Tablet Sector Still Struggling

Carl Weinschenk

It was a calm week after the excitement of the ending of the Comcast/Time Warner Cable engagement, with no dominating piece of news.

Lack of a blaring headline, however, doesn’t mean that important but more subtle news, such as a push to extend funding of rural broadband and signs of a Samsung rally, as well as some solid commentary, isn’t worthy of note.

Tablets Growth Still Stalled

The tablet sector, after explosive growth started by Apple’s release of the iPad, has experienced gradual decline. That trend is continuing, according to IDC, which said that the tablet sector experienced a second straight decline compared to the respective year-ago quarter. In the first quarter of 2015, shipments shrank 5.1 percent to 47.1 million. The bright spot was cellular-enabled tablets, which outpaced Wi-Fi only devices, according to the firm.

Apple shipped 12.6 million iPads and controlled 26.8 percent of the market, though it has experienced “five consecutive quarters of negative annual shipment growth.” Samsung had a 16.5 percent decline and was second with 19.1 percent of the market. The rest of the top five are Lenovo (5.3 percent market share), Asus (3.8 percent) and LG (3.1 percent), the company said.

Tablets

More Money for Rural Broadband

Finding the funds to provision rural users has been an issue since the birth of the telephone industry. It continues to vex in the broadband age. Broadcasting and Cable reports that the Federal Communications Commission has offered to give $1.7 billion in Connect American Universal Services funding to the largest telcos to provide services to almost 9 million Americans.

The story quotes from the press release on the details. Large players, known as “price cap carriers,” will be able to use the money to provide services of at least 10 Megabit per second (Mbps) downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. If the price cap carriers don’t apply for the funding within 120 days, it will become available to cable operators and other competitive carriers.

The Two Firefoxes

Computerworld and other sites report that Mozilla is planning an innovation that will create secure and insecure versions of the Firefox browser. After a certain point, the company said, new features will only be supported on the secure version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), HTTPS. The company is working with its users:

The browser developer decided after a discussion on its community mailing list that it will set a date after which all new features will be available only to secure websites, wrote Firefox security lead Richard Barnes in a blog post. Mozilla also plans to gradually phase out access to browser features for non-secure websites, particularly features that could present risks to users' security and privacy, he added.

The community still must decide on some details of the implementation of the new policy. Last month, Mozilla introduced “opportunistic encryption,” which is encryption for otherwise unencrypted content.


Samsung Back on Top

There was talk several months ago of a slump by Samsung as the mobile device vendor was squeezed  between Apple at the higher end and low-cost manufacturers, many of them Chinese, from below. One of the pieces of evidence was that both Apple and Samsung shipped 74 million during the fourth quarter of 2014.

The company has rebounded, according to Strategy Analytics. The Verge reports that the firm found that during the first quarter of 2015, Samsung shipped 83 million smartphones. That far outpaces Apple, which logged in at 61 million devices. The story pointed out that all is not rosy: Samsung shipped 6 million fewer devices than during the year-ago quarter. Samsung’s growth, the report said, came from mid-range and low-end devices.

IBM Closes in on Quantum Computing

And, finally, comes a story about two breakthroughs by IBM in the use of quantum mechanics for computing.

Big Blue says that it now can detect two types of quantum errors simultaneously. The errors -- bit-flip and phase-flip -- are caused by heat, radiation and defects. Previously, only one type of error could be found at one time. This sets up the next step, which is to find ways to fix the errors.

The other breakthrough is the creation of a four-quantum bit circuit in a quarter-inch lattice structure that scales. The story concludes that despite the advances, working quantum computers are still far in the future.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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