Acer suffers in weak PC market, moves to ditch value brand

acer-logo-ceAcer is taking a beating on the back of a slow PC market and fears that it expanded too much, too quickly.

The Taiwanese outfit is the fourth largest PC maker in the world, and it peaked in 2010, when it briefly ranked second. However, things have gone downhill and on Wednesday Acer announced it expects to post a full-year net loss for the second consecutive year. It is also looking at a $120.1 million write-down on several value brands under its umbrella.

During the PC boom in the late nineties and early 2000s, Acer went on a massive shopping spree and picked up a number of value brands, including Packard Bell, Gateway, eMachines and E-Ten. The write down on said brands dragged Acer to a net loss and the company plans to discontinue the eMachines brand altogether.

Other PC makers are facing similar challenges, as they struggle to reinvent themselves and gain a toehold in emerging sectors, like smartphones and tablets. Acer has a small presence in both sectors.

The company’s phone business is practically negligible and its attempt to expand its presence in China in 2012, with smartphones based on Aliyun, a heavily customized Android-based OS, was promptly ditched after Google threatened to cancel the company’s Android license. Acer had a bit more luck with Android tablets and it is moving into the Windows 8 tablet space as well, but its efforts have been overshadowed by the likes of Asus and Samsung.

Even as it struggles to remain competitive in the PC market, burdened by underperforming value brands, Acer prospects in the heavily contested smartphone and tablet markets look even bleaker.

Brokerage houses Nomura Holdings and UBS are anything but optimistic and UBS cut its target price and maintained the “sell” rating on Acer stock after the report. Nomura was somewhat kinder, but it also maintained its “reduce” rating on Acer, Taipei Times reports.

“Longer term, we think Acer still needs to face the reality of how to rebuild the brand positioning/image for Packard Bell and Gateway amid intense competition and slowing PC industry growth,” said Nomura analyst Eve Jung.

Tablets set to take more PC market share

Apple iPadA market research company said that tablets are set to cannibalise more PC sales as their popularity continues to grow.

ABI Research estimates that 145 million tablets will ship this year, with 50 percent of sales outside the USA. Price, new entrants to the market and increased shipments into enterprise will help drive the growth.

Business sales will account for as much of 19 percent during 2013, and a variety of slates using Intel chips and Windows 8 will begin to make more impact this year, according to Jeff Orr, senior director at ABI.

Meanwhile Israeii company Perion said it conducted a survey of 4,400 iPad users about how they used their machines.  Ninety percent of those surveyed said they used their iPads to read and write email.

Women are more likely to read and write emails from their pads, while the favourite app is Apple Mail at 41 percent, Gmail at 31 percent and Hotmail at 13 percent. Eighteen percent of people use browsers to access webmail rather than using clients.

Gartner: Cloud providers need to look at security services to survive

cloud 2Cloud providers must look at offering robust security options to ensure they stay ahead of the game, Gartner said.

Rubbing its crystal ball, the analyst company has gone as far to say the US government could declare cloud services as a critical national infrastructure, as a result of expanding public clouds, along with the ever-persistent threat on private and public sectors’ infrastructures.

It said that in the future this could mean that future network security is based increasingly on virtual security appliances.

By 2016, Gartner said public cloud infrastructure will include and be mandated to critical national infrastructure regulations by the US. It said that this is a result of the economic downturn, with governments continuing to sniff out ways to reduce their IT operating expenditures, eliminate duplication across their IT organisations and optimise their compute resources, making cloud deployments an attractive option.

Apparently several key governments have created initiatives for the adoption of cloud-based services, however, Gartner pointed out that they are yet to see any negative impacts from the technology. Disruptions, brought around by attacks on cloud service providers, were minimal.

By 2015, 10 percent of overall IT security enterprise product capabilities will be delivered in the cloud.

However, Gartner warned that as the economy becomes more dependent on the cloud, the threats against these networks would grow, eventually impacting national security.

The company is advising security providers to prepare their technologies to address potential mandates for critical infrastructure protection of public cloud environments.

It warned that those who lag behind with their security could face difficult sales and be squeezed out of the market by cloud providers who had threat management processes in place.

Growth rates for cloud-based security services are set to overtake those of traditional on-premises security equipment over the next three years with operational cost reduction, flexibility of deployment across multiple IT environments, and fast implementation and product updates among major factors driving demand.

Gartner also pointed out that as cloud matures, security offerings will also evolve, with data loss prevention, encryption and authentication all becoming must-have services offered alongside the cloud.

As new players establish themselves with innovative offerings, existing companies will look to acquire them to expand their portfolios with new capabilities and remain competitive.

Fixing Nexus supply problems is Google’s new priority

nexus4-ceThe botched Nexus 4 launch has already turned into a rather embarrassing episode for Google, but Larry Page is trying to reassure investors and analysts, although it could be too little, too late.

Page mentioned the problems during Google’s Q4 earnings report, but he did not say much and he did not provide any new details.

Phones 4U gets ads banned by watchdog

phonesPhones 4U has earned itself a ban over two adverts after the Advertising Standards Authority  (ASA) described them as “misleading”.

The retailer fell foul of the toothsome watchdog after people complained that its “upgrades 4u and u and u” ads, aimed at trying to show that people could upgrade with the retailer on any network and not the one they were signed to, were misleading.

They said that  the claims didn’t apply to customers on all networks, including Three and Tesco mobile, as the voice over in the comical broadcast ads suggested.

Both ads  focused on a range of “comical characters”, being told they could upgrade their phones despite their traits.

The voice over said:  “Listen up you lot. You can upgrade your phones at Phones4U”. The ad featured a number of characters with a range of habits such as smelling of fish, keeping a lot of cats and wearing gilets. The voice-over indicated that they could all get upgrades saying “Upgrades for you and you and you at Phones4U”. The on-screen text stated “T&Cs apply”.

In the second ad the voiceover said: “Listen up you lot. You can upgrade your phones at Phones4U.” A woman asked, “I’m scared of long-term commitment. Can I?” The voice-over replied, “I hear you lady. With our exclusive jump contract you could update your phone every 6 months … Upgrades for you and you and you at Phones4U.” The on screen text said: “T&Cs and exclusions may apply”.

When questioned by the watchdog, Phones 4U tried to plead its innocence, telling the ad police that the purpose of the ads was to tell customers that it was possible to upgrade their handsets at its shops. It said there was a common misconception that this could only be done with an existing network provider and that it aimed to show that it offered upgrades on the majority of network providers, even if the customer did not originally get the handset or contract from its stores.

However, the shop chain acknowledged that some networks such as Three and Tesco Mobile were not partnered with it, and so customers of these networks would not be able to upgrade. It said that it had covered itself against this claiming that its  “T&Cs apply” text showed there were exclusions, as well as offering further literature on its site to back this up.

However, the ASA remained unimpressed, claiming that the content in the ads suggested that everyone could upgrade as a result of the characters used. It said that while some customers would understand “upgrade” as meaning a new phone, they may not have expected to change networks to do so. And while Phones 4U had tried to cover its back with the on screen text referring to T&Cs, the ASA wasn’t convinced these made it clear that it was only possible to upgrade on certain networks.

As a result the company was ordered not to show the ads again in their current form.

However, the ruling is probably a drop in the ocean for the chain which yesterday announced that it would be expanding its services to the mobile network industry.

The company said it plans to launch its first mobile network –  “Life Mobile” – which will run as a mobile virtual network operator on mobile operator EE’s 2G and 3G spectra when it launches in March.

High street footfall drops

highShoppers on the UK’s high street are continuing to decline, recent figures from the British Retail Consortium have shown.

One retail analyst has suggested the drop is partly thanks to a vicious cycle, where stores are forced to focus on their online efforts – but neglect shop fronts as a result.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) released figures showing that shopper numbers had fallen by 1.2 percent in December, compared to the same time in 2011.

Shopping centres reported the greatest fall with a 2.8 percent decline, followed by out-of-town retailers, with a one percent fall, while high street locations saw footfall stumble by 0.5 percent.

The BRC said that the decline for the month as a whole came despite a rise of 7.5 percent in shopper numbers in the immediate week before Christmas.

The figures coincided with data released by the Office for National Statistics last week, which found that, although UK retail sales grew 0.3 percent in December, this figure was the lowest rise on record since 1998.

Patrick O’Brien, a retail analyst at Verdict, said there are a number of factors at play.

“Some shoppers stay away by online shopping, and this has let to retail chains investing less in their stores which in turn has made them less attractive creating a vicious circle,” he said, speaking with ChannelEye. “As a result, some high streets are looking very shabby indeed, and shoppers are tending to make one big trip to destination shopping centres such as Westfield Statford instead of several trips to the high street.”

Co-op Group hit by job cuts, scrapped IT system

Co-operative_headquarters_manchesterIt’s been a bad week for the Co-operative Group, with stories of job cuts and full-year profits almost written down to nothing.

The sorry story starts with the Co-operative’s banking arm, which reportedly spent its money on an IT system that could be scrapped. Sources told the Times that the cost of doing this could set the bank back by  £200 million – almost the cost of its full year profits.

The company had taken on the Finacle IT platform upgrade project in 2009 as part of  a £700 million integration programme linked to its partnership with the Britannia Building Society.

However, it has since had second thoughts about the system following a potential purchase deal of 632 branches from Lloyds Banking Group.

If the buy goes ahead, according to the Times, the Co-op will scrap the system and instead adopt the infrastructure currently used by Lloyds. This could land it with a huge hole in annual profits, which are set to be announced in mid-March. Last year’s earnings by the bank stood at £201 million.

A section of its retail arm is also struggling.  According to the BBC, the company has announced that 338 jobs could be slashed in the Midlands after plans to close its Fashion and Home department stores.

The announcement comes after the group reported “substantial losses,” and “changing retail behaviour” at its department stores in Derby, Ilkeston and Chesterfield, in Derbyshire; Coalville and Wigston in Leicestershire; and Stafford.

However, the Group said it will try to turn some of these stores into different entities, which could help keep job losses to a minimum.

Emerging markets open up to increased data centre investment

datacentrebatteriesAccording to a report from Tariff Consultancy Ltd, which focuses on data centre development in 11 emerging markets, Russia and Turkey are way ahead of the pack.

TCL looked at Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, and the Ukraine. Of these, the four largest are Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and Bulgaria respectively, though in the group, Russia by itself is expected to account for half of all data centre floor space by the end of the year.

Generally speaking, the size of the data centres are relatively small, TCL noted. In the 11 regions, the average size was just over 800 square markets, which is a great deal less than in established markets. The largest facility has up to 10,000 square metres of raised floor space. However, over the next five years, the total space should rise to 143,000 square metres, up from 109,000 at present – or a 30 percent increase going into 2018.

Pricing will also increase, with the average rack space rental increasing 10 percent up to 2018. The most expensive pricing is in the Russian market.

Trends outlined in the report mirror a transformation in the regions which are seeing more and more development and investment, both from foreign investors and by government, with a view to boost economic growth in the countries. This could also, of course, prove a boon to channel players looking for new markets to open up in. Ultimately, TCL concludes, the development of data centre space in these emerging markets proves high spec housing and hosting is no longer exclusive to established markets.

 

 

 

ARM set to grow share in server market

arm_chipA report from Markets and Markets (M&M) suggested that the micro server market will be worth $26.55 billion by 2014 and microprocessors based on ARM technology are set to take a significant share.

Micro servers major on low power consumption and have small footprints, and use multiple mobile processors. The main market will be small to medium sized businesses and applications use light duty web serving, can be used for dedicated hosting, cloud computing and analytics.

Right now, this sector only accounts for 2.3 percent of total server sales, but M&M predicts that in the next five years to reach between 25 and 30 percent of sales worldwide.

While some large enterprises are already using micro servers in an area dominated by Intel Atom and Xeon CPUs, 64 bit ARM processors are set to appear in 2014 and that will change the market dynamics, the research company said.

North America is the biggest market for micro servers currently, followed by Europe, but it is expected that the Asian region will overtake Europe by 2018.  Vendors already in the game include Intel, HP, Dell, Fujitsu and Samsung.

UK business head honchos to seek new ventures in 2013

officeAlmost a third of British business decision makers want to jack in their jobs for new challenges and more money, a survey has found.

According to AGM Transitions, of the 100 people asked, 31 percent said they were likely or very likely to seek out a new career this year. Money was the main driver to a change, with 37 percent citing this reason, while just under a fifth said they wanted a new challenge.

However, in the current economic climate only 37 percent said they were confident about securing a new role.

Of those hoping to move on, half said they would be turning to job websites, while just over a third said they would rely of newspaper adverts.

A further third said they would use existing business contacts, while the same proportion said head-hunters and recruiters would be their new best friends.

Despite social media increasingly being used for business networking and research purposes, 67 percent still do not use social media to promote or market themselves in the industry.

Finding the right opportunity was the most daunting aspect of changing jobs, with 40 percent admitting to this, while 23 percent said they feared change.

Cloud Distribution moves to change Value Added Distributor status quo

cloud1Cloud Distribution has hired start up guru Adam Davison in a bid to give its Value Added Distributor competitors a run for their money.

The company claims that other firms offer little or no support to as yet “undiscovered” vendors that have the potential to disrupt the UK market’s status quo.

It claims its new weapon will help it  search out next generation networking and security vendors, which will complement its portfolio of disruptive technology products.

Davison has been appointed to seek out companies wishing to bring innovative networking and security technology solutions to the UK. The company boasts it’s best placed to offer these firms the best foothold as understands the market and “delivers real value-add.”

Davidson’s team has, according to the company, already begun to develop tools for the channel, which will help launch these products to the market. These include tailored vendor support launch packs, bespoke sales training, pre-sales and technical training, a virtual marketing team and an end user pipeline generation platform.

Apparently these have all been created to help VARs get up to speed with the new products and grow a network of qualified opportunities.

Adam Davison says he has first-hand experience of what it’s like as a start-up trying to break through.  He added there was a real need for a “next-generation distributor” who was willing to put “evangelistic effort into less well-known, but high value proposition vendors.”

Adam’s appointment follows a series of new hires as Cloud Distribution expands and develops its team which has included James Ball, Technical Manager and Tracey Hannan, Sales Manager for the new Northern office.

OLED and LCD patent pecking set to continue

fightLow profits within the LCD market born from cooperation between tech companies, will lead to a continuous spree of patent spats, an analyst has warned.

The comments from Bob Raikes, principal analyst  at Meko, come as yet another two companies went to war late last week over patent infringement claims. This time it was Samsung who went after its rival LG, filing a suit and seeking invalidation of its patents on LCDs.

However LG was not blameless in the spat, kicking off the fight last month when it raised  three patent infringement claims on LCD technologies against Samsung. In court documents filed last month in the Seoul Central District Court  LG pointed the finger at its enemy, claiming that the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 infringed on three different patents related to LG’s In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology.

This led Samsung to retaliate with a an intellectual property tribunal, where it moaned to the court that three LCD patents held by LG Display were invalid as a result of existing patents on the same technology.

The spat is just one of many to come from tech companies with patent infringement claims been thrown about left, right and centre.

Samsung has had its fair share, going to war with LG in the past as well as well publicised disputes with Apple in the US.

However, it seems the war within the LCD and OLED markets may continue.

“The period of the development of LCD has been a period of cooperation and
competition,” Mr Raikes told ChannelEye.

“Basically, everybody uses very similar technology, materials and equipment. As a
result the industry grew very quickly and costs came down very rapidly. However, nobody made any money.

“For OLED (and there are no other technologies currently on the horizon),
the companies are trying to make profit, so there is relatively little cooperation. They know this is going to be slower, but they don’t want a repeat of the financial mess that the LCD industry is in.

“LG and Samsung use different technology, materials and manufacturing
techniques and equipment. Sony & Panasonic & AUO are collaborating on parts
of the technology, but only parts. They use different materials and techniques to the two Koreans.

“All of them will fight over who is doing what to try to protect their uniqueness.”

ONS data shows low retail growth for Xmas 2012

bromleyhsUK retail sales grew 0.3 percent in December, the Office for National Statistics has revealed, which is the lowest rise on record since 1998.

There was an upward tick in retail from August 2011, however, in December 2012 the growth was lower than expected. The quantity of goods grew 0.3 percent from the same time last year, while overall amounts spent was estimated to have grown 0.7 percent.

Except for December 2010, when retail was severely affected by bad weather, December 2012 was the lowest growth since 1998, which was at -0.4 percent. Comparing the month with November 2012, both quantity bought and amount spent dropped by 0.1 percent.

Online sales were 1.2 percent higher compared with December 2011, but compared with November, the ONS says the proportion of web sales fell at a slower rate than in previous years – which is seasonally unusual. Retailers told the ONS that online shoppers helped with overall sales and made up a larger proportion of sales in December than expected.

According to data from Experian, December 2012 was the busiest Christmas ever for online retailers, with plenty of consumers going online on Boxing Day and Christmas to spend festive cash and vouchers. There was a 30 percent growth in visits since last year.

Year on year growth from non-store retailing and non-food stores was cancelled out by large drops in spending at food stores and petrol stations. Overall, the estimated weekly spend in all retail was £8.5 billion for the month, compared to £8.4 billion in December 2011.

 

Intel resellers expect more training

IntelIntel’s resellers have said they are not overly concerned about the company’s latest financial figures.

However, they have pointed out that they would have liked to see more money spent on training rather than the marketing budget Intel announced in the wake of its financial announcement.

“We’d love more training but if Intel is blowing its money on marketing we’ll probably only see promotional benefits,” one software reseller told ChannelEye.

His comments come as the company announced that it would be throwing $18.9 billion on research and development, along with marketing and administrative costs, this year, an increase from 2011 when it spent $16 billion in this sector, and  up from $18.2 billion last year.

However, that was the only good news for Intel’s resellers and stakeholders with the company
announcing that its profits were down 27 percent in the last quarter.

The company reported  a net income of $2.5 billion, down 27 percent from $3.4 billion, a year earlier. Revenue fell three percent to $13.5 billion from $13.9 billion.

However, resellers weren’t phased, hinting they’d been given advance warning.

“Software sales for us have been ok, but we were sent an email two weeks ago warning us of these figures.

“We’re not worried, a bit of pressure from the top is something we can easily handle,” the software reseller added.

Another continued the sentiment and support for the company, claiming: “It’s not affected us up to this point.

“We’ve still gained support and training as promised. I assume there will now be pressure however to ensure we sell as much as possible. Maybe Intel should invest more in products and training, which would help us sell more and boost revenues.”

In the last six months, shares of Intel have fallen about 18 percent. Although this could be put down to the economic climate, it is more likely that the company has failed to impress with its shiny, all dancing Ultrabooks, which retailers yesterday said were still stagnating on shelves as a result of consumers demanding higher spec features over fashion based products.

And while some resellers have stayed loyal to their mother ship, one was a little bit more outspoken telling ChannelEye:  “The news isn’t the best, of course it’s not. But the fact that the company has said it will be spending more on development and marketing can only be a good thing for us. Whether or not there’s more pressure on us to work harder to tighter margins remains to be seen.

“In terms of training, we do receive a fair bit but some of it is expensive. What we need is free workshops that have been taken out of a budget somewhere. However I doubt that’ll happen anytime soon.”

Ovum: the cloud is unstoppable

clouds3Analyst house Ovum has released a report that forecasts trends to watch in the cloud for 2013 which predicts the industry shows no signs of slowing down.

According to senior analyst Laurent Lachal, cloud computing will evolve to tackle two challenges it has faced so far, namely reducing implementation costs and boosting innovation. Vendors and enterprises face some problems with successfully building both private and public clouds, but Lachal insists they will “make it work” in 2013 – on their own and as part of increasingly complex ecosystems.

Public, private, and hybrid clouds are building momentum, according to Lachal, and increasingly approaching enterprise grade class, but Ovum believes it is “early days” for both vendors and enterprises. We can expect the cloud to begin reaching its maturity in 2013, however, it will take another five years before this is complete, according to Ovum.

Ovum believes that in 2013, cloud computing will begin to form its own ecosystem. Rather than being viewed as a single platform as part of a larger infrastructure, public clouds will be seen as a central ecosystem hub both for cloud service providers and consumers.

“They offer a new way to accelerate participation in the rapidly evolving social networking and mobile ecosystems of the internet age,” Lachal said. “Some industry sectores are benefiting from the data centre as a hub, an increasingly cloud computing-centric ecosystem of partners that assembles in a key location or data centre such as around financial exchanges, web and online services, or media content”.

Data itself will drive further adoption of the cloud. As cloud services along with the apps that run on it generate data, cloud services and applications are needed to make sense of it, Ovum said. This means that cloud will evolve in line with other upcoming industry trends such as machine to machine communication, smart cities initiatives, the consumerisation of IT, open government data, and big data.

Ovum notes that the market is currently focused on big data in particular, however, the group thinks that from this year onwards there’s going to be an interest in the shift from vendors and enterprises to turn data into a manageable resource – something they can make money from. The start, Ovum believes, will be data abstraction, sharing, and valuation.