Industry analysts are forecasting blow-out holiday season sales for smartphones and tablets, with extremely upbeat forecasts for 2012 overall and beyond. How could this be the very same, allegedly broken industry sector that is set to suffer innovation-stifling harm, as various prophets of doom have scare-mongered, and with what the ITU also describes as “an unwelcome trend in today’s marketplace to use standards-essential patents to block markets?” No market is more successful, and yet also based on standards-essential patents and other patented technologies, than that for these smart devices including various wireless technologies with 2G, 3G, 4G, WiFi, Bluetooth and NFC. Handset vendors benefiting from this boom include those most entrenched in patent and other intellectual property litigation, including Apple and Samsung Electronics. This is despite a $1 billion jury damages award in favor of the former and against the latter in the United States, and numerous other actions pending worldwide between these and among other parties. IDC is particularly upbeat about the market and prospects for these litigants this holiday season. The research firm thinks that Samsung and Apple will continue to lead smartphone and tablet sales this quarter as part of an estimated 362 million mobile devices shipped worldwide, worth $169.2 billion. Both figures are industry records. The predictions, which also include estimates for PCs in its broader “connected devices category,” reflect the expectation many people are going to receive devices as presents this month. Tablet shipments are expected to leap 55.8 percent over this season last year. Smartphone shipments are expected to increase 39.5 percent year-over-year as well.

The popularity of smart devices is their powerful capabilities, convenient sizes, and with wide ranges of products and prices to suit user needs and purchaser constraints. Small and light enough to fit in one’s pocket or purse, and with battery performance that sheds umbilical dependency, even with intensive consumption such as watching entire movies, these highly-portable tablet and smartphone handsets have the form factors that can be used sitting down, standing up, two-handed, one-handed and hands free. This has transformed utility by expanding where, when and how applications and services can be used. The widening range of applications and their integration with each other, and with the other devices we use–at home and away–and with the cloud, has created personal network effects that further reinforce the value of these new handset device acquisitions. You’ll find no evidence of stifled innovation or market blocking in smart devices under the Christmas tree this year. To read the whole article please visit http://www.fiercewireless.com/europe/story/mallinson-no-signs-collateral-damage-smartphone-patent-wars/2012-12-19.

 

Keith Mallinson is founder of WiseHarbor, providing expert commercial advisory to technology and services businesses in wired and wireless telecommunications, media and entertainment serving consumer and professional markets. He is also regular columnist with Wireless Week, FierceWireless Europe, and IP Finance. Prior to forming Wise Harbor Mallinson led Yankee Group’s global Wireless/Mobile research and consulting team as Executive Vice President. He currently forecasts the long-term outlook in mobile operator services, network equipment and devices to 2025.

Until Nielsen announced its plan to acquire Arbitron this week, few outside the media industry had heard of the company.  Yet it has had a long and at times very creative run as the “other guy” in the broadcast media business.

From the early days of broadcast television until 1993, Arbitron (ARB) aggressively competed with Nieslen in the business of providing local ratings for television stations.  In fact, the very process of geographically defining a television market (i.e. does Fairfield Ct belong to New York or Hartford TV market? *) can be traced back to ARB’s assigning every county in the US to one TV market or another dividing the US into some 200+ contiguous TV markets.  However, as it became increasingly obvious that having two research organizations providing a duplicative ratings service was problematic, ARB left the local TV ratings business to Nielsen in the early 90’s.  They did so to focus on their local radio ratings service as well as a number of somewhat specialized research projects in addition to work on new and creative research techniques (such as their passive people meter).

So, what’s behind the Nielsen proposed purchase, its implications for radio as well as whether it will stand the anti-competitive “sniff test”.

Nielsen’s stated reasons for the acquisition are part financial (it should be accretive once the dust settles) and part strategic – it makes Nielsen the only supplier of audience ratings for the $14 billion radio advertising spend.  While radio does not get the headlines that other media do, it is a major medium among almost all demographics.  If Nielsen really wants to be serious about cross channel measurement, which it appears to be, not having radio would be a big gap.  Further, ARB does have experience in other areas such as the growing audio streaming segment and the Out of Home area.  In other words, it certainly helps Nielsen to evolve into a more comprehensive research firm beyond that of just providing television ratings.

Its implication for radio stations?  On the positive side, radio could be one of the real beneficiaries of increased availability and use of cross channel research.  We all consume media in combination, so better defining how they interact is probably a net positive for radio.  For example, a company like Clear Channel with a large portfolio of radio stations, a growing streaming audio business as well as outdoor assets certainly will probably see benefits at some point.  The downside?  Many people are pointing to the fact that one research monopoly buying another will mean higher prices for radio research.  Not sure that’s the case and Nielsen expects to find efficiencies in providing two related panel research products in each market.

ARB’s pricing power existed before Nielsen and on the surface it is not changed by it.  More to the point, Nielsen would not have gone this far without a strong belief it will pass muster.  In addition, the Association of National Advertisers while voicing some concerns has not indicated it will fight the combination.  If the ANA goes along, the agency association (The 4A’s) will as well. 

 *The answer:  FairfieldCounty falls into the NY television market.    

 

Alec Gerster served as Senior Marketing Director at Microsoft after the company purchased his firm, Navic Networks, in 2008. He was responsible for broadening industry awareness and usage of Navic’s sophisticated digital targeting and optimized television advertising technologies. Before Navic, he served as Chief Executive Officer of Initiative Worldwide unit at Interpublic Group of Companies Inc. until March 2008. Mr. Gerster joined Initiative in April 2002 to oversee worldwide operations in 58 countries and a global workforce of over 3,000 employees. He served 30-year career at Grey Global group and heavily involved with the group’s pioneering digital activities. He was Executive Officer of publicly held Grey Global Group and heavily involved with the group’s pioneering digital activities.

ExxonMobil released its annual long-term global forecast which predicted North America will become a net oil exporter by 2030 with the forecast showing oil being the dominant fuel through 2040 with natural gas overtaking coal for the number two spot. Renewable energy and nuclear power will also continue to grow. Transportation demand is expected to increase by over 40 percent mostly from commercial sources. Hybrids will continue to be a fixture growing to about 40 percent of the world’s fleet due to them becoming more affordable. In North America, 75 percent of oil production in the 2040 forecast comes from technology-enabled supplies such as tight oil in the Bakken formation of North Dakota, oil sands in Canada, and deepwater developments in the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, North America’s liquid production is expected to grow by 40 percent.

ExxonMobil’s forecast shows a changing energy picture with natural gas use surpassing coal in a little more than a decade and future vehicle sales gaining in hybrid and other alternate vehicle technology. Yet, the company’s forecast shows that fossil fuels will remain dominant globally supplying about 80 percent of the world’s energy in 2040. Technological advancements in liquids and gas production technologies will continue to enable their resource bases to be developed providing both conventional and unconventional supplies. But, that development is contingent on private and government owners providing access to the resources. Competitive fuels such as shale gas and oil have helped U.S. manufacturing industries and the economy to prosper. To read the whole article please visit http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2012/12/19/exxonmobil-joins-the-iea-in-projecting-north-america-to-become-a-net-energy-exporter/.

Thomas J. Pyle is the president of the Institute for Energy Research (IER). In this capacity, Pyle brings a unique backdrop of public and private sector experience to help manage IER’s Washington, DC-based staff and operations. He also helps to develop the organization’s free market policy positions and implement education efforts with respect to key energy stakeholders, including policymakers, federal agency representatives, industry leaders, consumer entities and the media. To read more about the Institute for Energy Research and their mission please visit http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/.

Roulston Research recently hosted their Fast Food and Fast Causal conference call on Dec 12th with Nelson Marchioli, Former CEO of Denny’s and Steve Crichlow, Principle at Compass Restaurant Consulting and Research, both with over 30 years in the restaurant industry. This conference call highlighted and analyzed some of the most pressing issues, leading trends and franchisees best positioned to thrive in the coming economic environment. One recurring topic mentioned is the effects on cost due to Obamacare. Confusion and uncertainty of how Obamacare will impact their cost is what concerns many restaurants; not knowing exactly what those cost will total from this massive legistration is a major concern to many restaurant operators. Growth is expected to be on the minds of most chains whether that is same store sales, bricks and mortar, or international expansion, primarily for companies in the best financial position. On the other hand, commodity costs are continuing to increase due to the most recent droughts, specifically with corn and will put pressure on prices and margins. The most successful and well-run brands who have leverage, focus and accurately forecasted and contracted in advance will continue to prosper in the coming 2013 year. What’s driving traffic in both sectors is promotions and value. Consumer seems to place bargains and quality high on their value meter, with brand loyalty ranking low in recent years. McDonald’s has met some success due to a large mixture of strategies they implemented, however their focus on brand advertising versus specific promotions, hurt sales in previous quarters and resulted in the loss of their US President Jan Fields. Their replacement Jeff Stratton is viewed positively among the presenters; nevertheless, unless they focus on incremental sales by focusing on specific promotions from current products, success will continue to slow.

Fast Casual is the fastest growing segment of the restaurant industry. The Mexican offering in casual dining is considered to be the fastest and 8 out of 10 of the top growing casual dining restaurants are Mexican. Ruby Tuesday has invested in the Mexican market with the purchase of The Lime Fresh Grill that is fast growing. This sector is expected to remain strong. The trends indicate that consumers are bargain shopping and companies with the most successful marketing campaign will continue to do well. Consumers are placing more value on quality as opposed to past years. The presenters make the argument that this is due to low disposable income and consumers want more value out of their money given their limited income. The companies that are covered and not mentioned above include Darden, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, Yum! Brands and more. If you are interested in listening to the podcast from the event or engaging Nelson or Steve in a 1 on 1 discussion please contact info@roulstonresearch.com.

Dollar General recently announced that they were going to reduce prices on categories such as cereal and coffee to drive store traffic and grow its business. This came after the company announced an increase in same store sales of four percent for the last quarter. Despite this positive news, Dollar General remains cautious for the remainder of the year with all the negative news (such as the fiscal cliff) and will focus on capturing market share, building and maintaining customer loyalty and delivering strong financial results for sustainable growth according to CEO Rick Dreiling.  Dick Seesel believes, “First, I don’t believe that constant coverage of “the fiscal cliff” on the cable news and business channels has a strong impact on the shopping behavior of dollar-store consumers (And the separate discussion about luxury retail suggests that these expectations are already “baked into” the behavior of higher-end shoppers and the equity market.). So there is a simpler explanation: It’s more likely that Dollar General is lowering prices in response to its discount and other dollar-store competition, and in an effort to drive traffic and market share before the holidays.” To read the whole article please visit http://www.retailwire.com/blog-post/ef372415-3a81-4e11-961d-82d738bcf3f3/dollar-general-ready-to-drop-prices-on-the-competition.

Richard Seesel is the Manager and owner of Retailing In Focus, LLC. He was most recently a Senior Vice President and Divisional Merchandise Manager at Kohl’s Department Stores. Dick is proud to have helped Kohl’s grow from 18 stores to a national retail powerhouse, during an era of change and consolidation throughout the retail industry.

Data is continuing to grow exponentially and new technologies are emerging to compete in the big data analytics arena. Companies like Google, Oracle, Amazon, IBM, and even Facebook are now vying for the top contender spot in the big data market, a market that is still continuing to evolve and change rapidly. Roulston Research recently hosted their big data roundtable on December 5th with Rob Enderle, Principle at The Enderle Group and Lenley Hensarling, Former Group VP at Oracle. The Roundtable highlighted some of the trends and some of the major players, such as EMC Corporation leading the charge in big data. It also touched on the challenges these companies face, such as not fully understanding how to successfully navigate and produce useful information and solutions from the large data sets known as big data. The presenters define big data as a sort of specific type of analytics that deals with streams of data sets and a lot of the successful companies that are getting high value from big data are doing very low latency analysis of those streams of data from custom built software; applications built to solve specific problems that have huge returns and efficiency gains. As more companies develop these complex technologies to capture, store and analyze the large streams of data sets, the key to success on big data isn’t so much in the hardware or software but understanding the dataset and the problems that these companies are trying to solve. If you understand the problems and the data set, you will produce something far more useful and relevant to the business team that needs the information versus simply creating the software and technology that is fast and has no purpose but to gather large sets of random data. Simply, the speed in accessing large quantities of data, while important is not as important as the solutions to the problems that the company is trying to solve. Are the solutions from these technologies actually providing the results sought from accessing these large datasets?

When you look at some of the things Amazon and Google are doing, big data winds up being more of a cloud play because the loads they’ll generate goes up and down dramatically with Amazon leading the charge with their platform as a service strategy. Oracle and IBM have been pretty straight forward with what their packaging as far as hardware and software and has not fully embraced the platform as a service business model as their rivals. The presenters explained that Oracle is using a control and containment strategy, which is done through acquisitions. They acquire customers from their acquisitions and then leverage them, which could work but may not be sustainable. Meanwhile, IBM is a lot more ambitious with their big data strategy by using neural networks and more sophisticated systems in the field of artificial intelligent, such as their now famous Watson, an artificial intelligent computer system that won the Jeopardy challenge. IBM systems, including Watson modifies and optimizes itself based on the information and queries it receives for the particular task at hand, which will indeed be relevant to retailers, such as Wal-Mart where decisions have to be made very quickly. The companies that are covered and not mentioned above include Teradata, C3, HP and more. If you are interested in listening to the podcast from the event or engaging Rob or Lenley in a 1 on 1 discussion please contact info@roulstonresearch.com.

The server racket continues to be impacted by issues throughout the global economy and intense competition between incumbent players, upstarts, and those making their own hyperscale boxes. Shipment growth is anemic, revenues were down, and it is very likely that profits were down even further, according to the latest data. In the quarter ended in September, the box counters at Gartner think that server makers pushed out 2.46 million boxes, an increase of 3.6 percent compared to the year ago period. But revenues actually fell by 2.8 per cent, to $12.6bn, during the three months. Not only is competition a factor, but all of the major RISC and Itanium vendors were in product transitions in the quarter and so was IBM with its System z mainframes. New generations of Power, Itanium, and Sparc processors are in various stages of introduction into the market, and that is no doubt holding many customers of Unix and proprietary operating systems back a little. Europe is certainly not helping any of the server makers. Gartner figures that EMEA had $2.96bn in total server sales in the third quarter, down 9 per cent, with shipments of 598,800 machines, off 2.8 per cent. As Adrian O’Connell noted, “The outlook for the fourth quarter in EMEA looks similar to what we have witnessed in the year so far, with constraints on demand limiting the market opportunity. Vendors are under constant pressure to deliver the most effective execution. With limited overall demand, they will have to consider competitive migrations as their best opportunities for growth and market share gains.” This year’s fourth quarter might not be an especially festive period for every server vendor.” To read the full article to hear Tim’s thoughts on IBM, Dell, HP, Oracle, and Cisco’s results and future outlook please visit http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/29/gartner_q3_2012_server_numbers/.

Tim Morgan is the Systems Editor of the UK based Register and is President and Editor in Chief of IT Jungle. He has been keeping a keen eye on the midrange system and server markets for 15 years, and was one of the founding editors of The Four Hundred, the industry’s first subscription-based monthly newsletter devoted exclusively to the IBM AS/400 minicomputer, established in 1989. For the past decade, Morgan has also performed in-depth market and technical studies on behalf of computer hardware and software vendors that helped them bring their products to the AS/400 market or move them beyond the IBM midrange into the computer market at large.