Archive for January, 2011
Monday, January 31st, 2011
Egypt has been aggressively attracting tech companies to its wired office parks to help create jobs for its young, educated and often English-speaking workforce. But by cutting off Internet access last week in the wake of civil unrest, Egypt’s government demonstrated just how quickly it can unwind its hi-tech goals.
Microsoft is among the 120 companies located in Cairo’s Smart Villages , an office park created in 2003 to be Egypt’s “prime” information technology park. It includes a health club, swimming pool, video conferencing services, a conference center and a pyramid-shaped restaurant called the “Think Tank Caf.”
Egypt’s move to block Internet access prompted Microsoft to respond. Asked about the situation in Egypt, Microsoft said in a written response to a query that it “is constantly assessing the impact of the unrest and Internet connection issues on our properties and services. What limited service the company as a whole provides to and through the region, mainly call-center service, has been largely distributed to other locations.”
Another tech firm with a presence in Smart Villages is Hewlett-Packard, which has asked it employees to stay at home .
President Barack Obama and other administration officials are urging the Egyptian government to restore Internet services and see access as a human right. “It is our strong belief that inside of the framework of basic individual rights are the rights of those to have access to the Internet and to sites for open communication and social networking,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at a briefing Friday.
Egypt’s decision to cut Internet access was apparently intended to disrupt the ability of protestors to use social networks to organize . But hi-tech companies have similar flip-the-switch abilities and can shift services in response to a natural or manmade disaster. It is almost certain that tech companies in Egypt will respond to the current uncertainty much the same way Microsoft did — if they haven’t already.
Phil Fersht, the CEO and head of research at Horses for Sources, an outsourcing research and advisory firm, said top-tier providers rely on Egyptian resources largely for call center work and software support and development. For these firms “it’s a massive, massive concern when the government shuts off the internet and all hell is breaking loose,” he said in an e-mailed response to questions.
“Egypt has proven capable as a good quality resource location for the Middle East, Africa and European regions in areas such as IT, BPO and call center services and has invested significantly in promoting its capabilities worldwide,” said Fersht. “The country has invested millions to promote its capabilities — and now that investment is looking under threat.”
Not surprisingly, the government agency responsible for hi-tech development in Egypt, the Information Technology Industry Development Agency, (ITIDA), has been offline. Efforts to reach officials by telephone, e-mail or through a Facebook account have been unsuccessful.
Fersht suggested that the current problems in Egypt could prompt hi-tech firms to re-think the risks they face in other regions.
“If situations, such as what is currently happening in Egypt, proliferate to other countries with sourcing support services, the first reaction of governments now seems to be to ‘shut off the Internet,’” said Fersht, “You have to question how this impacts ITO/BPO services that are hugely reliant on the Internet to succeed.
“The Egypt situation is a serious blow to many of the developing nations seeking to take their share of global services [that] have potentially questionable political stability,” said Fersht.
Smart Villages said that by the end of 2009 there were 28,000 professionals working at various companies in the office, and that by 2014 it expected that more than 100,000 would be working at some 500 companies.
Microsoft is one of numerous tech firms with a presence in Egypt’s Smart Villages hi-tech park. (Image: Smart Villages)
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld.
IT Outsourcing Services
Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Congratulations to Mr. Mike Martone of Central Bank in Houston, Texas!
He is the WINNER of a new Apple iPAD from the Percento Technologies drawing at the 2011 Independent Bankers Association of Texas, TechMecca Conference in Austin Texas this week.
Thank you to everyone who joined our drawing.
Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
So, what happens to Intel in the age of a version of Windows running on top of ARM chips from companies like Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Apple, Freescale, and Nvidia?
A report today is fueling speculation that Microsoft will bring a more full featured version of Windows to ARM–arguably the most widely used chip architecture in the world. This comes after Microsoft announced in July that it has gotten an architectural license from ARM.
The most obvious impact is that Windows runs on more devices, many of which do not necessarily use Intel processors. The Zune HD is probably the best contemporaneous example of a smaller, non-PC device. That media player runs a version of Windows CE on top of an Nvidia ARM processor. Then, of course, there is Windows Phone 7–most of those phones use an ARM-based processor from Qualcomm.
An ARM-compatible, more full-featured version of Windows will almost certainly run on Intel, but the point is that Intel would be just another player among a bevy of ARM chip heavyweights, such as Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Apple, and Samsung Electronics.
And remember the Compaq iPaq handheld? That used an Intel ARM design. But iPaq handhelds also ran on other ARM chips, from suppliers such as Texas Instruments. In that market, Intel was just another chip supplier and didn’t fare particularly well. In fact, Intel subsequently sold that chip business to Marvell.
“There’s no reason you couldn’t build a tablet around Atom, but what does that bring to the table?”–said Linley Gwennap of the Linley Group, a chip-consulting firm, referring to Intel’s power-efficient Atom chip, used in virtually all Windows-based Netbooks.
“The whole PC paradigm is being turned around here,” Gwennap said. “With the [Windows-Intel] PC, you couldn’t get any [other chip] architecture in there, because of the huge software base. All that software runs on Windows, runs on Intel. Now, with the tablet market, to the extent that there’s a software base, it runs on ARM.”
Future trends are the most worrisome for Intel. The smartphone and tablet market runs on ARM, and both of those device segments are beginning to act more like PCs every time a new product is announced from Apple, Motorola, Samsung, or HTC.
Until Intel brings out a more power-efficient Atom architecture that offers discernibly better performance than ARM (two seemingly contradictory metrics), it will have a difficult time finding space in small devices such as smartphones and tablets. So, whether the report today is accurate is practically irrelevant, since the writing is already on the wall.
Monday, January 24th, 2011
Percento Technologies is sponsoring and exibiting at the Independent Banks Association of Texas in Austin this week. For more on the IBAT event – Click Here!
For more on Percento’s Financial Technology Support group – click here.
Saturday, January 22nd, 2011
Another loooong week has ended. My word of the week would be “Optimism.” I don’t want to hype the managed services market. But most of the sources with whom I met this week expressed optimism about their Q1 2011 outlooks. The only thing that depresses me a bit: There are a bunch of blog entries the MSPmentor team didn’t have time to write for the week ending January 21, 2011. Here are seven of them:
7. Making Her Move: A well-known PR veteran in the MSP market has apparently joined a major NOC (network operations center) specialist in Northern California. If true can someone please confirm?
6. Managed Virtualization: For the most part, MSPs already manage PCs, servers and mobile devices. Now, SolarWinds is hoping to help MSPs manage virtual machines. Key to the effort: SolarWinds’ buyout of Hyper9.
5. Money Matters: Ricoh is investing roughly $300 million in managed document services and managed print services over the next three years. The news comes two weeks after Konica Minolta acquired All Covered, a national managed IT services provider. We’ll be watching to see if Ricoh’s efforts involve the channel.
4. Breaking Down the Wall: Sounds like ConnectWise is set to more aggressively promote StreamlineIT, which knocks down the wall between MSPs and corporate IT departments. It sounds similar to Autotask’s TaskFire. But here’s my usual qualifier that puts loyal readers to sleep: I don’t actually run this stuff. We’ll be checking around to see how ConnectWise partners are using StreamlineIT, and we’re doing the same poking around in the Autotask camp.
3. Compliant Coming?: Yes, I’m aware a video company alleges there’s an unpaid invoice issue with a managed services marketing company. It’s the second allegation against the managed services marketing company in recent weeks. Who’s right and who’s wrong? I can’t say for sure. I know and respect sources on both sides of the fence, and I hope the matters get resolved. If the allegations ever turn into a legal case we’ll be sure to name and cover all parties responsibly. In the meantime one request: I wish the Florida VAR would halt its email flame war against the managed services marketing company, and instead simply state the alleged facts of the case…
2. Done Deal: We’ve completed our work on the MSPmentor 100 survey results. The entire list will be unveiled during a live webcast on February 16. But here’s a teaser: We’ve got enough data to break out results for North America, Europe, Australia and Africa. We’ll be writing the accompanying report during a flight to San Francisco on January 26. If you want a sneak peek be sure to look over my shoulder.
1. New Dashboard?: Cisco apparently is beta testing some type of managed services dashboard. Alleged code-names include (A) Winkin’ Owl, (B) Chocolate Sauce… (C) Thunderbolt and (D) Tampa Lightning. (Hint: Always go with C when in doubt.) We’ve asked Cisco for confirmation of the effort.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.
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Saturday, January 22nd, 2011
Just a month after being rebuffed in a buyout offer of Groupon, Google is preparing to launch its own social-buying competitor called Google Offers.
The venture “is a new product to help potential customers and clientele find great deals in their area through a daily email,” according to a fact sheet first published by Mashable.
A Google spokesperson confirmed that the Internet giant was actively recruiting businesses for a daily-deals offering.
“Google is communicating with small businesses to enlist their support and participation in a test of a pre-paid offers/vouchers program,” the company said in a statement. “This initiative is part of an ongoing effort at Google to make new products, such as the recent Offer Ads beta, that connect businesses with customers in new ways. We do not have more details to share at this time, but will keep you posted.”
The social-buying model offers a “deal of the day” to users, usually at a significant discount on a sought-after product or service in their city or town. Google is interested because deals are geared around specifically targeted local markets, which is seen as a big source of future Internet advertising growth.
Google did not indicate when it expected to launch, but it is playing catch up in the sector after reportedly trying to buy market leader Groupon for as much as $6 billion before being rebuffed last month. Groupon, which is rumored to be doing $2 billion a year in revenue, has since increased its muscle by raising $950 million in financing, giving it a valuation of about $6.4 billion.
In addition to Groupon, Google will have to contend with a host of “Groupon clones,” including Amazon.com-backed LivingSocial, which recently made headlines and fans by selling more than a million $20 Amazon gift cards for $10 each. LivingSocial said last month it is “currently booking revenues of more than $1 million a day on average and is projected to book well over $500 million in revenue in 2011.”
Saturday, January 22nd, 2011
Although Microsoft gave the team that created the Windows Phone 7 home brew unlocker ChevronWP7 a very friendly “please stop doing this” several months ago, it’s gone in a slightly different direction with the infamous hacker who cracked both Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Apple’s iPhone wide open.
Earlier this week, hacker George Hotz, who is better known as “GeoHot,” announced that he was beginning work on a jailbreak for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform. Shortly thereafter, Brandon Watson–who runs developer platform product management for Microsoft, offered Hotz a Windows Phone over Twitter, saying “#geohot if you want to build cool stuff on #wp7, send me e-mail and the team will give you a phone–let dev creativity flourish #wp7dev.”
Microsoft now says the two exchanged a few notes following the tweets.
The move marks yet another occasion where Microsoft has publicly–instead of legally–dealt with people who’ve sought to go around boundaries the company has set up to protect its products. As with the previously mentioned ChevronWP7 tool, which was designed to let users install home brew software on Windows Phones, Microsoft’s Watson got in touch with the creators to get them to come to company’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters to talk about bringing such functionality to the platform. In return, the ChevronWP7 team agreed to take their tool down.
There’s also Kinect, Microsoft’s hot-selling accessory for the Xbox 360, which tinkerers cracked open a few days after its release. In that case, Microsoft originally threatened the strong arm of the law, before relenting and admitting during a radio interview that, on an hourly basis, the team was receiving videos of “cool, neat, creative experiences” people had tinkered together.
Besides the PS3, Hotz is famous for developing a number of jailbreaks for Apple’s iOS devices, as well as a tool that would let iPhone users unlock the device for use on multiple phone carriers. Though last July, Hotz said he would be “retiring” from further iOS hackery, citing that people were taking his work too seriously and that it had just been a hobby; even so, Hotz continued to put out beta releases of his “limera1n” iOS jailbreaking tool.
More recently, Hotz’s involvements have centered around Sony’s PS3. Hotz created a software tool that would let users re-enable the “other OS” option, which Sony had removed as part of a system firmware update. Sony, in turn, took legal action against Hotz, claiming that Hotz’s jailbreak violates both the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Computer Fraud Abuse Act.
Last week Hotz appeared on G4TV’s Attack of the Show to discuss Sony’s restraining order against him, which was filed earlier this month. Hotz argued that while Sony was going after him because the company viewed his tool as an exploit that would allow game piracy, his tool had been designed only for home brew applications. Assuming those are Hotz’s intentions with Windows Phone 7 platform, we could see an alternative to Microsoft’s Marketplace application akin to what ChevronWP7 first promised. The real question is whether Hotz will follow Microsoft’s lead and play nice, or if he’ll try to crack the company’s newest smartphone platform wide open.
Update at 12:10 p.m. PT: A Microsoft spokesperson further elaborated on the company’s exchange with Hotz, saying:
“Brandon Watson and GeoHot exchanged a few notes following Brandon’s Twitter posting yesterday. They discussed providing GeoHot with a device. Microsoft in deeply invested in sustaining strong relationships with a wide range of developers and enthusiasts and are always interested in what we can learn from those communities.”
Thursday, January 13th, 2011
Following its modest growth last quarter, the PC market saw its strongest quarter of the year, while managing to miss the expectations of research firms IDC and Gartner.
According to the Quarterly PC Tracker Survey released today by IDC, overall worldwide PC shipments grew 2.7 percent year-on-year during the fourth quarter, with Gartner reporting a slightly larger 3.1 percent as part of its quarterly report. Both numbers missed the firms’ expectations, which IDC had predicted at 5.5 percent and Gartner at 4.8 percent.
IDC said that one of the big reasons for the “modest” gains centered around PCs getting competition from tablets like Apple’s iPad, as well as people being happy with computer hardware they already own. That trend is expected to continue into the new year, the report said. Gartner had similar sentiments, pointing to the iPad, along with other consumer electronics like game consoles cutting into the PC’s turf.
There were, however, some standout numbers and market share changes among the top hardware vendors. Making a comeback, IDC had Dell bouncing back to the No. 2 spot in total PC shipments during the fourth quarter, ousting Acer, whose drop IDC attributed to poor sales of mini notebook PCs. Gartner, on the other hand, kept Dell in No. 3, putting it about 1 percent below Acer in terms of its fourth quarter market share and praising its timing on refreshing its lineup of professional PCs.
The reigning king of market share and overall shipments among the top five PC makers during both the year and the quarter, continued to be Hewlett-Packard. Even so, IDC said HP had 5 percent decline in shipments in the U.S. and 1 percent worldwide. Gartner painted a similar picture, saying the company’s professional business had grown, as had its sales in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. However, “weak” consumer PC sales in the U.S. as well as difficulty breaking the Asia/Pacific region had offset the company’s growth.
Shining above some of its competitors, Lenovo saw a 21.1 percent year-on-year growth worldwide, which IDC analyst Jay Chou told CNET could be attributed to the company’s reach in both consumer and commercial businesses. Chou also lauded Lenovo’s business as being “geographically balanced.” Toshiba too saw double-digit growth, shipping 12 percent more PCs than it did during the same time last year, according to IDC.
Apple, which is recorded as part of Gartner’s U.S. vendor report, came in just under Toshiba in terms of fourth-quarter shipments, though bested it and all the rest of the companies on year-on-year growth at 23.7 percent. In fact, Toshiba and Apple were the only two vendors in Gartner’s top 5 to increase shipments in the U.S. year-on-year.
Going into 2011, Chou says that “consumer fatigue” for products like mini notebooks, along with “softening demand in Asia” and other parts of the world could cut into the firm’s predictions for a growth of 10 percent over the course of the year. But that “aggressive competition” could bring the market back up in the last two quarters. That softening demand Chou was referring to is the Asia/Pacific region (which does not include Japan), increasing 7 percent during the fourth quarter, which IDC notes is the first single digit growth quarter since the first quarter of 2009.
Thursday, January 13th, 2011
Services Outsourcing Contracts have witnessed an increasing trend in Application Development and Support, Business Process Outsourcing and IT Consulting Services. During the calendar year 2010, the IT contracts awarded globally were up by almost 15% in H2 2010 as compared to H1 2010.
However, all the Indian vendors together have captured less than 20% of the global IT outsourcing market, leaving great scope for entering new markets and capturing new IT Services contracts.
IT Consulting and IT Outsourcing Services – Percento Technologies
Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
For me, the essence of the four days I spent at CES can be boiled down to four booths with two competing personal computing dynamics: two of those booths represent the PC’s future, two do not.
Here’s the quickest way to make the point. Google’s Android is the future and Microsoft Windows–let me put this delicately–is the present. More specifically: Motorola-Nvidia (Android) are on one side, and Microsoft-Intel (Windows) are on the other.
The Motorola and Nvidia booths shouted future. Lots of Android tablets, high-end Android smartphones, and a very interesting Motorola technology called Atrix 4G. (See embedded video of the Motorola Atrix 4G smartphone: it plugs into a dock that looks and acts just like an ultrathin laptop. Be sure to wait until the 1:00 mark to see why it’s not a laptop).
Motorola’s booth was easily one of the most forward-looking at CES. Right out front was the Atrix 4G demo and just behind that was its Xoom tablet. Both extremely impressive products–and both powered by Nvidia dual-core Tegra 2 processors. (The Xoom tablet, by the way, won CNET’s Best of Show award at CES.)
My not-too-bold prediction is that the Xoom becomes one of the iPad’s biggest rivals, just as the Droid has successfully taken on the iPhone. Motorola obviously takes the Android Honeycomb-based Xoom design very seriously. Plus, there is no laptop legacy holding Motorola back. It’s obviously going after the PC customer aggressively with both the Droid and the Xoom.
Nvidia’s floor area was stuffed with tablets powered by its Tegra processors based on the power-frugal ARM chip design. Graphics chips for gaming PCs, Nvidia’s strong suit to date, seemed to be a side show.
And the two companies seem to be synchronizing their visions of the future. Simply stated, put the PC in your pocket. Nvidia is betting the company on ARM chips and Motorola–for now at least–is betting its products on Nvidia processors.
The scene was very different at the Microsoft and Intel booths. I didn’t see a lot at either booth that I couldn’t see by visiting a local Best Buy. Yes, Kinect is an exciting technology, so I’ll give Microsoft credit there. And Intel’s newest Sandy Bridge processor is the best piece of silicon the chipmaker has produced yet. So kudos there, too. But the dynamic duo seem to get instantly flummoxed when faced with tablets (not to mention smartphones).
At the Microsoft CES booth I sampled, the Windows 7 Asus Eee Slate. In a couple of words: not pretty. It was big, heavy, and packed a laptop-class Intel Core i5 processor. I was completely unimpressed.
And in another part of the Microsoft booth, Windows 7 products that seemed impressive a few months ago have quickly petered out, e.g., the hybrid tablet-Netbook Dell Inspiron Duo. I asked the guy in charge of tablets at the CES Microsoft booth on Friday what he thought about the Inspiron Duo. “It’s thick.” That curt response said it all.
The same Microsoft guy did seem to be more impressed with Samsung’s Netbook-tablet hybrid that is essentially a tablet with a slider keyboard. But a Samsung Galaxy Tab (tablet) it’s not.
And right next door at the Intel booth there were lots of laptops and Netbooks–some very slick designs but nothing to get really excited about. Even Netbooks, a heretofore Intel monopoly, seem to be transforming right before our eyes into 11- and 12-inch class ultraportables (the un-Netbook) based on Advanced Micro Devices’ Fusion processors.
So, the question is, will WinTel get their act together by next year’s CES? Perhaps. Or maybe they’ll go their separate ways and forge new destinies.