Tablets a boon for shops

stylustabletWhile the humble desktop PC emits a death rattle across Europe, consumers are flocking to tablets – devices which tend to be much more comfortable to keep on your lap when channel surfing.

According to analyst house Context, tablet sales have increased an enormous 350 percent in a single year, proving a boon to retailers who had the foresight to invest in the devices. Global MD of retail research at Context, Adam Simon, pointed out that there is a shift away from online-only retail channels, giving bricks and mortar stores the opportunity to capitalise while the consumer embarks on its cheap-and-cheerful tablet frenzy. Amazon is an example, which now stocks the Kindle in regular stores.

Click and collect is an emerging trend which is also helping the traditional retailers. Rather than waiting for the postman to stealthily drop in a “Sorry you weren’t at home” card in the nanosecond he or she was at the door, customers order online and pick up their product from a designated site. This is a pretty neat option because you don’t need to take a week off work to make sure you catch your delivery. Argos has enjoyed success with this model.

Of course, Apple is still very popular, but Context pointed out that top tablets in Western Europe also included the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, the Galaxy Tab2 10, and the Nexus 7. Samsung’s laughing.

Context tablet analyst Salman Chaudhry said in a statement that Apple’s show and play concept “was a real leader and taught consumers to enjoy experiential purchases while also creating links between their own stores and other retail outlets”.

“Various tablet vendors are now following these footsteps by making more devices available in stores for people to trial before they buy, with even Google getting in on the act with their stands in PC World,” Chaudhry said.

 

Avnet and Microsoft shine a business light on China

surface-rtCompanies are looking further into China in a bid to boost business.

This week both Avnet and Microsoft have made railroads into the country. The gossip grapevine suggests that Microsoft has decided to extend its selling channels for its Surface RT tablets, which it previously sold through two distributors- its online store and chain store for electronics, Suning.

The giant had not been able to go through further channels as a result of an exclusive distie deal with Suning, but now sources have said that this deal expired in February, paving the way for Microsoft to pick up new channels. It is also claimed that Microsoft was unhappy about the way Suning had dealt with sales, failing to push Surface and get an advertising network around it.

In a bid to boost sales its now, according to the WPDang, turning to four new distribution partners aboard. These include PC Mall, Sundan, One Zero and 360buy.

And its not just Microsoft moving into Chinese circles. Today distie Avnet announced that it was buying Hong Kong’s RTI Holdings, RTI Technology China, Eastele Technology China, and DSP Solutions, value-added distributors of telecom equipment and related components in Hong Kong and China.

The company said that it wanted a piece of RTI as a result of its “focused technical expertise,” as well as its “strong presence” in the Chinese market.

It is hoped that the purchase will help the company break into the Chinese market, which it has so far struggled to do.

Resellers cautiously welcome the budget

gosborneResellers have cautiously welcomed some parts of the Budget, saying elements could help smaller businesses and the IT industry.

However, they have warned that by giving benefits and breaks to SMEs and start ups larger companies may find room for complaint.

The comments come as Chancellor George Osborne set out plans to drive the economy by offering SMEs reductions in National Insurance.

The latter was described as a “tax off jobs,” offering every company in the UK the option to take the first £2,000 pounds off their National Insurance bill.

Additionally, he said the Coalition will provide funding for any external advice companies needed.

According to Osborne, roughly 450,000 small businesses  could end up paying no jobs tax at all under the new outlines. He said that for those starting their own businesses and looking to employ staff, “a huge barrier would be removed” when the legislation passes next April.

Responding to the budget, a source at a large reseller told ChannelEye the £2,000 credit against employer’s NI contributions is “a great initiative” and “could also help start-ups too”.

“Not so good for bigger firms who may in the long run face competition from the up and coming businesses with smaller overheads offering cheaper IT services,” the source said.

Another added: “I suppose it’s good that the budget is proposing a cut in corporation tax and boosts for SMEs, however, whether that will pay off remains to be seen.”

Both resellers queried plans to hold off infrastructure plans until 2015, which the Chancellor hinted at when he claimed that, although the government planned to support the economy with the infrastructure it needs, he would only look at throwing £3 billion a year at broadband and mobile telephony investments from 2015 to 2016.

“The reduction in the growth outlook means there will be no new money for infrastructure until 2015/16,” this large reseller told us. “This means we are left in limbo as an economy. This will have a knock on effect on the IT sector, which thrives through new initiatives and businesses.”

The other added: “The Budget is more focused on helping smaller businesses, so surely delaying this could have a knock on effect on the economy”.

High street slump has no effect on video game disties

pac-manHMV and Blockbuster are gone, along with countless independent shops, but their demise doesn’t appear to be hurting video game distributors. In fact, the leading UK distributors told MCV that the closures did not have much of an impact at all.

Mastertronic said the bankruptcies are a non-issue, as most stock is now on a consignment basis. “However, where we have expensive console stock in the retail channel and no practical means of retrieving it quickly, it still poses a problem. The ongoing transition to a digital business has minimised the effects of these closures,” said Mastertronic operations director Dermot Stapleton.

Vogue Distribution sales manager Tom Popple said the poor performance of the retail sector has made had a knock-on effect on game sales, but Vogue is weathering the storm by expanding into new markets. Clock Entertainment exec Jake Wright said it is sad to see big names disappear from the UK high street, but he pointed out that the closures did not have much effect on his outfit.

A number of execs from Bright Red Distribution, Gem and Link Distribution concur. While none of them welcome the demise of high street chains, they don’t appear too concerned, either. Besides, the long-term trend in the gaming industry is online distribution, with constant updates and plenty of downloadable content to keep gamers hooked.

The demise of brick and mortar shops is already boosting online sales, although sales of PC games are not doing very well. High street’s woes did not take a financial toll on games distributors, but they did hurt company confidence and there are not that many positive signs to report. PC sales are down, console lovers are waiting for next-gen gear and casual gaming on mobile devices is bigger than ever.

Monitor market in decline

50scrtThe stagnating and eventually declining demand for the traditional PC desktop has had an inevitable knock-on effect in the monitor industry, with the latest report from analyst house IDC lowering its Q4 2012 estimate from 37.9 million to 36.3 million units.

IDC also lowered total shipment forecasts for 2013 from 142.8 million to 140.1 million units, or a six percent yearly decline. The grim forecast will not be getting any better, with expectations that by 2017 shipments will drop to 122.2 million units.

As with the desktop itself, the booming mobile computing trend is essentially killing off demand for the monitor. IDC pointed to “consumer confusion” about Windows 8 paired with the wider economic situation as pretty solid reasons why people aren’t buying, which means decreased demand going into 2013.

Average selling prices, too, are likely to decline by as much as 1.5 percent per year going through to 2017. Those that are interested in buying will be glad to hear that overcrowded competition will mean companies lowering prices as they try to win custom. Price per inch could decline from $8.35 in 2012 to $7.46 in 2017, which should continue because of what IDC calls the natural migration of users to larger screen sizes. In 2012, the mean screen size was 20.4″, but this should grow to 21.4″ by 2017.

Vendors can boost their margins by looking towards innovation and building consumer value with lower cost monitors. IDC cites Samsung’s PLS technology as an attractive way to seduce custom.

IDC’s senior research analyst, Linn Huang, said that failure to drive innovation in the market will “likely result in the long-term tradeoff of profit margin for volume retention”.

Of the vendors still in the game, Samsung is ahead with 15 percent of the market share. Dell followed with 12.7 percent, and HP, Lenovo, and LG had 10.8 percent, 9.7 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively.

Unemployment rose during November 2012 to January

Jobcentre-plus-During the months of November 2012 to January 2013, unemployment rose, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has said.

In its latest repor,t the organisation said the figures shot up by 7,000 to 2.52 million, compared to the previous three months.

The North East of England fared the worst with a top unemployment rate of 9.8 percent, while the East and South East of England saw the lowest figures with 6.6 percent.

Last month the organisation found that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell by 1,500 to 1.54 million.

The number of unemployed women increased by 5000, while youths also suffered. Figures stood at 993000 unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds in the latest quarter, up by 48000 from the three months to October.

The ONS also revealed that average earnings for those in employment increased by 1.2 percent in the year to January.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said the latest figures showed that the government had “failed every single one of these [unemployed] people and it has failed our country.”

He said instead of the bedroom tax or cutting child benefit, the government could dramatically reduce the welfare bill by getting people back to work.

“The Government should use today’s Budget to take bold action to fuel growth. Taxing banking bonuses could provide vital funds to stop the jobs carnage in the public sector and provide the jobs and growth our economy so desperately needs,” he added.

Smartphones drive trend for app-connected cars

beetle App-Connected vehicles could reach 20 percent of consumer cars in Western Europe and North America by 2017, research has suggested.

In its latest report into this sector, Juniper Research said the trend will be driven by new standards, stereos, head units and high smartphone ownership, which could fuel around 90 million connected cars within the next five years.

It added that the success of new standards such as MirrorLink will be instrumental in creating the foundations for the connected car ecosystem to flourish.

Although traditional embedded telematic services will go some way to pushing this trend, Juniper said that smartphone tethering and  in-vehicle Apps would be the key drivers, and have a knock on effect on the price of vehicle manufacturers’ own embedded telematics infotainment services.

“Sky-high smartphone ownership and a standardised approach to integrating apps into the vehicle head-unit mean that the barriers to making the connected car a reality have all but gone,” said the report’s author Anthony Cox.

However he pointed out that there would be negative factors holding back the growth and that was slow development of the new vehicle market in developed economies.

Microsoft starts selling Surface tablets in bulk

surface-rtMicrosoft’s Surface tablets are off to a rather unimpressive start, but Redmond now believes that it can woo more business users by selling its gear in bulk. The new service allows business users to place volume orders for Surface tablets, reports ZDNet. We are, however, not convinced it will help Microsoft’s cause.

The Surface Commercial Order service is only available to authorized partners and volume licensees, which means smaller outfits can’t take advantage of it. The real question is whether anyone will take up Microsoft’s offer. Microsoft is still not saying much, but it seems the bulk rollout will be very limited indeed.

Surface sales are another thing Microsoft is willing to talk about. Analysts reckon that it manage to shift upwards of one million Surface RT tablets, along with 400,000 units of the pricier Surface Pro. The figures are unimpressive to say the least.

Microsoft still believes that Surface tablets, and especially the x86 based Pro version with Windows 8, are the right choice for businesses. The decision to make it a bit easier for partners and volume licensees to order heaps of Surfaces seems like a logical move in that direction, but Microsoft might have missed the boat already.

Apple’s iPad still reigns supreme in the business space, and it is being challenged by Android tablets, not Microsoft gear. BYOD is another worrying trend that should be taken into account. Few people will buy Surface RT tablets for personal use and even fewer will go for the chunky and expensive Pro version. They will try to use their iPads and Android slates at work and most companies will be happy to let them do so.

Acronis makes Craig Dynes the head beancounter

AcAcronis has taken on Craig Dynes as its Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Dynes will join the data company from his previous role as CFO and SVP of Pegasystems, bringing 30 years of experience to his new role.

Dynes will be responsible for directing Acronis’ long-term strategic growth investments and providing global leadership for financial planning, administrative and business planning, accounting and budgeting requirements.

Acronis said that Dynes’ “extensive background in all aspects of finance”, including treasury, strategic planning, acquisitions and business model transformation made “him a key member of the senior management team”.

Dynes joined Pegasystems in 2006. From 2004 to 2006, he served as CFO of Demandware, at that time a venture-backed enterprise software firm. Prior to that he served as President and CEO of Narad Networks, a manufacturer of equipment for the cable television industry from 2003 to 2004.

From 1997 to 2002, Dynes served as CFO of SilverStream Software, an application development software company. He is also claimed to have held senior financial positions at Sybase and Powersoft.

BT in line for BDUK

ukflagWith Fujitsu pulling out of the Broadband Delivery UK Framework there is just one ISP most think could win the contract – BT.

Despite this, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is not too fussed. A spokesperson told V3 that although it wants as much competition in place for the contracts, the department accepts some projects are “not as commercially competitive” because of the required scale and infrastructure.

BT has that infrastructure.

Fujitsu for its part said that it was pulling out of the process after conversations with the Department. Ultimately, the company decided there wasn’t enough value. It did not detail the “various conditions surrounding the BDUK process” that ruled it out of the competition.

BT promised it would make good on its investments of up to £1 billion. So far, BT has won Wales, Rutland, North Yorkshire, Surrey, Suffolk and Lancashire, V3 reports.

 

Salesforce.com integrates Chatter

Salesforce_Logo_2009Salesforce has made some changes to its Chatter service.

The company has  announced that it has integrated the activity stream service, launched in 2010, into its CRM software. This now means that customers will be able to access and edit records as well as  take action on an account, all from a mobile device.

This includes the iPad, as well as Android phones and tablets with the updated app already available in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Chatter is a work based social networking site that lets employees create professional profiles, set up an activity stream, join groups, participate in discussion forums and monitor trending topics. Bosses can also use the network to award their employees for specific work and projects they have done.

Chatter users can use the “publisher” tool to create and edit information and notifications on their mobile devices. They can expand their abilities to create a task, edit a contract, post poll questions and configuring custom processes.

Salesforce said there were around 195,000 Chatter customers and  that providing them with access to the CRM via a mobile device was “crucial”.

It said that the new features showed the company was moving into the “huge shift to mobile” and the “new way of working” that mobile devices had dictated.

SMBs don’t care about Windows 8

msSmall and medium sized businesses don’t tend to be tech trendsetters, but there is one trend they are not missing out on. They hate Windows 8.

A recent survey conducted by software vendor Sage North America has revealed that Windows 8 is getting a lukewarm reception from most SMBs. Just 20 percent are using Windows 8 machines at the moment, or plan to upgrade over the next six months.

Small businesses spend peanuts on web ads

coffee-deskSmall businesses don’t appear to be too interested in cheap web ads offered by Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other outfits. Although the ads are very cheap indeed, small businesses in the US are simply not going for them.

The Boston Consulting Group recently worked out that small businesses spend a mere 3 percent of their tiny ad budgets online.

BCG’s survey covered 550 outfits and found that only Groupon and similar daily deal companies are bucking the trend.

In contrast, bigger outfits spend up to 15 percent of their ad budgets online, hence they dominate the online ad space. Small businesses are simply not keeping up and they prefer to spend their ad money on traditional marketing vehicles, like coupons and Sunday circulars.

“Most small businesses operate the old-fashioned way, with little recognition of the internet as a channel or a source of leads,” said Sebastian DiGrande, senior BCG partner and co-author of the article. “Many small-business owners are not even aware that they have an online profile that they could be actively managing on many popular sites.”

DiGrande also pointed out that few small business owners were even aware of the perks of online advertising, such as low prices and free availability of certain services. Other co-authors said they were surprised by the lack of interest, especially in light of the social media boom, which gave everyone a voice on the cheap. The report found that small businesses continue to prefer very traditional ad channels, which might put them at a disadvantage in the long run.

The authors also found that providers or local advertising and marketing services need to learn a few lessons if they want to attract more small businesses. They need to tailor their offers and pricing to better suit their needs and they have to show small business owners some tangible benefits of online advertising.

”Companies that can redirect the billions of dollars of small-business-advertising spending toward digital marketing will unlock enormous value,” the report concludes. “The opportunity benefits everyone: successful campaigns will simultaneously fuel the growth of small businesses and media and marketing companies – if both players can learn to leverage local advertising.”

Booze boffins recreate 150 year old beer

beerA beer spanning back from 170 years ago will be reproduced using modern techniques.

Booze boffins at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have set their sights on reproducing a beer that was found preserved in five bottles at the bottom of a Baltic Sea shipwreck.

They have now cracked open these bottles, which were rescued in 2010 from a shipwreck that is believed to have sunk in the Åland archipelago southwest of Finland in the 1840s, and are analysing the contents in a bid to recreate the original recipe for modern industrial production methods.

The beer,  we doubt it was drinkable, was preserved as a result of the wreck’s darkness and low seabed temperatures. The salt water was kept at bay as a result of the pressure inside the corks.

Once the boffins have deciphered the formula and made a recipe, they will hand it over to the  Stallhagen brewery of Åland for reproduction and sales.

It is thought that drinkers will be able to get their hands on the brew from June 2014 with all profits given to charities focusing on the sea and environment.