Archive for the ‘region’ tag
Animal lovers have already benefitted from pet-friendly businesses – such as the Hotel Monaco in Oregon, for example – which mean their four-legged friends do not have to be left at home. Now the IKEA Köln-Am Butzweilerhof has introduced dog parking bays at the outlet, which enable dogs to be safely left outside while their owners shop.
Situated in the Cologne region of Germany, the branch of the Sweden-based furniture brand has built special bays where owners can tie up their dogs. The spaces include platforms covered in Astroturf and a water bowl for the canines. Since the store has a no-pets policy – excepting guide dogs for the blind – the idea saves dog owners from worrying about leaving their pet indoors. What’s more, the dogs can remain comfortable for the duration of their owners’ shop and the bays provide an alternative to keeping them in hot cars — a known risk.
Benefitting both owners and their pets, the parking bays are a simple idea that is convenient for shoppers and has the potential to save animals’ lives. An idea worth replicating in your part of the world?
Sprint is making solid headway with its new LTE network — it’s already live in 15 (mostly Texan markets) with another four slated to light up before Labor Day rolls around and the carrier aims to have 12,000 LTE sites online by the end of the year.
Sure, the process has been held up at least partially thanks to some damn birds, but now it seems another region should officially get the LTE nod shortly. AndroidPolice reported last night that users in the San Francisco Bay Area have been able to get up and running on Sprint’s nascent LTE network ahead of an official announcement.
This isn’t the first time that Bay Area Sprint customers have caught a glimpse of Sprint’s new 4G network at work — some people reported seeing 4G icons appearing on their LTE devices back in early July — but it’s finally gotten to the point where people can actually use the network. Suffice it to say that the network probably isn’t ready for prime time just yet, but initial speed tests seem promising enough.
Android Police’s tipster reported seeing speeds of roughly 13MBps down and 8MBps up around Palo Alto and Mountain View. Not shabby at all, but that could all change once Sprint makes its official announcement (rumors point to a November reveal) and users tempted by sweet new hardware start piling onto the network. If you’re in the area and have a compatible handset, I’d advise you to take it for a spin before then, if only you so can play the hipster card and claim to have been on Sprint’s LTE network before it went big.
Many residents of the Island of Luzon, Philippines were evacuated from their homes when Tropical Storm Haiku brought a Southwest Monsoon through the region on Monday, August 6. Google has posted a Crisis Response page offering news updates, emergency contact information, and a “person finder” tool where family members and friends can connect with those who were affected by the flood.
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Kantar On Smartphones: Samsung 45% Of Euro Sales; Apple Gained Only In UK, US; RIM Holds On In France
We have seen reports from Strategy Analytics, IDC and Canalys detailing how many smartphones that handset makers shipped in the last quarter (the takeaway: Android is still on top, with Samsung the chief benefactor); today, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, WPP’s market analytics business, has released its rolling monthly update on how that translates into on-the-ground sales in some of the biggest markets in the world. The results give more weight to Samsung’s current domination; and underscore how important it is for Apple to “wow” the market next month with the launch of a new handset.
Kantar, which bases its conclusions on millions of interviews with consumers every month (1 million in Europe alone, it notes), found that Samsung is currently the top-selling brand in Europe at the moment, thanks in part to a successful launch of the S3 in May, but also aggressive pricing in a region hit by economic pressures. Samsung accounted for 45% of all smartphone sales across the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain in the last 12 weeks that ended July 8. Arch-rival Apple, in contrast, accounted for just 16% of all sales in the region, Kantar analyst Dominic Sunnebo tells me. In fact, Apple has declined in every market Kantar surveyed, except for the UK and U.S.
Android’s share of sales across the big-five European countries is now at 66%, a big jump from 43% a year ago, Kantar notes. In Australia, Android took 60.5% of all sales in the period, and in the U.S. it accounted for just over 51% of all sales.
Apple’s lackluster performance in Europe is something that Apple itself highlighted during its last earnings report, blaming the economy and people holding off on purchases until the next iPhone release. Kantar showed that as a result of these factors, Apple took between 4.3% and 11.4% fewer sales in the last 12 weeks than it did a year ago across the markets of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Australia — with Australia accounting for the biggest of those declines.
Interestingly, despite Android doing so well globally, it actually declined in one key market: the U.S. its 51.5% share of the market is actually 5.3 percentage points down on a year ago. Was this because the Galaxy S3 launched later there, I asked Sunnebo? No, he says, it’s about consumer preference and price:
“An important point here is that there is very little difference in price between an Apple iPhone or an Android phone in the U.S., so the choice is made purely on what the consumer wants, not what they can afford,” he tells me, “whereas in Europe, Apple continues to command a price premium over Android. With recessionary pressures as they are in Europe this is likely to have an impact.”
Indeed, he notes that the S3 is more of a brand pusher than a direct sales generator: “While the majority of noise is focused on big-name products such as the S3 or S2, it’s easy to forget that Samsung is selling smartphones across all tiers,” he notes in the report. Kantar says that in the UK, for example, Samsung accounts for five of the top 10 best-selling smartphones in the UK, “with even the smartphone/tablet hybrid Samsung Galaxy Note making it into the top ten.”
In the U.S. Apple’s share of sales went up by 9.5 percentage points to account for 38.2% of all sales in the period. The UK was not as strong but also increased: up by 2 percentage points to 22.9% of sales.
Kantar notes that a lot of this appears to be about people holding off from purchases until the next iPhone comes along. “Kantar Worldpanel ComTech data clearly shows that the proportion of Apple consumers who have owned their device for at least 18 months and not upgraded has increased markedly over the last quarter, indicating current owners are holding off upgrading until the release of the iPhone 5,” Sunnebo writes.
Indeed, the Apple brand continues to command “high loyalty”: in the UK 80% of consumers who own an iPhone have bought another; and 92% say they plan to stick with Apple when they next upgrade. “With this in mind, any dip in Apple share is likely to be short-lived with the release of an updated iPhone in quarter three bringing momentum back to the Cupertino giant,” he concludes.
Other brands. The story is not great. While Apple’s declines may be short-lived, RIM’s seem more indicative of a longer-term issue. The only country where it has managed to stave off market share declines is in France, where it only accounted for 9.2% of sales. In the U.S., which used to be RIM’s proud, top market, it only accounted for 3.7% of sales. Ouch. The UK is the only market where RIM managed to go into double digits for sales, with 10.9% of sales in that country, although that is half of what it was last year.
The story for Windows Phone is similar to that of iPhone and iOS, notes Kantar — that is, people appear to be holding off for Windows Phone 8 releases. That’s happening on a much smaller and more depressing scale, though. Windows Phone did not break through even 5% of sales in any market Kantar researched, as you can see in the full tables below. And just as RIM has a (sort of) break out market in the form of the UK, Symbian is still seeing a bit of life in Italy, where it accounted for 12.8% of sales, although that is a decline of more than 22 percentage points on last year.
Things aren’t getting better anytime soon for Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, which today forecast a difficult third quarter, with sales declines in every region except China.
The company announced its consolidated second quarter earnings today with revenues of $3.04 billion and profits of $247.7 million (pretty much the same as the unaudited earnings HTC released earlier this month). For the third quarter, HTC expects revenue to fall between $2.3 billion and $2.7 billion, Reuters reports. Analysts expected the company to earn around $2.92 billion in Q3.
“China will continue to see growth in the third quarter, while other markets will have different degrees of decline,” HTC CFO Chialin Chang said at an investor conference today. “Europe, Middle East, and Africa will face challenges because of macro softness and competition.”
HTC previously blamed U.S. customs delays and slow sales in Europe for its disappointing second quarter earnings.
Not only are revenues expected to fall, but HTC also said that its margins will drop in the third quarter. The company expects a gross margin of 25 percent (down from 27 percent) and an operating margin of 7 percent (down from 9 percent). Basically, that means that HTC’s overall profits will likely end up being disappointing next quarter as well.
HTC’s popularity exploded with the rise of Android over the last few years, but once Samsung locked in the Android lead with its Galaxy S phones, HTC has had trouble delivering a hit device. The company’s recent One series phones are its best yet, but now those are competing with Samsung’s popular Galaxy S III and will soon face the next iPhone.
Photo Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat
Next up in my content series are these brilliant tour guide films we did for RIM.
Local celebrities from across the region rediscovered their favourite hometown hangouts through the camera lens of their Blackberries, giving viewer’s an insider’s look. (Click for more).
Malaysia with Izal Azlee
Indonesia with Valiant Budi Yoga
Singapore with Brad Lau
One of the most contentious issues in the skilled-immigrant debate is the H-1B visa, which allows qualified immigrants to work for U.S. tech companies on a temporary basis. Proponents of raising the H-1B visa cap say the nation faces a dire shortage of engineering talent and needs more of these visas to stay competitive. Detractors insist that there is no engineer shortage and that America should close its doors to foreigners because they take jobs away from citizens. Battles break out in Capitol Hill over the number of visas allocated because there are no hard data to back either side.
A July 18 report by The Brookings Institution, titled “The Search for Skills,” provides these data.
The report analyzes the demand for H-1B workers at the metropolitan level, region by region. It finds there is no national shortage or glut of skilled workers and that supply and demand vary by region. The report determines that demand for H-1B’s is highest in tech centers such as New York, Silicon Valley (San Francisco and San Jose), Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Chicago, and Boston. Not coincidentally, these places are among those with the lowest unemployment rates for bachelor’s-degree holders. It’s the same in regions that house America’s research centers. Places such as Columbus, Ind., where engine manufacturer Cummins is based, and Rochester, Minn., home of medical giant Mayo Clinic, are among the regions with the highest demand for H-1Bs and lowest unemployment rates for bachelor’s degree holders (3 percent in Columbus and 1.5 percent in Rochester for 2010). In other words, where there is demand for skilled workers, there is also the most innovation economic growth, whether they come from the U.S. or abroad.
Report authors, Neil Ruiz, Jill Wilson, and Shyamali Choudhury, concluded that the government could be stifling innovation by limiting H-1B visas and not taking into account local demand for highly-skilled workers. Demand for these visas has far exceeded supply nearly every year for the last decade. Additionally, the government has been indirectly taxing U.S. R&D and innovation by imposing hefty visa fees, which range from $1,575 to $4,325 depending on employer size — plus $1,225 for expedited (read: timely) processing, according to the report.
The visa fees are meant to fund training for American workers and for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. But, according to Brookings, that’s not how the majority of this money is spent. The metro areas most in need of skilled workers receive the least funding. The average funding per working-age person in high demand areas is a little over $3. But Wichita, Kan., for example, receives nearly $23 per worker. Portland, Maine gets roughly $21, and El Paso, Tex. about $15. These are hardly booming tech centers with severe shortages of engineering talent. And research centers fare even worse: Columbus and Rochester both receive no funds from the H1-B grant program.
One would expect that such conclusive data would put the debate to rest. But this isn’t the case, as was evidenced by the heated discussion that ensued between Vice President Joe Biden’s former economic advisor Jared Bernstein and me. Brookings requested we review the report and comment on it at a public event on July 18. You can watch the video of our H-1B conversation here.
Bernstein, who is now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, agreed that high-skilled immigration is important for the economy. He was right in stating that the H-1B program is flawed because it ties the employee to the employer. There is a massive backlog for permanent-resident visas and the wait times, for most workers, stretch beyond a decade. While they wait, these immigrants cannot change jobs without losing their turn in line and, if they get laid off for any reason, they are required to leave the country immediately. So, these workers are trapped in limbo—their careers stagnate, they usually make less than what they would if they were allowed to shop around for better jobs, and they can’t become entrepreneurs.
But, like many people outside the research and tech centers, Bernstein showed a lack of understanding of the innovation process and global competitiveness. He questioned the need for employers to hire foreign workers in the first place. He said that we should “not confuse H-1B demand with labor demand,” because “the H-1B is kind of scratching an itch that isn’t even there.”
And he went on, likening visas to “subsidies” for industry, and argued that these were just a way of lowering industry salaries, therefore the government needed to step in. “It’s a horrifying thought,” Bernstein said, “but wages should go up. Wages should adjust upward when there is a demand, a shortage. “The idea would be to have a real labor market test,” Bernstein continued later, “and to have some mechanism to avoid this downward pressure on wages.”
But if Bernstein spent any time talking to Silicon Valley executives or reading tech blogs like TechCrunch, he would learn that wages are indeed going up and that there is, in fact, a war for talent. These are already some of the highest paying jobs in the country—with salaries commonly in the six figures. Our immigration policies are strangling the innovation sector.
During the event, I explained these difficulties, outlining that money was not an issue for companies such as Google and Facebook. Instead, competitiveness, speed-to-market and getting the best and the brightest were at the core of the problem. Additionally, the bluest of American companies, such as Cummins are getting the majority of their revenue from abroad. They need to hire a diverse set of workers that understand global markets. America, today, graduates only 4 percent of the world’s undergraduate engineering pool. Forcing American companies to hire only from this pool would greatly restrict their competitiveness.
Compare it to limiting the NFL’s recruitment to one state.
I explained that the tech world thrives on competition, which is why America leads the world in innovation. Indeed, 52 percent of Silicon Valley startups are founded by immigrants. Protectionism will weaken the tech industry.
But Bernstein repeatedly mentioned the need for a “labor market test” and advocated a government commission to regulate how many skilled immigrants American companies could hire, saying, “The problem is there is not a standard — a work test … and I think there should be.”
His prescriptions were flawed. Even the moderator, NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos stepped in to say, “There are so many studies that it’s probably impossible to develop a good standard, particularly one that’s timely.” He floated the idea that, perhaps, the government commission Bernstein advocated for could be considered “un-American,” going on to say, “It sort of … smacks of central planning.”
I likened it to Cuba.
The dark side of the debate also surfaced with a tirade against Indian companies such as TCS, Infosys, and Wipro, and, of course, outsourcing. These companies use 12 percent of the H-1B visa pool for their operations in the U.S., but are the focus of the anti-H-1B debate as if they were the sole recipients.
Like our political leaders do in election years, Bernstein tried to steer the debate into protectionist banter. “I think that there have been some linkages made between that,” said Bernstein of companies based in India that apply for H-1B visas while outsourcing jobs, “and then offshoring back to the home country. And I think that that is a matter of concern.”
This is the sad state of our competitiveness debate: anger, protectionism, and emotion are trumping logic, data, and common sense.
Vivek Wadhwa is a fellow at the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University and is affiliated with several other universities. Read more about Vivek Wadhwa’s affiliations.
This story originally appeared on WashingtonPost.com.
Filed under: Entrepreneur
Apple on Tuesday was granted a U.S. patent for the graphical user interface used in iOS which changes the “hit region” size of a virtual keyboard’s buttons based on predictive text data.
Opera, Mum On Facebook Rumors, Says Mobile Users Double To 200M, And That Facebook Dominates In Africa
The buzz about a possible acquisition by Facebook has almost completely died down, but Opera today released an update on the state of its business that nevertheless highlights how its own strategic direction is closely following that of its rumored suitor.
The combined number of active users of Opera’s mobile internet browsers has now topped 200 million, nearly double the figure a year ago, with pageviews more than doubling to 115 billion. And just as Facebook highlighted in its earnings call last week that emerging markets and mobile use were a key part of its advertising story, Opera in its State of the Mobile Web report has also zeroed in on how well it’s been performing in one emerging market in particular: Africa, where Opera’s figures reveal that Facebook is, by far, the most popular site in the region.
Last week, during Facebook’s Q2 earnings call, COO Sheryl Sandberg made a specific reference to mobile usage in emerging markets and how it relates to Facebook’s developments on the advertising front, specifically around mobile advertising. “We recently enabled our advertisers to buy us exclusively in mobile News Feed. We’re seeing strong interest, particularly from our clients, who know mobile is critical to reaching new customers, especially in emerging markets,” she said.
Coincidentally, Oslo, Norway-based Opera, too, is focusing in on mobile growth in emerging markets — perhaps, like Facebook, a response to addressing those places that still have a lot of room to grow in comparison to more developed countries where adoption is slowing down.
With much of the mobile use in Africa still being based on feature phones, Opera’s Mini browser (which works on both feature phones and smartphones) is taking the lead, with 36 countries on the continent more than doubling their use of feature phone-friendly browser. Opera has published a pretty cool interactive map of the continent that gives you a look at Opera stats combined with those of the country in general.
Another politically troubled country, Côte d’Ivoire, also showed strong growth. Opera Mini users there were up by 600%, with pageviews up 744% and data use up 760%. This is in a country with a population of 16 million, where mobile penetration is at 15 million, and landline penetration at a tiny 230,000. That underscores just how important mobile is there.
In general, higher growth rates for pageviews and data use, compared to users of Opera mini, are a mark of better engagement. Opera notes that this is the bigger trend across all of the continent. “Across Africa, data growth seems to outpace page-view growth. This fact suggests that Africans are browsing larger pages and most likely, using richer, more advanced websites,” the company writes. It so happens that data use and pageview increases also provide a boost to Opera’s mobile ads business.
And guess what the top domain is in almost all of the continent?
It’s Facebook. In fact, the only three countries where Opera doesn’t list Facebook.com as the top domain are Algeria, Angola and Guinea, where Google has the edge.
Interestingly, Africa is also a mark of where Nokia can still claim to be totally dominating the market, with its feature phone handsets making up almost all of the most popular models in every country.
On to more general stats about Opera, the story is still good but not growing as spectacularly as it is in that specific emerging region.
Opera says that most of the 200 million users overall of Opera’s mobile browsers (it also has a small business in desktop) is almost entirely around Opera Mini, the browser that works both on feature phones and various smartphone platforms. The smartphone-only Opera Mobile, it says, currently has only around 17 million users, although as you can see in the table below their percentage of the overall number has been steadily growing:
Opera notes that the 200 million figure is a rise of 47% over June 2011, the same rate Opera reported last month but definitely down from growth March 2012 – when Opera noted that users had been growing at a rate of 67% (the company had released a big update of Opera Mini at the end of February, which may have accounted for that spike).
What’s perhaps encouraging for Opera is that, as we saw in Africa, globally engagement among those using its browsers is also up: Opera notes that in June 2012, it clocked 115 billion pageviews, which was a rise of 55% on June 2011 — effectively, the pageview growth rate is outpacing that of user adoption, implying that people are spending more time with Opera than before.
Similarly, data consumption is up to over 2 petabytes, an increase of nearly 90%. Both of these numbers are key to Opera’s mobile advertising business — a part of the company where Opera continues to invest so that it, like other browser companies, can generate revenue from all that traffic on its platform.
I’m not big on industry awards, but “Small Agency of the Year” sounds like the kind of award I’d like to win.
No offense to agencies of size, but small agencies deserve more accolades. Clearly, it’s not easy to keep the roof on a small agency, nor is it easy to provide the kind of compensation and work opportunities that larger firms do.
I also appreciate Ad Age’s approach to this annual showcase, as their categories allow for many winners, by region and by size. They even make room for the truly small.
Some of the other winners include Bailey Lauerman, La Comunidad, JESS3, Mekanism, Baldwin&, Muh-Tay-Zik Hof-fer and Mono–all shops I know something about. The fun part is learning about shops I hadn’t previously heard of, like Magner Sanborn in Spokane, Washington and Rain in American Fork, Utah.
Rupal Parekh, one of the judges, said, “The work these shops are doing is original, unexpected and above all has a huge impact on their clients’ bottom lines. I’d stack up any of the shops on our list this year against big agencies in terms of quality of output.”