Would Apple Dump Samsung for Intel? It’s No Pipedream

2020-02-09T12:20:48-07:00May 29th, 2012|

Intel CEO Paul Otellini told investors this month that Apple could build its iPad and iPhone lineup on the Atom family of microprocessors any time it wants to. And he’s going to do everything in his power to make that prospect so enticing that Apple can’t refuse. Pipedream? Not hardly.

Now, I understand why some of you would consider this to be pure fantasy. Intel has been trying to pry its way into the smartphone and tablet markets for five years now, and until this year the company has had little to show for it.

One reason for the slow start is that Intel has had to retool itself in order to compete in these markets. The performance-per-Watt tradeoffs are necessarily different for smartphones and tablets than they are for notebooks, desktops and servers. Intel has been learning that, and also discovering what else smartphone and tablet designers want.

That’s all understandable. Anytime you attack a new market, you don’t know what you don’t know until you dig in and get your hands dirty. Intel’s hands now are finally dirty. And now, finally, Intel has a competitive part in Medfield, the latest Atom iterant. Design wins are beginning to materialize as a result.

OK, Atom is now better than it was. It’s in the stable of options. So what? That’s not going to get Apple’s attention.

Apple will want a solution that stands out from the field, not one that’s just now making its way into the lineup of viable options. And Apple will want custom variants made exclusively for its devices. Building custom parts isn’t a problem for the high-volume, standard parts manufacturer, Otellini says. He told investors that Intel is slowly bringing up a foundry business, and would entertain the notion of producing made-to-order chips for “strategic customers”.

Apple likely would fall into that category, yes? Yes.

That could be a strategic move for Apple, as well. Today, Samsung builds the custom processors inside Apple’s smartphones and tablets. And it’s no secret that Apple views Samsung’s smartphone and tablet operation as possibly its fiercest competitor. The two are employing battalions of lawyers as they sue each other in courts around the globe.

Apple can’t be happy with the situation. But for the time being, it doesn’t have much of a choice. Because Apple wants its chips made at a leading-edge facility, and right now, the choice is down to two. One of those is Samsung.

And the other is Intel.

But Intel’s not an option for Apple’s processors. Not today, anyway. Because while Apple is strategic, the processors inside its iPads and iPhones are not. They’re ARM-based processors. And Atom, along with most every processor Intel builds, is x86.

Otellini loves to say that Intel collects margins twice on every chip it builds: once for the manufacturing work and second time for the chip itself. Pure foundry work, or contract manufacturing, would mean no double-dipping. So as long as Intel can keep its fabs filled with x86 chips, any foundry business the company takes on would cut into profits.

Otellini says that Intel can keep its fabs busy with x86 through the 22nm generation now ramping — and possibly 14nm as well. Which means he won’t consider building someone’s ARM chips for quite some time.

Alright, so it’s reasonable to assume now that a compelling product offering from Intel will get Apple’s attention. So when might that happen?

That could be as early as next year. Intel hopes to outpace the competition by pulling Atom up sooner into its leading-edge manufacturing processes with each generation. In 2013, Atom chips will be made on Intel’s 22nm manufacturing lines. And in 2014, Intel plans to bring Atom to 14nm.

One of those just might be prove to be the tipping point. Or not. Nothing’s assured here, obviously.

But nothing more than a pipedream? No, not hardly.

—-

Original post: http://betanews.com/2012/05/27/smartphones-put-privacy-on-the-tsunami-hazard-map/. Reprinted with permission.

Google, Apple Beware: Privacy Revolt Threatens Your Dominance

2020-02-09T12:22:21-07:00May 27th, 2012|

Now, finally, the tide of public opinion on Internet privacy begins to flow in the other direction. Consumers are becoming more hesitant to share their data and are less tolerant when those with access to their data violate trust. That presents a tremendous threat to some of the titans of our day — and an equally monstrous opportunity for others. Apple, Google, are you listening?

Honestly, I’m amazed that the issue was ever able to germinate and flower, particularly here in the United States, a country that distinguishes itself on the right to privacy. And a country that spent much of the last century wringing its collective hands over the Orwellian nightmare that awaited us down the road of technological advancement.

Discount Cards and the Dystopian Vision

Then in the 1990s — the decade after the one in which George Orwell set his oppressive dystopian vision — grocery stores kicked off their discount card programs, which enticed consumers to surrender personal information in exchange for lower prices. Consumers by and large agreed.

Privacy became a bit more of a concern in the “oh-oh’s” with the explosion of social networking. To be sure, there’s no shortage of tussles along the way between consumers and the likes of Facebook, for example. For the most part, though, consumers have continued to participate.

I’m not sure exactly when the perception started to turn, though I suspect it was sometime last year. Maybe it had something to do with persistent reports that reveal what Apple and Google know about us. Or maybe it was the outcry over the discovery of Carrier IQ’s tracking software on smartphones from US carriers.

But you don’t need a tidal chart to see that the waves now are crashing closer to shore. A survey released a few weeks ago by University of California-Berkeley professors found that 79 percent of Americans “definitely would not allow” their phones to share information with stores they visit but don’t buy anything. Another 17 percent said they would “probably not allow” it.

Smartphones Make Privacy Personal

Nielsen earlier this month released a study on smartphone attitudes and behaviors that suggests consumers are quite concerned about privacy. According to the report, 73 percent of smartphone owners worry about the issue of personal data collection. That’s up a bit from an already high 70 percent in 2011.

Even if we can’t determine exactly when the tide changed, it’s not difficult to pinpoint why.

In a word, smartphones.

Our loyalty cards are basically walled gardens of personal information. We know exactly what we are divulging. Even Facebook is a walled garden to an extent. Obviously, the walls encompass far more than what you buy at a single store. But we still exercise control over what’s published and shared about us.

There’s nothing penned in, though, about what our smartphones know about us. Our calls pass through them. So do our texts, IMs and emails. They know where we are and where we’ve been. And the more useful our smartphones become, the more we integrate them into our lives.

The more we integrate them into our lives, the more they know about us. And the more they know about us, the larger and more hostile the waves of anger become. Count on it.

This sentiment should be top of mind for every strategist and decision-maker in the smartphone ecosystem. For Apple and Google, yes. But also for hardware vendors, carriers, app developers — even cloud services. If your goods or services have the ability to collect or store our data, then you should consider your sales and profits to be on the tsunami hazard map. So prepare.

Gain More by Collecting Less

One of the better suggestions I’ve heard for tackling this issue proactively comes from Ian Chen, a longtime colleague and friend now at Sensor Platforms in San Jose: establish an Office of Privacy. Hire a big-name lawyer to head it up, and have him or her report to the CEO.

Establishing an Office of Privacy is an opportunity for a company to distinguish itself as a sentry for consumer data. The company that succeeds in building that perception will have an inside track against its competition. It will be the provider that consumers trust at a time when trust in the smartphone ecosystem is eroding.

Here are a couple other things to consider:

  • Develop a privacy policy that is more restrictive than the competition’s. Don’t share consumer data, for example.
  • Even better, don’t allow your product to collect any personal information at all. Someone will notice, and spread the news. That will more than offset the sacrifice you’ll make to your data mining efforts.
  • Develop a way to have apps tap a sandbox of personal data that’s housed on the smartphone itself rather than in the cloud — and prove to consumers that app developers can’t gain access. This can be at the platform level, or on the hardware itself.

Whatever you choose to do, do something. Smartphones are becoming our companions, our confidants. And the closer they get, the more virulent our reaction will be when they violate our trust.

—-

Original post: http://betanews.com/2012/05/27/smartphones-put-privacy-on-the-tsunami-hazard-map/. Reprinted with permission.

The Kindle Fire: It’s Not Dead Yet!

2020-02-09T12:23:18-07:00May 17th, 2012|

Wow, what a swirl of good-news/bad-news last week for the media tablets aimed at the ereader market. As it turns out, the roller-coaster ride continues this week.

comScore reported that the Kindle Fire from Amazon generated far more Internet activity in February than any other Android media tablet. Then a few days later, Microsoft dumped $300 million into a Barnes & Noble ebook venture, a move spurred in part by the success of the bookseller’s media tablet, the Nook Tablet.

wrote a column explaining why the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet, the first- and third-highest selling Android tablets in 2011, respectfully are so successful — and what that means for hardware vendors who want to make it in the tablet market.

 

And then the roller coaster began hurtling earthward.

Target confirmed rumors that it is tossing Amazon’s Kindle line-up out of its chain of department stores. Target was coy as to exactlywhy, though fellow writer Ed Oswald offered up a few possible explanations.

I suspect it has to do with Target’s new pilot program that will put Apple boutiques in 25 of its stores. (That’s possibility #2 in Ed’s article if you’re scoring at home.) Apple knows what powerful draw its products generate and exploits that in its relationships up and down the supply chain. It’s why Verizon invested millions two-and-a-half years ago to elevate Android: to level the playing field in the smartphone market by giving iPhone a legitimate competitor. It’s also why Verizon is looking to prop up Windows Phone during this year’s selling season.

And then late last week, Joe Wilcox raised another possible reason: that Target dumped the Kindle Fire because it’s no longer selling. He pointed to first-quarter data from IDC that estimated sharply lower shipments of the Kindle Fire in the year’s first quarter — 700,000 units down from 4.7 million.

I find it difficult to believe that Target, a retailer well accustomed to consumer buying patterns, would toss Amazon due to a seasonal letdown in sales. As it turns out, the IDC report, while technically accurate, is a bit misleading.

Kindle Fire shipments, or deliveries by Amazon to thousands of stores as well as to Amazon’s own warehouses, fell off a cliff, not actual sales. That’s normal for the year’s first quarter — Apple’s quarter-on-quarter shipments also dipped, as did total tablet shipments, according to IDC. You would expect Kindle Fire shipments to fall far faster than the industry during that time, because the fourth quarter was the Kindle Fire’s inaugural quarter, so retailers had to build up their holiday stock from scratch.

Sales, actual purchases of Kindle Fires by consumers, were seasonally strong in the first quarter, according to NPD. Consumers bought about 1.8 million Kindle Fires in the first quarter, compared to 3.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. That’s seasonally down, yes. But the Kindle Fire still sold “pretty darn well” in the first quarter, says NPD’s Stephen Baker.

So let’s see if we can’t get Kindle Fire news back on an even keel. One thing’s for sure: all this perceptual yo-yo’ing doesn’t change the fact that the Kindle Fire is a well-designed and well-positioned tablet that is successful because it sidesteps the iPad rather than challenging it head-on, like so many other wannabe’s in this market.

On the other hand, the Kindle Fire’s success may be why Apple has painted a target on its back — and why it isn’t welcome back at Target.

—-

Original post:http://betanews.com/2012/05/08/kindle-fire-sales-are-still-hot/. Reprinted with permission.

Tyranny of Numbers II: Why 4G Won’t Fix Wireless Data Crunch

2020-03-12T18:55:14-07:00May 14th, 2012|

The amount of data that smartphone users consume is doubling every year. And the number of smartphone users is skyrocketing as more wireless customers migrate from feature phones.

But that’s OK, because the carriers are upgrading their networks to LTE. Right?

Wrong. By the time LTE is fully deployed, traffic congestion will be worse than it is today. This ground-breaking white paper explains why, details how bad it’s going to get, and reveals what the industry can do to ease the gridlock.

Read More Here …

How to Succeed in the Tablet Market if You’re not Apple

2020-02-09T12:25:08-07:00May 11th, 2012|

The best-designed Android tablets you can buy today aren’t the sleekest or the sexiest. They’re not the most powerful. And they don’t boast the largest or brightest displays. What they do have, however, are sales. The tablets? The Kindle Fire from Amazon and Barnes & Nobles’ Nook Tablet.

On a runway awash with thin, pretty models, it’s easy to overlook this pair of plain Janes. But don’t. They are two of the top three largest-selling Android tablets on the market. And their formula should serve as a model for how to succeed in this market if you’re a supplier that’s lacking a throng of breathless fanatics aching to snap up anything you sell.

According to comScore data for the US market, more Kindle Fires were in use than all other Android tablets combined at the end of February, just its third month on the market. comScore says that 54.4 percent of all Android devices accessing the Internet were Kindle Fires.

In the same breath in which comScore lauds theKindle Fire, though, it snubs the Nook Tablet. You see, comScore excluded Nook Tablet from the study, classifying it instead as an e-reader rather than a tablet.

Microsoft, however, knows a good thing when it sees it. The software giant today invested $300 million in Barnes & Nobles’  ebook spin-off, Newco.

Regardless of whether Microsoft or comScore understand, both Barnes & Noble and Amazon know they hold the keys to this market: that a successful tablet is built around what I call an “anchor” app. Yes, you can load other apps, just as you would with a general-purpose tablet. But when it’s optimized for a popular app, it’s more compelling than one that’s being marketed by its form factor.

Think about it this way: would you be more or less likely to consider purchasing a Swiss Army Pocket-able Lump?

The Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet were two of the four best-selling tablets last year. And they weren’t even available until the fall. The other two — the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the iPad — were launched in 2010.

Savvy CE manufactures have taken a lesson from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Watch for them to unleash tablets designed around other anchor apps beginning late this year. A few of the more attractive anchors:

1. Gaming. I would argue that Sony’s PlayStation Vita is a gaming-centric tablet. It’s got a browser, Facebook, Twitter and access to an online store where you can go get other apps. Just last week, in fact, Sony added Skype to its app store.

I’d be shocked, by the way,  if Microsoft wasn’t hard at work on an Xbox-inspired tablet to unveil after Windows 8 is on the market.

2. Video. I’m shocked that I still see people on planes who are watching movies on portable DVD players. Who is buying these dinosaurs? Regardless, there is obviously a ready-made opportunity for a well-designed video tablet to entice these consumers out of the disc age.

3. Personal Navigation. The window for this is limited, as the market for single-function GPS devices is already beginning to contract. Nevertheless, it is an established device market that a GPS-centric tablet could tap into and quickly exploit.

Needless to say, designing a tablet around a popular app isn’t the only ingredient for success. The Vita stands testament to that. As well, there will continue to be a market for sleek and shiny general-purpose tablets. But as Amazon and Barnes & Noble have shown, it’s much easier to coax consumers to pull out their wallets if your tablet does impeccably well what it is they want to do.

Remember: you can call it a knife and still tuck a toothpick and a fish scaler inside.

—-

Original post: http://betanews.com/2012/04/30/kindle-fire-nook-tablet-are-better-by-design/. Reprinted with permission.