British VARs getting Surface tablets in September

surfacetabBritish value-added resellers will start peddling Microsoft’s Surface tablets to businesses come September. Microsoft has already named ten US VARs who will kick off the enterprise oriented Surface campaign this summer.

The names of British VARs have not been disclosed yet. According to Microsoft UK director for partner strategy Janet Gibbons, only a few select resellers will be able to sell Surface tablets as part of a pilot scheme.

“In every market, we’re positioning [Surface availability] as a pilot… Our only experience of being a hardware provider is with the Xbox, and that’s a different world,” she told CRN. “If we’re going to come to the market with a device, we have to know we are set up well to support the channel with things like warranty, return, credit and distribution of stock [information]. All of that has to be worked through.”

At this point it might be a bit too late. The Surface RT is almost a year old and by the time British VARs enter the fray it should get a successor, give or take a few weeks. The Surface Pro isn’t as stale, but it not a hot new product, either.

Vole chucks cash at Win 8 tablet peddlers

win8errorMicrosoft is trying to make Windows 8 a bit more appealing by offering resellers a $5 to $10 discount for select Windows 8 devices.

The incentive programme is focused on 21 Windows 8 devices, most of which are tablets or other touch-enabled devices, Computerworld UK reports.

With plummeting sales of traditional PCs, the move is hardly surprising, but the fact that Microsoft has singled out just 21 devices strikes us as odd to say the least.

The programme, dubbed “TouchWins” is clearly tailored to support emerging form factors and make Windows 8 tablets a bit cheaper, although they will remain hopelessly overpriced even with the $10 kickback.

“The whole idea is to provide incentives for the commercial channel for featured devices and tablets, PCs and tablets, and through this program we will provide incentives directly to authorized distributors, as well as reseller partners, who sell featured PCs and tablets that have Windows [8] Pro and are touch-enabled,” said Tami Reller, Windows division CFO.

Devices from nine OEMs, including Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo, are eligible for TouchWins.

However, many of them are very pricey indeed, so the cash-back incentive won’t mean much.

One example is the Acer Aspire S7 touch enabled Ultrabook, starting at about $1,300. We’re not sure a $10 discount will make much of a difference in this price bracket.

Microsoft: partners want Microsoft cloud

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeMicrosoft is going nuts over an IDC report that claims customers like a catch-all, single cloud provider, because it’s confident it can fill that gap.

The study, which was sponsored by… Microsoft, says as companies are dragged into the cloud,63 percent of customers want a provider that can do it all. Meanwhile, 67 percent are after a wide variety of services from a single vendor, and 74 percent expect their data to be moved back on premises if they want it to.

Veep at Microsoft’s worldwide partner group, Jon Roskill, boasted that Office 365 is bringing in tonnes of annual revenue and the company has over 250,000 customers on Windows Azure, so partners should really exploit the trend and sell Microsoft kit in particular.

Microsoft’s calling its efforts a hybrid approach: offering services on site and cloud for public and private. Of course, it’s not the only company offering such services.

While it is an increasingly common opinion that European businesses would be insane to put too much stock in US servers, Microsoft is sure that its partners will be able to win Redmond more business and turn a buck or two themselves by pushing its cloud offerings.

Cloud outfit Pulsant poaches HP man

cloud (264 x 264)Pulsant has appointed Nigel Shaw as its new Chief Operating Officer.

Shaw is a refugee from the maker of expensive printer ink Hewlett-Packard.  He was recently managing director and vice president of HP Defence UK.

His task is doubly daunting since Pulsant was formed from merging four different outfits: Scolocate, Lumison, Dedipower and Bluesquare.

This year will be the first financial year the Pulsant brand has operated as a single entity.

It has been doing well since the merger and managed growth of over 50 percent in 2012 compared to 2011.

Pulsant CEO, Mark Howling, said that Shaw has a track record in delivering high quality services in complex technical environments. He is also very experienced at managing large organisations over multiple sites.

Shaw replaces Aydin Kurt-Elli, who founded Lumison as an Internet Service Provider in 1995 and was its CEO until it was acquired by Pulsant in October 2010, when he became COO of the new company. Kurt-Elli remains at Pulsant as a non-executive director.

Howling said Shaw brings a wealth of experience and capabilities to the role of COO and understands how to take best practice from some of the world’s largest technology organisations.

Apple on schedule for next gen iPad

applecoreSupply chain whispers in Taipei assert that Apple is on schedule to gets its next generation, 9.7 inch iPad out for September.

The iPad mini, meanwhile, may be tinkered with to improve the specs and make it more appealing.

Digitimes thinks the 9.7 inch tablet will sport a slimmer bezel design to make the viewing area larger, with improved battery and half the LED tubes. Upstream suppliers, Digitimes’ sources say, are done with the preparation so last minute spec updates are unlikely. A slimmer bezel would be more in line with Samsung and HTC smartphone designs.

The rumour is suppliers haven’t had word from Apple on the amount they should put out just yet are are shipping for pilot productions, but that will be able to meet initial launch demand. Shipment estimates are expected early August at the latest.

Apple, the sources say, is pondering whether or not it wants to bung a retina display on the 7.9 inch iPad mini. If so, this could lead to delays.

Imerja enters accelerated growth phase

Kitten-KongBolton-based IT solutions specialist, Imerja said it has entered a new phase of accelerated growth and is appointing a new money man to prove it.

Dave Hynes will be responsible for streamlining the business’s finances and managing the commercial aspects of all customer accounts.

Hynes will also work closely with Imerja’s suppliers and policing channel partners to make sure that “all supplier terms are aligned with the customers”.

His official title is finance manager and he has joined the company from Fairhurst Chartered Accountants where he was senior audit manager responsible for a portfolio of more than 100 clients.

Ian Jackson, managing director at Imerja said that his company has seen some spectacular growth over the last nine months and had a 400 per cent increase in profits.

He wants to see the company to continually invest in both its team and infrastructure in order to maintain this growth.

Hynes will be responsible for keeping the costs at the company down, while still allowing continued expansion.

He said that he was excited to be working for a company with such ambitious growth plans.

“The team at Imerja have extremely advanced technical expertise and it’s my job to provide them with a solid financial platform to work from,” he said,


IPSoft appoints new UK MD

cburnsAutomated IT services company IPSoft has appointed a new managing director for the UK, Crosbie Burns, with 20 years of experience in the IT industry.

IPSoft hopes Burns will help IPsoft expand its client base.

Burns used to be in charge of ServiceSource’s EMEA business, and before that was VP and UK MD at PeopleSoft.

CEO Chetan Dube is confident Burns is the man for the job, and that he will promote IPSoft’s automated services in the IT outsourcing market.

“The labour arbitrage approach to cost reduction is burnt out and IT providers need to find smarter ways to improve service and reduce costs,” Burns said. “The only viable approach to this is introducing technology to manage technology by using automation.”

Whinging Brits’ complaints ignored

ukflagMillions of Brits’ complaints to customer service go unresolved, a report from contact centre software company Aspect claims.

Aspect’s consumer satisfaction report, 2013, said roughly half of respondents have had a positive experience when dealing with customer service, but a third of Brits have had a bad experience in just the last year, with an average of two instances per person.

Over two thirds of pee’d-off customers have made a complaint in the last year, with one in five going to social media to do so. The majority that did complain said their complaint was not resolved or that the response given was not satisfactory.

Most customers prefer to find a quick resolution to a complaint. Three in ten customers said they would switch providers due to bad customer experience, while two in five have switched suppliers in the last year. Insurance was the most common.

ISPs, the survey found, were the most inconsistent with their customer service – with most instances of both good and bad customer services being found in this sector.

This has potentially damaging long term implications for companies. Senior veep at Aspect, Mark King, said in a statement that there are “9 million people that have made an unresolved complaint to a company in the last year”, or 14.5 percent of the population that are unhappy. This should serve as “more than a wake-up call for organisations to do something about it”.

However, King suggests Brits are a nation of whingers, and it is up to companies to adapt to this as expectations are higher than ever.


TSMC boss bets on wearable devices

gglassTSMC CEO Morris Chang was one of the first industry leaders to truly recognise the potential of smart devices and unlike many tech execs, he runs a very tight ship, with an emphasis on good working conditions. Small wonder, then, that TSMC often ranks as one of the top employers in Taiwan.

Now that his smartphone optimism has been vindicated and then some, he is starting to talk up wearable gear. In a recent interview we admitted that he doesn’t wear a smart watch or Google Glass, but he still thinks they are the next big thing, Forbes reports.

“When you wear the Glass, you look like a man from Mars,” he said. However, over the next decade things might change. “I don’t think they are very practical yet, now, but the idea is being very actively worked on, so in 10 years we will certainly have practical wearables.”

Needless to say, a potential wearable tech boom would be a boon for TSMC. The foundry already supplies about 70 percent of the world’s application processors. Smart watches and Google Glass like devices would need bespoke chips. They can’t really use off the shelf SoC designs because they need something a bit more frugal, and this is where TSMC hopes to step in.

Chang believes that “a lot more things” will be mobile ten years from now and nobody is disputing the allure of wearable tech. However, at this early stage few consumers will be willing to spend a lot on what are essentially immature products with limited functionality. It is up to big vendors to get more developers on board and make cheap wearable gear a reality – a process that will take years, but in a decade or so we could see plenty more Martians on the street.

Large system integrators run UK IT oligopoly

Office_of_Fair_TradingInfrastructure outfit Databarracks claims that there is a large systems integrator oligopoly which needs to be exposed by an Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) government IT procurement investigation.

The investigation into the antics of the big government systems integrators has been announced by the OFT and welcomed by Peter Groucutt, Managing Director at Databarracks.

Groucutt, MD at Databarracks, has urged all sides to ensure that this is the end of the domination of large system integrators.

He said that the top 20 IT suppliers to Government earn £10.4 billion a year in revenue and are continuing to dominate the market.

“Given this apparent oligopoly and the propensity for large long-term contracts, the OFT is keen to ensure that the competition is healthy to allow for costs cutting, improved efficiency and increased innovation,” Groucutt said.

The OFT wants suppliers and purchasers to get in touch to discuss their experiences and Groucutt believes all parties should wade in.

He said that those involved in the procurement process need to participate and be honest in this process if there is going to be an end to the domination of a few big players in the market.

Groucutt said it’s important to ensure the taxpayer is getting the best deal, that government departments are receiving the best value and most innovative kit.

“The only way I can see this happening is ending the current oligopoly,” he said.

The current cumbersome tender process pushes government departments into the arms of the larger SIs as it is so difficult for smaller players to get accreditation or have the opportunity to sell to the public sector.

Prism threatens US cloud leadership

Eu-flag-vector-material2US IT cloud companies could be shut out of the EU thanks to its government’s obsession with spying.

While the EU is happy to have its own governments spying on citizens, it is less pleased when the data goes over the pond.  Last year it warned that US cloud providers should make sure that data stays within the EU.

Now it seems that PRISM has indicated that the US companies will hand over European corporate data even if that information has not crossed the US border.

Neelie Kroes, European commissioner for digital matters, warned that if she was an American cloud provider, she would be quite frustrated with her government.

In her view, European businesses are likely to abandon the services of American internet providers because of the National Security Agency surveillance scandal.

Her statement appears to be more of a prediction than signs of a potential ruling from Brussels.

In a statement, she said that if businesses or governments think they might be spied on, they will have less reason to trust cloud, and it will be cloud providers who ultimately miss out. “Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes?” she said.

Kroes said that American providers will miss out because they are often the leaders in cloud services. But if European cloud customers cannot trust the United States government, then maybe they won’t trust US cloud providers either.

“Concerns about cloud security can easily push European policy-makers into putting security guarantees ahead of open markets, with consequences for American companies. Cloud has a lot of potential. But potential doesn’t count for much in an atmosphere of distrust,” Kroes said.

OECD: BYOD is ugly

SmartphonesChanges in phone acquisition models might be about to contribute to the slowdown of smartphone sales in some markets, as well as BYOD adoption rates. An OECD report found that most markets are still heavily relying on subsidised phones and bundles, available on two-year plans.

However, in many countries most mobile plans include an entitlement to a handset discount, which makes BYOD unattractive with costlier mobile plans. In spite of that the report found that in some big markets, such as France and the US, bundled phones actually end up $10 to $20 more expensive than the BYOD option. What’s more, the differences aren’t even evident to most consumers, which isn’t the case in some countries which mandate operators to disaggregate the cost of the device in monthly bills, revealing the actual cost of bundled phones.

The report found that operators in the UK are still trying to push two-year contracts, as they help create a stable customer base. One month contracts are used by about 17 percent of British consumers and the number has been more or less stable since 2007. However, two-year contracts accounted for 68 percent of sales in the first quarter of 2011, up from just 2 percent in Q1 2008. At the same time the number of 12-month or 18-month contracts is decreasing.

It is evident that the vast majority of high-end smartphone sales are coming from two-year plans and that this won’t change anytime soon. However, it is an inherently risky approach. Although two-year contracts with fancy bundles can help maintain a stable customer base, smartphones aren’t evolving nearly as fast as they did two or three years ago. The upgrade cycle is slowing down and the model might not work a few years from now, since Vodafone, O2 and EE aren’t offering subsidies anymore.

Consumers aren’t about to ditch bundled phones in favour of unlocked devices and cheaper plans, but the protracted economic downturn might prompt them to do so in the future.

However, having a good customer base and heaps of new devices sold every year allows carriers to invest more in infrastructure. Smartphones are driving 3G and 4G growth and without two-year bundle deals development would be much slower.

The OECD report concluded that consumers can benefit from reduced lock-in by simply buying a pricey smartphone through monthly instalments and using a cheaper plan. Increased transparency, such as disaggregating the cost of the phone in the monthly bill would help as well, along with more unlocked phones. It all comes down to the consumers, but most of them don’t appear to be well informed and savvy to compare competing mobile plans, or the cost of getting an unlocked phone and a separate plan.

Gigabyte confirms record mobo sales

gigabyte-haswell-motherboardAlthough the PC industry is going through a rough patch, some outfits are still doing quite well and one of them appears to be Gigabyte.

On Friday the company announced that it is on target to sell 20 million motherboards this year, its best result ever. Gigabyte apparently shipped 4.8 million motherboards in Q1 and by the end of the second quarter its shipments hit 9.9 million units.

“Obviously this is excellent news, proving not only that we’re doing a decent job of fighting our corner in a highly competitive market segment, but that the PC market as a whole is humming along nicely,” said Gigabyte.

Although it is nice to hear some optimism in an otherwise desperate market, we’re not sure the PC market “as a whole” is humming along nicely. However, Gigabyte’s motherboard business certainly is. Last year the outfit managed to gain quite a bit of ground and now it’s breathing down Asus’ neck. Asus and Gigabyte currently control about half of the worldwide motherboard market and, if it keeps growing, Gigabyte might overtake Asus pretty soon.

Smaller players like ASrock and MSI are far behind, with annual shipments under 10 million units, while ECS, Biostar, Foxconn and others are fighting over scraps.

Dell wants to get into wearable computing

dellTroubled PC seller Dell is planning to pin its hopes on a much mooted craze in wearable computing.

Already it has seen its rivals such as Google, Apple and Samsung talk about wearable computing being the next big thing and is hoping to have a stab at it early..

Sam Burd, Dell’s global vice-president of personal computing, told the Guardian  that Dell was  “exploring ideas in that space”.

He said that there were challenges in cost, and how to make it a really good experience.  But it was expected that computers were getting smaller and having a watch on your wrist was “pretty interesting, pretty appealing.”

CEO Michael Dell is  preparing to take the company private in a $24 billion leveraged buyout as the PC market, which made him a household name, begins to shrink in importance.  However it appears that the company is also seeking new sources of income.

Burd  said that over the next five years devices and form factors to continue to change. There will still be a need for ‘static’ computing on desktops, but there will be a real need for mobile devices.

“There’s a lot of discussion about how that fits into wearable devices like we’ve seen with Google Glass and watches. We’re looking at a world of lots of connected devices,” he said.

Burd did not see any magic new form factor arriving like the tablet did.  But the number of computing devices per person is exploding.

Dell has not announced any actual products in the wearable market but was looking at the technology, Burd said.