Category: Laptops

Microsoft’s cunning anti-Apple plan is working

microsoft-surface-3-02Software King of the World Microsoft claims that its cunning plan to remove Apple’s from the high-end computer market, is working.

Microsoft CFO Amy Hood said that Microsoft’s business of licensing Windows out to PC manufacturers was up five percent last quarter,  accounting for both business and consumer PCs.

The outfit’s business of licensing Windows for the “non-pro” (as in, consumer) market had its own five percent growth last quarter, beating the overall shrinkage of the PC industry, “as our partner ecosystem continued to see growth and share gains in the Windows premium device category”.

These “premium devices” are computers in the $900-plus price range which in the consumer market are those with more money than sense – Apple’s turf.

Microsoft’s PC partners spent the last several years focusing on low- to medium-priced computers and let Apple have that ground. After all it was not really worth the effort.

Microsoft changed all that with the Surface Book laptop in 2015, the company explicitly declared that those days were over, pitching it as a more powerful and versatile alternative to Apple’s flagship MacBook Pro.

There was also a market for laptop/tablet hybrids like the Surface Pro 4. Meanwhile there had been a slow rise of virtual reality headsets like Facebook’s Oculus Rift – which requires a powerful gaming PC for the best results.

And what was the fruity tax-dodging cargo cult doing while Microsoft was staging its come-back? Well nothing really. In fact, it did not upgrade its hardware for four years.

When it did it stripped a lot of the functionality out of the MacPro making it useless for professionals.

Now Volehas  introduced the Surface Studio PC, a unique blend of tablet and desktop computer, competing with the Apple iMac. It is not cheap at $2,999, it’s reported to be selling better than even Microsoft’s most optimistic projections.

Apple makes its MacBook Pro even less upgradeable

MACBOOKPROThe MacBook Pro is fast turning into the chocolate teapot of laptops. Not only is it packed with last year’s chips, Apple has designed it so that if you want to upgrade it you have to buy a new one.

The Touch Bar model, which has arguably the only bit of new technology in the range, has no cutout in the logic board for removable flash storage and a non-removable SSD.

Basically, Apple, in its wisdom, permanently soldered the SSD to the logic board, meaning that users will be unable to upgrade the Touch Bar MacBook Pro’s flash storage beyond Apple’s 512GB to 2TB.

Apple is hoping that users will back up data using Time Machine or a similar solution in case of logic board failure, but that sort of defeats the purpose of having a laptop over something more net based.

Jobs’ Mob has been doing this a lot lately. The 12 inch Macbook lacked a removable SSD. There is no advance for the user but every advantage for Apple. After all, if you want a better SSD you must buy a new computer.  However, it is yet another nail in the coffin for the laptop which had few good reasons to buy.  Of course, it has an Apple logo on the back, and that is enough for fanboys, but when it comes to spec, price and usefulness the beast is lacking.

Flash Memory Summit 2016 – Consolidation?

FMS2016_BannerAd_300x250The Flash Memory Summit 16 will be convening at the Santa Clara Convention Center over August 9 -11, 2016. Flash memory is now established as a key technology enabling new designs for many products in the consumer, computer and enterprise markets.

Storage Crossover

The industry is at a critical juncture where the total cost of ownership for flash based SSD’s achieved crossover with hard disk drive equivalents last September as the enterprise storage medium of choice.

The fact that the number of producers is limited has altered the landscape of consumption with some analysts indicating that serious shortages will exist for some time to come. An interesting, but mitigating fact is that most of the analysts are not technical – the ones that we’ve talked to that have a technical bent are not so sanguine about the availability mix. One item that stands in the road to profits is the need for this next generation storage device to not only retain data but do so interactively without losing bits. The unrecoverable bit boogie man is now staring the industry down. The ability to store immense amounts of “ready data” for execution now depends on the technologies ability to reliably retain data.

All Flash Array producers are now entering the “really big data storage array” market – the battle has dropped down to the cost of storage per dollar creating a whole new category of marketing lows. 3D Flash is now so dense that failure modes are now dependent upon being aware of “how and when” the bits were used during the entire lifetime of the device.

Cork, Ireland NVMdurance was the first to understand this phenomenon and is now firmly embedded in their first customer Altera (now Intel). Pure and Nimble Storage are offering their services for their AFAs – seems that leasing AFA memory is a probable in the future of solid state storage. We’re still left reading the indemnification clauses of their contracts.

Poison Pill

Micron Technology filed with the SEC a poison pill last Friday. The buzz is that the company is once again in play. The likely suitor is none other than Intel according to the lead rumor. We will be talking with Micron and Intel at FMS 16 and although they’ll not say anything about what’s going on we’ll at the very least get to look into their pupils while they’re telling us…,

Chromebooks lead the notebook race

GoogleABI Research said that Chromebooks are leading growth for the notebook PC category, with Chrome OS systems expected to ship over eight million units by the end of the year.

And ABI analyst Jeff Orr said that growth for Chromebooks will show a 22 percent compound annual growth rate over the next five years.

Orr said: “Industry professionals can expect the notebook PC marker, including Chromebooks, laptops and ultraportable PCs to remain roughly flat year on year in 2015, with flat to slightly positive growth projected through 2020.”

He said that next year will see a sales surge for both Chromebooks and ultraportables with people adopting Chromebooks in schools and 2-in-1 ultraportables representing the future.

ABI estimates that 164 million notebooks will ship this year.

The ultraportables and laptop will show a decline of 14 percent compared to last year.

Orr said that’s mostly due to unit volume declines at Acer, Asus and Lenovo.

Apple will have 32 percent share of the ultraportable PC with various Macbook Air models.

Surface Pro is a sell out

Microsoft-Surface-Pro-42The latest version of Microsoft’s Surface Pro has sold out in five days after it was listed for pre-orders on Vole’s online store.

The new device will be launched in the US on 26 October. Microsoft thinks that initial stocks were sold out because of “strong demand” but the Tame Apple Press insists that they did not make enough in the first place.

Microsoft never revealed the number of units that were available for pre-ordering.

A company spokesman said it will have limited quantities of Surface Books available in store on October 26 and will be updating online availability with new product ship dates soon.

The new Pro is an interesting product because Apple cloned the old model leaving Microsoft free to produce something that cleaned its clock.

The Surface is a hybrid device that works as a tablet and a laptop and has a starting price of $1,499. It runs on the newly-released Windows 10.

In comparison to the latest MacBook Pro lineup, the Surface Book has a 13.5in display with 3000×2000 resolution and comes preloaded with the PixelSense touchscreen technology.

It comes with a Surface Pen and battery life of up to 12 hours. Also, there are features such as facial recognition through Windows Hello and Cortana integration.

Acer bullish about the future

Acer's Stan Shih in 2007Like other PC vendors, Acer’s roadmap has been a bit rocky of late but according to reports the company is optimistic about the future.

Tiffany Huang, Acer president of operations, told reporters that the channels are still stuffed with Windows 8 based PCs but that’s an improvement on affairs barely three months ago.

The Taipei Times reported that she said that by the first quarter of next year, Acer Windows 10 PCs will exceed shipments of Windows 8 PCs.

Acer claims to be the number one Windows 10 PC vendor in Asia and in Europe.

Huang said she expected growth during this quarter due to people being attracted by Windows 10 and Chromebooks, 2-in-1 notebooks and gaming notebooks doing well.

Acer is believed to be nursing a grudge against Microsoft, after the launch last week of a high end notebook which effectively competes with Acer’s own high end notebooks.

Microsoft has denied it is competing with its customers and has claimed it’s competing with Apple, really.

Microsoft releases shed-loads of Windows 10 stuff

SurfaceSoftware King of the World Microsoft has shown off a  laptop, a line of Lumia smartphones, a new Surface Pro tablet Microsoft Band, all running on Windows 10.

Microsoft needs Windows 10, launched in July, to help it win a bigger share of the market for tablets and smartphones.

The Surface Book, will start at $1,499 and is twice as fast as Apple’s MacBook Pro. It will be available from October 26, with preorders starting on Wednesday.

The laptop has a 13.5-inch display with 267 pixels per inch and features a track-pad made of gorilla glass.

The company unveiled three phones at an event in New York. The Lumia 950 with a starting price of $549 and the 950XL which will sell for  $649  when they hit the shops in November,. The Lumia 550 will cost $139 when it becomes available in December.

The Lumia 950 includes a 5.2-inch display and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor with hexacore CPUs. The Lumia 950 XL has a 5.7-inch display and a Snapdragon 810 processor with octa-core CPUs. The 550 has a 4.7-inch HD display and runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 210 processor.

The new Surface Pro 4 tablet – a larger but thinner and lighter version of the Surface Pro 3 – is priced at $899 and will be available from Oct. 26 with pre-orders starting on Wednesday.

Launched nearly a year and a half after its predecessor, the Surface Pro 4 features a 12.3-inch screen with 267 pixels per inch. It runs on 6th-generation Intel Core processor and has 16GB of RAM and 1TB storage.

Surface Pro 4 is 50 percent faster than Apple’s MacBook Air, Panos Panay, the corporate vice president for Surface Computing at Microsoft, said at the event.

Top Vole Satya Nadella said:  “We’re moving people from needing to choosing to loving Windows, and these devices promise to fuel even more enthusiasm and opportunity for the entire Windows ecosystem.”

Microsoft suffered its biggest-ever quarterly net loss in the three months ended June 30 after taking a $7.6 billion writedown on its Nokia handset business.

The company had said savings from the restructuring of the business would be pumped into its new flagship operating system, its fast-growing cloud business and its hardware division, which includes Xbox gaming consoles.

Microsoft also said its new tablet and smartphones will come with Windows Hello, an automatic biometric sign-in option introduced earlier this year.

The feature allows users to scan their face, iris or fingerprints to verify their identity and give them access to Windows phones, laptops and personal computers.

Microsoft introduced a Surface Pen, which has year-long battery life, 1,024 pressure points and comes in five colors with inter-changeable pen tips.

The 950 and 950XL handsets feature a 20-megapixel rear camera, have up to 32GB of storage, 4K video and use liquid cooling technology. Microsoft said storage on the phones could be extended to up to 2 terabytes using a memory card.

The Microsoft Band 2, which allows users to monitor their fitness and exercise regime, will be priced at $249 when it becomes available on October 30.

Unlike its predecessor, Microsoft’s entry product in the wearable technology market a year ago, the new Band has a curved display, which uses the Corning Gorilla glass 3, and has a barometer sensor to track elevation.

Microsoft said it was taking applications for a development kit for HoloLens, the holographic lens device that allows users to see 3D renderings of computer-generated images. The kit will be available in the first quarter of 2016 for $3,000.

HoloLens gives Microsoft a stake in the emerging market for virtual and augmented reality, which is also being targeted by Facebook’s Oculus.

 

Notebook shipments up in August

Compaq 386The news for vendors of notebooks hasn’t been good for many quarters now but it appears August offers a glimmer of hope for the manufacturers.

Digitimes Research (DR) said that the top five brands showed growth of 17 percent in August, over July’s figures.

In more rosy times, August was the month that manufacturers prepared machines for the “back to school” period but that patterns been disrupted for some years now.

DR said that out of the top five vendors, HP, Lenovo and Acer had a healthy August showing growth of 30 percent, 30 percent and 40 percent respectively.

But the shipments were not too good for Asustek and Dell, which showed weak growth, with DR believing the latter suffered from lack of demand in the commercial sector.

Meanwhile, the original design manufacturers – that is to say the companies that actually make the kit that is later branded, also did well, with Quanta, Compal and Wistron all seeing growth for the period.

DR believes it’s impossible right now to gauge the effect of Windows 10 on notebook sales.

And while many of the companies showed growth in shipments, those aren’t sales.

Warehouses packed with unsold notebooks in Europe

_asustek_and_amd_new_partnership_to_boost_upcoming_desktop_apuA lack of demand for notebooks has led to companies in Europe ending up with stacks of unsold notebooks and leading them to experience cash flow problems.

That’s according to Taiwanese wire Digitimes, which said that some of them are offering deals including buy two and get one free. But it looks like people don’t even want to buy one, never mind two.

The wire said that the retailers are suffering so much stock indigestion that they’ve asked major brand vendors to give them longer to pay their bills.

The problem has been partly caused by vendors offering big commissions to sell notebooks but that hasn’t worked despite the best of the retailers’ efforts.

And Acer and Asustek, which have resisted pressure from the bigger vendors to offer higher commissions are suffering because they can’t compete on pricing and the commissions offered by HP and Lenovo.

Acer made a profit in its last financial quarter but it was a small profit.

Windows 10 may be popular for existing notebook users who can upgrade for free, but that’s not enough to make people buy new machines, Digitimes said.

Germany takes the lead in 2-in-1 market

German coat of armsMany analysts are predicting that 2-in-1 devices – that is to day PCs with detachable screens – are showing strong signs of growth.

And now IDC said that figures it has obtained will show that by the end of this year Germany will be the biggest 2-in-1 market in Western Europe. Its projections estimate that nearly 800,000 devices will ship to Germany by the end of this year.

IDC said volumes of 2-in-1s in the country have grown by 30 percent compared to last year, but demand for these devices has exceeded predictions.

And it’s not only ordinary people that are buying these devices but enterprises too, according to IDC. Chrystelle Labesque, a research manager at IDC Europe said: “2-in-1s are the only [PC] product category with a positive outlook over the next four years. This is due to an acceleration of the mobility trend, driven by increasing digitalisation of business processes in German companies and by the release of Windows 10.”

Windows 10, she said, has the potential to solve integration problems with existing IT infrastructures.

Unlike other territories, IDC said that Samsung beats Apple in the smartphone and tablet market with a third of total shipments.