Tag: intel

Surface Pro showered with negative reviews

 

surface-pro

Microsoft’s tablet push seems to have hit yet another snag. The first reviews of Redmond’s new Surface Pro tablet are in and they are not good at all.

Envisioned as business friendly tablet with unparalleled legacy compatibility, the Surface Pro was supposed to challenge the iPad and high-end Android tablets by wooing traditionally conservative corporate customers to embrace a tried and tested platform, more or less.

At least that was the idea and on paper everything seemed right. The Surface Pro is powered by a proper x86 chip and it runs Windows 8, ensuring compatibility with legacy applications. It also has a full HD screen, physical keyboard and a pretty high price tag, which should be justified by its unique feature set. However, reviewers gave the Pro no quarter.

The Verge reckons it is still a better choice than the Surface RT, which really isn’t saying much since the RT doesn’t appear to be a good choice at all. However, consumers can get a decked out hybrid for about the same money, which led The Verge to put forth a simple question: who is it for? Oddly enough, the Apple loving New York Times was a bit more lenient, concluding that the Surface Pro could be the right machine for a lot of people.

“It strikes a spot on the size/weight/speed/software spectrum that no machine has ever struck. You can use this thing on a restaurant table without looking obnoxious (much),” wrote NYT’s David Pogue.

AllThingsD was not impressed, concluding that the Pro is too power hungry and too difficult to use in your lap. “It’s something of a tweener — a compromised tablet and a compromised laptop.”

Engadget’s Tim Stevens tried to be a bit more positive, but it soon ran out of kind things to say. “When trying to be productive, we wished we had a proper laptop and, when relaxing on the couch, we wished we had a more finger-friendly desktop interface,” he wrote.

Business Insider was blunt as usual, saying the Pro is just like the RT version, only heavier, thicker, more expensive and with half the battery life. “It looks like a tablet, but you can snap on an optional (but essential) keyboard cover that turns the Surface Pro into a pseudo-laptop. So why would anyone buy that?”

So what exactly was the Surface Pro’s undoing? Quite a few of things apparently, but most of them are not restricted to the Surface Pro – they apply to all upcoming Windows 8 tablets. On the hardware side all appears well, but vendors have to use power hungry x86 chips in all Windows 8 tablets, rather than frugal ARM SoCs employed by Apple and the Android alliance. The OS itself is bloated, hence a lot of speedy solid state storage is required to come up with a feasible Windows 8 tablet. Android and iOS are a lot leaner. Less efficiency also translates into limited battery life and bigger batteries, increasing production costs and bulk. Modern Android tablets and the iPad mini measure just seven to eight millimeters at the waistline and no Windows 8 tablet can come close to that yet.

Still, legacy app compatibility and unbeatable productivity features could easily outweigh the drawbacks? Well they could, in 2009. Countless developers have spent long hours working on productivity apps for iOS and Android over the past three years, so Redmond’s productivity edge has been blunted. BYOD is another trend that is forcing companies to rethink their approach and embrace cross-platform software solutions.

As far as legacy apps go, Windows 8 tablets seem like the obvious choice, but there are a few caveats. Windows 8 still lacks native, touch friendly apps. Most legacy apps can’t handle touchscreens very well, which means the traditional keyboard and touchpad combo is a must. With that in mind, there is no good reason for those in need of legacy support to get a tablet, as an Ultrabook or hybrid will do just fine.

Windows 8 tablets were cleverly marketed as a natural extension of ultraportable notebook lineups, so many vendors were (and still are) a lot more interested in Windows 8 tablets rather than Windows RT gear. Between Surface RT’s slow sales and the unflattering Surface Pro reviews, Redmond’s tablet strategy seems to be imploding faster than a North Korean uranium warhead.

 

 

Intel imposes pay freeze on staff

IntelThings are looking more than a little shaky at the Intel Corporation  with claims of pay freezes and vacancies left unfilled.

Last month the company announced that it had seen profits take a nose dive dropping 27 percent in the last quarter, net income stood at $2.5 billion from the $3.4 billion, a year earlier, while the company’s revenue took a hit falling three percent to $13.5 billion from $13.9 billion.

At the time the company claimed that it was striving to do better and award its stakeholders with fatter margins the next time round, but it seems clawing some of the cash back is falling at the expense of its UK staff.

Sources within the company told ChannelEye: “There’s been talk of pay freezes, while [vacancies] that have been left open for months have yet to be filled.”

Some departments were facing a losing battle as a result.

“There’s also been more pressure on both [sales and marketing] departments to perform better, which, without the right support and staff count has been hard, but that’s obviously the demons that we have to deal with rather than for the top level staff.”

The source also said neither marketing or sales departments were seeing any of the marketing budget Intel had promised to throw at this area when it announced its financials.

This year the company earmarked $18.9 billion on research and development, along with marketing and administrative costs, an increase from 2011 when it spent $16 billion in this sector, and up from $18.2 billion last year.

“When Intel said it would be spending more on marketing last month, I don’t think it really meant its staff in this sector and in sales,” ChannelEye heard.

“I think it was more for its products – namely Ultrabooks – and other shiny toys that would appeal to consumers.

“There’s however only so much we can do to promote the Ultrabook, and feed exciting, engaging info to resellers and consumers when we haven’t got all the tools to do it”.

Channel faces legal pitfalls after Oracle ruling

courtThe final appeal is out and Oracle has lost its appeal against a Californian judge’s ruling that it will have to keep porting its software to Hewlett-Packard’s Itanium-based servers.

But as the cleaners clean the blood off the court room walls, it is clear that the case will have some impact on the way suppliers do business.

The case centred on the so-called Hurd Agreement, which HP and Oracle negotiated after Mark Hurd left the company and joined Oracle. Oracle felt that the agreement was a statement that the two companies would work together as they did before their spat. Oracle co-President Safra Catz claimed that such a statement was a non-binding “public hug”.

The judge thought that public hugs should be considered legally binding, depending on who was doing the hugging. He pointed out you can’t write down a phrase like “Oracle will continue to offer its product suite on HP platforms … in a manner consistent with that partnership as it existed prior to Oracle’s hiring of Hurd” and hope that no one would take you literally.

“The sentence can only be reasonably interpreted as requiring Oracle to continue offering its product suite on HP’s Itanium platforms,” Kleinberg wrote.

It went without saying Oracle appealed, but other judges also nodded sagely and said that it did not matter what Ellison thought he had signed, the agreement was there in black and white.
While the situation is extraordinary, it could herald a new era of partner agreements.

The case effectively said that any agreement has to be written down carefully and mulled over by the legal team before it is signed. It also says that anything put in writing has to be looked at as if it was chiseled into Egyptian granite for all time.

While this might seem obvious, it clearly was not in Oracle’s mind it has some of the most expensive, er, best, lawyers in the world.

Already analysts are muttering that you will never see another “public hug” deal like this again. Every agreement between suppliers will have a start date and an end date.

This is one of the reason why the channel should be dusting off their legal contracts with their suppliers post haste. Many of them will find that they have signed vague expressions of love and devotion which could get them in hot water.

Some of these contracts are like a pre-nuptial agreement, which are signed when the partners are in love and only reviewed when they are arguing custody over the CD collection.

Software deals in particular can be problematic, which are particularly ripe for a major legal row when something goes wrong for a mutual customer.

Fortunately a lot of lawyers have written in clauses into such for the contracts to be reviewed, or renewed. The problem is that if they are not renegotiated it is possible, as HP did, to stand up and demand it be taken literally.

The Itanium case also proved that trying to get out of a deal with bad grace might also backfire. Oracle really hates having to support Itanium, but if it assigned its worst developers to make sure the porting was stuffed, Ellison could be back in court facing a contempt charge.

Because the court has become involved, Oracle is painted into a corner and must be a dedicated follower of Itanium. Its ability to duck out of the plan is even more restricted than Intel or HP.

No company would ever want their partner to have that much power over their business decisions. So it is probably better to check out what those old contracts look like before you pick a fight with your channel partners.

Dell EMEA pres, Aongus Hegarty, outlines company’s vision

AongusHegartyHaving delivered a keynote designed to outline Dell’s positive outlook in enterprise to a room full of press and analysts at a remodeled gas-works, the Westergasfabriek, on the edge of an Amsterdam park, Dell EMEA President Aongus Hegarty took some time out of his schedule to speak with ChannelEye, joined by Edmund English, Director, EMEA commercial marketing.

The latter  confirmed Dell is actively looking at ARM servers.

As CEO Michael Dell is rumoured to be funding taking the company off the market, with investment from Microsoft, it is hard not to see Dell in a transitional phase. Although Dell holds a strong presence in the enterprise already – the whispers at Tech Camp were about just if and when the company would dump its consumer division.

Hegarty said that from a business perspective, Dell has been going through significant change over the last three years. “We’ve been concentrating on enterprise,” he said. “We are at a significant stage in our transformation, very much linked to our customers deploying technologies”. English added that looking at the company’s market strategy, Dell recognises that there are “a lot of great things that brought us to where we are” and that the firm must not forget about them – and that it is adding capabilities rather than cutting them. It is, English emphasised, an “evolution”.

Channel players in particular will have noted Dell’s product portfolio swelling in hardware and in services, not to mention opening itself up to a partner network rather than dealing directly with the company. “Our company five years ago would have been predominantly direct,” English said. “Five years ago we changed and unlocked choice for our partners – because of that our channel business has grown strongly over a number of years.

“Dell is predominantly a commercial company,” Hegarty added. “About 15 percent in consumer and 85 percent in business to business”. With a lot of work around the enterprise, Dell has been building its portfolio in the full enterprise, including in networking, storage and servers.

It is clear from the company’s shopping spree in the enterprise space that Dell is keen to continue as an established player, adding intellectual property as it goes, including with acquisitions such as Quest, Wyse, Kace, and the others that now form Dell Software Group. “That said,” Hegarty pointed out, “we’ve been continuing to invest in our PCs and tablets” – in line with Windows 8 launching late 2012. It did, however, pull out of its brief flirtation in the smartphone space.

“We have continued to invest in the prosumer as well as the commercial side,” Hegarty said. “You see a lot of trends from the consumer space, features and functionalities, influencing, like in Bring Your Own Device – we are very focused with our commercial customers to enable that choice, to work with security elements and access to data”. For example, with Dell’s Latitude Ultrabook.

Although the Intel logo was plastered on Dell’s Tech Camp banners – a similar blue to Dell’s own logo – English confirmed to ChannelEye that the firm has been actively looking at ARM servers. Efficiencies in power are the talk of the day, and English said that Dell takes its lead from its customers. “That’s what we build into our portfolio,” he said. “We are seeing asks and interest, specifically in the hyperscale space”. That said – there have also been “tremendous” efficiency gains on x86 generation on generation. “We are looking at it, yes – have we done engineering and back end testing? Yes.

“We look at our total cost of ownership,” Hegarty said. “At the end of the day, it is about providing the most efficient technology for our customers”. English added that efficiency can span more than classic power efficiencies: “You’re also talking about staff, driving more automation into backend infrastructures, changing architectures, and thinks like that rather than just keeping the lights on”.

Aside from trends such as tablet usage and mobility in the commercial sector, for SMBs, more should be focusing on social media and the building trends that are happening organically and those that are technology led. “For small businesses,” Hegarty said, “they need to be aware – it’s one of the key mechanisms to connect in business, but also in getting feedback and listening to your customers”. Of ten small businesses Hegarty recently spoke to, at least half of them had no social media strategy or approach adopted in their business.

Considering the soothsaying from influential analyst house Gartner, which said in a recent report that the biggest hitters will have their own in-house social networks, this is an area where businesses cannot afford to be playing catch-up.

For trends in the enterprise, English said that convergence is increasing. “It’s a long time since a customer rang up and asked for a server,” he said. “What they’re looking for is a collaboration service, they want a prescripted solution, the fabric, the storage, the compute, and how you manage and orchestrate that – you’re seeing more conversations happening at a holistic level and an application level”.

Hegarty invited interested channel players to start a conversation with Dell. “What’s exciting for Dell’s channel partners is they’ve seen the portfolio of business expand and grow,” he said. Three or four years ago, partners particularly focused on servers, but the wider portfolio is open for business, and Dell is finding that those partners are investing in other capabilities as well. “Using the enterprise space as one example, the acquisitions that we’ve done – a lot of those companies had been doing business through channel partners, so that’s brought new partners into our network too – Dell uniquely has a full portfolio of technology, end to end, and it creates opportunity for partners.

“The best advice I can give to partners, is come talk to Dell,” Hegarty said.

What does the wider market look like to Dell, right now? Hegarty said that, of course, he couldn’t speak for the rest of the market – but for Dell, it is “very much focused on our customers”. Dell must – and is, Hegarty said – understand customer needs and requirements, as well as trends in the market place, whether it’s in a business environment or at home. The strategy Dell has been developing has been working, according to Hegarty, who cited some slides from Marius Haas earlier in the day – himself an ex HP man, that demonstrated it is “winning in that space”.

As for Dell’s competitors – Marius Haas, formerly a heavy hitter at HP and top ally with ousted chief exec Mark Hurd – led the company’s networking division towards serious success. HP itself has an aggressive channel partner program and is providing subsidies and loans to potential partners as well as buying back rival equipment and end-of-lifing it if it can’t be recycled.

How can Dell respond to such aggression from its top rivals? English told us that primarily, the message in the enterprise is total cost of ownership with storage. “I’m very keen to go and have a five year TCO conversation with anybody versus the competitors,” he said, before acknowledging that Dell had similar “tactical tools” for the channel – including where it buys back terabytes in storage. “But for me that is not going to be a primary vehicle of acquisition, I don’t want to press the price of labor, I want to have a holistic conversation”.

“That really reflects a reaction to the success we’re having with the end to end solutions,” Hegarty said. “I can point to the IDC data globally – we’ve been taking share from HP now six quarters in a role, with the launch of 12g technology. Nothing beats investing in R&D to innovate, and to improve the TCO. Different competitors will react in different, potentially kneejerk ways, to deal with that – but nothing beats innovation”.

 

Apple’s down but it’s far from out

Apple, iPadConsumer behemoth Apple reported its first quarter financial results yesterday and while it posted revenues of $54.5 billion and a net profit of $13.1 billion, compared to revenues of $46.3 billion and profits of $13.1 billion in the same financial quarter last year, profits were flat.

Gross margin fell to 38.6 percent compared to 44.7 percent in the same quarter last year. Apple is forecasting gross margins between 37.5 percent and 38.5 percent for its second quarter, with estimated revenues between $41 billion and $43 billion.

So, what’s the problem? CEO Tim Cook said that supply problems were a matter to be concerned about, despite media reports.  And Apple has got a stash of cash in its corporate coffers – not far short of $137 billion in both liquid ashes and in cash.  That gives it a pot of gold that would let it buy other companies to make a splash in new or other developing markets.

A bigger problem is its existing slew of products, including the wildly successful iPad and the solidly popular iPhone.  It does face a challenge on the tablet front – particularly so from Google and Amazon devices.  Microsoft Windows 8 using Intel chips may not be so much of a challenge.  Intel cannot necessarily lower the price of its microprocessors, given its business model and Microsoft appears to believe that tablet devices running the touch version of Windows 8 should command the same prices as Apple iPads, or be even more expensive.

Apple’s share price (AAPL: Nasdaq), stood at $460.15 at press time.

New generation Intel ultrabooks set to drive SSD growth this year

ssdA new wave of low-cost and attractive Ultrabooks could help double shipments of solid-state drives (SSDs) this year, IHS iSuppli has said.

According to the analyst company’s Storage Space Market Brief worldwide SSD shipments are set to rise to 83 million units this year, up from 39 million in 2012.

Shipments are set to continue to rise 239 million units in 2016, which the company said amounted to around 40 percent of the size of the hard disk drive (HDD) market.

SSDs can serve as an alternative to hard disk drives in personal computers and work by storing data using NAND flash memory semiconductors rather than through traditional rotating media.

In its report, IHS looked at traditional solid state drives in both the consumer and enterprise segments, as well as cache SSDs that along with an HDD component make up a composite storage products such as those found in Intel’s Ultrabooks.

The company said that Ultrabooks had played a part in the slump of SSDs last year. It said that despite SSD shipments rising by 124 percent, growth  had fallen short of expectations because sales faltered – due to poor marketing, high prices and a lack of appealing features.

It said the future depended on the new generation of Ultrabooks, which if, as predicted, take off this year, will see the SSD market growing at robust levels.

Intel, which has been plagued by poor Ultrabook sales despite all of its bluster, is still trying to break into the market, introducing a new range loaded with Windows 8 and Haswell microprocessor architecture.

However, other factors are also involved when it comes to the SSD market, with IHS pointing out that average selling prices for NAND flash memory have come down, in the process establishing new price expectations.

The lower prices are attracting deal-seeking consumer enthusiasts, as well as an increasing number of PC manufacturers that are now more willing to install the once-costly drives into computers.

Over in the enterprise sector, SSD use is also growing as a result of product introductions from major vendors and startups.

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.

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.”

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.