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World Tech Update- July 24, 2014

IDG News Service

Coming up on WTU Facebook reports huge sales, Apple patents a smart watch and a space robot gets some updates.

 

Surface survives Microsoft cuts, but tablet strategy remains muddled

IDG News Service

As Microsoft announced its largest layoffs in its 39-year history — while saying it would press forward with its in-house Surface — analysts contended that the firm still hasn’t clearly stated its tablet strategy.

Earlier today, Microsoft said it would cut up to 18,000 jobs, or 14% of its work force, with the bulk of those layoffs coming from streamlining efforts after acquiring much of phone-maker Nokia.

The layoffs begin immediately, but as many as 5,000 will be left on tenterhooks for up to a year before knowing whether their jobs are safe.

Along with the layoffs, Microsoft also signaled an end to its experiment with Android, which powered the Nokia X series of smartphones. Nokia had kicked off the line prior to the deal’s completion.

“We plan to shift select Nokia X product designs to become Lumia products running Windows,” CEO Satya Nadella said in a message to employees.

Surface, the tablet-one-moment-notebook-the-next hardware that Microsoft debuted two years ago, will survive, the company made clear.

“With a set of changes already implemented earlier this year in these teams, this means there will be limited change for the Surface, Xbox hardware, PPI/meetings or next generation teams,” wrote Stephen Elop, the head of Microsoft’s device division, in a separate, much longer email to workers.

Nor, apparently, has Microsoft’s Surface strategy changed.

“More broadly across the Devices team, we will continue our efforts to bring iconic tablets to market in ways that complement our OEM partners, power the next generation of meetings [and] devices, and thoughtfully expand Windows with new interaction models,” Elop said.

While some on Wall Street have urged Microsoft to dump the Surface — and the Xbox for that matter — to focus on more profitable services and software, industry analysts contacted by Computerworld today weren’t surprised that the tablet/notebook survived the cuts.

“I’m not surprised that Microsoft is keeping Surface,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in an email today. “While it doesn’t fit 100% with ‘mobility and cloud,’ it’s close enough to keep it as it supports them driving their expanded definition of productivity by tying hardware, software and services.”

Others agreed.

“No, I didn’t think that they’d dump it,” echoed Wes Miller of Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash. research firm that focuses on the moves of nearby Microsoft. “Some people thought Microsoft would use this opportunity to ax the Surface, but it’s a big long-term bet for them. And the Surface Pro 3 sure seems to be a lot more popular than the earlier models.”

Microsoft started selling the third-generation Surface Pro 3 – an Intel processor-powered device that runs Windows 8.1 — last month, and will finish rolling out the line in two weeks. The Surface Pro 3 starts at $799, but costs $929 with a keyboard, a necessary add-on to fit the notebook replacement role that Microsoft markets.

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Extra! Extra! Read All About It (via Mobile)!

eMarketer

When it comes to magazine ads, reader recall is the same for print and tablet versions (52%), according to data released earlier this month by GfK MRI Starch Advertising Research. And based on May 2014 polling by IDG Global Solutions, magazines better hope this is true across all mobile devices—and newspapers should cross their fingers even more.

176330 Extra! Extra! Read All About It (via Mobile)!

The research found that among smartphone and tablet users worldwide whose devices had replaced other media, print newspapers saw the most abandonment, with 50% of tablet owners switching over to mobile news, and 41% of smartphone users doing the same. Print magazines followed: 47% of tablet-toting respondents had replaced them with a digital screen, and 33% of smartphone owners had moved their magazine reading to their phones.

These patterns were the same no matter a user’s age, though replacing traditional media with mobile was slightly more common among younger respondents. Users were less likely to have replaced other digital devices and TVs with a tablet or smartphone, and as a result, the majority multi-screened. Around three in five respondents from both groups used their mobile devices as they used other screens, and again, age didn’t play a huge role.

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The Four Most Surprisingly Useful Features In iOS 8

Fast Company

It’s tempting to think of iOS 8 as a more polished version of iOS 7; when you first install the update, there’s no visual cue that anything is different. But iOS 8 packs a long list of new features, some of which we’re still digging up weeks later. But what else is really new and worthwhile here? After thoroughly testing out the new OS, there were four such features that really stuck out.

1) Audio Messaging

I’m not fond of dictating my texts, yet I find the new quick audio feature in Messages to be addictive.

Activated by holding down the microphone icon, the feature immediately starts recording an audio message, which is then sent by sliding your finger up on the screen. If you misspoke (or are having second thoughts about drunk voice-texting your ex) you can use the familiar leftward swipe gesture to delete it before it sends. I suspect that once people try it, the tap, hold, and flick-to-send routine will become familiar.

Sending audio text messages isn’t for every situation–it’s still awkward to dictate messages while standing in line at Chipotle–but there are a lot of lazy situations in which it’s perfect. I found using it around the house, audio being a lot more convenient when doing chores. And because it doesn’t transcribe the note into text like Siri, there’s no need to correct spelling, which is especially nice when you’re behind the wheel.

2) Predictive Texting

Making texting even easier is the predictive text capabilities of the new keyboard. It’s one of the most noticeable new additions, thanks to the hard-to-miss row of words it appends right above the keyboard.

The QuickType feature–which lets you a few letters and tapping a word, typing a few more letters and selecting another–is a toss-up. Some might like it, while others might ignore it in favor of the way they’ve always typed on iOS. The place really comes in handy, however, is when replying to incoming messages.

For example, my wife sent me a few questions from the store and instead of having to type the answers, the choices were pre-populated. For the times messages are utilitarian in nature, the predictive text will be your best friend. Answering questions will be a delight, plus the predictive element learns how you speak to different contacts and tailors the responses accordingly. In this regard, messaging with iOS 7 will feel like a huge chore once you’ve used iOS 8.

3) Better App Store

After six years the App Store has seen its fair share of criticism. It’s also pretty clear the App Store is too big too do a good job and make everyone happy. The updates made to it in iOS 8, however, are pretty nice.

Visually, icons are bigger and items are spaced a little better, but overall it remains similar. The biggest complaint–which Apple is trying to address–is discoverability. Third-party apps make the iPhone experience. In iOS 8, surfacing new apps in the App Store feels a lot easier.

Google’s Play store has a similar problem: Once you highlight dozens of apps in different ways, the results can be overwhelming for users. One way the iOS 8 App Store tries to change this is by making it easier to drill down into specific interests.

There’s a new “explore” button now which combines previous efforts into one area. Front and center under explore is apps “Popular Near Me,” while the categories underneath help to separate the sub-division out more. Tapping “Music,” for example, produced a long list including “Apps For Learning Music,” “Lyrics,” and “Radio.” All very different types of apps that still fall under the broad music category.

Another subtle, but helpful addition is under the search button. Without typing anything, the first thing you see is a list of trending searches. This has already proved useful, not to mention interesting. Revision: Once you search for something, the store displays a list of items related to your query, further improving app discovery.

The tweaks might seem small, but they could be enough to help people find apps they might not have otherwise.

4) Spotlight

Spotlight finally feels like it’s reached the level of maturity it was destined for since its introduction. Integrating things like App Store searches, iTunes music, nearby places, and news rounds out thesearch box nicely.

In practice, it’s the first time I feel like I have a go-to place on iOS to quickly type things and at least get close enough to what I’m looking for. I was concerned Safari had too many desktop metaphors to be a useful mobile browser, but in combination with Spotlight’s new capabilities, the two work well together.

Spotlight in iOS 7 often came up short, focusing mostly onlocal search. Now in iOS 8, if I search for an app I need, it doesn’t matter if it’s on the phone or not because Spotlight will find it on the app store if it’s not local. Same for music, it doesn’t matter if a song is in my library or not because searching will still find it in iTunes.

The important improvement in Spotlight is that I don’t have to think about whether I need to search online or locally on my phone because the two are much more intertwined now.

I’d still love to see more refinement and work on Spotlight going forward, but in practice it’s much more useful than it’s ever been before.

Click to see images

Smartphone Commerce: Visits, Revenue, Orders Increase

MediaPost

More retail activity is starting with mobile devices, which is growing dramatically across the board.

While most actual purchasing still happens in stores and most online buying is from desktops, mobile continues to increase its influence on all areas.

Two separate studies out this week provide yet another snapshot of the scope of activity.

Revenue from dedicated mobile commerce sites of more than 350 retailers jumped 114% from a year ago, based on an index from Unbound Commerce. The average value of a mobile order increased 31% to $109 in that tally.

The monthly Mobile Commerce Index for June by BrandingBrand also found the mobile market marches on.

Smartphone activity is growing across the board, with the highest percentage growth in the area of revenue. Here’s the smartphone activity growth compared to the same month a year ago, according to Branding Brand.:

  • 110% — Revenue
  • 84% — Orders
  • 74% — Page views
  • 57% — Visits

The data is based on a sample of 26 of its retail customers comprising 109 million Web page views, 873 million page views and 2 million orders with total revenue of $291 million.

Traffic from mobile devices continues to increase, with almost half (49%) now coming from smartphones and tablets.

However, the majority (72%) of orders are non-mobile orders, though the market share of smartphone orders increased 68% from a year ago.

Many studies show commerce from tablets being much higher than those form smartphones.

However, in what may be an early indicator, the BrandingBrand index shows the gap narrowing, with 15% coming from tablets and 14% from smartphones.

As a source of revenue, mobile orders also continue to grow, now accounting for a quarter of revenue, up from 20% a year ago.

These and similar recent studies continue to document the import of mobile commerce. This presents the question of how well merchants and marketers can keep up.

All the major issues relating to mobile commerce will be discussed at the MediaPost OMMA mCommerce conference in New York on Aug. 7. Hope to see you there. Check out the agenda.

Coming soon: Mobile devices that can beam 4K video directly to TVs

IDG News Service

Smartphones and tablets will be able to transmit 4K video directly to big screens next year now that mobile chip maker Qualcomm has acquired Wilocity.

Wilocity makes chips based on WiGig technology, which wirelessly transfers data between devices at speeds of up to 7Gbps (bits per second) over a limited distance.

Qualcomm will integrate that technology in its 64-bit Snapdragon 810 mobile chip, it said Wednesday when it announced the acquisition. The first smartphones and tablets with WiGig will ship in the second half of next year, said Cormac Conroy, vice president of product management and engineering for Qualcomm’s Atheros division.

Device makers will ultimately decide if they want to use the WiGig chip in smartphones and tablets, a company spokeswoman said.

WiGig could spell the end of HDMI ports in mobile devices and also eliminate clutter and connectors required to transfer data or 4K video. WiGig is faster than Wi-Fi 802.11ac and LTE mobile broadband technologies, which are already in Snapdragon chips.

Qualcomm officials declined to say how much the company paid for Wilocity.

4K content is growing by the day and faster wireless data-transfer technologies are needed in mobile devices, Conroy said, adding it is the right time to integrate WiGig into Snapdragon.

Netflix has started streaming 4K video, and WiGig can turn mobile devices into media stations so streams can be dispatched to 4K TVs and displays. 4K video has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is four times that of 1920 x 1080 pixel, high-definition video.

The utility of WiGig goes beyond 4K video. Intel wants to free PCs of wiresby 2016 with the use of WiGig to connect desktops to displays, wireless keyboards and mice. Intel also views WiGig as a preferred data-transfer technology for mobile devices over low-power Thunderbolt, which would involve connectors and wires.

Dell is using WiGig technology in a wireless laptop dock.

Mobile device users will be able to sync data with the cloud faster through WiGig, said Tal Tamir, vice president of product management at Qualcomm Atheros, and formerly CEO of Wilocity.

Data exchange between mobile devices and the cloud is heavier in the enterprise, and WiGig will provide low-power, multi-gigabit throughput, Tamir said.

With PC-like data transfer capabilities, mobile devices could come close to becoming full-fledged computers, Tamir said. But WiGig won’t replace wired connectors like USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, which are widely used in computers, external storage devices, monitors and other peripherals.

WiGig has been around for years, but adoption has been slow. Qualcomm’s integration of the technology into smartphone and tablet chips should push adoption of the technology.

Mobile Facts To Keep In Mind – Part 1

Monday Note

By the end of 2014, many news media will collect around 50% of their page views via mobile devices. Here are trends to remember before devising a mobile strategy. (First of a two-part series.)

In the news business, mobile investments are on the rise. That’s the pragmatic response to a major trend: Users shift from web to mobile. Already, all major media outlets are bracing for a momentous threshold: 50% of their viewership coming from mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). Unfortunately, the revenue stream is not likely to follow anytime soon: making users pay for mobile content has proven much more difficult than hoped for. As for advertising, the code has yet to be cracked for (a) finding formats that won’t trigger massive user rejection, and (b) monetizing in ways comparable to the web (i.e. within the context of a controlled deflation). Let’s dive into a few facts:

Apps vs. WebApps or Mobile sites. A couple of years ago, I was among those who defended web apps (i.e. encapsulated HTML5 coding, not tied to a specific OS platform) vs. native apps (for iOS, Android, Windows Phone). The idea was to give publishers more freedom and to avoid the 30% app store levy. Also, every publisher had in mind the success enjoyed by the FT.com when it managed to put all its eggs in its web app and so retain complete control over the relationship with its customers.

All of the above remains true but, from the users’ perspective, facts speak loudly: According to Flurry Analytics, apps now account for 86% of the time spent by mobile users vs. 14% for mobile sites (including web apps.) A year ago, the balance was 80% for apps and 20% for mobile web.

Trend #1: Native apps lead the game
at the expense of web apps and mobile sites 

One remark, though: the result must take in account the weight of games and Facebook apps that account for 50% of the time spent on mobile. News-related usage leans more to mobile as there is not (yet) demand for complex rendering as in a gaming app. But as far news applications are concerned, we haven’t seen major breakthroughs in mobile web or web apps over the last months and it seems development is stalling.

News vs. the rest of the app world. On a daily total of 2hrs 50mn spent by mobile users (source: eMarketer), 2% to 5% of that time is spent on news. Once you turn to growth, the small percentage number starts to look better: The news segment is growing faster (+64% Y/Y) than messaging and social (+28%) or gaming and entertainment (+9% each); the fastest usage segment being the productivity apps (+119%) and that’s due to the transfer of professional uses from the desktop to the mobile.

Trend #2: On mobile, news is growing faster
than game or social 

…And it will grow stronger as publishers will deploy their best efforts to adjust contents and features to small screens and on-the-go usage and as mobile competitors multiply.

Click to read more…

Total US Ad Spending to See Largest Increase Since 2004

eMarketer

Total media ad spending in the US this year will see its largest increase in a decade, according to new figures from eMarketer. On the strength of gains in mobile and TV advertising, total ad investments will jump 5.3% to reach $180.12 billion, achieving 5% growth for the first time since 2004, when ad spending increased 6.7%.

174134 Total US Ad Spending to See Largest Increase Since 2004

Mobile will lead this year’s rise in total media ad spending in the US, and advertisers will spend 83.0% more on tablets and smartphones than they did in 2013—an increase of $8.04 billion. By the end of this year, mobile will represent nearly 10% of all media ad spending, surpassing newspapers, magazines and radio for the first time to become the third-largest individual advertising venue, only trailing TV and desktops/laptops. Though investments in TV advertising will rise just 3.3%, advertisers will spend $2.19 billion more on the medium than they did in 2013, making it the second-leading category in terms of year-over-year dollar growth.

The surge in mobile advertising is chiefly attributable to the fact that consumers are spending more and more time with their tablets and smartphones. According to eMarketer’s latest estimates, US adults will spend an average of 2 hours 51 minutes per day with mobile devices this year. In 2013, daily time spent on mobile devices and on desktops and laptops was equal, totaling 2 hours 19 minutes, but this year, time with desktops and laptops will drop slightly to 2 hours 12 minutes, while mobile time will increase significantly. TV remains by far the largest beneficiary of adults’ media time, at 4 hours 28 minutes in 2014, hence its persistent lead as the top category for advertising spending.

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2015 set to be the year of the tablet

Marketing Week

In 2015 tablet sales will reach more than 320 million units and 316 million PC units are expected to be shifted globally, Gartner predicts.

While tablet sales are set to overtake PC sales, the tablet market is expected to experience a “relative slowdown” in growth this year to reach 256 million units, an increase of 23.9 per cent from 2013. The slowdown in penetration has been pinned partly on lower demand from users for tablets in smaller screens in mature markets and the shift towards phablets in South-East Asia.

Gartner’s forecast of a slowdown echoes CCS Insight’s predictions earlier this year, estimating that the UK tablet market is set to slump in 2014 as “buyer’s remorse” strikes consumers who initially bought low quality devices.

Gartner predicts the next wave of tablet adoption will be driven by lower price points, rather than “superior functionality”.

While the traditional PC market continues its decline, 2014 will mark a “relative revival” for the sector. After declining 9.3 per cent in 2013, the global PC market is on pace to shrink just 2.9 per cent in 2014, Gartner estimates. Sales are then expected to increase 2.7 per cent year on year in 2015.

Ranjit Atwal, Gartner research director, says: “Business upgrades from Windows XP and the general business replacement cycle will lessen the downward trend, especially in Western Europe. This year we anticipate nearly 60 million professional PC replacements in mature markets.”

Elsewhere, Gartner estimates smartphone sales will represent 88 per cent of global mobile phone sales by 2018, up from 66 per cent this year. Sales of mobile phones are expected to increase 3.1 per cent year on year to 1.9 billion units in 2014.

Android and iOS are driving smartphone sales spike, but Gartner predicts Windows Phones will also exhibit strong growth from a low base in 2014 and are projected to reach 10 per cent market share by 2018 – up from 4 per cent in 2014.

Microsoft, which owns Windows Phone, recently completed its acquisition of Nokia’s devices and services business , a move it hopes will strengthen its position in the competitive smartphone market.

Impatient iPhone users switching to larger-screened Samsung Galaxy S5

The Guardian

Apple users are losing patience waiting for a larger-screened iPhone. New data showing that 26% of British buyers of Samsung’s Galaxy S5 in the three months to the end of May switched from the iPhone – compared to 12% the year before, according to Kantar ComTech’s Worldpanel.

Though the effect was not as marked across Europe, Kantar’s data still shows that 17% of Galaxy S5 buyers there had switched from the iPhone. In the US, the figure was just 8% – indicating, said Kantar, higher brand loyalty to Apple in its home country.

With larger-screened iPhones not expected before September, Apple may see more defections as Samsung presses its advantage. Samsung has begun cutting the price of the Galaxy S5, only two months into its launch.

But Samsung’s satisfaction in capturing switchers may be tempered by the fact that its Galaxy S5 was only the third best-selling phone in the UK – behind Apple’s iPhone 5S and 5C.

Update: The 5C was best-selling with 11.1% of all sales, the 5S next with 11%, said Kantar. The Galaxy S5 had 9%, and its year-old Galaxy S4 7.4%. The Moto G had 6% of all sales. Together those five handsets had 44.5% of all sales.

The month of May included the first full month of sales for Samsung’s new flagship phone, which has a 5.1in screen – substantially larger than the 3.5in screen of the iPhone 4 and 4S, and the 4in screen of the iPhone 5 and successors.

Think big

Apple’s need for a larger-screened phone was indicated as a perceived weakness by an internal sales presentation unveiled in its recent trial with Samsung in the US. That dated to April 2013 – since when the company has been working on designing the phones due for release this year.

A growing amount of claimed leaks from Apple’s supply chain, as well as new software functionality included in its forthcoming iOS 8 release,suggest that the iPhone maker will be releasing at least one and possibly two larger-screened iPhones in the autumn, when it usually releases new phone models.

Overall, Kantar’s data showed a surge in the share of sales for handsets running Google’s Android for the three months to the end of May 2014. In the US, its share of sales rose to 61.9%, the first time they have been above 60% since August 2012. Apple’s share of sales was 32.5%, its lowest since October 2011 when the iPhone 4S was launched.

In Germany, Android sales passed 80%, for the first time; iPhone sales were 12.1%, the smallest since September. Windows Phone sales fell, to 5.9% of sales.

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