Author: Mike Magee

LED bulb prices continue to fall

LED bulbThe global average price of 40 watt LED light bulbs fell to $10.6 in December,according to a report from Taiwanese market research company Trendforce.

Some of the falls in prices were due to end of the year sales, but the overall picture for 2015 showed that prices fell by 20 to40 percent.

Trendforce believes there is something of a recovery in December but Chinese manufacturers have over supply, and prices are expected to continue to fall during this year.

The UK market showed the biggest price fall for 40 watt LED light bulbs, with a drop of 6.8 percent during the month. The USA showed a drop of 3.6 percent during December.

Prices are now not far from a stage where it makes sense for people to buy LED bulbs rather than incandescent units.

Worldwide semi capital spending to fall

Silicon wafer - Wikimedia Commons -Gartner said it expects capital spending in the semiconductor industry to fall by 4.7 percent this year, a bigger drop than the market research company predicted in the last quarter.

Capital spending will amount to $59.4 billion this year.

David Christensen, a senior research analyst at the company said the decline is due to people buying less electronics and the world economy.

But he said things will get brighter.

“The longer term outlook shows a return to growth, although wafer level manufacturing equipment is expected to enter a gentle down cycle in 2016 due to the loss of the supply and demand balance in the DRAM market.”

The DRAM market regularly goes through phases of glut and famine.

Spend on wafer manufacturing equipment will fall by 2.4 percent, but the lithography sector will grow by 1.4 percent. Christensen predicts “relatively strong growth” from 2017 through to 2018.

Samsung sales hit by smartphone business

Piccadilly Circus, pic Mike MageeKorean giant Samsung released its fourth quarter figures and shows it is being adversely affected by sales of smartphones.

As well as manufacturing smartphones, Samsung also makes chips inside the devices as well as displays, meaning it’s hit by a triple whammy.

The company said its results amounted to 53 trillion in the quarter – around about the same figure as this time last year.

It won’t release net profit figures until later in this month after the results have been independently audited.

Sales of smartphones are falling due to a largely mature market and Samsung in particular faces competition from a number of Chinese manufacturers digging into its market share.

Apple hurt by poor sales

Old Apple logo - Wikimedia CommonsA report from Digitimes Research (DR) estimates that shipments of the iPhones will fall by between five and 10 percent during the first calendar quarter of this year.

The iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6S Plus haven’t sold very well and while Apple had a bumper fourth quarter in 2015 with a growth rate of 50 percent, that’s not expected to continue in the first quarter.

Sales of Apple iPhones represent over 60 percent of revenues, according to analysts at DR.

Apple has its phones manufactured by a number of Asian vendors but DR said there are discrepancies between production volumes and sales volumes of the 6S and 6S plus. It believes that as many as 15 million iPhone 6S phones will be booked as “deferred sales” for Apple’s fiscal first quarter 2016.

In plain English, that means phones are sitting in warehouses gathering dust.

Chip revenues fell in 2015

Intel bus - Wikimedia CommonsA report from Gartner said revenues from semiconductors worldwide amounted to $333.7 billion last year, a 1.9 percent fall compared to 2014.

Gartner said a number of factors accounted for the decline including oversupply, a strong dollar and weak demand for electronic kit.

Memory fell by 0.6 percent during the year.

Intel, which has been the top semiconductor company for years, saw a 1.2 percent decline in revenues because of slow demand for PCs. Intel has a 15.5 percent market share and has been number one for 24 years.

Samsung grew by 11.8 percent and held number two position, followed by SK Hynix, Qualcomm, Micron, Texas Instruments and Toshiba.

Samsung’s growth was helped by its memory business.

A price war in manufacturers of NAND memory hurt the profitability of the manufacturers specialising in that sector but did mean the price of solid state drives fell.

Xiaomi gets special Intel kickback

IntelA report said that for every CPU it sells to Chinese vendor Xiaomi, Intel will give away a tablet CPU too.

The report, in Taiwanese wire Digitimes, quotes sources in the supply chain for the information.

It’s transparently clear what the chip vendor is doing. It still only has a minute share in the tablet market which is dominated by other players, and it hopes that the move will spur Xiaomi to make Intel based tablets.

Xiaomi has made a name for itself in the smartphone market, and Intel has only a weak presence in that market too.

But while the deal might look juicy and attractive, it transpires that the “free” chips are cheap Atom microprocessors.

Xiaomi is a relatively new player in the PC notebook market and is expected to launch products in Europe in the new year.

Microsoft faces jail over user alerts

Microsoft campusSoftware giant Microsoft said that it will notify people if it thinks that accounts have been targeted or compromised by spooks working for nation states.

That could mean its executives could find themselves in clink in the UK, because a bill passing through parliament here specifically criminalises people that work for tech companies doing that, as we reported here yesterday.

Microsoft’s Scott Charney, a corporate vice president, said in a blog entry that it already tells people if their accounts have been compromised.

“We’re taking this additional step of specifically letting you know if we have evidence that the attacker may be ‘state sponsored’ because it is likely that the attack could be more sophisticated or more sustained than attacks from cybercriminals and others,” Charney t wrote.

Microsoft said it won’t provide detailed information about the attackers or their methods.

BBC under hack attack

Skull and crossbonesThe BBC websites were under attack earlier today, the corporation has confirmed.

Rory Cellan-Jones, a technical reporter for the BBC, said on Radio 4 that the websites were attacked using a distributed denial of service (DDoS).

He said that the BBC was regularly attacked by hackers but had means to tweak its site to recover from the attack.

The attack not only affected the maun BBC web site but also its iPlayer TV and iPlayer radio app.

The attacks started happening around 7AM today, but by 10.30AM everything was working normally again.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, and Cellan-Jones said the BBC hadn’t received cash demands from the perpetrator or perpetrators.

Social media execs face jail

GoogleThe future Investigatory Powers Bill will make it an offence for companies like Twitter to tell people if security forces are monitoring them.

The draconian bill, currently shuffling its way through the UK parliament, has a clause that means executives at Twitter and other social media companies could be banged up in jail for two years for tipping off people about spook activity.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, Twitter routinely notifies people that the spooks are looking at their stuff, and that’s company policy.

The Telegraph quotes an industry association body as saying that the clause could mean a slowdown in cooperation between countries to share information.

US companies including Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Facebook are against spooks being given too much access to an individual’s data.

But the UK has routinely been collecting data from people here without having any legal authority to do so.

Twitter changes its rules

TwitterSocial media chat company Twitter has revised its terms and conditions in a bid to stop what it describes as “abusive behaviour and hateful conduct”.

In a blog entry, the company said that it would not tolerate behaviour such as harassment, initimation, or people who use fear to stifle other peoples’ voices.

Twitter said it’s already taken steps to make life easier for people by providing tools to mute and block messages.

It has introduced actions for “suspected abusive behaviour” including email and phone verification.

Twitter added: “Keeping users safe requires a comprehensive and balanced approach where everyone plays a role. We will continue to build on these initiatives to empower our users and ensure that Twitter remains a platform for people to express themselves.”