HTC smacked on its own patch

Etiquette on the MTRMost disinterested people I have talked to hereagree that the HTC One is really quite a super phone but here in Taipei it’s losing out on the marketing front.

And it’s to South Korean Samsung, which has giant adverts plastered all over Taiwan.

In terms of marketing money, Samsung has incomparably more at its disposal and seems to know how to use it.

It wouldn’t be the first time and no doubt it won’t be the last time that marketing has beat a better product down.

So what’s HTC to do? There isn’t an easy answer to that either. It might try changing its logo – which is a feeble little thing – and talking to journalists more than it currently does.
Samsung advertising in Taipei

Sato after more channel partners

SATO PPP logoSato has said it wants to expand its channel opportunities across Europe.

The barcode printing, labelling and EPC/RFID company has announced that it will be expanding and developing its Business Partner network across Europe.

It has launched a campaign called “Year of the Channel” which it says will focus on increasing its support for existing business partners and actively recruiting new VARS, complementing those already participating in its European Partner Programme.

The company boasts it has seen great success since initially introducing its Prestige Partner Programme in 2010 and has brought in more than 100 new VARs in its European programme.

SATO hopes the campaign will build on the achievements so far and continue the search for new complementary partners.

The Prestige Partner Programme comprises three tiers with SATO now focusing on building up the two upper tiers – Premier and Champion. Within this the company continues to look for partners with market specialisation, application specialisation, specific technical skills, value-added qualities within a target market segment.

These include the retail sector, food and quick service restaurants, manufacturing, transportation and logistics as well as healthcare and government.

Vendors enrolled in the programme, SATO promises, will benefit from comprehensive training and technical services packages as well as marketing tools and funds that help generate sales leads.

As part of the effort, SATO has redesigned and relaunched its Business Partner Portal, which provides access to a large variety of valuable marketing resources, moving it on to a new technology platform allowing for a more user friendly interface and more effective communication within the network.

Panasonic announces job cuts

seppuku-p1000701Panasonic has announced that 5,000 of its staff will be axed over the next three years.

The Japanese company has said those in its automotive and industrial units will fall on Panasonic’s sword as the company scales back its operations and tries to recoup huge annual losses of $7.5 billion, announced in March.

According to Channel News Asia, the company, which has already cut 20 percent of its workers will now move to slash its staff of around 111,000 people by March 2016. The move is part of an overall strategy to recover its business after a flagging year.

In March, rumours circulated that the company would further salvage its business by cutting its plasma business over the next three years.

It is thought Panasonic’s TV business, which generated sales of $10.5 billion during its peak in 2009 and 2010, accumulated less than half of that amount in 2015 and 2016.

It announced that it would end plasma TV panel production at its main plant in Amagaskai in western Japan around fiscal year 2014.

Free wi-fi in Taipei explained

Taipei free wi-fiThe public wi-fi system that is available throughout Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is a brilliant idea that should be emulated in the Smoke (London), in the City of Screaming Squires (Oxford), and, well, more or less anywhere. We’re here in Olde Taipei for Computex 2013.

It is a disgrace that wi-fi, which has really become a public utility, is still charged for in many a place – especially hotels in the UK at exorbitant rates.

We had a chance to sample Taipei wi-fi the other night, taking a snap and uploading it without any problem at all. It hasn’t worked since, so I set out to find out why.

Basically, the reason it hasn’t worked for me since is that I a Brit, and the wi-fi, which does work for aliens from different countries, requires a special protocol to be present, as you can see on this TPE Wi-Fi page.  Currently only 20 countries use the International mobile SMS authentication that the Taipei government accepts.

There is an alternative – you can go to one of six physical locations and get yourself registered – but of course you have to know where these places are, which might be tricky unless you know your way around the city.

One local told us that he used to use TPE Free all the time, but recently it asks that you log-in every time you connect which he finds a nuisance. That’s apparently been implemented because of security concerns.

Nevertheless, the existence of TPE Free has meant that here in Old Taipei, you’ll find many places which offer free wi-fi.  The swanky hotels that don’t really ought to be ashamed of themselves.

* For a great way to understand Taipei and Computex 2013, if you’re a first time visitor, we recommend We View Taiwan video log.

Huawei loses out on US contracts

huawei-liveHuawei, which sparked unwanted publicity yesterday when its chief security exec told reporters it was standard practice for governments to spy on each other, has apparently been pushed out in the planned acquisition of Sprint by SotfBank.

The £20.1 billion deal, which has been cleared by the US Committee on Foreign Investment, and is now awaiting the nod from one more US regulation body, has had a restriction on  third-party supplier over allegations of Chinese spying.

According to Bloomberg this means that the pair involved in the deal had to reassure those above that they would limit the use of telecommunications gear made by Huawei as well as ZTE.

They also had to agree that they would remove “certain equipment” by Huawei and allow all American vendors to provide the tech instead.

The US is fearful that Huawei and ZTE use their gear for snooping.

Yesterday Huawei’s head of security operations and ex British government CIO John Suffolk claimed that governments had always embarked on such practices.

His comments followed claims that the company had gained access to secret designs of US weapons, which it had managed to steal from Australia’s new intelligence agency headquarters.

High Street headed to gambling “ghetto”

highstreetBetting shops and payday lenders could rule the high street roost if new legislation comes into place.

The warnings from the Local Government Association (LGA) as new rules, which came into place yesterday, stipulate that some premises don’t have to apply for permission to change what they supply for up to two years.

It means that premises previously used as independent gift shops could be turned into payday loan companies while greengrocers could become betting shops, without the need for planning permission or public consultation.

The government said it had made the decision as it felt it would help boost economic growth and bring boarded-up shops back into use. However the LGA said that it felt it would do the opposite and instead lead to more high streets being over-run with clusters of betting shops and payday loan companies.

The association also pointed out that the new rules would  also allow almost any buildings to be temporarily turned into new free schools with no public consultation or planning permission. And in many parts of the country, developers will be given free rein to convert offices into flats without planning consent.

It said that the government had to rethink its plans and instead look at rejuvenating the highstreet by encouraging the opening of businesses that residents wanted there. It said the new rules would make this method harder.

Cllr Mike Jones, Chairman of the LGA’s Environment and Housing Board, said people were “fed up” of having their local high streets filled with betting shops and payday loan companies. He warned that was a “very real danger that, in chasing a short-term boost, this panic measure could end up creating real problems” in highstreets and doing lasting damage to our town and cities.

“This could potentially drain the life from our highstreets,” he said in a report.

Asian tablets will win the day

Keep taking the tabletsAs I was having a mango and orange juice round the corner from the somewhat unique hotel I’m staying in here in Old Taipei, I had an invitation from Sascha Pallenberg, I popped round to pay a visit to Mobile Geeks, and it was something of an eye opener.

Sascha, and fellow reporter Nicole Scott, have offices in rather a swanky building on the 11th floor of an office block near the metro. Obviously they are gearing up for next week’s Computex but we had time for a chat about the state of the tablet market.

Sascha showed me two tables – one Chinese one sells for $35, while the other, a well built machine from Ramos, sells for $225.  Both are Android devices and Sascha tells me there are dozens, maybe hundreds of these babies manufactured in China, which obviously has implications for the big boys, the Taiwanese boys and, well, the whole world. Heck, you could bundle a $35 notebook with a carton of cigarettes, I suggested.

Can you obtain these machines in the USA and Europe?  Well, you can certainly get hold of the Ramos machine – check out its site here.  But most of the tablets, Sascha suggested, were destined for the Asian, Indian and African markets, where no one can lash out the amounts of cash Apple and others expect.

The real question for me is how vendors can possibly expect people to pay vast sums of money in the USA and Europe when it’s obviously not hard for the Chinese to master manufacturing and with a bill of materials at a considerably less cost.  Surely it can only be a matter of time before the majors are forced to slash prices to match the Chinese offerings – and then it will be a case of just how they can make such big margins as they do now, in the future.

And with the heady mix of Windows tablets, Android tablets battling it out, where exactly is this going to leave the old guard – Microsoft and Intel?

Disties offer gourmet delights

Big snail in Old TaipeiComputex 2013 begins next week – a jamboree where there’s a chance to meet a plethora of industry types from all over the world and those at the heart of the supply chain.

We’ll be covering all the important announcements on both ChannelEye and our brother pub TechEye.net.

And here we’ll be bringing you all the gossip and yak yak we hear on the grapevine and on the Nangang strasse.

Let’s start with a juicy story that demonstrates how business is done differently in Asia than in Europe. Well, we think UK vendors [what vendors, Ed?] wouldn’t find themselves in an analogous situation.  A well known vendor from Old Taipei found himself being entertained in the Philippines recently, with lashings of very strong beer and a delicious goulash like soup.  At the end of the evening, the vendor asked his hosts about the delicious stew – to be told that they’d been supping speciality dish horse penis soup.

All the main news  buzz over here is about aggressive acts by the Philippines against a Taiwanese boat recently.  That led, we hear, to a Canadian woman being unceremoniously ejected from one of the famous Taipei cabs because the driver thought she was a Filipino.

You might remember the other week that several HTC suits in America were beamed out of the company – prompting speculation that there was something afoot in the beleagured Taiwanese company. It turns out many of the suits were ex-employees at the Redmond Volehill and, strangely enough, the Microsoft culture didn’t fit with the HTC culture.  Once, of course, Microsoft and HTC were very pally indeed, introducing a smartphone superficially very similar to a really pioneering smartphone from a British company that ended up successfully suing Microsoft.

Meanwhile, some folks are very enthusiastic about Intel’s announcements next week of its Haswell technology.  Bitter and twisted hacks over at sis pub TechEye believe the chip giant isn’t going to do Haswell as people expected.  That, of course, remains to be seen but expect that Intel’s new CEO, already dubbed “Special K” and who was speedy to institute a purge of positions at Chipzilla, will be watching its progress with some degree of trepidation.  So will we, Mr K, so will we.

More – and there will be much more – later.

* If you’re new to Computex and to Taiwan, check out this site – We View Taiwan – for some really useful information.

EMC and Eaton get friendly

cosyEaton has got chummy with EMC, with the diversified industrial manufacturer announcing it has joined the EMC Technology Partner Program.

It says it hopes to use the developmental resources provided in the program to design integrated power management services that help IT and data centre companies to enhance uptime and business continuity.

Primarily the company wants to develop the integrated capabilities of its Intelligent Power Manager software, which it says has VMware Ready and Citrix Ready certifications and lets users manage their power infrastructure remotely and directly through the VMware vSphere or Citrix XenCenter platforms.

It said that its customers could now build on EMC’s  integrated capabilities with VMware vCenter by using Eaton’s Intelligent Power Manager software to automate disaster recovery and business continuity processes directly from the VMware platform.

The announcement was accompanied with the standard quote from EMC, which said it was “pleased” that Eaton had joined its partner program.

Audi beats BMW on adultery front

beemerBMW owners may have to up their driving game, with research showing they’ve been overtaken as the “most adulterous drivers”.

According to a report by married dating site IllicitEncounters.com, Audi drivers have crashed into top spot of those most likely to commit adultery.

The site speculated this could either mean BMW owners have switched to a new car manufacturer or have bucked up their ideas and been more faithful in the past 12 months.

BMW remains as the worlds largest maker of luxury vehicles despite Audi receiving $25 billion worth of investment since 2002 and doubling the number of model lines it makes since 2003 from six to 12. However, it seems Audi has plans to take the lead from BMW by 2020 and in one thing it seems it’s succeeding.

Apparently those who drive Beemers, and now Audis, are “typically successful, motivated, high-achievers who are less likely to settle for something they find unsatisfying, be it a car or a relationship.”

And car manufacturers are well aware of the sex status some of their vehicles carry. Mercedes, which came third in the survey, even famously used infidelity to advertise their cars with the banned ‘Not In This Weather’ advert.

But while German car brands are most notorious for adultery statuses it seems the French are more likely to keep it in their pants with the survey finding that drivers of Peugeots or Renaults were less likely to stray.

Skoda and Hyundai drivers were also less likely to commit an illicit act.

IDC predicts more PC gloom

pc-sales-slumpIf you thought 2012 was a bad year for the PC industry, think again. Worldwide PC shipments are expected to fall by 7.8 percent this year, according to the latest IDC forecast. The forecast can be summed up in a single trend – consumers aren’t upgrading their PC boxes because they’re saving cash for tablets and smartphones.

In fact, the outlook has been revised downwards. It was originally believed that the PC market would decline 1.3 percent in 2013, followed by a slight rebound. The new outlooks sees a 7.8 drop in 2013 and a 1.2 percent decline in 2014, with shipments recovering to 333 million units in 2017, still below the 349 million shipped last year and 363 million shipped in 2011.

It is hardly surprising, as even Intel executives are admitting that there is practically no incentive to upgrade at the moment. There is no compelling hardware and Microsoft hasn’t exactly done a brilliant job with Windows 8. The mature PC market is trying to put up a fight against the tablet onslaught and it is taking a beating.

“As the market develops, usage patterns and devices are evolving,” said Loren Loverde, Program Vice President, Worldwide Quarterly PC Trackers at IDC. “Many users are realizing that everyday computing, such as accessing the Web, connecting to social media, sending emails, as well as using a variety of apps, doesn’t require a lot of computing power or local storage. Instead, they are putting a premium on access from a variety of smaller devices with longer battery life, an instant-on function, and intuitive touch-centric interfaces. These users have not necessarily given up on PCs as a platform for computing when a more robust environment is needed, but this takes a smaller share of computing time, and users are making do with older systems.”

Things could pick up next year, as support for Windows XP expires and businesses rush to upgrade. However, the average consumer probably won’t rush to replace an old PC. The update cycle is getting longer and longer. Another worrying trend is the BYOD phenomenon, which allows users to use their own gear in the workplace, thus delaying and reducing the volume of corporate PC purchases.

One has to wonder what will happen to average selling prices and margins over the next couple of years. Businesses replacing turn of the century XP boxes will probably look for the cheapest possible solutions. At the same time, demand in mature markets will continue to decline for the foreseeable future, while demand in emerging markets should start to recover next year. Emerging markets also tend to prefer cheaper devices, which means the era of “goon enough” computing is here to stay.

The enthusiast market has always been a bastion for high-end component makers, but it seems to be running out of steam as well. New CPUs and GPUs don’t deliver huge performance gains seen in past generations, yet they’re getting pricier. Affordable 4K screens are still years away and new consoles are about to hit retail, disturbing the PC gaming landscape further.

Ingram Micro does a deal with Samsung Mobile

IMIngram Micro has rung up another deal in the mobile market.

The distie’s Mobility arm has announced that it will carry and sell  Samsung Mobile smartphone and tablet accessory products in the States, which it claims will continue its strategy to become a firm player in the mobile market.

The company will offer Samsung Mobile’s accessory portfolio for the Galaxy S, Galaxy Note and Galaxy Tab family of products. This includes traditional mobile accessories such as flip covers, protective covers, travel and vehicle chargers, portable battery packs and Bluetooth headsets.

Bashar Nejdawi, president, Ingram Micro Mobility North America said mobility was one of the disties “key platforms for growth and expanded profitability.”

The accessories will be available through Ingram Micro Mobility’s network of small-to-medium businesses, business-to-business and enterprise channels, as well as consumer and retail-focused indirect carrier dealer agents.

In addition, Ingram Micro Mobility has said it will initiate marketing efforts including sales rep training and product education as well as direct marketing initiatives to the VAR and indirect dealer channels, to further drive sales through Samsung authorised resellers.

Robot created to pour drinks

ROBOT FRIDGEA robot which can pour its master another drink  has been created by scientists.

Researchers at Cornell’s Personal Robotics Lab have taught their creation to forsee human action with the task of refilling a person’s cup when it was nearly empty, without having to be asked – great for the silent and legless types at parties.

However, there are pitfuls. To be able to carry out the task the robot has to plan its movements in advance and then follow the plan. But if a human sitting at the table happens to raise the cup and drink from it,  the robot might pour a drink into a cup that isn’t there.

Nevertheless there’s also benefits. In another test, the robot observed a human carrying an object toward a refrigerator and helpfully opened the refrigerator door.

From a database of 120 3-D videos of people performing common household activities, the robot has been trained to identify human activities by tracking the movements of the body – reduced to a symbolic skeleton for easy calculation – breaking them down into sub-activities like reaching, carrying, pouring or drinking, and to associate the activities with objects. Since each person performs tasks a little differently, the robot can build a model that is general enough to match new events.

Observing a new scene with its Microsoft Kinnect 3-D camera, the robot identifies the activities it sees, considers what uses are possible with the objects in the scene and how those uses fit with the activities.

It then generates a set of possible continuations into the future – such as eating, drinking, cleaning, putting away – and finally chooses the most probable. As the action continues, it constantly updates and refines its predictions.

The research was supported by the U.S. Army Research Office, the Alfred E. Sloan Foundation and Microsoft.

Hema S. Koppula, Cornell graduate student in computer science, and Ashutosh Saxena, assistant professor of computer science, will describe their work at International Conference of Machine Learning, June 18-21 in Atlanta, and the Robotics: Science and Systems conference June 24-28 in Berlin, Germany.

Man squanders million quid with a little help from Nigeria

triggerThe brother of a Lotto winner has managed to squander a million pounds in just five months, thanks to some rather unwise investments and a little help from Nigerian scammers. Denis Ryan, a 51-year-old road sweeper was given £1,000,000 by his brother Dave Dawes, who won a £101 million jackpot in 2011.