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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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PC Shipments in EMEA Return to Growth in 2Q14, Says IDC

IDC PMS4colorversion  300x99 PC Shipments in EMEA Return to Growth in 2Q14, Says IDC

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), PC shipments in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) reached 21.9 million units in the second quarter of 2014 — a 10.5% increase year on year and a clear return to growth after seven quarters of consecutive decline. As in the previous quarter, Western Europe drove most of the regional growth, with shipments supported by strong enterprise renewals, which led to an overall 25% increase in the PC market. Consumer shipments also returned to growth after a severe contraction in 2013. At the same time, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) remained impacted by the unstable political and economic situation in Russia and by currency fluctuations; as forecast, CEE declined by 13.2%. The Middle East and Africa (MEA) posted a modest 1.9% increase in shipments. In line with those trends, portable PC shipments in EMEA returned to growth (up 8.3%), while desktop PC shipments increased 14.1%. The increase in total EMEA shipments indicates a rebound in the market but not a recovery as volumes remain below the 25 million unit mark of the peak periods in 2010 and 2012.
“The clear improvements in EMEA are positive signs for PC manufacturers,” said Chrystelle Labesque, research manager, IDC EMEA Personal Computing. “However, there was still a big difference between the subregions, and especially in the consumer segment the divide between mature and emerging markets is similar to the worldwide trend. While some parts of the CEMA [Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa] PC market continued to suffer from unfavorable exchange rates and a difficult political situation, Western European shipments were fueled by low-end consumer notebooks. Even if the comparison is eased by a very poor second quarter of 2013, more attractive products at the right price points encouraged more consumers to renew their devices. Retailers and etailers also seem more confident as new product designs and features better positioned price-wise are now generating higher sales and not only just interest. Promotional activities and vendors’ preparation for the back-to-school period further supported the market. The level of inventory will have to be monitored closely as back-to-school sales progress during August and September.” In this context, Chromebooks continued to grow, but their impact is limited to several countries in Western Europe.
PC shipments in Western Europe have continued to benefit this quarter from ongoing renewals in the SMB space following the end of Windows XP support. Commercial demand remained strong as business confidence stemming from an improving macroeconomic outlook contributed to corporate renewals. Commercial PC shipment growth in Western Europe reached 26.9% — clear confirmation that PCs remain key productivity tools in the enterprise environment. At the same time, the rebound in consumer shipments accelerated and some markets, including southern Europe, returned to levels of business close to their capacity. Shipments in Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands took off, with sell-in up by more than 40%.
“The lack of investments in PC renewals during the past two years contributed to an aging installed base across the commercial market and, together with the end of Windows XP support, this generated large renewal needs,” said Maciej Gornicki, senior research analyst, IDC EMEA Personal Computing. “As the macroeconomic outlook improved in most Western European countries, large enterprises regained confidence and started to replace their PCs, while many companies in the SMB segment reacted late to the change in the operating system. This has mainly boosted demand for desktops in the past two quarters, while the wave of portable renewals remains ahead of us.”

Apple’s IBM Deal Marks the Real Beginning of the Post-PC Era

Mashable

When you look at the landscape of powerful players in the enterprise, a few names tend to stand out: IBM, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Apple.

Wait, Apple? A decade ago, it was rare to see Apple products in the enterprise. Sure, an executive here and there might have had a MacBook — maybe the graphics or marketing division used OS X — but everyone else worked on Windows and carried a BlackBerry.

Fast forward to today. Consumers have shifted away from the desktop-and-laptop world and more to the cloud, streaming media and mobile devices, and business and enterprise have, too. Today, iOS is in 98% of the Fortune 500. Almost in spite of itself, Apple has become a force of nature in the enterprise.

Seemingly overnight, Apple — the consummate consumer company — is a big player in the enterprise.

That reality became crystalized on Tuesday when Apple announced that it would be partnering with IBM to focus on “transforming enterprise.” The deal will pair Apple’s mobile and tablet hardware with IBM’s services, which include its Big Data, cloud and security infrastructure.

How exactly did this happen?

Falling into enterprise

The original iPhone wasn’t designed for business users. You could use a custom email setup, but there was no Exchange support, no VPN and no built-in productivity apps. With the iPhone 3G and iOS 2.0, Apple started adding more enterprise-friendly features, largely at the behest of businesses. Executives bought iPhones and wanted to use them in the office.

But it was the iPad, first released in 2010, that really changed the game. The portable nature of the tablet, coupled with a growing library of custom or publicly available third-party apps made the devices an instant hit in the office and in schools.

The iPad came along at the perfect time. Big enterprise customers were already starting to shift to cloud-based solutions for CRM and document management, which made it easy for an iPad to step in for a laptop on sales calls or in meetings.

Phil Buckellew, IBM’s vice president of enterprise mobile, says enterprise customers are constantly asking — demanding, really — more mobile solutions that are easy to use.

Why? It’s simple. People use an iPad at home and want to have that same experience at work. Users are accustomed to solutions “just working.”

Historical enterprise companies such as Microsoft and BlackBerry have struggled to adapt their technologies for the modern consumer, but by virtue of its consumer-friendly user experience, Apple seems to have almost accidentally fallen into enterprise.

Post-PC for the office is coming

Back in 2010, Steve Jobs famously discussed the emergence of a Post-PC world. Much hand-wringing and rationalizations about how the PC is still relevant has followed, but the reality is, Jobs was right. For most users, the PC is no longer the center of their digital lives, that center is now a smartphone (or even a tablet).

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Brazil Wins at Something: Digital Ad Spending in Latin America

eMarketer

Digital ad spending in Latin America will increase 28.5% this year—the second-fastest growth rate out of all regions worldwide, trailing only the Middle East and Africa—to hit $5.29 billion, according to eMarketer’s latest estimates of global digital ad spending.

175102 Brazil Wins at Something: Digital Ad Spending in Latin America

Double-digit gains will continue throughout our forecast period, pushing total investments in Latin America to $9.36 billion by 2018. Thanks to this growth, the region will rise from second-to-last place in digital ad spending worldwide in 2016, when it is set to surpass Central and Eastern Europe. However, it will still see far lower spending compared with North America, Asia-Pacific and Western Europe, and will claim just 4.4% of the digital ad spend market in 2018.

Brazil will maintain the highest levels of digital ad spending out of the Latin American countries for which eMarketer produces estimates, at $2.88 billion—or 54.4% of all digital ad spend in the region. Meanwhile, second- and third-place Mexico and Argentina will see far lower digital ad investments of $900 million and $310 million, respectively.

Despite higher gains in Mexico than in Brazil, the former will still rank second for digital ad spending in Latin America throughout our forecast period. Argentina will continue to pull up the rear, with increases at 7.0% or lower expected through 2018, compared with double-digit gains in the other two nations.

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Digital marketing budgets will grow

Warc

More than three-quarters of senior marketers in Asia-Pacific think digital, mobile and analytics will change the face of the industry over the next five years, a recent survey has revealed.

According to the regional segment of Accenture’s global study of 600 CMOs in 11 countries, 39% of its 180 APAC participants also expect spending on digital to account for over 75% of their marketing budgets over the same period.

But even though another 42% forecast that their marketing spend on digital will increase by more than 5% next year, only 23% expect their company to be known as a digital business within five years, Campaign Asia reported.

This prompted Accenture to warn industry practitioners that they need to embrace digital in order to survive.

“To be part of the enterprise digital transformation that every business needs to undertake for survival, CMOs need to extend their vision of marketing and its scope,” the report said.

Patricio De Matteis, managing director of Accenture Interactive for APAC, urged marketers to make best use of digital opportunities while also taking account of the customer experience.

“Senior marketing executives are well positioned to assume this role because the opportunities, as well as the potential, lie in the customer, the brand, the interface with the customer and how the customer is empowered,” he said.

He noted that an increasing number of companies are now hiring staff specifically to manage the customer experience and said “the key to success” is in developing an effective omnichannel experience.

This would appear to be an area requiring improvement because nearly three-quarters (73%) of the survey respondents believe it’s “essential” to deliver an effective customer experience, yet only 61% think their company is doing this well.

World Tech Update- July 17, 2014

IDG News Service

Coming up on WTU Microsoft announces lay off plans, IBM and Apple team up and Google tests out Project Tango in space.

Sponsored content is the holy grail of digital publishing. But does it work?

Fortune

People feel deceived when they realize an article or video is sponsored by a brand, and believe it hurts the digital publisher’s credibility, according to a study.

In recent years, a debate has raged on among publishing and advertising industry insiders over “sponsored content”—more recently called “native advertising” and once known as “advertorial”—the sort of advertising that looks very much like editorial content but is, in fact, directly paid for by an advertiser.

The approach has been embraced by newer digital ventures such as BuzzFeed and new digital efforts for very old publications like Forbes and The Atlantic. Industry peers watched and discussed: Is it deceptive? Is it ethical? Does it even work?

Whatever the answers, there’s no denying that the approach is suddenly in vogue. Storied news organizations such as the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times  NYT  have since taken the native plunge. (Fortune has also decided to engage in the practice.) Last year, advertisers spent $2.4 billion on native ads, a 77% jump over 2012. That same year, the Post’s CRO called native ads “a spiritual journey.” (Really.)

Native ads may be popular with publishers, but consumers are not in love, according to a new survey conducted by Contently, a startup that connects brands with writers who then create sponsored content. (Yes, the survey runs counter to Contently’s mission; more on that in a moment.)

Two-thirds of the survey’s respondents said they felt deceived when they realized an article or video was sponsored by a brand. Just over half said they didn’t trust branded content, regardless of what it was about. Fifty-nine percent said they believe that a news site that runs sponsored content loses credibility—although they also said they view branded content as slightly more trustworthy than Fox News.

Publishers and advertisers tend to respond to concerns of confusion or credibility with the same response: “It’s clearly labeled!” Simple disclosure solves all conflicts, they suggest. Readers are smart enough to figure it out, and critics don’t give them enough credit.

To wit: “They get the drill,” said Lewis Dvorkin, the True/Slant founder who led the massive expansion of the Forbes contributor network and its sponsored BrandVoice program, at an event last year. Likewise, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has said the native ads on the newspaper’s website are clearly labeled to ensure there are no doubts about “what is Times journalism and what is advertising.”

But Contently’s findings, based on a survey of 542 people, throw cold water on the notion that readers “get the drill.” According to the study, readers are confused about what “sponsored” even means: When they see the label “Sponsored Content,” half of them think it means that a sponsor paid for and influenced the article. One-fifth of them think the content is produced by an editorial team but “a sponsor’s money allowed it to happen.” Eighteen percent think the sponsor merely paid for its name to be next to the article. Thirteen percent think it means the sponsor actually wrote the article. Even the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is perplexed; a panel on native advertising last year “raised more questions than it answered.”

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Irrelevant Digital Content Impacts B2B Vendors in US & UK

IDG Connect 0811 300x141 Irrelevant Digital Content Impacts B2B Vendors in US & UK

By Jessica Maxwell

We recently completed research that looked at how irrelevant content impacts B2B vendors’ bottom lines. We did two separate surveys that were based on technology buyers who had actively made a purchase decision in the last 12 to 18 months; one was to a US audience and one was to a UK audience.

Despite how different these two regions are, we were surprised to see that the results were extremely similar for every question we asked. Content is irrelevant in both of these markets, and no one is happy about it.

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Here is an infographic view of the US and UK comparison:

irrelevant digital content impacts B2B Irrelevant Digital Content Impacts B2B Vendors in US & UK

For more blogs and research from IDG Connect, click here 

IDG Enterprise 2014 Role and Influence White Paper

 IDG Enterprise 2014 Role and Influence White Paper

New IDG Enterprise research looks at the evolving role of content in marketing strategies and the IT purchase process — and how making the right moves directly impact its success. As technology becomes central to business growth for organizations across all industries, more IT projects are being driven —and funded — by the business, than ever before. Some see this shift as a threat to the CIO and the rest of the IT team. Although some budgets may be shifting, the IT team’s influence on, and involvement in, technology purchases remains strong.

Download the IDG Enterprise 2014 Mapping the Customer Journey white paper

Personal Computing’s Big Three Get a Little Bigger

The New York Times

Three companies are pulling away from the pack in the PC business.

Counts of second-quarter personal computer shipments released Wednesday by two major analysis companies showed a slower-than-expected decline in PC shipments worldwide, with wealthy markets like the United States showing decent growth. But in poorer countries, alternatives such as low-cost tablets continued to affect PC sales.

The real surprise in the numbers was the relative strength of the three biggest PC makers — Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and Dell — compared to the loss of market share by almost everyone else. Lenovo appeared to have solidified its lead as the world’s biggest PC maker, a title for which it contested with H.P. for several quarters.

One of the analysis companies, International Data Corporation, said worldwide PC shipments totaled 74.4 million units in the second quarter, a drop of 1.7 percent from the same quarter of 2013. The important United States market grew 6.9 percent, to 16.7 million units. Gartner put worldwide shipments at 75.8 million units, an increase of 0.1 percent, and United States shipments at 15.9 million units, up 7.4 percent.

Among the top five vendors, which also included Acer and Asus, global shipments rose 9.8 percent year-on-year, IDC said, while the rest of the market, made up of about 15 other computer companies, declined 18.5 percent. Gartner said companies not in the top five had a net decline in shipments of 13.8 percent.

IDC said Lenovo had 19.6 million units shipped to the world market, a rise of 15.1 percent. H.P. was second, with 13.6 million units, up 10.3 percent, and Dell was third at 10.4 million units, up 13.2 percent. Acer’s shipments fell 2.5 percent, to 6.1 million units, and Asus managed a 3.3 percent gain, to 4.6 million units.

Gartner’s percentages were much the same, though it scored an even steeper fall for Acer and a better performance for Asus. Even last quarter, according to both research companies, the companies outside the top five had 40 percent of the global PC market; now they are closer to a third. And the analysts expect them to fall further.

The better-than-expected overall performance for PC shipments was attributed to a number of factors, including strong business demand after the discontinuation of support for an older version of Microsoft’s Windows PC operating system, and consumer interest in lower-priced laptops.

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