Push NotificationsAt Wired David Pierce writes:

Kill your notifications. Yes, really. Turn them all off. (You can leave on phone calls and text messages, if you must, but nothing else.) You’ll discover that you don’t miss the stream of cards filling your lockscreen, because they never existed for your benefit. They’re for brands and developers, methods by which thirsty growth hackers can grab your attention anytime they want. Allowing an app to send you push notifications is like allowing a store clerk to grab you by the ear and drag you into their store. You’re letting someone insert a commercial into your life anytime they want. Time to turn it off.

Source: Turn Off Your Push Notifications. All of Them | WIRED

This has bothered me for some time. Not least because the mental space needed to write anything more than a paragraph means turning off all notifications.

Push notifications sin-binned

It’s impossible to focus when there’s a constant barrage of calls on your attention. I go further than Pierce. For much of the time I have my phone set on silent, all computer notifications are permanently off. Everything, except system warnings to warn of a flat battery or similar.

Touch Voicemail catches messages from  callers should they bother to leave one.

There are two exceptions to the clampdown. I allow  text messages and voice calls from immediate family members and my clients or the people who work for them.  The other exception is I allow calendar notifications to remind me if, say, I know I have to leave later for a meeting.

The downside of this is that some things get missed. It’s rare, but I have missed out on stories by putting myself in electronic purdah.

Yet on the whole, it works well. There’s always the list of missed calls, messages and so on. I can go to the notification centre scan the long, long list of missed items and realised that nothing important slipped through to the keeper.

 

~650,000 machines still ship every day, but that’s the lowest total since 2007

Source: PC sales still slumping, but more slowly than feared • The Register

Simon Sharwood writes:

Both analyst firms suggest that rising component prices have led to rising PC prices which has led to falling enthusiasm from buyers, especially consumers. DRAM, LCD panels and solid state disks prices all share some of the blame for the rise, as all are in short supply.

This is nonsense: not Sharwood’s reporting, what the analysts say. They are clutching at straws. Rising PC prices are not the issue, prices have only ticked up a smidgen. That is not enough to affect sales if there is an underlying demand.

The demand is not there. Customers have little appetite or need to start buying PCs again in large numbers. Not today.

Two points stand out from the latest PC sales figures.

First, HP moved ahead of Lenovo. Sharwood quotes a Gartner analyst talking about Lenovo pulling back to focus on margins.

That’s a plausible explanation, but I think there’s more to it.

HP has been on a roll since the business split from HP Enterprise. Hardware quality is better than in the past and the designs are more interesting. While it would overdoing it to use a word like excitement, HP has momentum. Some good products too.

Second, Apple has moved to fourth place. Apple’s year-on-year sales are flat, in a falling market that means the company’s market share has climbed. It’s not much of a climb, about 0.3 percent, but that’s enough to move Apple past slumping Asus.

Lenovo thinkpad e570 NZ

Lenovo serves up a mid-price, not-so-small business laptop. The ThinkPad E570 is so traditional it borders on retro. It will please laptop conservatives. If you need greater mobility, look elsewhere.

Lenovo ThinkPad E570 at a glance:

For:Configurable
Latest processor
Against:Heavy
Large
Build quality
Maybe:No touch screen
Removable battery
Verdict:Mid-price large screen laptop. Will appeal to small business owners.
Price:From NZ$1100. Review model NZ$1300.
Website:Lenovo NZ

By 2017 standards, the Lenovo ThinkPad E570 is bulky. The review model weighs 2.4Kg. It measures 376 by 262 by 34 mm at its widest, broadest and deepest.

Part of the heft is because the case includes a large, bright 15.6-inch display and a DVD drive.

There’s a lot of plastic around the edge of the screen. Indeed, there’s a lot of black plastic full stop. It’s chunky and robust which adds protection but you’ll need a backpack to move it.

Another reason for the bulk is the battery and studs rise the base a few millimetres off a desktop. This gives breathing room so air can flow through vents. There’s also a heavy-duty fan vent on the left side of the case too.

Rough in places

An E at the start of a product number indicates the E570 is from the lower-price ThinkPad range. That means you get a lower quality finish than you’d find on more expensive models. It’s a little rough in places and the matt black plastic picks up smudges with a vengeance.

The front of the lid doesn’t sit flush with the bottom part of the computer. This makes it easier to open. The hinge has a small amount of give, but nothing to trouble anyone.

While the case is not pretty, it does look like Lenovo made the computer to do business. If you like the red and black ThinkPad look, you’ll be happy with the effect.

Desktop replacement

Given size and weight, you won’t want to carry the E570 all the time. If portability is important get something else. It makes a fine desktop replacement that can travel at a pinch.

A big case means there’s room for a full-size keyboard and numeric keys. The layout takes getting used to. A week or two of reviewing was not enough time to master the keyboard idiosyncrasies.

Among other things, having two backspace and one delete key in the top right corner is strange. Also odd is the off centre touchpad and the small space bar.

TouchPad

Because there’s no touchscreen, you’ll use the touchpad a lot. It’s small by 2017 standards. The little red signature ThinkPad cursor joystick is some compensation. In practice the touchpad is erratic, that could be a Windows 10 driver problem.

If you owned this computer and used it often, trackpad aside, all these things, would be no trouble after a few weeks.

The lack of a keyboard backlight is disappointing.

As already mentioned, there is no touchscreen. The display is 1366 by 768 HD format. There is a FHD 1920 by 1080 model that, at the moment, costs $100 more than the review computer.

It comes with a faster processor and a better video card, that’s a lot of extra value for $100.

One minor worry about the display is that the default setting is 100 percent brilliance. While that’s fine, there’s nothing extra for when you need a boost.

Video and everyday Windows apps work fine with the display. It’s not state-of-the-art, but its good considering the price tag.

Kaby Lake

The review model has an Intel i5 7200U processor running at 2.5GHz. That’s a Kaby Lake chip or the seventh generation of Core processors.

Intel says they are faster than last year’s processors, enough for users to notice. They are video optimised and should be more power efficient.

Lenovo says you can get eight hours on a single charge. As always, the manufacturer’s claim is pushing it. In practice, it works for a little over six hours before power supply nagging starts. Battery life isn’t so vital in a computer that will sit on a desk most of the time.

There’s a DVD drive, which feels anachronistic, but will please many users. There are three USB ports — again, that pleases some users not others. Lenovo also includes HDMI, Ethernet, a multi-format card reader and an audio jack.

Old fashioned

Despite a state-of-the-art processor, the ThinkPad E570 is, in many ways, old-fashioned. It’s been a long time since a review non-touch Windows PC with a hard drive instead of SSD has turned up here.

The question is how the specification trade-offs work with value for money. The biggest downside is the quality of finish. You can find better-made computers at the same price, although they may not have the same mix of features.

At first sight it looks as if Lenovo charges a premium for its 15.6 inch display. On a more positive note, you get a lot of processor performance for your money. It would be a good choice if you crunch numbers on a spreadsheet all day.

It’s clear the $1400 top of the line model with a Core i7 processor, higher resolution screen and better graphics card is better value. This is a promotional price and may not be available for long.

You might want to swap the 1TB hard drive for a 256GB SSD, that would add around $170 to the list price.

Not everyone prizes slim and light over big screens, full keyboards and processor power. The Lenovo ThinkPad E570 isn’t for the kind of person who works from cafés or airport lounges. There are many who still want DVD drives. This will hit the spot for some demographics.

Abstract, Jackson Pollock

Gartner says NZ IT spending will reach NZ$11.4 billion in 2017. That’s up 2.3 percent on last year.

This is less than the expected 2.7 percent rise in global IT spending.

The reason for New Zealand’s underperformance is that nation’s biggest IT spending category is fixed and mobile communications services. It accounts for almost 40 percent of all NZ IT spending.

Gartner says growth in this sector is likely to be flat over the next two years.

In 2016 we spent NZ$4.36 billion on fixed and mobile communications services. Gartner’s projection puts 2017 spending at NZ$4.38 billion. That’s a rise of about 0.6 percent. The estimate for 2018 is NZ$4.43 billion.

Meanwhile spending on software will rise from NZ$1.4 billion last year to NZ$1.5 billion in 2017 and will reach almost NZ$1.7 billion in 2018.

Segment2016 YR2017 YR2018 YR
Devices    1,541    1,572    1,556
Data Center Systems        400        402        398
Software    1,421    1,541    1,674
IT Services    3,442    3,518    3,599
Communications Services    4,355    4,383    4,432
Total  11,159  11,417  11,659
Gartner – all numbers in thousands of NZ dollars

Australia’s largest sector is IT services. Gartner says software will be the fastest growing sector in 2017 for both New Zealand and Australia.

Global spending is set to total US$3.5 trillion in 2017. Gartner says the year was set to see a rebound for the industry. It originally forecast 3 percent growth. However political uncertainty means the analyst company has dialled back its optimism.

Gartner research vice president John-David Lovelock says the uncertainty means there’s a wait-and-see mood with many enterprises forestalling IT investments.

Cloud, blockchain, AI all trending

He identifies the big trends as cloud, blockchain, digital business and artificial intelligence.

The analyst expects worldwide spending on devices, PCs, tablets and phones to stay flat at US$589 billion.

Gartner says a PC replacement cycle, strong pricing and functionality will help drive growth in 2018.

We’ve seen similar optimistic projections before now. Some from Gartner. It’s hard to know where that replacement cycle will come from. Technology sales have been falling for years now. Even if it does kick-in, the industry needs more than replacements to see a fresh wave of growth.

Things are strong in the IT services market. Gartner expects the global market to grow 4.2 percent in 2017. It says this will come from investments in digital business, intelligent automation and services optimisation. The report goes on to warn buyers remain cautious.

surface book

We have seen five years of falling PC sales. They will never return to the glory days. But the PC is a long way from extinction.

Many of us still need personal computers for our work. They do things phones and tablets cannot. They do other things better than phones or tablets. Not everybody needs to do those things. And not everyone needs to do them well.

PCs are no longer centre stage. That’s one reason we don’t need to replace them as often as before. For the most part they are also better made. Another reason we spend less time upgrading them.

Five years of falling PC sales

Less need means fewer sales. The computer industry reports 2016 will show another year of declining shipments. That means five years of falling shipments and sales.

Sales may fall, but the market remains huge. It will stay big for some time yet. Last year the industry shifted close to US$175 billion of hardware. That’s a lot of money. The bulk of it goes to half-a-dozen companies. They all come away with billions in revenue, if not profit.

There are bright spots. Sales of hybrid devices that combine elements of traditional laptops and tablets are booming. IDC Australia reports convertibles — another name for hybrids — grew 91 percent year on year. New Zealand is seeing a similar interest in these models. It a small sector compared with the entire market, but enough for a renewed optimism in some quarters.

Two other PC sectors are strong.

Life at the top

High-end computers, especially laptops, continue to sell in large numbers. Apple and Microsoft show computer makers can command premium prices. The MacBook Pro and SurfaceBook models are not cheap, but sell well.

Business, media and creative types will pay more for better quality, powerful PCs. They want modern specifications, sleek designs and innovative new features. Microsoft’s latest Surface Studio fits this category. While some whinge about new MacBook Pros’ missing features, they sell in reasonable numbers.

Apple shows one way for laptop makers to succeed. It sells few computers compared with, say, HP. It isn’t among the top five PC makers by unit numbers. But Macs make Apple more than US$20 billion a year in revenue.

Moreover Apple makes a profit from computers. By some estimates it makes more profit from its small market share than some of the big guns make.

Most PC makers have seen sliding sales. Falling PC sales have not hit Apple as hard. It had one declining year in 2012, otherwise it has grown while the others decline.

Cause for optimism

Sales of high-end laptops are set to grow this year and next. The growth may be sluggish; one or two percent at best. Yet compared with the total market which is dropping at 10 percent or more, that is reason for optimism.

The other bright spot is with low-priced models. Chromebook sales are racing ahead in some parts of the world. This year they will account for 15 percent of US PC sales.

If the high-end and the low-end are growing, there’s a collapse in the middle of the market. In effect, there are now two distinct PC markets. Cheap and cheerful machines at near throw-away price or glitzy high-end models.

After five years of falling PC sales, hardware makers are learning how to cope with the disappearing middle. Until this year brands like HP and Lenovo would pump out models to fill every niche regardless of the demand. Then discount the unwanted models until stocks cleared. If you think that sounds like a recipe for losing money, you’d be right.

Today they are more selective. The big brands are more focused on selling the models with the best margins. That means moving upmarket and moving down-market, not messing with Mr Inbetween. Both HP and Lenovo have improved profits by learning which machines not to make. HP’s strategy is paying off. In the most recent quarter it saw better than expected growth of 2 percent.

It’s not much, margins are still wafer thin, but they are improving.