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Will HTC Ever Return To Profitability

May 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

HTC, the original equipment manufacturer that designs its own mobile devices and Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, has announced net losses of $66.12 million for the first quarter of 2017. The company’s latest financials are the latest in a series – it’s had eight consecutive losses over the past two years.

Like many smartphone and VR headset manufacturing companies, HTC had hoped that 2017 would turn out to be a much better year than 2016. The Taiwanese company’s earnings report for Q1 2017 gives mixed results this quarter. Revenues were $NT14.5 billion ($480.2 million), which is down 33 percent from the NT$22.2 billion ($720.7 million) it posted in Q4 2016. However, losses of NT$2 billion ($66.2 million) aren’t as bad as the NT$3.09 billion ($102.4 million) it posted the previous quarter, or about 55 percent. These are also up from NT$2.61 billion ($86.5 million) in the previous year.

HTC plans to streamline operations, reduce operating losses

In Q1 2017, HTC says it continued to realign its organizational structure to help reduce overhead expenses by nearly 20 percent. This is similar to what Sprint has been doing since October 2015, when it announced a $2.5 billion cost cutting plan to streamline company operations. HTC’s gross margins climbed to 16.3 percent versus 10.45 percent in Q4 2016, and 9.36 percent year-over-year.

The company worked to lower its operating costs to $NT12.2 billion ($403 million) from NT$13.4 billion ($444.9 million) a year earlier. Given that the company has not turned a profit in over a year, the plan is to continue lowering operating costs to reduce its operating losses. HTC launched two smartphones in the first quarter – the HTC U Ultra and the HTC U Play – but only the first device is available in the US. Then there was a report in February stating the company plans to exit the entry-level smartphone business in 2017 as it begins to focus on “high-margin” and “high-profit” devices. The company has been notorious for announcing products at its own events that aren’t necessarily in line with usual CES and MWC unveils from manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Huawei, Motorola and others. While this strategy can work well in some circumstances, it only works when people are made aware of the announcements.

Opinion: HTC U 11, Pixel shipments may return profitability for second half of 2017

The company now wants to introduce an additional four to five high margin smartphone devices over the course of the next year, starting with the long-awaited HTC U 11 that will be announced on May 16th. The device’s flagship feature, Sense Touch, is a new concept that allows using the side frame as an input method. However, it is unclear whether the HTC U 11 will be available in the second or third quarter, and whether it will be available internationally.

Within six weeks of the HTC U Ultra’s release in the US, the company slashed its price from $749 down to $599 after reviewing outlets had a hard time recommending the device over similar Android Nougat counterparts. This move did not speak well of the device’s sales, though it has been able to make some profit from Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL sales since their October debut from much higher consumer demand. Google managed to sell an estimated 552,000 units before the end of 2016, and FierceWireless reported those devices accounting for 9.5 percent of smartphone sales at Verizon in January.

Google is not expected to announce refreshed Pixel devices until later this fall, but those sales will certainly aide HTC’s path to becoming a premium-focused smartphone brand and hopefully reduce its operating losses.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Intel Worried About McAfee

May 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel is fuming that MGT Capital Investments went ahead with the announcement of the “John McAfee Privacy Phone” when it previously said that it did not plan to launch products and services under the McAfee mark.

For those who came in late MGT Capital Investments is owned by John McAfee who sold the trademark and which ended up in the claws of Intel. Intel, which once claimed to own the letter i, is now insisting that McAfee can’t use his name on products.

The federal court had earlier refused John McAfee and MGT Capital a preliminary injunction until the resolution of the dispute on Intel’s transfer of marks and related assets containing the word McAfee as part of the spin-out.

MGT announced last month a privacy phone that will be “as hack proof as humanly possible,” with features such as a bank of switches on the back cover that will allow the user to physically disconnect the battery, the antennas for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and geolocation, the camera and microphone, and would also not allow the phone to connect to a Stingray or any other IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) catcher device.

McAfee wants his phone in the shops by August and has referred to the phone largely as the Privacy Phone.

But in a sentence lower down in the statement on its website it refers to “the John McAfee privacy phone,” which appears to have raised Intel’s concerns about the naming of the phone. John McAfee also referred to “The John McAfee Privacy Phone, by MGT,” in a tweet last month.

Lawyers for Intel and McAfee have also objected to MGT asking for the depositions of McAfee’s CEO, Christopher Young, and Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, “even though Plaintiffs can point to no relevant, unique information that these chief executives possess.”

The companies have moaned that MGT and John McAfee have not produced required documents for discovery and asked for a conference in connection with a motion for a protective order to prevent the “harassing depositions” of the chief executives and another motion to compel MGT and John McAfee to “complete their document production and provide substantive responses to interrogatories about their name change and planned products and services.”

John McAfee has said he had entered in 1991 into an agreement with McAfee Associates, a predecessor to McAfee Inc., to transfer certain assets to it in exchange for stock and a promissory note.

But the security expert has told the court that at no point in the agreement had he assigned the rights to his personal name through an assignment of trademark or otherwise, or agreed to restrict his right to do business using his own name. Like most things involving John McAfee this will run and run and give great copy.

Courtesy-Fud

China Hit Hard By ‘WannaCry’ Ransomware

May 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The WannaCry ransomware has infected tens of thousands of Windows PCs in China, where Windows XP runs one in five systems, according to local reports.

More than 23,000 IP addresses in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) show signs of infection, the country’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Center (CNCERT) told Xinhua, the state-run news agency, on Monday.

“Intranets in many industries and enterprises involving banking, education, electricity, energy, healthcare and transportation have been affected in different extents,” CNCERT said.

The Hong Kong-based Southern China Morning Post upped the ante in its report Monday, claiming that tens of thousands of businesses and organizations had been hit by the ransomware, which has been dubbed “WannaCry” by most security experts, “WannaCrypt” by a few outliers.

The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), for example, took some 20,000 gas stations offline early Saturday, forcing customers to pay in cash as credit card purchases could not be processed. By mid-day Sunday, some 20% of the stations were still disconnected from the Internet, but efforts were continuing to restore payment options, the company said in a statement.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise that PCs in the PRC were hit hard by WannaCry: Although security experts have yet to identify the original infection vector, the ransomware spreads rapidly by exploiting Windows vulnerabilities in a baked-in file sharing protocol.

Microsoft patched the flaws in March when it issued MS17-010, one of its last-ever security bulletins. But because Microsoft only supports — patches, in other words — newer editions of its operating system, the 16-year-old Windows XP and the 5-year-old Windows 8 were not bolstered with the same fix.

China is at greater risk of attacks against unpatched Windows XP PCs than most countries because a larger percentage of the nation’s systems run the obsolete OS than the global average.

According to Baidu, the PRC’s largest search provider, 19% of all personal computers using its service last month were powered by Windows XP. That was almost double the share of Windows 10, but less than a third of the share of Windows 7.

Windows XP’s worldwide share was about 7% in April, said U.S. analytics vendor Net Applications earlier this month, about one-fourth the share of Windows 10 and a seventh the share of Windows 7.

Over the weekend, Microsoft issued security updates for Windows 8, Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP, which had had been banished from the patch list one, two and three years ago, respectively. “This decision was made based on an assessment of this situation, with the principle of protecting our customer ecosystem overall, firmly in mind,” Phillip Misner, a principal security group manager at the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRM), said in a post to a company blog.

Will RISC-V Ever Be Utilized

May 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The RISC-V open-source architecture, created by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, has been around since 2010.

Anyone can use it but so far no one has bothered, although there is some theoretical interest in the tech. The RISC-V Foundation, which manages and promotes the architecture, counts Google, Microsoft, Qualcomm, AMD, Huawei, and others among its 60 members.

The RISC-V design can be modified for PCs, servers, smartphones, wearables, and other devices.

Now a startup called SiFive is the first to make a business out of the RISC-V architecture.

They have converted the RISC-V instruction set architecture into actual silicon and created two new chip designs that can be licensed.

RISC-V shares the ethos of open-source software, with the community working together to share, advance, and modify the architecture.

Nvidia is expected to use the microcontroller-style RISC-V designs in its chips,

Companies like Google are developing chips in-house and could tweak RISC-V for servers, which could save them from buying Intel’s expensive chips.

SiFive’s new 32-bit E31 Coreplex processor design is targeted at IoT devices, wearables, and low-power devices. The 64-bit CorePlex E51 could be used in servers, network processors, storage devices, and edge computing devices.

Some other open-source chips like OpenSPARC have lingered around but are based on old designs. The RISC-V Foundation has aggressively promoted the architecture, especially at Hot Chips, an annual gathering of semiconductor professionals.

The RISC-V architecture is modular, meaning that independent co-processing circuits can be attached to the central RISC-V design which makes the RISC-V highly flexible.

The goal of SiFive is to monetise the RISC-V design but at a modest cost. The new chip designs can be licensed for a fixed price from SiFive, but the company will not charge royalties. That makes it attractive alternative compared to chip designs from ARM and Imagination Technologies, which charge licensing fees and royalties.

SiFive will make chips starting later this year. The company earlier released the HiFive1 low-power board based on its RISC-V chip. The boards sold in the thousands.

The company did not provide the licensing prices for the CorePlex designs, but ordering them will be straightforward, SiFive officials said.

Courtesy-Fud

Spread Of ‘WannaCry’ Ransomware Halted For Now

May 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Friday’s unprecedented ransomware attack may have temporarily halted spreading to new machines thanks to a “kill switch” that a security researcher has activated.

The ransomware, called Wana Decryptor or WannaCry, has been found infecting machines across the globe. It works by exploiting a Windows vulnerability that the U.S. National Security Agency may have used for spying.

The malware encrypts data on a PC and shows users a note demanding $300 in bitcoin to have their data decrypted. Images of the ransom note have been circulating on Twitter. Security experts have detected tens of thousands of attacks, apparently spreading over LANs and the internet like a computer worm.

However, the ransomware also contains a kill switch that may have backfired on its developers, according to security researchers.

Wana Decryptor infects systems through a malicious program that first tries to connect to an unregistered web domain. The kill switch appears to work like this: If the malicious program can’t connect to the domain, it’ll proceed with the infection. If the connection succeeds, the program will stop the attack.

A security researcher who goes by the name MalwareTech found that he could activate the kill switch by registering the web domain and posting a page on it.

MalwareTech’s original intention was to track the ransomware’s spread through the domain it was contacting. “It came to light that a side effect of us registering the domain stopped the spread of the infection,” he said in an email.

Security firm Malwarebytes and Cisco’s Talos security group reported the same findings and said new ransomware infections appear to have slowed since the kill switch was activated.

However, Malwarebytes researcher Jerome Segura said it’s too early to tell whether the kill switch will stop the Wana Decryptor attack for good. He warned that other versions of the same ransomware strain may be out there that have fixed the kill-switch problem or are configured to contact another web domain.

Unfortunately, computers already infected with Wana Decryptor will remain infected, he said.

Friday’s ransomware attack first spread through a massive email phishing campaign. At least some of those emails appeared to be messages from a bank about a money transfer, according to Cisco’s Talos group.

Victims who opened the attachment in the email were served with the ransomware, which takes over the computer, security researchers said.

The Wana Decryptor itself is no different from other typical ransomware strains. Once it infects the PC, it’ll encrypt all the files on the machine, and then demand the victim pay a ransom to free them.

But unlike other ransomware, Wana Decryptor has been built to spread quickly. It does so by incorporating a hacking tool that security researchers suspect came from the NSA and was leaked online last month.

Will Imagination Go Against Apple

May 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple’s many attempts to strong-arm its suppliers by cutting off their money supply unless they give it huge discounts are starting to get some kick-back from its suppliers.

The fruity-cargo cult has told Imagination Technologies that it no longer needs its tech and it will be inventing its own GPUs from now on. The move left Imagination high and dry and forced its share price down the low.

The only way for Imagination to keep its contracts with Apple is to offer huge price cuts on its licencing.

Imagination has allowed itself to become rather too dependent on Apple over the years which mean that it is vulnerable to this sort of issue.

Now the company has started a “dispute resolution procedure” with Apple, its biggest customer, after not resolving a standoff over licensing between the two companies.

Imagination said in April that Apple had notified the British firm it was developing its own graphics chips and would no longer use Imagination’s processing designs in 15 months to two years’ time.

But Imagination points out that Jobs Mob has been using its tech since the days of the iPod, and it cannot really make its own gear without tripping over its patents.

The company said it been unable to make satisfactory progress with Apple on an alternative commercial arrangement for the current license and royalty agreement. In other words, Apple is either sticking to its guns and really wants to make its own chip, or Imagination is not cutting its prices enough.

Apple is expecting its iPhone sales to continue falling, and it needs to keep its margins down. Apple has taken a similar move against Qualcomm with the aim of getting cheaper licencing.

Meanwhile Imagination also said it planned to sell two businesses, its embedded processor technology MIPS and mobile connectivity unit Ensigma.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Ending Support For First Version Of Windows 10

May 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has published the very last security update for the debut version of Windows 10.

Windows 10 1507 — Microsoft tags feature upgrades with a yymm label — will received its last security patches on May 9. The retirement date had been quietly announced last month when it appeared on several support documents.

“The time has now come to end servicing for version 1507,” one of those documents stated.

The company’s selection of May 9, as well as answers several officials gave last week during an online Q&A, signal that it will retire Windows 10’s versions on Patch Tuesdays, just as it has ended support for other OS editions on those 12 days throughout the year.

Stopping support for Windows 10 editions is as important to Microsoft’s “Windows-as-a-service” model as is its cadence of shipping two feature upgrades annually. The company has pledged to support an individual edition, such as 1507, for just 18 months, not the 10 years it provided for previous Windows editions.

The cut-off guaranteed Microsoft would not be burdened by a requirement to maintain an increasing number of versions, letting it instead focus on just two iterations of Windows 10 at a time.

In the end, Microsoft supported Windows 10 1507 for 21 months rather than the pledged 18.

Using the 18-month lifecycle, Windows 10’s second edition, version 1511 — released Nov. 12, 2015 — should also fall from support this month. But because of other arcane rules Microsoft follows, 1511 will be supported at least through October, according to Nathan Mercer, a senior product marketing manager, in a reply during last week’s Q&A.

That would provide 1511 with two years of support.

Microsoft hasn’t set end-of-support dates for Windows 10 1607 or 1703, the upgrades released in August 2016 and April 2017. Under the 18-month guideline, 1607 should head to retirement in January 2018 and 1703 shuffle off in September 2018. However, it’s likely that Microsoft will extend 1607’s date of demise, as it did to 1507 and 1511, to separate it from the latter.

Windows 10 1507 LTSB — the “Long-term Servicing Branch” version of the original release — will continue to receive security updates, Microsoft has said. The LTSB track is available only to customers running Windows 10 Enterprise.

Although Windows 10 1507 will continue to operate without restrictions after May 9th, without future bug fixes, the operating system “could become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses,” Microsoft warned. To continue to receive updates, users must upgrade to 1511 or later.

Is Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Too Expensive?

May 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft made a rather surprising move by unveiling its Surface Laptop at the #MicrosoftEDU event in New York but at that price, it faces some rather stiff competition.

Microsoft is aiming at education with Windows 10 S OS, the new Microsoft Surface Laptop starts at a rather steep price of US $999 for the base version, powered by 7th-gen Kaby Lake Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Both HP and Acer have unveiled their notebooks powered by Windows 10 S, the HP ProBook x360 Education Edition, and the Acer TravelMate Spin B1 Convertible, which start at rather more reasonable US $299, coming with 11.6-inch screens, Intel Celeron CPUs, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.

While it might be both lighter and thinner than any Apple Macbook as well as 50 percent faster than Macbook Air (like that was so hard to achieve), the Surface Laptop falls short when it comes to some serious competition.

Microsoft spent a lot of time talking about dimensions and the fact that the Surface Laptop is both lighter and thinner than any Apple Macbook. Measuring at 308.1×223.27×14.48mm (12.13×8.79×0.57 inches) and weighing in at 1,252g (2.76 lbs), the Surface Laptop is a fancy looking system with anodized chassis and Alcantara covered keyboard, but competition, like the Dell XPS 13, coming with CNC machined aluminum chassis and carbon fiber composite palm rest with soft-touch, is not far behind at all.

The Dell XPS 13 measures at 304x200x9-15mm (11.98×7.88×0.33-0.6inches) and weighs 1.22kg (2.7lbs) for the standard and 1.31kg (2.9lbs) for the touch version, which makes it smaller and pretty much the same weight as the Surface Laptop. 

When it comes to hardware, Dell also offers more bang for the buck, at least when it comes to high-end configurations. The most expensive version of Surface Laptop, one featuring an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB or RAM and 512GB of PCIe NVMe SSD is listed at US $2,199, whereas Dell will give you its high-end XPS 13 Touch with Intel 7th-gen Core i7-7560U, 16GB or RAM, 512GB of SSD storage and the 13.3-inch QHD (3200×1800) touch screen for US $1,974.99.

Dell also has the new XPS 13 2-in-1, which was introduced back in January, and which comes an UltraSharp QHD+ (3200×1800 resolution) screen or a standard 1920×1080 screen. It is powered by Intel’s latest Kaby Lake Y-series CPUs, including the Core i5-7Y54 clocked at 3.2GHz or i7-7Y75 clocked at 3.6GHZ. It can also be equipped with up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage, so this is a viable competition as well. 

HP has a neat offer with the Spectre 13-v151nr, offering a 13.3-inch FHD system with Intel Core i7-7500U CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage for US $1,249.99.

We are sure that Surface Laptop has its market but those in education will be looking at cheaper systems while those looking for a high-end notebook will probably look elsewhere as there is plenty of competition offering more than Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop, let alone the Apple Macbook line. Bear in mind that all of these high-end notebooks run on Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro OS, which offer a lot more than the locked Windows 10 S OS. 

Courtesy-Fud

Amazon’s Alexa Dominates Voice-controlled Speaker Market

May 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc is dominating the niche market for voice-controlled speakers, according to data from research firm eMarketer.

The e-commerce giant’s Amazon Echo and Echo Dot devices will claim a 70.6 percent share of the U.S. market this year, the study found. The speakers feature Alexa, Amazon’s voice-controlled aide, which users can tell to play music, order an Uber or turn on the house lights.

That puts it far ahead of Alphabet Inc’s Google Home, a similar gadget that has a 23.8 percent share, and less successful offerings from other tech companies.

The number of active U.S. users will more than double for the devices this year, to 35.6 million, eMarketer said.

The report underscores Amazon’s progress in making Alexa and its speech-recognition technology an integral part of customers’ lives. More users means more data that can improve Alexa’s understanding and could make it a top platform for voice, like Windows is for desktop.

Amazon does not disclose Echo sales figures but has said it had trouble keeping the product in stock. Device sales and extra revenue from shoppers placing orders via Alexa could generate $10 billion for Amazon by 2020, RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney said in a recent note. And that does not include potential revenue from others using Alexa as a platform.

Google’s share is expected to grow, though. Tests by analysts have shown the technology underpinning the Google Home to match or be superior to competitors. A survey by Mahaney found the device’s brand awareness in the United States already equaled 80 percent of Alexa’s, despite being on the market for fewer months.

The statistics from eMarketer focused on speakers and left out other virtual assistants: notably, Apple Inc’s Siri and Microsoft Corp’s Cortana. More than 60 million in the United States will use virtual assistants at least once monthly in 2017, the report said. That’s over a quarter of U.S. smartphone users.

Edge Browser May Become More Nimble With Microsoft’s Latest Move

May 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft plans to de-couple the update ties between Windows 10 and its default browser, Edge, to give company developers a way to refresh the browser more often than twice a year, according to an online report.

“Users will finally be able to get updates to the Edge browser via the Windows Store, which will allow Microsoft to add new features more frequently,” wrote Rich Woods of Neowin, citing unnamed sources within Microsoft.

Since the mid-2015 launch of Windows 10, Edge feature updates have been limited to the times when the operating system itself was upgraded. There have been four iterations of Edge thus far: The original of July 2015, dubbed version 12; then November 2015’s version 13; August 2016’s version 14; and April 2017’s version 15.

Edge, like its predecessor Internet Explorer, receives monthly security updates that patch vulnerabilities.

Woods said that the change would take place in September, when Microsoft is scheduled to ship the next Windows 10 feature upgrade.

It’s unclear whether Windows Store — the only legitimate mart that offers “Universal Windows Platform” (UWP) apps — will be the sole source of Edge updates, or whether the browser will continue to be bundled with Windows 10 feature upgrades.

If Edge updates are available only from the Windows Store, some enterprises may balk at assigning the browser to workers; firms using Windows 10 Enterprise can lock users out of the Store, and do so to restrict what runs on the company’s PCs. And firms looking for a more stable environment, and willing to consider Edge for that reason, may object to frequent Edge feature updates.

While Edge updates distributed from the Windows Store may give Microsoft the same number of refresh opportunities as rival browsers, notably Google’s Chrome as well as Mozilla’s Firefox, and thus play to consumers who cherish change, Chrome’s and Firefox’s every-six-week update cadence could well be exactly what corporations hope to avoid. Microsoft could solve that by making Windows Store updates optional, and instead hew to its pledged twice-annual Windows 10 and Edge upgrades for businesses.

Such a move would be entirely within Microsoft’s pattern of promoting Edge as its primary browser — it’s effectively tossed Internet Explorer on the ash pile, promising only security updates but no new functionality — and touting Edge as a legitimate rival to long-established competitors.

But in the nearly two years of Edge’s existence, Microsoft has failed to convince customers to widely adopt the browser: At no point has Edge won over a majority of Windows 10 users. More telling, Edge’s share has declined since its debut peak, falling last month to a record low of 21%, or just over one in five Windows 10 users, according to analytics vendor Net Applications.

WhatsApp Outage Causes Worldwide Headache

May 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

WhatsApp, a popular messaging service owned by Facebook Inc, experienced a worldwide outage on Wednesday that lasted for several hours before being resolved, the company said.

“Earlier today, WhatsApp users in all parts of the world were unable to access WhatsApp for a few hours. We have now fixed the issue and apologize for the inconvenience,” WhatsApp said in an email late Wednesday afternoon.

WhatsApp was down in parts of India, Canada, the United States and Brazil, according to Reuters journalists. It affected people who use the service on Apple Inc’s iOS operating system, Alphabet Inc’s Android and Microsoft Corp’s Windows mobile OS.

In Brazil, where the professional class relies heavily on the messaging service, WhatsApp was down for about two and a half hours. Many users switched to rival system Telegram, which has picked up millions of customers in Brazil after two previous WhatsApp outages resulting from court orders.

WhatsApp’s is used by more than 1.2 billion people around the world and is a key tool for communications and commerce in many countries. The service was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion.

Microsoft’s Enterprise Phone Market Appears To Be Dead

May 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft last week  confirmed that a year-old plan to focus smartphone sales on the enterprise market died a quiet death.

“We had no material Phone revenue this quarter,” said Amy Hood, the company’s CFO, during an earnings call with Wall Street on Thursday.

In fact, phone revenue amounted to just $5 million for the three-month stretch, representing a massive decline of 99% from the same period of the prior year. Assuming each Windows smartphone brought $500 to Microsoft, that was a sluggish pace of just five phones sold per hour. Worldwide.

It’s not as if the demise of Microsoft’s phone business was a surprise. The division, which was based on the 2014 acquisition of Nokia, has been in trouble with a capital “T” since 2015, when Microsoft wrote off $7.6 billion, nearly the full price it paid for the Finnish company’s mobile phone assets and a collection of associated patents.

Then less than a year ago, Microsoft ate another $1 billion and laid off another 1,850 workers as it continued to slash the phone division. At the time, experts called Microsoft’s consumer phone business dead, but opined that the company could still exploit the enterprise market.

Apparently not.

“Look, it was wrong of Microsoft to buy Nokia in the first place. It was always a lost cause,” said Jack Gold, of J. Gold Associates, and among the acquisition’s earliest critics.

“Mobile phone [hardware] was never going to be profitable for them,” Gold contended. And CEO Satya Nadella, Gold added, knew that from the start of his early-2014 tenure.

Nadella’s plan for Microsoft has been centered around the cloud, Gold said, and rightfully so. “The smart move for them was to make sure that they’re the cloud provider for the enterprise,” he continued. And that required supporting a wide range of devices and operating systems, not focusing on Windows in mobile.

Rather than its own phones, Microsoft’s mobile strategy will likely be along the lines of the tie-in with the Samsung S8 and S8+, which will be sold in Microsoft’s retail outlets, and once unboxed, automatically load a collection of company apps, including Office, OneDrive and Outlook.

“The money is in selling services for the phone, not the phone,” Gold said.

Google’s Chrome Laptops Shipments To Increase by 15% This Year

May 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft for years has been battling the increasing presence of Google’s Chrome OS, which is siphoning PC market share away from Windows.

The company’s new Windows 10 S operating system, announced on Tuesday, will be Microsoft’s latest attempt to tackle Google’s surging Chrome OS. The OS is targeted at the education market, which in the U.S. is dominated by Chromebooks.

Even with the new Windows OS, worldwide Chromebook shipments are expected to grow by double digits this year, analysts from IDC and Gartner said. The market share of Chromebooks has been growing up consistently since 2015.

The new Windows OS is built like Chrome OS. PCs with Windows 10 S will be able to download apps only from the Windows App store. The OS is more like a “container” that will run apps secured and verified by Microsoft. A version of Microsoft’s Office Suite will also come to Windows 10 S.

Similarly, Chromebooks run apps secured and verified by Google. Newer Chromebooks with touchscreens are also getting support for Android mobile phone apps, adding versatility to the devices. Google has positioned Chromebooks as an alternative to Windows PCs, though the devices have limited offline functionality and work best with an internet connection.

Top PC makers are expected to ship Windows 10 S education laptops, starting at $229, later this year. But those same PC makers are also selling low-cost Chromebooks, which are being used by 20 million students worldwide, with most of them in the U.S.

Windows is used in most PCs today, but it won’t be easy for Windows 10 S to make a dent in classrooms, especially in the U.S.

About 10.8 million Chromebooks shipped in 2016, a 6.9 percent market share, according to Jay Chou, an analyst at IDC. Shipments are expected to grow by about 15 percent this year compared to 2016. Shipments totaled 7.7 million in 2015.

Chromebooks make up about 6 percent of Acer’s total PC shipments, and that number is growing, said Gregg Prendergast, director of Acer Pan America. Most of those Chromebooks are going to schools, and interest is growing among businesses, he said.

Chromebooks are selling well in North America, the Nordic countries, and in Australia and New Zealand. Microsoft’s Windows 10 S has a chance to catch up in other countries where Chromebooks haven’t been adopted widely yet. Microsoft’s mainstream Windows 10 OS is already popular in classrooms outside the U.S.

In the U.S., Chromebooks accounted for 58 percent of laptops shipped to classrooms in 2016, while Microsoft Windows had a 22 percent share, according to research firm Futuresource.

For the rest of the world, the mainstream Windows OS held a 65 percent market share, while Chrome OS had a 9 percent share. Android OS had a 17 percent market share.

Microsoft’s Surface Sales Take A Deep Dive

May 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Revenue generated by Microsoft’s Surface hardware during the March quarter fell by 26% from the same period the year before, the company said in a Wall Street briefing.

For the quarter, Surface produced $831 million, some $285 million less than the March quarter of 2016, for the largest year-over-year dollar decline ever.

Microsoft blamed the portfolio’s age and increased competition from hardware partners for the fall-off. “Our Surface results fell short of expectations impacted by end-of-product-lifecycle and increased price competition,” contended Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, in the Thursday earnings call.

The Surface Pro 4, the portfolio’s top seller, was introduced in October 2015, and has not been refreshed since then.

Analysts accepted Microsoft’s reasons for the downturn.

“There is competition that is lower-priced,” said Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies in a Friday interview. “There’s not just more of the same, but a lot that are positioned in the same space are cheaper. And there were expectations that we would have seen a [product] refresh that we haven’t seen yet.”

Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, echoed Milanesi on the age angle. The revenue decline “indicates that the aging product needs a refresh badly,” Gold wrote in a note to clients today. “Price cutting and competing vendors’ products will continue to create declines until new product is released, rumored for later this year.”

Microsoft threw cold water on any significant changes to the Surface line before June, forecasting that the current quarter will also post a revenue decline.

Initially, Surface was pitched by Microsoft as a kick-in-the-pants to its partners, the OEMs, or “original equipment manufacturers,” which until 2012 had had a lock on the Windows hardware market. Microsoft meant to show the OEMs what a cutting-edge, premium-priced device could do, and how it could best demonstrate the power of Windows.

Milanesi rejected the idea that the quarter’s revenue decline signaled retrenchment by Microsoft, that the company considered the line’s mission fulfilled by the rise in 2-in-1s from partnering OEMs.

“Surface as a revenue segment is important; it’s not just a reference design,” said Milanesi, using the term bandied when Microsoft first entered the personal computer hardware space.

One reason why Surface carries weight at Redmond, said Milanesi: The 2-in-1, tablet-slash-notebook mostly sells to enterprises, or to employees who buy it themselves for work. That plays to Microsoft’s own company-wide emphasis on corporate customers. It also brings the usual advantages earned by courting enterprises, including less price sensitivity and, unlike the consumer market, a steadier calendar that doesn’t rely on high seasonal sales at the end of each year.

Even so, Milanesi thought Microsoft was missing an opportunity by focusing on business sales of the Surface, particularly the Surface Pro. “Microsoft needs to do more than just the enterprise — such as looking at higher ed students, people who may have picked a MacBook Air — and see what they can do in that space,” she argued.

Are Motherboard Shipments Decreasing?

May 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

With the global decline in PC shipments finally showing signs of slowing, motherboard vendors are expecting to see a correlated slowing of overall volume in 2017, with some estimates hovering near 10 percent from last year.

Last month, a market research report from Global Information Inc showed the global volume of motherboard shipments in Q4 2016 dropping 5.2 percent from Q3 and 13.6 percent year-over-year. Total shipments for 2016 were estimated to be less than 50 million units, and this was even forecasted at the beginning of the year. As the fourth quarter approached, vendors said that sales of Kaby Lake motherboards were not living up to expectations, while the overall market remained in a state of weaker demand. The report covered vendors including AMD, ECS, Foxconn, Gigabyte, Intel, Jetway, Microstar, Pegatron, QCI, T&I, and Wistron.

Notebooks, exchange rates and component shortages to blame

According to the latest report, three problems are affecting the ability of motherboard vendors to increase sales numbers. First, sources within the motherboard industry have pointed out that notebooks have gradually taken market share from the build-it-yourself PC market, mainly as a result of “better specifications, smaller form factors, and cheaper prices”. Second, the vendors have experienced a large exchange rate hike over the past two years, from 6.2 percent in April 2015 to 6.8 percent in April 2017. Finally, rising component prices and various component shortages have also contributed to difficulties in production operations. So in order to remain profitable, some vendors have focused on reducing shipments and changing their focus to other product segments, including gaming notebooks and mobile devices.

Sources within the industry note that even while Intel’s Kaby Lake processor lineup and Z200 series chipset have not sold as much volume as anticipated, it is possible that the imminent thread of AMD’s Ryzen 5 and 7 lineups has continued to stimulate prices cuts across the board to keep up on platform sales. Many retailers have now begun offering more serious price cuts when bundled with compatible motherboards, and this trend is expected to continue with the release of AMD’s Ryzen 3 and Intel’s Z300 and X299 series chipsets later this year.

Courtesy-Fud

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