Category: Products

Companies start taking their tablets

Keep taking the tabletsMore and more tablets are being used in companies with large numbers now being used to access corporate data and apps.

That’s according to a survey from Ovum, which points out that using tablets is changing the way people work.

The survey, conducted in the second quarter of this year, showed that 17.6 percent of people had been given tablets by their employers, compared to 12.5 percent in 2012.

And the number of personal tablet owners grew from 28.4 percent in 2012 to 44.5 percent in 2013, meaning that more personally owned tablets find their way into the workplace.

Richard Absalom, analyst at Ovum, said: “The primary route for tablets into the enterprise is through the consumer/employee channel. Over 66 percent of employees who personally own a tablet use them for work.”

Absalom said that employees use many different devices to get to corporate data and content – tablet or BYOD strategies should be put into that context. “Tablet deployments have the potential to change the way that businesses operate,” he said. “The primary challenge ofr the enterprise is to turn tablet usage into a genuinely transformative deployment.”

Bull flies red rag with fast data analytics

scotbullBull Information Systems has put together a new big data analytics tool called “bullion fast data analytics”, designed to look at data from the digital economy in real time.

It has been built using Pivotal based technologies in combination with Bull’s bullion servers.

Bull points out that this year there are roughly 3 Zettabytes of data floating around, or 400 Gigabytes for everyone on the planet, with this figure only set to increase to up to 40 Zettabytes by 2020. So for it’s very useful for organisations to be able to sift through this data and extract relevant information, whether that is managing crises, or building customer loyalty. Of course, we have all heard about “big data” this year.

Fast data analytics is, Bull asserts, the “first platform to integrate new data fabrics, modern programming frameworks, cloud portability and support for legacy systems”. The architecture has been designed on top of Pivotal Greenplum Database and Gemfire, and the company promises the end product makes analytics less complex, shifting the focus from software tinkering to applying the actual information.

The company says its technology is highly flexible and can “significantly” reduce Total Cost of Ownership, as well as having been validated with Pivotal and VMware at Bull’s R&D labs. It runs in a virtualised environement, promises lower latency, and cost savings.

VP of Bull’s enterprise service business, Jacqueline Moussa, said the company offers a “unified and robust platform”.

“Organisations can take advantage of lower implementation and operations costs and quick real-time analysis of the huge amounts of data being produced each hour,” Moussa said.

Microsoft has cunning plan to sell Surface tablets to businesses

surface-pro-2Microsoft’s Surface tablets failed to gain much traction in both the consumer and enterprise space, but now Redmond hopes to change a thing or two with the second generation, especially when it comes to businesses.

The original Surface RT filed to impress business users, while the Surface Pro which was supposed to do exactly that didn’t do much better, either. The new generation has vastly superior hardware, but that’s not enough in the consumer space. Windows RT is practically on life support and the Surface 2 is the only product based on Redmond’s tablet OS. The Surface Pro 2 is a bit better, with a snappy Haswell chip, backed by up to 8GB of RAM and 512GB of solid-state storage, it is pretty much the best Windows 8.1 tablet money can buy – and you will need quite a bit of money, since it doesn’t come cheap.

So what will be different this time around? Surface Commercial director Cyril Belikoff told CITEworld.com that the RT-based Surface 2 is actually getting more and more love from big corporate customers. Most companies have not deployed tablets on a large scale yet, hence they are willing to take a look at Microsoft’s offer. Those that already use iOS or Android tablets probably won’t make this leap of faith.

As for the Surface Pro 2, Microsoft is now marketing it as a laptop replacement. However, Microsoft is not offering any incentives to partners to sell Surface Pros rather than other Windows 8 laptops or tablets. Belikoff reckons business will realise the advantage of replacing some laptops and boxes with Surface tablets, as it combines the advantages of a proper PC with the portability of a tablet.

Asked why Microsoft didn’t make more of a push towards corporate with the first generation, Belikoff didn’t exactly have an answer. He merely said the first Surface RT was designed as a “personal device” and that it is getting business friendly only with RT 8.1.

That seems to be the whole point. The original Surface RT wasn’t designed with businesses in mind, but at the same time it flopped in the consumer market, prompting other vendors to drop Windows RT altogether. So what exactly was it designed for in the first place?

IBM buys into Irish Big Data

IBM logoAmerican behemoth IBM said it has bought Dublin based company the Now Factory but didn’t say how much it paid for it.

The privately held firm makes analytics software targeted at communication service providers (CSPs).

IBM said that the software complements its own range of products – IBM Mobile First. These products are intended to help organisations analyse mobile device usage.

The Now Factory’s stuff analyses large quantities of business data and networks data, and that provides better management of outages.

IBM claims that people create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day, whether its healthcare, social media, climactic information and the rest.

Big Blue wants to position itself as the leader in the Big Data field. The buy will be completed in the fourth quarter, and the company borged into  the IBM mother ship.

AMD Hawaii event has aggression written all over it

radeon-r9-290Huge GPU launches are back. An AMD  webcast dragged on for more than two and a half hours and the ailing chip firm went to great lengths to explain a few new technologies, showcase games and of course talk GPUs. In fact, the event was so big that many complained the presentations were too long and too elaborate.

Let’s take a quick look at what AMD graphics boss Matt Skynner announced last night. As expected, AMD has a new naming scheme, mid range products now come with an R7 prefix, while the R9 prefix is reserved for high-end and performance boards.

The line-up starts with the R7 250, with 1GB of GDDR5 memory. AMD says the card scores 2,000 in the Firestrike benchmark and it’s priced at $89, so AMD calls it the king of sub-$100 gaming. The R7 260X comes with 2GB of memory and hits 3,700 in Firestrike.

The R9 series starts at $199, with the R9 270X with 2GB of RAM and a Firestrike score of 5,500. The R9 280X is priced at $299 and scores 6,800 in Firestrike. AMD says it was designed for 1440p gaming.

The flagship R7 290X boasts 4GB of RAM and a 512-bit memory bus, with bandwidth of over 300GB/s. AMD did not reveal its price or the exact specs and clocks of any of the cards. Rumours point at a $599 price tag, but rumours can be wrong. The general consensus is that the R7 290X should outpace Nvidia’s GTX 780, perhaps even the pricey Titan.

All in all the new generation looks very competitive, at least on paper. We’ll have to wait for some proper reviews before jumping to conclusions. The cards are expected to hit retail in the second half of October, but this isn’t official, either.

AMD also used the opportunity to talk up TrueAudio, a new spatial audio technology incorporated in some of the new cards. The tech press had a chance to see it, or hear it in action at the event and the first impression is very positive.

Then there were games, loads and loads of games. AMD scored an exclusive bundle deal with EA and it will sell a limited bundle edition of the R9 290X with Battlefield 4. AMD also promised to deliver even better even better Never Settle bundles, which could help the new cards gain a bit more traction.

But in our opinion, the biggest news wasn’t a new card or a new game – it was the fact that AMD chose to stage such an event at all. AMD and Nvidia are now talking about a renaissance in PC gaming and analysts seem to agree. Sales of gaming gear are bucking the industry trend and they are still growing. This year the sector will net $18 billion, but by 2016 the figure should hit $21 billion.

AMD and Nvidia believe consoles are no longer directly competing with PC gaming, not to mention smartphone and tablet gaming.

Microsoft introduces second gen Surface tabs

surface-pro-2Although many in the industry have already written off Windows RT, Microsoft is giving it a shot in the arm with a second generation Surface tablet. Dubbed Surface 2, without the RT suffix, the new tablet is based on Nvidia’s Tegra 4 SoC and it boasts an 1080p display. The specs are hardly surprising, as the tablet was an open secret for months. 

The biggest difference, however, is not under the bonnet. The Surface 2 will go on sale at Microsoft retail store and select third-party retailers in 22 markets. The first generation Surface RT was hampered by slow introduction and it took months to roll out in some markets. Microsoft clearly cannot afford to lose momentum on the Surface 2, which could be its last chance in the ARM-based tablet market, and the last chance for Windows RT 8.1. The Surface 2 is available in 32GB and 64GB flavours, starting at £359.

The Surface Pro 2 is a different beast, as it’s based on a beefier x86 chip and it runs Windows 8.1 Pro. It leverages Intel’s new Haswell low-power Core i5 processor and it is said to increase performance and deliver up to 60 percent more battery life than the original Surface Pro. Starting at £719, it’s not very cheap, but the Surface Pro 2 will be offered in 64GB and 128GB configurations with 4 GB of RAM and 256GB and 512GB configurations with 8 GB of RAM. That’s quite a lot for a tablet.

Microsoft also launched six new accessories, including new Touch and Type covers. In addition, there’s a Power Cover as well, which includes a battery and can extend battery life by up to 50 percent, but it costs a rather painful £165. There’s a new car charger with USB, along with the Arc Touch Mouse Surface Edition – although Windows 8.1 is designed with touch in mind, many legacy apps work a lot better with a proper mouse.

Both tablets are significant upgrades and go a long way towards addressing several shortcomings which plagued the first generation Surface tablets. The Surface Pro 2 in particular is a very impressive piece of kit, but it’s quite pricey. The Surface 2 on the other hand got a nice CPU bump along with a high-definition screen and on paper it looks a lot better than its predecessor. Sadly, Windows RT adoption remains relatively low and one tablet not enough to turn things around.

Tesco launches fresh Hudl tablet

tesco-hudl-tabletTesco has officially launched its first tablet, which is coincidentally probably the first tablet ever launched by a grocer. On a more serious note, the humble Hudl tablet doesn’t look bad at all. In fact, it is much better than we expected.

It features a 7-inch screen with a rather high resolution of 1440×900, which is marginally better than 1280×800 on the first generation Nexus 7 and Nvidia’s new Tegra Note. Tesco says it packs a quad-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz, but we suspect this is a Cortex A7 part due to the relatively low price of the device, which is just £119.99.

The tablet also features 16GB of storage and a microSD slot, along with dual-band Wi-Fi and Blinkbox support. Naturally, it can also be used for online shopping and it can access a wide range of other Tesco digital services. 

The tablet will be available in retail and online. There is a choice of four lively colour options and Tesco Clubcard holders will be able to buy it at a discount, which means many shoppers will pick it up for less than £100.

“Hudl is a colourful, accessible tablet for the whole family to enjoy. The first stage in our tablet offering, it’s convenient, integrated and easy to use with no compromise on spec. Customers are quite rightly very discerning about the technology they buy so we knew we had to be competitive on all fronts,” said Tesco Chief Executive, Philip Clarke.

Clarke does have a point – with a 1440×900 screen and a snappy processor, the cheap Hudl doesn’t seem to compromise on spec. Most white-box tablets in the £100 – £149 range ship with inferior screens and slower chips, not to mention that many of them cost a few pounds more than the Hudl.

The Hudl will be very disruptive in this segment.

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.