Tag: kindle fire

Samsung Galaxy brand trumps Android in popularity contest

Samsung’s Galaxy brand is slowly becoming more popular than Android.

According to blogger Benedict Evans and a bit of Google Trends number crunching, an increasing number of people are associating Samsung’s own brand with all Android phones. Evans puts it this way: “Android is over – normals call It Galaxy.” 

In terms of brand recognition, Galaxy has already met Android and plenty of consumers simply don’t know the difference. The trend is hardly surprising, as Samsung is the top Android handset maker worldwide. Furthermore, the Korean outfit almost never mentions Android in its marketing and it spends billions on marketing every year. It is bad news for Google, as Samsung is becoming synonymous with Android phones. However, Samsung does not use vanilla Android on its Galaxy phones. It uses a heavily skinned version of its own, with the tacky TouchWiz user interface on top.

Google reps often try to make a distinction between pure Android devices like Nexus phones and Android-based devices, which run a heavily customised version of Android, like Samsung’s Galaxy gear, Amazon tablets, HTC smartphones and so on. However, since Google never did a very good job at marketing Nexus products, few consumers even know what vanilla Android is supposed to look like.

According to the Brand Keys 2013 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, Samsung is now the market leader is most categories, although it ties with Apple in some. In the past, Apple enjoyed a clear lead in brand loyalty. Brand Keys founder and president Robert Passikoff said Samsung’s success is a big turnaround.

“Samsung was always strong, but this is a bit of a switchover. It was a surprise. I guess it shouldn’t have been. I’ve been watching their advertising, and I thought it was really good,” Pasikoff told Marketing Daily. “I think they’re making real inroads.”

Pasikoff also pointed out that Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets are starting to make their presence felt, due to solid brand value and integration. More and more consumers are trading in their e-readers for Amazon tablets, helping Amazon grow the Kindle Fire brand. This could be more bad news for Google, as an increasing number of consumers start to associate inexpensive Android tablets with Amazon, despite the fact that Google spent the last three quarters pushing its own Nexus tablets. What’s more, Amazon uses an even more customised version of Android than Samsung.

So, when it comes to “normals,” all Android-based devices could become Galaxies, while most if not all small Android tablets will be viewed as Kindles. For some reason Google failed to properly promote its Nexus brand, or even meet demand for some products, such as the Nexus 4 and Nexus 10. Although many people heard of the Nexus brand, very few consumers even know what the real advantages of Nexus gear are. 

Apple ousted in Amazon Appstore court claim

A court has ruled partly against Apple, finding that Amazon is not guilty of false advertising over the term ‘AppStore’.

Judge Phyllis Hamilton, Oakland, California, allowed Amazon to go for a partial summary judgment. There are other claims that will still go into court, including Apple’s allegations that Amazon was involved in trademark infringement, Reuters reports. 

Apple was furious when Amazon began advertising its own Appstore, which Cupertino declared was its property. The argument was that anything too close to Apple’s “APP STORE” could intentionally mislead people and lure developers to Amazon’s mobile software service rather than its own.

It is just one of many cases the litigious company has launched against its competition since late CEO Steve Jobs insisted that the company would wage “thermonuclear war” on the Android platform.

Amazon previously pointed out that current Apple CEO Tim Cook, as well as Steve Jobs, had both used the term to describe markets on other platforms – suggesting that the term had become generic even for the company’s top brass.

Judge Hamilton has now officially ruled that Amazon using the term ‘Appstore’ is not false advertising.

According to Hamilton, Apple “failed to establish that Amazon made any false statement (express or implied) of fact that actually deceived or had the tendency to deceive a substantial segment of its audience”.

The rest of the dispute will go to the Northern District of California court this August.

Apple tops Q2 tablet shipments

IDC’s quarterly tablet tracker is out, and, as per usual, the analysts are claiming strong purchases for Apple kept the sector robust.

According to its data, worldwide tablet shipments altogether for Q2 2012 reached 25 million units – a hefty boost up from 18.7 million in the first quarter at 33.6 percent. This is 66.2 percent growth compared to the same time last year, which saw 15 million units shipped.

Apple, according to IDC, shipped 17 million iPads in Q2, up from 11.8 million in the previous quarter and beating its previous record of 15.4 million in Q4 2011. Samsung trailed behind for now, but still experienced excellent growth considering – making secnod place at 2.4 million units shipped for the quarter, up from 1.1 million year on year.

Amazon posted 1.2 million, and Asus shipped 855,454. Acer was the only company in the top five that saw year on year numbers decline, however, this is not factoring in Google and Asus’ Nexus 7, which is proving very popular.

This could be among the last quarters were Apple showed such an easy dominance in the tablet market. Google’s Nexus 7 and Microsoft’s Surface threaten to challenge Cupertino, and another version of Amazon’s Kindle Fire is expected too. 

NAND revenues to rocket with Ultrabook boom

NAND flash revenue is set to grow as ultrathin laptops push sales of solid state drives, with Intel expecting to ship up to 30 million units this year.

While tablets and smartphones have buoyed NAND flash sales in the past, it is thought that the popularity of SSDs in Intel’s Ultrabooks will further push revenues during 2012, and over the next few years.

Eight percent growth is expected this year, according to analysts at IHS, as global NAND flash revenues hit $22.9 billion, up from $21.2 billion in 2011.   

Clearly NAND flash memory is big business, with Samsung ploughing billions of dollars into factory production in China last year. Revenues are set to hit $30.9 billion in total by 2016.

This is despite of a lacklustre finish to 2011, where the industry did not quite meet expectations.  

But with 75 Ultrabook models on the way this year and with the release of Ivy Bridge imminent, there is plenty of room for optimism.

Ultrabooks almost exclusively include at least 128GB SSDs, apart from the Acer Aspire, and even the lower end versions such as the more bargain basement Novatech are foregoing hard disks.

According to sources at DigiTimes, Intel is gearing up to release a massive 20-30 million units into the channel this year.    

This is expected to double or even triple going through 2013, according to channel players, as the supply chain adapts to Ultrabook production.  

Of course, Intel is not the only chip firm looking to create super-skinny laptops.  AMD is also gearing up to launch its own ultrathins.  

With the release of Trinity, AMD is looking to try and undercut Intel by a couple of hundred dollars, which is good news for consumers and should aid mass popularity. 

According to IHS’ predictions, Ultrabooks will push PC consumption of NAND to 15 percent of total memory supply this year.  In total, SSDs will account for around 3.3 billion gigabytes of NAND flash, up from 1.7 billion last year.

Smartphones meanwhile will eventually account for 16 percent of total NAND shipments by 2016, as memory content in phones is expected to roughly double to 18.9 GB on average.

For tablets, the iPad is expected to continue to lead the way, with high popularity and a maximum of 64 GB storage.  The Kindle Fire in comparison has a max of 8GB 

While the amount of GBs in a device is relatively small, the tablet market will still account for 12 percent of all NAND flash this year.

Wintel tablets will demand sky-high prices

Windows 8, Intel-powered tablets could force vendors to sell for as high as $899, hampering attempts to meet ARM based devices on price point.

Windows and Intel are both struggling to keep down device costs based on their respective software and hardware, according to Eastern rumour mill DigiTimes.  

Quotes from the two have allegedly been sky-high and led to projected retail prices at between $599 and $899.

As the sources point out, price drops elsewhere could seriously turn the chances of profitability on its head for both companies. Meanwhile, Intel is busy pouring hundreds of millions into the Ultrabook so would presumably be hesitant to go any lower on hardware it’s already subsidising.

With tablets generally on a downward trajectory, as the Kindle Fire blazes a trail for market movement towards cheap devices, Wintel tabs could be hurt by a massive price tag.

Retailers in the UK are adamant that high prices in the UK won’t put off customers from buying the tablets. One high street retailer told us that such devices are likely to be high-spec, so some customers won’t be put off even at prices like £1,000.  Essentially the shops are saying with expensive devices, you’re going to get what you pay for, and there won’t be a problem with selling Wintel devices at a premium.

While shops may be happy to stock the devices at the high end, it’s likely that premium prices would get in the way of sales.  It’s doubtful that either Microsoft or Intel is looking to creep in for just a marginal share of the market.

ARM and Qualcomm chips are likely to undercut the Wintel alliance for Windows 8 tablets. If they are able to match or beat Intel’s specs while costing less to build it will make life interesting for Chipzilla.

In the tablet market, LG Display is the winner

The e-reader and tablet wars are largely benefiting one company, for now – LG Display.

Thanks to a range of high profile contracts, with Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble all customers, LG Display has shot to the top of the media tablet display charts. It is winning by far over nearest rival Samsung, holding 51 percent of global unit shipments in the second quarter of 2011.

Other Apple contractors include Samsung – which is second with a 35 percent hsare – and Chimei Innolux which has a nine percent share. The rest is made up of other smaller vendors.

Senior manager of small and medium displays at IHS, which carried out the research, Vinita Jakhanwal says despite their very different offerings, Apple, Amazon and Barnes & Noble have one thing in common – that they depend on LG Display’s advanced in-plane switching (IPS) displays.

The company formerly known as Lucky Goldstar’s IPS has faster response speeds, wide viewing angles up to 179 degree and no after image, while consuming 30 percent less power overall than regular LCD displays.

LG quickly saw there was a buck to be made in media display tablets and has given more capacity than rivals. Being Apple’s main supplier hasn’t hurt either, so it’s no wonder it has trounced the competition in this segment.

LG’s IPS, though, will face challenges in the near future – primarily from Sharp, which has concocted an oxide material of indium, gallium and zinc called IGZO which supports electron mobility up to 30 times faster than amorphouse silicon. Production is expected to start this year.

There will be plenty of opportunity for companies like LG to profit. Media tablets are the main drivers for small and medium sized displays, while sales for the devices have remained attractive while other segments have stalled.

Shipments of media tablets are expected to keep a compound annual growth rate of 45 percent from 2011 up to 2015, according to IHS figures. 

Amazon leans on Fire supply chain

Taiwanese OEM Quanta Computer is really ramping production for Amazon’s first full-on tablet, the Kindle Fire. 

Amazon, according to Digitimes’ sources in the supply chain, is telling its manufacturers to get their skates on.

It wants shipments to hit five million units as early as the end of December, or the beginning of January. Clearly Amazon is expecting the Fire to be a big hit.

Touch panel supplier Wintek has also pushed its forecast up and is estimated to be shipping up to 3.5 million of its panels to Amazon before the end of the year.

Others have been building up their component inventory at a careful pace.

Quanta, according to Digitimes has been taking the steady-steady approach in keeping shipments regular, just in case Amazon changes its mind about the orders.

Early Kindle Fire teardown appears

Industry tinkerers at IHS have begun their tearing apart of Amazon’s upcoming offering, the Kindle Fire tablet, and have found some surprises.

Actually, the Fire isn’t going to cost Amazon as much as early analyst predictions. The online retailler managed to secure some budget components, using procurement advantages, meaning although the tablet is still subsidised it won’t cost as much for the company. 

Up against Apple and the iPad – though at a far cheaper price point – Amazon has stuck a lower capacity battery into the Fire than Cupertino’s product, or even RIM’s Playbook. Its got basic 4Gbits of low-power mobile DRAM, according to IHS, compared to newer smartphones on the block which tend to run at 8Gbits. 

The Fire’s battery capacity runs at less than RIM’s PlayBook, which has 20 Watt-hours, and the iPad 2 which has 26 Watt-hours. Amazon’s product sits at roughly 16 hours. 

Other tricks to keep the price down, says IHS, include the teeny 7-inch display, eschewing 3G and 4G, and using plastic and stamped components instead of aluminium. In fact, the Fire won’t even have the magnesium found in the cheap-as-chips regular Kindle.

Amazon also decided against a wireless module which would integrate WLAN, Bluetooth and FM radio, plumping for a WLAN-only model from Jorjin. It’s based on Texas Instruments‘ WL1270, which is a WLAN only chip that has made few appearances in the wild.

Still, IHS predicts the suppliers are going to turn quite the buck from the Fire, in particular Texas Instruments. Because TI won contracts for all of the major integrated circuit slots, it should benefit from $24 worth of TI design for every Fire flogged. 

*Update IHS has updated its bill of materials outlook. Preliminary figures suggest that, including manufacturing service expenses, the cost sits at $201.70. The BoM by itself is $185.60, slightly trimmed down from September predictions of $191.65 and $209.63 in total.

The most expensive part of the Fire is its display, which runs into $87 or 46.9 percent of the full bill of materials, making use of E Ink Holding’s FFS technology as licensed by LG Display. 
It’s got 8 gigabytes of eMMC NAND flash memory, says IHS, which looks to have been supplied by Samsung. Elpida supplies the 4 gigabites of DRAM, meaning the memory cost $22.10 or 11.9 percent of the bill of materials.

Small publishers baffled and worried by e-books

A publishing panel put together by UKFast has come across as wary and skeptical of the e-book mini-boom.

E-publishing, while democratising the writing and publishing process, does bring with it a set of questions. For example, why is the progress of the e-book, the panel wondered, slow compared to when the mp3 became a popular format for music? 

One independent author, Mark Cantrell, voiced concerns about losing control over his work. “I don’t want all of my work stored in the big corporate cloud and controlled by the big corporations,” he told the panel. “I simply would not trust all of my data with a big corporation.”

Kevin Duffy, of Blue Moose Publishing, agreed that there are questions regarding who actually owns the data. “The problem with the Kindle is that you do not own any of thecontent that you download, and they can take it away from you at any point,” Duffy said. 

He pointed to an example in Germany where a man was reading a copy of 1984 on his Kindle and it suddenly disappeared from the device – because of copyright problems with the version. Like with DRM, increasingly users want to feel that they own what they paid for, rather than paying money to enter an agreement where they can use it as the publisher feels fit.

A spokesperson for Cognitive Publishing said that the price point is the issue. Once you own a Kindle or other e-book reader, the cost is low for getting content to the device. But the initial hurdle of forking out at least £100 for the privilege can put people off. 

A publisher we spoke to said that the Kindle is incredibly useful in that line of work, because it does away with having to lug around heavy bags full of copy. But she still liked books. 

Another, Sara Slack of Inspired Quill, said she’s worried that the democracy of self publishing is diluting the reading gene pool. “People who are passionate and really care about their work are lost in a sea of mediocrity,” she claimed. 

We would argue that the trouble with the Kindle is that it looks rather uninspiring perched between two bookends. Hipsters agree that aesthetics are a problem – how are other commuters supposed to know you’re reading Mikhail Bulgakov without a front cover?

E-Ink eyes up Christmas bonus after record Q3 results

The world’s largest e-reader display manufacturer posted record high results last quarter, and declared that e-reader devices are “recession-proof” in the run up to the holiday season.

E-Ink Holdings, which produces the displays used in 90 percent of the world’s e-readers, has reported growth of 20.6 percent from the second quarter, hitting $74.5 million.

According to the Taipei Times this pushed net profits for the whole of the year to $174.3 million, meaning an 18.8 percent increase from the same point last year.  This meant the firm notched up record earnings of $0.161 (NT$4.86) per share.

Chairman Scott Liu said that the figures show that growth will continue in the run up to Christmas. 

This is because he believes that, in times of hardship, people return to more traditional entertainment like reading.  So with the global economy set to implode, it seems that by Christmas 2012 people could resort to bashing rocks together for fun, with any hopes of an iPad 2 in their stocking forcibly vanished.

Liu’s expectations for increased demand are based on accelerating demand for electronic paper displays and increased sales of LCD panels.  Shipments of e-readers are expected to easily hit company predictions of between 25 million and 30 million units this year.

With one of E-Ink’s main customers, Amazon, releasing its Kindle Fire at relatively low prices, Liu reckons that there will be plenty of demand for a cheaper tablet alternative as cash-strapped consumers eye-up cheaper Christmas gifts.

While shipments for LCD panels were modest last month, Liu believes that a competitive pricing strategy from Amazon will see this increase rapidly.