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Are Laptop Sales Picking Up?

September 17, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Notebook ODMs are seeing a surprise uptick in August revenues, but are cautious about their September shipment performance.

If things go well in September, it could be a significant indicator for whether they can enjoy strong growth in the fourth quarter. It will decide if there will be Turkey on the table at Christmas or just spam.

Digitimes said that several ODMs expect their September shipments to reach the same level as in June which was the shipment peak of 2015 for most ODMs. But if they can’t achieve this, their overall second half shipments will be pants.

It also means that customers are still really conservative about spending money on anything IT related.

But there is some reason to be optimistic. Notebook ODMs’ monthly shipments in the past two quarters enjoyed strong on-month growth, the ODMs expect their shipments in September to follow the same pattern.

Compal expects its third-quarter shipments to reach 9.9 million units, up 3.13 per cent from the nine million units it shipped in the second quarter. Wistron is expected to achieve a sequential shipment growth of 6.52 per cent in the third quarter and Inventec will achieve shipments of 4.75 million PCs, up from four million units in the second quarter.



Samsung Finally Enters Solid-state External Drive Business

January 7, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Samsung is finally expanding its product line to include external solid-state drives with a new line of Portable SSD T1 products.

The lightweight drives have capacities of up to 1TB and are small enough to fit in your pocket. They’re significantly more expensive than magnetic hard drives, though, which come in capacities of up to 6TB.

Samsung’s 250GB external SSD is priced at $179.99, a 500GB drive is $299.99, and a 1TB drive is $599.99. By comparison, a 1TB magnetic drive can be acquired for under $100.

External storage is mostly used for data backup. But demand for external drives is growing as users download and store more multimedia and programs. Storage is also limited in Chromebooks and lightweight Windows laptops and hybrids, so users have to revert to external storage to preserve files.

But Samsung’s portable SSDs will be faster and more power-efficient than external hard drives, said Richard Leonarz, senior marketing manager.

SSDs are faster at reading and writing data than hard drives. SSDs also don’t have spinning disks, which are prevalent in hard drives and can draw a lot of power when reading and writing data.

The Portable SSD T1 drives will connect to a PC’s USB 3.0 port. The SSDs have sequential read and write speeds of 450MBps, random read speeds of 8,000 IOPS (input/output per second) and random write speeds of 21,000 IOPS.

Samsung already makes internal SSDs, which are widely used in laptops and have up to 3.2GB in storage capacity. The external SSDs are based on the same advanced 3D V-NAND technology that gives its internal SSDs speed and durability. The 3D V-NAND SSDs have storage units stacked on top of each other, much like a skyscraper, which is a more power-efficient and speedy structure compared to the planar structure used in most SSDs today.

Samsung is now taking on the likes of Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba, which largely sell external hard drives and hybrid SSD-hard drive products.



Apple To Go Big With iPad Next Year

August 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

First there was the iPad at around 10 inches and then there was the iPad Mini that is closer to 8 inches. Now Apple Inc is gearing up to roll out a larger, 12.9-inch version of its once dominant iPad for 2015, with production set to begin in the first quarter of next year, Bloomberg cited people with knowledge of the matter as saying on Tuesday.

The report comes as Apple struggles with declining sales of its tablets, which are faltering as people replace iPads less frequently than expected and larger smartphones made by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd  and other rivals have taken a bite out of its sales.

Apple has been working with its suppliers for over a year on larger touch-screen devices, Bloomberg cited the sources as saying.

It is expected to introduce larger versions of its 4-inch iPhone next month, although the company has not publicized plans for its most important device.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.



Fifty Percent Of Android Apps May Have Security Holes

July 31, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Researchers that discovered the Heartbleed security vulnerability have warned that over half of the 50 most popular Android mobile apps have inherited security vulnerabilities through the irresponsible recycling of software libraries.

Codenomicon, which coined the term “Heartbleed” upon discovering the OpenSSL flaw, will name and shame app developers later this month when it publishes its findings on those that neglected robust security practices.

Preliminary results from a study by Codenomicon revealed that over half of the 50 most popular Android apps submit the user’s Android ID to third party advertising networks without permission.

The study found that one in 10 apps send either a device’s IMEI code or location data to a third party, one in 10 apps connected to more than two ad networks, and surprisingly, one even sends the user’s mobile phone number.

It also found that over 30 percent of the apps transmit private data in plain text and plenty more are not encrypting the transfer of this data.

Codenomicon chief security specialist Olli Jarva, told ITnews that 80 to 90 percent of mobile app software is made up of reused libraries, most of which are available under open source, and that was because developers “did not want to invest in reinventing the wheel” with every app that they release.

“We’re seeing the end products inherit vulnerabilities – sometimes it’s just poor software design or logic errors in implementations, and sometimes those bugs are identified and patched. Sometimes, like in the case of Heartbleed, they are not identified for two years.”

Jarva suggested that some developers “act intentionally”, which is even more worrying.

“Some people might have been providing a vulnerability on purpose in order to do something nasty once the code has been distributed,” he added. “Who are they working with? Do they have side-line jobs somewhere else? The developers might be getting their dollars from ad networks.”

Heartbleed is considered the worst thing to happen to the internet since selfies, and web servers are still suffering from the fallout of the Heartbleed vulnerability.

Shaking the industry like a bear might a salmon, Heartbleed caused most companies to come forward and issue alerts and patches. Some laggard servers remain though, and according to security researchers over 300,000 are still vulnerable to exploits.

In the wake of the Heartbleed bug, the Linux Foundation founded the Core Infrastructure Initative, financially supported by the industry, with a remit to ensure that SSL connections remain safe from another similar vulnerability.


Will Qualcomm Buy Wilocity?

May 14, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm reportedly is preparing to buy high-speed internet chip designer Wilocity in a deal that could see the firm bring 7GBps speeds to its smartphone chipsets.

According to a report out of Israel, Qualcomm is set to pay $300m for Wilocity, which shipped its first commercially available chips at the end of 2012. However, the two companies have yet to agree all terms and conditions of the sale, the report said.

Israeli firm Wilocity announced its first smartphone chip at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), the Sparrow Wil6300 chipset, also known as WiGig, which uses 802.11ad network technology in the 60GHz radio frequency band that is able to transfer data at speeds up to 7Gbps. However, this superfast transfer rate comes at the cost of range, which is limited to mere metres and doesn’t work through walls.

Nevertheless, Qualcomm’s acquisition of the firm would be an obvious attempt by the firm to take this technology onboard, and perhaps develop it further to extend its operating range.

According to the source, if the deal is reached, Qualcomm will retain Wilocity’s staff of approximately 60.

Last month, Qualcomm posted its smallest quarterly revenue increase since 2010, which saw its share price plummet five percent in afterhours trading.

Reporting its second fiscal quarter financial results for the three months to 30 March, Qualcomm said its revenues rose to $6.37bn during the period, up four percent from a year ago, with net profit up five percent to $1.97bn.

However, that was the smallest year over year percentage increase since the June quarter of 2010, when revenue declined by two percent, and was far lower than the quarterly growth rates of over 20 percent that Qualcomm investors have seen previously.

Following Qualcomm’s earnings report, analysts said that the dip in revenue was attributable to a decline in sales in China as the country’s biggest network, China Mobile, prepares to launch a faster network with 4G LTE technology, and customers are anticipating the launch before buying new smartphones.


Is Qualcomm Losing Steam?

April 28, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has posted its smallest quarterly revenue increase since 2010, which saw its share price plummeting five percent in after hours trading.

Qualcomm reported its second quarter earnings on Wednesday for the three months to 30 March, and its revenue rose to $6.37bn during the period, up four percent from a year ago, with net profit up five percent to $1.97bn.

However, that was the smallest year over year percentage increase since the June quarter of 2010, when revenue declined by two percent, and was far lower than the quarterly growth rates of over 20 percent that Qualcomm investors have seen previously.

“We delivered another solid quarter, driven by demand for our leading multimode 3G/LTE chipset solutions and record licensing revenues,” said Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf in the earnings report, not mentioning that earnings reflected a much lower increase than seen in recent quarters.

“Looking forward, we are pleased to be raising our earnings per share guidance for the fiscal year. We continue to see increasing demand for our industry-leading chipsets and strong growth in calendar year 2014 of 3G/4G smartphones around the world.”

Qualcomm also forecast sales of between $6.2bn and $6.8bn for the April to June quarter, with the low end of that estimate representing a decline of one percent from a year ago.

It’s probable that while growing smartphone penetration in emerging markets is helping to keep the firm’s unit sales high, it’s also having an negative effect on Qualcomm’s average selling price (ASP) levels of mobile chipsets and devices.

Following Qualcomm’s earnings report, analysts said that the dip in revenue was attributable to a decline in sales in China as the country’s biggest network, China Mobile, prepares to launch a faster network with 4G, or LTE, technology, and customers are anticipating the launch before buying new smartphones.

Qualcomm now expects to make a profit of between $5 and $5.25 per share, five cents above its earlier projection, the firm said.


Is Kingston Going After Android Too?

March 7, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Kingston Technologies is the latest to throw its hat into the ring with a range of mobile oriented flash drives.

The Datatraveler Microduo has both standard USB 2.0 and microUSB slots allowing for easier data transfer between mobile and desktop devices.

Built with Android devices in mind, the device uses the On The Go (OTG) function in most modern Android microUSB ports to provide extra storage.

The device comes in capacities ranging from 8GB to 64GB with a five year guarantee and full technical support for anyone struggling to use the device.

“[The Datatraveler] Microduo is a great companion device to mobile phones or tablets as it lets users back up files on the go thus freeing up space, or share files between devices with ease,” said Nadine Frost, Kingston Technologies EMEA Business Manager,

“Its steel design has a built in key loop and rotating cap, so it is small on size and big on storage. Travellers can take entire libraries of music or videos with them on trips without worrying about filling up the memory on their own device.”

Kingston is not the first company to bring out a twin input USB port. In December we reported on a similar product from Sony.

The OTG port is already compatible with flash drives through the use of an adapter, however as storage companies look for ways to stay one step ahead of the cloud, these products play on their added convenience and are already proving popular.


Qualcomm Goes 20nm With LTE

February 26, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm Executive Vice President Murthy Renduchintala has announced the first 20nm chip from Qualcomm. It is not a processor though – it’s the Gobi 9×35 4th generation LTE modem. It is sampling right now and there should be customers who will announce the designs on it shortly.

The SVP has also confirmed that SoC parts will soon to move to 20nm and when asked whether TSMC has capacity and is ready for mature production of 20nm his answer was positive. He actually said to expect a 20nm SoC real soon, but he didn’t get into any details.

The Cat 6 300 Mbps modem in 20nm obviously needs much less power and it will improve battery life on LTE devices. We can see this product as very interesting option for many high-end phones. Modems are easier and less complex to make compared to SoCs and this is why Qualcomm traditionally moves the LTE modem to a new processor node first. The company then follows up with a SoC that is much more complex to manufacture.

With every shrink of the processor node, power goes down significantly and this is what high-end application processors are all about. At 28nm chipmakers are already pushing the envelope with big A15-class parts and the move to 20nm can’t come soon enough.


BlackBerry Asks Court To Block Sales Of Typo Keyboard

January 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry has requested that a California court block U.S. sales of the Typo keyboard, an add-on keyboard for the iPhone that BlackBerry says is an “obvious knock-off” of the keyboards on its phones.

The move,intensifies a battle between the two companies that began in January this year when BlackBerry accused Typo of patent infringement. The lawsuit garnered considerable attention, in part because Typo was co-founded by popular U.S. radio and television personality Ryan Seacrest.

The keyboard is designed to slip onto an iPhone 5 or 5S to provide a physical keyboard. The $99 device is currently available for pre-order through the company’s website, which advertises it has already sold out of an unspecified number of keyboards for January and February delivery.

Such keyboards have been a main selling point of BlackBerry devices since the company was making radio pagers and despite the recent popularity of on-screen virtual keyboards, there remains many users who value a physical keyboard.

BlackBerry alleges infringement of two patents: U.S. Design Patent 685,775and U.S. Patent 7,629,964. The former covers the design elements of a “handheld electronic device” and the latter “an electronic device with keyboard optimized for use with the thumbs.”

BlackBerry is asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to prohibit Typo from “making, using, offering to sell, or selling within the United States, or importing into the United States, the Typo Keyboard.”

“Typo’s blatant copying of BlackBerry’s keyboard presents an imminent threat of irreparable harm to BlackBerry, and that threat is magnified in combination with the significant market power of the iPhone,” BlackBerry said in a proposed motion to the court.

Seacrest comes up in the BlackBerry motion. The company notes he was a well-known, long-time user of BlackBerry devices and cites interviews where he said that the inspiration for the keyboard was trying to bring together the best of the BlackBerry typing experience with everything else an iPhone had to offer.

The motion also cites several reviews that note the visual similarity between the Typo and BlackBerry keyboards.

In response to BlackBerry’s proposed motion, Typo said it believes BlackBerry’s claims “lack merit and we intend to defend the case vigorously.”

The comment repeats, almost word for word, a portion of a statement the company issued earlier in January when the lawsuit was first filed.

For BlackBerry, the issue is perhaps about more than just the visual similarities.

The company has been struggling to keep up with the fast pace of change being driven by Apple and Android phones and recently regrouped to focus more tightly on the government, military and enterprise customer.

That’s the company’s core business audience and the users that value a physical keyboard the most. If comparable keyboards become add-on accessories to Apple and Android phones, it would be more difficult for BlackBerry to compete.


Microsoft Adds Enhancements To Yammer’s Mobile Apps

October 17, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft has made updates to its Yammer enterprise social networking suite’s mobile applications, email integration and document collaboration.

Microsoft detailed the improvements  at an event it held in San Francisco for Yammer customers that kicks off its Working Social Tour, scheduled to land in up to 200 cities worldwide, including New York City, Amsterdam, Sao Paulo and Tokyo.

“It’s part of our push to connect with Yammer customers,” said Jared Spataro, general manager, Microsoft Office, in an interview. Attendees are expected to be both Yammer customers as well as those who are using Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud email and collaboration suite, which includes online versions of Exchange, Lync, SharePoint and Office.

Microsoft bought Yammer in mid-2012 for $1.2 billion in order to extend the enterprise social networking (ESN) capabilities of its SharePoint collaboration server and of other products in the Office family and beyond. Microsoft is in the process of integrating Yammer’s cloud suite with those products now.

The mobile improvements include a revamped iPad application and tweaks to the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 applications. The overhaul of the iPad app is supposed to simplify the user experience, while the Windows apps got improvements to live tiles and a better inbox.

Microsoft also deepened the interoperability between Yammer and email systems, making it possible for people to participate in Yammer group discussions through email messaging and without necessarily having a Yammer account.

Establishing bridges between Yammer and email is important because many customers are still trying to figure out the best way to use the ESN suite with email, according to Spataro.

“They’re looking for a mental model for how to use email and Yammer and how to think about those two worlds coming together because not everyone jumps on Yammer or enterprise social networking at the same time,” he said.

Unlike other vendors, Microsoft doesn’t see ESN suites as a replacement for email communications. “We believe they’re very complementary tools, that they can and should coexist, and that when used together they provide a very good, rounded experience,” Spataro said.

Microsoft has also started to add features to Yammer so that it can be used as a more structured tool for getting things done and managing tasks, not just as a social conversation meeting place, he said.

In addition, it’s now also possible to launch a Yammer conversation from an Office 365 document stored in SharePoint Online by hitting a “Post to Yammer” button. That way people can have discussions about the document on Yammer.


Will Cheap LTE-SoC Flood The Market?

October 11, 2013 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Last week an unfortunate comment made by Qualcomm CMO Anand Chandrasekher caused quite a stir in the SoC community. Long story short, Chandrasekher described Apple’s 64-bit support in the new A7 chip a mere “marketing gimmick,” prompting a lot of debate on the matter and an official retraction of his comments by Qualcomm.
Apple is already using 64-bit chips, Samsung says it is working on them and so is Nvidia. Now we can add MediaTek to that list. In an interview with PC World, MediaTek CMO Johan Lodenius confirmed that the company signed a licensing deal with ARM to build Cortex-A50 based processors. In addition, he confirmed that MediaTek plans to introduce its first LTE chipsets soon.
“Our take on the market is that the low-end is being pushed up and the high-end is being pushed down for a number of reasons, so what we will get is a much larger sweet spot of high-performing products at a good price,” he said.

The approach seems rather interesting and potentially disruptive. MediaTek doesn’t appear to be interested in going after any sort of performance crown, it plans to compete with the rest of the ARM gang by introducing feature packed chips designed specifically to target more affordable devices.
Lodenius did not say when MediaTek plans to announce the first A57 and A53 parts, or LTE enabled chipsets, but they are expected to show up next year. Since MediaTek is all about “sweet spot” pricing, we should see plenty of their chips in medium-range phones, especially from smaller vendors (i.e. Chinese white-box gang). On the other hand, MediaTek won’t be far behind the top players. It might not have custom cores, huge R&D and marketing budgets, but its chips are already competitive in most market segments.
Earlier this year MediaTek flooded the market with multiple 28nm SoC designs that ended up in quite a few devices and more recently it introduced its first big.LITTLE octa-core part. It is also interesting to note that MediaTek and Rockchip are working on Cortex A12 designs.
The A12 didn’t get much press when it was announced, as it was overshadowed by the big A15 and upcoming A50-series parts. However, it is a rather interesting mid-range product and the first implementations should start showing up in actual devices by the middle of 2014. The A12 is basically the real successor to the A9, while the A15 aims a bit higher. Still, the A12 promises to deliver 40 percent more performance than the venerable A9, with improved power efficiency and big.LITTLE compatibility.
Coupled with LTE and good graphics, cheap A12 quads and big.LITTLE parts could be an interesting choice for mid-range devices, which appears to be what Nvidia is betting on with the T4i, which is not A12-based, but it has a revised A9 core, LTE and powerful graphics, but it should be ready before the first A12 chips.


Tablet Shipments Will Outpace Desktops, Laptops In Q4

September 13, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Tablet shipments will outpace desktop and laptop PCs in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to IDC predictions.

The outlook for PC’s has been lowered by 10% by IDC for all of 2013, highlighting the tablet dominance in the fourth quarter, IDC said in a statement.

For all of 2013, PCs will still out-sell tablets, but IDC said tablets will surpass PC shipments for a full year by the end of 2015.

In the past few years, tablets have cannibalized PC sales. But IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell said smartphones 5-inches and bigger (sometimes called phablets) will start to eat into the smaller-sized tablet market — those in the 7-in. to 8-in. range — over the next 12 to 18 months.

In August, IDC lowered its 2013 tablet shipment forecast by 1% to 227.4 million partly because of the impact of phablets and wearable computing devices.

IDC also forecast that the value of all kinds of smart connected devices, which includes PCs, tablets and smartphones, will grow by 10.6% in 2013,. That growth rate will slow to just 3.1% in 2017 due to the increase in low-cost smartphones and the white-box tablet market.

Overall for 2013, the smart connected device market is expected to be valued at $622 billion, with $423 billion of that total coming from sub-$350 smartphones and sub-$350 tablets.

“Lower priced devices will be a game-changer,” said Megha Saini, an IDC analyst.

For 2013, IDC predicted shipments of 134.4 million desktop PCs, 180.9 million laptops, 227.3 million tablets and 1.01 billion smartphones.



Kingston Technology Beams Up To The Enterprise

August 29, 2013 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Kingston Technology has launched an enterprise focused solid state disk (SSD) drive called the SSDnow E50, for big data and visualization.

The 2.5in drive will be available in 100GB and 240GB capacities supporting sequential read and write speeds of up to 550Mbps and 530MBps, respectively, according to Kingston. A 480GB model will support slightly lower read and write speeds of 530Mbps and 500MBps.

“[The] SSDnow E50 allows companies to take advantage of enterprise-level SSD performance for tasks such as data caching, frequently accessed data within applications, online transactional processing and virtualisation performance,” Kingston explained. “SSDnow E50 helps alleviate I/O latencies and server bottlenecks by providing greater IOPS and higher bandwidth.”

Kingston said the SSDnow E50 is aimed at businesses that want SSD performance similar to that of the firm’s higher specification SSDnow E100 drive, but do not have same the high endurance needs.

The SSDnow E50 drives support AES 128-bit automatic encryption, have one million hours’ life expectancy and weigh 92.3g, according to the firm.

The SSDnow E50 also features “data integrity protection” under the firm’s Durawrite branding, which it claims is able to extend the life of the SSD by reducing the number of flash writes via an “intelligent compression engine”. It claims this technique does not affect data integrity.

A Raise feature is also said to reduce the number of uncorrectable errors in the drive, “over and above standard error code correction”.

Kingston hasn’t got back to us to confirm when the drives will hit the market or how much they will cost.


Qualcomm Profits Growing On Smartphone Boom

July 26, 2013 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm reported bumper fiscal third quarter financial results with profits rising by 31 percent to $1.58bn.

Qualcomm is riding high on the smartphone and tablet boom with its Snapdragon chips powering a number of high-profile devices including some Samsung Galaxy S4 handsets and the recently announced second generation Nexus 7 tablet. The firm’s device wins have translated to impressive fiscal growth, with revenues up by 35 percent to $6.24bn and profits increasing by 31 percent to $1.58bn.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip is still the prescribed standard processor for Microsoft’s Windows Phone devices and is powering many showcase Android smartphones including the HTC One. The firm has benefited from Texas Instruments desire to get out of the consumer system on chip (SoC) market and Nvidia’s Tegra 4 taking a long time to appear in the market.

Qualcomm chairman and CEO Paul Jacobs said, “We delivered another strong quarter as our Qualcomm Snapdragon solutions were prominent in a broad set of flagship smartphones, and 3G/4G device average selling prices were stronger than expected. We also focused on return of capital to stockholders and increased our stock repurchases and dividends paid during the quarter.

“This quarter, we continued our technology leadership, with our Snapdragon 800 processor powering the world’s first LTE-Advanced smartphone.”

Qualcomm is forecasting fourth quarter revenue of $5.9bn to $6.6bn, which will represent a 21 percent to 35 percent increase from the same period last year. Given that Google picked Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip to power its high volume Nexus 7 tablet, it is highly likely that one of the highest volume, high-end tablets will help pad Qualcomm’s bottom line handsomely during the lucrative back to school and holiday buying seasons.

What Qualcomm’s revenue forecast shows is how much potential revenue Intel is losing out on by not having a competitive low power chip.


Qualcomm Wants To Beat-down Intel

July 18, 2013 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm says it will extend its lead over Intel and distance itself from Intel by cracking the tablet market. Qualcomm already dominates the smartphone market and its latest generation Snapdragon chips have more than 200 design wins.

However, on the tablet front it is facing increasingly strong competition from Intel, Nvidia and other players. This might be about to change.

“You’ll see a whole bunch of tablets based on Snapdragon 800 in the market this year,” Qualcomm Senior VP Raj Talluri told Bloomberg. “There’s a lot of talk about Intel and tablets. Clearly we see them still being far behind in mobile.”

In recent months Intel has stepped up its game in mobile and new Intel CEO Brian Krzanich seems to be taking the market seriously. However, Intel is still short on actual products, although some of its new mobile designs look promising.