Category: Products

ITC builds on Oracle tech

consultoracleITC Infotech is introducing a Consumer Goods Business Process Services (BPS) offering based on Oracle’s Comprehensive Trade Management.

It’s built on Oracle’s Siebel Trade Promotion Management, made with a view to manage promotions and funds as well as to settle claims and forecast sales and liabilities. ITC’s kit runs predictive trade planning and predictive scenario planning, too, letting customers use an all-in-one service to boost trade spend efficiency and improve sales forecasting accuracy.

Potential customers may be interested because ITC promises the service will help them reduce costs and boost efficiencies.

ITC Infotech’s president, L N Balaji, said this can lead to better collaboration and relationships with customers.
“We expect it will immensely benefit companies in the consumer goods, durables, high tech and consumer healthcare sectors, and in general all companies that manage brands and promotions,” Balaji said.

Tesco in “unprecedented” Blinkbox promo pre tablet launch

tescoBritish supermarket giant Tesco may be showing off its rumoured own-brand tablet as early as next week, as it steps up the marketing drive of its content platform Blinkbox.

An invite sent out to UK press reads: “We’ve got something to show you. #LetsHudl.” Hudl, PCR-Online points out, was registered as a trademark earlier this year for use on a tablet device. The rumours so far suggest Tesco will be aiming for the cheap and cheerful market, with analysts telling us the company will use it to leverage its content service, Blinkbox – not dissimilar to Amazon’s approach with the Kindle Fire.

It’s expected the device will launch at around the £100 mark. Doing so would make it one of the cheapest ‘big’ brands on the British market. Whether buyers will flock to the brand is another question.

It’s expected Tesco will stuff the tablet with its own streaming services such as Blinkbox and Clubcard TV. Most think it will run on an unmodified version of Android.

According to PC Pro, which claims to have seen the specs, the Tesco tablet will sport two bog standard cameras, ship with GPS, Bluetooth, and the usual MEMS in an accelerometer and a gyroscope.

The device will reportedly feature a seven inch IPS panel at 1280×720, and under the bonnet will be a 1.6GHz quad core processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB included storage and a slot for MicroSD.

If Tesco is indeed launching a tablet it’s a bold move by the retailer. Tesco recently announced it was to slash inventories of other electronics and focus on selling more traditional supermarket products.

Monday’s announcement will coincide with what Marketing Week calls a “nationwide in-store marketing blitz” for Blinkbox, including promotions across 500 stores offering discounts on drinks, snacks, DVDs, CDs, and videogames.

In tandem, Tesco plans a major radio, print, digital, outdoor ad, and “high profile” TV ad campaign to launch in October. Blinkbox’s marketing exec Kate Simon told MarketingWeek the scale of investment is “unprecedented”.

Blinkbox plans to differentiate itself from other streaming services such as Lovefilm, Netflix and Sky, touting, for example, its superior range of blockbuster films and TV shows compared to rivals.

Vega GPU Announced by Vivante

VivanteRight up front Vivante states that it designed its GPU architecture to scale to compete with Nvidia and ATI. It plans to vie with Nvidia in the next generation of ultra-mobile GPU in GTX/Maxwell, John Oram writes from San Francisco.

A fledgling start up once assisted by semiconductor angel investors and corporate investment from Fujitsu, Vivante was profitable five years after opening its doors. It is now headquartered in Sunnyvale, California with offices in Shanghai and Chengdu China. Over its nine year history, Vivante Corporation has infiltrated many markets.

The company flaunts its “firsts” – first to ship OpenGLES 3.0 silicon and first to ship embedded OpenCL 1.1 silicon. It has shipped over 120 million units. Currently, Vivante is inside the majority of the top players in the fields of SoC vendors, mobile OEMs, TV OEMs, and automotive OEMs.

At IDF, Vivante was heralding its  advantage over its competitors referring to benchmark ratings in its slides. For example see the GC1000 – Mali 400-MP2 comparison where it also pictorially point out the difference in size between the Mali and smaller Vivante product.

Smart TVs, such as Vizio, LG U+, Lenevo, TCL, Hisense, and Changhong, rely on Vivante. Chromecast Internet to TV streaming experiences Acceleration by Vivante in 3D gaming, composition, and user interface. Set top boxes from Toshiba out of Japan, and three companies out of Shenzhen, China, Huawei, Himedia,and GIEC, all use Vivante’s GPU Acceleration.

Tomorrow’s cars will never be the same. Vivante is everywhere. Drivers will check out their positioning with ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) displays, reverse guidance, pedestrian detection, and object distance indicators. In fact, Vivante was awarded the 2013 Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Award  for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.

Vivante used IDF to announce Vega. Vega is the culmination of seven years of architecture refinements and the experience of more than 100 SoC integrations. It is optimized to balance the big three: performance, power, and area. GPU delivers highest in class performance at greater than 1 GHz GPU clock speeds. It even touts patented logarithmic space full precision math units. Vega is optimized and configured from production GPU cores GC2000, GC4000, and GC5000. Vega GPUs have been delivered to lead customers for tapeout.

Vivante’s SDK is ready for GUI, gaming, and navigation applications. Vivante provides full API support across the GPU product line, OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL 1.2, and DirectX 11 9_3. The company prides itself on its Scalable Ultra-threaded Unified Shader which offers up to 32x SIMD Vec-4 shaders and up to 256 independent threads per shader operate on discrete data in parallel. Shaders facilitate creation of an endless range of effects by tweaking hue, brightness, contrast and saturation of the pixels, vertices and textures to create an image. Shaders provide a programmable alternative to the hard-coded approach known as Fixed Function Pipeline.

Vivante isn’t shy about pointing out its edge over the competition. As far as performance / area advantages, they are taking on Tegra, Adreno, Mali, and IMG.

In conclusion, Vivante indicated that it isn’t overlooking the mass market either with their Vega Lite version which still promises the smallest silicon area matched with extremely low power.

Cloud of unknowing descends on public IT

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeMarket research company IDC has gazed in its crystal ball or inspected a set of entrails and has concluded that worldwide spending on public IT cloud services will be worth $47.4 billion this year.

And there’s more to come, according to the auspices.  By 2017, spending will reach $107 billion meaning that between then and now sales will grow by 23.5 percent, compounded annually.

The analysts believe that cloud services are blowing into a chapter two phase where mobile, social and big data will become interdependent.

Chief IDC diviner Frank Gens calculates thus: “Over the next several years, the primary driver for cloud adoption will shift from economics to innovation as leading-edge companies invest in cloud services as the foundation for new competitive offerings. The emergence of cloud as the core for new ‘business as a service’ offerings will accelerate cloud adoption and dramatically raise the cloud model’s strategic value beyond CIOs to CXOs of all types.”

Virtual private clouds help to persuade organisations that the cloud is not dangerous but instead has a silver lining.

By 2017, according to Gens, public IT cloud services will account for seventeen percent of IT product spend. Software as a service (SaaS) will keep the biggest chunk of the pie, and account for 59.7 percent of revenues in 2017, while fast growing categories include the dreadfully named “platform as a service” (PaaS) and the almost equally gruesome “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS) with compound annual growths of 29.7 percent and 27.2 percent.

MS Surface gets new lease of life

surface-rtMicrosoft’s Surface tablets are refusing to die thanks to a bit of help from another bloated and overvalued mess – the public sector. Phoenix Software reports that it has seen a 40 percent surge in demand for Surface tablets from schools, colleges and the rest of the public sector. We assume asylums are somewhere rank high on the list as well.

The surge came about after Microsoft unleashed Surface tablets on the channel two weeks ago. Phoenix actually had to increase its public sector team by 30 percent to cope with increased demand and it even adopted the Surface itself, through its BYOD policy.

The Surface Pro is fully compatible with Windows-centric networks used in most public sector institutions, and since it ships with Microsoft Office, multiuser support and a physical keyboard, it has an edge over Android tablets and iPads in such an environment. The Surface RT also has a few things going for it, as it replicates the IT suite environment used in many schools, although it lacks compatibility with legacy x86 applications.

It’s good news for Microsoft, which sort of makes us wonder why it didn’t go after known Windows addicts like the public sector in the first place? It seems someone at Microsoft truly thought those colourful TV ads would make civilians buy Surface tablets over the iPad. Could it have been someone who’s about to step down perhaps?

Nexus 7 out, Nexus 4’s price cut

nexus4-ceGoogle’s Nexus 7 has gone on sale in Britain. Prices start at £199 for the 16GB version, while the 32GB one costs £239. In addition to Google’s Play Store, it is also available at Currys, Tesco, Argos, Amazon and John Lewis.

It is competitively priced. Although it’s based on a  Qualcomm chip which is also used in the Nexus 4, the Nexus 7 features a 1920×1200 screen and as it is a Nexus device, software support is second to none. In many respects, it renders other cheap 7-inch tablets rather pointless, which is hardly great news for Google hardware partners. The Nexus 7 is now available in France, Germany and Spain, too. However, smaller markets will have to wait.

The Nexus 4 has been around for a while, but it is still a very competitive product. It might not have a 1080p screen or the latest greatest processor, but it’s a great workhorse and its build quality is still superior to any Samsung phone out there. Now it’s an even better deal, as Google slashed the price for the 8GB model to just £159, while the 16GB version now costs £239. If LTE isn’t a must have, the Nexus 4 is truly a steal for anyone who does not want to get bogged down in a two-year carrier deal.

Google is also expected to roll out a new Nexus 10 later this year and rumours of a Nexus 5 superphone are rampant. Let’s not forget the Moto X, either, although it is limited to the US market.

It’s all good news for Android fans and Google, but Google hardware partners are probably not amused. With such low prices, Nexus products are disruptive and they are hard to keep up with. They always get the latest updates and on the hardware front they offer great value, although they don’t tend feature the latest tech out there.

The only good bit news for other Android peddlers is that Google doesn’t appear to be trying too hard. Geeks love Nexus gear, but average people have no idea that it exists at all. Google is simply not marketing Nexus products properly, but this might be about to change. Googlerola recently announced that it would spend a few hundred million dollars on Moto X marketing and if Google starts marketing Nexus products just as aggressively, well then,  anything could happen.

Dell includes channel in desktop-as-a-service move

Dell logoDell is looking to include the channel in its desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) strategy and it is about to offer two options for channel partners. The first one will be straightforward, much like the usual resale relationship, but a deeper approach will let the partners themselves “own” the customers, reports MSPmentor.

The cunning plan is that organisations will find it a lot easier to get into the DaaS business without the hassle of building their own infrastructure. Such an approach should appeal to potential providers, including telecoms, reckons Dell. So far the push will apparently be limited to the American market, where the service launched a month ago, in cooperation with system integrators MCPC from Ohio.

However, the model itself sounds relatively flexible and it should be relatively easy to expand. Dell Director of Sales Enablement Terry Vaughn said the company has already come up with a playbook for the service, which resembles a franchise model. Affiliate/referral margins are percent of revenue in a monthly recurring model, while the co-delivery model requires the partner to achieve Dell certification, but it also provides better margins of 15 to 20 percent.

“We know what we are selling this for direct in the market place, and we are holding the pricing consistent,” said Vaughn. He added that the approach is designed to avoid any channel conflict.

In addition, Dell is offering a free proof-of-concept trial for anyone willing to give the new DaaS strategy a go.

Dell to sell new Latitude ultrabooks, laptops

dell-latitude-7000-330pxDell has revamped its range of business friendly Latitude products, with a nice ultrabook on top. The Latitude 7000 is the new anorexic flagship, while Latitude 5000 and 3000 series products are designed with SMBs, education and small customers in mind.

The 7000 is quite a looker, a far cry from dull business designs of the past. The 12-incher is 20mm thick and it weighs just 2.99 pounds, which is not bad but it’s still a bit bulkier than the MacBook Air. However, unlike the Air, it is also available with a 14-inch screen, tucked underneath a carbon lid. All the usual business features are on board, like Intel vPro processors, TPM, optional fingerprint and smartcard readers, as well as NFC.

Battery life should be good, too. Dell promises up to 8.5 hours on a small three-cell power pack, which is pretty good. It can use existing E Docks as well as wireless WiGig docks. USB 3.0 and HDMI are on board as well. Although it’s thin and light, it is rather rugged and it complies with MIL-STD 810G.

dell-latitude-7000-600px

Base models ship with 1366×768 matte screens, but they are available with 1080p touchscreens, with a pane of Gorilla Glass on top. The 14-inch is available with a matte, non-touch 1080p panel. Both models ship with SSDs as standard, but the 14-inch version can also be ordered with a hybrid drive for more storage on a budget.

The entry level 3000 series and the mid-range 5000 series come in two sizes, 14 and 15 inches. They can also be ordered with touchscreens and due to their size they offer a lot more options under the bonnet, including discrete graphics, a bigger choice of processors, three different battery sizes and hard drives ranging up to 1TB, or SSDs up to 256GB.

Pricing starts at $599 for the 3000 series, but the sleek 7000 series is a lot pricier, starting at $1,049 in the US. There is still no word on 5000 series pricing.

AMD updates roadmap, reveals new delays

AMD, SunnyvaleAMD has a new roadmap which sheds more light on upcoming Volcanic Islands GPUs, as well as Kaveri and Kabini based product releases, and delays.

New GPUs are coming soon. AMD will hold a launch event in roughly a month and it is widely expected to launch the new Hawaii card at the event, which will be held – in Hawaii. AMD has already announced that Kaveri products will hit the channel in mid-February 2014. They will be joined by new Kabini SKUs later on, reports Digitimes.

The new Kabini chips will enter mass production in February and they will be announced in March. It appears that this batch will be focused on desktops and big notebooks, as most of them will be quad cores with a 25W TDP. The first desktop Kabini parts were supposed to launch in the second half of 2013, but now it appears they have been pushed back to March. Last week we reported that Kabini is struggling with limited availability and the delay explains it, at least on the desktop front.

Kabini’s successor, Beema, has also been delayed. It was supposed to launch in March 2014, but now it seems it will launch in the second half of 2014 or maybe even in early 2015, which is very bad news indeed.

According to the roadmap, AMD’s FM1 and AM3 sockets will be phased out by the end of the year. In 2014 AM3+ will account for 30 percent of AMD’s desktop processor shipments, while FM2/FM2+ will account for the remaining 70 percent. Kabini will use ST3 and FS1B sockets.

Looking ahead to 2015, AMD should release Carrizo APUs based on the new Excavator architecture and Nolan should replace Beema in the low end. However, delays are possible and when it comes to AMD they are the norm, not an exception.

AMD Jaguar products still thin on ground

jaguar-peltIn late May AMD officially launched its first Jaguar-based APUs. Kabini was supposed to end up in all sorts of products, from cheap and cheerful notebooks, to AIOs and traditional desktops.

Temash is an even more frugal version of the chip, so it was intended for ultraportables, hybrids and similar form factors. Both chips arrived with much fanfare and got a lot of praise from the tech press. They are the most interesting consumer products to come out of AMD in 2013.

However, it’s been exactly three months since the launch and there really aren’t that many actual products to buy. There are some Jaguar-based notebooks and desktops in EMEA and US, but even they are available in a handful of shops, in rather limited numbers. The Acer Aspire V5, HP Pavilion Sleekbook TouchSmart 11, Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite are Temash powered ultraportables and they are readily available in most European markets, albeit in a limited number of shops. So far they appear to be the only Temash notebooks in stock in Europe.

It is even worse with Kabini. There’s the Lenovo Thinkpad E145 in two SKUs, Toshiba Satellite C70/C75 and a huge Packard Bell 17-incher, which is practically the only Kabini notebook available on the continent, at least the only one to be found in price search engines. It’s only available in two Austrian shops, which is still better than the Lenovo and Toshiba, as nobody appears to have them in stock at the moment.

Then there’s a couple of Acer SFF desktops and a Packard Bell all-in-one, and that’s about it. There’s also not a single mini-ITX board yet, which is bad news for HTPC enthusiasts and tinkerers. It also may indicate that the first batches of Kabini chips are destined solely for OEMs, but we can only speculate.

In any case three months into the launch AMD’s most promising chip of the year is very hard to come by. This is very bad news for AMD. Kabini had the potential to wipe the floor with Intel’s obsolete 32nm Atoms and it should have enjoyed a few months on the market before Intel rolls out new 22nm Bay Trail parts. Now it seems this won’t be the case. The Bay Trail launch is just a few weeks away and it is becoming apparent that AMD failed to capitalize on its lead.

AMD informed us that is has product in stock in the US and EMEA. However, volumes and the number of actual design wins remain a concern. Jaguar is an excellent product with lots of potential, but with the PC market in shambles, it might struggle to gain traction and get plenty of design wins, as vendors and disties are still sitting on heaps of unsold Cedarview and Brazos products.

Lenovo cooks up BYOD for channel

lenovo-logoLenovo wants to tap the BYOD trend with a new demo kit, offered to its channel partners and customers. The new “Combat Kit” aims to make BYOD simpler and less challenging. It could also reduce the suicide rate among IT specialists in charge of sorting out the mess that is BYOD.

The kit features several Lenovo devices, mostly tablets and hybrids. Partners can pick the ones that best suits their needs and hand them out to end users, reports CRN. The kit includes the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, ThinkPad Helix, ThinkPad Twist and the ThinkPad Tablet 2.

Lenovo brand ambassador Stephen Miller said the sales cycle is changing. In the past, companies would buy ten computers and every end user got the exact same one. With the consumerization of IT, the old one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t cut it anymore.

“Now it’s difficult. Everybody wants a different device,” said Miller. “You have confusion around what to sell, and end users don’t know what to buy because of the paradox of choice.”

The kit would effectively allow users choose the device that works best for them. Miller said end users can get a hands on experience, and then partners can sell the device that the end users actually want. There seems to be a lot of interest in the kit and there’s already a waiting list, but Miller said partners should still sign up.

Asus launches NFC thing

asus-nfc-dongleNFC is slowly taking off, but adoption is still limited. The technology is there, most phones and tablets ship with NFC chips, but very few people and businesses actually use it.

Now Asus has an interesting product that could help bring NFC to desktops and notebooks, but there is a catch.

The company’s NFC Express receiver is a USB 3.0 device that could have quite a few uses. It could allow users to log in using Windows 8 and NFC tags and it could allow the transfer of photos and images without WiFi.

The catch is that the device was designed to be used with Asus Z87 motherboards. It also ships as an accessory with the Z87-DELUXE/DUAL motherboard. It can also be bought separately and it uses two USB 3.0 ports.

Logging into Windows without a password sounds interesting, but NFC dongles could have a lot of other applications. Cheap, off-the-shelf devices could be used to upgrade existing PCs or POS systems in retail outlets. However, for this to happen NFC needs to see a lot more adoption across the board.

Android tablets still lack tons of iPad apps

NexusSales of Android smartphones and cheap tablets are skyrocketing, but the same isn’t true of high-end Android tablets. While many models feature impressive hardware that could easily go toe to toe with the iPad, the app ecosystem just isn’t there yet. 

According to Canalys, out of the top 50 paid and free iPad apps in Apple’s US App Store, 30 percent are nowhere to be found on Google’s Play Store. Another 18 percent were available, but they were not optimized for tablets, which means they look and feel like oversized phone apps. Just 52 percent were available through the Play Store, optimized and ready for tablets.

“Quite simply, building high-quality app experiences for Android tablets has not been among many developers’ top priorities to date,” said Canalys senior analyst Tim Shepherd. “That there are over 375,000 apps in the Apple App Store that are designed with iPad users in mind, versus just a fraction of this – in the low tens of thousands – available through Google Play, underscores this point.”

Canalys expects all this to change, as the user base grows and Google introduces improvements to the Play Store. However, Google simply has to do more to support developers to invest time and money in high-quality Android apps for tablets. Since pricey Android tablets don’t sell well, the user base will remain limited. Most people who buy Android tablets go for cheap and small models, hence it is safe to assume that they are not willing to invest in premium apps and services, either.

The other problem facing Android developers is fragmentation. Apple developers need to design tablet apps for just two screen resolutions and form factors, both of which use the same aspect ratio. They don’t face nearly as many as many challenges as Android developers, who have to deal with dozens of different resolutions, form factors, Android versions, APIs and application processors.

Worse, at the end of the day Android developers have a very limited market for bespoke tablet apps, as the user base is still small and it’s growing from the ground up, i.e. growth is coming from low-end tablets that weren’t designed with anything serious in mind.

Pricey PCs kill any hint of recovery

pc-sales-slumpPC shipments have been slow for months and they should start bottoming out soon, but the PC cause is being undermined by pricey laptops, analysts believe. A new breed of high-end designs based on Haswell parts is shipping, but their prices seem out of touch with reality. 

Buyers just don’t want to pay the premium for new chips, touchscreens or new form factors – and that premium can be quite steep. Most new Haswell laptops and ultrabooks cost a lot more than the average budget laptop and quite a few of them are priced north of £1,000.

“The thought that you can sell a $1,400 notebook is ridiculous. The mess is partly credited to Windows 8,” said Roger Kay, president and principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, reports IDG News Service. “In their bones they don’t get it. They refuse to deal with the reality of what’s going on.”

Mikako Kitagawa, research analyst at Gartner, believes laptop prices have stabilized and may even creep up. PC vendors are trying to position laptops as premium products compared to tablets, which means they are more likely to focus on high-end and mid-range models, with higher margins.
This may leave more room for cheaper brands, who could focus on entry level laptops, but then again such laptops are experiencing high cannibalization rates from tablets, so the trend is a mixed bag at best. Still, someone always finds a way to make the most of a crisis and we reckon Chromebook makers could do well in such a climate.

However, things aren’t that great in the high-end, either. Now that most people are used to dirt cheap laptops and equally cheap tablets, convincing them to pay more for “premium” models won’t be easy.

Other than prestige or brand snobbery, it’s really hard to make a convincing case for high-end laptops right now. There will be no shortage of executives willing to pay £1,000 or more for a stylish piece of kit, or enthusiasts who go for even pricier, boutique offerings. However, most users will probably be better off buying a budget model for £500 and spending the rest on a tablet, or a vacant apartment complex in Spain.

Seagate intros first 3.5-inch hybrid drive

seagate-longmontSeagate seems to believe in traditional desktops. The company has introduced the world’s first 3.5-inch hybrid drive in two flavours, 1TB and 2TB. Seagate has been making hybrid drives for years, but all of them were 2.5-inch models and most of them ended up in laptops.

However, the new ST1000DX001 is a big 3.5-inch desktop drive with as spindle speed of 7200rpm. Most 2.5-inch SSHDs spin at 5400rpm, so the new desktop drive should end up a bit faster. In addition, it should be cheaper than 2.5-inch drives and it’s available in 2TB, which is not the case with 2.5-inch hybrids that range from 320GB to 1TB in capacity.

The drive has an integrated 8GB NAND drive on top of 64MB of cache. Of course, it supports SATA 6Gbps and Seagate’s pitch says it delivers “SSD performance and HDD capacity”. This is pushing it to say the least. While it should end up faster than Seagate’s plain 3.5-inch drives, it won’t come close to proper SSDs in most scenarios.

However, that is beside the point. Traditional mechanical drives are on their way out and they will be replaced by hybrids. Enthusiasts and professionals will keep using SSDs are their primary drives, but for storage they’ll now be able to rely on hybrids and that sounds like a very nice mix.

The only trouble is that it’s not exactly what we’d call cheap. Early listings in Europe put it north of €110, which is quite pricey for a 3.5-inch 1TB drive, even if it is a hybrid.