The PC Survives by Changing

Carl Weinschenk

The PC, which was thought to be an endangered species, has shown a good deal of resiliency. Vendors have recast it as one of a set of devices from which business and consumer users choose. They’ve made technical changes that serve that overall strategic shift.

IDC this week released numbers that show progress is being made. The form factor will never dominate as it did a generation ago. But it is cutting its losses and seems to be settling nicely into its new niche.

From other news and good commentary this week, here are highlights:

PCs Make a Comeback


Good news comes to all who wait, apparently. IDC joined Gartner in reporting better-than-expected numbers for PC sales during the third quarter. The good news is relative, however: IDC only said that losses would not be as bad as expected. According to ZDNet, the firm said that 78.5 million PC units were shipped worldwide during the quarter, which represents a 1.7 percent decline compared to a year ago. The firm had called for a 4.1 percent dip.

IDC found that Apple has superseded Asus for the fifth spot on the market share list. Analyst Jay Chou commented that lower-priced systems, which pushed the results, were good for the short term but raise questions for vendors. The top four manufacturers remain Lenovo, HP, Dell and Acer Group.

Cram Scam Slammed

Cramming, as the name implies, is the squeezing into a cell phone bill of unauthorized charges. Network World reports that AT&T has agreed to pay $105 million to the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and 51 state-level governments for pushing the third-party charges onto customer bills.

The third parties, which provide celebrity gossip- and horoscope-type services, charged $9.99 per month. The settlement said that the carrier knew about the problem and had promised the third parties to limit refunds to two months. The $105 million consists of $80 million in refunds and $25 in penalties.

The eEmpire State

It’s election season, so any promise made by a politician should be taken with even more grains of salt more than at other times. That caveat notwithstanding, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo this week said that if reelected, he will allocate $500 million to a “New NY Broadband Fund.” The goal would be to make broadband available to all residents and businesses in New York by 2018.

A press release from the governor’s office said 4.6 million residents of the state can’t get “the highest speed” broadband, and 1.1 million of them can’t get the minimum. The upgrade, if it happens, will be significant:

Under Cuomo's plan, broadband providers would be required in most projects to provide Internet speed of at least 100Mbps. Cuomo said the current state standard of 6 Mbps (download)/1.5 Mbps (upload) is too slow and out of date.

Siri a Distraction to Drivers

It seems like a driver interfacing with Apple’s Siri would have a relatively easy time communicating. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found differently, however. Indeed, the system, the best known of the voice-activated, hands-free approaches, didn’t score well and caused significant distractions to the drivers.

The foundation employed a five-category rating system on tests with 45 drivers. The Apple system had problems, according to Apple Insider. The test also looked at systems that were pre-installed in vehicles:

As for OEM solutions, Toyota's Entune was the least distracting with a ranking of 1.7, while Mercedes' COMAND and Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch systems rated near the bottom at 3.1 and 3.0, respectively. Chevrolet's MyLink was the worst performer out of the automotive industry with a rating of 3.7, but managed to outperform the arguably different test set applied to Siri.

Humans Need Not Apply

And, finally, comes a story about seeing the future. Gartner claims to see it, and says that it involves a lot of people not working. It’s not a futuristic unemployment report, however. The firm said that by 2025, one in every three jobs will be done by “software, robots and smart machines.” In five years, drones will be used as a matter of course in agriculture, oil and gas pipeline inspections and geographical surveys, the story said.

Gartner says that smart machines are developing into a “super class” of technologies capable of performing intellectual and physical tasks. Computerworld noted that Gartner often makes bold predictions at the beginning of its Symposium/ITxpo conference.

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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