Tag: tablets

Asian tablets will win the day

Keep taking the tabletsAs I was having a mango and orange juice round the corner from the somewhat unique hotel I’m staying in here in Old Taipei, I had an invitation from Sascha Pallenberg, I popped round to pay a visit to Mobile Geeks, and it was something of an eye opener.

Sascha, and fellow reporter Nicole Scott, have offices in rather a swanky building on the 11th floor of an office block near the metro. Obviously they are gearing up for next week’s Computex but we had time for a chat about the state of the tablet market.

Sascha showed me two tables – one Chinese one sells for $35, while the other, a well built machine from Ramos, sells for $225.  Both are Android devices and Sascha tells me there are dozens, maybe hundreds of these babies manufactured in China, which obviously has implications for the big boys, the Taiwanese boys and, well, the whole world. Heck, you could bundle a $35 notebook with a carton of cigarettes, I suggested.

Can you obtain these machines in the USA and Europe?  Well, you can certainly get hold of the Ramos machine – check out its site here.  But most of the tablets, Sascha suggested, were destined for the Asian, Indian and African markets, where no one can lash out the amounts of cash Apple and others expect.

The real question for me is how vendors can possibly expect people to pay vast sums of money in the USA and Europe when it’s obviously not hard for the Chinese to master manufacturing and with a bill of materials at a considerably less cost.  Surely it can only be a matter of time before the majors are forced to slash prices to match the Chinese offerings – and then it will be a case of just how they can make such big margins as they do now, in the future.

And with the heady mix of Windows tablets, Android tablets battling it out, where exactly is this going to leave the old guard – Microsoft and Intel?

Windows 8 gear set to get cheaper

pc-sales-slumpThe PC market is in the middle of its worst slump ever, but there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. PC makers believe prices of Windows 8 devices will fall dramatically in the not so distant future. 

On Wednesday Acer President Jim Wong said Microsoft is becoming increasingly considerate to its hardware partners and that it is finally starting to listen to their suggestions and ideas. Shifting the focus to cheaper products seems to have been the loudest suggestion. Wong also pointed out that touch enabled devices will open up a lot of possibilities for PCs, but he also warned that many simply don’t need touchscreens on their trusty PCs.

On the other hand, more touchscreens and mouth-watering price points could spell more competition in the cutthroat tablet market, dominated by Apple and Android gear. A number of manufacturers are already working on smaller Windows 8 tablets as well. The success of the iPad mini and even cheaper 7-inch ARMdroids did not go unnoticed, but it will take some effort to make Windows 8 truly competitive in this market, which is already becoming overcrowded.

First of all, Windows 8 is a bloated operating system by tablet standards. This means Windows 8 tablet designs need a lot more storage than their iOS or Android counterparts, which tends to drive the price a bit higher. Windows 8.1, or Windows Blue, could try to tackle this shortcoming. Secondly, they need very efficient x86 chips to be economically feasible, but upcoming x86 SoC designs from Intel and AMD should go a long way towards addressing this issue. Finally, Redmond has to cut Windows 8 prices, plain and simple.

However, Asus CEO Jerry Shen warns that there is no quick fix for Microsoft’s tablet woes. Windows 8 tablets are quite a bit pricier than their Android counterparts and they cost at least $150 more. Shen believes the price gap could narrow to about $50 this year, which should considerably improve Microsoft’s competitiveness.

Acer Chairman J.T. Wang said Microsoft’s willingness to adapt to change is a good sign for the PC industry, reports the Wall Street Journal.  He was rather blunt about it, too.

“In the past we consider they (Microsoft) live in heaven,” he said. “But now they go down to earth and they start to learn how people living on earth think.”

Although tablets are generating all the buzz lately, there are some changes on the PC front as well. An increasing number of all-in-ones and more powerful mini-PCs are hitting the market. Ultrabooks sales are still failing to impress, but there is some good news to report on the notebook front as well. Prices of Ivy Bridge notebooks are seeing double-digit cuts, as Intel partners gear up to introduce Haswell-based models over the next few months.

Kids buy apps and raid parents’ accounts

Apple, iPadChildren are costing their parents cash, running up bills on apps and in-app purchases on their tablets and smartphones.

According to research conducted by Microsoft, parents have spent on average an extra £341 on their bills, unaware of their kids’ app spending, totalling over £30 million for parents across the nation.

Over a quarter of the 2000 parents asked admitted to falling foul of their kids making unauthorised app and in-app purchases, with 83 percent of these parents suffering from an increased monthly bill as a result.

Just over one in ten parents said that they were concerned they were unable to pay the extra cost, while  a third have resorted to hiding their smartphone and tablet from their kids.

Nonetheless, 17 percent of UK parents still share their smartphone and tablet passwords with their children, with 23.5 percent of parents not having a security password at all.

Eight year olds are running up the largest app costs, having added on average an extra £59.59 to their parents’ smartphone or tablet bill.  And, demonstrating the widespread issue of ‘accidental’ buys by very young children, well over a third of kids aged four and under have made app and in-app purchases without permission.

The research reveals that fun-loving kids are spending on average three hours and 21 minutes a week playing smartphone games and apps. Surprisingly, one in ten parents give their children free rein to access whatever content they want and over half link their smartphone or tablet to a subscription service or direct debit account that can be easily accessed.

As well as the financial implications of the unsupervised use of a parent’s smartphone or tablet, there is also the risk of social media pranks. Over a quarter of kids have sneakily updated a parent’s Facebook status, and one in five updated their Twitter status.

Potentially causing a career limiting move, one in ten kids have also hijacked a parent’s Facebook profile to comment on or insult their boss.

Microsoft said its Windows Phone 8 handsets could help parents reduce the likelihood of suffering ‘bill shock’, providing a Kid’s Corner feature which prohibits in-app purchases and only lets kids roam around in the specific area.

Microsoft readies a Surface re-run

Microsoft SurfaceWhile Microsoft’s Surface tablets proved completely underwhelming, a report suggests that the company might have another bash at the platform.

According to Taiwanese wire Digitimes, the company is expected to announce next generation Surface machines at the end of June.

The company only managed to shift 1.5 million tablets of the first generation Surface – way beyond what it expected to achieve.   But the pricing was all wrong and the competition in this field is now very intense.

The wire claims that the second generation Surface will largely retain the same suppliers as Surface Mark I – including microprocessors from Intel and Nvidia, screens from Samsung and LG and touch panels from TPK.

The report also said that displays for Surface Mark II will be smaller – supposedly because there’s more demand for these type of devices, although it’s entirely possible that Microsoft wants to bring down the bill of materials (BOM) costs. It will certainly have to do something spectacular to make Surface tablets fly – particularly on retail costs.

Education hardware sees growth

ClassroomEducation hardware spend grew in 2012.

According to Futuresource Consulting, the sector saw an increase of 23 percent to a total spend of $11.6 Billion, from 2011.

The analyst company said this was a strong result compared to other markets and considering the pressure on education budgets across the world.

Looking to the future, the company predicted that the total value is expected to   reach $21 billion by 2017, a CAGR of 12 percent from 2012 to 2017.

It also claimed that as well as raking in the cash the education sector was slowly moving digital, potentially opening up a wide range of revenue stream opportunities in hardware, software, content, infrastructure and services for suppliers.

This increase of spend in education technology has been driven by the uplift in the mobile PC market, which at $6.8 billion, now accounts for 59 percent of the total spend, up from 51 percent.

The explosion of tablets and ‘one to one learning programmes’ primarily driven by the iPad and now the iPad mini, are also expected to accelerate growth in 2013.

And traditional education tools are also helping fuel revenue. In 2012, a million interactive board displays were sold, marking an annual increase of 15 percent the company said.

The interactive projector market is  also expected to have some of the greatest growth in the classroom technology market, with a 2012 – 2017 volume CAGR of 19 percent.

Demand for mobile gear outpaces support

SmartphonesSkyrocketing demand for mobile devices in the workplace seems to be putting too much pressure on IT professionals and support staff. According to a LANDesk Software survey, 83 percent of end-users want to create service desk incidents or requests using their mobile device. However, only 24 percent are able to access self-service systems using mobile gear because their companies don’t have the technology to support it.

BYOD and the consumerization of IT are clearly causing a plethora of issues. The survey found that many employers are simply failing to keep up with demand for effective support for mobile gear. If they fail to do so, the potential benefits of BYOD and mobile tech in general could be limited. Although access by mobile devices remains limited, 86 percent of respondents said they have access to self-service IT support via their PCs.

‘‘Mobile devices have become so integral to how employees work that it’s worrying to see so few businesses enable employees to report IT problems via mobile devices. Businesses will find their employees more willing to embrace services if the way they are requested goes hand in hand with the way they work, ’’ said Ian Aitchison, Director of Product Management, LANDesk. “As employees evolve and adopt new technologies to support them in their work, businesses are well advised to support these technologies to maintain productivity levels and streamline interactions between the employee and the service desk.’’

The research also covered 10,000 IT professionals, who said they have seen some positive results from desktop PC self-service, despite limited availability of mobile support. The majority said self-service helped reduce call volumes and improve user experience. Of those who worked in organizations without a self-service programme, 83 percent said they plan to implement it and 47 percent already have a rollout plan.

DRAM is strong, NAND is sluggish

nand-chipsIndustry analysts believe the memory sector will continue to do relatively well despite a decline in NAND demand. Although NAND might not be a very hot commodity, DRAM sales are expected to surge, reports The China Post.

The price of 2GB DDR3 chips in the first quarter rose 57.8 per cent, while NAND prices rose by 19.8 per cent, according to TrendForce. Strong demand for tablets and smartphones seems to be boosting DRAM sales, and the fact that an increasing number of vendors are introducing Android devices with 2GB of RAM should also help.

However, strong demand could also result in even higher DRAM prices. TrendForce believes the price of 4-gig DDR3 DRAM modules has the potential to rise by another 30 per cent. The outfit points out that the high season for mobile device launches is drawing near, which means more demand should be expected.

Although DRAM prices will remain strong, NAND prices are expected to decline in the short term. NAND prices should remain relatively stable, due to a reduction in supply.

It might sound a bit counter intuitive, but it is worth noting that smartphone and tablet peddlers are not increasing the amount of NAND storage in their devices. Most devices still ship with 8GB or 16GB of storage, while high end gear tends to ship with 32GB, or in some cases 64GB. This is in stark contrast to market trends just a couple of years ago, when each new generation of devices tended to offer a twofold increase in storage.

On the other hand, the amount of RAM is steadily growing. Three years ago smartphones used to ship with 512MB, which was upped to 1GB for the last two generations and as of late last year we are seeing an increasing number of Android devices with 2GB of RAM.

PCs lose out to tablets worldwide

Dodo-birdA report from analyst company Gartner said that the traditional PC market will slip in 2013 by 7.6 percent as people open their wallets to spend on tablets and smartphones instead.

Gartner said the availability of low end tablets coupled with the features they’re now able to offer is fueling the move from PCs to tablets.  Said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at the company: “While there will be some individuals who retain both a personal PC and a tablet… most will be satisfied with the experience they get from a tablet as their main computing device.”

Worryingly for PC vendors and X86 companies, people no longer think of PCs as devices that they have to replace regularly.

She said: “This is not a temporary trend induced by a more austere economic environment; it is a reflection of a long term change.”

Gartner estimates that worldwide tablet shipments will be 197 million units this year, a 69.8 percent increase.

And the Android operating system is set to dominate a mixed market which includes PCs, as this chart shows.
gart2013Gartner said that smartphones are becoming more affordable. “The trend towards smartphones and tablets will have much wider implications than hardware displacement,” Milanesi said.

Intel forced to take axe to Ultrabook prices

titanicThe writing was on the wall for Intel-based Ultrabooks well over a year ago.

Overpriced, underwhelming, and facing massive competition from tablets and smartphones and trends such as bring your own device (BYOD), few families would take the risk of spending over $1,000 to have a bright shiny Ultrabook and keeping an eye on jobs and the general economic situation, large corporations weren’t going to splash the cash either.

So the news that Ultrabooks are set to cost far less for the holiday season this year is probably a case of too little too late. It also begs a number of questions about Intel’s business model which remain to be resolved.

Intel’s phenomenal growth was due, in a large part, to the monopolistic hold it had on the PC industry.  True, AMD was around to mitigate that, but it was only in the days of the AMD Opteron that Intel was forced to react.  Because it holds such a large X86 market share, that meant that the revenues from sales of its microprocessors allowed it to finance developing the next generation of its CPUs.  Building fabs is not a trivial matter and involves billions of dollars of investment.  Intel could afford to do this because during its so-called “tick tock” cycle, it was able to maximise profits on its current generation of semiconductors, while developing its next generation.

However, this continual growth could never be guaranteed, and disruptive technology, in the shape of tablets and smartphones, meant that given a choice, lots of people preferred to pay far less for tablets and smartphones rather than go for Ultrabooks at $1,000 plus.

And with this we come to applications and the realm of the other great X86 monopolist, Microsoft.  It’s certainly true that typing on a smartphone or a tablet is not nearly as convenient as using a conventional keyboard.  And if you are into solid beancounting, you’ll certainly need a sophisticated spreadsheet to manipulate the numbers.  Despite the now decades long promise of the paperless office, people still print stuff.  Microsoft, with Windows 8 and its tablet ready interface is too expensive.  It, like Intel, has lost its grip on the electronics market.

There’s another factor to consider, too.  Right now, Intel is in an interregnum period.  Paul Otellini, the current CEO, is due to leave at the end of May.  Intel is actively recruiting for another CEO, but that means, in the short term, that no-one is going to make huge company wide decisions.

In truth, it’s hard for me, as a seasoned Intel watcher, to see quite what rabbit the new Intel CEO, whoever she or he might be, might pull out of the corporate top hat.  Intel has been in fixes before, and because of its size and its sway can never be underestimated.  But it’s hard to see it making very much more than a ripple in the smartphone and tablet market, leaving it between a ROC and a hard place. It’s also hard to see where the complex supply chain it generates is going to end up, too.

Acer to slowly revamp product line, focus on tablets

acer-logo-ceAcer is apparently planning to revamp its product line in an effort to revive sales and growth momentum.

Last week Acer announced that it will increase R&D spending to between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of annual sales this year. Acer apparently wants to invest more in order to stay competitive in the tablet market, while at the same time improving its notebook line. Acer hopes to sell between 5 and 10 million tablets this year.

Analysts, however, see trouble ahead. Deutsche Bank analyst Ivy Lee said Acer might encounter new challenges that might cause its sales to remain flat, reports Taipei Times. Windows 8 is apparently the biggest risk, since there is still not enough consumer feedback on Windows 8 tablets and notebooks.

Acer recently killed off a couple of its value brands, after it experienced a huge inventory loss in late 2011. Like other leading PC makers, Acer is experiencing a lot of margin erosion and falling market share.

Citigroup Global Markets analyst Kevin Chang believes Acer will continue to struggle in the near future. In a recent note he argued that Acer’s current strategy is simply not working and that it has to be more aggressive on pricing.

As the PC slump drags on, Lenovo, Asustek, Dell and HP will try to hold their ground and fierce price competition is to be expected. As for tablets, Asus and Lenovo have done a bit better than other major PC players. Lenovo did particularly well in China in the last two quarters, while Asus has managed to make quite a name for itself in the Android tablet space with the Transformer series. It also builds Google’s Nexus 7 tablet.

Windows 8 touch screens fail to thrill

msTouch-screen Windows 8 portable PCs are still failing to cut the mustard in Europe with cpeople preferring to spend their cash on tablets.

That’s the latest from IT market research company Context, which has said that this could lie in the fact that at the October Windows 8 launch last year, there was no significant support from leading hardware vendors for touch screens in portable PCs.

It added that at the time only 1.1 percent of all the Windows 8 portable PCs selling through distribution at the time of the launch were touch screen-enabled. By the end of January this year, this had only risen to 2.4 percent, while tablet sales had increased “significantly” over the same period.

However, the momentum is still upbeat with hardware vendors surveyed by Context claiming that they are anticipating some uptake in sales of touch screen enabled portable PCs by the third quarter of 2013 in time for the end of year holiday season.

The company warned that with the price of 15-inch and higher touch screens still expensive, making the portables a high-priced item, the cheaper tablets could potentially dampen touch screen sales.

What HP really told its dear partners

HP Global Partner ConferenceLet’s face it, us journalists are like a dangerous bacillus for vendors. Although the press are important to HP, we must be kept in isolation, and any HP execs that come anywhere near us must be inoculated beforehand and go through extensive health checks afterwards to ensure they haven’t been contaminated.

So in the ICU unit at this week’s Global Partner Conference, we were kept carefully away from the 2,000 partners invited to the glittering jamboree at the very glittering Venetian hotel in swinging Las Vegas.

We attempted to visit a server briefing but we were ejected by an HP bouncer because he noticed that we were wearing a red badge – red standing for warning, of course.

It was hard to prevent us chatting to sources close to Avnet, Ingram Micro and Tech Data, however, and to sundry HP employees who hadn’t been inoculated. Because these chaps and chapesses haven’t been press trained, we will have to not name them and describe them as “sources close” to the companies. And we can relay the undoubted fact that although folk from the big distributors welcomed Meg Whitman’s pledge to be nicer to the channel, they will believe it when they see it, if you get my meaning.

We hacks didn’t get invited to the Gen8 Petting Zoo, which is a shame. We would have loved to see HP petting the channel. Nor did we learn about the new compact servers (need three pedestals), the future HP Smart Update Manager (SUM), the future HP BladeSystem interconnect and we weren’t briefed on HP’s Smart Storage Futures (power, monitor, internet).

We do know that Synnex is HP’s largest North American distributor, delivering over $3 billion sales every year. It’s HP’s number one distie and has over 45 percent channel share. A Mr Eric Doyle, from the Intel Corporation, delivered the message that Intel, HP and resellers are “better together”.  This Eric Doyle is different from UK hack Eric Doyle, who had a package waiting for him in reception. Confusion arose. The UK’s Eric Doyle was being asked to pay $7 to collect the Intel package. We didn’t see Intel’s Mike Magee there, either.

Dan Forlenza from HP and Aaron Arvizu from Intel impressed on delegates the importance of the enterprise tablet revolution. Those would be HP tablets with Intel chips inside, then. Scott Wiest, from HP, invited the resellers to “ignite new opportunities” with X86 servers and how to migrate IBM and Oracle Sun servers to HP ones, instead.

Ray Carlin from HP told partners that while there have been many predictions of the demise of bricks-and-mortar shops, lots of people still want to go into real shops. As ChannelEye knows only too well, people like to go into shops to eye up the goodies but fewer and fewer are buying there and after they’ve taken a dekko, go online to buy the kit instead.

All in all, the event was a very revealing snapshot of how HP treats its partners.  We were successfully confined to sealed test tubes and shipped out of Vegas with due despatch and without the plague breaking out in a widespread kind of a way.

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.