Tag: mobile

Wall Street slams Intel

Intel is starting to get poor report cards from its chums in Wall Street who are a little worried that the chip maker is not doing enough to deal with falling PC sales.

Intel shares are down 3.5 following a couple of negative notes based on a perceived weakening of the PC market.

The guts of the reasoning is no longer that Intel is failing to make piles of dosh from the mobile market, but rather that it is cannibalising its sales of desktop and laptop microprocessors with sales of cheaper Atom mobile chips.

Poor Intel just can’t seem to woo Wall Street: first it said Chipzilla’s stuffed because it can’t make money out of mobile, and then when it does it’s downgraded for eating its lucrative PC market. This sort of unfair reasoning should be left to journalists.

According to Reuters, Patrick Wang of Evercore Partners cut his rating on the shares from Equal Weight to Underweight, and slashed his price target from $22 to $20. Wang wrote that cannibalisation of PCs by tablet computers and a breakdown of demand in emerging markets will produce a 10 percent decline in PC unit shipments this year, worse than the six percent decline he’d previously predicted.

The argument is that PC sales are continuing to weaken and there’s no sign this problem is going away. While Chipzilla might have done well on the mobile front, it is going to be a long time before that cash matches what it earns from PCs.

To make matters worse for Intel, the tablet and smartphone market is going to be saturated by 2014 and so any moves on Atom will have come too late.

Wang cut his estimate for this year to $52.8 billion in revenue and $1.80 per share in net profit from a prior $53.2 billion and $1.85. For 2014, he projects $54.6 billion and $1.90, down from a prior $55.25 billion and $1.98.

Other analysts said that any bounce in Q3 from Haswell sales won’t be able to offset the weakening PC market.

What’s strange is that no investors are wondering why the PC market is so stuffed. There are a lot of companies sitting on ancient Windows XP computers which must be fire hazards by now, even if they are not software security nightmares.

Companies cannot replace these PCs with tablets or anything so low powered. Even if they were plugging such hardware into the cloud to keep software demands down, the hardware must be getting close to death.

Analysts seem to be playing down Microsoft dumping Windows XP support in the very near future, when companies will have to upgrade their hardware to run later versions of Windows.

The only other choice is to prop up aging hardware using Linux, but such a move would be problematic. Intel is coming out with some new chips and that could result in a surprise hardware boom.

In this case, Intel will be in a stronger position and certainly have done all it can. If it had not planned for this outcome, then the analysts would equally be moaning that Chipzilla failed here too. 

Microsoft was in talks to buy Nokia's handset biz

Although both Microsoft and Nokia have attempted to quash rumours of a takeover since the installation of ex-Microsoft man Stephen Elop as Nokia’s CEO, rumours have emerged that Redmond recently held late-stage talks to dicuss buying the Finnish company’s handset business.

Nokia’s Windows Phones have largely been met with positive reviews, though a lagging app ecosystem and major inroads by Android devices have hampered success. In part thanks to this, Microsoft has been rumoured to be in serious discussion with Nokia to pick up the handset business. However, the Wall Street Journal reports, these talks wound down due to Nokia’s market position and disagreements on pricing.

Some of the talks are rumoured to have taken place as recently as this month, but the WSJ’s insiders have said they are not likely to advance further – at least any time soon.

The price, then, may have simply been too high. Nokia’s handset unit is valued on Wall Street at over $14 billion and made up almost half of the company’s revenue last year.

Although Stephen Elop’s position at Nokia, as well as Nokia’s commitment to Windows devices, post-Symbian, prompted rumour after rumour about a takeover, it is far more likely that the current arrangement suits Redmond better. Elop, loyal in the long-term to Microsoft, is steering Nokia and it is less risky to influence a device unit by proxy rather than outright taking full responsibility.

The company insists that it is still a player – and indeed, its devices have been significantly better since Symbian was ditched. But for now, other phone makers have taken up the fight against Apple with significantly more success than Nokia, specifically by utilising Android. Nokia’s allegiance to Microsoft puts it in a unique market position as an alternative to the iOS and Android mainstream, but ultimately it begs the question: if Nokia had taken up Android, could it have seriously turned around its operations, or ended up as another also-ran?

Java developer builds Office in 30 days

 Microsoft might be a little spooked after a Java developer announced that he knocked up a basic open source office suite that runs on multiple OSes in just 30 days.

Anthony Goubard has created Joeffice which works on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux as well as in browsers.

It is a basic package which includes a word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation program and database software.

It was built using NetBeans and uses many popular open source Java libraries, Goubard said.

He has been showing users how he did it on Youtube and he has released his alpha version already.

His outfit, Japplis, launched the suite, which is available under an Apache 2.0 licence. This allows companies to change and redistribute the code internally without having to share the new code publicly, he said.

Goubard hopes to make the suite available on mobile platforms and possibly the Raspberry Pi credit-card size PC.

It is not really meant to be as advanced as Vole’s office, or LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org but is designed for companies with specific needs such as obtaining data from a Java library, he said.

If all goes well, Goubard aims to release a full version of the suite next year.

You can download and play with Joeffice  here. You need Java 7 to get it to run. 

Intel's new broom orders sweeping restructure

Chipzilla’s new chief executive, Brian Krzanich, has surprised analysts by ordering a sweeping company reorganisation.

It had been thought that Krzanich would keep the status quo at Intel and possibly issue a few more fashion bags to show his individuality from previous CEOs.

But it seems that within hours of moving into his new office he created a unit aimed at growing its market share in mobile technology.

The shakeup places most of the main product groups of the world’s top chipmaker directly under the CEO’s supervision.

Intel’s sprawling global manufacturing operation have been given to new president Renee James to play with.

According to Reuters, the reorganisation was outlined in an internal memo sent to employees.

In it ,Krzanich said that he was committed to making quick, informed decisions and wanted to be bolder, faster, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. We made the last one up.

“Our business faces significant challenges, and we simply must continue to execute while finalizing our future strategy,” he wrote.

Krzanich said that under his leadership, the top chipmaker will be more responsive to customers in an intensified focus on the fast-growing smartphone and tablet market where it lags.

The PC client group, mobile communications and data centre unit, which previously reported to Intel Architecture group chief Dadi Perlmutter, now reports directly to Krzanich.

It is not clear what Perlmutter gets to do once he has handed these parts of the Intel empire over to its new Imperator. Apparently they still have to talk about that.

Mike Bell will head up Intel’s newly formed “new devices” group, which will focus on emerging product trends.

“The new devices organization is responsible for rapidly turning brilliant technical and business model innovations into products that shape and lead markets,” Krzanich said in the email, according to the source.

Hermann Eul, who shared responsibility for Intel’s mobile communications group with Bell will now take over that business completely.

The restructuring flies in the face of what Intel executives have previously said about mobile chips.

For a long time they have been telling us that the company should not focus too much on catching up in smartphones and tablets at the expense of missing out on future trends in mobile.

While Krzanich’s creation of the “new devices” group signals he is also looking beyond today’s mobile toys, the overall restructuring does indicate a sudden focus on mobile. 

Intel in holding pattern for Ultrabooks

Chipzilla’s efforts to push into the mobile arena are paying off, but the fashion bag maker is still in a holding pattern waiting for Ultrabooks to take off, according to an analyst from Morgan Stanley.

According to Barrons, Joseph Moore, for it was he, rated Intel as an underweight and set a $20 price target for its shares, saying that the outfit could hold its own against competitors in the battle for tablets based on Microsoft’s Windows 8.

Tragically that will not help the company’s bottom line much. He said that last week’s Silvermont CPU core announcement for mobile devices suggested that people should be a lot more optimistic about Intel.

He claimed that the company is more competitive with licensees of ARM microprocessor architecture, such as Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Nvidia.

Moore praised Intel for making great strides in optimising its Atom architecture for the performance per watt needed for ultra-mobile devices and expects Intel selling 50 million of its Atom line of processors for tablets through 2015. This is four percent above current expectations.

He believes that sales of tablets next year will be $282.8 million and will rise in 2015 to $327.5 million, respectively. Moore said that about 13 percent in 2014 will be based on Microsoft’s Windows 8, and 16 percent in 2015. The rest will be Apple and Google gear. The Atom might take almost eight percent of Android shipments, and 75 percent of Win 8 tablets, and the combination, 36 million shipments in 2014 and 50.2 million in 2015, would produce $722 million and $1 billion, respectively, in revenue, at an average price of $20 per chip.

For Chipzilla to get any real meaningful financial uplift from mobile devices, the company must see success with its higher priced Haswell based chips in Ultrabooks and hybrid computers.

He was curiously optimistic about Intel’s progress in ultra mobile. If Intel can use new form factors to mitigate tablet cannibalisation altogether it will allow them to maintain traditional profits, which are unmatched by any other semiconductor end market, he reckons.

But he thinks that higher end Ultrabooks are “somewhat challenging” as $200 for touch panels, SSDs, and thin form factors, providing high end detachable and convertible form factors is a lot of money.

“If Ultrabooks are going to return the industry to growth, there is implicitly the assumption that PC ASPs will rise, which historically speaking has been a difficult proposition,” Moore wrote. 

Obama promises more cash for cyber war

US president Barack Obama has promised to increase spending to protect US computer networks from internet based attacks.

This is despite making a lot of cutbacks in other areas of the budget and indicates that a nuclear arms race has been replaced by one which uses software instead of nukes.

Obama’s budget proposal for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins 1 October, calls for more military “hackers” to head off escalating cyber threats from China, Iran, Russia and other countries.

According to Reuters, there will be extra cash to bolster defences for government and private-sector computer networks.

The announcement follows calls from intelligence officials who claimed that cyber attacks and espionage have supplanted terrorism as the top security threat facing the United States.

Air Force general Robert Kehler told space and cyber industry executives at a conference in Colorado that it was time the US locked its doors because someone from halfway around the world is trying to get into its networks.

The Pentagon said the spending would beef up US defences against increasing cyber attacks, as well as boosting its offensive capabilities.

Obama’s budget proposes to boost Defense Department spending on cyber efforts to $4.7 billion which is $800 million more than current levels. The rest of the Pentagon’s overall spending budget has been cut by $3.9 billion.

The Pentagon wants to expand its Cyber Command which is a team of military hackers conducting what it calls “reconnaissance, surveillance, development, maintenance and analysis”. The Pentagon also said it would expand efforts to protect its own computer networks.

The Department of Homeland Security would spend $44 million more on a government-wide information-sharing effort even though its overall budget will shrink by $615 million, or 1.5 percent.

Some of this cash will fund more cybersecurity research and help private businesses and local governments to bolster their online defences. 

Intel serves up server plans

The maker of fashion bags, Intel, is planning to push out a lot more hardware to the lucrative server market.

While Chipzilla’s traditional PC market has been suffering, the market for servers is getting stronger. Intel thinks that the way forward is to have greater influence in the way servers are designed.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Intel is planning to introduce faster server microprocessors and provide new details of what it calls a “rack-scale architecture”. This is a roadmap for designing and plugging together servers to manage internet-style workloads.

The idea is that companies are looking for new ways to run their server operations. For a while now they have been stacking boxes with separate power supplies, disk drives and using clusters of cables to connect them.

But the sheer volume of web-based computing jobs, and the data they generate, is making this all impossible. Some are rethinking server designs to reduce unnecessary components and save money and power consumption and that is where Chipzilla thinks it can make a buck or two.

So far it has been seen working with Google and Facebook, pushing an initiative called Open Compute. Open Compute aims to create low-cost modular servers to reduce server cost and complexity.

But there are some problems with the project. Intel thinks that it is being dominated too much by Facebook. Lisa Graff, Intel’s vice president and general manager of its data centre marketing group said that Facebook is doing what is best for them and that approach does not work for everyone.

Open Compute envisions the use not only of x86-style chips from Intel and AMD but also chips based on ARM which is something that Chipzilla does not really want to touch. Anything that lets ARM into one of Intel’s traditional markets is going to be a problem.

Already Intel’s long term chum HP has been muttering about putting ARM chips with its low-power servers as part of an effort called Project Moonshot. So far Intel has managed to keep the lid on that and the only Moonshot servers released so far come with Atom chips.

Intel has also been doing some work on its own in something it calls Project Scorpio. This involves working with some other big web and telecom companies in China.

The idea of this project is to come up with a rack design that lets servers share power supplies, fans and network components.

It is also creating a reference design to encourage computer makers to create more efficient systems using an array of Intel technology.

Intel is using Xeon and new low-end Atom chips for applications at the cutting edge of the cunning plan.

Intel has a new Atom model for servers, code-named Avoton, which is expected to arrive in the second half of the year it is also planning to introduce a new model of its Xeon E3 family based on Haswell.

New versions of its higher-end Xeon E5 will hit the shops in the third quarter and Xeon E7 in the fourth quarter. 

Bees use electric fields to communicate

Bees use the electric fields that build up on their body to communicate without the need for mobile phones.

According to Randolf Menzel, a neurobiologist at the Free University of Berlin in Germany, as the bees fly, flutter their wings, or rub body parts together they generate a strong electric field.

These deflect the bees’ antennae, which provide signals to the brain through specialised organs at their bases.

While it has been known for a while that insects gain an electrical charge when they buzz, they did not realise that charge builds up.

The bee’s exoskeleton has a waxy surface that acts as an electrical insulator which means that the charge isn’t easily dissipated, even when the insect lands on objects. This helps pollen stick to insects visiting a flower.

It is thought that a flower that a bee had recently landed on might have an altered electrical field, so the bee ignores it.

According to Science Now, Menzel and colleagues have studied how honey bees respond to electrical fields.

The boffins found that a small, electrically charged wand brought close to a honey bee can cause its antennae to bend. Other tests, using antennae removed from honey bees, indicated that electrically induced deflections triggered reactions in a group of sensory cells, called the Johnston’s organ, located near the base of the antennae.

In less nasty experiments bees learned that a sugary reward was available when they detected a particular pattern of electrical field.

The tests suggest that the electrical fields that build up on bees due to their flight or movement are stimuli that could be used in social communication. 

Intel delays getting a new CEO

Chipzilla has decided that there is no hurry getting itself a nice shiny new CEO, according to the strokers of beards and people in the know at analyst outfit Piper Jaffray.

Paul Otellini is being put out to pasture in mid-May and the debate has so far been about if he is to be replaced by an insider or an outsider.

But Piper Jaffray believes the decision on a new chief has been delayed, something it thinks is jolly silly.

In a research note, Piper Jaffray analyst Gus Richard wrote that Intel needs a new CEO fast to take it beyond the traditional PC market and boldly go where no chip maker has gone before.

Part of the problem is not that the chipmaker can’t find anyone to rule them but they have some rather good candidates and cannot decide.

Richard claims that Intel has narrowed down CEO candidates to two internal and one external, but the final decision appears to be slipping.

According to CNETIntel has narrowed the search to Brian Krzanich, Intel executive vice president and chief operating officer, Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group and chief product officer of Intel, and Sanjay Jha, former CEO of Motorola Mobility.

Richard wishes that the Intel airheads would hurry up and decide because the outfit needs to make some major decisions about future businesses, such as contract manufacturing.

Chipzilla said that it wants to have a replacement by the time CEO Paul Otellini retires in mid-May, meaning the company could be in limbo for two months and the pole is getting lower all the time.

Intel spokesperson Chuck Mulloy insists that the process is under way and there are no glitches. So far no white smoke has been seen on the roof of Intel HQ.

Richard points out that without a CEO, Intel is a rudderless ship driven more by external forces than internal decisions.

Chipzilla needs to work out fast if the company will licence ARM and improve its ability to be a foundry.

Any major decision like this will have to wait for a new CEO. The fact that the decision looks to be delayed is not a positive sign.

Some analysts, and the media, are trying to talk up Intel as a chip foundry and seem desperate, against all evidence, that it should be selling chips to Apple.

Google yanks ad blocker apps from Play Store

When Google or Apple pull apps from their app stores, developers and consumers tend to have a fit, followed by a bit of angry blogging, talk of freedom of speech, etc, but Google’s latest decision to ban ad blockers from its store might actually go down well with quite a few devs.

Google claims the blockers violate its terms of service, plain and simple. The terms specifically state that any app that “interferes with, disrupts, damages, or accesses in an unauthorised manner the devices, servers, networks, or other properties or services of any third party” needs to go.

Needless to say, the decision to block the ad-blockers has prompted developers to go absolutely ape and vent their frustrations on Twitter. However, the vast majority of developers should be quite pleased by Google’s decision. Most developers rely solely on ad revenue and the last thing they want is every Android phone running an ad-blocker.

Mobile ad revenues are already pathetic. They are much lower than desktop ad revenues and they are not picking up, which means mobile developers and content creators have to work more for less.

Of course, the fact that ad-blockers will no longer be available through Google’s Play Store doesn’t mean they are gone for good. Users will still be able to get them via third-party app stores, or simply download and install them on their own. Most users, however, probably won’t bother.