Tag: microsoft

Channeleye’s likely tips for new Pope

Leo-I_Attila_Raphael-(1)With Pope Benedict announcing that he is cleaning out his desk and collecting his pink slip, Channel Eye has come up with a list of those who it thinks will have the right stuff to be the next Pope. Now we know that one of the jobs of the Pope is to be Catholic, but given that the church is unlikely to survive another 100 years unless it liberals up a bit, we have given our nominations on the basis that if they can run an IT company they can probably look after the world’s largest religious organisation.

1. Steve Ballmer
Ballmer is already half way to the job by having the inner certainty that he is God. Ballmer would sort out most of the Catholic church’s problems by shouting at them until they go away. Pope Ballmer would probably encourage cardinals to make all sorts of power plays so long as they left him alone. We predict that under his rule, the Catholic church would adopt wide scale contraception to avoid another Ballmer.

2. Sir William Gates
Since resigning from Microsoft’s top job, Gates has been heading towards sainthood. Not only is he well on the way of purging Africa from the devilish mosquito, his various charity work is now healing the sick of Polio. If he were appointed Pope, Gates would closely monitor other religions and then try to mimic their success.

3. Steve Jobs
A tricky choice for the church given that he is already dead, however, that has not stopped him being the head of the world’s fastest growing religion. Chances are that thanks to Apple technology he could do the job from the afterlife, all it would take is to replace all those videos of him with an iPad so that he appears to be holding a bible. We predict that under the rule of Jobs, which would be eternal, you would have to pay half of your salary to the church every year and queue to get into the sermons.

4. Leo Apotheker
A bit ofan  outsider but given that Cardinal Ratzinger was a similar figure within the Catholic church, and it is known for being fairly conservative, we think he could be a starter. Pope Apotheker would start by selling off all the churches and training all priests so that they could handle business management software, like SAP. While many people will not understand why the Catholic Church should dump everything it makes money on and moving into business software, Apotheker would point out that this was exactly the same plan he would have run for HP if those pesky board members had not been involved.

5. Michael Dell
Although he might be a little busy for the job, Michael Dell will abandon all the churches and tell his priests to take their services directly to parishioners. However, if this plan starts to go wrong, he will do a deal with Microsoft to buy out the Church from its Mafia backers and make himself the supreme pontiff and not have to answer to anyone.

6. Paul Otellini
Paul Otellini is retiring soon so might be up for the job, as he is a big fan of monopolies and will probably rule the Catholic Church in the same way as he did at Intel. This would involve leaning on the supplies of other religions and advising them to follow the Roman Catholic Church. Then the other religions would go broke and collapse. In some cases, where they had interesting theology, Intel might buy up their patents and incorporate them into Catholic theology.

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.

 

 

Microsoft confuses on Azure

clouds3Software giant Microsoft is trying to encourage its channel to come up with more cloud offerings by cutting the price on its Azure licencing.

Microsoft lowered Windows Azure price on SQL Reporting Services, which is used for business intelligence-type applications.
The SQL Reporting Service is now measured at increments of 30 reports at $0.16 per hour. The previous charge was measured at $0.88 per hour in increments of 200 reports.

Writing in its bog Vole claims that “the smaller report increment will give customers better use of the service and lower effective price points”.

Like most of the postings that Microsoft has made on its cloud offerings this one is as clear as mud. That is one of the things that resellers have been moaning about when it comes to Azure. The licensing arrangements are so Byzantine you have to be Constantine the Great to understand how they all work.

Customers have to pay for the compute time, data storage and data access and the bandwidth of the data transferred out of the cloud. Those various services get priced per GB. Then there is a monthly fee rolled into the overall cost if an organization uses SQL Azure.

To make matters worse, at the end of last year, Vole started reducing the price for Windows Azure Storage (WAS), claiming that costs could be reduced by 28 percent. WAS offers geo-replication storage support, as well as lower cost “redundant storage”. The geo-replication storage service is turned on by default.

However according to RPC magazine the service cannot be that good because when there was a two-day Windows Azure service disruption in December, Vole did not bother using it. If it had, Microsoft would have lost customer data.

Microsoft is apparently planning a few price more cuts which look even more complex as they are discounts based on spending tiers.

All this is because of the effectiveness of Amazon, particularly Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Amazon cut data transfer prices by as much as 83 percent. In addition, Amazon decreased some EC2 on-demand prices by up to 13 percent.

All up this is making the life of the reseller trying to sell Azure based offerings a little harder. Price cuts would make things a lot more competitive, if the original pricing structure was not so complex. Trying to sell such a complex structure to a client is a tough sell, particularly when the customer does not know what they are getting into.

Dell sells itself off to Dell and Co

Michael DellDell has confirmed it has sold itself to Michael Dell and associates for the princely sum of $24.4 billion.

Shareholders of Dell stock will receive $13.65 per share, when the transaction  concludes. That’s a premium of Dell’s share price of $10.88, which was its closing price before rumours of the sale started to surface.

The board of Dell, which includes Michael Dell himself, unanimously approved the merger agreement with Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners taking the company private.

Dell Inc has appointed a special committee to evaluate alternative proposals in a so-called go-shop period of 45 days.

Michael Dell said he thought the move was an “exciting new chapter for Dell” and its customers.  He said he has put a “substantial amount” of his own capital at risk together with Silver Lake.

After the transaction is completed, Michael Dell will continue as chairman and chief executive officer. Parties affiliated with Silver Lake include Microsoft, Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Credit Suisse and others.

Surface RT faces high return rates, low sell-through

surface-rtMicrosoft’s Surface RT tablet rollout came and went without much fanfare. Although Redmond’s first crack at the tablet market received relatively positive reviews, consumers seem unfazed and many of them are choosing to trade in their new tablets.

IHS iSuppli estimates that channel shipments totaled about 1.25 million units, but far fewer have been sold. In fact, as little as 680,000 to 750,000 units appear to have actually been sold.

Samsung eats into Apple’s tablets

Samsung HQ in CaliforniaResearch firm IDC has released a set of figures showing that Apple’s dominance in the tablet market has started to slide.

But Samsung effectively doubled its market share in the last quarter of 2012, according to IDC. The Galaxy tablets sold nearly eight million units representing a market share of 2.2 million.

Apple, on the other hand, has seen its market share slip from 51.7 percent to 43.6 percent, although it sold more units.

IDC said that the last quarter of 2012 saw worldwide sales of tablets rise to 52.5 million units, a rise of 75 percent.

It’s not a direct correlation, but PC shipments fell in the last quarter of 2012. But even though Microsoft introduced the Surface tablet towards the end of last year, it only sold 900,000 units.  The price of the Surface is hurting sales, IDC believes.

Cost and pressure of uni work placements could put students off

bbc 330Work placements at degree stage help prepare  IT students for full time work, yet the cost and pressure of finding them can put many off, a work experience professional has said.

The comments follow a survey of 320 graduates from CWJobs, which found that those who had completed a placement year had been better prepared to enter the world of work when they had finished their degree.

A quarter of those asked said they had completed a placement while studying for their degrees. Of these, 81 percent said they felt the experience had helped them when it came to their IT career.

Just under half of students who had not completed a placement year admitted that they did not feel that just having a degree better placed them for the world of work.

According to recruitment firm Experis, and IT jobs site CWJobs.com, which jointly conducted the research, employers often look for students who had completed relevant work experience.

However, they pointed out that of the 2,048 computing courses offered in the UK, only 470 offer a placement year.

According to a work experience expert,  many students who don’t have the option of a sandwich course will fail to find a placement during their time at university.

“At university level things change slightly from school age where it is down to each borough to place a 16 year old in a work experience placement”, she told ChannelEye. “At degree level, it’s no longer down to the government to place students, which in some ways, considering the tuition fee hike is unfair.

“It means that on top of their workload students are put under pressure- with probably minimal help from their tutors, to find placements to accompany their course. There may be companies who are signed up with the course but the competition is rife.”

There are financial costs involved too.

An article in the Guardian last year suggested that some universities can charge up to around £4,500 for sandwich years, while businesses are also reluctant to become a part of this scheme as they don’t have the time to supervise these students.

“Placements are very important, but for some, the time and effort associated with these put students off and, as we’ve seen from this research could prove detrimental in the future,” the work experience expert added.

Meanwhile, the Chartered Institute for IT announced that it is launching a teacher training scholarship aimed at creating the next generation of computer science teachers.

The organisation wants secondary schools to “have outstanding computer science teachers” and it hopes the scholarships will help towards achieving this.

The scheme also aims to help students receive a good grounding in computer science education so they are suitably equipped for progression into further education and a professional career.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We need to bring computational thinking into our schools. Having Computer Science in the EBacc (English Baccalaureate) will have a big impact on schools over the next decade.

“It will mean millions of children learning to write computer code so they are active creators and controllers of technology instead of just being passive users. It will be great for education, great for the economy, and will help restore the spirit of Alan Turing and make Britain a world leader again.”

Fifty scholarships per year, each worth £20,000, will be awarded for those engaged in an initial teacher training course, with the funding supplied by the Department for Education.

The scheme will also be backed by the likes of Microsoft, Google, IBM, BT, Facebook, Meta Switch Networks and Ocado.

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.

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.

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.