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   Technology StocksSmartphones: Symbian, Microsoft, RIM, Apple, and Others

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To: Eric L who wrote (1578)9/2/2013 11:31:05 AM
From: Eric L
   of 1647
AAWP Comments Kantar 'Global' Windows Phone Sales Share for for 3 m/e July 2013...

>> Kantar data shows Windows Phone at 8.3% of EU5 smartphone sales

Rafe Blandford
All About Windows phone (AAWP)
September 2nd 2013

Kantar Worldpanel data, released today, shows that, in the three months to the end of July 2013, Windows Phone devices made up 8.3% of smartphone sales unit volumes in the EU5 (Germany, UK, France, Italy, and Spain), the highest ever level for the platform. Windows Phone also reached a record share of smartphone sales in Mexico (12%), taking second place behind Android, but ahead of BlackBerry and iOS, the first time this has happened in a market of significant size.

In the UK and France, Windows Phone more than doubled its sales market share over the same period last year (4.2% to 9.2% and 3.6% to 11% respectively). Together with strong results from Germany, these figures saw Windows Phone's smartphone sales share increase from 4.3%, in the same period last year, to 8.2% this year.

In the news story for the last set of Kantar data we said that there was some evidence that the growth of Windows Phone sales was slowing down in Europe, noting that the increase in sales unit share in the EU5 for Windows Phone was 0.9% in the first quarter versus 0.4% in the second quarter. However, that no longer appears to be the case, with the increase (1.ma3%) in market share between the June data (6.9%) and July data (8.2%) being the same as the previous six months combined, something that points towards strong sales of Windows Phone devices in July.

However, sales in the US were relatively poor at 3.5% market share compared to earlier in the year, although the figure remain ahead of the same period last year. Windows Phone's figures in the US should see some improvement in the next few months, with the launch of the Lumia 928 and 1020, together with wider availability for the Lumia 520 and 925, likely to have a noticeably positive impact. Sales in China were also weak dropping to 2.4% sales share from 4.6% the previous year, suggesting Windows Phone is failing to find traction in the Chinese market.

Windows Phone is still a relatively small player compared to iOS and Android (17.9%, 69.1% and 8.2% in the EU5 respectively), but Windows Phone is very firmly in third place, with three time more sales in the EU5 that its nearest rival (BlackBerry). Also noteworthy is the fact that Windows Phone now has a similar market share in the UK to that of Symbian in February 2011, the time at which Nokia announced its transition to Windows Phone.

Kantar Worldpanel reports its data as a percentage market share of sales in the preceding 12 weeks (i.e. a three month moving average). The data is drawn from a continuous survey methodology, where consumers are interviewed and consumer behaviour recorded.

Other notable trends and data points in this month's Kantar report include a stabilisation of Windows Phone sales in Italy (level after six months of month-on-month decreases), improved sales in Germany (higher than the Windows Mobile dominated 2010-11 period), and Windows Phone's share of sales volume in Australia moving well past the 5% mark.

The growth of Windows Phone sales has been primarily driven by lower cost devices, such as the Lumia 520. Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see whether the introduction of devices like the Lumia 925, 928 and 1020 have a notable impact, something which would be desirable for Microsoft and its partners, if Windows Phone is too avoid being attached to a "best for cheap devices" label.

Windows Phone is enjoying success, but it is on a relatively small scale. However, this is inevitable as it faces a very competitive environment, with a long term slow build the only likely scenario as Microsoft and its hardware partner seeks to build market share. ... <snip rest> ###

- Eric -

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To: Eric L who wrote (1595)9/4/2013 7:51:45 PM
From: Uncle Frank
   of 1647
Microsoft and its hardware partner seeks to build market share...
Microsoft + Nokia = ???

From ZD Net:

Summary: In many respects, the Microsoft-Nokia deal rhymes with Google's Motorola purchase. The difference: Nokia controlled so much Windows Phone distribution that Microsoft had to buy it.

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From: Eric L9/9/2013 2:07:19 PM
1 Recommendation   of 1647
Wired on the Moto X: the 1st 'Google Phone' ...

Photo: Brian L. Frank/WIRED

Steven Levy

Almost exactly two years ago, Google announced its purchase of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. It was the company’s biggest deal ever, far exceeding previous big buys like YouTube for $1.7 billion and DoubleClick for $3.1 billion. Both of those acquisitions were hugely successful, but the Motorola purchase seemed baffling. Mainly, it seemed to provide Google with valuable intellectual property that would allow the company to defend itself against a tidal wave of patent lawsuits. Motorola—the inventor of the very first cell phone—had a great patent portfolio indeed. But the estimated worth of those patents was less than half Google’s purchase price. The other portion brought Google a money-bleeding Chicago-area-based hardware business. The purchase would almost double Google’s head count with employees who brought little to the bottom line. Employees who were not Googly, in a business that seemingly didn’t scale. What was Google thinking?

Finally, we have the answer. The Moto X, announced today, marks the arrival, finally, of the Google Phone.

Finally, we have the answer. The Moto X, announced today, marks the arrival, finally, of the Google Phone.

The Moto X is the first in a series of hardware products that Google hopes will supercharge the mother company’s software and services. A svelte slab with smooth curves at its edge, purpose-built to fit in the palm of your hand. It is designed for mass appeal, not just a slice of the population like Star Wars fans. It has its share of features that distinguish it from the pack, particularly in a period where some of the market leaders are reloading their innovation guns. These include persistent notifications, user-customizable design components, instant photo-capture, and hands-free authentication.

But the defining feature of the Moto X is it’s a virtual ear, always straining to hear its owner’s voice say three magic words that will rouse it to action: “Okay, Google Now.”

Utter those, and a Moto X user becomes master of the universe—to the degree that Google, its developers, and the users themselves have digitized it. The Android mobile operating system was always intended as a gateway drug to Google products and ads. (“We don’t monetize the things we create,” Android creator Andy Rubin once told me. “We monetize users.”) And Moto X is a tool to free-base Google. That’s why, after years of Rubin and others saying, “There is no Google phone,” when referring to Android implementations, this one finally qualifies.

“If you look at what services are most used on smart phones, it’s obvious that they’re things like maps, mail and search—things that Google does,” says Dennis Woodside, Motorola’s new CEO, who formerly headed Google’s domestic sales operation. “Rather than mess with that, we wanted to build a device that makes those services as easy to access as possible.” Making “touchless control” an access point to Google Now, he says, is a prime example of that strategy. “Google Now is a high-speed on-ramp to all that great stuff that Google is building.”

Woodside says this in his neatly kept office in Motorola’s California headquarters, just down Route 101 from the Googleplex. In some ways, he was an unlikely choice to rally a flagging engineering-centric cellphone manufacturer. He began his career as a lawyer and a McKinsey consultant. He joined Google in 2003 and moved to Europe to build its overseas sales organizations. In 2009, he returned to the U.S. to run the company’s North America operations. Woodside learned that Google was buying Motorola Mobility by reading it in a newspaper, just before participating in an Ironman triathlon in Canada. A few months later, CEO Larry Page asked him if he’d run Motorola. Woodside guesses that Page was tapping not only his managerial skills, but also the Google values he had absorbed over the last decade, particularly the impulse to think big and push the technology envelope to get results once considered impossible.

Even before the merger got a formal thumbs-up in May 2012, Woodside was plotting strategy. He did the tough work of layoffs. (It’s no fun handing pink slips to people who spent years working for “the Google of its day,” as he puts it.) But he was generally impressed by the wealth of engineering talent there. The best of those talents had been ill-served by management. They had worked hard despite being frustrated with Motorola’s decline, attributing it in part to a frantic treadmill that churned out zillions of models with limited appeal (catering to specific carriers, demographic, or geographical areas) in order to generate temporary sales bumps to meet quarterly goals. Meanwhile, the company had shied away from long-term investments in riskier, but potentially more innovative products. “We had a lot of shareholder commitments and were churning out 40-plus products a year,” says Iqbal Arshad, who headed the Razr and Droid teams and is now Motorola’s senior VP of product development. “We really couldn’t focus and make a bigger difference.”

Motorola is drastically cutting back on the number of products it produces and selling them in far fewer countries. “We had to get the business much more simpler and focused before we could start building back,” says Woodside. “We went from 45 products to essentially 5 or 6.”

In addition to the core of remaining engineers, Woodside brought in Googlers eager to sign up for the reclamation product, pitching Motorola’s revival as an underdog, startup-style enterprise. Seventy made the move. He also brought in some top outside talent. Job one was developing the phone that would symbolize the company’s turnaround. “You only get to redefine a company once,” says Lior Ron, formerly product head of Google Local and now a Motorola corporate VP of product management. “You only get to do a V1 once. You only get to select those innovation themes once.”

The team decided that the new flagship phone would be designed for wide appeal, as opposed to the Droid’s more limited market slice (males attracted by a sci-fi, sharp-angled sheen). “We realized that so many user needs are being unmet,” Ron says. In his previous post, he had been frustrated that Google couldn’t easily implement its more creative ideas—stuff like getting an instant signal when you walk in a restaurant that starts a stream menus and reviews—because of unaccommodating hardware from different manufacturers. “To do those things you have to innovate in the hardware,” he says. “That’s what got me initially excited.”

Here’s what has the team produced and calls its “innovation themes”:

Touchless Control. This is the signature feature in the Moto X—a way to access the Google Now service without turning on the phone, touching it or even taking it out of your pocket. Google Now not only does pretty much everything that Apple’s Siri does—answers queries, schedules appointments, and plays the song you request—but draws on a vast wealth of data to act as an omniscient personal assistant. (Classic example: It will warn you to end a meeting because it knows that traffic is so snarled, you might not make your next one in time.) It also embodies the grand tradeoff that’s at the core of Google’s ambitions—in exchange for allowing Google to aggregate a bounty of your personal information, drawn from your inputs on multiple services, the company promises to make your life better. By building Google Now into the Moto X front and center, Motorola reveals its potential value to its owner. As Ron says, “This is a great example of Motorola shining a light, via our hardware capabilities, on software and services that Google has.”

A second touchless feature is what Motorola calls Active Display, a low-energy consumption system that provides notifications—and the time of day—without you having to wake up the phone.

Quick Capture Photos. To take a picture, shake your wrist as if a mosquito has lit on your hand and you want to shoo it off. The phone interprets this as photo-time and immediately opens to the camera app. To make things even quicker, the entire screen is a shutter—touch it anywhere to shoot, or hold a finger down for multiple pictures. You get from pocket to picture about a second and a half, less than half the time that Motorola claims that its competitors take.

Battery Conservation. Of course, when a cell phone is constantly listening for a keyword, or waiting for you to shake your wrist, it must burn some energy. When figuring out how to minimize this, the Moto X team drew on conservation techniques the company used on its obscure wrist-based fitness product, the Moto ACTV. They would create a unique architecture for the phone, with eight processing cores. (Thus Google calls this “the X8 Mobile Computing System.”) One of those cores is a super-low-power component that does nothing but listen for the words “Google Now,” enabling the others to slumber away. (If it were not for this approach, says Arshad, such a feature would require three batteries to get through a day.) Another low-power-consumption core monitors sensors—like the accelerometer that signals that you want to take a picture.

Hands-Free Authentication. Only fools don’t protect their phones with a password, but it’s a pain in the neck to punch it in a few hundred times a day. Motorola plans to ease that pain (though not available at launch) by selling plastic tokens that can clip onto clothing—if the tab is within a few feet if the Moto X, no password necessary. (The tokens use NFC technology, built into the phones.) The Moto X will also let you set up password-free “safe zones” like your car.

Customizable Design. Unlike the sharp angles of the Droid, the Moto X sports a clean and hand-friendly industrial design. “I’d love this device to be the equivalent of the person who walks into the party, and it’s not the intimidating person in the corner or the performer, but the one is who is comfortable there,” says Jim Wicks, the longtime head of Motorola’s design who is among the company veterans reveling in the new ownership. “We’re taking this in a direction that works for Motorola now, but it’s also a Google-like device,” he adds. “It’s simplified, but with a sense of play.

But the flashy part of the Moto X’s personality is what users might bring to it via Moto Maker, a factory personalization scheme reminiscent of mass individualized products like the Nike iD shoe. A website allows Moto X buyers to customize the phone, choosing from 18 colors and materials for the back of the device as well as different accents for the ring around the camera lens and the volume and on-off buttons. Soon after launch, Motorola will offer actual wood veneers. You can even choose headphones in matching or contrasting colors. Those choosing this “virtual SKU” also enter their software preferences, and in four days or less receive the phone, ready to use out of the box. (For a limited time after launch only AT&T customers can do this—later, Motorola will open it to its other carriers: Verizon, Sprint, T Mobile and US Cellular.) Just as with the Kindle, the device already knows who you are—so it’s not surprising that Motorola’s VP of supply side and operations is Mark Randall, who left a similar job at Amazon.

What’s more, Motorola will be assembling these phones in a newly acquired factory—not in Tianjin, China but Texas1. (The facility was originally built for Nokia.) Motorola rebuilt the 480,000 square foot factory to copy the exact manufacturing process used in China, except for the brand-new, highly-automated process that can deliver any of the thousands of potential color combinations that customers specify. “Many supply chain theorists and academics says you can’t do this, but when you tell Google it’s impossible, the reaction is, ‘Let’s go do it,” says Randall.

It will be interesting to see what happens in AT&T stores when people are faced with the option of going through a selection process and waiting four days for a phone, or just picking a black and white phone and leaving with it on the spot. “We’ve done plenty of studies and think there are lots of people who are willing to wait,” says Woodside. “If you start offering materials like wood, the number goes up dramatically.”

Pure Android—almost. In the past few years Google’s Android partners have tweaked the operating system, sometimes slapping on entirely new interfaces. They do this because they feel that running a vanilla system fails to differentiate them from competitors. Overall, the Android ecosystem is threatened by a trend towards “forking” different versions. Motorola takes a polar opposite approach—as a division of Google, its mission is to highlight the vision of the Android team, and so its version is as mildly modified as possible. It’s basically a stock build of Android 4.2.2, with most of the customization around the notifications, voice activation, and the camera. This approach positions Motorola to provide more timely upgrades, which have been problematic in the Android ecosystem. “Nobody’s buying products because of minor incremental improvements to Android,” says Steve Horowitz, Motorola’s head of software (and part of Google’s original Android team). “So let’s rely on what the Android team does and build experiences that will leverage Google services—and then you see things like touchless control, an entry point to Google Now.”

Ever since the Motorola deal was announced, Google has made a point of saying that its company-owned mobile hardware company won’t get special access to the Android team, and will be treated the same as Samsung, HTC and other Android partners. When Woodside repeated this, saying that, for example, Motorola would have to compete just like its rivals to make the next Nexus phone—a model co-designed by Google to showcase the Android system and other hardware innovations concocted by Google—I asked him what possibly could be different in a Motorola-partnered Nexus phone than the current Googly creation that his team has concocted. He was temporarily speechless. “That’s a good question,” he finally said before reiterating how important it is for the Android ecosystem to grow and thrive.

When you talk to Motorola’s leadership team, at a certain point, their message is, unsurprisingly, indistinguishable from Google’s. Certainly both parties must sense that Motorola’s handset competitors—even the seemingly-impervious Apple and Samsung—are moving by increments, not leaps. And they smell blood. “Three years isn’t long term for Google—ten years is long term for Google,” says Arshad. “We want to create that future of cognitive computing—that’s our goal.”

To do so, Motorola Mobility has modeled its long-range research group, Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP), on an outfit known for delivering blockbusters like stealth bombers, autonomous cars, and the Internet. That’s DARPA, the government Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Hoping to get similar jaw-droppers, Motorola hired the head of DARPA, Regina Dugan, who brought along her deputy, Ken Gabriel. “We asked ourselves—what were the elements that made DARPA so successful, and could you translate it to an industrial setting,” says Dugan. To her, the key was adopting fast-developing technology just at the point where it can be put to use.

Like DARPA, Motorola’s ATAP hires researchers (it calls them Technical Program Leads) for two-year stints—short enough to put pressure on them to work intensely but long enough to bring something to demo. In an unusual move for a corporate group (but standard for DARPA), the program leads contract with outside researchers to develop parts of their projects. “When we’re trying to solve a hard technical problem, we go where the best people are,” Dugan says. One current project draws on 40 computer vision experts working for 30 entities, including private industry and six universities, hailing from five countries. “In six months we retired the most significant technical risk of the program,” she says.

Even though the project leads’ two-year terms are only half up, some of their work appears in the Moto X—for instance, the password-free NFC token. (Down the road, says Dugan, Google is working on more exotic versions based on temporary tattoos and even edible tokens that you gulp down like pills.) Dugan’s team also contributed to the Moto X’s quick-capture photography and maker-style personalization.

“Some think that it’s hard to get a return on higher-risk projects,” says Dugan. “I’ve found the opposite. When you focus on those things, you yield returns more often—that’s where the epic shit is.”

In short, Google is doubling down on its massive acquisition fee to make phones that push technology and, not incidentally, promote Android and Google services in general. Building Motorola itself into a profitable entity is not an immediate objective. “Of course we can’t be a drain on the company forever,” says Woodside, “but the goal is not necessarily to make massive amounts of money in a short period of time—we have a much longer time horizon than that.”

Woodside does think that profits will come, dismissing the critics who claim that Samsung and Apple have locked up the market. “It’s great when people say that, because they’re just wrong,” he says. “No way the world’s going to be the same. Nokia and Motorola are good examples—companies that had 30 percent market share less than 10 years ago. And here we are today.” (Left unsaid: Motorola and Nokia struggling for relevance.)

In the next few years, he says, a well-funded Motorola will turn itself around by taking advantage of new materials and technology that will, for instance, allow for flexible, virtually unbreakable screens. Motorola also has plans to extend the smart phone market to developing countries and innovate in low-cost plans. And then there’s the crazy stuff coming out of Motorola’s DARPA that no one will talk about yet.

The $12 billion experiment begins today with the Moto X, available later this month for the standard price of $200 with a two-year carrier contract. Woodside would prefer that people not call it the Google Phone: “People don’t associate Google with phones,” he says. “Motorola’s the brand that resonates to consumers.”

But the phone itself knows better. To Moto X, the magic words are “Okay, Google Now.” ###

- Eric -

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To: Eric L who wrote (1597)9/9/2013 5:34:14 PM
From: Jurgis Bekepuris
   of 1647
Lots of hype. But does it deliver?

Honestly, I haven't followed Moto inside Google. My guess is that the company is in downside spiral (but then who aside of Samsung and Apple isn't?). How much marketshare did it lose since it was acquired? How much money did it lose?

Of course, Google has money to keep it on life support and even engage in DARPA'y research. But ultimately: does it deliver? :)

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To: Jurgis Bekepuris who wrote (1598)9/10/2013 11:55:33 AM
From: Eric L
3 Recommendations   of 1647
Motorola Mobile: A Google company ...

Hi Jurgis,

<< Honestly, I haven't followed Moto inside Google. >>

I had not myself until very recently despite the fact that I've been adding chunks of GOOG on big dips to what was originally a very small position for about 8 years. Prompted to do so by the Microsoft bid for Nokia Devices and Services, I've spent time over the last week digging back through the quarterly reports of Motorola Mobility LLC (mobile devices and Home) from before the acquisition was completed in mid-Q2 2012, and of Google from Q2 2012 forward. I also went back to look at Interbrand's comparative annual brand rankings growth/decline for Apple, Google, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and Samsung for the last decade and sales and share growth/decline for each.

Right now I simply have raw notes from the exercise that is about 80% completed, but I will probably attempt to put them together in reasonably coherent format and post an abstract here -- most likely in multi-parts but when I do so I'll link each part back to this post.

One thing I am convinced of is that Google did NOT buy Motorola Mobility simply for its patents. Like Apple (albeit on much smaller scale today) they are in the devices (and services) business as is Microsoft. Over time the business models of both will change to some degree as a consequence, and it's about time for both the young Google and the aging Microsoft, IMO.

<< My guess is that the company is in downside spiral (but then who aside of Samsung and Apple isn't?). >>

Since acquisition Google has been cleaning out Motorola's device pipes and stale Motorola designed products. They have also been house cleaning the subsidiary they purchased, shedding assets and employees. It's now lean and mean and free of the former parent's baggage and the Moto X is the 1st of Google's devices.

<< How much marketshare did it lose since it was acquired? >>

Under Dr. Sanjay Jha's leadership Motorola's quarterly device shipments increased from 8.5 million in Q1 2010 to a peak of 12.9 million in Q3 2011 and declined from there in each and every quarter since.

In the final quarter before acquisition (Q1 2012) Moto had ~2% unit market share, down YoY from 3% in Q1 2011. In the 2012 1st quarter Motorola Mobility sold in 8.9 million mobile devices worth $2.2 Billion ($247 ASP): 5.1 million Android smartphones (57%) and 3.8 million (43%) feature phones or entry level devices.

In Q2 2013 (according to ABI Research) Google's Motorola sold-in 3.5 million Android smartphones which translated to less than <1% (0.8%) unit market share of mobile devices and ~2% of smartphones shipped in the quarter. Motorola Mobile revenues from devices, accessories, and other was $998 million ($351 ASP).

I suspect we'll start to see slow Motorola unit share growth starting this quarter and I also suspect that growth will be choppy just as Nokia's Windows Phone growth was. At some time I suspect it could grow faster than the smartphone market just as Windows phone growth is now doing and should continue to do despite Nokia's transition to new ownership.

<< How much money did it lose? >>

Lots ... but I haven't added it up yet. I intend to on both a GAAP and pro forma basis and also look at what the actual net cost of the acquisition was after divestures and netting down cash acquired. That net cost of acquisition turns out to be less than $7 billion not including losses incurred in the last 5 quarters, or restructuring charges in that period and going forward. Motorola headcount has been dramatically reduced by Google and virtually all manufacturing eliminated.

Below is Google's GAAP and Pro Forma operating losses for Q2 2013 (and Q1 2013, and Q2 2012).

<< Of course, Google has money to keep it on life support and even engage in DARPA'y research. But ultimately: does it deliver? :) ??

Eventually I suspect it will deliver and as the Wired article stated it's a long term goal, not a short term one:
Building Motorola itself into a profitable entity is not an immediate objective. “Of course we can’t be a drain on the company forever,” says Woodside, “but the goal is not necessarily to make massive amounts of money in a short period of time—we have a much longer time horizon than that.”
On this general topic ABI Research had this to say about the commencement of the Google/Motorola device generation ...
Q2 2013 could be considered the quarter that Motorola cleared out its old device pipes to get ready for the its new "Google-designed" devices. The newly announced Moto X device does show some ingenuity and unique thought around what an Android OEM should be doing, yet the new Motorola devices will have much to prove. Luckily, Google is willing to support Motorola with a reported $500 million marketing budget for the new devices. ABI Research is not convinced that "Made in the U.S.A." and some gesture/voice UI innovations are game changers, and there is a risk that this new UI approach could end up like Apples Siri: interesting at first but not used in the long run.
It will be interesting to see if Nexus 5 will be a Google Motorola product (or LG's, or another's).

I personally find the GoogleRola and NokiaSoft integrations and the challenges and opportunities they present to be exceptionally interesting. Once a LT core hold since '94 I've been out of MSFT since 2000. Its now back on my close watch list.


- Eric -

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From: Eric L9/10/2013 12:06:26 PM
   of 1647
PCMag Business Choice Awards 2013 ...

Posted by Zax in nicely formatted fashion with graphics here: Message 29104203

I found this particular graphic from the above very interesting if not necessarily surprising ...

Thanks Zax.

- Eric -

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To: Eric L who wrote (1599)9/10/2013 1:40:38 PM
From: Jurgis Bekepuris
   of 1647
Wow, great answer. You did all the work. :) Thanks a lot.

I personally find the GoogleRola and NokiaSoft integrations and the challenges and opportunities they present to be exceptionally interesting.

Yeah, they are interesting, but mostly to watch from aside. At least for me. :)

I sold my NOK position.
I don't have GOOG position for some time already, since I think it is too expensive. I do understand its strong position and moats in multiple areas, so I know that probably I am wrong in not holding it.
I have MSFT position. I am deciding whether to exit it before coming turmoil.
I also have a smallish AAPL position.

Overall, I think that I'd rather be in other places during the integrations, platform wars, etc. But I understand that people who make right decisions can make a lot of money in this field.

Regards :)

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From: Eric L9/11/2013 10:16:16 AM
   of 1647
The Dawn of 64-Bit Mobile Computing using ARMv8 architecture: Apples A7

>> The real reasons Apple's 64-bit A7 chip makes sense

Don't swallow Apple's marketing lines that 64-bit chips magically run software faster than 32-bit relics. What the A7 in the iPhone 5S does do, though, is pave the way for Apple's long-term future.

Stephen Shankland
September 11, 2013

Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller touts the advantages of the A7 processor used in the iPhone 5S.
(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)

Apple injected a lot of marketing hyperbole into its claims about the wonders of 64-bit computing when it showed off the A7 processor at the heart of the new iPhone 5S. But there are real long-term reasons that Apple is smart to move beyond the 32-bit era in mobile computing.

Apple did indeed beat its smartphone rivals to the 64-bit era with the A7, and the processor may indeed vault over its predecessor's performance. The hyperbole came when Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller, speaking at Apple's iPhone 5S and 5C launch event on Tuesday, linked those two accomplishments.

"Why go through all this?" Schiller asked, referring to the new chip and 64-bit versions of iOS 7 and Apple's iOS apps. "The benefits are huge. The A7 is up to twice as fast as the previous-generation system at CPU tasks," Schiller said, and up to twice as fast at graphics tasks, too.

Indeed, there's a reason the computer industry is shifting to 64-bit computing; the main benefit is memory capacity that can exceed 4GB. But just as we saw with 64-bit personal computers arriving over the last decade, 64-bit designs don't automatically improves performance for most tasks. In fact, there can be drawbacks: it's likely that 64-bit versions of programs will be bulkier than their 32-bit equivalents.

But Apple is smart to lay the foundations for 64-bit mobile computing now, for three reasons. First, large memory capacity is an academic issue in the mobile market today, but it won't always be. Second, the the 64-bit transition happens to come along with other chip changes that are useful immediately. And third, it gives Apple more flexibility to build ARM-based PCs if it chooses to embrace an alternative to Intel chips.

What is 64-bit computing?

A 64-bit chips can handle memory addresses described with 64-bit numbers rather than 32-bit ones, which means a computer can accommodate more than 4GB of memory, and that chips can do math with integers that are a lot bigger and floating-point numbers that are more precise. The 64-bit transition doesn't have any effect on a lot of computing performance at all.

With servers, 64-bit chips are crucial, because they often need gobs of memory for running many tasks simultaneously and keeping as much of it as possible in fast-response RAM. With PCs, 64-bit chips are useful to avoid bumping up against 4GB memory limits, which is about where the mainstream market is today.

On mobile devices, though, the 4GB limit has yet to arrive. Even though having more RAM is really useful, it's got big drawbacks in the mobile market: it's expensive, it takes up room, and most problematic, it draws a lot of electrical power and therefore shortens battery life. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3, an Android phone, has an unusually large 3GB of RAM, but it's also got an unusually large size to handle a bigger-than-average 3,200mAh battery.

Higher-precision 64-bit math is helpful for tasks like scientific simulations, but it's not a big deal on mobile.

At Apple's event, Epic Games executives were gleeful about the A7 performance playing Infinity Blade 3, and there's no reason to doubt their statements that they could draw a dragon with four times the detail. But that performance improvement is likely to come more from the new graphics abilities in the A7 and from its support for the richer OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics-acceleration interface, not from its 64-bit design.

Schiller touted processor performance improvements in the iPhone 5S, which uses Apple's new A7 chip, but didn't detail which speed tests he was using. (Credit: screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET)

Why bother with 64-bit mobile chips?

Even if 64-bit computing isn't some across-the-board speedup technology, there's a very good reason to adopt it: the future.

But here again, we have to splash a little cold water on Schiller's enthusiasm.

"The PC world went through the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit, and it took years," Schiller said. "Today you're going to see that Apple is going to move the mobile computing system forward from 32-bit to 64-bit in one day."

In fact, it only took a couple hours for Apple to announce the iPhone 5S and the A7 processor. But the full 64-bit transition will take years in mobile, just as it did in the PC market.

Indeed, the transition already has been going on for a couple years. In 2011, after four years of behind-closed-doors work, ARM Holdings announced its 64-bit ARMv8 instruction set for the chip designs it licenses to Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung, and many other makers of mobile chips. Apple's A7 uses the ARMv8 architecture.

The hardware change is only the first part. After that comes software. Apple has retooled iOS 7 -- the kernel a the heart of the software, the libraries of pre-written code that it and other software draw upon, and the device drivers the kernel uses to talk to hardware like the network and touch screen -- so it's 64-bit software. And it's got a version of its Xcode developer tools so that programmers can build 64-bit versions of their iOS products.

But it'll be years before the whole software ecosystem makes the move. Old software likely will never make the change, which is why it's good ARMv8 chips can run older 32-bit software seamlessly. And programmers will still need to build 32-bit versions of their software for older iPhones -- as well as brand-new 32-bit models like the iPhone 5C.

Given how long it takes to make the transition, it's important to lay the hardware foundation early enough that the software market can move gracefully. Even though adding more RAM is hard in mobile devices, it'll happen. It might well happen sooner on iPads, too, which can handle faster processors, bigger batteries, and more elaborate software. And it's possible that computing engineers will successfully commercialize some other form or memory that's not as power-hungry.

ARMv8 benefits

A nearer-term reason the Apple A7 might appeal to programmers has nothing to do with its 64-bit nature: the ARMv8 architecture brings some real advantages.

One of them is a larger number of registers -- tiny on-chip storage areas where the processor stores data for very fast access. ARMv8 roughly doubles general-purpose registers from 16 to 31, which means the chip needn't fritter away as many cycles swapping things into and out of memory.

The ARMv8 architecture used in the Apple A7 chip brings several improvements in addition to a 64-bit design, including more registers to store data, better double-precision math, and built-in cryptography features. (Credit: ARM Holdings)

When AMD pioneered 64-bit computing on x86 -- a transition it pushed while Intel was distracted with its Itanium designs -- it got a big speed boost from increasing the number of registers. But 32-bit x86 chips were hobbled by having only four registers, while 32-bit ARM chips have a relatively abundant 16; that could mean the performance boost won't be as good with the ARM transition.

ARMv8 also has some other significant changes. It's got much better mathematical abilities, especially when performing the same operation on a lot of data. And it's got built-in encryption processing abilities, which should speed a lot of secure communications and cut battery usage.

New Apple options

Apple surprised the world when it moved its Mac line from PowerPC processors to Intel processors, and there have been rumblings it might move to or at least embrace ARM chips for Macs, too.

The A7 processor or its rumored higher-end A7X sibling might not have enough oomph for a full-fledged personal computer, but it was hard to miss Schiller boasting that the A7 has a "desktop-class architecture." And even if there's never any ARM-based Mac, it's still possible Apple could take iOS into something more laptop-like. The company, which made iWork free with new iOS devices and threw iPhoto and iMovie into the bargain, clearly likes the idea of customers creating content on iOS devices, not just consuming it.

If Apple chose to build ARM-based PCs, having more than 4GB of memory could be very useful. Thus, it would be a big asset to have a mature 64-bit ARM chip design with an accompanying operating system and app collection.

ARM-based Apple PCs would be a dramatic shift indeed. Intel is working furiously on lowering the power consumption of its x86 chips to compete better against ARM, and an ARM-based Apple PC would have serious difficulties running Mac software for x86-based machines.

We need not invent reasons for Schiller's 64-bit A7 enthusiasm besides that it makes a good marketing line, something that sounds like progress and that's easy to see missing from Android competition.

But even if it's mostly just an iPhone marketing line for now, Apple's change to 64-bit ARMv8 designs does make sense in the long run. ###

- Eric -

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From: Eric L9/11/2013 12:08:22 PM
   of 1647
Mobiledia: The Downfall of RIM and Blackberry in 3 Parts ...

... by Allen Tsai (September, 2013)

Long with several videos and definitely worth a read.

I. Origins: The Birth of BlackBerry |

II. Origins: A Nation of BlackBerry Addicts |

III. Origins: How BlackBerry Fell |

- Eric -

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To: Eric L who wrote (1602)9/11/2013 3:11:15 PM
From: waitwatchwander
   of 1647
With 64-bit capability, you gotta figure Intel should now be concerned that Apple's preparing to use their own ARM processor inside their Macs and AirBooks. That certainly makes more sense than solely developing a 64-bit processor for use in phones and tablets.

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