Month: June 2013

Rotten Apple?

Years ago, Apple revamped and positioned itself as the “trendy” name in the world of mobile communication and computing. It has held a top market spot for years, but that could all be changing very soon for several reasons.

One reason why Apple could be on its way down? According to the latest IDC report, Windows Phone sold enough units in the first quarter of 2013 to take over the number three spot (behind Android and iOS) in the market of mobile phone platforms. While there is still a relatively large gap between Windows Phone and Apple’s iOS (the second-leading mobile phone platform), John Koetsier explains that the partnership between Microsoft and Nokia could close that gap as Nokia transitions to a 100% smartphone lineup. Sales numbers for Nokia are strong and will continue to be, so watch for Nokia to give Microsoft quite a boost. 

Another reason: So-so reviews of Samsung’s Galaxy S4. It’s a little harder to connect the dots on this one, but Sam Mattera did it seamlessly. Most would think that bad reviews for Samsung would mean more business for its next closest competitor, Apple. Not so, because Apple has failed to release or even announce the upcoming release of any new products, software, etc. If there’s one thing I know about trendy people, it’s that they hate for things to stay the same. Instead of skipping the Galaxy S4 and opting for the iPhone 5, most reviewers and tech experts are recommending something totally different: the HTC One. Beyond that, several cell phone companies are capable of employing technology that rivals what used to be so unique to Apple’s iPhone, and they are doing it at a lower cost to consumers. It just isn’t possible for Apple to compete against a growing number of competing mobile phone companies and come out on top. 

Apple is not going to be able to rely on its image to generate the kind of record-setting profits we’ve seen them pull in years past. Instead, they are going to have to focus on true innovation and improvement, or else they will find themselves as outdated as shoulder pads and car phones.

Sprint Deal Still Unclear

Sprint has gone from ugly duckling to belle of the ball recently, with two large corporations in a heated battle to woo shareholders and executives with large dowries. Japan-based SoftBank Corp. first offered $20.1 billion for 70% ownership of Sprint, an offer that resulted in an unsolicited $25.5 billion offer from Dish Network. SoftBank and Dish have been waging campaigns against one another since then, including the establishment of a Dish Network-backed website which claims that a SoftBank/Sprint deal would threaten national security and individual privacy. SoftBank’s CEO, Masayoshi Son, is looking to expand into the US wireless market at any cost, and said today that he considers a T-Mobile acquisition to be a viable back-up plan should the Sprint deal hit an impasse. Dish’s chairman and co-founder, Charlie Ergen, has not been shy about revealing his plans for Sprint: to bundle mobile phone services with satellite TV and internet services. 

In response to Dish’s offer, SoftBank increased its original offer on June 11 and earned the support of several key Sprint board members. The offer now stands at $21.6 billion, with SoftBank controlling 78% of Sprint and kicking an additional $3 billion back to Sprint shareholders. Dish Network has been given a June 18 deadline to make a “best and final” offer, which will likely be the deciding factor in which of these corporations will absorb Sprint and its jointly-owned Clearwire Corp, the high speed wireless network that factors heavily into plans for both SoftBank and Dish. Unfortunately for SoftBank, Clearwire is endorsing the Dish/Sprint deal, while many high-level Sprint executives and board members are endorsing the SoftBank/Sprint deal. While it seems like the Dish/Sprint deal is highly unlikely, you never know what will happen when two billionaire CEO’s duke it out for control of a suddenly attractive underling.

Sprint Campus in Overland Park, KS

Because of the local connection, this story has several implications for Kansas Citians. It may very well be that the SoftBank/Sprint deal is best for our local economy. Sprint has struggled in recent years to provide quality and reliable mobile phone service, and their market position has dropped to reflect those struggles. If SoftBank takes over operations, it could mean revamped efforts to improve service, which could mean more jobs and, eventually, increased revenues for the Overland Park-based company. If Dish takes over, it could mean maintaining status quo and offering the same old cut-rate mobile phone service at a cheaper price when bundled with satellite and internet service. However you feel about the deal, keep an eye on the news in the next week as several important dates are coming up: the June 18 deadline for Dish to submit a “best and final” offer and a June 25 vote to determine whether Sprint’s board will accept the SoftBank offer. Either way, it appears that Sprint will be under new management soon.

Time to Customize for IT?

At DCT, we’ve been offering customizable business solutions and software for years. The trend toward customization is now hitting IT departments, where “one size fits all” software has typically dominated. Companies are beginning to realize, however, that the old approach needs to be updated to fit with the also updated issues and needs that advances in technology present. It’s not necessary to rely on “one size fits all” solutions any longer because nearly everything in the world can be individualized or customized to fit your needs, including software. This article from wired.com briefly describes the evolution of the IT field and makes an excellent case for the need to expand to customizable solutions and software.

The Fastest Mobile Network Belongs to…

Ever wonder how your cell phone provider’s mobile network speed stacks up against its competitors? In today’s world of instant access, it is easy to feel entitled to faster download and upload speeds and lightning-fast internet. Every cell phone provider claims to have the fastest network, so it can feel like a gamble when choosing which company to trust. PC Magazine is helping to take some of the guesswork out of the decision by announcing its findings from recent research on the actual mobile network speeds of the four largest cell phone providers: Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T. The study was quite sophisticated, involving three hybrid Fords, eight identical Samsung phones, and thirty cities across the United States. While AT&T’s LTE network can claim a slight overall victory, it’s important to look at the “bigger picture.” For instance, while AT&T’s speeds may be the fastest, Verizon’s network is the most reliable. It also depends on where you live, so be sure to check out your area’s results on PC Magazine’s website. The resultsare detailed, in-depth, and pretty eye-opening. Check out Kansas City’s results too!

Microsoft Responds to Critics with Newest Version of Windows 8

It’s no secret that Microsoft’s Windows 8 sales have been off to a slow start since its launch in October of 2012. What you might not know is that sales figures have been quietly increasing and are now on pace to, at the very least, equal the record-setting sales of Windows 7. Complaints about Windows 8 have been varied; from a confusing start screen to a limited number of apps, Windows 8 has been brutalized by critics and early users. Over the past eight months, however, Microsoft has been hard at work to fix glitches, address complaints, and ramp up their app offerings. If you are at all interested in developing apps for large sums of money, you may want to click on that last link to read about reports that Microsoft is offering up to $100,000 to developers who will bring apps to Windows 8. (They routinely pay developers up to $2,000 to develop apps for them.) The result, according to the experts at Tech Radar is a Windows 8 version that “shines.” While the reviewers, Mary Branscombe and Dan Grabham, were most impressed with using Windows 8 on a touchscreen device, they were equally impressed with the cloud integration and accessibility of frequently used apps on the desktop PC version as well. If you were hesitant to make the switch to Windows 8 before, you may want to give it a shot now. Check out an incredibly thorough review of Windows 8 here, including easy-to-follow installation instructions, overviews of modern UI and desktop interfaces and apps, and specific information on media, games, available apps, and upgraded security features.

The Ultimate Gamer Debate

Now, for a little fun…people in the technology industry often have a love of “techie” gadgets and gizmos that extends beyond their 9-5 jobs. We might have the newest smartphone, the coolest new apps on our tablets, or the latest gaming system. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “gamer,” today’s gaming systems should appeal to you. In fact, it’s probably more appropriate to call them “entertainment systems” since their uses extend far beyond just gaming and into almost all mediums of entertainment–movies, music, social media, live-streaming sports events, etc. With Microsoft (Xbox) and Sony (PlayStation) both announcing the release of new models of their popular gaming systems, gamers and lovers of at-your-fingertips entertainment are facing quite a dilemma: drop your money on the Xbox One or the PS4? The guys at makeuseof.com have tried both and give detailed reviews for each. They suggest that the PS4 might be more for the gamer-at-heart, while the XboxOne might satisfy the sometimes-gamer-sometimes-watcher. Decide for yourself and tell us what you think!

Trouble for the Honeywell-Intermec Deal?

Honeywell’s announcement of plans to buy Intermec at $10 per share last December has faced its share of scrutiny, with the Federal Trade Commission leading the pack. The FTC’s main concern seems to be on the deal’s potential for limiting competition in the auto identification and data capture (AIDC) industry. Honeywell and Intermec are the second and third, respectively, competitors behind strong market leader, Motorola. Combined, Honeywell and Intermec would still fall far behind Motorola in total market holdings, making Datalogic, the next closest competitor behind Honeywell-Intermec, “a poor candidate to be considered a true No. 3 player in the market.” For a complete rundown of the situation, including several theories regarding the FTC’s uneasiness with the proposed deal, check out this article at The Deal Pipeline.

“Big Data” Doesn’t Have to Be a Big Headache

“Big data”–route speed, fuel usage, delivery time, mileage, etc.–is increasingly important, and more difficult than ever to analyze on paper, in the field service industry. Improvements in these areas can mean higher profits, lower overhead costs, and increased customer satisfaction. But the time commitment and level of difficulty involved in analyzing this data can create a logistical nightmare for companies of any size. The folks over at SmartVan recently wrote a piecehighlighting the need for companies to utilize some sort of software that can analyze the “big data” quickly, easily, and effectively. At DCT, we have responded to our clients’ evolving needs with relation to “big data” analytics, giving users the ability to maximize profit potential by analyzing driver reports, fuel usage, route speeds, and a host of other cost-driven measures. The result: increased profits, productive and efficient delivery drivers, and most importantly, happy customers.

“OK Glass, Violate My Privacy.”

The release of the first round of Google’s wearable computer, Google Glass, is causing quite a stir. While I haven’t encountered anyone wearing them (nor do I know anyone who has), the wearers are out there, and they are seeing the world much differently than you or I. Joanna Stern, Tech Editor for ABC News, was one of the first people to purchase a pair of these in-demand specs. Read about her experience here. So far, Google has only released a small number of glasses with limited functionality. These glasses can take pictures, perform basic searches, and connect with your phone to send and receive text messages and phone calls; all you need to do is start your command with, “O.K., Glass…” and Google Glass will react. Of course, the number of uses won’t stay small for long. There is already talk of facial recognition software, live pornographic video capabilities, and all sorts of other abuses or misuses of the amazing technology that has made Google Glass possible. Nick Bilton, a journalist for the New York Times, describes his experience with attending a party full of Google Glass wearers: 

I was startled by how much Glass invades people’s privacy, leaving them two choices: stare at a camera that is constantly staring back at them, or leave the room.

Indeed, this is an interesting debate that is becoming increasingly more relevant as technological advances encroach on our rights to privacy. Stephen L. Carter, professor of law at Yale and best-selling author, ponders the evolving definition of “privacy” in light of several recent events in an article that takes a look at the “big picture” through Google Glass. 

To see life for yourself through Google Glass, check out this demo video.

To Be (Rugged) Or Not To Be…

Our clients often wonder whether it is necessary to take on the (often) added expense of using ruggedized mobile business devices over consumer-grade ones. DCT clients aren’t the only ones asking this question. In a world where technologically advanced smartphones can be purchased on the cheap, it is becoming increasingly important that businesses weigh the costs (literally and figuratively) involved in choosing consumer-grade devices over rugged ones. To choose a side, read this great article with lots to say on the rugged vs. consumer debate.