Best Buy Shutting Down All UK Big Box Stores

Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2011 - 03:37 AM |
Tagged: best buy, workforce, UK, retail

Best Buy is one of the few major big box electronics stores still standing in the United States. Despite the retail chain’s history of annoying tech enthusiasts and pushing services, there system is no doubt profitable in the US. Unfortunately, the “big box” modus operandi is not working out as well on the other side of the Atlantic. The company opened up 11 of its big box stores in the UK on April 2010, and employs 1,100 workers. These 11 stores are only a drop in the bucket compared to the 2,500 small box stores specializing in mobile phones. These 2,500 stores are owned as a 50/50 joint venture between Best Buy and Carphone Warehouse. The smaller stores are proving to be more popular and profitable with UK consumers than the big box, more generalized electronics approach.

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Image courtesy Loudrocksurfer via Wikimedia Creative Commons

Due to the profitability disparity, Best Buy has decided to refocus its efforts and will be closing all 11 big box stores in the UK. Fortunately, Best Buy has stated that it is committed to keeping the “vast majority” of the 1,100 affected workers employed in the company by shifting them to positions in the new small box stores. The new stores will specialize in cell phones and other mobile technology including tablets.

Do you think Best Buy is backing away too soon, or is the big box, brick and mortar retail electronics store just not as popular overseas? Let us know in the comments. I feel that it is also worth mentioning that our thoughts and best wishes go out to all those affected by the store closures.

Source: Best Buy

If you fire your whole PR Team, how will you tell the industry that you did?

Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2011 - 11:59 AM |
Tagged: amd

Last week AMD took a scythe to their staff, not so much a separation of the chaff from the wheat and more of a slash and burn approach.  As one press report put it "AMD has announced a restructuring plan and implementation of operational efficiency initiatives designed to strengthen the company's competitive positioning."  As you can tell, the PR team is already suffering from regressive corporate double speak.  Some names which have represented the face of AMD to hardware sites, such as Patrick Moorhead and Carrell Killebrew are gone from AMD, though not from social media nor the industry.  The Tech Report looks at just how AMD handled this announcement to the industry and reveiw sites and details on what exactly happened.

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"Following up on AMD's mass layoff announcement, TR's Scott Wasson reveals that the chipmaker has laid off virtually its entire public relations team, and he speculates about where the company is now heading."

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New Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet Looking To Put Out The Kindle Fire

Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2011 - 10:38 AM |
Tagged: tablet, nook, kindle fire, ereader, ebook, barnes & noble

Hot on the heels of the Kindle Fire announcement, Barnes & Noble is readying it’s own touchscreen tablet and ebook reader. Set to officially launch November 17th, the new Nook tablet is very similar to the Kindle Fire in physical dimensions; however, the hardware and software are a bit different. The new Nook Tablet measures 8.1” x 5” x .48” thick and will retail for $249 USD. It is currently available for pre-order now.

 

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Weighing in at 14.1 ounces, the new tablet runs a customized version of Google’s Android operating system using some decent hardware. On the outside the gray colored chassis sports a 7” VividView IPS touchscreen display with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels (169 PPI). A 3.5 mm headphone jack, mono speaker, charging port, and microSD card slot are located along the edges of the tablet along with a microphone.

Powering the Nook Tablet is a Texas Instruments OMAP4 dual core processor running at 1 GHz and 1 GB of system RAM. Along with 16 GB of built in memory (expandable with up to a 32 GB microSD card.), the new Nook is trying to double up on the specifications of the Kindle Fire which has a single core TI OMAP 4 and 512 MB system RAM. In fact, the marketing documentation that was leaked last week clearly shows the company heavily pushing the increased hardware. The Nook Tablet also features Wi-Fi (no 3G connection), and a claimed battery life of up to 4 hours playing video with the Wi-Fi on or 11.5 hours of reading with Wi-Fi off. A slew of applications are included on the device for email, web browsing, Hulu plus, Netflix, and several other content providers.

The tablet supports the following formats:

E-Books and Documents:  EPUB, PDF, XLS, DOC, PPT, TXT, DOCM, XLSM, PPTM, PPSX, PPSM, DOCX, XLX, PPTX

Video:  MP4, SWF, 3GP, 3G2, MKV, WEBM, H.264, MPEG-4, H.263, VP8

Photo:  JPG< GIF, PNG, BMP

Audio:  MP3, MP4, AAC, AMR, WAV, OGG

The marketing materials heavily pit the Nook Tablet against the Kindle Fire, even going so far as to dig at the Amazon Silk browser for privacy concerns that B&N’s tablet doesn’t have. What’s interesting is that the Nook isn’t being compared to other Android tablets. On the other hand, the Kindle Fire is the first Android tablet to be a successful launch even before the device has launched so it is only natural for Barnes & Noble to try to emulate that success and to heavily compare their product to the Kindle Fire. The customized nature of both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet really help to differentiate themselves from all the other vanilla Android tablets and are likely a cornerstone to the success.

On a personal level, my friends had never heard of the Transformer, Xoom, or Dell Streak but they knew just as much as I did about the Kindle Fire and jumped at the chance to pre-order it. Both the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire are set to officially launch this month, so it will be interesting to see how it shakes out as far as market share and whether or not the extra $50 for better hardware of the Nook will outweigh the Amazon juggernaut’s ecosystem (the app store, marketplace, kindle library, etc).

What do you think is more important in this customized 7” tablet/ereader market?

UPDATE: Amazon is now stating that the Kindle Fire is running a dual core processor, not the single core I mentioned above.

HP Jumps Back Into PC OEM Mode With New Business PCs

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 6, 2011 - 08:32 AM |
Tagged: tablet, slate 2, psg, hp, business, atom

Not long after HP reconsidered spinning off the PC manufacturing arm of the company, it has begun prepping two new business computers. The new PCs are aimed at business, education, healthcare, and government users and include a tablet and notebook. Specifically, HP is releasing the HP Slate 2 tablet computer and a lightweight notebook dubbed the HP 3115m.

 

HP Slate 2.jpg

The HP Slate 2 is a dark gray and silver accented slate style tablet computer weighing in at 1.5 lbs and a 8.9” (diagonal) screen. Running Windows 7, the computer offers both pen and touch input using its capacitive multi-touch display. To make up for the absence of a hardware keyboard, HP is including a new Swype keyboard application which will likely be well received as a notable improvement over the default Windows 7 on screen keyboard. As it is aimed at business users, several security enhancements are baked in, including a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip, HP ProtectTools, and Computrace Pro BIOS level security software.

On the hardware side of things, the HP tablet is powered by an Intel Atom Z670 processor and a mSATA compatible SSD. A front facing VGA camera is available for video conferencing, and a second 3 MP (megapixel) camera is located on the back providing photo and video capture. Further, the tablet features SRS Premium Sound, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, optional 3G mobile broadband, an SD card slot, and USB 2.0 ports. HP is further designing a docking station, integrated Bluetooth keyboard tablet case, and a Point of Sale (POS) attachment that adds a magnetic card reader to the tablet for processing credit card payments.

For those that would prefer a hardware keyboard instead of a tablet PC, HP is also releasing a lightweight notebook. The company claims that the new HP 3115m laptop will offer up to 11.5 hours of battery life. The PC features a 11.6” LED-backlit HD display, an HP webcam, and Beats Audio. Powering the laptop is a AMD E450 dual core Fusion APU. The APU features AMD Radeon HD 6320 graphics hardware, which should easily meet the needs of road warriors and business professionals.

Both the HP Slate 2 and 3115m will be available later this month. The HP Slate 2 will be available worldwide towards the end of the month while the 3115m will be available November 11th in North and South America only.  More photos can be found here.

 

Coolermasters new mouse for the small of hand

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2011 - 03:26 PM |
Tagged: cooler master, storm xornet, gaming mouse

Measuring only 4"x4.2"x1.3" the new CoolerMaster Storm Xornet is not one of the larger gaming mice on the market. It still sports the 2000 DPI Storm Tactical Optical Sensor common to CoolerMaster's eSports line, which means it certainly qualifies as a gaming mouse.  High Tech Legion were surprised how quickly they got used to the claw style grip that this mouse encourages and did not mind the new position at all, pointing out that the rest for your pinky finger.  For $30 this shrunken version of the CoolerMaster Storm Spawn gets their recommendation.

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"The CM Storm Xornet is a basic gaming mouse designed for claw-grip users. The CM Storm Xornet’s shell is essentially a black version of the CM Storm Spawn but internally, the CM Storm Xornet is outfitted with the Avago ADNS-3050 optical LED sensor with adjustable DPI settings of 500, 1000 (default) and 2000. Similar to the CM Storm Spawn, the CM Storm Xornet features long-lasting Omron micro-switches with a lifetime span of 5,000,000 clicks. Whether you are an e-Sports athlete or just a hardcore gamer, the CM Storm Xornet will fit your needs and your budget."

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Of hens teeth and hard drives

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2011 - 11:42 AM |
Tagged: hdd, thailand, flooding, western digital, Samsung

According to SemiAccurate both Western Digital and Samsung will cease shipping hard drives to suppliers and retailers because of the devastating flooding in Thailand.  Both companies need to find a new source for head stacks and drive motors and Western Digital will need temporary manufacturing facilities while they wait for the flood waters to recede and repairs to start on their damaged factory.  Expect to see this have large effects on the industry as major suppliers like Dell, Acer, ASUS and HP do not tend to keep large supplies of hard drives lying around in storage which means that only the models with SSDs inside will be able to be manufactured and shipped out.  That reduction in production in turn will effect motherboard, GPU and CPU manufacturers as the demand for their products drop.  While you will not convince the 11,000+ Thai people who have been displaced by the flooding that the fate of Western Digital's factory is the biggest impact of this disaster, for many in the western world it is the only reason they are paying attention to this story.

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"According to sources that we have spoken with in the Taiwanese market both Samsung and Western Digital have decided to suspend shipments of disk drives to PC makers in Taiwan due to a parts shortage."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Amazon Adds Free Kindle Book Lending To Amazon Prime Service

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2011 - 03:56 AM |
Tagged: mobile, lending, kindle, ebook. book, devices

Amazon has launched a new service to augment its existing Amazon Prime subscription service this week that is sure to please ebook fans who happen to own a Kindle e-Reader. The new service dubbed the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library adds a free ebook renting option for Kindle devices.

The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a subscription service like the Amazon Prime Instant Video service, except that instead of videos, Amazon will let you rent one book from the lending library for free. And as long as you maintain the Prime membership, you can keep the book for as long as you need to finish it. Once you’re done, you are able to turn in the book and exchange it for another ebook. Another plus is that any highlighting and bookmarking done to the borrowed books will remain persistent across rentals, meaning if you ever re-borrow the book all of your markups will remain intact.

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There are some caveats to the rental service, however. You may have noticed that I emphasized the term “lending library” when describing the service. I did this because (again, much like instant video rentals) the ebooks that you are allowed to rent will be from a smaller subset of the library of Kindle books that you are able to purchase outright. Amazon is looking to expand the library of books that you will be able to rent; however, in some respects book publishers can be more restrictive (and old fashioned) than members of the RIAA and MPAA are in allowing their content on subscription services. According to Tom’s Hardware, amazon is, in some cases, being required to buy a title outright from the publisher every time it is rented (!). The company has said that it is even going to these extremes to try and show publishers the benefits of incremental growth in audience and revenue that can be achieved with such a lending (subscription) service.

The other caveat is that Amazon is currently only offering free rentals to Prime members who own Kindles, meaning that users of the smartphone and Kindle PC applications are out of luck. Further, there are restrictions on the Prime accounts that are eligible. Naturally, a full Amazon Prime account is required, meaning that you must be the primary account holder to use this service. It is unclear at this point whether the discounted student versions of Prime will be able to use this service (I’ve hear conflicting reports where some are saying they’ve gotten it to worth and some people have reported that it is not working for them).

Despite the caveats listed above, should Amazon’s subscription service be a success (I think it will be), it will likely entice other platforms to adopt similar subscription services. Once Barnes and Noble, Sony, and Amazon all integrate some sort of subscription services, book publishers will (hopefully) be forced to make more content available. For now though, the Amazon juggernaut will have to brute force it’s way into a decent subscription library. If you are curious about the titles offered, you can see the selection here. There are a few top 100 bestseller books as well, and the library can only grow from here. Will you be checking out the new rental system with your Kindle?

AMD lays off 10-12% of workforce, new CEO cleans house

Subject: General Tech, Processors | November 3, 2011 - 08:22 PM |
Tagged: layoffs, amd

We have been discussing AMD’s condition and future outlook over most of recent memory. Since the lawsuit versus Intel and the subsequent trying by the Big Blue Giant: AMD’s apparent jab-haymaker combo of lawsuit-Sempron to push heavily in the consumer market seems to have been mostly dodged and countered by Intel. While this last quarter has been positive there is little time for positive press; AMD has, today, removed 1400 employees from their company.

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There was a time that AMD said they could beat anything Intel could throw at them.

That means that what AMD is releasing now is as-good or better than where they thought CPUs would be.

Food for thought.

It is not very uncommon to see layoffs during restructuring in the 10% range when a new CEO enters a company. The sad part of restructuring is that there is often little consideration about which employees comprise that 10%; rather, their job descriptions. These layoffs in isolation do not say much about AMD’s health in the upcoming time but should tint in one way or another how to perceive their upcoming actions. Where the future is positive or negative depends on how this ties into that.

Source: BSN

A look into AMD's future

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2011 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: amd, vector computing, exascale, APU

Chuck Moore, CTO of AMD's Technology Group, gave a talk this week about AMD's plans for the future of their architecture.  As you might conjecture the focus was on the further integration of the CPU and GPU, with an eye on power consumption.  The hurdle he feels will be the tallest is the bandwidth for passing data back and forth between the two processors and he sees 3D stacks of memory sitting between the main system memory, the GPU and the CPU.  Once developed he feels that the stacks of memory should be able to increase the amount of available communication bandwidth to the point where tasks can be handed smoothly back and forth between the two processors depending on which is more effective at certain tasks.  Performance is not everything however, when The Register quotes Moore when he discusses the power requirements of a mid-range exascale class machine costing $200 million just to power and cool over a year, you begin to see the importance of bringing down power consumption and heat production.

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"Because Advanced Micro Devices has not yet announced its 16-core "Interlagos" Opteron 6200 processors, it has to talk about something, and in situations like that, it is best to talk about the far-off future. And so AMD rounded up a bunch of its partners on Wednesday in San Francisco for a shindig to talk about the challenges of exascale computing."

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Source: The Register

PC Gaming Alliance: Cross-Platform Gaming Spec next week

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2011 - 01:18 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming

The PC Gaming Alliance is not the most beloved industry body lately. The goals of the PC Gaming Alliance are to create an agency which addresses the issues with PC Gaming in an attempt to further it. What ultimately occurred was a stack of news stories chronicling who is no-longer a member of the PCGA for any given day and a series of jeers toward the group and the users of said platform. Occasionally they release studies -- like an upcoming one as announced on Intel’s software blog -- about a specification for cross-platform gaming.

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United we stand, divided we prone.

Intel’s blog teased at the contents of a webinar that is scheduled to happen on the 9th:

During this webinar discussion we’ll be outlining a couple of key proposals that should not only help PC Gaming, but most other gaming ecosystems as well. A couple of the key trends we’re seeing in the research from the PC Gaming Alliance, and in discussions with Game Developers, is an increased desire to support and adopt various ‘Cloud gaming’ scenarios that are accessible across a wide spectrum of devices and displays. (aka. Compute Continuum, 3 screens, etc). This ‘Cloud Gaming’ movement is critical to comprehend in tandem with another key trend as games increasingly move towards a games-as-a-service (aka GAS) model. Due to the global popularity, massive install base, and extensibility of Personal Computers as gaming devices, the PCGA’s set of proposals will be largely targeted at addressing the PC Ecosystem.

What do you guys think of the upcoming webinar? What does Intel and the rest of the PCGA have in store for their specification?

Source: Intel Blog