Category Archives: Consumer Tech

Consumer buying decisions still based on price – Nokia

A racehorse and jockey in a horse raceResearch from Nokia has highlighted consumer buying decisions for smartphones and post-paid contracts are still based on financial drivers as opposed to value add propositions, reports

With the worldwide number of smartphone and total number of mobile phone users estimated to exceed 2.6 billion and 5 billion respectively by 2019, the race is now on for operators to capture the biggest share of this lucrative market. Nokia’s research addressed a number of factors surround churn rate and customer acquisition, as well as wider trends, though concerns could be raised on the financial drivers for purchasing decisions placing operators in a similar arena to utilities companies.

Efforts in recent years by the operators have been to shift the focus of the consumer away from price, and move purchasing decisions towards value and performance. T-Mobile US announced a further prong to its ‘Un-carrier’ strategy this week, as it will reward customers with stock, seemingly for nothing in return in the first instance, though additional shares can be acquired by referring new customers to the brand. There have been similar efforts from operators around the world, though the statistics do not suggest there has been a significant impact.

In comparison between 2014 and 2016, the number of respondents who said their attitudes on retention were influenced by cost and billing was still the highest factor, but did drop from 45% to 40%. In terms of the reasons for choosing a new operator, 45% stated this would be based on price, with value adds, mobile technology and choice of devices, only accounting for 17%, 14% and 11% respectively. The quality of a network is also a concern, though the drivers behind choosing a new or staying with an operator are still predominantly price driven.

While price is still the number one objective for customers, the statistics do highlight value added services are having more of an impact on customer retention than acquisition. In terms of definitions, core operator offerings, such as SMS, data and minutes were not included in the research, however value added services increased the likelihood in a customer staying with an operator by 11%, the perception of a network’s quality was up 55% and the number of customers that used more than one gigabyte of data per month was also up 15%.

While operators are generally perceived as trying to avoid competing for new customers solely on price, the research does seem to indicate this would be the most effective route. While retention can seemingly be influenced by value adds, a utility model may be difficult to avoid for customer acquisition.

“We can see the marketing battles to acquire mobile subscribers are fierce,” said Bhaskar Gorti, Applications & Analytics president at Nokia. “What we don’t see as well is the work operators do every day to retain customers. Our study shows how important that work is – and also how challenging it is as customers, attached to their phones, demand higher levels of service.”

In line with industry expectations, 4G usage is on the increase with 38% of new subscribers over the last 12 months choosing 4G networks. The uptake is mainly witnessed in the mature markets, Japan and US are showing the highest levels of adoption, though respondents of the survey highlighted there still are barriers to adoption. For those who are not using 4G currently, a device which doesn’t support 4G or the price being too high were the main reasons.

Microsoft opens up mixed reality platform to partners and competitors

Virtual RealityMicrosoft has announced it is opening up its Windows Holographic platform to partners, in an effort to drive forward its vision of mixed reality.

The vision of Window Holographic, the platform which currently powers the Microsoft HoloLens offering, is to create a platform where various different devices and experiences can create a hybrid reality environment, merging the physical and virtual worlds. Devices struggle to integrate currently due to the number of different user interfaces, interaction models, input methods, peripherals and applications. Microsoft is hoping Window Holographic can be the answer to this challenge, despite the fact a number of the devices would be in direct competition with Microsoft HoloLens.

While Microsoft is not the only company to have developed a virtual reality headset, it is one of the very few who have built support for mixed reality into their OS. In opening up the idea is to give developers the freedom to create virtual reality experiences which can operate on a broader range of devices, including smartphone-based systems such as Google Cardboard or expensive PC-tethered headsets such as Oculus Rift. Once the VR and AR evolution branches out into social media and other outlets, there will be a requirement for a common language.

“Imagine wearing a VR device and seeing your physical hands as you manipulate an object, working on the scanned 3-D image of a real object, or bringing a real-life holographic representation of another person into your virtual world so you can collaborate,” the company said on its blog. “In this world, devices can spatially map your environment wherever you are; manipulating digital content is as easy and natural as it is in the real world.”

The platform will offer a holographic shell and user interface, perception APIs, and Xbox Live services. The team are now collaborating with a number of organizations including Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, HTC, Acer, ASUS, Dell, Falcon Northwest, HP, Lenovo and MSI to create a hardware ecosystem which will support the virtual reality experience.

The mixed reality market is expected to be an area of healthy growth during the next few years, with industrial applications one of the most lucrative areas. The market itself is estimated to be valued in the region of $450 million by 2020, though the consumer market is expected to be slightly constrained by various factors including price, battery life and image latency.

“With Windows 10, we’ve been on an incredible journey with our partners, and today we usher in the next frontier of computing – mixed reality,” said Terry Myerson, EVP of Windows and Devices.

Apple to sell ‘personal cloud’ products instore from June

ApolloPromise Technologies has announced Apple will exclusively sell its Apollo ‘personal cloud’ appliances instore from June 7.

The product itself is billed by Promise as a safer way to share and save photos, videos and files, which can be uploaded from anywhere in the world through the Apollo Cloud App which are then stored on a physical device which is owned by the customer. While the device does allow customers to utilize the internet to upload files and data, the offering is seemingly very similar to an external hard drive.

“Promise has a relentless commitment to innovating new solutions that improve how we live and work,” said HC Chang, GM of Promise Technology APAC. “Apollo is our latest innovation, however, it is just the beginning as we are looking at building a whole new line of solutions for the IoT market. We are looking forward to showcasing Apollo to the many users passionate about technology and we are excited to hear their innovative ideas on what the next generation of Apollo should offer.”

The news was made public by the Promise Technologies team at Computex in Taiwan, and to-date there has been no comment from Apple.

Apple has been making efforts in recent months to bolster its position in the cloud marketplace, and this latest effort would appear to be a move towards the consumer market. The company does already play a role within the consumer world; iCloud is a similar offering to Dropbox; though the Promise technology would appear to an alternative for the security conscious customers. In the enterprise world, the company has recently announced a partnership with SAP, to develop iOS apps based on the SAP HANA cloud platform, as well as entering the e-Health market with the launch of CareKit, an open-source software framework.

The introduction of products geared towards the consumer market is not a new move for the industry, as there are already a number of tech giants fighting for market share. Statista estimates 1.74 billion people will be using personal cloud storage worldwide by 2017, with this number increasing to 2.04 billion in 2019.

Dropbox could generally be considered the market leader, announcing it had exceeded 500 million users in March, with Google’s Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive, also offering similar services. The Promise solution would appear to be a private-cloud-twist for consumers, with increased security claims as well as a customer’s maintaining oversight of their own data, though it is ultimately a ‘on premise’ product, as the company makes no mention of cloud back-up storage. As mentioned before, it would appear to be very similar to an external hard drive, with the added benefits of internet-enabled uploading features.

Dropbox celebrates 500 million users

Dropbox 500 millionJust over nine years since the launch of its file hosting service Dropbox has announced it has reached the milestone of 500 million users.

According to the company, Dropbox users have created 3.3 billion connections by sharing with each other. To date, the company’s marketing policy seems to revolve around word-of-mouth, as 44% of new accounts were opened when existing users introduced people to the service.

Founded in 2007 by MIT students Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, the early idea arose after Houston repeatedly forgot his USB flash drive. Initially a personal tool for Houston, the potential was soon realized and shortly thereafter seed funding was provided from startup fund Y Combinator.

After initially focusing on the consumer market, Dropbox officially ventured into the B2B space during 2011 and has continued to grow in recent years. Having evolved into Dropbox for Business and then adding Dropbox for Enterprise last year, the service is now used is more than 8 million businesses, with 150,000 using the premium service. Strong growth is expected to continue as 25,000 corporate customers bolster the ranks each quarter.

Dropbox still boasts a strong US following, though recent growth has come from worldwide markets. The team highlighted that 75% of users are based outside the US, with the majority of the last 100 million coming from Germany, US, India, Brazil and the UK.

While Dropbox has received substantial international growth, the brand still experiences resistance from Chinese authorities. The service was banned in the country from May 2010, with most in the community considering the censorship evidence of Dropbox’s growing international popularity and influence. The service was unblocked between February and June 2014, before being reinstated on the censored list. Today, it still remains unclear as to why Dropbox was uncensored for this period.

While user growth has continued, Dropbox has come under scrutiny in recent months following rival Box’s January 2015 IPO, which valued the company significantly lower than expected. The news has put pressure on Dropbox, whose last funding round valued it at $10 billion, though many believe the current value to be substantially lower.

Executives at Dropbox have rigorously defended its position, market capabilities and future outlook, highlighting user growth as a demonstration of market demand. Dennis Woodside recently commented to Forbes “We are continuing the scaling of the business across both consumer and enterprise.”

Samsung and Oracle in mobile cloud development pact

mobile online datingSamsung and Oracle are to combine their respective device and cloud expertise in a pact to jointly create tools, apps and enterprise systems for the mobile world.

The two partners are working with systems integrators to help industries make use of their existing systems in the cloud, modernising them to take full advantage of the new mobile and cloud and create cost efficiencies. Another joint ambition is to create a wider set of Apache Cordova plug-ins and code samples to help customers modernize their enterprise applications.

The objective, according to Young Kim, VP of the Enterprise Business Team at Samsung Electronics, is to use the cloud to create better mobile user experiences out of their collective expertise in enterprise software, mobile cloud and device features.

Samsung and Oracle want to help developers and solution providers to create the next generation of mobile applications and services and drive ‘a new frontier of productivity’ according to Kim.

Samsung and Oracle have worked with systems integrators on new cloud based mobile and Internet of Things systems, which will be unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. These include an HCL Technologies-inspired predictive maintenance system for Samsung Gear S2, the Oracle IoT Cloud Service and the Oracle Service Cloud. This digests data and uses this intelligence so that enterprises can cut the costs of high value asset maintenance. Another invention, from Sofbang’s contracts management team, speeds the management and approval of contracts through notifications on Samsung Gear S wearables. The data is protected by Samsung’s cloud-based KNOX mobile security. Another system that combines wearable devices and the cloud is L&T Infotech’s, which hooks into the Oracle IoT Cloud Service using Samsung tablets, smartphones and wearables to increase asset operating life, decrease downtime and cater for proactive maintenance.

Samsung said it is beefing up its support of Apache Cordova with extra plugins for developers to use in the Oracle Mobile Application Framework and Oracle JavaScript Extension.

“The support and unique additions found in Samsung hardware helped us create differentiated end user experiences in weeks with Oracle Mobile Cloud Service,” said Mia Urman, CEO at development partner Auraplayer.

Adobe moves to stop Creative Cloud from deleting user data

AdobeAdobe Systems has been forced to take action after Creative Cloud graphics service started deleting delete important user data from its Mac users, for no apparent reason.

The deletions took place without warning or permission and seem to have been triggered after users of the Mac version of Creative Cloud had logged in after a new update to the service had been installed.

The problem was reported by data backup service Backblaze which posted a warning to users on its web site, outlining the root of the problem. On signing in to the Creative Cloud, Mac users of the cloud services were somehow activating a script that deletes the contents of the first folder in the Mac’s root directory, which is prioritised by alphabetical order. This was a particularly bad problem for Backblaze users, because the first folder liable for deletion on their service would be a hidden root folder called .bzvol which contains critical information. The hierarchical naming scheme used to identify this folder happened to coincide with the priorities of the rogue deletion script, so the Mac user’s most important files were deleted first.

Backblaze technical support has issued a Youtube video to explain the phenomenon to puzzled users after social media outlets such as Twitter began to register large numbers of complaints about unauthorized data deletions. The problem could be even worse for other users, who don’t use Backblaze, since the first folder in line for deletion in their Mac root drive would be DocumentRevisions-V100. This is a folder that stores data required for the Mac autosave and Version History functions to work properly. The loss of these contents could leave creative users with severe version control problems and the loss of work which they would have assumed would be automatically saved.

In other circumstances the bug will delete any folders with spaces in the name, which would automatically appear at the top of the listing.

Adobe said it is stopping the distribution of the update until the issue has been resolved. The version causing the deletions is Adobe has warned Creative Cloud users to delay any updates for the time being.