End of the PC Era: Dell Buyout, Problems for Microsoft and Intel

After Apple launched the iPad in 2010, the technology market was disrupted. The PC gave way to touchscreen tablets. Many Goliath’s at the time, like Dell, Microsoft, and Intel saw the tablet market as being complimentary instead of as a substitute to their PC and laptop market.

“Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by cannibalizing PC sales, but by causing user shift to tablets,” says Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst of Gartner.

The end of the PC era seemed all too clear with the dismal earnings shown by HP and Dell last quarter. Today it seems that Dell, which is the master of custom-delivered computers, is in talks for a buyout. Sources have said that Silver Lake Partners was in discussions with Dell for a leveraged buyout at around $13 to $14 per share. This will be one of the largest deals since the global recession.

This is seen as a desperate attempt by Dell to focus on new areas away from its core PC business. Its decline has been the worst in its sectors after its shipments fell by 21% to 9.2 million. This news resulted in a surge of its stock price to $12.29.  Dell has declined to comments on these developments.

Consumers are flocking towards tablets. A recent study has already claimed that at the current rate, tablets will outsell notebooks this year. This may be due to the booming tablet market in China and the recession. The report explains that tablet shipments will reach more than 240 million units worldwide this year, with notebooks forecast to reach 207 million units.

After Microsoft launched Windows 8 in October last year, the expected boost to their sales would have come from users who upgrade their operating systems, in addition to users who buy new PCs or laptops. However, the declining PC sales (down 6.4% in the last year) will give them cause for concern.

The rise of mobile systems is not helping Intel either. Its era of extraordinary profits and market invincibility seems to have come to an end. Intel’s shares have fallen by over 7% last year. Its competitors are chip manufacturers for tablets and smartphones who have to work with smaller profit margins. Having said that, Intel’s server chip market is still growing very fast. This is mainly due to the rise of cloud services. Also, Intel is fighting back with a strong focus on Ultrabook laptops that have touch screens.

(Source: Gartner and Reuters)

Transfer Files from a PC to your Android Phone in Just a Click with FilePush App

Transferring files such as a song or a photo from a desktop to a mobile/tablet could be a cumbersome task for some people as it involves messing with long data cables and micro-SD card adapters. Meet Filepush, a new application for Android that solves this problem elegantly.

Filepush - wireless file transfer from pc to android


Filepush is a small app that can transfer files from a desktop to your Android phone (or a tablet) with just a click. Right-click a file and send it to your phone — it’s that simple.

The user interface is so simple that there is nothing to talk about it. And that is probably the best part of it — it does it job, over, no fancy features.

Setting up Filepush is a very easy job and all you have to do is install the app & register your device using your Google account. It requires a tiny desktop client to be installed on your PC, but only Windows is supported at this moment; Sorry Mac users, no cookie for you this time. There are two modes of transferring files — first, locally over WiFi, when both devices are on the same WiFi network and second, through Google Drive.


After the installation part, you can configure the default download folder on your phone. The developer is also working on adding a couple of more features such as an option for filtering files which would save files to different folders according to their file formats, like songs to a ‘music’ folder and PDFs to a ‘documents’ folder, which he says should be completed in about a week or so.

Until now, Airdroid was the best workaround I could find for remotely transferring files, but it’s not seamless. Filepush is seamless. Just click a file, walk away from the PC with your phone and you won’t have to worry about it anymore.

Download Filepush from Play Store: FilePush ($1.2) | FilePush Trial (Free)

‘Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition’ Coming to iPad

The popular 1998 PC role-playing game, Baldur’s Gate, is being remade by the original maker Overhaul Games. Overhaul Games’s new version will be called Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition.

Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition iPad

In addition, the company has announced that the new version will also be available for iPad and be available in the summer of 2012. IGN has already had some hands on time with an early build.

The iPad port will include all the improvements and additions found in the PC version, including full integration of the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion pack. The title is also running on the refined Baldur’s Gate II Infinity Engine, allowing gamers to experience the original adventure with the sequel’s refined graphics options and other engine tweaks.

IGN  also reports that the new version of the game will feature new content, more quests, and a new party member. In fact, the early build of the iPad version runs smoothly. However, the game’s interface has not yet been remade to be more touch friendly. The changes are still in the works, but pinch and zoom has already been implemented. The iPad version is expected to launch this summer.

HP Throws a Hail Mary, Combines Two Dying Business to Revive Both

HP, the personal computing giant of yesteryear, which has seen sales of its PCs decline over the last couple of years, is planning to restructure its business in order to make it more cost efficient and reduce costs, according to a report by AllThingsD.

It will be moving its Imaging and Printing Group (Printers) under its Personal Systems Group (Personal Computers), with the new larger division reporting to a single head.

HP’s printer business was one of its most profitable ones, but had seen sales decline over the last couple of quarters. Its PC business has also not been doing very well, as worldwide desktops sales have slowed down and are expected to decline going forward. Both businesses combined added up to more than 50% of HP’s total revenues in 2011.

HP was planning to spin off the PC division or sell it to someone like IBM under its previous CEO Apotheker’s management, but the new CEO, Meg Whitman scrapped that plan.

HP’s printer business has much higher operating margins than its PC business, but given the product synergies and the overlapping target customer base, it may actually be a good call on its part to combine the two to cut costs, improve margins and maybe improve sales.

The future of HP’s PC business depends on how well it capitalizes on the ultrabook and tablet trend, following the launch of Windows 8 in late 2012.

Windows 8: A Fantastic Opportunity for Developers

Windows 8 Start Screen

There has been a lot of discussion about Windows 8, Metro-style apps, Intel vs ARM, etc., from the time Windows 8 Developer Preview was released at //build/ last year. A lot of the discussion and debates have to do with unclear communication and secrecy from the Windows team at Microsoft. For example, what exactly is the deal with Windows on ARM devices? Are they going to be a hard cutoff from today’s Windows and not have a desktop experience at all, or will they have a desktop experience? Will the desktop experience be open for all developers or only certain developers (like Microsoft Office) to provide signed apps for ARM which use a restricted desktop?

(Ed: On February 9, Steven Sinofsky posted details about Windows on ARM on the Building Windows 8 Blog, so some of the secrecy has been taken away. However, the points made here are in fact reinforced by the details revealed in the post.)

Those discussions and speculations aside, I truly believe Windows 8 is a huge opportunity for developers. In this post, I will tell you why I believe so. First of all, some math: According to Canalys, there were 415MM PCs sold in 2011. This is after accounting for a decline in sales per original projections! Even though smartphones have exceeded the number of PCs sold, that PC sales number is still a very large number.

Now, let’s assume that those 415MM PCs are split 60-40 with regard to sales to businesses vs. consumers. Taking a round number of 400MM PCs a year gives us about 160MM PCs sold to consumers a year. I am ignoring business PCs for now because let’s face it – they are not going to Windows 8 for some time, and even if they do, there is a strong likelihood of them turning off Metro via IT policies. Consumers on the other hand, won’t have the ability to turn it off, and all new PCs will ship with Windows 8 (Intel or ARM).

FIFA 12 PC Review

FIFA by EA Sports is one of the most played sports game in the world. Earlier, it faced heavy competition from PES (Pro Evolution Soccer) in terms of game play, but since FIFA 11 was released, it has improved in leaps and bound. FIFA 12 is the best from EA Sports so far. The brilliant individual player control and intelligent CPU game play along with numerous new features in various modes has made it the best football game in the market.

FIFA 12 Arena

FIFA 12 Arena

Let’s start with the game play; the player control has been massively improved. Unlike earlier versions of FIFA, FIFA 12 has slowed down the game speed which gives the gamer a fraction more time to swiftly control their player by just jogging or jogging while pressing the Pace control button, it also makes skill moves easier to perform during matches.

FIFA 12 Starting a match

FIFA 12 Side Selection

FIFA 12 Game

FIFA 12 On going Game Screen

You can make the game play more realistic by turning off numerous Auto assist options like pass power, and direction  from settings. Some players have specialties. For example Wayne Rooney has engine, distance shooter and clinical finisher specialties; this makes his distance shooting more effective in scoring goals and also has high scoring percentage inside the box. This brings the skills of individual players in the games closer to what they are in real life. If a player has a clear view of goal then he will score 8 out of 10 times.

FIFA 12 Rooney Scoring

FIFA 12 Rooney Scoring

FIFA 12 Real life impact

FIFA 12 Real Life Collision Impact

EA Sports has also introduced levels in FIFA 12 which helps to find suitable opponents  during online play and ranking yourself with your friends. Penalties have also changed in FIFA 12, which now has a meter. You have to shoot when the pointer is on the green patch. When shot at either end of the bar, the player usually slips, which is fun to watch. The intelligence of the CPU can be described by the fact that if a player like Peter Crouch is in the penalty box, the winger of his team will cross the ball immediately (note: Peter Crouch is 6 feet 7 inches tall), but if a shorter striker is present it will try to cut in with the ball. Midfielders like Fabregas are quick in picking out passes because of his high vision compared to Michael Carrick or Ji Sung Park.

FIFA 12 Real life movement

FIFA 12 Detailed Player Movement

FIFA 12 Scoring Goal

FIFA 12 Scoring by head

EA Sports also added a new style of defending called Tactical defending. Generally, people who have played an earlier version of FIFA used the sprint plus standing tackle button to win the ball. But the Tactical defending takes it to a new level and is extremely challenging for players. In Tactical defending, you have to control the direction and speed of the defender plus jockey and contain the opponent, then tackle only at the right time to win the ball, just as in real life. Tackle early, the player will go past you and tackle late, you will foul them. Tactical defending is very difficult to get used to, and frankly speaking, I couldn’t get used to it and switched back to old style of defending. However, many people will surely like this new style.

The most played mode in FIFA is the manager mode. I love this mode as it gives me a chance to do whatever I want to do with my team. In FIFA 12, the interface has been completely changed with most of the default screen occupied with News from around the football world. The news of your club and your players’ performance are highlighted here.

FIFA 12 Manager Mode Default Screen

FIFA 12 Manager Mode Default Screen

Rotating your squad is also a big challenge, as Form and Morale affect the attitude of the players. If you don’t play a certain player for a long time he’ll wish to leave the club. His form and morale will also dip as a consequence. Giving a chance to new players frequently will give their form and morale a boost, and you will be notified when that happens by a pop up message from that player after matches. The scouting network has changed a bit. Now you can simultaneously send three scouts to different locations. Sending and calling back a scout takes a few days, unlike earlier, where they could be called up immediately and sent to another location. As a manager, you can now get involved more deeply in the game because of the newly introduced option to comment on your team or opponent team before certain matches. You can use this opportunity to praise or motivate your team or any individual player which will increase the morale. At the same time, you can comment on the opponent team or players. Some people love to buy and sell players in manager mode, but the club budget can hinder the fun. In FIFA 12 you can choose your budget allocation between transfer budget and wage. You can decrease the wage bank to increase the transfer budget.

FIFA 12 Manager Mode Budget Allocation

FIFA 12 Manager Mode Budget Allocation

Apart from Manager Mode, one other mode which I like is Virtual Pro. You can create your own professional player and then complete the various accomplishments to increase his ratings. This is very addicting because of the fun of the accomplishment. The online playing option has been improved, and now you can play with players of your level, who will be automatically searched for. Various options, like online tournaments, increase the fun. But you need to have a fast and unlimited internet connection to play online. My 512kbps internet connection is slow to react to my controller action, hence it is difficult to play. An internet connection of 1Mbps should be good enough for a smooth experience. There is also a FIFA 12 Store where you can buy various additional features from EA, like Live Season, in which the player form in game is updated every week based on their real life performance. There are many other additional features which you can buy.

FIFA 12 post match

FIFA 12 Post Match

Overall the game is the best that EA Sports have produced so far. Excellent and intelligent game play makes it the best football game currently in the market. The real life impact of collision between players brings the experience closer to real life. If you are a football lover then don’t think even once before buying FIFA 12, and if you haven’t played football, FIFA 12 will surely bring your interest to the game. I rate FIFA 12 a solid 9 out of 10. You can’t afford to miss this one.

Ultrabook Makers Turn to Plastic as Apple Controls Unibody Aluminum Supply

A while ago, PC makers announced an Apple MacBook Air copy known as the “Ultrabook”. These Ultrabooks are backed by Intel and the goal is to  create affordable thin-and-light notebooks that can undercut the MacBook Air on price. How’s that working out for them? Well rumor has it that initial shipments are under 50k. What a joke.

MacBook Air

Today, industry sources reported to DigiTimes that PC makers face limited capacity of unibody chassis, because computer numerical control, or CNC, machines can only produce one unibody frame every three hours. So if you do the math, that means that one machine can only produce eight units per day. In fact, Catcher Technology,    the largest unibody chassis maker, is said to be still giving priority supply to Apple. Hmmm…I wonder why? Maybe because Apple has a huge cashpile, which allows them to control the supply chain, and MacBook Airs actually generate money!

In an attempt to copy the design of the MacBook Air,  Ultrabook makers have also had a hard time securing unibody aluminum chassis, and have instead chosen to adopt new materials like high-density fiberglass, or an exterior aluminum chassis with plastic internal parts. This is just shameful and goes to show that Ultrabook makers have no taste. Apple would never allow this since they take design and quality of a product very seriously, but hey Apple’s still evil.

To top it off, the use of plastic will not only allow Ultrabook makers to increase the number of units produced, but it is also a cost-saving mesaure. A unibody chassis costs between $40 and $80, the new aluminum design with plastic internals is said to cost between $20 and $30.  Would you rather own the real deal (MacBook Air) or a wannabe copy (Ultrabook)? The choice is yours.

Apple Could Become Leading Global PC Vendor in 2012

Apple logo

Lately, lots of “research reports” have been coming out on Apple. For example, last week, it was reported that Mac sales were continuing to surge despite a declining PC market in Europe. Today, a new report by research firm Canalys suggests that  Apple is expected to overtake HP and become the top PC maker in the world next year. Wait..what!? A company that has the least amount of marketshare is supposed to surpass the world’s largest PC maker. Maybe HP should have spun off its PC business after all. Oh, how times have changed.

Canalys is predicting this due to the number of projected sales of  both the iPad and Mac lineup. In fact, Apple already holds second place in the worldwide PC market, with tablet sales included, as of the third quarter of 2011. So, it is only a matter of time before they are number one. In addition,  Canalys has estimated that 2011 global PC shipments will reach 415 million, a 15 percent year over year increase due largely to the popularity of tablets like Apple’s iPad. Wait a second, there are other tablets? Apparently there are…the research firm also predicts that tablet shipments are  expected to reach 59 million by the end of 2011, with 22 million of those sales alone coming in the fourth quarter. Um yeah, I’m sure most of them are iPads. Canalys also mentioned that  Apple’s iPad will once again dominate tablet sales in the fourth quarter, though the newly released Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are also expected to boost sales. iPad is doomed indeed. Not to mention, since the announcement of the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s share price has gone down nearly 16%.

Amazon's share price Kindle Fire

In addition,  Canalys noted that PC makers are struggling to compete with Apple’s profitability, though the release of Android 4.0, known as “Ice Cream Sandwich,” may help sales of tablets that compete with the iPad. So wait, how exactly is Apple losing if the company is dominating in the “money-making” game? It is always about the money.

Finally,  Canalys also believes that Ultrabooks, a MacBook Air copy, aims to compete with Apple’s iPad, will drive notebook sales over the next five years. Let’s take that with a pinch of salt, eh?



Mac Sales Surge Despite Declining European PC Market

Apple’s doomed! Mac sales are doomed! PCs are winning, remember!? Ha! Well this report states quite the opposite. Today, a new report from Gartner  reveals an interesting fact about Q3 Mac sales in Europe.

The report reveals that despite double-digit declines in Western Europe’s PC market during the third quarter, Mac sales increased by 20%, which helped Apple to break into the top 5 vendors for unit shipments. You know what’s funny? Even though Apple’s not the number 1 vendor, the company is still making more money per Mac sold over PC vendors because Apple makes their own hardware and software.

In fact, Apple and ASUS were the only two major PC makers to show growth in Western Europe during Q3 2011  as the region’s overall sales fell 11.4% year-to-year. Shipments only reached 14.8 million units. That’s cool, but you know what’s even better?  Mac sales reached 947,000 units, growing by 19.6% from last year and claiming a 1.9% rise in overall market share. Holy cow! A 19.6% increase in Mac sales. Clearly, everyone wants a PC in Europe. Mac sales ended the quarter with 7.6% of the Western European PC market which includes the UK, France and Germany.

Last quarter, the region also saw a decline in mobile-PC sales by 12.6%.  Contrasting the decline was Apple, as the company’s MacBook sales increased by 28%, seeing growth in both the consumer and professional markets.

The share of mini-notebooks continues to decline, which contributed to the weak year-on-year comparison. Moreover, the consumer PC markets in Western Europe remained essentially weak, with consumer confidence permanently shaken by the economic issues spreading across most of the region,

I think Apple’s success in the mobile PC market (dang it Gartner! Give iPad its own category) can be attributed to the booming demand for non-PC products like the iPhone and iPad. It will be interesting to see how much quicker Mac sales will grow in the near future.

On HP’s Board, its CEO and its Future

HP has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this year. First of all, its board fired its CEO Mark Hurd over a sexual harassment scandal, which turned out to be something trivial. That was a huge mistake on the part of HP’s board, because Mark Hurd was probably one of the best CEOs HP could have had, and firing him made the stock tank.

After that it poached Leo Apotheker from SAP, who in an attempt to revitalize HP, announced that HP would be spinning off its PC business and would try to become a software company with the $10 billion acquisition of Autonomy, which by many analyst estimates, was overpriced.

Did I mention that it also killed webOS and organized a TouchPad fire sale which cost HP hundreds of millions of dollars?

Leo had always been a software guy, and coming from SAP, his strategy for HP would have eventually ended up with HP venturing into software. At least he was doing something to keep HP relevant in the impending future (which could arguably have been the right move, considering how well IBM had done after selling off the consumer PC business to Lenovo).

HP’s stock has dropped almost 30-40% since Mark Hurd’s reign, and apparently, its board is now in a state of panic. It seems to be considering firing Apotheker, and rethink its strategy. The markets seem to be cheering the board’s latest decision with the stock jumping almost 10% today. It may be right this time, but it is definitely the worst board I’ve ever seen. Even Yahoo’s board isn’t so temperamental and confused.

The next few months will be very instrumental in deciding HP’s future. The decisions its incompetent board makes will decide whether HP will live on for the next decade, or if it will fade away into obscurity.