Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Poor Ultrabook Sales See Manufacturers Opting for Low Cost Machines

UltrabookAccording to multiple reports and sources, suppliers of ultrabooks are facing a lot of issues with profitability and market. As a result, many manufacturers are expected to turn to low-cost designs to make up for it. According to an anonymous CNET source that speaks directly to ultrabook suppliers, "The ultrabook adoption during the holiday season was ugly." Before you go jumping to conclusions, this source was only talking about one ultrabook manufacturer specifically.

That being said, the ultrabook market for all suppliers is still facing challenges. According to the same source, "You've got a down market on the eve of a new operating system (Windows 8, obviously) at a price point that's fairly robust (meaning high)." On top of that, Acer, one of the high-profile ultrabook vendors, stated that it is currently not making a profit on lower-end models according to a recent report in The Verge.

The company's Aspire S3 ultrabook has been generally priced at $899 but could drop as low as $799. Acer's Chairman also stated back in December that ultrabook sales should be somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 in Q4. Other top vendors, like HP and Dell, have just started selling ultrabooks, which makes their success or failure hazy.

However, a recent report from Asia has claimed that poor sales for vendors is forcing them to rethink ultrabooks altogether. According to a report in Digitimes citing industry sources, "Existing Sandy-bridge ultrabooks are too expensive." Many are speculating that, as a result, many ultrabook manufacturers will turn to thin laptops similar to ultrabooks that do not incur the high costs of current designs. Things like metal cases, expensive hinges and expensive solid state drives are what are keeping ultrabook prices high enough to dissuade potential buyers.

These new thin laptops are predicted to have prices in the $600 range and launch in Q2 2012, although that strategy could also backfire. Low-cost laptops, like the netbook, have yet to be widely accepted due to the fact that they were built from cheap chassis materials, had low-end components and lacked the performance power of other laptops. What this could mean for the laptop industry as a whole is still up in the air.

Source: CNET - As ultrabook makers seek stronger sales, some opt for low cost

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

LeanPrint Reduces Ink Use by 40 Percent

On Monday, March 5 Adobe announced a new service that is designed to reduce the amount of ink used when printing. It is being called LeanPrint.

According to Adobe, LeanPrint will save up to 40 percent of the toner that would normally be used when printing something. It is able to do this in certain modes like “SuperSaver” and “TonerSaver.” The basic idea of LeanPrint is that it will work to squeeze more onto a page and reduce the amount of toner used on prints that use a lot of ink. This will help to not only save on ink but paper as well.

Now, when you think about it, this new software seems like it would be undermining printer company’s plans to sell you a cheap printer that must be replaced with expensive toner when the ink runs out; however, Toshiba America Business Solutions (TABS) is the first printer maker to endorse and promote the new LeanPrint software. According to Adobe, Toshiba will be available to distribute LeanPrint to its customers across the continent.

Adobe said that LeanPrint is targeting both large companies as well as individuals. Those who are interested must purchase a license from a company that is partnering with Adobe, like Toshiba. Customers can either sign up for a 30-day free trial or pay $99 for a one-year subscription.

"Adobe has always prided itself on environmentally conscious behavior, from its LEED Platinum certified buildings to its carbon offsets," said Raman Nagpal, the senior director and general manager of Adobe Print and Scan Business. "With LeanPrint, we are bringing together our commitment to the environment and a deep understanding of the print industry to further drive down printing costs. Adobe is excited to launch LeanPrint with a like-minded company like Toshiba, who will help distribute this technology throughout North America."

All of this news is not good for printer companies like HP. During a second quarter conference call, the chief executive of HP, Meg Whitman, discussed the current shift of corporations and individual consumers towards printing less.

"We faced a number of challenges and the printing market is more mature and more mature markets tend to be governed more by macroeconomic forces," Whitman said. "I am convinced that a number of our challenges do relate to the macroeconomic challenges, weak consumer demand, weak small office, home office demand. The sell-through of ink in particular is at pretty low levels and it's not just our ink, it's industry ink."

This really could pose an issue to printer companies in the near future; however, it also might help to reduce the inflated pricing of toner. It will be interesting to see how printer companies react.

Sources: PCMag - Adobe 'LeanPrint' Claims to Cut Ink Use by 40 Percent and Tom's Guide - Adobe Releases LeanPrint Software to Save on Ink, Paper

Power Point Projectors
Most business class projectors will do a good job displaying your PowerPoint presentation. If you have a small presentation group, a 2000 lumen LCD projector will be able to produce a nice and clear picture. For larger audiences you should consider a 5000 lumen LCD projector.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Drastically Lower Windows 8 SKU Options

Windows 8Windows 8 will be coming soon (we hope) and the tech world is in a frenzy. Windows 7 was one of the best operating systems released by Microsoft and was a much welcomed change over its previous iteration, Windows Vista. Naturally, Microsoft will be making a few changes here and there to the operating system but one that may catch people off guard is that Microsoft may be making a change to the number of editions, or SKUs, that will be sold to the public.

A couple of different files from HP's website uncovered by ZDNet blogger Stephen Chapman seem to indicate how many different versions of Windows 8 Microsoft is planning on selling to the public. Specifically, these files list the versions of Windows 8 that will be supported by drivers in an HP laptop smart card reader. Suspiciously, HP has already removed these references to the operating system from the files.

Fortunately, Chapman was able to record what the files said, which offered six different versions of Windows 8:

  • Microsoft Windows 8 32 Edition

  • Microsoft Windows 8 64 Edition

  • Microsoft Windows 8 Enterprise 32 Edition

  • Microsoft Windows 8 Enterprise 64 Edition

  • Microsoft Windows 8 Professional 32 Edition

  • Microsoft Windows 8 Professional 64 Edition

Individual consumers will most likely be interested in the standard 32 and 64 editions of Windows 8 with the Enterprise versions targeting large businesses and the Professional versions targeting small businesses and high-end users. However, it is still not 100% clear as to whether or not these will actually be Windows 8 SKUs. Chapman noted that these names could simply be fill-ins until the actual SKUs are announced, though the specifics are throwing some people off of that idea.

If this is real, then it is obvious that Microsoft is trying to limit the different versions of Windows 8 available to customers. In the past Microsoft has rolled out a lot of different versions of its operating systems, with some of the more complicated ones being Windows Vista and Windows 7. Windows 7 came with six different SKUs: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate with 5 of those 6 coming in both 32 and 64 bit versions, making a grand total of 11 different versions.

Vista was exactly the same with 32 and 64 bit versions of Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate, Business and Enterprise with the Starter version (like Windows 7) only coming in a 32 bit version. If the HP files tell the truth, this should be a good step for Microsoft in limiting the number of SKUs. Fewer choices mean less confusion, less confusion means happier customers, happier customers means more business. The Windows 8 beta is said to start this Wednesday so maybe Microsoft will unveil something then.

Source: CNET - Microsoft may limit the number of Windows 8 editions
ZDNet - Windows 8 SKUs mentioned on

Friday, February 24, 2012

Samsung Unveils New Quad-Core Exynos Processors

Samsung has just displayed a new processor at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference. The new Exynos chip will be available in dual-core or quad-core configurations with 200MHz to 1.5GHz frequencies. In addition to that, the new Exynos chip is a 32nm part unlike the current Exynos chip which is only a 45nm process. This smaller footprint also means that the chip will have a higher performance and less power consumption for the same clock speeds.

Samsung is pairing this new chip with the latest version of the company's very own graphics chip, which has 4 pixel processors and 1 geometry engine with 128 KB L2 cache. The graphics will also support OpenGL ES 2.0 and can also generate up to 57 MPolygons/s. Considering that Samsung recently announced new low power DDR3 memory, it isn't surprising to see that this CPU also has support for LPDDR2 or DDR3.

According to the company, this chip will be able to deliver up to 26% more performance than the current Exynos chip and will also be able to deliver battery life improvements of up to 50% with a 45% power save for CPU tasks and 48% for 3D calculations. These comparisons seem to be made with the dual-core chip and it will also be interesting to see how the quad-core chip compares. Samsung is expected to officially announce the chips at the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona so we will surely find more information there.

It is also expected that Samsung will begin shipping these chips to customers and retailers in the next couple of months, bringing quad-core performance with more battery life to all. Samsung has also stated that this new version of the Exynos was designed with power consumption in mind unlike the current chip which was built around performance.

Source: Engadget - Samsung demos new 32nm quad-core Exynos ahead of MWC
Unwired View - Samsung shows off quad-core Exynos processor

Security Camera Solutions

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dedicated Tech Support for HP Elite PC Customers

HPIf you are one of Hewlett-Packard's Elite PC customers, then I have some good news for you. The company recently announced that it has officially expanded tech support options for its Elite PC customers who will now have the opportunity to select a single tech support official to deal with exclusively for the entire life of their computer. This basically means that Elite PC owners will have a single tech support professional that will deal with all of their computer problems. Whenever you need tech support, you will always get the same guy or gal.

When this new tech support plan goes into effect, Elite PC customers will get a single number to call and a single point of contact for all of their tech support needs. In addition to that, business customers can schedule support calls whenever they chose. Other options include prioritized support and PC set-up options with the support plans extending to remote and cloud-based PC support.

A lot of tech analysts are applauding HP for this move, calling it a great step forward for the company, which is currently trying to win back the confidence of its PC customers, as well as the PC community at large, after a rough 2011. It was originally reported that the company had written off its PC division altogether due to poor numbers, though it appears as if a change of heart has occurred as the company is working harder than ever to get back on top.

Tech support comes standard with every Elite PC purchase from HP and is also available for existing Elite PC customers. Elite laptops, desktops and workstations are usually aimed at business professionals and thus are priced a little higher on average than consumer devices. HP also offers business PCs, like Folio and ProBook laptops, though this new support option will not be available for those customers. More support options are also said to be arriving in the coming months, HP said.

Source: PC World - HP Assigns Dedicated Tech Support for Elite PCs

DVD Video Projectors are exactly what they sound like, a combination unit that combines a DVD media player with a video projector, cutting out the need for multiple pieces of electronics and wiring.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Google Steals Senior Apple Executive for Project

Simon PrakashGoogle is definitely one of the most prominent and influential technology businesses in the world. I can't think of anybody who doesn't use the Google search engine on a daily basis and the features like Gmail, Google+, Google Docs and others make the site all the more accessible for everybody.

Being the technological giant that it is, it isn't surprising that Google is always scouting for new talent, trying to get the very best possible employees on its team. In many cases this results in Google stealing some of the best and brightest minds in the industry away from other companies, including the almighty Apple.

Apple is the most recent victim of a Google acquisition as the Cupertino company has just lost its Senior Director of Project Integrity Simon Prakash to Google. At the moment it is unclear why exactly Google wants or needs Prakash. It could be for some new intellectual property or it could be to simply weaken Apple by stealing away a great mind. VentureBeat has noted that the project Prakash was brought on for is, unsurprisingly, a secret one.

In addition to that, VentureBeat says that this is the first time that Google has been able to convince a senior employee to leave Apple. There are many reasons for that. One could be that Google never made a good enough offer but I'm betting that people were just too afraid to walk out on Steve Jobs. What's more interesting is that this job deal comes right at the time the Department of Justice is investigating both Apple and Google, as well as a host of other companies, for having a proposed agreement to not go after each other's employees. It is rumored that this agreement was put in place to keep salaries in the industry low while also limiting competition.

Prakash has worked at Apple for the last eight years and was also responsible for product quality across all of the company's product lines. It has also been said that Prakash started his employment at Google today. Given his past at Apple, Prakash may very well be in charge of overseeing Motorola's Android devices though this is just speculation.

Source: Slash Gear - Google swipes Apple senior director of project integrity
Engadget - Report: Google hires Apple exec to work on 'secret project'
VentureBeat - Google hires a senior director at Apple for a top secret project (exclusive)

Short-throw projectors only require half the projection distance of traditional projectors. The projector can be placed just a foot or so from the screen. This is nice because it keeps the projector and screen near each other instead of having a long throw projector that people can accidentally block.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Steve Appleton, CEO of Micron, Dies in Plane Crash

In a very sad announcement, it has been discovered that CEO and Chairman of the Board at Micron Steve Appleton died in a plane crash earlier this morning in Boise, Idaho. 51-year old Appleton was in the process of flying an experimental fixed-wing plane at the time of the accident.

According to a statement from Micron regarding the loss, "Steve's passion and energy left an indelible mark on Micron, the Idaho community and the technology industry at large." Appleton had been working for Micron for 29 years since he started in 1983 and had served the company as a Production Manager, Director of Manufacturing, Vice President of Manufacturing and Chief Operating Officer.

Based in Boise, the company is the largest memory chip manufacturer in the United States and one of the largest in the world. Micron has plants scattered across several states including Idaho, Utah and Virginia and also operates a joint manufacturing venture with Intel. Micron, for those who don't recognize the name, is responsible for brands like Lexar as well as Crucial.

Mr. Appleton began work for Micron when he was only 22, where he worked the overnight shift at the company's factory. From there he climbed the ranks until he reached the top spot of Micron CEO in 1994. However, Micron wasn't Appleton's only venture as the CEO was also a stunt pilot, triathlete and tennis player.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Appleton's friends, family and coworkers in this difficult time.

Source: CNET - Micron CEO Steve Appleton dies in plane crash
USA Today - Micron CEO Steve Appleton dies in crash of small plane

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Apple's iPad Outsells HP's PCs in Q1 2012

iPadsIt's no surprise that Apple is one of the top PC and technology makers in the world. What may be surprising is the fact that Apple has surpassed HP in computer unit sales and revenues for the first time ever, making the Cupertino giant the number one company. Apple can attribute a lot of this success to record sales of iPads and, instead of losing sales to low priced tablets, Apple said that it would continue to "innovate like crazy" in the tablet market.

The company reported quarterly sales of 15.4 million iPads and 5.2 million Macs, which gave Apple more than 20 million sales of dedicated computing devices. It was reported that HP's sales for the fourth quarter of 2011 were close to 14.7 million, with Lenovo and Dell selling 12.9 million and 11.6 million units, respectively. In addition to that, Apple's figures were twice that of those reported by Microsoft for the same quarter.

Tim Cook, the new CEO of Apple, was asked about the impact of lower-priced tablets in the market, like Amazon's Kindle Fire. Cook replied that he was happy with the iPad's sales and pointed out that sell-through had exceeded sell-in, which left the company with strained inventory levels around the world, contradicting the rumors that the Kindle Fire had dampened potential iPad sales. Cook also stated that Apple sees the iPad as a "huge opportunity for Apple over time" and that "there will come a day when the tablet market in units is larger than the PC market."

Tablets are indeed doing very well with almost every name in the tech world offering their own version of the iPad which pioneered the market. However, I don't think that tablets will ever fully replace computers or laptops. Physical keyboards and mouse controls are too ingrained in people and are also extremely necessary for a lot of computing tasks. Sure you can make keyboard docks and mouse attachments, but what's the point?

Cook also pointed out that the rapid growth of iPad sales was eating up the growth of generic PC sales but not hurting the Apple's own Mac sales. It seems that all of Apple's mobile tech gadgets draw in customers for the company's netbooks and desktop computers. Sales of both have been up, and over 1/5 of all Apple Mac sales were through the company's own retail stores.

Source: Apple Insider - Apple now largest computer maker, sold more iPads alone than HP sold PCs
Slash Gear - Apple sold more iPads than HP sold PCs in Q1 2012

Power Point Projectors
Most business class projectors will do a good job displaying your PowerPoint presentation. If you have a small presentation group, a 2000 lumen LCD projector will be able to produce a nice and clear picture. For larger audiences you should consider a 5000 lumen LCD projector.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Amazon's Cloud Allowing Windows Server to Run Free

Amazon CloudIf you are wanting to run Windows Server via Amazon's Cloud Service for free, the time has come for your wish to be granted. That's right, enterprise companies now have the ability to run Microsoft's Windows Server for as many as 750 hours in Amazon's cloud completely free using the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Free Usage Tier according to a statement released by the website on Saturday.

This announcement will allow enterprise companies that already run applications on Windows Server to give Amazon's cloud service a test drive completely free of charge. Enterprise users will be able to select from a wide array of pre-configured Amazon Machine Images without Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2. The Windows Server images run on a Micro instance (virtual sever) that includes 613 MB of memory as well as 32-bit or 64-bit support.

The Free Usage Tier was launched back in 2010 but has only recently become available with Linux. Enterprise companies now have the opportunity to run both operating systems simultaneously for as long as 750 hours per month for one year. After that, these companies will have to pay regular fees that start as low as $0.02 per hour for Linux and $0.03 per hour for Windows.

If a company exceeds its usage limits, additional fees will be incurred. For instance, if you have two different server instances active for 400 hours a piece for the entire month, you have gone over your monthly usage by 50 hours. The first 750 hours will still be free, but you will have to pay the standard price for the 50 hours extra you used. In addition to that, the tier also includes limited use of Amazon's load balancer, storage services and the SimpleDB database.

Source: Computer World - Windows Server now runs for free in Amazon's cloud

Short-throw projectors only require half the projection distance of traditional projectors. The projector can be placed just a foot or so from the screen. This is nice because it keeps the projector and screen near each other instead of having a long throw projector that people can accidentally block.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Upgraded Samsung Series 7 Gamer Laptop Set to Hit U.S. in April

Samsung Series 7 GamerUs laptop gamers here in the states have been pretty envious of our European brothers as they have had the privilege of buying the Samsung Series 7 Gamer notebook since last spring. Well, this spring (April, to be specific) that envy dies and becomes reborn as jubilation as Samsung will be shipping the Series 7 Gamer to us Yanks while giving it a nice increase in specs at the same time.

The 17" gaming laptop will still have the same aesthetics, as well as the same external features, as its European counterpart, including the 2.1 speaker setup with down-firing Subwoofer, super-bright screen and that big knob thingy that switches the device between power modes, like the Gaming Mode, which clocks up the CPU turbo mode, changes the keyboard backlighting, disables the Windows key and a few other things. The only real external difference is the lack of a 3D display option and the addition of a DisplayPort output.

Crack this bad boy open and you will be able to find the differences. On the inside the Series 7 Gamer gets a nice new set of parts. The second generation Intel Sandy Bridge Core i7 processor is gone, replaced by a quad-core third-generation Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7 processor instead. In addition to that, the graphics have received an increase from the Radeon HD 6970M to the upcoming GeForce GTX 670M. You will still have a Blu-ray drive as well as the 2TB hard drive so nothing's new there.

You will be able to grab this mobile gaming giant when it is released in April for a reasonable $1,799, or whenever Intel's high-end Ivy Bridge chips and Nvidia's next-generation GPUs are ready to go, which we hope is by April because, honestly, we can't hold out on this laptop forever.

Source: PC World - Samsung to Bring Series 7 Gamer to the U.S., With Upgrades

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quanta Sues AMD Over "Faulty" Chips

Quanta Computer logoThe world's largest contract maker of notebook computers, Quanta Computer Incorporated, has filed a lawsuit against Advanced Micro Devices Incorporated (AMD) for what Quanta is calling a breach of contract. Quanta is accusing AMD of selling the company defective products and thus seeks compensation.

AMD and its ATI Technologies Incorporated unit sold chips to Quanta that did not meet the company's tolerances and were unfit for particular purposes, the company noted in a federal court filing in San Jose, California. The chips Quanta purchased were used in notebooks Quanta manufactured for NEC which caused the computers to malfunction and crash according to the court filing.

In a statement from Quanta that is found in the court documents says, "Quanta has suffered significant injury to prospective revenue and profits." Quanta is seeking a trial by jury as well as damages for the faulty chips. AMD, which accumulates over $6 billion in annual revenue, is the second largest maker of computer processors, bested only by Intel, which has a staggering $50 billion annual revenue.

The lawsuit also claims breach of warranty, negligent misrepresentation, civil fraud and interference with a contract. "AMD disputes the allegations in Quanta's complaint and believes they are without merit," AMD spokesman Michael Silverman said in a statement. "AMD is aware of no other customer reports of the alleged issues with the AMD chip that Quanta used, which AMD no longer sells. In fact, Quanta has itself acknowledged to AMD that it used the identical chip in large volumes in a different computer platform that it manufactured for NEC without such issues."

In addition to NEC, Quanta makes computers on contract for HP, Dell and Acer. The company's shares increased 1.9% in Taipei today before news of this lawsuit went public, and the case has been filed as Quanta v. Advanced Micro Devices, 12-cv-12, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.

Source: Bloomberg - Quanta Sues AMD Over Allegedly Unsuitable Chips for NEC Notebook Computers is news of, for and by SMBs! The Small & Medium Business Magazine!

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