PC Sales Slump as Kids Say No to Computers

PC classroom

Classroom scenes like this could fade from campuses as PC sales slacken. Image: DeSales University/Flickr

Kids don’t want computers. That’s one of several striking data points from worse-than-expected figures showing the global PC market is in decline. Since young people tend to drive technology trends, poor back-to-school sales of PCs say more than a drop in overall sales alone. We already know PCs aren’t cool (are college freshmen more likely to show off their new iPads or their new Dells?), but it’s starting to look like they’re also not needed.

Shipments of PCs in the U.S. shrank during the most recent quarter by more than 12 percent, according to IDC, and by nearly 14 percent, according to Gartner Inc. Meanwhile, analysts at IHS iSuppli predict global PC shipments will contract this year for the first time since 2001.

All three research firms agree that sluggish back-to-school sales — traditionally the time of a Christmas-like sales spike for the PC industry — are largely to blame.

“There was great hope through the first half that 2012 would prove to be a rebound year for the PC market,” analyst Craig Stice says in IHS’s report. “Now three quarters through the year, the usual boost from the back-to-school season appears to be a bust.”

While some PC buyers might be postponing purchases until Windows 8 comes out in just over two weeks, it’s hard to believe students would wait until after midterms to buy that new computer. Analysts say businesses might start buying more PCs again after Windows 8 comes out, but many corporate customers aren’t expected to be early adopters as they wait to see whether the new operating system comes with any glitches. As for students, even a wildly successful reception for Windows 8 won’t likely renew their interest in PCs. They’re more likely to want the version they can put in their pockets.

In a side note, struggling Silicon Valley giant HP was miffed at Gartner’s report that China’s Lenovo had usurped its title as the world’s largest PC maker. Gartner says Lenovo shipped nearly 13.77 million PCs this past quarter, while HP shipped 13.55 million. According to IDC, however, HP retains the top position with 13.95 million compared to Lenovo’s 13.82 million, which HP was quick to point out in a statement:

“While there are a variety of PC share reports in the market, some don’t measure the market in its entirety. The IDC analysis includes the very important workstation segment and therefore is more comprehensive. In that IDC report, HP occupies the No. 1 position in PCs.”

What HP doesn’t point out in its statement, however, is another IDC stat that the 73-year-old company might want to note, since its shareholders probably have. Lenovo’s PC shipments were up last quarter by more than 10 percent compared to the same time last year, or almost 1.3 million more computers. HP, on the other hand, shipped upward of 2.7 million fewer computers, according to IDC — a drop of more than 16 percent.

“Clearly Lenovo is gaining in the market, while HP is losing the market,” says Mika Kitagawa, Gartner’s lead PC analyst. Kitagawa says the quarter-to-quarter horse race among companies isn’t as important as the clear trend that shows Lenovo’s low-margin, high-volume business is trumping HP’s broader approach: “The question is whether HP can adjust its business model to fit into this difficult market.”

How to Print From the iPad

By: John Pope

One of the business features the iPad needs to have in order to be considered by the corporate world is the printing ability. Since iOS version 4.2 all iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches can print wirelessly to compatible AirPrint printers. As you can imagine, in classic Apple style this functionality is very easy to use if you have all the necessary devices (iPad, AirPrinter and wireless router), but you won’t have access to all the settings and tweaks you’re used to from your Mac/PC.

In this short guide I’ll try and show you how you can print from your iPad, the easy, the alternate and the complete way. Why so many options? Because sometime AirPrint doesn’t work, or doesn’t do everything you need it to do.

Print to compatible AirPrinters

This is probably the easiest scenario provided you have an AirPrint compatible printer (check Apple’s updated list here) connected to the same wireless network as your iPad. All you have to do is open the document/image you intend on printing, tap the Action icon (curved arrow in a box pointing to the right, present in AirPrint compatible apps) and select Print. There are basically two options: Select Printer and the number of copies. No option to select orientation, paper size, color/B&W printing and such. Told you it was simple….

So native AirPrint is a very basic printing function. And the number of supported printers is very small. Also, you might have to update your printer’s firmware to the latest version just to be sure it will support AirPrint. But if you’re looking for simplicity it can’t get any easier than AirPrint.

Update: As one reader pointed out, depending on the app you’re using you might get more options for printing via AirPlay. So Apple’s functionality can be extended further if app developers decide to dig deeper into the API and use all available options.

Using a manufacturer specific printing app

If you’re like me and don’t have an AiPrint enabled printer you still have a chance to print wirelessly from your iPad: get the free manufacturer app for your printer model. BrotherCanon,EpsonHPLexmark and Samsung have them and the work with many of the printers they sell. HP for example has an interesting technology called ePrint (not all printers are compatible), which basically assigns one unique email address to each of their printers. You just have to send an email with the document you want to print attached to it and it will be printed automatically.

As you’ll discover, each manufacturer app for iOS has difference tweaks and settings supported, but as a general rule you get more options than you get with AirPrint. I can’t cover each of these apps in this post, but remember they exist and can be a good alternative to AirPrint.

Print to all other printers

If you’ve tried the two methods from above and you found they don’t work with your printer there are always third party apps that can turn your printer connected to your PC into an AirPrint like device. There are two ways this is achieved: 1) either an AirPrint server app is installed on your PC and each printer directly attached via Bluetooth, USB, or shared as a network printer is automatically ‘converted’ and seen by the iPad’s AirPrint function or 2) an iOS app is installed on your iDevice and a corresponding server app is installed on your Mac/PC.

In the first case you’re opting once again for simplicity (since AirPrint doesn’t allow to chance the printer properties), while in the second case you’re usually getting a more complex settings menu, similar to what you get on your Mac/PC. In both cases you still need a Mac/PC to be On and the printer connected to it, which somehow defies the purpose of using an iPad for simple printing.

Anyway, one of the best apps for this purpose is PrintCentral (paid app) that can even print via 3G, so you can print from a remote location. You can also print things like SMS messages, contacts, addresses, maps and various other types of documents. And on top of that you can tweak a lot of settings for your printer.

As you can see, there are plenty of options if you really want to print with your iPad. You just need to try the three methods described above. All the third-party apps come with instructions that will guide you through the entire process, so you shouldn’t have any kind of problems.

Revolution of the Tablet Computers

By Dr. Satwant Kaur, Master Solutions Architect, HP, imageSource magazine

The new wave of PC tablets is replacing computers as computing devices.  They are in many cases, replacing cell phones as a means of broader telecommunications.  They are replacing information sources such as newspapers and books and PDAs, besides smartphones, as a means of remote access to various emails, contacts, calendars, productivity tools and even social networking uses with their larger screens and better interfaces.

NEXT GENERATION TABLETS

The mobile devices of the past decade did bring both computing power and pad-and-pen convenience together.  But, they have been heavier and sometimes needed a stylus.  Now, in lieu of the heavier laptop, Tablets are smaller, portable and easier to place in a purse or briefcase, or carry as is.  Size does matter.

Basically, these next-generation Tablets are portable devices that combine the functions of a cell phone and a computer.  Tablets offer mobile capabilities beyond those of traditional computers, such as touch screens, “instant-on” capability, augmented reality, movement-sensing and location-aware applications.  Tablets are also attractive as highly portable and general-purpose front ends.

Tablet PC’s comes with a touchscreen as a primary input device, and running a modified desktop OS, such as Windows 8, or a modified smartphone OS, such as Android.

Tablets can also give access to the files stored on a user’s home PC, from their Tablet, over cellular or Wi-Fi networks.

FEATURES OF NEXT-GEN TABLETS

Tablets PCs are full computers running a desktop-like operating system, but in a smaller Tablet format.  Today’s Tablets serve multiple functions such as for the e-book reader, Internet devices, and TVs.  It is a computer without a keyboard.  And you can run many of your business functions from them.

Tablets Have Specialized OS. Examples Include.

  • Android Tablets have Google’s open-source Android operating system, such as Honeycomb which is dedicated Tablet operating system.
  • Kindle Fire and NOOK Tablets have an operating system called Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0, as well as quad-core processors and high resolution screens.
  • Microsoft Windows 8 operating system is a touch-friendly, no keyboard or mouse, necessary interface that was designed from the ground up to run on Tablet computers
  • Tablets not following the personal computer (PC) tradition use operating systems in smartphones.

LIST OF THE NEXT-GEN TABLETS

Tablet PC is a portable personal computer equipped with a touchscreen as a primary input device, and running a full-fledged desktop OS.

Tablets are ideal devices for users who need mobile computing, find the cell phone, and PDA is too small, and like the virtual keyboard operations of a flat touch screen.

Next-Gen Tablets Include:

  • Samsung 5.3-inch Galaxy Note has stylus-sporting Android Tablet
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 with Android Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Windows Tablets are ARM-based tablets running a pre-build of Windows 8 as well as ARM architecture
  • Lenovo IdeaPad S2 Hybrid Tablet is a 10 inch tablet that converts into a laptop when snapped into its keyboard/dock; weighs 1.27 pounds
  • Vizio Tablet comes with 10 inch screen and runs Android Ice Cream Cone
  • Asus has Hi-Res Display for Transformer Table on Android Tablet w/10 inch display
  • Acer’s Inconia Tab A200 Tablet comes with Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich
  • iPad 4 with iOS operating system will be thinner, lighter, faster processor, retina screen, Suri and possible face recognition.
  • Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet have way to read and watch content from Amazon; the Nook is an excellent e-reader
  • Samsung Sliding PC7 Series has a sliding screen.  It’s a tablet with Intel Atom hardware.  It’s sliding screen allows it to be used a laptop or slate tablet when the screen is locked.
  • Lenovo X61 in slate mode
  • Tablet PCs which run Microsoft Windows are Acer, Lenovo Group, and Toshiba.

Features of Next-Gen Tablets

  • Tablets are finger driven and most frequently use capacitive touch screens with multi-touch and other natural interface features
  • Flash memory solid-slate storage devices.  Tablets can have storage drives or on-board flash memory.  Solid-slate memory is often preferable due to better resistance to damage during movement
  • “Instant on” warm-boot times
  • Standard external USB and Bluetooth keyboards
  • Unix-like OS, such as Darwin, Linux or QNX
  • 3G mobile telephony capabilities.  Wireless or Wi-FI connectivity is used for communication between tablets.  Bluetooth is used for connecting peripherals and communicating with local devices in place of a wired USB connection
  • ARM architecture processor provides battery life
  • “App Stores,” provide centralized catalogs of software and allow simple “one click” on-device software purchasing, installation & updates
  • Handwriting recognition with stylus
  • Touchscreen hardware – multi-touch capacitive touchscreens
  • Multi-touch capabilities can recognize multiple simultaneous finger touches, allowing for enhanced manipulation of on-screen objects
  • System architecture for Tablets includes both x86 and ARM architecture
  • Lighter weight, lower power models
  • Function similarly to dedicated reading devices like the Amazon Kindle
  • Multi-touch makes navigation easy as well as image manipulation
  • It is more natural to use a finger on a screen to select objects rather than a mouse or touchpad
  • Capacitive contact screens can sense even light finger on the screen
  • Multi-touch abilities can recognize multiple simultaneous finger touches, allowing for enhanced, manipulation of on-screen objects
  • Screen-size:  Although large screen sizes are more convenient, they add weight to Tablet PCs and need more power, and hence shorter battery life.  The 12″ form factor is optimal for the power, size and weight considerations needed for portability
  • New Tablet computers have non-Wintel, mobile operating systems, and have a different interface instead of the traditional desktop OS.

Bottom line?  Tablets offer mobile capabilities beyond those of those smartphones and PDAs and portability, size and convenience over traditional computers, even laptops.  Watch them continue to evolve and become commonplace in business use as well as personal use.

 

10 Back-To-School Tech Survival Tips

There are lots of things that you or your kid should know about when gearing up to go back to school. Here are 10 of those things.

1. Apple gives you discounts on Macs, but the discounts are uneven. Dollar for dollar, you save more buying a MacBook Pro ($200 off) than a MacBook Air ($50 off). No matter what you buy, you’ll get a $100 gift card for Mac apps, iOS apps, iBooks and iTunes if you make the deal by Sept. 20. (That offer used to get you a free iPod Touch — which has a $229 price tag — so it’s technically not as good it once was.)

To qualify for Apple student/teacher discounts, hit the company’s education channel or just jump right here to look up your school.

2. Amazon Prime is free to students — but you don’t get streaming video. Yes, you get the unlimited free 2-day shipping, and the $3.99 overnight charge. No, you don’t get “Demolition Man,” “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares,” or “Louis CK: Chewed Up,” not without paying the normal prices, that is.

(Editorial aside to Amazon: Give students free video, because if you don’t, they’ll just steal it! If you can’t convince them of the benefits of legal digital conduct, who will?)

3. Amazon textbook rentals are few and far between. Lots of hype has been made of the Kindle textbook rental, and why not, it’s incredible! If you can find a textbook you actually use, that is. James Stewart’s “Calculus,” one of the most standard textbooks for high school and college, still costs $162.99 at Amazon. You can buy it used for as low as $62.52, but there’s no Kindle version of that, let alone a version available for limited-time rental. By all means, comb through the store for your textbooks, but don’t be surprised if digital editions just aren’t there.

4. Microsoft has a student discount for Xbox Live. Yes, in and among the obvious student/teacher software discounts, the Microsoft Store gives you 12 months of Xbox Live plus 800 Microsoft points for $54. By my calculations, that’s about $16 off. Not huge savings, but now you can buy, what, like 1,300 more points! (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal, but that’s not why I think this is a neat deal.)

5. Barnes & Noble may well have the coolest digital study tool around. Seriously, this free eTextbook application for PC and Mac lets you not only get books digitally, but organize coursework, compile syllabi and other documents, take notes, print, export and go online for related research. While the same warning about Amazon’s textbook rental program applies here — that your particular study materials might not be available — it’s certainly worth the $0.00 price to check it out, and the other features may end up being useful on their own.

6. Don’t buy software until you check with your school. College IT departments let you download a ton of big-name software for free, because they have bulk educational licenses. So don’t buy any of the major Microsoft or Adobe products until you see what you can get straight from campus IT. Wish I had a link, but every school’s website is different. Just start digging, either by checking the IT department or bookstore.

7. And don’t forget college hardware deals. Schools often retail computers to students directly, nowadays through the online bookstore, offering discounts that you can’t get at stores. From what I have seen, none of the Apple hardware is marked down lower than Apple’s official educational discounts, but there might be a service benefit to buying it through your school. (Some schools offer service for as long as you’re a student, or enrolled in a particular program.)

8. Look out for specialty retailer deals. Computer vendor Newegg has a deal that lets you turn Microsoft Office Home and Student into a full version, by giving you a free download of Outlook, Publisher and Access when you buy it. This still may not be as good as the free software you can get at school, but if your school doesn’t hook you up, check with these guys.

9. Don’t buy gadget insurance. It’s generally a waste of money. First, check with your homeowner’s or renter’s policy to see what’s covered in terms of theft and damage. Next, invest money in a protective case instead. Most accidents can be avoided by a bit of plastic shielding.

10. Most overlooked useful school gadget? A USB thumb drive. Pick up a nice rugged one, like the Verbatim Tuff-n-Tiny or the Victorinox Swiss Army Secure drive, and clip it on your keychain. Networking is getting better and better, and the cloud is your friend and all that, but it never hurts to have a back-up of your important work — all of it — right there in your pocket, not to mention a good way to taxi files around when nothing else seems to be working.

Bonus tip: Your college may have an iPhone or Android app. The fact alone makes me jealous of today’s college kids, so I won’t dwell on it. Just do yourselves (or your kids) a favor and check the usual app stores to see if your uni has a one-stop mobile shop for maps, sports calendars, class schedules and more.

By Wilson Rothman – msnbc.com