Tag Archives: lenovo

Motorola sale sets a benchmark for judging Google’s fiber strategy

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

As long as it takes, but no longer.

There’re two ways to look at Google’s decision to unload its Motorola handset business to Lenovo for $2.9 billion. It’s either a long overdue retreat and admission of failure, or it’s a model for gauging what Google will do with other hardware projects and acquisitions.

Getting past the “they shoulda done it sooner” carping, what Google did was snap up Motorola and chew on it a bit, before digesting what it craves – patents, expertise and operational experience – and spitting out the rest. That’s an important lesson to keep in mind, both for hardware acquisitions like Nest and for its fiber-to-the-home initiative.

Google is in the business of providing web-based services and raking in cash from advertisers and user fees. Faster broadband connections means faster consumption of its services. It jumped into the FTTH business because it was the best way to goad complacent incumbents into upgrading service, both by providing a competitive alternative and by generally raising consumer expectations: few know what a gigabit is, but everyone wants it.

That doesn’t mean that Google will give up its fiber initiative anytime soon. It’ll take a long time and a lot of throw weight to change strategic thinking at major telcos and cable companies. The Motorola deal, though, does offer a benchmark for gauging when it’ll exit the fiber business. Google sold the hardware business to Lenovo in large part because it was competing against the phone makers it needs to help drive its web services business, not least via the Android operating system. By that measure, Google will back off from fiber if the revenue derived from incumbent service providers ever outstrips the lost opportunities caused by bandwidth bottlenecks. No need to worry, though. That day will be a long time coming.

Three trends to spot at CES

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

CES needs Bitcoin more than Bitcoin needs CES.

The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show opens next week in Las Vegas, with preview events beginning on Sunday and the exhibit floor opening on Tuesday. The show lacks last year’s changing-of-the-guard fascination, when mobile kingpins and rising giants held prominent places in keynote and featured sessions. Instead, it’s about reviving the brands that were shouldered aside in 2013.

But there’s always something new to see at CES, with three trends looking particularly interesting…

Wearables – CES exhibit halls promise to be packed with smart watches, eyeglass mounted video displays and cameras, and various other small, wearable devices – health and fitness related in many cases – that serve as smart phone peripherals or substitutes. The question to answer is whether the category will remain awash in marginally useful gizmos or will killer apps and dominant products emerge?

Chinese brands – Like Japanese and Korean manufacturers before them, Chinese companies are leaving bargain bin positioning behind, and building brand equity at an even faster rate. Aided by a huge internal market and a strong base in rapidly evolving mobile product categories, the likes of ZTE, Huawei and Lenovo will finally have the floor presence and brand recognition to match their market share. Prediction for 2015: one of the three will get a major keynote slot and the other two will figure prominantly at featured CES events.

Bitcoin – At least four companies built around this virtual currency are either in the show or on its periphery. One is a hardware play – it makes specialised Bitcoin mining equipment – and the others are online services. For many years CES got energy and edge from the adult content industry: maybe there’s hope a fresh libertarian wind will invigorate it again.

I don’t expect to see much mobile buzz or home automation system news. Devices of both sorts will be floating around, but it looks like the mobile industry is waiting for the Barcelona show next month and home automation is still searching for a mainstream business model. Let’s hope for surprises.

The buzz from CES Unveiled

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

CES Unveiled was the usual mob scene. Maybe even more so this year. But its a good first look at what has the buzz and what doesn’t.

 Lenovo tablet computer becomes a laptop
Lenovo was the only computer maker showing a genuine tablet computer at the event. And its a beauty.

It’s really two computers in one. The tablet runs on a mobile processor and has good, basic functionality. It docks into a laptop-like device. In fact, when it’s docked, it is a laptop.

The tablet becomes the screen and the laptop unit powers it with a full-on Intel processor and a keyboard. People were stacked three, four, sometimes five and six deep trying to get a look.

 Entourage’s e-book reader
E-book readers were surprisingly hard to find, but there were a few. Marvell had some cool reference designs.

One was a dead ringer for a gizmo I’ve been waiting years and years to get: a wafer thin tablet maybe 15 cm by 20 cm, that I’ve been lusting after ever since I first saw one on Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

Entourage was showing a dual screen model. It opens like a book and has an e-book screen on one side and a smaller computer display, suitable for video and multimedia on the other.

The set top box business is losing its pizzaz. Not in terms of product – the user interfaces and on-screen navigation keep getting better and better – but in terms of it representing something cutting edge. Everybody knows you can get TV on the Internet, and you don’t need cable or satellite to get all the movies and television shows you want.

 Marvell’s Deep Space Nine
 reference design
The two best STB products on display, the Popbox and D-Link’s Boxee unit, seamlessly integrate social networking functionality so you can watch TV with your friends, no matter where they might be.

The unexpectedly hot category was small projectors. Palm-top devices that let you watch TV or whatever from your mobile phone or share a video quickly were being demonstrated by 3M and Microvision.

Sharper Image was showing a prototype home projector that’s supposed to start selling for $149 in August. These small, inexpensive projectors are based on LED technology that will only get better over the next two to three years. The days of the $1,000 video projector are numbered.

Live from CES Unveiled, pre-press day, Tuesday 6 January 2009

Last to first, real time tweets from Las Vegas…

  • Tethering is deciding battle between mobile carriers & CE industry. CE guys don’t get it, think it’s a tech problem. It’s the money!
  • Novatel Wireless hasn’t signed any carriers yet. Expects to Real Soon Now. If they do, it’s a significant market signal re tethering.
  • Novatel Wireless also into tethering. Selling gizmo combining mobile data card, embedded Linux, WiFi tethering. Serves 5 users at once.
  • Blaupunkt has Internet car radio. Needs tethering-capable mobile phone. Don’t count on mobile carriers cooperating with the biz model.
  • Buzzword Alert! iGo makes travel adaptors. Nice, same sh** different year. But now – pause for effect & wink knowingly – “we’re green”.
  • Boxee talking to Sigma & Intel. Broadcom reportedly doesn’t care yet: he who is last is lunch.
  • Boxee vs AppleTV. Good interfaces. AppleTV tied to iTunes. But Boxee runs on an AppleTV & pisses off Steve Jobs. Great business model!
  • Boxee runs on 1 GHz processor or better now, working towards reducing code to run as embedded app with less horsepower.
  • Boxee managed $4 mil in VC financing last month. In this market that’s like winning the Nobel prize. Nobody gets funded these days.
  • Boxee runs on Mac, Windoze, Linux. Takes content from all sources, including your computer. Puts it on TV. TV, photos, music, whatever.
  • Boxee only potential disruptor at this press event. Open source media center software. Takes content from everywhere, puts it anywhere.
  • HD Radio has neat idea. Listen to song on radio, push button, tag song, sync with iPod, buy song from iTunes. GPS integration too.
  • Lenovo on same track as MSI, good not revolutionary. When you have a hot category, take market share, not press clips I guess.
  • MSI Wind product looks good, not game-changing. WiFi, but no WiMAX. When I asked, PR person thought WiMAX was a kind of hard drive.
  • ASUS has best new stuff. Love the netbook with the swivel screen. Turns into a tablet PC or e-reader. Under 1kg. WiMAX on roadmap.
  • Three netbook makers pushing hard at CES: MSI, ASUS, Lenovo.
  • CES Unveiled, big turnout nice buffet. Open bar, but Powermat display has bigger line. This crowd is fueled by electrons, not booze.
  • Make that ASUS chairman Jonney Shih
  • Microsoft guy unveils a rad new concept: voip. Next hot idea from Redmond: padded laptop cases!
  • ASUS hot on WiMAX, introing a 512GB solid state drive
  • ASUS press conf packed, already learned something: it’s pronounced “ah-zeus”
  • In car TV top product pick for young parents, other mobile TV products getting lots of attention. More dough for services and content for sure.
  • Early leader for WTF award: HD diving mask.
  • Services seen as integral part of media product sales, “wouldn’t make sense without”
  • Mobile, cloud computing, green tech all getting serious attention. Squares with VC predictions for 2009.
  • E-readers a top growth product in 2008, albeit from a small base
  • Green products, mobile stuff, embedded Internet, input & display tech tagged as top trends for 2009
  • Early leader for Alice in Wonderland award: “CE is a necessity not a luxury”. So are cars, and auto sales are zip.
  • Early leader for understatement of the show: “consumer spending is in transition”
  • CES state of the industry press conf: DTV, mobile phones, video games & PCs account for 70% of CE sales in 2008.
  • @jodrell Truphone Anywhere uses GSM to make a plain old mobile voice call to a voip portal. Nice but not mobile voip.