Tag: Toshiba

Microsoft revamps Windows Phone 7 to "break the mould"

As ancitipated, Microsoft rolled out a heap of information about Windows 7  Phone, which as we reported last week, includes reference designs as well as a re-vamped interface.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, said he told his internal team that they had to deliver a different kind of mobile experience, “in a crowded market filled with phones that look the same and do the same things”. Currently Microsoft holds about 12 percent share in the “crowded” market.

People use most phones to make phone calls or to send text messages, but we suspect Mr Ballmer doesn’t mean that at all.  He’s talking about companies like Apple with its iPhone, Google with its Android operating system, and all the rest that don’t use Windows Mobile software.

For starters, a Windows Phone 7 Series has a dedicated hardware button for Microsoft’s search engine, Bing – whether you want it or not.

Microsoft has decided that phones need things called hubs – the categories being people, pictures, games, music/video, marketplace and office.

Microsoft hasn’t been particularly successful with its mobile software in the past, but has lined up a heap of carriers including AT&T, Orange, Sprint, Vodafone and others, as well as handset vendors like Dell, HTC, HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm to help it make the Windows Mobile reference designs

They’ll be ready by “holiday 2010”, by which we presume he doesn’t mean Easter, or Whitsuntide, but the end of the year.

EC investigating chip makers price fixing

The European Commission is currently investigating various major players in the chip market, sources close to the investigation told news agency Reuters.

According to four deep throats, chip makers Infineon, Samsung, Hynix, Micron, Elpida, NEC Electronics, Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Electric and Nanya fixed prices for their products.

The allegations led to various offices being raided in autumn last year. Former Siemens chip unit Infineon found its offices searched in December, as the company had to admit. The sources said they expect an official announcement to be made on Friday this week or next week Monday.

Neelie Kroes, the commissioner who currently heads the EC’s competition directorate, slapped a fine of $€1.06 billion on chip giant Intel last year May, for “abusing its dominant position on the x86 central processing unit (CPU) market.”

Her directorate also managed to whack Microsoft in the browser wars, forcing the software maker to let consumers in the EU decide if they want to use a different browser than IE. From March 2010 onwards, Windows users will be faced with a choice screen – considering IE has been garnering tons of negative publicity since China hacked the Google Mail accounts of various dissidents using IE, a ton of not-so tech savvy users will opt for either Firefox or Opera.

In other news, the EC is also checking price-fixing between Siemens and Swedish company ABB. The two companies apparently had a talk under four eyes and agreed on prices for Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems (FACTS). FACTS are used to increase the amount of power that can be sent over electric transmission networks.

US distributor sues Samsung, AU, Chi Mei, over LCD conspiracy

A New York based distributorship has filed a case in a Brooklyn district court alleging that a large number of Asian companies conspired to fix prices on LCD displays.

Electrograph Systems Inc named the defendants in the case as Epson, Hitachi, Sharp, Toshiba, Toshiba Matsushita, Sanyo, LG Display, Samsung, AU Optronics, Chi Mei Optoelectronics, CMO Japan, Nexgen Mediatech, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Tatung, Hannstar Display and Mitsui & Co.

The filing claims that “the defendants and their co-conspirators formed an international cartel which conducted a long running conspiracy extending at a minimum from at leasy January 1996 through at least December 11, 2006.”

It continues: “The purpose and effect of the conspiracy was to fix, raise, stabilise and maintain prices for Thin Film Transistor Liqid Crystal Display panels.

The effect of the alleged conspiracy ran into billions of dollars, according to Electrograph. The conspirators, the filing alleges, met or talked to agree on product prices and as new producers entered the market, the new producers also agreed to fix prices and to control supply.

“Defendants’ conspiracy included agreements on the prices at which defendants would sell TFT-LCD products to their own corporate subsidiaries and affiliates, as well as their co-conspirators.”

The filing pointed out that five of the defendants – LG, Sharp, Chunghwa, Hitachi and Epson have pleaded guilty to a fixed price conspiracy.

Electrograph said it bought TFT LCD products and so suffered damages and is bringing the action to recover overcharges it believes it paid during the relevant period. Electrograph Systems is a value added wholesale distributor of display technology.

Debenhams gets dubious over ladies' purses

A whole lot of stories focused mid-week on how much lighter a lady’s handbag has become. The culprit seems correct – namely the mobile phone. Nobody seemed to care, however,  that handsets could go further and replace purses and Personal Navigation Devices (GPS), too.

All these stories were based upon some pretty spurious research from Debenhams. “Women began to carry laptop computers in their handbags, peaking at a back-breaking 3.5 kg [7.7 lbs] in 2006 and 2007,” it said.

Come on. Women didn’t put their laptops into handbags, they carried them around in a smart black bag labelled Toshiba or whatever. To show they could use a PC just like everybody else.

Anyway the list of what a handset can do these days (and therefore replace the need to carry loads of separate devices) included no need for an A-Z (London street directory); a camera; a diary; and an addressbook.
There were also plenty of other references to the fact that handsets are gradually replacing dedicated MP3s like the Ipod. Given the same people would buy an Iphone, that makes sense,

But what about no necessity to carry a GPS or Personal Navigation Device as they are frequently called? The latest incarnations of GPS enabled handsets give the TomTom a run for its money.

More radically, however, what about dispensing with a purse with its credit cards and small change? Handsets already have the potential to do both.

There’s absolutely no reason why a mobile phone couldn’t completely replace an Oyster card when travelling in London. That’s thanks to technologies like NFC (Near Field Communication) which would replicate an Oyster card’s credit and RF capabilities.

Paying for parking tickets via a mobile phone is becoming an increasingly commonplace facility too. And any NFC trial worth its salt has also provided it can easily be used for making ‘micropayments’ of any kind.

For example, NFC could get you passed the turnstiles at a sporting event and then be used to buy a gin and tonic during the breaks.

Techeye remembers this kind of scenario being possible and advocated some eight years ago by the smart London restaurant, Circus, where you could pay for everything with your mobile – food, drinks and even the cab back home.

So, why hasn’t it happened? Techeye reckons the banks are to blame because it could potentially cut out the middlemen – them.

In Kenya, for example, people are using a system called M-PRESA to pay for all kinds of things. About nine million Africans have signed up for such schemes.

And why are the banks afraid? Easy – such schemes are P2P (person-to-person). You buy something by sending money from your mobile to the vendor’s phone. Simples.

All such transactions never go anywhere near a banking system. Which is why they’ve been stomped on. That is, until the mobile operators get brave

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)
Q4 09
Mkt Share
Q4 08
Mkt Share

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.