ultrabooks are set to cost far less for the holiday season this year is probably a case of too little too late. It also begs a number of questions about Intel’s business model which remain to be resolved.

Intel’s phenomenal growth was due, in a large part, to the monopolistic hold it had on the PC industry.  True, AMD was around to mitigate that, but it was only in the days of the AMD Opteron that Intel was forced to react.  Because it holds such a large X86 market share, that meant that the revenues from sales of its microprocessors allowed it to finance developing the next generation of its CPUs.  Building fabs is not a trivial matter and involves billions of dollars of investment.  Intel could afford to do this because during its so-called “tick tock” cycle, it was able to maximise profits on its current generation of semiconductors, while developing its next generation.

However, this continual growth could never be guaranteed, and disruptive technology, in the shape of tablets and smartphones, meant that given a choice, lots of people preferred to pay far less for tablets and smartphones rather than go for Ultrabooks at $1,000 plus.

And with this we come to applications and the realm of the other great X86 monopolist, Microsoft.  It’s certainly true that typing on a smartphone or a tablet is not nearly as convenient as using a conventional keyboard.  And if you are into solid beancounting, you’ll certainly need a sophisticated spreadsheet to manipulate the numbers.  Despite the now decades long promise of the paperless office, people still print stuff.  Microsoft, with Windows 8 and its tablet ready interface is too expensive.  It, like Intel, has lost its grip on the electronics market.

There’s another factor to consider, too.  Right now, Intel is in an interregnum period.  Paul Otellini, the current CEO, is due to leave at the end of May.  Intel is actively recruiting for another CEO, but that means, in the short term, that no-one is going to make huge company wide decisions.

In truth, it’s hard for me, as a seasoned Intel watcher, to see quite what rabbit the new Intel CEO, whoever she or he might be, might pull out of the corporate top hat.  Intel has been in fixes before, and because of its size and its sway can never be underestimated.  But it’s hard to see it making very much more than a ripple in the smartphone and tablet market, leaving it between a ROC and a hard place. It’s also hard to see where the complex supply chain it generates is going to end up, too.

E-commerce generates demand for mega-warehouses

warehouse-openOnline shoppers are not just killing main street, they seem to be taking creating a lot of demand for oversized commercial storage units suitable for logistics and delivery outfits. In other words, small warehouses are going out of style, fast.

Property Magazine International reports that 25 million square meters of retail space will be needed over the next five years to keep up with e-commerce trends. That is the equivalent of 3,300 football pitches and some developers might end up driving white Bentleys, just like Premiership footballers.

It is estimated that online outfits will also need an additional three million square meters of specially equipped e-fulfilment space over the next five years. Another 22 million square meters is needed to keep retail stores and satellite warehouses stocked.

The growth of e-commerce will also drive further development of so-called dark stores, which is basically a fancy name for huge warehouses where goods are packed and shipped to consumers.
Jones Lang LaSalle executive Paul Betts argued that many retailers have simply outgrown their supply chain infrastructure and they have to work out new logistics models for multi-channel retail.

Surface tablet sales fall short, resemble Zune

surface-rtOh dear. It looks like the sceptics were right, Microsoft’s Surface tablets are lemons. Bloomberg is reporting that Microsoft has sold about 400,000 Surface Pro tablets since their debut last month. In addition, it only managed to sell a little over a million Surface RT tablets.

Microsoft reportedly ordered three million Surface RT tablets last year, but sales never picked up and Redmond was forced to scale back the order. 

The lacklustre figures come as no surprise. Earlier this year it emerged that the RT faced high return rates and very low sell-through, with shipments totalling just 900,000 units in the first quarter of sales. The Surface Pro did not fare any better. It got relatively negative reviews and since it is quite a bit pricier than the RT, consumers don’t seem keen to make the leap of faith.

JMP Securities analyst Alex Gauna told Bloomberg that Microsoft has failed to prove that Windows has a place in a new world dominated by touchscreens.

“It’s pretty clear that things were bad entering the year, and at least for the moment they’re getting worse,” he said. “The path to a successful Surface, in the same way that they were successful with Xbox, is not very clear to me right now.”

Apple still commands a 50+ share of the tablet market, although it is projected to slip under 50 percent later this year. Analysts put Apple’s iPad shipments in Q4 at 22.9 million units, which dwarfs every single competitor. However, Apple is losing share to Android, not Windows.

IDC reckons that the share of Windows RT tablets will stay below 3 percent through 2017, while Windows 8 could end up on 7.4 percent of tablets, in 2017 of course. In other words, Windows tablets are going nowhere, fast.

VMware needs luck as it sticks its head in the clouds

cloud (264 x 264)VMware has given up trying to wait for its partners to help it become an important name in the cloud space and has decided to do it itself.

Yesterday the outfit unveiled vCloud Hybrid Service to investors. Well we say unveiled we really mean that it told the world that was intending to set up a public cloud service. But it caught everyone on the hop because it was only a couple of months ago that VMware’s Pat Gelsinger sounded so dead set against the public cloud.

Speaking at the VMware’s Partner Exchange Conference in Las Vegas, Gelsinger said that VMware needed to own the corporate workload. He said that the company would lose if they end up in commodity public clouds.

With comments like that to suddenly come out and launch your own public cloud seems a little silly. However what Gelsinger appeared to be saying was that he did not want corporate data on other people’s public clouds.

“We want to extend our franchise from the private cloud into the public cloud and uniquely enable our customers with the benefits of both. Own the corporate workload now and forever.”

But Gelsinger’s plans might be a little tricky to pull off.

When it comes to public cloud there is a lot of top notch competition including Amazon, IBM, and HP who don’t take too kindly to strangers in the market. To make matters worse VMware’s offering will not be around until at least the second quarter.

VMware has chucked a bit of money trying to get the idea of the ground. Former Savvis Cloud president, Bill Fathers, will run the vCloud and has said that the idea will get a level of investment appropriate to that priority and to capitalize on a $14 billion market opportunity.

One of the crucial differences about what VMware is offering is that it is the service “hybrid” so that enterprises should see it as part of the VMware’s packages. The software which the vCloud is based on is called Director. It uses an IaaS environment and lets workloads become managed either in the cloud or in the office in the same way.

But all this is being set up because VMware could not interest its partners in building something similar. VMware had a crack at offering similar products through its ISP partners. But these were a little spooked that vCloud implementation would commodise their products. There were mutterings from ISPs who did not want to pay VMware licensing costs when they had cheaper open source alternatives.

VMware has a job on its hands to prove to VMware Certified Professionals that the public cloud is an extension of the data centre while at the same time convincing them that there are some advantages over the “non-cloud” environments they use now.

The public cloud will be aimed at its existing customer base and sold through its existing VAR and SI channel.

However most of VMware’s channel partners don’t have the skills to help their I&O clients transition from static virtualisation to cloud. So somehow VMware is going to have to give its channel the consulting skills and hope they can bluster their way through conversations where real cloud is needed.
Either way the company has a long way to go before it can sit comfortably among other cloud players. It might just pull it off, but it will take a bit of time and a lot of luck.

Industry thinks digi-wallets and NFC are overhyped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech execs still dislike Windows 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the big boys killed Google and Apple’s TV

5d5ff59c-434d-11e2-989b-12313d1f5c43About a year ago you could not read anything in the tech press about how the big names were pressing into the telly industry.

Google and Apple were all outed as being likely to become big players. Their channel partners waited, after all there was some big dosh to be made in joint operations, and suddenly there was nothing.

Google pulled off a big “oh look a badger” and started talking about Google Glass while Apple instructed its Tame Apple Press to start writing meaningless pieces about watches instead.
So what happened to the television being the cure for Apple and Google’s woes?

According to Forbes it was some dark satanic practices being carried out behind closed doors in the Far East.

But in the old days control the TV meant you might also control other household functions, like remote control of the air conditioning. Microsoft was early into TV operating systems for that reason.

Its logic is that the TV market is owned by Korean manufacturers and in particular Samsung, and by LG and they are making their plans grander by the minute.

LG recently bought WebOs from HP, specifically for use in smart TVs while Samsung already has a smart TV project that has sucked up developers of iOS, Windows and Android.

For Apple and Google to get into this market they have to do something pretty sexy in a channel where they are an innocent Shirley Temple doing a rounding redition of “good ship lollypop” before a convent of Nuns.

Apple looked at the competition, saw how good it was, and thought “Nah lets stick to making toys.” Google on the otherhand has been a bit more shifty.

The Web OS purchase was bad news for Google TV, but it exposed the extent of Google’s plans. In the beginning the company courted a number of big TV manufacturers for Google TV, with the idea of having the system embedded in a wide variety of TV sets.

It spoke to Sony, which was one of the first to make Google TVs, LG came on board for the second generation, and Samsung seemed to be ready to go Google as well by early 2012.

However a year afterwards Samsung’s Google TV never materialised and Sony stopped selling and now, LG is buying its own smart TV operating system. This means that Google is stuck to a companion box and is snookered.

So why have the big players gone all Altair’ on Google? It appears that it might not be Google, but the operating system that it runs on which has the big Asian names miffed.

For a while now there has been muttering that Android has become too powerful. The moaning has not just come from the Chinese Government, which is looking to build its own Red Friendly operating system, but Google’s partners too.

Some of that was Google’s fault, in buying Motorola, but there are some other reasons too. The first is that many are terrified of returning to a situation where one operating system has control over the market. Although Android is Open Source it still operates at the will of Google.

What is starting to look possible is that Samsung could use Tizen and LG will use Web OS.
The interesting point here that recently Intel revealed its TV plans. It is coming in late, and really few people will care, but it looks like it means that it will not only have to do it without Samsung or LG. True it could run its TV on WebOs or Tizen but that is not normally its style. It probably thought it could come in with Android and everything would be home and hosed. Only it wasn’t.

HTC struggles to stay afloat despite top notch products

htc-quietly-going-underHTC was one of the first smartphone makers to cash in on the Android craze a couple of years ago, but the good times are long gone and if its fortunes don’t turn around soon, it might be up for sale, or worse.

Back in 2010 and the first half of 2011, HTC was the darling of tech hacks and investors alike. It was posting strong sales, with triple digit revenue growth for four consecutive quarters. However, it has been downhill ever since.

On Wednesday HTC announced that its sales in February dropped a whopping 44 per cent year-on-year and 27 per cent compared to January. At the moment, HTC’s market cap is roughly one fifth of what it was in mid-2011.

So what on earth went wrong, and what led to HTC’s annus horribilis last year?

It wasn’t the products. Last year HTC decided to focus on fewer phones, which seemed like a logical step for a small outfit, as it could allocate its resources more efficiently and turn itself into an upmarket brand. The resulting One series phones got stellar reviews, but the positive vibe did not result in strong sales. HTC’s flagship One X featured a better screen than its arch nemesis, the Samsung Galaxy S3. It also looked a bit nicer and its build quality was vastly superior. In terms of hardware and software, it was on a par with Samsung’s S3 juggernaut. The same is true of other HTC phones.

For years HTC was viewed as a geeky smartphone brand with excellent but somewhat dull products. It tried to shake off this perception by introducing a bit more flare to its smartphone designs and then there was the ill-conceived Beats Audio deal. Clearly, it didn’t help. Worse, Samsung’s approach of flooding the market with countless Galaxy models worked like a charm. Instead of diluting the Galaxy brand with cheap, plasticky phones, Samsung managed to get more brand recognition than Google’s Android OS. Galaxy has become synonymous with Android, and then some.

HTC’s new flagship, dubbed One sans suffix, is already getting great reviews. It features a 4.7-inch 1080p display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 processor, which is the fastest currently available mobile chipset, along with an innovative Ultrapixel camera and a new dual-membrane microphone. It ticks all the right boxes and should be able to take on anything Samsung, LG or Sony could throw at it.

Sadly though, that is not enough. HTC simply can’t sell its gear or get its message across. It lacks the resources of consumer electronics giants, so it can’t market its products as effectively and it can’t get sweetheart carrier deals like big players. What’s more, smartphones have already gone mainstream and HTC simply lacks the brand recognition of more consumerish brands. Geeks might love HTC phones, they can get very positive reviews, but mainstream consumers just don’t care. They don’t read tech sites and they buy Samsungs instead.

So although HTC pioneered Android phones and although it still has excellent products, it could get the unflattering distinction of being the first Android smartphone maker to go out of business, in the middle of a mobile boom and with very little fault of its own.

Microsoft Windows 8 OEM prices may drop in UK

Windows-8Despite claims that Microsoft is planning to offer discounts on Windows 8 OEM prices over in Taiwan, disties and resellers have said that they have not seen the same happening in the UK.

However, they have hinted that if the rumours are correct, there could be a knock on effect on UK sales later on in the year.

The comments come as DigiTimes reported that Microsoft would lower OEM licensing costs by offering a discount of $20 for 11.6-inch and below notebooks that are equipped with touch screens.

Sources and vendors said this was because Windows had fallen short of expectations in driving demand mainly because its notebooks and tablets were too expensive

For below 10.8-inch notebooks, tablets and hybrids, Microsoft  is said to offer the $20 discount plus free Office 2013 software, from the beginning of April, while retail prices for 11.6-inch touchscreen Windows 8 notebooks were expected to be reduced beginning June to reflect the discount.

However, a big distie who works closely with Microsoft in the UK said that it had not seen evidence of this.

“We haven’t heard of any reductions but we can confirm that these are failing to shift,” he told ChannelEye.

“I suppose if the news is coming from the Far East we can expect to see similar announcements in the next few weeks/months.

“These sources are rarely wrong and it would make sense given the way these products are failing to fly off the shelves.”

One reseller was less convinced, telling ChannelEye: “Sales are slow but I don’t think they are at a pace to send Microsoft into a price slashing frenzy just yet.

“It’s invested a lot of money in these products as well as us, its resellers, so it’s going to hold out. Of course that puts pressure on us to sell, but c’est la vie.”

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.

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?