Samsung flattens Apple in smartphone helter-skelter

Samsung rules the roostA report suggests Apple will see its sales of smartphones peak this year and from then on will pursue the seemingly unstoppable rise and rise of Samsung.

According to ABI Research, smartphones will represent 50 percent of all handset sales in 2013, and by 2018 2.4 billion smartphones shipping will represent 69 percent of all handsets. By then, LTE handsets will represent 50 percent of smartphone shipments and 35 percent of all handsts.

Michael Morgan, a senior analyst at ABI, said: “Apple will be chasing Samsung’s technology, software device leadership in 2013 through the foreseeable future.” He said that the Korean chaebol grew its smartphone market share from eight percent to over 30 percent last year. Apple will remain flat until 2018, he predicted. While Samsung is relying on Google Android for 90 percent of its smartphone shipments, ABI thinks that it will use other OSes including Bada, Tizen and Windows Phone.

Even though many handsets will support LTE in the future, people may not have access to LTE networks.  ABI thinks that LTE will be the fastest growing WWAN in history.

Samsung has plenty of advantages over Apple – it is a vertically integrated company and is able to keep costs down by providing essential components from its own manufacturing arsenals.

Retailers: Ultrabooks shunned, Windows 8 sales poor

Windows-8Consumers are shunning expensive Ultrabooks for strong features as well as making sure they try before they buy, retailers have said.

Despite hopes that Windows 8 and Ultrabooks would see a rise in sales over the Christmas period after a damp 2012, people kept their purse strings tight and shunned the internet to visit stores and make considered purchases.

One nation wide PC retailer said, speaking with ChannelEye, that in-store sales were higher than net sales, on average. “I think this is because people wanted to come in and have a play,” the retailer said. “It’s not like it used to be where you’d just buy a model over the net and if it wasn’t as good, replaced it a few years later – people are looking for reliable models that are worth their price tag”.

Another nation-wide retailer that stocks technology agreed, telling ChannelEye that try before you buy is growing and there has been a lot of footfall in the technology sections, where products are expensive and considered purchases. “The economic climate has dictated that this needs to be done to have an enduring product that complies to needs,” the retailer said. “Laptops are no longer throwaway products or hand-me-downs. They are important for business needs and therefore need to last and be easily upgraded”.

It was hoped that Windows 8 and Ultrabooks would get a Christmas boost after a slow 2012. However, research from IDC showed that Windows 8 failed to encourage shoppers to part with their cash, with many sticking to their old laptops and installing the new OS on there.

One source at a nation wide PC retailer, however, pointed out that the operating system was instrumental in pushing some sales, although Ultrabooks remained on the shelves.

“Sales of both were pretty poor for the Christmas period if I’m honest. Windows 8 pulled in more revenue, while Ultrabooks, slipped even further down.” the source said. “Laptops equipped with Windows 8 software did better than Ultrabooks, showing people aren’t fussed about size. They just want a reliable machine.”

IDC suggested the lack of sales were down to PC vendors getting too involved in promoting the touch feature of Windows 8, while Intel’s emphasis on its skinny form factor did it no favours as the price tag was still sky high.

The PC retailer agreed that at the moment, people aren’t looking for style, but “they are looking for a rugged laptop with business and necessary bells and whistles and there are lower end laptops that offer this, meaning people will pay a price for the OS but not the design”.

However, one distributor had other ideas on how the market had fared, claiming that his company had been left hardly any surplus stock of Windows 8 equipped hardware.

“Windows 8 did better than we expected over the Christmas period and we were hardly left with any surplus stock,” he said. “However, January has proved a little bit quieter. This is obviously expected. People paid for these machines at top end prices during the festive season because they want something that can be wrapped up and shown off under the tree. These people are probably who Microsoft was targeting. Those with money.

“Now, the sales are depending on people with lower incomes who just don’t have the cash to splash on brand new laptops,” the distie said.

HMRC moves to clamp down on fat cats

FAT CATHM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has decided to take its crusade to clamp down on affluent tax dodgers one step further.

The tax man has announced that it will be ramping up its investigations, hiring an extra 100 inspectors to its Affluent Compliance Team.

Created in 2010, as a result of £917 million in funding – presumably from tax payers’ cash- this team already has 200 eagle eyed spies and does what it says on the tin – targets wealthy Britons living in the UK who may be concealing money from the Revenue.

The HMRC said that it was now adding to its team as a result of a £5 million investment in September last year.

To be in with a chance of gaining a position in the team, the HMRC says applicants must have external experience and appropriate qualifications for inspector and lead case director roles.

With the announcement the watchdog has also said it’s expanding its search, targeting those who are sitting on a fortune of £1 million to £20 million, from the previous start figure of £2.5 million.

Fat cats with annual earnings of more than £150,000 are also being scrutinised.

Overall the amount of people that fall into these categories make up around 300,000 of the British population, HMRC claimed.

Since the unit opened the HMRC said it’s been successful in raking in the cash, claiming that by the end of December 2012 the department had brought in an extra £75 million in tax, which was “well ahead of expectations”.

It now has set itself a target of £586 million by the end of 2015.

Foreign companies set up local clouds for UK

cloudForeign cloud vendors are waking up to the fact that European companies need data stored locally.

Already there has been concerns within the EU that some of the larger multinational cloud vendors are trying to score lucrative contracts in Europe.

The problem is that many foreign countries have laws which require their companies to turn over any data to their intelligence agencies.
In the US the Patriot Act requires all US companies to hand over data if the Government wants it. That means that if EU data crosses the pond it can become US government property.

UK customers of Megaupload found that out the hard way when their data was seized as part of a copyright dispute between the US government and the company..

Similar problems exist with companies that connect to Indian outsourcers which have cloud operations. Although it has not happened yet, data can be seized by Indian spooks under their terrorism acts.

The EU has been issuing warnings to companies that they could be in trouble if their data levels the boundaries of the trade bloc.

Last year, Sophia In’t Veld, a member of the Parliament’s civil liberties committee complained that the way it was worded US Patriot Act effectively overrules the EU Directive on Data Protection. She called for the Commission to remedy this situation.

Now it seems that the foreign vendors are starting to listen and are getting around the problem by setting up local clouds in the EU.

The latest idea has come from the ResellerClub, one of the world’s largest providers of Web Presence Products. It is now offering its resellers Hosting and Shared Hosting on Servers located in the UK.

Under the deal resellers can assure their customers Shared Hosting as well as Reseller Hosting on server locations are based in the UK.

Bhavin Turakhia, Founder of ResellerClub said hosting meant that website owners can reduce latency and benefit from better local search engine rankings.

Turakhia said that since the UK is one of ResellerClub’s biggest markets and resellers were warning that the content had to be kept local.

Earlier this year another cloud supplier saw a hole in the market and created a cloud platform that could manage the different levels of infrastructure and service required in a highly-secure cloud environment.

The company pointed out that “there’s a lot of concern around data security, particularly in Europe where there’s a great deal of anxiety about the Patriot Act, we felt that increasing our focus on security could offer an interesting and important opportunity for us,” a company spokesman said.

One of the company’s selling points is that its customers know and can control where their data is based and where that data is being accessed from.

It can be expected that as the EU looks closer at Data Protection then more such regional cloud packages will be required.

HMV pooch put down, Blockbuster busted

nippergonerHMV’s pooch has been put down. Staring into a rifle rather than a gramophone, Nipper’s one of the latest goners in the struggling high street. The question is just why exactly he and the chain have taken this long to croak.

His Master’s Voice had been shouting – with a sickly sore throat – for quite some time about how it is still relevant. HMV tried to launch a digital on-demand service, it committed more of its shelf space to electronics, and attempted to lift itself out of an inevitable quagmire. All the nostalgia is fair enough considering the brand’s longstanding legacy (though this Telegraph article makes a compelling case otherwise) – what doesn’t make sense is the illogical idea that Britain’s high street is integral to its national character or even its larger economy. Britain went through the luddite movement once already. Haven’t we learned our lesson? Once the technology is out there, you can’t turn back the clock, and trying to do so is understandable, but stupid.

Shopping online makes sense. This is why it is so successful. Given the choice between getting on a bus, standing in a queue, paying more, and with a limited selection – compared to one click ordering in under a minute, cheap, for exactly what you want or need – is it any surprise the consumer has largely chosen the web? It is possible that a retailer will figure out a hybrid model at some point in the future, and bargain or pound shops are unlikely to have many problems in a recession, but for the sort of commodities that don’t need to be tried on, the internet is a better option.

Any sympathies in wake of the bust must be directed toward the thousands of staff that lost their jobs because management refused to innovate in an age where taking risks and doing so is the  only way to succeed. Consistently playing catch-up, and thoroughly outpaced, it is a miracle HMV managed to hold on as long as it did. As for the unfortunate staff: let the demise of HMV, and all the others, work as a warning that in a permanently connected society it’s now nearly impossible to rest on your laurels and run a successful operation. HMV, of course, is only one of the most recent. Jessops (which previously shared the same chief executive as HMV’s last) was another casualty, before it, Comet, and before that, more. It has just been announced that Blockbuster will go into administration – South Park aired an episode about the inevitability of this outcome in October 2012.

Britain’s high street hasn’t been about some vague and nostalgic notion of community for a long time. Its steady transformation from local merchants and butchers to identikit hubs of big brand shops, that look the same in every British suburb, was complete years ago.

Adam Smith described Britain as a nation of shopkeepers, and that – first published in 1776 – is still true today. But it is something that must change. The high street’s death rattle has only just begun. An economy committed to hiring people to sell products – let alone barely producing –  is bound to fail, and we can only expect more casualties to come.

According to some critics, the blame is solely in the hands of management. Speaking with ChannelEye, Luke Ireland, business strategy adviser and non-executive director, said: “It is no surprise that we see three more major retailers succumb to the power of the internet.

“Don’t blame tax avoidance or government policy blame the management for not embracing the internet.

“It’s not going away and unless you fundamentally build it into everything you do your business will fail. I feel for the staff but if you work for a retail business which ignores the internet I’d look for another job.”

 

Juniper Networks kisses the cloud and its partners, too

JuniperJuniper Networks has made bold promises with an announcement outlining changes to its Partner Advantage program.

The network company, which claims to support around 12,000 partners, has decided to take advantage of the growing cloud trend and incorporate these products into its services.

Of course, this isn’t a ground-breaking ploy, with companies moving to take advantage of the cloud and the revenue it offers for a good few years now, and it could be argued that the company has been a bit slow on the uptake.

However, Juniper is pushing ahead also announcing a range of new support, maintenance and professional partner services.

It says its Partner Advantage Cloud programme will depend on, rather than compete with, partners and help to bring “cloud-ready products to the market”. It also claims its strategy is to acknowledge partner cloud service and infrastructure capabilities and connect them with Juniper’s technology partnerships to create cloud-ready bundles that are easier for providers to deploy and manage. Whatever that means.

Partners in the programme will be given relevant tools and resources to drive cloud differentiation and growth.

The company has also outlined two specific areas: Partner Support Services and Partner Professional Services.

Juniper’s Partner Support Services will focus on support and maintenance services with partners treated to four new services troubleshooting workshops, including service provider routing, enterprise routing, enterprise switching and security, designed to help partners improve service delivery effectiveness, later this year.

Juniper’s Partner Professional Services is said to focus on validating partners’ professional services capabilities. We assume there will be a cost. Juniper didn’t say.

The programme also promises revenues and rewards to partners, although how hard they have to work, or how much they have to originally stump up for marketing and training to achieve this, is anyone’s guess.

HMV “fights losing battle” for quite a while

HMV_NewcastleIllegal downloads, competition from online stores and legal streaming services have all contributed to HMV fighting a losing battle.

The once popular music store, which was a haven for 90s teens buying their first singles and albums, has become the latest casualty on the high street, announcing earlier this week that it was to go into administration.

The company, which has around 250 stores nationwide, made the announcement claiming that like-for-like sales were down 10.2 percent for the half year to 27 October and the Christmas period had not helped push profits up.

Trevor Moore, the former Jessops boss who took over as HMV CEO in August, said in a statement that the company had held discussions with its banks over the weekend but failed to agree on new terms for its debt.

“The board regrets to announce that it has been unable to reach a position where it feels able to continue to trade outside of insolvency protection and in the circumstances therefore intends to file notice to appoint administrators to the company and certain of its subsidiaries with immediate effect,” he said.

Michael Perry, a retail analyst at Verdict, said the chain had been “fighting a losing battle for some time,” pointing out that it hadn’t been able to compete with the likes of Amazon on either price or range, while grocers had also been slowly claiming market share.

“Illegal downloading has also had a part to play, particularly over the last few years as consumers look to save money. To many, the monetary benefits of downloading outweigh the risk of being caught, resulting in online piracy continuing fairly unabated,” he told ChannelEye.

“The same can also be said for legal streaming services such as Spotify or Netflix, which have largely negated the need to purchase physical media for many consumers.”

And the public are also suffering. Not only are there around 4,500 jobs at risk, but customers are left with vouchers that they can’t use.

High Street misses out on maternity fashion buzz

bumpHigh Street stores are reluctant to stock maternity clothes because they fear there will be too much training involved, a retail analyst has suggested.

However a fashion expert, who writes for maternity fashion site Does My Bump Look Good in This?, has disagreed, claiming stores are missing out on a huge demand in the market.

Maternity fashion has become increasingly popular over the past few years, with expectant women, especially those in the business world, relying on this line to keep their style from the first stages of their pregnancy to the very end.

“It’s no longer about tracksuit bottoms and leggings,” a fashion expert pointed out.

“Women want to embrace the latest styles, and stay on-trend through the nine months, and maternity lines are great for doing this,” she added.

However, retailers have been slow to offer this on the shop floor, with small ranges only offered in large flagship stores, which many people are unable to easily get to.

And although there is an abundance of maternity fashion online, it can often be hard for pregnant women to order clothes over the net as a result of their changing figures.

“The high street is missing out on a huge boat,” the fashion expert pointed out.

“Pregnant women want to be able to try before they buy, especially when it comes to jeans and dresses, by not offering these ranges in many stores, retailers are alienating customers wishing to spend, on what is essentially a new wardrobe.”

Clive Longbottom, an analyst at Quocirca, however, had a different view claiming the demand wasn’t there with women only looking to purchase maternity wear later on in their pregnancy.

“[Women who] have gone through pregnancy will use standard clothes for as long as possible, maybe moving from a 12 to a 14 (well, a dress size or two) during the first four or five months and only then look to maternity wear as a move further up would result in badly fitting clothes,” he said.

“I think the majority will then go through a period of still wanting to look good – but towards the end (say, seven months on), comfort becomes the major concern, so elasticated waists and blouses that can billow a little may be OK for many.”

He said  this left the main high street shops with a problem as they would then have to come up with a set of designs that fitted in with their standard seasonal offering for a group that was only a small part of a small part of their target audience – those who were more than four or five months pregnant but less than seven months pregnant – in lots of different sizes.

He also pointed out that staff would have to be trained to deal with the needs that a pregnant person has in making sure that things were not too tight.

“Overall, a lot of cost for little return,” he said.

“Leaving it to Mothercare and other specialist stores where women can go, be amongst others in the same position and who will give more balanced judgments than “you still look fat in that”,” would work better he added.

However, the fashion expert disagreed, claiming maternity fashion was no different to other ranges stocked.

“There’s tall, plus size and petite ranges in high street stores, and you don’t see trained staff around for those.

“Maternity is, in my view, just another range. Pregnant women don’t lose their sense of style just because they are having a baby. They don’t need a trained staff member to advise them, they just need a range they can wear, and style themselves.

“The problem is that in so many stores there isn’t this choice, which means women have to try and shop off the rack- this is more likely to warrant trained staff,” she added.

Voucher hell breaks loose in Blighty

davidwillettsSeveral people we know have lost quite a lot of money in Christmas presents owing to HMV going down the gunnel.

Our advice, then, to anyone who got vouchers as part of a Christmas present is, to spend, spend, spend.

One source told ChannelEye that her twin boys could not redeem HMV vouchers yesterday. So a net loss and a disappointment, for the kids,  by and large.

If you have a “voucher”, redeem it. And redeem it fast. Who knows which company is going to go down the tube, next?

There is somethimg very dodgy about this, and ChannelEye is watching it closely.

US security company looks to UK encoders

mi5logo While there are fears that the UK government might be turning over its security to evil Chinese companies, it seems that there is less stress when it comes to using security outfits from the US.

US security company Insight is hoping to win shedloads of British government contracts by partnering with a UK data encryption company called DESlock.

Insight has been around since 1988 and provides hardware, software and services solutions to business and public sector organisations across the pond.

According to Luke Ambrose, UK Product Manager – Security Software, at Insight, his company is working hard to increase its channel on this side of the Atlantic.

Working with companies like DESlock gives Insight inroads into the lucrative UK government contracts as well as home grown products.

DESlock’s flagship data encryption product is Deslock+ which was launched in 2006. Desklock+ allows secure collaboration across complex workgroups and teams.

Kevin Percy, UK Business Development Manager for DESlock said that Insight can be very selective about its vendors and does not tend to pick any old riff raff.

He said it mades sense for Insight to be able to offer encryption as part of its portfolio, and give customers a fully integrated service.

There are a lot of advantages for the smaller British companies too. Insight has a fairly complicated business model which includes more services, expert technical resources, and a long supply chain which can give them access to services and products they might not normally get their paws on.

Insight made $5.3 billion in revenue last year and operated in 23 countries, serving clients in 191 countries worldwide.

How Microsoft and Intel lost the plot

The TitanicWhile no-one could say that the writing is on the wall for giant tech companies Intel and Microsoft, there is a warning there but so far it’s just written in invisible ink.

As I write this, Intel’s share price (NASDAQ:INTC) stands at $21.93 and Microsoft’s (NYSE:MSFT) at $26.90.  They’ve ticked along in this way for many a long year now and the only way seems to be down.

Signs of bombers approaching have been on the radar for many a year now, and both companies seem to be like supertankers, which take an awfully long time to run round.  The Vole and the Zilla have got complacent and failed to take steps years ago to re-engineer their businesses.

You still have time to have a wee and wash your hands before a PC boots up and despite the undoubted process advances Intel has made over the years, people are fleeing the Win platform in their droves.

Both companies have failed to make inroads into the smartphone and tablet market, even though they whined on and on about convergence for many a year.  Handset manufacturers, by and large, do not want to be in the tender embrace of the two companies which essentially dictated what went in the PC industry.

And besides, their basic technology deeply sucks, for different reasons. Intel is forced, because of its huge capital investment commitments, to put a premium on its notebook microprocessors while it is safe to say that its much vaunted Atom range is just a total flop.

Microsoft’s software has always basically sucked anyway and it’s only by cunning marketing that it achieved its pre-eminence in this side of the business. I don’t think anyone, apart from Intel executives, have got smartphones powered by Intel Inside. Oddly enough, at an Intel Developer Forum years and years ago, when it still had its StrongARM stuff, me and a few other journos did ask why Intel just didn’t go and develop really low power devices based on the ARM chip and give people what they really wanted.

While Intel and Microsoft have been shilly-shallying and, essentially, living in the past, competition has crept up and overtaken them.

And so at some point this year, current CEO Paul Otellini is to depart from his captain’s cabin at Intel, to be replaced by who-knows-who to guide the ship into 2013 and beyond.

Right now, and as an Intel and Microsoft watcher for nigh on 30 years, I just can’t see how these particular conjurers are going to pull any rabbits out of their magic hats. Maybe they’ll specialise in producing cabbages from up their sleeves, instead.