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Huawei’s Smartphones Gaining Ground, Sees 62% Rise In Devices Shipped

July 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Huawei Technologies shipped 62% more smartphones in the first half of 2014 than the same period last year, with sales to some countries outside its home turf doubling or even tripling.

It shipped smartphone 34.3 million units, boosted by sales of flagship phones the Ascend Mate 2 and the Ascend P7, it said on Tuesday. In the second quarter alone it shipped 20.6 million units, an 85% year-over-year increase.

Much of that growth is coming from emerging markets in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, where its smartphone shipments are doubling or even tripling compared to the previous year, the company added.

Other Chinese vendors are also reporting booming smartphone sales, but Huawei ships a higher proportion of its production to foreign markets, said Melissa Chau, an analyst with research firm IDC.

“It has the most number of shipments outside of China, roughly 40%,” she estimated. “If you look at Lenovo, ZTE, or Xiaomi, they are nowhere near that.”

In this year’s second quarter, Huawei will hold on to its ranking as the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor, behind leader Samsung Electronics and second place Apple, Chau added.

In foreign markets, Huawei is driving growth by selling low-end models, while flagship products such as the Ascend P7 find most of their buyers in mainland China, Chau said.

Huawei has ambitions to rival Apple and Samsung in the smartphone arena, so is spending more on marketing and raising brand awareness. But its market share in this year’s first quarter was only 4.7%, still far away from second place Apple, which had a 15.2% share.

“They are making some progress, but they are still not anywhere near being a super top-tier player,” Chau said. Android smartphones are also becoming commoditized, which risks dampening Huawei’s attempts to stand out from the rest of the competition, she added.

 

Bose Sues Beats Over Patent Infringement

July 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Headphone maker Bose has filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against rival Beats Electronics, which Apple recently agreed to purchase in a US$3 billion deal.

In its complaint, Bose alleges that the “active noise cancellation” system in Beats Studio and Studio Wireless headphones infringes on five of its patents that relate to digital audio processing, compression and noise cancellation technology.

They are U.S. patents 6,717,537; 8,073,150; 8,073,151; 8,054,992; and 8,345,888.

In addition to the suit, which was filed in Delaware, the company also lodged a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission asking the trade court to ban Beats from importing the headphones into the U.S.

Companies are increasingly filing lawsuits with the ITC in addition to the domestic court system in the hopes an import injunction will provide extra leverage when it comes to negotiations over alleged infringement.

The lawsuit comes just under two months after the Apple deal was announced. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of September, and it’s unknown if the lawsuit could change that schedule or the acquisition price.

Apple and Beats did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

 

Amazon To Offer 3D Printing

July 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc will offer 3D printing services that allow customers to customize and build earrings, bobble head toys and other items from third-party vendors using a new personalization option on its website.

Most of the more than 200 items available on the company’s new 3D printed products store, which was rolled out on Monday, can be customized using a new feature that allows users to rotate and change the item they are viewing.

Before it is printed by one of Amazon’s sellers, users can customize a product like as a bobble head figure by changing its skin and eye color, hair style and outfit, Amazon said.

“The customization is something we’re keenly interested in,” said Petra Schindler-Carter, director for Amazon marketplace sales, speaking in an interview. “We’ll always look for new applications for that.”

Amazon, which has more than 240 million users, has expanded its marketplaces division to include new areas such as fine art and wine. It is part of Amazon’s larger investment into new areas like mobile services and original content that led to its larger-than-expected second-quarter loss last week.

The new printing option taps into a broader “Maker movement” among tech entrepreneurs in northern California, and to some extent Europe, that is focused on customizing 3D objects rather than development software or mobile applications.

3D printers have gained in popularity on Amazon Supply, a wholesale site for businesses. That interest led Amazon to offer customers an 3D print option, Schindler-Carter said.

 

Ultra High Def TV Sales Being Hampered By Steep Prices

July 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Ultra high-definition televisions (UHD TVs) have made minor gains in the flat-panel market because prices remain too high, according to a new report from IHS Technology.

Among the top 13 LCD display brands worldwide, the share of UHD TV shipments reached just 5% in May, up from 4% in April, 3% in March and 2% in February, according to IHS.

While UHD TV share has grown by 1 percentage point for each of the last three months, growth hasn’t budged much since September, when the market was already at the 2% level.

The top 13 UHD TV brands account for more than 75% of total LCD TV shipments and represent more than 90% of overall UHD LCD TV shipments.

UHD TV shipments this year are projected to grow to 14.5 million units, up from just 2 million in 2013, as global brands deploy aggressive marketing efforts and roll out new models, according to IHS.

Flat-panel televisions overall amounted to 18.1 million units in May, down 6.4% from April but up 7% from the same time a year ago. Of the total, LCD TVs — including UHD sets – accounted for 17.4 million units, with plasma TVs making up the remainder at 708,000 units.

“Growth in this year’s global UHD TV market is a reflection of plans among TV makers, especially the Chinese, to increase sales. And expansion in UHD TV volume is mostly scheduled for the second half this year,” Jusy Hong, an IHS principal analyst for consumer devices, said in a statement.

UHD TVs have much higher resolution than conventional HD sets, but the dazzling images come at a steep trade-off: their prices can be several times those of LCD TVs.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, which hosts the CES conference, buyers still pay north of $50,000 for a 105-in. UHD-TV, while the average price for a 55-in. UHD-TV this year will be around $2,750. By 2017, that price is expected to drop to $1,850.

That compares to 1080p high-definition TVs (HDTVs) today that run anywhere from $700 to around $1,700 for a 55-in. model.

 

 

 

Device Financing Plan Weighs On AT&T’s Revenue

July 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

AT&T Inc’s quarterly revenue rose a weaker than expected 1.6 percent as cheaper service plans offered to customers who forgo subsidized cellular phones made a dent in profit margins.

Faced with mounting pressure from competitors, AT&T has unbundled service and device charges, and cut its family data plan and shared value plan prices as it tries to attract customers in a nearly saturated market.

“What we saw happen throughout the second quarter were very aggressive promotions by our competitors but all the while our churn decreased,” Ralph de la Vega, chief executive of AT&T mobility, told Reuters.

“We are confident that what we saw in Q2 was part of the transition we had to make to go from service to equipment revenue in NEXT,” he said, referring to a pricing plan that allows customers to pay directly for their devices in exchange for lower service pricing.

The plan has resulted in a lower average revenue per user, but higher equipment revenue, as customers take on the majority of the burden of paying for their devices.

Wireless service revenue decreased 1.4 percent in the second quarter, while equipment revenue grew 44.8 percent.

AT&T expects two-thirds of its customers to be on the plan by the end of the year.

“AT&T has quite aggressively moved its existing base of customers in contract to the new plan. It is a fairly predictable shift and over time it should be a positive one for AT&T, but it has an unpleasant short-term impact on results, said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.”

Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said on a conference call with analysts that Brazil’s antitrust regulator has approved the company’s $48.5 billion bid for DirecTV, which has a significant foothold in Latin America. The deal has been reviewed by state regulators but is under review by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission.

The company maintained its free cash flow guidance of around $11 billion for 2014, exceeding the $9.6 billion it needs to meet its dividend target, which some investors have worried could be unsustainable.

The No. 2 U.S. mobile provider said on Wednesday that excluding items it earned 62 cents per share, one penny less than Wall Street expectations, according to Thomson Reuters .

 

Google May Have A Plan To Bring Wi-Fi To NYC Pay Phones

July 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google may be amongst a list of hopefuls looking to transform the New York City phone booths of the past into “communication points” of the future with free Wi-Fi and cellphone charging.

The dominant search company was among 60 entities that attended a meeting on May 12 to discuss a project to replace or supplement as many as 10,000 pay phones around the city. The list came to light in a Bloomberg News article. Other participants included Samsung, IBM, Cisco Systems, Verizon Wireless, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable.

Responses to the “request for proposals” (RFP) from vendors were due Monday. Google, or any other participant in the May 12 meeting, may have pulled out of the process before filing one. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But it seems likely the company will at least submit a plan, given the opportunity to blanket much of New York’s streetscape with Wi-Fi. Despite some false starts and headaches in free public Wi-Fi in the past, Google looks more serious than ever about providing new forms of Internet access. It’s selling gigabit-speed service via fiber in Provo, Utah, and Kansas City, and plans to expand that service to Austin, Texas. A Google request for information sent to 34 other prospective Google Fiber cities suggested the company is looking at adding a Wi-Fi component to that service, too. Far outside major cities, its balloon-based Project Loon is being tested in licensed frequencies sometimes used for LTE cellular networks.

The New York project would be vast and potentially lucrative, as well as high profile. There are currently more than 7,000 pay-phone sites spread across all five boroughs of the city, and about 4,000 of them carry advertising on the sides. The winning bidder for the upgrade project would share ad revenue with the city, which says it would pay them at least US$17.5 million in compensation.

 

 

Yahoo To Purchase Flurry To Beef Up Mobile Ad Revenue

July 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo Inc will acquire mobile analytics startup Flurry to beef up a fast-growing mobile advertising business that still lags Google Inc’s  and Facebook Inc’s in scale.

Six-year-old Flurry uses analytics to help target ads at consumers by monitoring activity on more than half a million apps on some 1.4 billion mobile devices around the world, Yahoo said in a statement.

The startup provides information to help marketers and brands more easily reach their desired audiences, Yahoo said.

Yahoo did not cite a price tag, but a source familiar with the matter said the Internet company is paying several hundred million dollars. Tech blog re/code earlier reported that rough amount.

Flurry will operate much as before after the acquisition closes, and its team will remain in their current locations, Yahoo added.

Yahoo is trying to revitalize a stagnant online advertising business as Chief Executive Marissa Mayer marks her second anniversary at the Internet company.

The former Google executive has revamped many of Yahoo’s Web products but its ad sales are still weak while rivals such as Google and Facebook continue to post strong, double-digit revenue growth.

Like its rivals, it has been investing in its mobile advertising platform, as users increasingly access the Internet from smartphones and tablets. Its mobile advertising revenue more than doubled in the second quarter.

But mobile advertising typically commands lower rates than online. Revenue in Yahoo’s display advertising business decreased 8 percent to $436 million in the second quarter.

 

Xiaomi Sets Sights On Premium Smartphone Market With Mi 4 Device

July 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi introduced on Tuesday its new flagship Mi 4 smartphone, aimed primarily at the premium handset market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The Mi 4 has a 5 inch, 1080p screen and a Qualcomm Inc Snapdragon 801 2.5 Ghz processor, said Chief Executive Lei Jun at a launch event in Beijing.

But sheathed in iPhone-like metal sides, the Mi 4′s similarities to Apple’s smartphone drew murmurs from the crowd of ‘iPhone’ when showcased by Lei.

Founded in 2010 by Lei, Xiaomi seeks to cut costs by eschewing brick-and-mortar stores in favor of web-based distribution and word-of-mouth marketing.

Xiaomi became the world’s sixth-largest smartphone vendor in the first quarter of 2014, according to data firm Canalys, after repeatedly doubling its sales. The company was valued at $10 billion last year.

Xiaomi sold 18.7 mln smartphones in 2013 and on Tuesday maintained a 60 million sales target for 2014. For comparison, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has said it is targeting 80 million smartphone sales for the year.

The latest phone was unveiled at a glitzy launch event at the National Convention Center in Beijing, where Lei Jun and Vice President Hugo Barra – a former Google executive – posed for photos with a winding queue of fans decked in Xiaomi-branded red T-shirts.

Barra told Reuters in an interview this month that the company was actively targeting the Indian market.

 

Western Digital Updates The Red Line

July 23, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Western Digital has announced an upgrade of its WD Red range, providing a single brand structure across consumer and enterprise.

The WD Red range is aimed primarily at network attached storage (NAS) applications, and is joined by a new WD Red Pro line. Both sub-ranges are controlled by upgraded firmware called NASware 3.0.

At a briefing last week, Western Digital’s UK country manager Jermaine Campbell explained that the new firmware will be able to instruct the drive to work in different ways according to the function it is performing at the time, therefore adapting its performance to best use system and energy resources.

In addition, it increases the number of bays supported from five to eight without performance impact, with the Pro range able to support up to 16 bays and rack mounted configurations.

3D Active Balance combines firmware instruction with a new flexible drive head to provide vibration protection and judder compensation for improved reliability.

The consumer range introduces 5TB and 6TB capacities to the range, joining the existing 1TB, 2TB and 4TB models. The Pro range is available in 2TB and 4TB versions. The five platter 6TB version is, WD claims, a first to market for a NAS specific drive.

Campbell explained that “the market wants high capacity” and confirmed that WD still believes that “platter based drives offer the best combination of performance and price”.

Pricing for the drives ranges from $399 for the 5TB and $440 for the 6TB, backed by a three-year warranty. The Pro range starts at $224 for 2TB up to $299 for 4TB with a five-year warranty.

WD Red drives can also be found in the company’s Mycloud range of consumer NAS devices with personal cloud functionality.

Courtesy-TheInq

Lenovo Says It’s Still In The 8-in. Windows Tablet Game

July 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Lenovo on Friday said it would continue selling sub-10-in. Windows tablets in the U.S., backing away from statements it made the day before, when it said it was pulling the ThinkPad 8 from the North American market and had discontinued offering a model of the Miix 2.

“We will continue to bring new Windows devices to market across different screen sizes, including a new 8-inch tablet and 10-inch tablet coming this holiday,” Lenovo said in a press release published on its website Friday.

“Our model mix changes as per customer demand, and although we are no longer selling ThinkPad 8 in the U.S., and we have sold out of Miix 8-inch, we are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business as was reported by the media (emphasis in original),” the statement continued.

On Thursday, the IDG News Service — like Computerworld, owned and operated by IDG – reported the withdrawal of the ThinkPad 8 and the 8-in. Miix from the U.S. market. The ThinkPad 8 had debuted in January at prices starting at $449, and the similarly-sized Miix had launched in October 2013.

Lenovo told IDG News that it was diverting remaining stocks of the ThinkPad 8 to other countries, including Brazil, China, and Japan, where demand was stronger for smaller Windows 8.1-powered tablets.

The China-based company, which has made impressive gains in the global market — it was the world’s largest personal computer seller during the second quarter, ahead of Hewlett-Packard and Dell, according to IDC — did not say exactly when it would return with an 8-in. device. If it begins selling the unnamed device in October, typical of OEMs that seed the channel then for the holiday sales season, it will have been absent from the market for two or more months.

 

 

Google’s Growth Will Be In A Shift To Mobile

July 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google Inc  is the more properly positioned than any company to benefit from the shift to mobile, increased local advertising and wearables, analysts said after the search giant posted its 18th straight quarter of 20 percent-plus revenue growth.

At least eight brokerages raised their price targets on the stock on Friday by as much as $75, to a high of $745.

The company, which is also set to benefit from the so-called “internet of things”, said that second-quarter revenue rose 22 percent to $15.96 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $15.61 billion.

Growth was driven by the company’s core search business, YouTube and product-listing ads, which combined to drive three times as much mobile traffic for merchants compared with last year, Jefferies analysts wrote in a note.

Brokerage Jefferies maintained its “buy” rating and $700 price target on the stock.

Of the 46 analysts covering Google, 36 have a “buy” or a higher rating on the stock and 10 have a “hold”. There are no “sell” ratings, according to StarMine data.

Google earns most of its revenue from advertising.

The number of “paid clicks” by consumers on ads serviced by Google increased 25 percent year-on-year in the quarter.

However, the average price of the ads declined 6 percent as ad rates on mobile phones are typically cheaper than traditional online ads because of their smaller screens.

“Google is successfully transitioning its business from PC to mobile, and is arguably in a more favorable position in mobile than it was in PC, which should eventually be reflected in a higher multiple,” Deutsche Bank analyst Ross Sandler wrote in a client note.

Google also owns Android, the world’s most-used mobile software, and YouTube, the most popular video-streaming service.

Other online companies such as Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc  are also revamping their advertising businesses to take advantage of the shift to mobile devices.

But Google has established unusually deep competitive “moats” around its business through scale, aggressive product innovation and substantial investment, RBC Capital Markets analysts wrote in a research note.

Google’s capital investment budget has topped $17 billion over the past five years, and the company has spent about $13 billion on research, according to analysts.

The company is also spending big to push into new markets with innovations such as wearable computers, ultra high-speed internet access and home automation – the “internet of things.”

 

 

Amazon.com Considering Unlimited E-book Subscription Offer

July 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com appears to be considering a $9.99-a-month e-book and audiobook subscription service dubbed “Kindle Unlimited.”

The as-yet-unreleased service would offer unlimited access to more than 600,000 book titles and thousands of audiobooks on any device, according to a test page that was briefly online. The test page was cached before it was taken down.

The test page was apparently first spotted by gigaom.com.

Amazon.com did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The test page notes that popular titles in Kindle Unlimited include books likeWater for Elephants and Life of Pi. It also includes the Hunger Games series and the Harry Potter series.

Book categories include science fiction, romance and mystery/thriller and suspense.

If Amazon does release this subscription service, it could be a big deal – not just for the company but for the e-books business.

“This could be a huge game changer in the publishing field, changing the economic model of the entire industry,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “There are going to be some sticky problems, like how to work out compensation between the myriad of large and small publishers, plus those who publish for themselves using Amazon as their sole distribution platform. But I think this could be wildly popular with readers.”

For avid readers, it would likely be popular.

“Amazon’s all-you-can-read Kindle buffet would reduce costs for a large number of readers, and at the same time, probably increase Amazon’s Kindle revenue,” said Olds. “While other e-book publishers will see the need to respond with plans of their own, Amazon’s sheer scale will make it difficult for them to come up with a competitive plan. Amazon already has a massive number of publishers and authors on their platform.”

 

Dell Unable To Keep Up With Demand For Chromebook, Halts Online Sales

July 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Dell’s only Chromebook is at least temporarily unavailable for online purchase through the company’s website, only seven months after the became available online.

Facing rising commercial demand for the devices, Dell has not been able to keep up with orders.

The Chromebook 11, which shipped in December, is listed as unavailable on Dell’s Chromebook website, and the company is asking potential buyers to call in orders.

“Due to strong demand, the Dell Chromebook 11 is currently not available for order on Dell.com. It continues to be available for our education customers and can be ordered through their sales representative,” said Ellen Murphy, a Dell spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

The laptop will eventually come online again, though the company did not provide a specific date.

With Dell keeping Chromebook purchases open mainly to commercial customers, individual buyers may have to turn to competitive products from Samsung, Toshiba, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard, which are available online starting at under $200.

The Chromebook is a lightweight, low-cost computer for those who do most of their computing online. It has Google’s Chrome OS, and most applications needs wireless connectivity. However, more offline applications are becoming available.

Dell’s decision comes as Chromebook shipments rise and competitors launch new models. Chromebooks accounted for 35 percent of all U.S. commercial laptop shipments to date in 2014, jumping more than 250 percent compared to the same period last year. Chromebooks accounted for 5 percent to 6 percent of overall consumer laptop sales in the period, and that number will continue to rise, said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD.

More than 20 Chromebook models are expected to be available by the end of the year. Acer last week shipped two C720 Chromebook models with Intel’s Core i3 chips. Dell spokeswoman Murphy said the company is committed to Chromebooks and will launch a new model with the Core i3 processor later this year.

Dell could be choosing commercial customers over individual shipments with Chromebook demand rising during the back-to-school season, Baker said.

“In a period when the product grows, you have to make some decisions,” Baker said.

 

 

Microsoft Rumored To Be Cutting Jobs Soon

July 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft Corp is said to be planning its biggest round of job cuts in five years as the software giant moves to integrate Nokia Oyj’s handset unit, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the company’s plans.

The reductions, expected to be announced as soon as this week, could be in the Nokia unit and the parts of Microsoft that overlap with that business, as well as in marketing and engineering, Bloomberg reported.

Since absorbing the handset business of Nokia this spring, Microsoft has 127,000 employees, far more than rivals Apple Inc and Google Inc. Wall Street is expecting Chief Executive Satya Nadella to make some cuts, which would represent Microsoft’s first major layoffs since 2009.

The restructuring may end up being the biggest in Microsoft history, topping the 5,800 jobs cut in 2009, the report said.

Some of the job cuts will be in marketing departments for businesses such as the global Xbox team, and among software testers, while other job cuts may result from changes Nadella is making to the engineering organization, Bloomberg reported.

Last week, Nadella circulated a memo to employees promising to “flatten the organization and develop leaner business processes” but deferred any comment on widely expected job cuts at the software company.

Nadella said he would address detailed organizational and financial issues for the company’s new financial year, which started at the beginning of this month, when Microsoft reports quarterly results on July 22.

 

Lionsgate Joins Alibaba In TV Streaming Joint Venture

July 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba Group Holding and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, the studio behind the ‘Hunger Games’ films, plans on offering a subscription streaming service in China, the firms said in a statement on Tuesday.

The service, to be known as Lionsgate Entertainment World, will be exclusive to Alibaba’s Internet television set-top boxes and is expected to launch in August.

It will give users access to Lions Gate content, including several titles from the ‘Twilight Saga’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ series, as well as television series ‘Mad Men’.

Alibaba and its affiliates have aggressively pushed into the entertainment industry since the beginning of the year, with more than $3 billion invested since March. The Hangzhou-based firm is looking to move beyond traditional e-commerce, offering more digital products like films, games and television.

“This cooperation signals our ongoing commitment to advance our vision of making digital media entertainment available to our customers anywhere, anytime,” Patrick Liu, Alibaba’s president of digital entertainment, said in Tuesday’s statement.

Alibaba is preparing for its U.S. listing later this year, potentially the biggest ever tech offering, even as it maintains a steady stream of investments that has seen the firm and its affiliates invest more than $7.5 billion since the beginning of the year.

In March, Alibaba bought a controlling stake in ChinaVision Media Group, a film and television content producer, for $804 million.

It followed this up in April by buying an 18.5 percent stake in Chinese online video streaming site Youku Tudou Inc in partnership with affiliated private equity company Yunfeng Capital. Among Yunfeng Capital’s founders is Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba.

Also in April, Ma and other partners paid $1.05 billion for a 20 percent stake in Wasu Media Holding Co, mostly funded with a loan from Alibaba. At the same time, Alibaba and Wasu Digital TV Media Group signed a cooperation agreement for online content and Internet TV.

Lionsgate Entertainment World will also offer premium content and subscriber benefits such as invitations to screenings, Tuesday’s statement said.