Republic to join highstreet heaven in the sky?

onesie1Teens may have to look for their onesies elsewhere with news that Republic is teetering on the brink of administration.

The Leeds-based clothing chain, which caters for the youf market, is expected to call in Ernst & Young to deal with the administration, which could see around 1,000 jobs at risk and 120 empty stores.

It is thought that the company, which was bought by private equity firm TPG in 2010 for around £300 million, is struggling amidst competition from H&M and Primark, which offer clothes at cheaper prices.

It also hasn’t had the best few months. In January it admitted its profits had fallen 86 percent to £3.7 million, while in November TPG was forced to plough in a further £20 million.

Just last week its chairman Andy Bond quit as the company brought in KPMG to help it offload some of its stores.

If the rumours are true, then the retailer would join Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster in the great highstreet heaven in the sky

Copy machines pose unlikely security threat

copycatEvery office has them and although paperless offices are the new black, copy machines will probably be around for years to come. However, thousands of old copies stored on hard drives will also stick around.

Most copy machines built in the last decade have a hard drive and can store thousands of documents scanned, copied or emailed using the machine. Some hard drives are big enough to store 60,000 to 100,000 pages of data, so these benevolent dinosaurs are in fact massive security threats lurking in the corner, next to the water cooler.

Mobiles fell in 2012

mobyGlobal mobile phone sales declined in 2012 as a result of the economic climate and intense market competition Gartner has said.

In its latest report the analyst company said that 2012 mobile phone sales hit 1.75 billion units, a decline of 1.7 percent from 2011. And it was smartphones that bolstered this number with the fourth quarter of last year marking a record sale rate of 207.7 million units, up 38.3 percent from the same period last year.

The last time the worldwide mobile phone market declined was in 2009 and this year’s dismal results were as a result of tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year, the company said.

It added that feature phones were neglected with a 19.3 percent decline in 2012. And there was bad news for this sector with the company predicting that 2013 would continue to see a decline.

Smartphones were given a better future with the company claiming that sales of these would be close to one billion units in 2013, while overall mobile phone sales were estimated to reach 1.9 billion units.

And this market also bought in the bucks for manufacturers with Apple and Samsung both seeing their market shares in this sector rise. However, it was Samsung who had the last laugh ending up in first place for overall mobile and smartphone sales in 2012. Gartner said this was as a result of the company’s ability to build products based on broad needs.

But Samsung was warned that there could be trouble ahead with Gartner’s crystal ball predicting that competition would intensify in 2013 as players such as Sony and Nokia improved.

Huawei also had a good fourth quarter, helping it to take on third position for the first time  in the smartphone sales race. The company sold 27.2 million smartphones, up 73.8 percent from 2011, while its Ascend D2 and Mate models were tipped to drive further sales for 2013.

Nokia’s handset sales improved from a good response to its Asha mobile phones and the launch of the latest Lumia Windows Phone 8 models.

However, this wasn’t enough to stop Nokia to lose further market share, totalling 18 percent, the lowest it has ever been. In 2012, Nokia reached 39.3 million smartphone sales worldwide, down 53.6 percent from 2011.

Dell pushes out four new monitors

dell-u3014-1360625063Tinman Michael Dell has released four new monitors to make up what is being marketed as a flagship range.

Floating the bunting are the U3014, U2713H and U2413. Dell waxes lyrically with a heavy coating, banging on about how it offers one of the industry’s highest-quality and most advanced technology experiences, with uncompromising screen performance, precise, and consistent colours.

One thing is certain, at 30 inches the U3014 with PremierColor is Dell’s largest screen size to date. It has a 16:10 aspect ratio, suitable for the fine level of detail required for colour-critical work such as CAD/CAM, graphic design, desktop publishing, gaming or media creation.

Users should be able to see more onscreen with a 2560 x 1600 resolution. It meets the latest environmental standards that you can poke a stick at, such as EPEAT, ENERGY STAR and TCO Certification. It will hit the shops worldwide for $1,499.

Also released were the Dell UltraSharp U2713H 27-inch and U2413 24-inch Monitors with PremierColor. Again these are being pitched for graphics work. Dell tells us that users will experience remarkably consistent, precise, and accurate colours calibrated at the factory to support 99 per cent AdobeRGB and total sRGB coverage with a deltaE of less than 2. Dell will provide a user with a certified report to indicate its exact colour calibration.

Each one has a 12-bit internal processor enables a whopping 1.07 billion colours, superb colour reproduction and gradation onscreen. The U2713H pricing starts at US$999 and the U2413 is $599
Dell has also released the UltraSharp U2913WM 29-inch Ultra-wide Monitor which is an ultra-wide monitor.

This is designed for multi-taskers and has an aspect ratio of 21:9 and means that users do not need dual monitors. Users can extend content to additional monitors using DisplayPort 1.2.1 It is not bad for watching wide Full HD either. Dell have not given us a price for this one.

Inflation unchanged. It’s a record

nippergonerConsumer price inflation was unchanged for the fourth month in the row this January, according to data from the Office for National Statistics, making it the longest period of no change since records began in 1996.

The ONS said a price boost in alcohol and tobacco was the main factor sending prices up, while there were slower rises for clothing and footwear. The latter rose 0.2 percent year on year, and were a 5.4 percent drop compared to the previous month.

Alcohol and tobacco prices were up nearly 10 percent – at 8.5 percent – year on year, and were also up an enormous 4.3 percent from the previous month as Christmas discounts wound up.

For miscellaneous goods and services, prices were down 0.7 percent compared to December.

The ONS’ Phil Gooding told the BBC that there were some other factors worth paying attention to. Utility price rises haven’t entered the index yet, asserting that there will be more to come – which will have an uptick on the figures.

“We also have to watch out for oil prices,” Gooding said. “These have been failling for four or five months but in January they started to rise again”.

Pressure on high street retail could also have a downward effect, Gooding said.

While salaries are largely frozen and unemployment figures are still drastically high, consumers are struggling to buy – which would put money back into the economy. Investec economist Victoria Clarke told the BBC that the “squeeze on real spending power remains very much in place” – but, some recent small increases in employment have put a bandaid on an otherwise worrying problem.

Say Tata to broke Indian outsourcers

Workers are pictured beneath clocks displaying time zones in various parts of the world at an outsourcing centre in BangaloreReports from India suggest that the country’s  IT outsourcing business is turning a corner after being in a slump for a while.

This means that the UK companies can expect to find tougher competition from Indian based software companies, outsources and contract service outfits in the near future.

Analysts predict an improvement in India’s outsourcing industry, which has been gutted for many quarters by shrinking IT budgets and a slowdown in decision making by customers in the traditional markets like US and Europe.

Research firm Offshore Insights predicts that the offshore market for outsourced services is will grow by 12 percent to 15 percent this year, as more customers are expected to increase IT spending.

India’s $100 billion IT services sector seems to be recovering thanks to the acceleration in IT spending by existing customers although there have been a few new sign ups.

This week, Nielsen Holding increased the size of its contract with India’s top software services exporter, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, to $2.5 billion from $1 billion.

India’s $100 billion IT services sector has been in the doldrums for a while but it seems to be recovering thanks to the acceleration in IT spending by existing customers.

TCS has major clients including General Electric, British Airways and Sony and competes with rival Indian software providers Infosys and Wipro as well as multinational firms such as IBM and Accenture Plc for outsourcing deals.

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) also forecasts that India’s exports of software and services will be between $84 billion to $87 billion in the Indian fiscal year from April 2013 to March 2014.

One of the problems that some business watchers believe that the Indian outsourcers will have to tackle is the fact that they are dependent on a revenue model that is largely dependent on the number of people working on a project.

This worked well when IT labour was cheap. While labour is still comparatively cheap in India, it is getting more expensive meaning that outsourcers have to woo new business with promises based on owning some natty technology and replicable processes.

They will have to shift more of their operations closer to their key markets in the US and Europe.

Microsoft woos channel with Office 365

cloud 1Businesses and consumers have reached a “tipping point” in the market, leading to a huge appetite for the cloud, a Microsoft’s director of partner and strategy programmes has claimed to ChannelEye.

The company, which, over the past year has brought out a range of new products for both consumers and business, is now trying to win over resellers in the lead up to the launch of Office 365 for the commercial space.

“Last July we called the upcoming year a new wave for Microsoft,” Janet Gibbons, director of partner strategy and programme, told ChannelEye. “Not only was this because of the range of products, including Windows 8, that were launched but also the migration to the cloud.”

She said Office 365 had spearheaded this message with the home version for the first time offering a household licence for up to five devices, including Macs and tablets.

“This was a new way of consuming software,” Ms Gibbons added. “It shows how we’re going to be taking products to market.”

Microsoft says it is doing as much as it can to ensure its partners are ready for the commercial launch of Office 365, on the 27 of this month.

It has also changed the way its resellers can bill clients for the product, meaning that from 1 March resellers will be able to bill customers directly.

The current model for reselling Office 365 sees partners receive kick-back payments for what they sell, with Microsoft controlling billing. However, now resellers will be able to set their own margins and bill customers themselves.

“From a channel perspective we have advised our partners ahead of the launch so they in turn can help their customers,” Gibbons told ChannelEye. “We’re scaling this through distribution channels to target 7,500 partners, offering training and face to face meetings.”

The company has also embarked on licensing training  through December to Feb, putting on a two day event targeting 1,700 partners.

This covers other products relevant to resellers including Sharepoint and Link.

“We’re aiming to catch the market when the market is ready for new changes,” Ms Gibbons said. “From what our resellers tell us, their clients are ready.”

E-fags cause regulatory stink

efagThe days when sparking up a fag with a drink in the warmth in public is a misty memory for those who live in the UK.

Instead smokers have had to endure the cold, snow, and often spaces smaller than a battery farm in a bid to get that nicotine hit after a meal at a UK restaurant, in a bar or in a club.

However, it seemed that some smokers’ problems were stubbed out thanks to the E-cigarette, which steam rolled into the market.

Marketed as a lower risk option to smoking and a way to help quit the habit, this new product
also had the added extra of allowing people to “smoke” inside.

The e-cigarette comes in two parts. One end contains the liquid nicotine, while the other has a rechargeable battery and an atomiser.

When the user inhales, the liquid nicotine is vaporised and absorbed through the mouth.

As there is no tobacco in these products, there is no harmful, and potentially lethal tar, and the “smoke” that these emit is mainly water vapour.

According to the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) around 700,000 people in the UK were using e-cigarettes last year, with around 300,000 more predicted to use these this year.

However, new proposals could now see the industry, which has around 100 manufacturing companies, go up in, er,  smoke.

Earlier this year the British Medical Association (BMA) called for more regulation and research around these products, advising  health professionals to use regulated and licensed nicotine replacement therapy instead to help patients stop smoking.

It is also calling for restrictions to the marketing, sale and promotion of e-cigarettes, and for clear labelling on the contents of cartridges and their safe use.

In an updated online briefing, it pointed out that these battery-operated devices were not licensed as a medicine in the UK and there was a lack of peer-reviewed evidence on their value in helping smokers cut down or stop.

It also said there were concerns that the use of e-cigarettes could threaten the norm of not smoking in public places and workplaces.

BMA director of professional activities Vivienne Nathanson said: ‘It took us many decades and hundreds of thousands of deaths to understand the connection between cigarette smoking and disease. We must not encourage use of a new system of nicotine delivery when we are unsure about its safety, or efficacy as a means of stopping smoking.

‘We are especially concerned that e-cigarettes might reinforce the smoking habit as they are designed to closely mimic smoking actions.’

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is set to report on nicotine product regulation this spring.

Tesco takes on Netflix with free video streaming service

tesco-blinkboxTesco is apparently gearing up to introduce a new 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 and Tesco says it will be “free forever”.

There will be no charges, no contracts nor  subscription fees. Tesco says the service is basically “a thank you to our customers”. Clubcard TV is based on Blinkbox technology. Tesco bought 80 percent of Blinkbox in 2011, so the move is hardly surprising.

The service works in a similar way to Netflix, but unlike Neflix it is completely free and it doesn’t have nearly as much content. It will not offer the latest TV shows or movies. Although it is said to feature thousands of movies and TV shows, most of them are pretty old. At least there are some golden oldies, such as early Batman and Superman movies, along with some ancient British sitcoms.

While it might not be a proper Netflix competitor, at least it will be free and available to millions of Tesco shoppers.

Barclays slashes jobs to appease fat cats

fatter catBarclays has announced that it will be handing out the pink slips to around 3700 of its 140000 staff.

The P45s will be handed to 1,800 bankers in the corporate and investment section, while 1,900 staff at the company’s retail and business banking arm will also face the axe.

The move, announced by the company’s new chief exec Antony Jenkins, forms part of a cost cutting strategic exercise- codenamed “project Transform” – which fat cats hope will see the bank’s total cost base reduced by £1.7 billion to £16.8 billion in 2015.

The bank is also moving to try and appease the public and shareholders claiming that it will close down the controversial tax planning business. It has also set aside £1.6 billion to compensate customers sold payment protection insurance (PPI) and £850 million for people who were sold interest rate hedging products.

And it’s also ensuring it doesn’t get caught up in a fat cat bonus barny, claiming that its
staff bonus pool was down 16 percent in 2012, with the average bonus it paid last year fell 13 percent to £13,300.

Over at the investment arm of the bank, while the average bonus paid to staff fell 17 percent  to £54,100.

The strategy arrives as the bank announced its  latest financials, which showed a rise in profits by 26 percent to £7.05 billion.

Phwoarliament: over 50K MPs, peers, staff go on adultery quest

parliamentParliament delivers over 52,000 hits to a dating website that markets itself as a tool to solicit affairs, according to the company.

“Out Of Town Affairs” was allegedly clicked on over 52,000 times in just seven months from parliament, outpacing traffic to the Treasury, Ministry of Justice, and the Department for Education.

TaxPayers’ Alliance spokesperson Robert Oxley told the Metro that taxpayers “expect parliamentarians to spend time making laws and scrutinising the government, not trawling dating websites”. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Parliament said that over 5,000 people had access to its network, including MPs, peers and staff.

Out Of Town Affairs is the fourth Google hit for “extramarital affair UK”.

The website describes itself: “Number one for Adult Dating in the UK, Out of Town Affairs is a discreet and 100% safe adult dating service. We help connect married men and women who are looking for an extra-marital affair. Marital affairs in the UK or very popular – with more and more unsatisfied married men and marrited women looking to do the dirty of their partners whilst out of town”.

Speaking with ChannelEyeEmma Carr, deputy director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “One of the key aims of the draft Communications Data Bill was to record exactly who is accessing websites and to be able to match online activity to a real person. It doesn’t take much imagination to think what could happen when MPs have their browsing history recorded and sites like this are cropping up.
“It’s exactly the same risk that was highlighted during the ID card debate. Valuable data becomes a ‘honeypot’ for hackers and just like MPs expenses it’s very likely that it will end up in the public domain either by being hacked, stolen or lost on a USB stick.”

Indebted 2e2 could be a dead duck

dead duckThe last of the remaining bidders for the broke 2e2 outfit have walked away saying that they are no longer interested in buying any of the company

The IT services group filing for administration and there was some optimism that the Newbury-based group would be sold to either Daisy or Computacenter.

In a statement, FTI, 2e2’s administrators said they had spoken to a number of parties who were interested in acquiring all or parts of the [2e2] business as a going concern.

But FTI said that it could not get an acceptable and deliverable offer to sell the business as a going concern and there is no further funding which can be made available.

Contractors and suppliers will not get paid and 2e2’s data centre clients appear to have been asked to stump up with more dosh to keep the servers switched on. According to Contractor, a letter had been sent out to clients telling them that not paying would result in FTI being “unable to maintain [2e2’s] Data Centre Infrastructure” and the whole lot will be switched off before any customers can get their data back.

However in its letter, FTI hinted that it will be impossible for customers to get their data back in a hurry as it had been hit by a number of requests from customers seeking to gain access to their data immediately. It thinks that the levels of data stored at the company will take up to 16 weeks to get out of the system, and if customers don’t pay up to keep the servers open they will lose everything.


Big Tech taken to task Down Under

strayaTop tech companies are being called to task by an Australian committee that argues the country is getting a raw deal by unfair price discrimination.

Aussie MP Ed Husic moaned to the Australian that by some estimates, prices for Australia can be 60 percent more than in the States. He and the committee will be putting Apple, Microsoft and Adobe on 22 March, according to the BBC. Although the firms have replied in writing, until now they have not bothered to meet any representatives in person.

Although price differences aren’t as drastic in the USA and the UK, there is still a gap – with the only difference usually being in pound sterling rather than the dollar. Depending on what action the committee takes, there is the potential to set the bar on international price differences, and whether they should be altered in line with currency values.

Husic told the Australian that, considering IT is so widely used in both business and consumer segments, prices for hardware and software can “have a major commercial and economic impact”. He said that bringing IT prices down and “easing the bite of price discrimination” should be an “important micro-economic priority”. Of course, convincing conglomerates that tinkering with their margins is a good idea will be easier said than done.

The bigger picture, however, will be that if pricing is more competitive, consumers and businesses won’t hesitates as much to buy – even in challenging economic conditions.