April 20th, 2012- Much has been said about the eventual convergence between Ultrabooks and mainstream Notebooks, due to greater similarities in form factors compared to Netbooks or Tablet PCs. While there remains demand for portables with large screen sizes and storage capacity, our customer feedback has shown that a significant proportion of notebook users value portability and weight as primary factors impacting on purchase decisions. As travel for both business and leisure grows, work-play boundaries converge, and more individuals require living in a connected world 24/7, requirements for a fully functional device that is powerful, yet portable, has never been higher.
As price points decline and processing performance continues to increase, we expect this form factor to replace the regular ultraportable category in the medium term. In fact, Ultrabooks will also carve out a share from sales of the mainstream notebook, as performance differences for the majority of day-to-day office tasks is negligible.
And if we think about it, what’s not to like? High end Core-i5 and i7 processors, shock-resistant, speedy solid state hard disks (SSDs), attractive design using quality materials, tie ups with famous audio brands, long battery life, and fully functional keyboards are just some features that have enamored many to this type of device. As Intel’s upcoming Ivy Bridge processor platform (end April ’12) further lowers the prices of CPUs due to increased efficiency of the manufacturing process, this translates into more affordable upcoming Ultrabooks, some of which will even feature lower cost SATA-type storage, driving price points down further. This will in turn negate the need for a Netbook, even in emerging economies.
With Windows 8 on the horizon, the first operating system designed with mobility and seamless integration of devices in mind, Ultrabooks will likely fly the flag for the notebook category. Even though many users rely on their mobile device or smartphone for basic access to information, a proper response usually requires input on a fully functional keyboard, easily available on the Ultrabook.
Limitations of the Ultrabook form factor are largely restricted to a few; SSD costs are prohibitive for now, an inability to overclock due to the inherent thermal issues faced with a slim chassis, and limited connectivity ports. In our opinion though, there is a larger issue; a dearth of enterprise suitable models for this form factor. Till today, besides a couple of models such as HP’s Folio, Ultrabooks have largely been targeted at consumers; the reality is that corporate users cherish the added mobility and appealing design as well. Hence, spill-proof keyboards, 3 year onsite warranties, proprietary security and management tools, an Enterprise level operating system, and other features traditionally reserved for the bread and butter office laptop should trickle into this category.
After all, no one said the business notebook has to be ugly.
Singapore, March 12 - Client Virtualization. Try mentioning this term to a typical desktop or notebook user in an office, and observe the blank stares coming back at you. If you happen to be visiting an SME (Small-Medium Enterprise) type environment, expect the IT systems administrator to look equally puzzled, and probably join in with the staring!
Virtual desktops bring along a whole host of benefits- from data protection, to ease of administration for IT managers, and multi-device information accessibility. There is always an “however”, and in this case, “however” has been more often than not spelt with a capital ‘H’; even in an new enterprise level infrastructure deployment, the myriad hardware, software and network layers required to deploy a virtual desktop solution successfully can be rather complex, and no IT manager wants to be in the hot seat, having signed-off the investment, only to realize that the solution isn’t giving optimum returns due to a combination of a lack of adequate infrastructure, training, or both.
Cue 2010, when virtual desktop visionary Citrix had largely made this technology available to companies with the budgets and capabilities to deploy such solutions (and some would say, needed it most) via XenDesktop and XenClient, and then started to turn its attention to the SME space. It’s acquisition of Kaviza, a small VDI startup, also gave Citrix ‘VDI-in-a-Box’, a solution designed to simplify the deployment of virtual desktops for the system integrator and IT manager alike. It does so by internalizing what were previously separate provision servers, SANs, SQL databases and load balancers all into one application, which immediately found favor with the SME market in particular, especially those already toying with the idea of a virtual desktop deployment.
Two years later, Dell has collaborated with Citrix to be the first major hardware provider to merge the benefits of VDI-in-a-Box, with an off-the-shelf piece of hardware, allowing IT managers true plug and play capability, called DVS Simplified. In our discussion with customers, although there is oftentimes awareness of potential benefits, upfront cost and complexity are the 2 most significant barriers to deploying a virtual desktop solution. Therefore the announcement that Dell is able to provide a piece of hardware that can potentially almost completely remove the second barrier, and likely reduce the first, is great news to any system integrator trying to help IT managers be more efficient at their jobs.
So what is Dell DVS Simplified? While the name is a little clumsy, the specs look anything but. This is essentially a PowerEdge R710 server preloaded with Citrix goodies; XenServer v5.6, and VDI-in-a-Box v5.0. Each DVS Simplified appliance is able to provision up to a fixed number of virtual desktops, so it is easy to size upfront expenditure and then scale the number of DVS Simplified units subsequently, corresponding to the number of client device access points. Theoretically, this allows simultaneous virtualization of both server and client environments for a new datacenter setup without pre-existing servers in an SME context, provided the requisite storage and network capacity is available. In conclusion, we feel that Dell’s DVS Simplified is the first of more of such solutions, and a definite push in the right direction to allow client virtualization for everyone.
September 21st, 2011- - Back during the industrial revolution, the focus on manufacturing and technologies was seen as a drastic upheaval in the Western world, to what was then primarily an agriculturally-based society. This in turn lifted productivity, wages, and even national GDP levels above other yetundeveloped economies.
Fast forward 200 years, and as society and technology continues to evolve, the subsequent transition from manufacturing, to service-based industries in both developed and emerging economies is evident. This is spurred on by commoditization of mass-market products, in turn resulting in increased competition, and reduced profit margins.
The IT industry is a true microcosm of this evolution, as hardware such as PCs were conceptualized, originally produced, and then subsequently made mass-market in the western world, with the likes of IBM designing the first (massive) computers. These days however, the very inventor of the PC has abandoned its offspring in favour of providing software and IT services, when it sold its PC Division to Lenovo. In a similar move five years later, another US PC giant HP has announced its intentions to spinoff its PSG division (including all its PCs, tablets and mobile devices), as it also intends to refocus in areas which can drive greater returns.
Original talk of companies that may be keen on acquiring HP PSG were Acer or Samsung (which has since denied this rumor, in part due to difficulties in placing a fair value on this division that it can also agree to). This runs parallel to China PC behemoth Lenovo, which has since broadened its consumer offerings into a holistic PC lineup worldwide; thanks to IBM PCDs channel relationships internationally, as well as its Think lineup.
The interesting thing to note then is that out of the largest PC vendors worldwide, the tide has shifted from what was once dominated by US-based vendors (IBM, HP, Dell, Apple), to that of being unmistakably Asian (Lenovo, Acer, Asus, Samsung). What may eventually come to pass is that the US market may be left with just two major players holding the fort- Dell, which has long been a proponent of offshoring, and Apple, which relies just as much on software content as it does hardware sales. Even as Asian focused vendors grow this share of the pie, one can't help but think that this would be an eventuality, as lower labour costs in Asia make it challenging for US based companies to focus mainly on hardware. Ultimately, as long as a win-win scenario can be created between hardware and software vendors, whichever side of the fence (or ocean) they sit doesn't play as vital a role as their integration compatibility.
Tech analysts are in a quandary as to whether we are truly in a "post-PC era", a term that is causing several PC vendors to rethink their corporate strategies on the sustainability of this segment. On one hand, this term is used loosely as tablet PCs and smartphones are wagered to steal share away from desktops and notebooks, and on the other, worldwide projections for both PC form factors still show consistent year-on-year growth, for the next five years at least. Well, if people still need and use PCs (and they still will, especially in emerging economies, rural areas lacking wifi at times, and simply commercial, B2B applications), this just means that growth is being partially cannibalized by some alternative devices; by no means will the PC become extinct, nor even decrease in shipments.
In the meantime, although being a provider of value-added services and software is one way to retain margins, this segment is also under competitive and pricing pressures. In fact, there is no guarantee that commoditization may not be as intense as hardware in the long run. Given that greater investments into R&D are often required to sustain differentiation, there may be still be good reasons for client device vendors to stick with what they have proved to be able to do, and let vendors that are in search of greater returns bear the corresponding risks in the process.-iVolute Technologies
June 8th, 2011- - Everyone is talking about it. Those slim, sleek devices that are touted to compete, some say replace, a new notebook purchase. And you'll be hard pressed not to see someone whip one out in the train or the cafe around the corner. No wonder then that almost all manufacturers that put together any device vaguely linked to a PC or mobile phone is rushing to get their version out to market; from traditional players like Acer and Asus, to mobile giants like RIM and Motorola, and even non-traditional system purveyors such as Viewsonic and Samsung. This is a far cry from the numerous attempts in the past, where (mainly) notebook vendors launched various slate or convertible type products, with limited success. What has changed since? Nothing much- only that when Apple jumps in, others seem to think the time is right.
Which brings to mind a question- is demand really that strong? Besides the attention grabbing iPad, the honest truth, regardless of what research firms are forecasting, is that no one really knows. Because there honestly isn't one default user environment in place today which rivals what made the netbook a "success' in it's heyday- the Windows platform (albeit a shrunken one, in XP or Starter forms). A fragmented and divided usage model doesn't guarantee that volumes will together pass the tipping point, and into mainstream adoption.
Sure, besides Appstore, Android has made significant inroads in getting almost all app developers to create something, and starting with the mobile device, to get the average consumer to play around with the OS, even if not anything more. Hey, this is how Apple started with the iPhone after all, before moving to a larger iTouch which it calls an iPad.
However, this is all very consumer-centric. And as we get caught in the hype, one thing we mustn't forget- Steve Jobs insists his company is a consumer-focused one, and commercial PCs can make up half of total PC sales. Thus far, many commercial PC users view tablets the same way hotel chambermaids view a certain high profile French financial advisor. There are certain drawbacks with tablets that prevent the form factor from reaching out to all segments.
Firstly, most would agree that the role of hardware today, specifically client devices, exists as a conduit for application and content delivery. Without the much touted "killer app," interest wanes quickly, and we would also wager that the iPhone would have been just another phone without the content in Appstore. The challenge, then, is that in today's Windows driven corporate environment, justifying the purchase of a tablet that more often than not does not run Windows can create issues with your conservative IT manager. One solution? Client virtualization, which allows an entire Windows OS (and corresponding corporate applications) to function on a tablet as a virtual PC; Citrix's XenClient, for example, is one such option. Otherwise, struggling with concurrently open spreadsheets, presentations, IM and Internet browser requiring Flash on an Android or Apple OS type platform just may not cut it.
Then, there's the user input interface. Whilst great for reading the latest magazine or digesting a boring financial statement on a spreadsheet, a touch screen just isn't as intuitive for creating a presentation or typing a report of your own, especially as almost all Gen-Y and Zers are familiar with Qwerty.
Therein lies the problem; vendors not wanting to miss out on a piece of the action blinding jumping in because everyone else is, but not knowing for sure who is buying it, or for how long. MSI is wise to adopt a wait-and-see attitude, claiming it will enter the market only if and when the time is right.
So love it or loathe it, the form factor is here to stay. Increased production capacity has deemed it so. Whether or not this is driven by actual user demand, is an entirely different story. -iVolute Technologies
April 20th, 2011- The massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami which hit northeastern Japan on March 11 was a national tragedy, but many are only starting to feel the true social and economic impacts a month after. Both within and outside of Japan, the IT market has been impacted- throughout the entire supply chain.
The direct impact in Japan on manufacturing and has mainly centered on upstream components, with laser diodes, capacitors, and DRAM from certain factories facing production issues due to damaged manufacturing equipment, resulting in expected price increases in April. The increase in touch panel pricing on the other hand is more a result of a shortage created by tablet manufacturers accelerating production of this form factor in recent weeks.
Decrease in domestic consumption post-tragedy helped to mitigate the shortage of components somewhat, as stock intended for the Japanese domestic market from the anticipated seasonal demand of a typically strong March naturally failed to eventuate.
Outside of Japan, branded notebook vendors for example had a slower than expected calendar 1Q 2011, which should mean a stellar 2Q for a variety of reasons- pent up demand, as well as record shipments by the OEM manufacturers Compal and Quanta in March, which will result in increased ship in, and potentially further price cuts by brand name notebook vendors in 2Q. Initial teething problems on the latest Intel Sandy Bridge platform in February that slowed shipments in 1Q have now been resolved, allowing users that had previously held back from procuring new systems for this reason to ramp up purchasing.
The year 2011 is marked by enterprise infrastructure refreshes, which are expected to increase in the second half of the year. IT directors and CIOs take for granted nowadays that TCO of their “bread and butter” infrastructure- client, network, server, remain relatively constant, regardless of the impact of natural disasters on production and supply of such hardware. If stabilization of the supply and pricing of upstream components occurs in 2H11, IT directors and CIOs will be able to focus (and budget) more on the changing aspects of IT, such as cloud, virtualization and even tablet and mobile device strategies; otherwise, a revisit and prioritization of what is immediately essential for their organization may be necessary for business continuity. –iVolute Technologies