Tag: Android

PC and tablet shipments to hit 493m this year

pc-sales-slumpCombined worldwide shipments of tablets and PCs are expected to hit 493.1 million units, according to research from Canalys. The firm is expecting seven percent growth, but it will come from tablets rather than PCs.

Tablets are forecast to account for 37 percent of the market, up from 25 percent last year.

By 2017, unit shipments should reach 713.8 million, but only a quarter of them will be laptops, while tablets should make up 64 percent of all shipments.

The tablet market is booming. It more than doubled in the first quarter of the year, while at the same time desktop and laptop shipments took a double-digit plunge. Tablet shipments in 2013 should hit 182.5 million units and by the end of the year they should outpace laptops.

Competition should heat up over the next few quarters, with traditional PC vendors vying for a piece of the lucrative tablet market. Windows 8.1 tablets are expected to start making their mark later this year, but they might not have what it takes to stand up to Android and iOS gear in the low end. Therefore many outfits are turning to Android tablets, including Acer, Asus, Lenovo and HP. However, the trouble with cheap Android tablets is that they’re not good money makers.

“Shipment numbers can be high but absolute margins on these products are expected to be small. Low-price tablets will not be lucrative but it is necessary to compete or a vendor will simply lose relevance and scale. In fact, accessories, particularly cases, as well as the new generation of high-tech app-enabled accessories will likely provide higher margins than the products themselves,” said Pin-Chen Tang, research analyst at Canalys. “This new influx of Android devices will provide a boost to the platform and Canalys therefore expects Android to take a 45% share in 2013, behind Apple at 49%. The iPad mini is expected to continue selling well, becoming more significant in terms of the product mix and spawning a further increase in consumer demand for smaller tablets.’

The other big unknown is Intel’s 2-in-1 convertible push. They should also start appearing later this year and vendors have already shown off some designs, but many are not convinced that they will do well. The first generation isn’t very impressive. They require pricey and relatively hot x86 chips, so they end up a bit bulkier than ARM-based tablets. In addition, Windows 8.x is still an unproven OS in the tablet space and it’s more bloated than Android or iOS.

“These convertible products have disappointed so far. Convertibles are too heavy in tablet form and too expensive when compared with clamshell product,” said the company. Canalys therefore expects that, for at least the next 18 months, consumers will buy separate products, rather than compromise on a Windows 8 convertible or hybrid PC. Even for Android products, alternative form factors are not expected to grow rapidly due to the category being sandwiched between low-priced slates and more familiar Windows-based clamshell notebooks,” said Canalys analyst James Wang.

MS Office appears on Android phones

redmondMicrosoft has announced Office Mobile will now be available to Microsoft 365 subscribers on Android.

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced Office Mobile for iPhone, meaning Office software is now available on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone, as well as on desktops and laptops.

Existing 365 customers will get access to Office Mobile for Android at no extra cost. It opens up Word, Excel and PowerPoint document reading and editing to the platform.

For now, it’s only available in the United States but more regions are promised in the coming weeks, in 33 languages and 117 markets.

Office Mobile for Android can be found on the Google Play Store, but users will need a qualifying Office 365 subscription, including Office 365 Home Premium and Office 365 ProPlus.

The idea is to sync up mobile work with work at the office or at home. Editing documents in Office Mobile for Android will save changes made in the cloud, and these changes will be accessible from whichever other device or platform customers use. A single subscription is available for up to five mobile devices, excluding Windows Phone which has the app pre-installed.

This app is designed for the phone in mind. We have asked a Microsoft spokesperson if tablet optimised versions will be made available, but for now Microsoft is recommending tablet users go to Office Web Apps.

“We built Office Mobile for Android phones to ensure a great Office experience when using a small screen device,” an FAQ reads. “Therefore you will not be able to download and install Office Mobile for Android phones on an Android tablet from the Google Play Store”.

It’s likely the varied screen sizes have something to do with this.

Anyone interested in trying the app out can sign up for a 30 day Office 365 trial at http://www.office.com.

Chinese smartphones to shake things up

android-china-communistSales of high-end smartphones are still very strong, but the market seems to be slowly shifting to cheaper gear.

As smartphone penetration rates in developed markets are already relatively high, much of the new growth is coming from emerging markets which don’t have the capacity to gobble up millions of pricey iPhones and flagship Galaxies.

According to IDC, the average price of smartphones has dropped from $450 to $375 since early 2012. As growth is now being generated in China and India, cheaper smartphones are starting to take off. Lenovo stands to gain from the trend, as it already has a very powerful grip on the Chinese market. Chinese players like Huawei and ZTE should also do well. The big losers might be Apple and Samsung, but nobody expects them to sulk and sob in the corner while their lead evaporates.

Apple is apparently working on a cheaper, plastic iPhone, designed specifically to target emerging markets. Samsung and HTC already have mini versions of their flagship phones and although the Galaxy S3 Mini was a disappointment, HTC seems to have cracked it with the HTC One Mini. Motorola’s new X-phone, or Moto X, is set to launch in a week or so and it won’t be a high-end device as many had expected.

However, Chinese smartphone makers still might get the best of big brands. We are seeing similar trends in the low-end tablet market. Chinese manufacturers can respond to changes much faster, they are more dynamic and their costs are much lower. Samsung and Apple might spend hundreds of millions on marketing, but no-name smartphone makers can’t rely on an overpaid hype machine – their only choice is to come up with low-BOM (bill of materials), yet competitive low-margin products, which means China is actually teaching the West a lesson in capitalism.

ABI analyst Michael Morgan told Bloomberg that the days of fast growth in the high-end smartphone market are over.

“It’s the Chinese companies who know how to survive on tiny margins that are ready for the fight that’s about to ensue,” he said.

In other words we may be in for a repeat of the PC price slump of the mid nineties. Chinese manufacturers can churn out cheap smartphones and tablets, much like PCs, but this time around the shift might even be faster. Even if Chinese companies can’t access the latest and greatest in mobile tech, that doesn’t really matter in the mid-range and low-end. Last year’s tech is good enough and it’s cheap, which is exactly what they need.

Furthermore, most chipmakers should have no qualms about selling their latest processors to anyone willing to pay – since most of them don’t have their own smartphone business, although Samsung is an exception. The same goes for most other components and some chipmakers have a vested interest in peddling their own designs. Nvidia seems to be leading the way, as it is already working on reference smartphone and tablet designs. Its next SoC (Tegra 4i) is a mid-range chip with LTE and the first products based on the new chip, and possibly Nvidia’s reference design, should appear in early 2014.

This is also pretty bad news for Nokia, which had hoped to replace its Symbian and S40-based offerings with cheap Windows phones. However, Nokia feature phone users in emerging markets seem to be choosing cheap Chinese Androids instead.

However, most high-end smartphone sales in Europe are still coming from carriers, thanks to comprehensive (and usually quite pricey) two-year plans. If European and US carriers embrace more mid-range Chinese phones, things could change in a heartbeat.

Ingram Micro NZ launches reseller app

ingram-mico-hqIngram Micro has rolled out a new app designed to help Kiwi resellers respond more quickly to customer needs, while at the same time making their lives just a bit easier. The app is available for iOS and Android devices, no word on WP8 or BB10 support just yet.

The apps allow resellers to access Ingram’s e-commerce offering on the go, order products and track shipments in real time, browse products, compare prices and check availability. The app also features a few clever tricks borrowed from consumerish shopping apps. For example, users can scan a bar code using a smartphone camera and the app will check the product details and Ingram Micro’s stock information, reports Reseller NZ.

The apps can also be used to impress customers, by displaying the offer on mobile devices without revealing dealer pricing, which sounds a lot more convenient than doing it on a notebook.

Ingram Micro says it will continue to upgrade the app over the coming months, but so far feedback has been largely positive. Now all they have to do is roll out similar apps tailored for other regional or national markets.

First Firefox OS smartphones launch today

zte-open-firefox-osThe first Firefox OS phones could be just days away from hitting retail. Mozilla has announced that the regional rollout of the first foxy phones will begin soon.

There are just a couple of devices so far, the Alcatel One Touch Fire and the ZTE Open, and the latter launches in Spain on Tuesday for just €69.

Needless to say, it doesn’t feature headline grabbing specs. It’s a 3.5-inch HVGA device powered by a 1GHz processor and 512MB of memory. That’s the sort of spec one would expect from a mid-range Android handset launched in 2011, but that sort of seems to be the point.

Mozilla doesn’t want to compete in the high-end, it thinks it has a very lean operating system that could bring most smartphone features to first-time smartphone buyers. Smartphones are overtaking feature phones in terms of worldwide sales as we speak and cheap smartphones are expected to fill the gap.

It seems like a sound approach, but the smartphone market is already overcrowded and it’s dominated by two or four operating systems, depending on whom you ask. There doesn’t appear to be much room for another competing platform, but Mozilla is going after a small niche. Apple, BlackBerry and to some extent Microsoft, don’t really matter in this price segment.

Android, however, remains a force to be reckoned with. There are dozens if not hundreds of cheap Android phones on store shelves, with a tried and tested OS and a huge app ecosystem. What’s more, last year’s models often end up in the bargain bin, hence it is possible to get something even better than an entry-level phone for peanuts.

Mozilla thinks it can do better, with an OS specifically designed to run well on a meagre serving of silicon and this might be what differentiates its products in the long term. The hope is that consumers will choose a frugal phone with a lean OS instead of an outdated Android device that doesn’t really support all the nice features offered by Google in its latest Android builds.

The approach might work, especially in emerging markets, but for the time being the platform is rather limited and untested, although initial reviews were positive.

Android consoles stumble

nvidia-shieldSony, Microsoft and Nintendo have rolled out their latest generation consoles and although they feature very impressive hardware, some analysts are already saying that they could be the last generation of big consoles on proprietary operating systems.

Sales of mobile consoles have also taken a hit, as more and more consumers traded them in for smartphones and tablets. It’s nothing new, we saw the same trend with personal media players and compact cameras.

However, if mobiles are indeed cannibalising consoles, isn’t it time for smartphone makers to capitalize on the trend? Google seems to think so. Late Thursday several reputable outlets reported that Google is indeed working on some sort of Android console. It is apparently loosely based on the Nexus Q, a streaming device which flopped before it hit the market. Google is starting to take hardware quite seriously. A couple of years ago it only sold a single product, the developer friendly Nexus smartphone series. However, over the past 12 months Google also introduced two Nexus tablets and Google Glass. Let’s not forget about the company’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility, either.

On the other hand, it must be said that Google’s idea is anything but original. Kickstarter sensation Ouya is about to hit the market, after a couple of delays. Based on Nvidia’s old Tegra 3 chip, the Ouya was envisioned as a homebrew Android console with a $99 price tag. The first reviews weren’t impressive, but then again this is hardly surprising given the nature of the project.

Nvidia also entered the fray with Project Shield, a handheld console based on the much more powerful Tegra 4 SoC. It’s a bit bigger than Sony’s or Nintendo’s handhelds, but it also has a unique trick up its sleeve. It can be used to stream PC games, but the feature is still not ready for prime time. It has a 720p screen and a $299 price tag, but yesterday Nvidia announced that Shield would be delayed by a few weeks due to a mechanical fault.

The delays illustrate that Android consoles are bound to face a number of teething problems. Android still lacks truly compelling games designed to attract hardcore gamers. Most Android games are made with the casual gamer in mind, and with relatively poor hardware. However, hardware shouldn’t be an issue in the long run. Mobile chips are evolving at a much faster pace than their PC counterparts. New SoC designs like the Snapdragon 800 and Tegra 4 feature vastly improved GPUs and they are capable of delivering a pleasant gaming experience at 720p and even 1080p, with some caveats. The level of detail still can’t come close to PC or console games, regardless of what spinners would have us believe. Although a 1080p game could look lovely on a 4.8-inch smartphone, it wouldn’t be much to look at on a 40- to 50-inch television.

Software might be a tougher nut to crack. Piracy is rampant on Android and even if that wasn’t a problem most users prefer casual games on the go, rather than big budget games that can generate plenty of revenue to pay for the eye candy needed for 1080p televisions. Attracting big developers won’t be easy, but someone has to make the first step and in this case it seems as if Nvidia has the best chance of getting some devs on board, as it is trying to get the best of both worlds, with PC streaming on a portable Android console with pretty good hardware. To make Android consoles truly attractive, developers must start coming up with titles specifically designed to make good use of physical controllers and fast chips used in such devices. The one size fits all approach, used to develop tablet and smartphone games, just won’t work. With next to no Android consoles on the market, this won’t happen anytime soon.

If Android consoles do take off, and we believe they will, sooner or later, the gaming market could be in for a frugal surprise. An average high-budget Xbox game costs about $60, yet the Ouya is priced at $99 and the Shield should sell for $299. This is a massive difference that won’t go unnoticed in emerging markets, or in the West for that matter. The Play Store could also democratize the market, allowing small outfits with good ideas to publish their games with ease, ending up with a runaway hit. Such success stories are not uncommon in the iOS and Android universe, as the market is not dominated by huge developers with endless budgets. The openness also means other software can be developed and put to good use, transforming Android consoles into proper home entertainment centres, capable of handling rudimentary computing, thus putting even more pressure on the embattled PC market.

All this leaves us with a very interesting emerging market, with plenty of pitfalls and opportunities for all involved. As tablets and smartphones mature, hardware makers will start exploring smaller niches. Samsung already has Android cameras and a strange phone-camera hybrid with a zoom lens. Smaller outfits are building dirt cheap Android sticks and some are experimenting with other form factors, like gaming tablets.

Although the first generation of Android consoles doesn’t seem too impressive, the market will be anything but boring over the next few years.

Mobile shipments in Europe fall again

nexus4-ceThe smartphone market seems to be cooling off at last. After years of double-digit growth, sales of mobile handsets in Western Europe were down 4.2 percent in the first quarter compared to a year ago, according to IDC’s latest numbers.

Smartphone sales were up 12 percent annually, but this was the slowest growth rate since 2004. Feature phones are dying a quiet death, with shipments down 31 percent to just 12 million units.

Samsung solidified its lead in the market. Its market share rose six percent to 46 percent. The Korean giant shipped 19.9 million phones in the first quarter, up 1.8 million compared to Q1 2012. Apple ranked second with 6.2 million iPhones shipped in Q1, but overall its shipments were down 800,000 units from a year ago. Nokia is in a close third, with 6.1 million units, but its shipments fell 2.6 million units. 

These figures include feature phone sales and the smartphone standing is a bit different.

Samsung still reigns supreme with a 45 percent share and 14.3 million units shipped. Apple is second, but its market share dropped from 25 percent to 20 percent. Sony came in third with 10 percent and LG had a very good quarter, quadrupling its shipments and seizing 8 percent of the market. Nokia ranked fifth with just five percent of the smartphone market and 1.6 Lumias shipped. HTC is conspicuously absent from the top five ranking.

In terms of platforms, Android is still on top, with 21.9 million units and a market share of 69 percent, up from 55 percent last year. Apple’s iOS dipped from 25 to 20 percent, while Windows Phone came in third, with a share of six percent.

“We are now entering the second wave of smartphone adoption in the region. The first wave was driven by those users looking for devices that would meet their mobility needs.” IDC European mobile devices research director Francisco Jeronimo said. “They did look for the best devices in terms of performance and user experience, and more importantly, they were able to afford and pay a premium to get a premium experience. We are now entering the second wave of smartphone adoption, which will be driven by those users with no need for a smartphone.”

In other words, the market is maturing. People who felt the need for a smartphone already have one and the upgrade cycles are bound to start slowing down, in spite of generous telco subsidies and 2-year plans. On the other hand, feature phones are going extinct and they will be replaced by cheap smartphones rather than high-end devices like iPhones or Galaxy S-series phones.

Security concerns hamper BYOD adoption

Keep taking the tabletsAlthough BYOD is one of the hottest trends in the industry, it seems that the adoption of BYOD policies and gear is still being hampered by security concerns.

According to Insight UK’s latest survey, security, or more specifically data loss, is still the biggest problem concerning IT departments, at 72 percent.

However, although security is the top concerns, 55 percent of respondents said they have no plans for the introduction of BYOD policies designed to inform employees of how they should protect themselves. Three quarters of businesses questioned issuing mobile devices themselves, while one quarter allow employees to bring their own devices and access corporate networks and documents, allowing the data to leave the company every single day.

“It’s interesting to note that a year down the line almost three quarters of those businesses surveyed have seemingly moved to tackle this trend by issuing their own devices to employees and you’d think that means those allowing BYOD would now have their ducks in a line when it comes to policies surrounding this,” Ashley Gatehouse, VP EMEA Marketing, Insight, said. “To hear almost half have no plans to create a policy is clearly at odds with the raft of measures we know businesses already have in place to protect the flow of data within the corporate network. Failure to implement a policy or define rules regarding the use of personal devices at this stage of proceedings is tantamount to leaving the backdoor wide open and hoping you don’t get robbed.”

The survey also found that support for iOS and Windows is increasing, while Android and BlackBerry devices are becoming second tier. A total of 26 percent of IT departments support just iOS and Windows and going forward the divide will become even more apparent, as 38 percent plan to support Apple products and 29 percent are betting on Microsoft. Android and BlackBerry are in a different league, with 17 and 16 percent respectively.

In terms of actual support and implementation of BYOD policies, 82 percent of IT departments view security as the top concern, while device integration into existing infrastructure ranks second at 60 percent. Providing support to BYOD users is the third biggest concern, at 52 percent.

Unsurprisingly, the survey concluded that sales teams and new business teams are most likely to adopt personal devices. This probably has something to do with age, or the fact that they are on the go more often, or both.

Although not every staff member is keen to take the BYOD route, 60 percent of companies say they are implementing BYOD strategies that cover all staff, regardless of job function or status. However, 22 percent believe BYOD should be a privilege available only to senior executives.

Analysts call on Acer to rethink its strategy

acer-logo-ceLast week Acer held its annual shareholder bash in Taiwan, which was marked by a strange mix of optimism and admissions that the company was unprepared for the boom in tablets. Acer chairman Wang Jeng-tang issued an apology to shareholders, as he failed to boost the company’s shares, but he reiterated Acer’s commitment to the traditional PC market.

HP taps Google apps and services for SMB boxes

HPHewlett Packard has joined the Google Apps Reseller program and the first products packed with preinstalled Google apps are on the way. The first phase of what HP calls “HP SMB IT in a Box” will feature existing HP hardware, including PCs and printers, but it will also ship with an assortment of Google apps.

The Goog suite includes Google Apps for Business, Google cloud based communication and collaboration tools, or in other words everything from Gmail and Docs, to Google Drive and IM. An HP management software layer will be on top of them to simplify environment and cut operating costs.

“HP recognises the constantly evolving needs of SMB customers in today’s dynamic business environment,” said Ron Coughlin, senior vice president and general manager, Consumer PCs and Solutions, HP. “Together with HP’s channel partners, we will offer our customers an incredible bundle of PCs, printers and Google Apps for Business, enabling business owners to focus on their customers instead of worrying about IT.”

HP says the HP SMB IT in a Box will continue to grow to encompass all the technologies SMBs need. Eventually, the solution will include integrated consoles for resellers, IT administrators and end users, allowing easy access to the entire solution, including Google Apps for Business.

The company was quick to point out that its collaboration with Google already includes Android and Chrome devices. Although it looks like a routine PR line, it could be also viewed as a shot across Microsoft’s bow.

HP SMB IT in a Box will be offered through HP’s network of reseller partners. The initial offering is expected to be available to select resellers in the United States in July followed by broader availability worldwide by the end of the year.

Handset sales up, Samsung gains share

nexus4-ceSmartphone wars are becoming rather predictable. Every quarter sales notch up and every quarter Samsung emerges as the big winner. The last quarter was no exception. However, growth is slowing as the market matures, although there is still plenty of room for growth in emerging markets. 

Worldwide phone sales totalled 426 million units in the first quarter, up 0.7 percent year-on-year. Smartphones saw a lot more growth, with sales totalling 2010 million units, up 42.9 percent from a year ago, according to a Gartner survey.

Sales of feature phones are down in all regions except Asia, while smartphones accounted for 49.3 percent of all phone sales worldwide, up from 34.8 percent in Q1 2012. At the same time feature phone sales contracted 21.8 percent.

“Feature phones users across the world are either finding their existing phones good enough or are waiting for smartphones prices to drop further, either way the prospect of longer replacement cycles is certainly not good news for both vendors and carriers looking to move users forward,” Gartner analyst Anshul Gupta said.

Samsung saw its market share go up from 21.1 percent to 23.6 percent. Apple also did well, growing from 7.8 to 9 percent, while Nokia’s share dropped from 19.7 to 14.8 percent. However, looking at smartphone sales, Samsung’s share was 30.8 percent, up from 27.6 percent. It was trailed by Apple at 18.2 percent, down from 22.5 percent. LG grabbed the bronze, with a 4.8 percent share. Huawei also had a good quarter, upping their share to 4.4 and 3.8 percent respectively and outperforming former heavyweights like Nokia, Sony and HTC.

Android is still the dominant mobile operating system, with a share of 74.4 percent, up from 56.9 a year earlier. Apple’s iOS share stands at 18.2 percent, down from 22.5 percent a year ago. Just so it wouldn’t look like a two-horse race, Blackberry is still in the game with a 3 percent share, down from 6.8 percent last year. Apparently BB10 did not make a huge difference. Windows Phone has a 2.9 percent share, up from 1.9 percent last year. It is growing, but at a painfully slow rate.

Intel confirms $200 Android notebooks

Intel-logoIntel is working on $200 notebook designs, powered by cheap chips and Google’s free Android operating system.

Dadi Perlmutter, Intel VP and chief product officer told CNET that $200 notebooks will predominantly be Android products based on Atom chips.

Now the ball is in Microsoft’s court, if Redmond wants to gain a toehold in the ultra cheap notebook market it will have to make its operating systems a bit cheaper.

Perlmutter said the price of Windows 8 gear depends on how Microsoft prices the OS, and it could end up slightly pricier. In addition, Perlmutter pointed out prices of notebooks based on Core processors should go down to $399 to $499.

As netbooks are about to die a quiet death, $200 droidbooks might be the best way to replace them. Upcoming Atom chips are roughly on a par with ARM SoCs in terms of power consumption and performance per watt, so from a technical standpoint Intel should have everything covered.

The big question is software. Android is a good operating system for touch enabled devices, but it has yet to prove itself on more traditional form factors, that is,  notebooks.

‘BadNews’ malware family infiltrates Google Play Store

dandroidLookout has unearthed a new family of malware it is dubbing BadNews – which has emerged in the Google Play Store for Android devices.

According to Lookout’s research, BadNews poses as an aggressive ad network – however, it floods the user with application install prompts and brings up fake news, all with the agenda of pushing more malware and affiliated apps.

In its early days, Android in particular was dismissed by critics as being unreliable on the security front thanks to the open access nature of the OS. The Play Store, or Android Market as it was known, did occasionally sport dodgy applications that would mimic other popular apps but were anything but.

BadNews, Lookout says, is significant because it has managed to distribute itself so far and wide – using a server to delay malicious behaviour. The security company has let Google know about the malware, and all developer accounts associated with BadNews have been suspended and are being investigated.

BadNews and its affiliated could have been downloaded as many as 9 million times. Not all apps that have been compromised had malicious code in them, but BadNews, LookOut says, puts a “significant number” of users at risk.

The malware also threatens to leak sensitive information such as phone numbers and IMEI codes.

It is a reminder that as smart device use becomes more widespread, so will malicious coders targeting these devices. While at one time mobile security features were panned by some corners, it can’t hurt to have a legitimate piece of antivirus software installed on your phone and to only download trusted applications, as malicious coders will increasingly target the etailing and digital services space.