Author: Mike Magee

Petition calls for Brexit to protect EU collaboration on R&D

European flagA total of 38,370 people has called on the UK government to protect access to European Union research and development programmes in the run up to Britain leaving the bloc.

The petition says that UK access to the programmes “stimulates billions of pounds of investment” and gives us here access to skills and technologies.

“Ending our access to these programmes will weaken our economy which depends on exploitation of innovative science and technology,” the petitioners say.

The government under its own rules has to respond to petitions if over 10,000 people sign.

But as far as Brexit goes, the government hasn’t really made a response except in the blandest of terms.

“The Government continues to value scientists, researchers and students, including those from outside the UK who come to learn and work in our country and recognises the benefits that the rich diversity of our research and scientific communities brings to our society and our economy. The UK continues to be one of the best places in the world to do science and the Government will work to ensure that our excellent education and research remains a magnet for brilliant minds.”

That, according to one of the lead petitioners TechEye spoke to this week, is nothing short of scandalous.

The petition says that while the UK might be able to replace the lost EU funding, it wouldn’t be able to restore research collaboration and indeed they’d have no financial incentive to do so.

You can find the petition here.

Chip industry still suffering from economic crunch

snail-8296a552f7bd1064368205306ff8a3c7c7bdc7c4-s900-c85The chip industry is still in the doldrums and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

That’s the verdict of Malcolm Penn, CEO and chairman of UK semiconductor analysts Future Horizons.

At a semiconductor conference in London, Penn said that the chip industry is driven by four factors: the economy, fab capacity, unit demand and average selling prices (ASPs).

Penn said: “The economy is in a mess and it’s not getting any better. It’s the ‘wait one more quarter’ syndrome. Nobody reacts when the data is good because they don’t believe it.”

He said that 2016 seemed to be an almost exact replay of 2015. Nobody believes in the numbers any more, he said.

“No-one is spending money. There are no new killer products on the horizon. There is nothing, nothing at all.”

Killer apps can’t be predicted and have always been a surprise, Penn said. The outlook is somewhat grim.

“No one knows how to restart the engines.

Regionally, he said, the picture is also pessimistic. “Japan is a complete disaster. China is on a downward trend. Russia has shot itself in the foot,” he said. “Newly industrialised Asian countries have run out of steam. The overall trend is decidedly bad.”

So what of the future?

Historically, integrated circuits (ICs) have shown a 10 percent growth but, he said, the current trend is low with only a six percent figure in 2016. He said: “PC and smartphone IC shipments are still relatively very small. Unit demand is driven by the economy, and the PC market is as dead as a dodo.”

The figures over the last four years show a steady decline, 9.5 percent growth in 2013, 8.3 percent in 2014, 5.1 percent in 2015 and six percent this year.

He said: “Fab capacity is in the hands of the few. No there is no excess capacity. It takes a year to add new capacity and the lead time has never changed.”

As far as capital expenditure (CapEx) goes, Intel, Samsung and TSMC rule, he said at 60 percent CapEx. That’s not true for Global Foundries (GloFo) which is only nine percent.

He said: “A capacity shortage is waiting to happen. At some point of time there will be a shortage and it will catch everyone by surprise.” And most of the bigger fabs are in earthquake zones.

He’s gloomy about next year too. In 2017 he expects a weak PC and smartphone market.

“The economy is still horrid. There’s no life in the semiconductor business.”

Tech firms want the UK to stay in the EU

European flagAn unholy cabal of 34 tech companies has penned a letter to Rupert Murdoch’s vehicle The Times suggesting that it’s better for the UK to stay in the European Union than make a rapid exit this coming Thursday.

The firms claim that staying in the EU makes it easier for them to do business and that many surveys have shown that upstarts, small and medium sized businesses and investor and large corporations think so too.

The letter claims that a vote to leave will put the skates on the UK’s burgeoning tech industry.

Here’s the full list of senior IT suits who have put their name to the billet doux:

Kazuo Abe, MD, Hitachi Europe; Tobias Alpern, CEO, iPlato Healthcare; Justin Anderson, CEO, Flexeye Group; Sarah Atkinson, VP, Communications, CA Technologies; Michel van der Bel, UK CEO, Microsoft; Olly Benzecry, Chairman, Managing Director, UK & Ireland, Accenture; Susan Bowen, VP & General Manager EMEA, Cogeco Peer1; Victor Chavez, Chief Executive, Thales UK; Virginia Choy, CEO, PretaGov Ltd; Julian David, Chief Executive Officer, techUK; Nick Denning, CEO, Diegesis; Paul Green, Creative Director of Iotic Labs Ltd.; Nicola Hall, Managing Director, Ingenica Solutions; Simon Hansford, CEO, Skyscape; Andrew Hartshorn, Managing Director, Methods Advisory Limited; Andy Isherwood, Managing Director, UK and Ireland, Hewlett Packard Enterprise; Paul Kaye, Managing Director, Intelliqa; Michael Keegan, Senior Vice President, Head of EMEA Product Business and Chairman UK & Ireland, Fujitsu; Tom Mockridge, Chief Executive Officer, Virgin Media; Kim Nilsson, CEO, Pivigo; Carlos Oliveira, CEO & Founder, Shaping Cloud; Yoge Patel, CEO, Blue Bear System Research; Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive Officer, BT; Rupert Pearce, Chief Executive Officer, Inmarsat; James Rigby, Chief Executive Officer, SCC; Peter Rodgers, Chief Executive Officer, 1060 Research; Ben Roome, CEO, at800 ; Philip Sheldrake, Managing Partner, Euler Partners ; Francis Toye, CEO & Founder, Unilink; Elizabeth Vega, Chief Executive Officer, Informed Solutions; Cormac Watters, Managing Director, UK, SAP; Craig Wilson, Regional General Manager, CSC; Sarah Windrum, CEO, The Emerald Group; David Stokes, CEO, IBM UK

Ireland refers Facebook to an EU court

European flagThe data protection commissioner for Ireland said yesterday that it was asking an EU court to investigate whether Facebook is breaking EU law by shipping data to the United States.

Data privacy rules in the European Union are strict and companies based in the trade area have to obey the rules or face fines and other penalties.

The European Court of Justice stopped an agreement between the EU and the USA which let US companies freely ship data it collects in Europe.

But Facebook isn’t apparently upset by the plans and is confident it won’t face sanctions from the court.

The Court of Justice stopped the EU-USA agreement, called Safe Harbour, because it feared surveillance from the Americans.

The EU and the USA are working frantically to open up a new scheme called the Privacy Shield which could be signed as early as next month.

But this new agreement may also face sanctions from the European Court of Justice, according to reports.

Apple gets into speakers

lucas-cranach-the-elder-eve-offering-the-apple-to-adam-in-the-garden-of-eden-c-1520-25-oil-on-wood-detail-of-407328As sales of its iPhones and iPads falter, Apple is apparently working on a set of speakers activated by a Siri device.

According to The Information, Apple feels it’s being pipped to the post by Amazon’s Echo device.

The report claims that Apple will open up a software developer kit for app developers to extend its range in the overall marketplace.

Apple is notoriously a closed company so it will force developers to sign up to a strict set of rules.

Apple faces competition not only from Amazon but from Google too and is playing a frantic game of catchup so that it won’t be outflanked by its two major rivals.

There’s no information on when such a device will be available for you to spend your hard earned cash. But it plans a number of other introductions this year including an iPhone and another Apple watch.

Wintel: smartphones continue to crash

Microsoft campusMicrosoft is expected to lay off nearly 2,000 people after its disastrous acquisition of Nokia’s smartphone business as it dawns on the software giant that it’s never going to make headway in the market.

Both Microsoft and Intel seriously believed at one time that they could stitch up the smartphone business as effectively as they controlled the PC business at one time.

But the hard fact that both firms are beginning to recognise is that they haven’t a snowball in hell’s chance of gaining a grip on this sector of the IT market.

Microsoft’s latest announcement today that it will lay off 1,850 people follows an Intel announcement just a few weeks back that it would lay off 11 percent of people to make ends meet.

The giants have taken a while to wake up to the uncomfortable fact that neither of them really matter in the slightest in an industry dominated by cheap chips and better products.

Microsoft bought Nokia’s smartphone business for a colossal $7.2 billion just two years ago and last year cut nearly 8,000 jobs.

The latest job cuts will come in Finland and the $950 million it writes off today will mean it has to pay nearly a quarter of that sum in redundancy payments.

Last week Microsoft said it would sell off a chunk of its phone business to a division of Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn.

Twitter to relax its tweeting rules

TwitterTwitter will relax its restrictions on 140 characters in its messages, the CEO of the company said yesterday.

According to an interview in the New York Times, CEO Jack Dorsey said people will be able to use longer tweets in the future.

But that’s a move that could backfire, because many people have come to appreciate the non-verbose tweet as a way of getting across a point in a sharp and sometimes shocking way.

Dorsey is facing competition from other social media outfits but has a loyal user base that is against making the tweet longer than 140 characters, the New York Times reports.

The newspaper said that in March such a prospect of lengthening tweets caused Dorsey to backtrack on a similar scheme.

Some people are put off by the 140 character rule because they cannot express a simple thought without using at least 200 paragraphs. [That’s enough words, Ed.]

Huawei takes Samsung to court

SamsungChinese megagiant Huawei is suing Korean company Samsung for allegedly breaching its patents.

According to the BBC, Huawei believes that software used in Samsung products breach its patents.

But the row may well come to nothing because the same report claims that Huawei will be a happy bunny if Samsung does a cross licensing deal for some of its kit too.

So the case may never come to court and is likely to be just a storm in a mobile teacup.

A Samsung rep told the BBC that it will defend its business interests. Many of the companies involved in the mobile industry kiss and make up long before the expensive and tedious business of actually taking another company to court gets to the preliminary legal stages.

Such cases can and do last for years and cost IT companies a fortune.

Philips intros new Hue range

Twilight of the Gods, Arthur Packham - Wikimedia CommonsDutch company Philips has been trying to sell its lighting business for some time but has found its proposals blocked by antitrust objections.

So its lighting division is pressing on and has just announced an addition to its Hue smart light range

Hue white ambiance are lamps that can be adjusted to vary depending on the time of day.

The kit comes with two Philips Hue ambiance bulbs, a bridge for Apple HomeKit and also a dimmer switch.

The kit is not cheap – with a started kit starting at £100 and individual single bulbs costing £26.

You can control the lights using apps on your smart device but can also control them using Apple Siri.

Intel runs out of hot air

Intel's Gordon Moore and Robert NoyceSome have consistently argued that Intel, known in this parish as Chipzilla, has generated so much hot air over the years that it could have powered a million hot air balloons.

But Intel is going through a period of real introspection and recently decimated about 10,000 staff, mostly because it didn’t have the nous years ago to position itself as a smartphone company. It failed to see the PC writing on the wall.

Now the Oxford Mail reports that the semiconductor giant has, quite simply, run out of hot air, and had to ditch this Centrino balloon in a housing estate in Abingdon.

The residents, apparently, were startled by the arrival of the Intel hot air device.  Heck, that sort of device has been landing in my brain for at least the last 25 years.