Tag: kin

Gentle Ballmer meekly suggests the competition is doomed

Modest Microsoft CEO, the shy and retiring Steve “There’s a Kind of Hush” Ballmer has displayed his usual understated charm at the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco.

Speaking about mobile, the market Microsoft re-entered successfully after making a laughing stock of itself, Ballmer took a swipe with his clumsy bear paw in an attempt to knock Android and Apple off their pedestals.

He gave a nod to a competitor which was a “sea of icons” (read: Apple) and, Information Week reports, that Android is an operating system for “computer scientists”.

Ballmer gave no mention to the computer scientist’s OS of choice landing him and MSFT a hefty royalty cheque for each device sold.

Meanwhile, Google is being trounced in the cloud, according to the unassuming CEO.  He said Microsoft is “all in, baby” in cloud storage, not sounding too dissimilar from, say, the WWF’s Ultimate Warrior.  

Not only that, but Information Week reports he believes Microsoft is “winning, winning, winning” for applications in the cloud, at least 98 percent of the time.

What isn’t quite winning, winning, winning is Ballmer’s bonus. Again.

Crucially, Ballmer also confirmed that the expensive shopping trip to Skype’s headquarters was about the social web. AKA, Facebook

Microsoft appoints Satya Nadella to head up cloud division

Microsoft has appointed Satya Nadella as the replacement for Bob Muglia for the company’s server and tools business, which is focusing on cloud computing.

Nadella is an engineer from Microsoft’s Online Services business and has been with the company for 19 years, only a few years less than the 23 that Muglia laid claim to. At the time of removing Muglia as head of the department, CEO Steve Ballmer said that new leadership was needed to help the company dominate the cloud market.

The division is worth $15 billion and is a major bet for Microsoft, but with studies indicating that the cloud market, both public and private, will boom over the next few years, it’s a much safer bet than some recent decisions. Not mentioning the Kin.

The cloud is such a big deal to Microsoft that it has already switched much of its internal services to run on the cloud. It also forecasts that within three to five years at least 80 percent of the company’s applications will run on the cloud, according to Total Telecom.

Muglia will aid Nadella in his position while the transition takes place. Nadella already has some cloud experience from his previous position, where he helped oversee the technical strategy of the company’s cloud network, which covers search, portal and advertising.

Despite talk of a management shake-up which is expected this month, the fact that Ballmer appointed a veteran to the cloud position arguably means he is unwilling to bring in flesh blood for the top positions. He did promise to use engineers to replace key positions.

Investors want to see Microsoft pay more attention to its cloud, smartphone and tablet markets. Ballmer has received a lot of criticism from all flanks, but if this latest appointment pans out, some more cloud success could bring Microsoft back on track and dampen the waves of criticism.

Microsoft planning management shakeup

Microsoft is planning a management shake-up that will concentrate on replacing many of its executives with fresh people who have an engineering background.

The changes are being sought by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, according to two unnamed sources close to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Ballmer has already been replacing people in the company, last month getting rid of its server division president, Bob Muglia, who had been with the company for 23 years. Ballmer said that the company needed new leadership in this area to focus on cloud computing, an area which is expected to boom over the next few years.

The changes in other key positions are likely to be in the smartphone and tablet sectors, areas which Microsoft arrived considerably late at after the success of Apple’s iPhone and iPad and Google’s Android platform. The appointments are expected to be made this month, although these plans were not intended to be public.

One of the reasons cited by the sources for the shake-up is mounting investor criticism, which has been focused on Microsoft slipping behind main rivals, particularly with Windows Phone 7, which received good critical reception but had a very late market entry. The dramatic failure of the Kin phone also received stern criticism from shareholders.

The focus on finding engineering people to fill the key positions suggests that Ballmer has lost faith in his marketing team. He already replaced Stephen Elop with Kurt DelBene, an engineering chief, instead of a marketing executive, which was widely expected.

The fact that an engineering background is a prerequisite for the positions suggests that Microsoft’s current management lacks this kind of knowledge to a degree, which rivals like Google and Apple have been using to push product lines. 

How about Steve himself? He’ll probably be clinging on.

Nvidia pins its hopes on “superphones”

The CEO of Nvidia has briefed a clutch of Taiwanese journalists and suggested that a new breed of devices will gain market dominance.

Digitimes said that Jen-hsun Huang talked of superphones – devices that wil run on Google’s Android OS, have some internet capabilities, run multimedia and be smaller than an iPad and bigger than an iPhone.

Tablet PCs, he thinks, will displace netbooks although if he strolled down the road and talked to Acer he’d find that company thinks something differently.

Jen-hsun is thinking of the Motorola Droid X, which uses Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chip but he also appears to be boosting ARM based devices too, according to the report.

He also appears to believe that Android tablets will dominate the market in 2011 and that Apple will find itself on the defensive from a Google-led assault. Digitimes is here.

Analysts claim that Nvidia loses the plot

The strokers of beards and naysayers on Wall Street are getting a bit worried about what is coming out of the halls of the Green Goblin King.

Lately there has been lots of mutterings about delayed products, a bad dice roll on the mobile market and the odd court case. All of this is sending Nvidia’s stock into free fall.

Stock prices have fallen 44 percent this year which, to put it in perspective, is worse than BP managed to do by creating the worst man-made disaster in history.

While Wall Street has been muttering against him,  Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has been a merry old soul. He says his graphics chips are on the rise and the “vast majority of the world” recognises Nvidia as a “world leader in visual computing.”

While talking up your product is good PR, in the face of falling shareprices, investors are going to be worried that Huang is more in denial than the temple of Isis at Philae.

This should have been a good year . Out of the court of the Green King stomped Fermi, which promised game designers more processing power. The only problem was that the $200 chip is six months late. If it had turned up on time then it might have made more of an impact. Now Nvidia has to hope that the chip was ahead of its time enough to save it.

But other problems troubled the court too. The relationship with Intel broke down in February. The chipmaker decided to give up on licensing the Green Goblins chipsets which effectively locked it out of the market.

Nvidia sued Intel for breach of contract in March 2009 and decided to pull out of the chipset business.

So this limited Nvidia’s future to the mobile phones and supercomputers market. All potentially good, but there is some tough competition.

Nvidia banked its farm on its Tegra chip being the new brain of smartphones. In doing so its main Opposition was the natty Snapdragon chip from Qualcomm’s and Texas Instruments OMAP.

While the rivals picked up the success stories of the smartphone business, Nvidia’s claim to fame was to nail its colours to Microsoft’s Zune and ‘Kin. The ‘kin was such a spectacular failure that it might have even spoiled Nvidia’s chance to sell to other manufacturers.

Word on the street is that Tegra will find its way into the more popular Android phones but Nvidia spent a fortune fine-tuning Tegra chips so they work with Windows. If Windows 7 Mobile takes off then it might make some of this back, but it seems that Nvidia missed making a fast buck off of Android adoption.

It has had more luck with getting its Tesla chip under the bonnet of supercomputers. The Nebulae, a supercomputer in China powered by Tesla, was ranked the second-fastest machine in the world.

But the problem is that the supercomputer world is largely dominated by IBM and HP. Nvidia will have its work cut out for it trying to get acceptance in what is a closed club.

Ironically the cards based on the Fermi chip are not that bad and are starting to get attention amongst the gaming community. Unfortunately, although Nvidia needs these guys, it is the sort of business it needed to move beyond if it was going to have any sizeable impact on the world.

Wall Street is going to be less impressed with high sales in the gaming community than it is to see Nvidia in the heart of a new generation of smart phones. What is dangerous for Nvidia, if the share prices keep falling like this, it is going to see its kingdom shrink to a niche provider of high performance game gear. 

Microsoft staff suffering from deep depression

Word from Redmond is that staff are not happy bunnies.

The “anonymous” Microsoft blogger “Mini Microsoft”  claims that the demise of Kin and talk of more layoffs is causing the ‘Softies to get mightly miffed.

A billion dollars wasted on Kin, 500 phones sold and a huge amount of ground lost in the mobile space.

“Everything I hear about Windows Phone is negative. Leadership is shrugging its shoulders like this disaster is no big deal,” he said. Meanwhile rumours are that Enterprise Agreement renewals continue to trend downward, and at an alarming rate. 

The Department of Defense which has practically had a blank cheque for Microsoft is not buying either. 

Microsoft staff are losing faith in the senior leadership, but no one can see how any new leader could step in and make the hard choices and forge a new, urgently needed direction.

Some staff hope that Bill Gates will come back, but there are fears that even a move like that would not be enough. If another recession takes hold, company stock is going to go down the loo, but “the leadership team also shrugs this off as if it isn’t a major issue”.

Apparently the Danger team who were involved in the Kin project could not believe that they had ended up working in such a “a screwed up place”. 

They took long lunches, sat in conference rooms and went on coffee breaks and the conversations always went something like this…”Can you believe that they want us to do this?”

Another anon comment from an ex staffer said that he left Microsoft about four months ago to go to a hardware/services vendor that deals with actually solving customer problems rather than dealing with internal politics. 

There are too many GMs, Directors, Senior Directors, etc that either should not be in those positions or just cause chaos to undermine efforts that could potentially eliminate their jobs, the blogger moaned.

Microsoft's Kin only sold 503 units

It has been revealed that Microsoft’s Kin phone had only sold 503 units in the entire world before the company decided to scrap it.

The shockingly bad sales were disclosed by an unnamed Microsoft employee, who spoke to Jay Yarrow at Business Insider.

The employee, who may not be an employee for long if the Vole gets its claws into him, is reported as saying: “We had a huge launch party on campus and I bet that party cost more than the amount of revenues we took in on the product. As an employee, I am embarrassed. As a shareholder, I am pissed.

“It’s one thing to incubate products and bring them to a proof-of-concept to see what works, but it’s something else to launch. I suspect we launched because we felt like we HAD to so we could save face because we were trying to build buzz, but overall — HUGE fail.” 

Then John Gruber from Daring Fireball revealed that “they sold a grand total of 503 Kins before they pulled the plug.” Even for a phone as badly designed and marketed as the Kin was, that’s an atrocious amount of sales. It makes it very clear why Microsoft killed it off so soon, because it had already cost a lot of money and is set to be one of its greatest embarrassments for years to come.

While the exact figures are paltry for a tech giant, it’s not that surprising that the Kin was a failure. Even as far back as April there were complaints about a 15 minute cut-off, which isn’t exactly what a phone user wants. 

If that were not enough, however, the entire approach to the phone and how it was marketed also contributed to the disastrous sales. It was sold as a “cheap smartphone” though there was nothing smart about it and aimed at teenagers, but it could never compete with real players on the market like the iPhone, Android-based phones, or a Blackberry

It also carried an outdated version of the Windows Phone operating system, had poor features, and no app store, making it vastly inferior to the competition and really not much more than a normal phone. Even a massive price cut for the phone itself could not save it.

Probably its most fatal flaw, however, is Verizon, its US carrier, wanting $30 a month for a contract, which is just as dear as a proper smartphone and much more expensive than an average school-going teenager with no income can really afford.

Kids with posho parents probably already have an iPhone 4 anyway.

When you market a phone for a certain audience and then exclude that audience by making a contract that they cannot pay you’re bound to end up in a situation where you sell only 503 units.

It’s a ‘Kin disastrous result. Stick with software, Microsoft.

Motorola announces Charm smartphone with trackpad on back

Motorola today announced its new Charm smartphone, which will run Android 2.1 with the Motoblur overlay, have a full QWERTY keyboard, and, unusually, will have a trackpad on the back of the phone.

The Motorola Charm is somewhat blocky in shape and looks a little like the ill-fated Microsoft Kin. It has a 2.8-inch multi-touch touchscreen, three buttons below for menu, home, and back, and then a compact QWERTY keyboard, which also has buttons for e-mail and camera.

This will be the first Motorola smartphone to feature an updated version of Motoblur, its UI overlay, designed for Android 2.1. This update allows greater synchronisation of contacts from Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Myspace, and other sources, and also allows for more customisation. 

The most striking feature about this new smartphone, however, is the trackpad at the back of the phone, which Motorola is calling a “backtrack” navigation pad. This is an interesting place to put a trackpad, which usually goes on the front of the device, but Motorola says that this placement will enable an unobstructured view of the web, texts, e-mails, and news feeds. 

The new smartphone also has a 3 megapixel camera with Kodak Perfect Touch, and CrystalTalk Plus with a second microphone for better voice quality and background noise filtering.

It comes with a 2GB microSD card and allows up to 32GB cards. It has a 1170mAh Lithium-ion battery which Motorola claims will give up to 405 minutes of continuous usage.

Motorola was keen to highlight that the Charm is Flash-enabled, allowing access to “content-rich” websites, a fact which is most likely aimed at potential iPhone customers who are not impressed with Apple’s stance on Flash.

It will only be available in the US with T-Mobile at first, with a launch date some time this summer, but it probably won’t be long before a European release is added to the mix.

Motorola CharmMotorola Charm

We describe Microsoft's great 'Kin mishtakes

Redfaced Microsoft must have known  when it shipped its ‘Kin mobile phone six weeks ago that the project was dead in the water.

It did have some good things, such as ‘Kin Studio, which copies all content users create with the devices in the cloud and presents it in a niftily styled Webpage.

This stuff could be handy when Redmond gets around to releasing the more promising Windows Phone 7 later this year.

However  Microsoft was the wrong company, in the wrong place, at the wrong time to make the ‘Kin actually work.  It is not surprising that it pulled the plug yesterday.  Here are the top five lessons that Steve Ballmer has learnt as a result of the ‘Kin disaster.

Don’t confuse the punters over the operating system
Kin claimed to be Windows but it was something called a Windows’ Phone OS which has some elements of Windows 7 and bits that were left over from Windows Mobile. Punters did not know what they were buying. It was not clear what it was compatible with and its future was unlikely to survive the release of Windows 7 mobile. Only an Apple fanboy would buy a phone which is going to be out of date in a year and Microsoft would never get one of those to buy its gear.

Don’t market to teens
Microsoft people are too old to understand teens. This is not an insult, some teens are too old to understand that market. There is not so much a generation gap between teens and the real world as an abyss of hormonal stupidity. It was ever thus and there is no point adults wasting cash trying to understand them. They will buy what they define is fashionable even if it is baggy jeans which are worn around the knees. Microsoft’s ‘kin marketing efforts were like watching your dad dancing at the school disco.

Your network provider has to pay ball.
Verizon
did more to sink the ‘kin than anything else. It insisted that there was a $30 monthly data plan for the ‘kin – similar to smartphones. The only problem was that the ‘Kin was not a smart phone and $30 a month was expensive for something that did not support third party apps and did not have a calendar. Verizon said that $30 was fair enough because the ‘Kin had high resolution still and video cameras and stored this data in the cloud. This concept was a little too obscure for the great unwashed and particularly teens.

Make sure it has the features people want, not what you think they want.
‘Kin had some good stuff in it, but with the Verizon data bill it lacked a lot of important things. OK, Redmond might have survived without third party applications if it had some features of its own. The ‘Kin did not even have a ‘kin kalendar. True, your average teen does not want to know what day it is, or when that vital assignment is due, but that does not mean you should not have one installed.

When you don’t have features you need a decent app store.
An app store enables users to tailor the phone to what they want. It also enable teens to get applications that they think are cool, that your marketers would not think about. It also has to be launched on day one. You can’t promise that something is being built in the future, particularly if you are flogging stuff to kids who have the attention span of an impatient goldfish. 

Lacking all these things, the ‘kin was doomed. ‘Kin doomed.


Motorola FlipOut over leaked new smartphone pics

Some leaked images today revealed that Motorola is planning a new square-shaped Android-based smartphone called FlipOut, according to Gizmodo Brazil.

The new phone, originally codenamed Ruth, will be similar in style to the Nokia 7705 Twist, but will run the Android 2.1 OS with the MotoBlur UI overlay. This is in line with the aim that this phone will focus on social notworking and will be the first Android 2.1 phone to use the MotoBlur mod.

The new device will come in several colours, including black, green and pink, has a 2.8-inch screen, QWERTY keyboard, a 700MHz processor, 512MB internal storage, 256MB RAM, GPS, and a 3.1 megapixel camera. 3G and WiFi details have not yet been confirmed.

It’s clear that Motorola is hoping to take a share of the cheap smartphone market, competing with the Nokia Twist and Microsoft Kin phones, among others. It will all depend on the price, however, as this entire range of phones is geared towards getting younger people to buy. The problem, of course, is that even if the initial purchase price is cheap, phone network deals are often pretty expensive for the limited data usage you get. As long as that remains the same these phones may never truly take off.

The release date is set for June.