The most popular computers nowadays, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, are full of compromises. Sure, they are sexy and fun to use, but hardly ideal for true work and creation. Hell, the "smart" in smartphone is starting to feel like a misnomer. A true desktop operating system coupled with a laptop, desktop or hybrid form factor will offer the most functionality and success.
Consumers have overlooked these mobile shortcomings as they have been mostly consuming content at home. However, the tides may be changing -- it feels like the consumer love-affair with mobile devices is starting to wane. Smart-watches may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. People are tired of retrofitting their desired computing to small screens. How about using an actual PC, rather than try to get PC functionality from a mobile device? Crazy concept, I know. Today, IDC announces that PC shipments are showing strong growth in the USA for Q2 2014, year-on-year.
Worldwide IT spending is on track to reach $3.7 trillion, an increase of 2.1 percent in 2014, according to new figures released by research specialists Gartner. However, this is down on earlier projections which put this year's growth at 3.2 percent.
The slower growth outlook is down due to a reduction in growth expectations for devices, data center systems and to some extent IT services. The value of the devices market -- which includes PCs, mobile phones, tablets and printers -- is predicted to grow by 1.2 percent over last year. This is partly due to lower prices. As tablet adoption reaches 50 percent in US households, Gartner forecasts sales of high-end tablets dropping as new buyers are attracted by lower priced units.
Third in a series. In business perception is everything. Many companies succeed or fail not because their products are great but their brands are perceived to be that way. Apple is a remarkable perception manager. Consider iPhone 5s, which features and benefits fall far behind many competing devices. Rather than innovate, the fruit-logo launches an evocative marketing campaign -- "You're more powerful than you think" -- that makes the smartphone look better. Improved. The ads are compelling because they communicate: Your life will be better, you shall achieve your dreams, by buying iPhone 5s.
Meanwhile, competitors like Microsoft truly innovate and take the kind of risks that once defined Apple. Last year I asked: "Will 2013 be another year of Apple iteration masquerading as innovation?" Yes, and halfway into another year, little is changed. The answer is the same. Last month I explained "Why Apple no longer innovates". OS X Yosemite and iOS X 8 are prettier, but so what? Meanwhile, Windows 8/8.1 is a radical rethinking of the platform -- as is Surface, which delivers refreshing change to computing. What's that long-forgotten Yellow Pages tagline? Let your fingers do the walking. They do on Surface.
The Internet of Things is just the latest buzzword that is being used to push all manner of products. Let's cut to the chase -- it's just about "stuff" (other than obvious things like computers and phones) connecting to the internet. Nothing more than that. But this dismissive-sounding definition is not meant to undermine the importance or the significance of the IoT. We've spent the last 20 years or so getting used to the idea of accessing the web, harnessing what it has to offer, exploiting it in various ways and finding all manner of methods of using it to make life easier, more entertaining, and more profitable. The evolution of the Internet of Things sees this taken to the next level.
We are on the cusp of a new industrial revolution. Many would say that the wheels are already in motion. The tired -- very, very tired -- example of what the Internet of Things is about, is the prospect of owning a fridge that will be aware of when you run out of milk, and then either alert you or place an order on your behalf. This is a very simplistic view of things, but it is the communication between devices that will be the hallmark of things to come. Inter-device communication, or machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity. Devices that can be left to their own devices (ahem) are approaching in ever-growing numbers, and there are advantages to be gained.
In the world of politics, the wheels of change move slowly; very slowly indeed. Parties and those in power have a vested interest in maintaining the established order, and any attempts to buck the status quo are usually fairy fiercely opposed. Contrast this with the technological world where there are new innovations made every single day -- even at the weekend! Technology doesn’t run out of money and leave an entire nation on the verge of collapse. Technology is not interested in race, class, sex, sexuality or other characteristics. It is certainly true that technology is largely driven by a desire to generate profit -- we are, for the time being, living in a capitalist world, after all -- but it is profit born of fulfilling people's needs and desires.
Can the same be said of politics? To a large extent politics is self-serving. There's still an interest in generating a profit, but it is for the benefit of the few. Technology serves the masses, and has the potential to serve and benefit all. Of course, the term "technology" is rather broad. For the purposes of this article, I'm going to use it to refer to computers, the internet, smartphone, the cloud, electronic/connected devices, robots and the like. For all the gestures to democracy and choice, politicians are, for the most part, interested in serving certain sections of society. There are of course those parties and politicians who are able to take a wider view, have an interest in helping those at the bottom as much as those at the top, and value all people equally.
Today's Microsoft event in New York City was something of a mixed bag with its fair share of highs and lows. There was an obvious highlight -- the Surface Pro 3. It was a highlight for two reasons. Firstly, despite expectations to the contrary, this was in fact the only device to be announced today. Secondly, at least in terms of looks and specification, it's bloody amazing. But there were at least a couple of low points. No Surface Mini, and the frankly bonkers, nuts, crazy, mad Surface Pro 3 pricing.
The Pro side of Microsoft's Surface range has long been criticized for being a little on the pricey side, but the third generation takes things to the extreme. At the top end of the scale -- a rather juicy sounding Intel Core i7 device packing 8GB RAM and 512 GB of storage -- you'll need to save up an astonishing $1,949. Panos Panay made a great deal of noise about how this is the tablet that can replace your laptop. For that price, I should flippin' well hope so. For that price I can buy a top of the range laptop and still have enough left over to buy a decent tablet. I could even venture into Apple territory if I was feeling a little saucy...
The "internet of things" is one of those catch-all terms that has become one of the latest buzzwords to be bandied about hither and thither. It is often used to conjure up images of an online oven, connected kettles and web-enabled waffle makers, and is referred to as something that is yet to be. So used is this term, that it's easy to forget that it's something that already exists -- just ignore the absurd name and you simply have a collection of devices that connect to the internet for a variety of reasons. But having any device connected to the internet has advantages and disadvantages, and this is something that security experts AVG recognize only too well.
Take cars for instance. Things have advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years, to the point that the traditional key is no longer needed, and apps can be used to check vehicle stats -- who needs dials and in-car displays, eh? Just as owning a car has changed dramatically in the past couple of decades, so has the problem of car security. Numbered are the days of a brick through the window, a screwdriver or coat hanger slipped down the side of the window, and touching together a couple of wires to make a getaway in just a few minutes.
PC shipments have been boosted by the demise of Windows XP with shipments up by five percent compared to the previous year.
Figures from Canalys showed that 123.7 million PCs were shipped worldwide in Q1 2014 and Lenovo was one of the biggest beneficiaries of this growth as its PC shipments totaled 15 million and increased its market share from 10 percent to 12 percent.
IDC and Gartner have released their worldwide PC shipment estimates for the first quarter of 2014 (1Q14), and as expected they once again show a year on year decline, but the severity of the drop has eased compared with the past seven quarters -- thanks, in part, to XP users upgrading their aging systems.
"The end of XP support by Microsoft on April 8 has played a role in the easing decline of PC shipments," says Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "All regions indicated a positive effect since the end of XP support stimulated the PC refresh of XP systems. Professional desktops, in particular, showed strength in the quarter. Among key countries, Japan was greatly affected by the end of XP support, registering a 35 percent year-over-year increase in PC shipments. The growth was also boosted by sales tax change. We expect the impact of XP migration worldwide to continue throughout 2014".
After trying to drum up more interest in Glass by dispelling some myths believed to have built up around the wearable tech, Google is looking to push things even further, gaining a little cool cred by teaming up with Luxottica the group behind well-known names such as Ray-Ban and Vogue. Teaming up with such a premium brand could be key to the success or failure of Glass, and Google is keen to push Glass as being the next step in the gradual evolution of eyewear.
At the moment, there are more than forty different looks for Glass (once the various frames, colors and styles are factored in), but it is hoped that the new partnership will result in even more designs. Love them or not, Ray-Ban and Vogue are names you will be quite familiar with, and it seems as though this is something that Google is keen to latch on to -- although it is, of course, a household name in its own right. "Luxottica understands how to build, distribute and sell great products that their clients and consumers love -- something we care deeply about at Glass, too," purrs Google on its Google+ page.
OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. But wearable devices are really struggling to get off the ground, at least in the UK. All of the excitement that surrounds smartwatches that can be used to read email, VPN into a home computer, check vital stats, set off The Bomb, or tell the time (imagine!) -- maybe a couple of these are a little far-fetched -- seems to be little more than manufacturers' fluff and guff. The wheels of the marketing machine have been whirring away furiously, but it has had very little effect. With a population of approaching 65 million people, only a very tiny proportion of the nation has seen the need to invest in a smartwatch -- below 1 percent in fact.
Figures from Kantar World Panel show that a lowly 0.9 percent of UK consumers have put their hard-earned money towards a smartwatch. Other statistics to come from the research are of little surprise. Almost three quarters (72 percent) of smartwatch owners are male, and 56 percent are aged under 35. There are a small number of names associated with smartwatches, and the spread is fairly evenly distributed. At the top of the heap is Samsung with a 32 percent share, followed by Sony with 21 percent and Pebble with 18 percent. There is obviously a leader, but with the numbers being so low, percentages are very easily swayed.
The Internet of Things has the potential to offer significant benefits to both businesses and consumers. Realizing those benefits though relies on identifying problems that the IoT can address.
Technology research specialist IDTechEx's event in Berlin at the beginning of April is set to explore the prospects offered by the IoT and look at how it can be used to make a difference in the real world.
Mobile users are just getting around to upgrading their handsets to take advantage of 4G networks, but this simply is not fast enough. UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, spoke at CeBIT announcing that the country will join forces with Germany to develop the successor to 4G -- the uninspiringly-named 5G. The PM announced a deal with Germany which will help to push forward with the development of a mobile broadband network that will offer download speeds up to 1,000 times those currently available on 4G.
To put this kind of speed in perspective, as the Prime Minister explained, an 800MB movie (or any other type of file for that matter) could be download in a single second. One second. For the best part of a gig of data. On a mobile device. Who is going to say no to that? Ultimately, the adoption rate will be determined by the costs involved -- mobile tariffs, suitable handsets, data charges, and coverage -- but before any of this becomes an issue, 5G needs to be, well, invented really.
Market intelligence specialist IDC has released the latest results from its quarterly tablet tracker. It predicts that the sales growth of tablets (including 2-in-1 devices) will be 19.4 percent in 2014, down from 51.6 percent last year.
There are a number of reasons for this predicted reduction, partly the number of new releases has slowed, and in mature markets the sales pattern will switch to replacement of older devices rather than first time buys.
According to International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, global PC shipments fell by 9.8 percent in 2013, the most severe contraction on record, but the future looks slightly brighter going forward. And by "slightly brighter" I mean things thankfully shouldn’t be anywhere near as bad as they were last year.
IDC had been anticipating a decline of 10.1 percent by the end of 2013, so the actual results were slightly more positive than had been expected in mature markets (which includes the US, Western Europe, Japan, and Canada). Part of the reason for this is, IDC believes, down to short-term factors like the rise in people purchasing XP replacements, but it doesn’t expect this bump to last for very long. XP still accounts for a third of the desktop OS market share, and there’s currently no signs of a trickle of users migrating to Windows 8.1, let alone the flood of users Microsoft would like to see.