Apple's Tablets will not work

In a couple of weeks Apple will finally get around to letting the world + dog have a look at its much  anticipated Tablet PC.

Rumours have been abounding so much in the US press you have to hit them with a frying pan to keep them quiet.

But the reality is really dull. We are talking about a Cortex-A9 chip in the body of a giant iPhone with a 10-inch screen, and a webcam inside which will cost  about $1000.  Nothing to see here, move on please.

Not even Jobs’ Mob can do much with the sad, tired, tablet format other than hype it beyond its capability and hope that enough people and telco partners are daft enough to part with well earned cash to own it.

Apple already had a dismal failure with its Newton product and so has every other company that has tried to make one of the beasts.  Tablets are too big to fit in your pockets and too small do do anything reasonable with.

Hype is what Apple does best.  It has a huge resource in the US media where most hacks use Apple products and believe the spin that somehow they “think different”.  The tame media will write shedloads of copy saying how wonderful and innovative a product is, when clearly it isn’t.  Take for example the Apple TV, or the incredible cracked screened iMacs.

Apple’s tame media machine helped it launch several of its key products, such as the iPod and iPhone, where there was better competition. It is always been on hand to help the outfit as claims of cracked screens, shoddy workmanship, over inflated prices and other criticisms have been levelled at Apple.

However, we are hoping that this tablet thing might be a stunt too far.  At CES we saw wall-to-wall tablets and none of them really impressed anyone. It is the same as it always has been.

Media excitement  however continues as Apple attempts to release an identical product at a price nearly a third higher.

The belief is that Jobs can come down from the mountain with his tablet and the faithful will follow him to the promised land.

True, based on what has happened so far to Apple, this faith might be well-placed.    But we are hoping that at some point someone is going to shout out from the crowd that Jobs is pushing a Tablet, not a cure for cancer, and everyone will stay away in droves.

Then the rather arrogant Apple might be forced to think about its product strategy a bit better and come up with products that someone wants.

Ballmer hops in bed with HP

The rather understated Microsoft CEO Steve “Marcel Marceau” Ballmer appears to be running short of ideas for his cloud product.

Microsoft has been seen wining and dining the maker of printer ink, which is more expensive than blood.

Sauces say that the pair have been working out a winning strategy to make money out of cloud based computing when no one really knows what it is or really cares.

The press release which came out of the meeting talks a lot about something called an “extended partnership”, which is handy because Steve  could do with extensions.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEOHowever it appears that the Mighty Microsoft Machine needs HP to provide stack integration and a check of $250 million over the next three years.

The press release says Ballmer’s vision will eliminate complexities of IT management, automate existing manual processes, lower costs and bring about peace in our lunchtime.

Next up HP and Microsoft will design an engineering roadmap to build data management machines.  The Roadmap will point the way to  “converged, pre-packaged application solutions”, “comprehensive virtualization offerings”, integrated management tools and any Happy Eaters on the way.

New-fangled democracy won't cut it in China

According to Winston Churchill – whose mother was American – democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

And while America is the land of the free, and quite a liberty bearer generally, it’s not right to assume that what’s sauce for the US goose is sauce for the Chinese gander.

It’s the most ancient culture in the world, and the only way such a vast country could have been governed is through a centralised bureaucracy that certainly paid no heed to what the Greeks were up to with their curious ideas of democracy.

It’s curious, then, that multinationals like Google, Yahoo and for that matter Microsoft naively believed that because China opened itself up to commerce, a centralised government would just blithely gaze on while an opportunity existed for China’s communist government to exploit source code for its own military and cryptic ends.

But it’s also no surprise that the US government is standing back from the Google affair while it sees how the Chinese government reacts to the search engine’s threat.

Sir Winston ChurchillThat’s because there’s one other foundation on which America is built apart from liberty – and that’s capitalism.  The USA is in debt to the Chinese government to the tune of not short of a trillion dollars – while Google spouts about its security being breached – it’s not in America’s interests to rock the boat too wildly.

China has overweening ambitions and has the resources to put long term plans into action. For most of 2008, I was working in India, which has espoused democracy, and I would hear a familiar complaint from the business people I talked to all the time.

They wished that India wasn’t a democracy so that the essential infrastructure needed to transform the sub-continent into another Asian powerhouse could be pushed ahead without the will of the people getting in the way of the plans.

No doubt it’s a terrible nuisance to have to take into account the wishes of individuals or parties they form when you want to press ahead with plans that are going to put crores of rupees into your pocket.

China’s stance to foreign companies operating in its country is that they have to obey the laws. China is a dictatorship and its laws aren’t created by an indepedent parliament or congress and moderated by an unfettered judiciary. In such circumstances, the normal rules of British fair play and the principles enshrined in the US Constitution just don’t run.

Google, perhaps, should have thought of this before it put time and energy into the marketplace, and not after the fact.

Dell continues to bleed market share

Figures from the Gartner Group for PC shipments during the fourth quarter of last year underline continuing weakness for Dell.

While HP showed 19.8 percent market growth in the fourth quarter, and Taiwanese PC company Acer grew by 13.5 percent, Dell only grew by 11.5 percent, compared to a figure of 13.3 percent in the same quarter in 2008.

This is in the face of the strongest growth rate in seven years in the PC market – although Gartner cautions that the fourth quarter of 2008 was very weak because of the economic crunch.

The growth in the PC market was down to low priced consumer mobile PCs – notebooks and netbooks. Dell’s strength is in the commercial and corporate sector and it declined to join a price war in the market, in a bid to preserve its profits.

The launch of Windows 7 did not create additional PC demand, but, said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, “was a good market tool during holiday sales”.

As far as territories go, the USA and Asia Pacific did best during the fourth quarter – Europe has been slower to recover. Nevertheless all regions showed positive shipment growth.

Ms Kitagawa said: “Aggressive promotion by PC vendors and channels stimulated consumer PC demand. However some vendors made damaging price cuts to increase market share.”

This table is courtesy of the Gartner Group.

Prelim worldwide PC vendor unit ships for Q4 2009 (thousands of units)
Company
Q4 09
Mkt Share
Q4 08
Mkt Share
Growth
HP
17,792.2
19.8%
14,239.9
19.3%
24.9%
Acer
12,188.2
13.5%
8,612.7
11.7%
41.5%
Dell
10,397.1
11.5%
9,839.3
13.3%
5.7%
Lenovo
7,836.5
8.7%
5,509.3
7.5%
42.2%
Toshiba
4,811.9
5.3%
3,668.1
5%
31.2%
Others
37,008.5
41.1%
31,855.4
43.2%
16.2%
Total
90,034.5
100%
73,724.7
100%
22.1%

HP became number one vendor in the US, beating Dell. Dell “struggled to retain its share in the consumer market. Dell had trouble keeping its share in that market and, said Ms Kitigawa, “could not win the severe price battle in the retail space”.

In the US, the top five companies were HP, Dell, Acer, Toshiba and Apple. Apple had a 7.5 percent share in the marketplace for the fourth quarter of 2009.