What if you manufactured a low-cost, underpowered laptop -- and the configuration suddenly turned into a massive marketing advantage? That may well be the opportunity ahead for Google and its Chromebook OEM partners; if they seize the opportunity.
As we reported Wednesday, Gartner predicts that currency devaluation will compel major computer manufacturers to raise prices by as much as 10 percent, particularly across Europe and in Japan. Higher prices mean more customers will do with leaner configurations, and choose sub-$500 systems. Meanwhile, PC makers will give purchasers less for more money, cutting back features to preserve margins while shifting sales priorities to markets where currencies are more buoyant. What is Chromebook already? A lean, low-cost PC in that price category but better optimized for hardware.
Gartner predicts that currency devaluation will compel major computer manufacturers to reverse a longstanding trend. "PC vendors selling to Europe and Japan, where local currencies have fallen up to 20 percent since the start of 2015, have little choice than to raise prices to preserve profits" -- by as much as 10 percent, Ranjit Atwal, Gartner Research director, says in a statement earlier today.
Higher prices mean more consumers will do with leaner configurations, and many businesses will push back upgrades. All the while, PC makers will give customers less for more money. Atwal anticipates fewer features in new computers in affected markets and increased sales emphasis in "regions least affected by these currency effects".
Samsung is down but not out in the global smartphone shipments battle with top rival Apple. That is the conclusion from analysts at Juniper Research, which like Strategy Analytics released first quarter 2015 data today. Juniper sees sharp rebound from Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, which "reception" is stronger than their predecessors.
Quarter-on-quarter, Samsung smartphone shipments -- 82 million units -- rose by 23 percent but fell 29 percent year over year. By comparison, annually, Apple shipments soared by 40 percent, to 61 million, largely lifted by China. The country's importance to the fruit-logo company cannot be overemphasized for either manufacturer. But Apple reaped the big crop, with shipments up 71 percent that generated $16.8 billion in revenue.
If there be ghosts, Tim Cook should expect sleepless nights ahead. Surely Steve Jobs can't stand to be so overshadowed by his successor, who takes Apple where the cofounder couldn't: Massive earnings and margins. Today, after the closing bell, the company reported yet another ridiculously blow-out quarter, largely lifted by iPhone. If the smartphone market ever collapses, Apple Armageddon will follow. In the present, momentum is unstoppable.
Some perspective: Apple's net income was more than two-and-half times Microsoft's during the same time period (calendar Q1 2015) -- and 3.8 times that of Google. To reiterate, those comparisons are put-in-the-bank profits, not revenues. By the numbers: $58 billion in sales, $13.6 billion net income, and $2.33 earnings per share. Wall Street consensus was $56 billion revenue and $2.16 EPS. Year over year, revenue rose 26.6 percent and net sales by 33 percent.
Saturday afternoon, new Apple Watch owner Ken Lecomte posted a frightening photo to Google+: His device with shattered screen. The spider-spray pattern is eerily familiar -- one seen so many times -- like an iPhone clumsily dropped to floor or pavement. The fruit-logo company boasts about the gadget being a wrist computer, but should it be as easily breakable as the other that customers carry?
We wanted to find out. BetaNews proactively contacted Lecomte for his full story and additional photos, which in part authenticate the breakage. His claim is serious: That the strap came undone as he pulled hands from pocket, flinging the smartwatch to destruction. BetaNews takes allegations like this seriously, which is why rather than repost or reshare his photo, as others have done, we contacted the alleged victim, who wants to prevent others from meeting the same fate. His local Apple Store quoted $229 to fix the $349 Sport watch.
Today we closed our poll asking readers if they would purchase the first fruit from the field tended by Tim Cook. Apple Watch marks the era of new gadgetry developed on the CEO's, er, watch. Sales started today, which effectively meant preordering two weeks ago. All three models are sold out from the company's online store, which lists ship dates as "June" for orders placed April 24.
Are you one of the lucky Apple Watch buyers? That's assuming you feel lucky. Two-thousand forty-nine people responded to our poll, with a stunning (and, honestly, unbelievable) 42 percent planning to buy the gadget. Really? Someone wants this gadget.
Lossless leader Tidal has a problem. Last month's splashy relaunch let critics control the narrative, defining the streaming service as a tool for pampering the bank accounts of already successful musicians. But Tidal is something else: Affordable HiFi streaming for the listening elite—those people who want to enjoy music the way it was engineered, produced. The streamer should be the coolest thing, but the Jay Z ownership team fraked up the marketing messaging. Problem is fixable, but correction requires aggressive advertising, promotional pricing, and extraordinary exclusives.
For more than three weeks, I have listened to nothing but Tidal, and the service should challenge everyone signing up for the 30-day trial to do likewise. There is no other way for the majority of people to appreciate the aural benefits. The majority of potential subscribers are too accustomed to the muddy, mushy, overly-bassy sound of compressed, low-fidelity AAC or MP3 files. The brain and ears need to be freed from the habitual crappy sound to which they're accustomed. iTunes is a prison. Spotify is another. Tidal will liberate you. But you must want freedom to attain it.
The waiting begins. This afternoon I asked the great Google god to bless me with an invite. If my homage is accepted, someday soon I can pay for the privilege of using the company's new piggyback cellular phone service. The thing is so exclusive, only one smartphone is supported. It's Nexus 6, or nothing, baby. I own one, so happens.
Project Fi switches between Sprint and T-Mobile cellular networks for core connectivity alongside wireless hotspots. That's why I call it a piggyback service; Google is not building out its own infrastructure. Fi is contextually conceived and consumed. Nexus 6 switches networks based on location and availability. Your phone number traverses devices, providing access on laptops and tablets, too. Context is what differentiates this service from every other.
A smartwatch by any other name is compromise. The question: How much are you willing to pay, if anything, for the privilege? No matter what any manufacturer promises, battery life will never be enough, particularly when daily recharging is the minimum requirement. If you use the wristwear as prescribed, no less is demanded, regardless of the device maker. None delivers daily use without sacrificing something.
Nearly all these mini-computers on the wrist aren't smart enough. You need a phone, too. Is two of one and half-dozen of the other worth the trouble? The answer depends much on your lifestyle. If you text and drive, and can't break the habit, a smartwatch could save your life or others. If your mobile handset feels like a ball and chain, adopting glance-and-go lifestyle can liberate you. But if your smartphone is practically surgically attached, for its frequent use, you shouldn't add another tech accessory. If your phone battery often runs out, because you forget to plug in, don't multiply your troubles. If you don't wear a watch now, and haven't for years, don't bother.
Yahoo's search deal with Microsoft just gets worse by the day. Six years ago, when announced, I called the agreement "Christmas in July" for Google. My prediction then: The combined entity would cannibalize from Y while taking little from G. Bing would be the big beneficiary, and its painful gains have been punishing.
March 2015 U.S. search share figures are out from comScore, raising a milestone that is no cause for celebration. Bing reached 20.1 percent, or about where Yahoo was in the months before announcing its deal with Microsoft, which essentially came to power Y searches. Yahoo is 12.7 percent. Combined they're at 32.8 percent, which is up from 28.6 percent five years earlier. The dent to Google is minimal, with share falling to 64.4 percent last month from 65.1 percent in March 2010. Aggregated gains came from other providers, such as AOL. not from the market leader. In fact, if not for Mozilla swapping G for Y as Firefox's default search engine, there would be no meaningful gains from Google whatsoever.
I best be watchful, for my wife is smarter than she pretends to be. If not, she's the mother of all coincidence. Because by all appearances, the woman used the vendor online tracking everyone suspects to snake a great discount from Amazon. Maybe you can turn to advantage persistant invasion of your privacy.
Our story starts on Feb. 11, 2015, when following days of price comparisons she ordered a 12-pack of one pound Café Bustelo from the Internet retailer. Price: $52.90. As we consumed coffee, she returned to Amazon on March 17, when a shocker waited: Same item cost $69.31. Ah, yeah. That's a 31 percent increase. But by apparently gaming the system, she later purchased for 19 percent less than previously paid.
As someone whose name also is his brand (welcome to 21st-century journalism), I watch with interest the new .sucks top-level domain, which is available for select preregistration through May 29—the only time to surely secure your.sucks. Today, I looked to a reputable registrar to see what joewilcox.sucks would cost me. Cough, cough: $3,797.99 now, during the so-called Priority Access (e.g., Sunrise) period, or $407.98 when general pre-reg starts in June.
The new TLD is just one among hundreds of available or forthcoming domain extensions sanctioned by governing body ICANN. "I think the motivation behind the release of all these new domains is money", says Roger Kay, who describes the sellers as shady land speculators. "The .sucks domain is particularly nasty", the president of consultancy Endpoint Technologies Associates emphasizes. "It's pretty close to blackmail". But is it really? This analysis means to help you decide.
I typically don't pull together review roundups, but bloggers and journalists with early access to Apple Watch and 12-inch MacBook beat the products senseless. Not even Wall Street Journal gives glowing look at the laptop; the pummeling is among the most brutal. Meanwhile, The Verge repeatedly gut-punches the smartwatch. Two themes rise from the many reviews, even those trying to cover up pooh with perfume: The devices are beautiful, but performance is a lumbering beast.
Welcome to the Tim Cook and Jony Ive era of putting form before function, and to a fault. Apple's CEO and design chief may not be the dynamic duo shareholders hoped for. The first truly new products to emerge under Cook's stewardship receive a collective meh, which should scare any intelligent buyer witless. Because if the past means anything, the carefully chosen coven of early reviewers embrace newfangled Apple things like the Devil clings to sinners. But not this week.
As the clock passes Midnight and takes us into April 10, Apple Watch preorders begin. Sales start two weeks later. The buzz is big, but will actual demand be? Argus Insights, an analyst firm that is new to me, doesn't see strong sales ahead. The metrics are interesting: 7.8 million social interactions and 65K online reviews about wearables.
"Though the Apple Watch will of course be successful, we don’t see the product to be wildly successful", John Feland, Argus founder, says in a statement. I reviewed the firm's report, which data is from September 2014 to end of March 2015, and it's interesting reading. The question, and Apple Watch sales likely will answer: Is online social buzz a means for predicting a product's success?
If you haven't responded to either of our most-recent buying polls—Apple Watch and Chromebook Pixel—it's not too late. Preorders for the timepiece start April 10. The laptop is available now, but with long-wait ship times. I purchased the higher-end Pixel, which review is underway. Whether or not one of our writers will test the smartwatch is uncertain.
Polls of this nature are meant to gauge what a specific audience, BetaNews readers, plan to do. Often what respondents would like to buy isn't what they do. For lots of reasons: Budget; spousal or partner objections; availability; competitive pricing; early product reviews; and more. Results better reflect your intentions as the sample size increases. So, please, take a few seconds to answer each poll, if you haven't already.