There more evidence that tablets were never the game-changer that Steve Jobs tried to peddle them as, and were just the keyboardless netbooks we said they were.
IDC siad that for the first quarter of 2016, overall worldwide tablet shipments fell to 39.6 million, a 14.7 percent drop from the same period a year ago, However the only part of the segment which did ok were tablets with keyboards – or as we used to call them, netbooks.
IDC said that the decline of ordinary tablets was partly due to traditional first-quarter slumps but also a complete lack of interest on the part of customers.
Traditional tablets accounted for 87.6 percent of all tablet shipments. But tablets that come with detachable keyboards increased of more than 4.9 million units last quarter. That was a gain of 120 percent from the same period last year and an all-time high for tablets with detachable keyboards.
Tablets are dying because more people are buying big-screened phones as an alternative. You remember Fablets? They were what Steve Jobs claimed would never work because they prefered smaller smartphones or bigger tablets. In fact he was talking rubbish and was trying to keep his keyboardless netbook idea going.
IDC said that the newer tablets don’t offer enough new features to entice people to upgrade. After all tablets were always looking for an app which made them useful, which never arrived.
To counteract the downturn, more manufacturers are turning to tablets with detachable keyboards that can thus serve as laptops – on otherwords returning to the netbooks that the Tablets were said to replace.
“With the PC industry in decline, the detachable market stands to benefit as consumers and enterprises seek to replace their aging PCs with detachables,” IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani said in a statement.
Apple saw its shipments and market share drop but remained in first place. Apple’s latest 9.7-inch iPad Pro and the new 256GB storage option for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro are “healthy additions” to the lineup, IDC said. Samsung also saw its shipments and market share decline. Though the Samsung Galaxy Tab lineup is still popular, its detachable TabPro S is dead in the water thanks to its $900 price tag.
Amazon has found success with its starting-at-$49 Fire, showing that consumers will still buy bargain-priced tablets. Missing from the list was Microsoft in spite of the popularity of its Surface Pro products, which start at $900.
“The Surface line is great. But it’s tough to drive volume in the first quarter. Prices of Surface products are fairly high, but Microsoft is in the top five list for tablets with detachable keyboards. The top five for tablets as a whole is a tougher nut to crack given the large slate volumes compared to detachables.”
The year-over-year downturn in Mac sales was the second straight down quarter, and excepting a brutal 22% drop at the end of 2012, the largest since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007.
Analysts at IDC and Gartner earlier this month pegged the continued contraction of the PC industry at 11.5% and 9.6%, respectively. Both also missed the actual Mac number for the quarter in their forecasts for Apple, overestimating by 11% to 13%: IDC had tapped shipments at 4.5 million, while Gartner said it was 4.6 million.
Apple had been on an extended streak of besting the PC average, with sometimes-impressive gains during the four-years-and-counting slump of the overall market. But the March quarter’s results put an end to the years-long run, which the Cupertino, Calif. company often touted.
Neither CEO Tim Cook or CFO Luca Maestri mentioned the end of the streak in Tuesday’s earnings call with Wall Street.
“It was a challenging quarter for personal computer sales across the industry,” said Maestri, stating the obvious.
Cook said that Mac sales “met our sell-in expectations” and added that he remained optimistic about Apple’s computer business, a sentiment a CEO is duty-bound to share. “We’re confident in our Mac business and our ability to continue to innovate and gain share in that area,” Cook said.
But Mac-generated revenue for the quarter was $5.1 billion, 9% lower than the same period in 2015, and the smallest amount recorded for the line in almost three years.
Macs accounted for 10.1% of Apple’s total revenue of $50.1 billion, but the computer group slipped to No. 3 on the company’s list, behind — by a country mile — the iPhone (accounting for 65% of all revenue) and, for the first time, the relatively new Services category, which contributed 11.8% of all incoming dollars.
The company announced the first technical preview of Skype for Business for Mac on Tuesday, giving users of Apple computers an easy way to connect to meetings they have scheduled through Microsoft’s professional audio and videoconferencing software.
When users sign into the app, they’ll see their Skype for Business meetings for the current day and the following one, and will be able to easily join in with the other people invited.
Skype for Business is the successor to the company’s venerable Lync product, which is still available for Mac during this transition.
The final release of the Mac version of Skype for Business is slated for the third quarter. Between now and then, Microsoft has two additional beta phases planned for the app. The second beta phase will include instant messaging, presence indicators and access to a user’s contacts.
In the third beta phase, Microsoft will bring along support for telephony and other advanced features supported by other versions of the product. That’s important for businesses that have paid for advanced Skype for Business features like the ability to place phone calls from the application over a traditional phone line.
This beta push is part of Microsoft’s ongoing strategy to extend the reach of its products to a wide variety of platforms, including the Mac.
Acer’s boss Jason Chen says his company will not make its own VR devices and will focus on getting its gaming products to work with the existing VR platforms.
Eyebrows were raised when Acer released its new Predator series products which support virtual reality devices. The thought was that Acer might have a device of its own in the works. However Acer CEO Jason Chen said there were no plans and the goal was to get everythink working with the four current major VR platforms Oculus, HTC’s Vive, OSVR and StarVR.
He said that VR was still at a rather early stage and so far still has not yet had any killer apps or software. Although that never stopped the development of tablet which to this day has not got itself a killer app. But Chen said that its demand for high-performance hardware will be a good opportunity for Acer.
Acer is planning to add support for VR devices into all of its future Predator series products and some of its high-end PC products.
Chen told Digitimes that said Acer was investing in two robot projects, the home-care Jibo and the robot arm Kubi in the US, and the company internally has also been developing robot technologies and should achieve some results within two years. Acer’s robot products will target mainly the enterprise market.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has built a new private cloud based on Red Hat’s build of the OpenStack framework to fulfill the growing computing requirements of its space missions, such as the Mars rovers.
The move was announced to coincide with the OpenStack Summit, and means that NASA’s JPL has access to enterprise-scale computing resources that will enable researchers to tap into their own private cloud and maximise the organisation’s server and storage capacity to process flight projects and research data.
The new cloud has been built by JPL’s own engineers, but Red Hat said that its experience from long-term participation in the OpenStack Foundation and key upstream contributions to specific platform projects made it well suited as the partner for this collaboration.
The move is not NASA’s first involvement with OpenStack. In fact, the entire OpenStack project grew out of a collaboration between the space agency and hosting firm Rackspace to develop an open source cloud computing platform to help drive the administration’s next generation of projects.
Red Hat said that by using its Red Hat OpenStack Platform to build their private cloud, the JPL’s engineers managed to save significant time and resources by retooling and consolidating in-house hardware rather than procuring entirely new infrastructure.
“This is a testament to the reliability, availability and scalability offered by a fully open cloud infrastructure built on Red Hat OpenStack Platform. We are proud of the partnership with NASA JPL to meet their needs for an agile infrastructure to meet their projected growth, while helping to reduce the data centre footprint,” said Radhesh Balakrishnan, Red Hat’s general manager for OpenStack.
Red Hat recently released the latest version of its platform, Red Hat OpenStack Platform 8, as well as the Red Hat Cloud Suite which combines its OpenStack build with the OpenShift Enterprise platform-as-a-service layer for running container-based applications and services.
The give-away will run until May 1, or while supplies last, Microsoft said on its e-store.
Last week, Microsoft told Wall Street that sales of its Lumia devices — virtually the only smartphones powered by Windows 10 Mobile — plummeted 73% in the March quarter compared to the year before, falling from 8.8 million in 2015 to 2.3 million in 2016. Revenue from its phone division fell 47%, to $662 million, in the first three months of this year.
More to the point of the two-for-one sale, on Thursday, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, Amy Hood, said, “Sell-through of our Lumia products was weak, and we exited the quarter with relatively high channel inventory.” Simply put, poor sales left more than the expected number of devices in stores and warehouses.
The buy-one-get-one-free deal may be Microsoft’s way of flushing out the current overstock.
Buyers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico will receive a $549 unlocked Lumia 950 when they purchase an unlocked Lumia 950 XL. The latter is Microsoft’s top-of-the-line Windows 10 Mobile smartphone, which went on sale in November 2015.
The offer is limited to two Lumia pairs per customer.
Microsoft’s smartphone business continued to drag down the Redmond, Wash. firm’s overall revenue outlook. While Hood did not pin a dollar amount to Lumia’s impact on the June quarter, Microsoft’s final in its 2016 fiscal year, she acknowledged that, “We expect year-over-year revenue declines to steepen in Q4 as we work through our Lumia channel position.”
Virtual reality is, without a doubt, the most exciting thing that’s going to happen to videogames in 2016 – but it’s becoming increasingly clear, in the cold light of day, that it’s only going to be providing thrills to a relatively limited number of consumers. Market research firm Superdata has downgraded its forecast for the size of the VR market this year once more, taking it from a dizzying $5.1 billion projection at the start of the year to a more reasonable sounding $2.9 billion; though I’d argue that even this figure is optimistic, assuming as it does supply-constrained purchases of 7.2 million VR headsets by American consumers alone in 2016.
Yes, supply-constrained; Superdata reckons that some 13 million Americans will want a VR headset this year, but only 7.2 million will ship, of which half will be Samsung’s Gear VR – which is an interesting gadget in some regards, but I can’t help but feel that its toy-like nature and the low-powered hardware which drives it isn’t quite what most proponents of VR have in mind for their revolution. Perhaps the limited selection of content consumers can access on Gear VR will whet their appetite for the real thing; pessimistically, though, there’s also every chance that it will queer the pitch entirely, with 3.5 million low-powered VR gadgets being a pretty likely source of negative word of mouth regarding nausea or headaches, for example.
This is a problem VR needs to tackle; for a great many consumers, without proactive moves from the industry, word of mouth is all they’re going to get regarding VR. It’s a transformative technology, when the experience is good – as it generally is on PSVR, Rift and Vive – but it’s not one you can explain easily in a video, or on a billboard, because the whole point is that it’s a new way of seeing 3D worlds that isn’t possible on existing screens. Worse, when you see someone else using a VR headset in a video or in real life, it just looks weird and a bit silly. The technology only starts to shine for most consumers when they either experience it, or speak to a friend evangelising it on the basis of their own experience; either way, it all comes down to experience.
That’s why it was interesting to hear GameStop talk up its role as a place where consumers can come and try out PlayStation VR headsets this year. That’s precisely what the technology needs; where at the moment, there are a handful of places you can go to try out VR, but it’s utterly insufficient. VR’s objective for 2016 isn’t just to get into the hands of a few million consumers – it’s to become desired, deeply desired, by tens of millions more. The only way that will happen is to create that army of evangelists by creating a large number of easily accessible opportunities to experience VR – and GameStop is right to position itself as the industry’s best chance of doing so in the USA. Pop-up VR booths in trendy spots might excite bloggers, but what this new sector needs in the latter half of 2016 is much more down to earth – it needs as many of America’s malls as possible to be places where shoppers can drop in and try out VR for themselves.
In a sense, what’s happening here is deeply ironic; after years of digital distribution and online shopping making retail all but irrelevant, to the point where it’s practically disappeared in some countries, the industry suddenly needs retail stores again – not to sell games, because those are, in truth, better sold online, but to sell hardware, to sell an experience. How exactly you structure a long-term business model around that – the games retailer as showroom – is something I’m honestly not sure about, but it’s something GameStop and its industry partners need to figure out, because what VR makes clear is that games do sometimes need a way to reach consumers physically, in the real world, and right now only games retail chains are positioned to do that.
This isn’t a one-time thing, either – we know that, because this has happened before, in the not-so-distant past. Nintendo’s Wii enjoyed an extraordinary sales trajectory from its first Christmas post-launch into its first full year on the market, not least because the company did a good job of putting demo units (mostly running Wii Sports, of course) into not only every games store in the world, but also into countless other popular shopping areas. It was nigh-on impossible, in the early months of the Wii, to go out shopping without encountering the brand, seeing people playing the games and having the opportunity to do so yourself – an enormously important thing for a device which, like VR, really needed to be experienced in person for its worth to become apparent. VR, if anything, magnifies that problem; at least with Wii Sports, observers could see people having fun with it. Observing someone using VR, as mentioned above, just looks daft and a bit uncomfortable.
GameStop has weathered the storm rather better than some of its peers in other countries. The United Kingdom has seen its games retail devastated; it’s all but impossible to actually walk into a specialist store and buy a game in many UK city centres, including London. Would a modern-day version of the Wii be able to thrive in an environment lacking these ready-made showrooms for its capabilities on every high street and in every shopping mall? Perhaps, but it would take enormous effort and investment; something that VR firms, especially Sony, are going to have to take very seriously as they plan how to get the broader public interested in their device, and how to break out beyond the early adopter market.
Much of the VR industry’s performance in 2016 is going to be measured in raw sales figures, which is a bit of a shame; Vive and Rift are enormously supply constrained and having fulfillment difficulties, and the numbers we’ve seen floating around for Sony’s intentions suggest that PSVR will also be supply constrained through Christmas. The VR industry – ignoring the slightly worrying, premature offshoot that is mobile VR – is going to sell every headset it can manufacture in 2016. If it doesn’t, then there’s a very serious problem, but every indication says that this year’s key limiter will be supply, not demand.
The real measurement of how VR has performed in 2016, then, should be something else – the purchasing intent and interest level of the rest of the population. If by the time the world is mumbling through the second line of Auld Lang Syne and welcoming in 2017, consumer awareness of VR is low and purchasing intent isn’t skyrocketing – or worse, if the media’s dominant narratives about the technology are all about vomiting and migraines – then the industry will have done itself a grievous disservice. This is the year of VR, but not for the vast majority of consumers – which means that the real task of VR firms in 2016 is to convince the world that a VR headset is something it simply must own in 2017.
Every decade or so, a new era of computing comes along that influences everything we do. Much of the 90s was about client-server and Windows PCs. By the aughts, the Web had taken over and every advertisement carried a URL. Then came the iPhone, and we’re in the midst of a decade defined by people tapping myopically into tiny screens.
So what comes next, when mobile gives way to something else? Mark Zuckerberg thinks it’s VR. There’s likely to be a lot of that, but there’s a more foundational technology that makes VR possible and permeates other areas besides.
“I do think in the long run we will evolve in computing from a mobile-first to an A.I.-first world,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, answering an analyst’s question during parent company Alphabet’s quarterly earnings call Thursday.
He’s not predicting that mobile will go away, of course, but that the breakthroughs of tomorrow will come via smarter uses of data rather than clever uses of mobile devices like those that brought us Uber and Instagram.
Forms of artificial intelligence are already being used to sort photographs, fight spam and steer self-driving cars. The latest trend is in bots, which use A.I. services on the back end to complete tasks automatically, like ordering flowers or booking a hotel.
Google believes it has a lead in A.I. and the related field of machine learning, which Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt has already pegged as key to Google’s future.
Machine learning is one of the ways Google hopes to distinguish its emerging cloud computing business from those of rivals like Amazon and Microsoft, Pichai said.
“Microsoft has agreed to withdraw its regulatory complaints against Google, reflecting our changing legal priorities. We will continue to focus on competing vigorously for business and for customers,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email.
Google, in a separate email, said the companies would want to compete vigorously based on the merits of their products, not in “legal proceedings”.
The companies in September agreed to bury all patent infringement litigations against each other, settling 18 cases in the United States and Germany.
“… Following our patent agreement, we’ve now agreed to withdraw regulatory complaints against one another,” Google said on Friday.
Google’s rivals had reached out to U.S. regulators alleging that the Internet services company unfairly uses its Android system to win online advertising, people with knowledge of matter told Reuters last year.
The European Commission also accused Google last year of distorting internet search results to favor its shopping service, harming both rivals and consumers.
According to the latest report, Nvidia plans to launch next-generation mainstream segment graphics cards, based on GP106 GPU, in Autumn, or late Q3/early Q4 2016.
According to a report coming from Sweclockers.com, Nvidia’s mainstream graphics cards, which will be based on a GP106 Pascal GPU, should be coming in Autumn, and be ready for sales by the time for a Christmas shopping season.
Meant to replace the currently available Maxwell-based GTX 960 and GTX 950 graphics cards, the upcoming mainstream Geforce graphics cards, most likely named as the GTX 1060 and GTX 1050, could end up with two enabled graphics processing clusters (GPCs), which means that SKUs could end with up to 1280 CUDA cores.
While the upcoming GP104-based graphics cards should cover the higher-end consumer market, the mid-range market is mostly the cash-cow for companies so having that segment on store shelves before Christmas shopping season is quite important.
Our sources are confident that AMD is about to announce a joint venture deal with China-based Sugon company.
Sugon might not be a name you’ve heard much about, but the company has now made a direct deal to manufacture server-based hardware for the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
In their own words:
“Sugon Information Industry Co., Ltd. (Sugon for short) is a national high-tech enterprise established on the basis of the major scientific research achievements of the National High Technology Research and Development Program (the 863 Program) with the vigorous promotion by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.”
The company specializes in R&D and manufacturing of high-performance computers (HPCs), enterprise servers and datacenter products, and they also do some software design and system integration as well. Between 2009 and 2014, they were on China’s TOP 100 supercomputer list consecutively by market share.
Sugon made news recently with its Nebula high-performance computer that managed to get ranked second place in the 35th Global Supercomputer TOP 500 Competition. The supercomputer they built topped a 3 petaflops per second system peak and a 1.271 petaflops times per second measured Linpack speed. These numbers easily made it the third supercomputer in the world with performance measuring over a petaflop (PF).
AMD is about to announce a joint venture with this company, and if the deal includes any cooperation with future next-generation products such as AMD’s Zen x86 high-end CPU, then the Silicon Valley company might be on the right track here. The performance of AMD’s server-based Zen products plus the potential use of Tarnhelm Zen meets AMD’s Greenland APU server product, which sounds like a great idea. Fudzilla has mentioned the existence of up to a 16-core Zen APU with Greenland HMB 2.0 GPU, DDR4 support and a super fast interconnect with coherent fabric more than a year ago.
According to an interview from Inside HPC with Dr. Qing Ji, Deputy General Manager of the HPC Division at Sugon, the overseas company plans to expand to the western market. Is this a Coincidence?
Intel Corp announced that it will eliminate up to 12,000 jobs globally, or 11 percent of its workforce, as it refocuses its business towards making microchips that power data centers and Internet connected devices and away from the declining personal computer industry it helped found.
Tech companies including the former Hewlett Packard Co and Microsoft Corp have reorganized in the face of the PC industry decline. Many new tech users around the world turn to mobile phones for their computing needs, and corporations increasingly rely on big machines rather than desktop models to run their businesses. Global personal computer shipments fell 11.5 percent in the first quarter, tech research company IDC said on Monday.
Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, lowered its revenue forecast for the year. It now expects revenue to rise in mid-single digits, down from its previous forecast of mid- to high-single digits.
Most of Intel’s factories are in the United States, although it did not identify where cuts would be focused geographically. It said it would record a pretax restructuring charge of $1.2 billion in the second quarter and expected annual savings of $1.4 billion per year starting mid-2017.
The company also said Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith will move to a new role leading sales, manufacturing and operations. Intel said it would begin a formal search process for a new CFO.
Smith said that Intel now expects the PC market to decline by a percentage in the high single digits in 2016 versus a prior forecast of a mid single-digit decline. Declines in China and other emerging markets are also leading to greater than anticipated reductions in worldwide PC supply chain inventory, Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich said on a conference call.
Hyundai Motor announced on Tuesday that it will partner up with Cisco Systems to develop Internet-connected car technology, part of the automaker’s push to develop “high-performing computers on wheels”.
Auto and tech firms are increasingly forming alliances to expand services that hook cars up to Internet, particularly as the race to develop self-driving cars heats up.
Hyundai said Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun met Cisco Chief Executive Chuck Robbins in Seoul and agreed to co-develop in-vehicle network technology for high-speed transfer of large amounts of data.
“The cooperation is part of Hyundai Motor’s wider strategy to establish an industry-leading connected car platform through collaboration with leading technology partners,” it said in a statement.
Other alliances include Toyota Motor Corp’s expansion this month of a five-year-old partnership with Microsoft Corp to develop new Internet-connected vehicle services for owners and dealers.
Troubled camera brand GoPro is going for broke and getting into the emerging VR market.
The outfit has GoPro has announced a new channel dedicated to 360-degree or VR content, which it calls GoPro VR. It has also unveiled a new version of its HeroCast wireless streaming tool, LiveVR, that’s dedicated to VR content. It seems to think that this effort will bail it out of its financial woes.
Meanwhile it has been talking up its VR camera rig. This is a six-camera Omni VR which will cost $5,000 for a complete bundle which can create extreme 360-degree content. It is even offering a $1,500 discount for those who already have a stack of GoPro cameras.
Pre-orders for the Omni VR camera will be opening up today, which is when the GoPro VR platform will also be launching. Today will also see the launch of GoPro VR apps for iOS and Android. Much of GloPro’s VR work is based around Kolor Eyes which was a 360-degree software specialist GoPro acquired around this time last year.
We expect to see the rest of the VR product line-up at the NAB show that starts in Las Vegas later today.
On Thursday Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company announced an 18 percent quarterly revenue decline for Q1 2016 from the same timeframe a year ago in Q1 2015. The chip manufacturing giant also announced Q1 2016 net profit of $2 billion USD ($64.78 billion TWD), representing an 8.3 percent quarterly profit decline from the same timeframe a year ago in Q1 2015.
For TSMC, Q1 2016 was marked by a reduction of demand for high-end smartphones, while smartphone demand in China and emerging markets had upward momentum. Beginning Q2 2016 and onward, the company expect to get back onto a growth trajectory and is projected to hit a 5 to 10 percent growth rate in 2016.
“Our 10-nanometer technology development is on track,” said company president and co-CEO Mark Liu during the company’s Q4 2015 earnings call. “We are currently in intensive yield learning mode in our technology development. Our 256-megabit SRAM is yielding well. We expect to complete process and product qualification and begin customer product tape-outs this quarter.”
“Our 7-nanometer technology development progress is on schedule as well. TSMC’s 7 nanometer technology development leverage our 10-nanometer development very effectively. At the same time, TSMC’s 7-nanometer offers a substantial density improvement, performance improvement and power reduction from 10-nanometer.
These two technologies, 10-nanometer and 7-nanometer, will cover a very wide range of applications, including application processors for smartphone, high-end networking, advanced graphics, field-programmable gate arrays, game consoles, wearables and other consumer products.”
In Q1 2016, TSMC reached a gross margin of 44.9 percent, an operating margin of 34.6 percent and a net profit margin of 31.8 percent respectively. Going forward into Q2 2016, the company is expecting revenue between ~$6.65 billion and ~$6.74 billion USD, gross margins between 49 and 51 percent, and operating profit margins between 38.5 and 40.5 percent, respectively.
Chips used for communications and industrial uses represented over 80 percent of TSMC’s revenue in FY 2015. The company was also able to improve its margins by increasing 16-nanometer production, and like many other semiconductor companies, is preparing for an expected upswing sometime in 2017.
In February, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Taiwan where TSMC’s 12-inch Fab 14 is located, a current site of 16-nanometer production. The company expected to have a manufacturing impact above 1 percent in the region with a slight reduction in wafer shipments for the quarter.
“Although the February 6 earthquake caused some delay in wafer shipments in the first quarter, we saw business upside resulting from demand increases in mid- and low-end smartphone segments and customer inventory restocking,” said Lora Ho, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of TSMC.
“We expect our business in the second quarter will benefit from continued inventory restocking and recovery of the delayed shipments from the earthquake.”
In fiscal year 2016, the company will spend between $9 and $10 billion on ramping up the 16-nanometer process node, constructing Fab 15 for 12-inch wafers in Nanjing, China, and beginning commercial production of the 10-nanometer FinFET process at this new facility. Samsung and Intel are also expected to start mass production of 10-nanometer products by the end of 2016.
During its Q4 2015 earnings call, company president and co-CEO Mark Liu stated the company is currently preparing and working on a 7-nanometer process node and plans to begin volume production sometime in 2018. Meanwhile, since January 2015, a separate research and development team at TSMC has been laying the groundwork for a 5-nanometer process which the company expects to bring into commercial production sometime in 1H 2020.
So far in Q1 2016, shipments of 16 and 20-nanometer wafers have accounted for around 23 percent of the company’s total wafer revenues.