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.

HTC guerrilla marketing campaign takes on Samsung juggernaut

htc-quietly-going-underTroubled smartphone maker HTC is not giving in yet. It used the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch event to stage a guerrilla marketing event of its own. HTC can’t take on Samsung in a set piece battle or in a war of attrition, but it seems eager to fight on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets. The streets of New York that is. 

HTC did not use Spitfires and Hurricanes, it resorted to an even more potent marketing weapon – lovely ladies handing out HTC One samples. Sometimes a friendly smile works better than a Vickers machine gun. HTC let the crowd try out its new flagship phone at the sidelines of Samsung’s Unpacked 2013 event and it offered a $100 rebate for anyone who trades in their old phone, reports Business Insider.

Samsung held two separate events in New York, one for the media and one for consumers. Apparently HTC chose to target the latter. It is unclear how many consumers fell for it, but in our opinion the HTC One has what it takes to slug it out with Samsung’s Galaxy S4. Sadly though, HTC lacks hundreds of millions of dollars to take on Samsung’s hype machine and hype is proving more important than actual products. 

HTC is down, but it is not out. And if the HTC One fails we will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted Samsung science.

HTC is not the only Android outfit that chose not to yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. LG took out a few cleverly placed ads, trolling Samsung’s SIV ads in New York as well.

Big Blue launches Customer Experience Lab

ibm-officeIBM has launched an initiative aimed at helping its staff improve their interaction with customers and other staff. The IBM Customer Experience Lab is supposed to help both IBM and other businesses by allowing them to gather more feedback from social networks, the target audience and the workforce. 

Mahmoud Naghshineh, IBM vice president of services research, believes emerging technologies, including social media and mobile tech, are changing the way organisations get feedback from their customers. With that in mind, there is a need to tap them as soon as possible.

“Today, businesses have a completely different way of engaging customers,” he said. “There are all these new ways of reaching out to people [but] you need to know when the right time is to engage.”

The new lab will allow clients to access IBM researchers and consultants, who will then deliver systems that learn and personalize the experiences of each individual customer, identify patterns, preferences and create context from Big Data, and drive scale economics. The whole idea is similar to IBM’s Services Lab, launched a couple of years ago.

IBM says the new customer oriented lab will focus its efforts on helping customers obtain more insight into their user base. IBM will use machine learning and visual analytics to predict differences in individual customers, thereby customizing services to a much greater extent.

The lab will be staffed by more than a hundred IBM researchers from across the world and it will also offer clients a number of workshops for generating new ideas. Although the lab will be headquartered in New York, it will feature researchers from twelve IBM labs around the globe, from Africa, Brazil, Israel, India and Japan, to the United States.

AMD makes pre-emptive strike against Nvidia

AMD, SunnyvaleDistributor sources close to AMD Germany say that the company will launch a new graphics product next month.

Codenamed Bonaire and with a part number of 7790 it is expected to cost around $155.  Performance is likely to be about 3,000 3D Mark Fire Strike.

Nvidia is preparing a a part to ompete with it, codenamed 650Ti Boost.  The unit is a 192 bit version of the 650Ti, but distributors are unhappy because it will interfere with 650Ti inventories.  It is likely to cost $180 or so and also scores about 3,000 3D Mark Fire Strike.

Pre-orders for channel partners for the Bonaire part are expected to be available towards the end of March.

Corero Network security and Infinigate UK get cosy

cosyCorero Network  Security has got close and personal with Infinigate UK.

The company has appointed the specialist security distributor known previously as Vigil Software to distribute its Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) defence products.

The deal will give Infinigate access to the range of products claimed to block traditional volume based DDoS attacks,  newer application-layer attacks, zero-day and server targeted attacks that evade traditional firewall defences.

Infinigate boasts it was selected as the UK distributor due to “its in-depth security expertise and focus”. It says it offers Corero to extend its reach into other European territories via its subsidiaries in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark.

Infinigate UK will be implementing Corero’s  SecureWatch Partner Programme, with a view to adding selected new resellers, particularly those with experience in key markets where Corero has deep traction including banking and finance, e-commerce, online gaming and gambling.

The new programme is designed to enable resellers to deploy security solutions that help enterprises and government organisations thwart the rising tide of DDoS and targeted attacks and address a market that, according to Infonetics Research, grew by 24 percent last year and is set to reach $420 million by 2016.

Morrisons gets into online food

smartphone-shoppingMorrisons has bitten the bullet and announced that it will be going head- to-head with its supermarket rivals in the online food space.

The supermarket giant, which posted its first drop in profits for six years has said it aims to offer this service by January next year and is reportedly in talks with Ocado to help it begin conquering the online food shopping space.

The giant saw its pretax profit drop to £901 million in February this year compared to the £935 million made in 2011.

It said that in a bid to grow over the next year it had implemented a range of measures to ensure this happened. It described its moves into online as an “important step.”

Supermarkets are doing all they currently can to bring customers through the door. This month Tesco announced a range of plans to help it get ahead of its competitors offering price promises and claims that it was buying eatery Giraffe to attract a different range of consumers.

Morrisons has also not rested on its laurels recently also announcing that it was building up its army of 12 convenience stores, and snapping up  62 sites from the administrators of Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster.

Portable gadgets shape home and office landscape

Apple iPadPortable gadgets are affecting consumer spending habits and lifestyles, research by Gartner has found.

The analyst company spoke to 8,000 consumers in the US, UK, Canada and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

It found that household adoption and spending on consumer technology products is shifting faster than expected in favour of gadgets and services that are portable or mobile and those that deliver networking capabilities and entertainment.

It said the major change is that mobility is now reshaping mainstream consumer behaviour in fundamental ways. Many of us, for example, now choose a smartphone or tablet in the lounge in favour of the office and the laptop, Gartner said.

It said service providers had to therefore wake up and begin “innovating” for this trend and mobility. “If they do nothing, they face a potential train wreck as consumers abandon gadgets, services and applications that do not fully support changing mobile lifestyles,” the company said.

And it seems the likes of tablets are taking over the household, with Gartner finding camera’s, e-readers and laptops had been replaced by tablets and similar devices in the household.

High Street Innovation Fund remains redundant

highstreet South endA government fund set up to help breathe life back into empty shops has been neglected.

According to Freedom of Information requests seen by the BBC, the £10 million pot, named the High Street Innovation Fund, has only seen seven percent of money spent since it was set up a year ago.

The money was awarded to 100 councils with the worst affected High Streets in England, but of the 72 councils that responded to the FOI, 47 percent said they had spent a dime and the BBC worked out around £519,363.22 had been spent.

The government tried to make excuses, telling Aunty that it preferred the money was spent
“strategically and wisely” rather than quickly and wasted.

Earlier this month the BRC and London Assembly called for more action to be taken to keep shops alive, asking for tax breaks and pop up shops to help fill vacant spaces and attract footfall.

However, it seems even with cash in their back pockets no-one wants to comply.

The Freedom of Information requests were submitted by the independent retailer, Paul Turner-Mitchell, who claimed that the money that had been spent hadn’t fulfilled the brief of bringing life back into empty shops.

He said one council spent £10,900 on Christmas lights, while another spent £10,038 on a train station ramp. Swale Borough Council in Kent spent £164.60 on a snow machine, while only Wyre Forest District Council used the cash properly, splashing out £12,000 on bringing 10 empty shops back into use.

And there was more bad news for the high street with French Connection announcing consumer confidence had spelled out poor financials for 2012.

In the year to January 31, the retailer made an underlying pre-tax loss of £7.2 million, compared to the £4.6 million profit the previous year.

The company blamed costs from the closure of underperforming stores, and a £2 million goodwill impairment.

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.

Companies must adopt BYOD policy

iPad-miniDespite the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture being praised by organisations, three quarters also believe that this new model poses an  increased security threat.

That’s according to research by Claranet, which surveyed  250 senior IT decision-makers in a range of businesses and public sector organisations.

It found that 72 percent of organisations currently have a mobile working service that enables employees to access corporate networks remotely, either on corporate-owned or personal devices.

However, significant security concerns persist, with 70 percent of organisations identifying worries over increased data loss, while 51 percent fear that mobile working leads to less control over how data is used. A further 50 percent believe it poses a greater risk of unauthorised access to IT systems.

The research also revealed a general failure to implement a formal BYOD strategy, with only 26 percent reporting that they had a specific  policy in place.

Just over a third of those queried also said they didn’t allow employees to use their personal devices to access corporate networks, and 10 percent said they actively seeked to discourage BYOD.

Claranet’s UK Managing Director, Michel Robert, said organisations urgently needed to formulate a mobile working strategy, whether they approved of BYOD or not.

He said this was because it was impossible to ignore the reality of technically savvy employees who rely on mobile devices for personal and business use.

Google Shopping ads now extend to mobiles

google-mobile-ad-listingsGoogle is bringing Google Shopping product listings to mobile devices. Google has been serving up product listings on desktop search results for quite a while, but now it is taking them to cramped mobile screens as well.

A simple Google search on a phone or tablet will now result in several listings popping up above the organic search results.

This ad unit is labeled as ‘Sponsored’ and displays rich product images, prices, retailers and more. It might be a boon for some users and m-commerce outfits, but sticking an ad unit in mobile searches is bound to irk quite a few consumers, especially those who didn’t fall for the oversized smartphone craze.

Google explained the finer points of its approach in an Adwords Blog entry and it was quick to point out that the new service will allow potential consumers to narrow down their searches and save money in the process. It should boost Google’s mobile ad revenue and it also opens up a range of new possibilities.

The listings are location-aware, which means they could come in handy on the road, or abroad. Comparing prices, exchanging money or just getting a quick bite to eat in a new city should be easier than ever, especially if Google Now goes mainstream and lends a helping hand.

However, when you’re not on the road and when you just want to search for something, the ads will do what all ads do best – annoy you.

Tesco leaves horse and gobbles up Giraffe

GiraffeTesco is still seemingly trying to use every trick in the profit book to boost its customer base and raise its profits.

The supermarket giant, which earlier this week announced it had launched a price promise voucher scheme, is rumoured to be sticking its neck out and gobbling up eatery Giraffe for £50 million.

It is thought that the deal could see the kid’s eatery being opened up within the supermarket’s stores, letting  it target a different type of customer and attract more footfall into its stores and helping it combat the profit warning it announced last year.

The move is just one of many which the supermarket hopes will improve its figures. Over the past months its restructured its stores to make them seem less clinical, while its also tried to make more of a presence in the tech space.

Last month it announced it was introducing a  Netflix rival – a free TV streaming service called Clubcard TV.

The beta trial is only available to Tesco staff for the time being, but when it officially launches it will be available to card-carrying Clubcard members.

Brits lag behind US in mobile commerce

us-revolutionary-warAlthough British retailers seem to have an upper hand in European mobile commerce, a new report indicates that they are lagging behind their American counterparts in m-commerce.

The study was carried out by multi-touch retail technology provided Skava, and it found that only half of Britain’s top 100 retailers have optimized their websites for mobile devices. In contrast, all of the top US retailers have already done so.

The study found that revenue from mobile accounts for about one percent of all online sales in Europe. However, it is growing at a compound rate of 43.1 percent. Forrester estimated mobile revenue will account for 6.8 percent of European online revenue by 2017. That amounts to 19 billion euro.

Forrester analyst Martin Gill stressed that UK retailers have to adopt mobile tech if they hope to move forward. However, he also believes they will face plenty of challenges.

“A number of factors encourage and inhibit the adoption of mobile commerce… consumer trust, the convenience and value proposition of mobile shopping, the ease of payment and the availability of products at the right price,” said Gill. “European eBusiness executives in many countries have been slow to provide mobile-optimized experiences and these factors — both supply and demand — will continue to limit the opportunities.”

The study found that smartphone and tablet users tend to interact with their devices quite a bit differently than PC users. Hence, retailers’ websites must be optimized to cater to new platforms. They also need to respond quickly to new market trends and devices, which is easier said than done due to the mind boggling pace of progress in the mobile industry.

UK backs retail sector’s luxury expansion abroad

jewelsAs many as 1,000 posh retail outfits will get assistance from the government to foster further international growth over the next two years.

The UK Retail Industry International Action Plan was developed by the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and the retail industry. The goal is rather straightforward, taxpayer money will be used to help the retail sector expand into expanding overseas markets.

Business Secretary Vince Cable believes retail has a big role to play in British exports, as the government tries to rebalance the economy.

“With this action plan UKTI will back small and large retailers across the UK to grow and expand into new export markets,” he said in a statement. “The UK’s dominance in e-commerce puts retailers in a world-beating position to capitalise on the fast growing demand for British goods and luxury brands.”

The plan is focused on luxury retailers, who aim to expand into bustling cities such as Beijing, Moscow, Mumbai, Istanbul, Shanghai, St Petersburg and other cities with plenty of nouveau riche in white Bentleys.

According to International Business Times, the global retail sector is set to grow by 8 percent through 2016, which is not the case with most European markets, including Britain.

However, it should be noted that British retailers are doing rather well abroad, even without government handouts.

“Emergency measures” required to fix London’s high streets

highstreet“Emergency measures” must be put in place to improve the state of the high street, the London Assembly has said.

In its Open for Business report, the organisation said a vicious cycle on the high street has led to an increase in empty shops across the capital – up five percent to 3,400 in the past two years.

Businesses should be encouraged to open pop-up shops in vacant premises to help boost struggling high streets, a London Assembly report said today.

It said outer London high streets were particularly struggling because of tough economic conditions and changes in the retail industry, as people chose to shop at out-of-town centres and online.

However, it also blamed the number of vacant shops as a contributor to the decline, claiming these stores discouraged shoppers, and led to the closure of other retailers that might otherwise have survived.

The Committee has now said it wants immediate action from the Mayor, the Government and local boroughs.

It claims businesses should be encouraged to open pop-up shops in vacant premises to help boost struggling high streets. It also wants an expansion of small business rate relief paid for through a reduction in landlord’s rate relief on empty properties and a new register of owners of vacant shops so landlords can be easily traced.

The report also sets out other ideas to boost high streets, including improving accessibility especially for walkers and cyclists and prioritising turnover of car park spaces over maximising income.

Andrew Dismore AM, Chair of the Economy Committee, said: “The Mayor, the Government and local boroughs need urgently to follow our recommendations to bring empty shops back into use, stop the rot and so help our local high streets thrive again.“

The Committee also suggests boroughs should have powers to control any plans for betting shops, payday loan shops or pawnbrokers, to encourage more diversity in London’s high streets.