NPD: U.S. Windows Device Sales Down 21% On Last Year; Windows 8 Tablet Sales “Almost Non-Existent”

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Microsoft earlier this week made a point of noting that there have been 40 million downloads of Windows 8 since it launched a month ago, putting it ahead of where Windows 7 was at the same point in its sales cycle. But according to figures out today from NPD, in the midst of an overall slowdown in PC sales, this is not translating into robust hardware sales in the influential U.S. market.

U.S. sales of Windows devices in the last month are down by 21% compared to the same period a year ago, with Windows-powered notebooks — generally in decline since the rise of tablets and smartphones — down by 24%. Desktop devices were down, too, but less, at 9%.

It gets worse. Microsoft has make a big bet on the touchscreen and tablets with Windows 8, but so far, NPD’s Stephen Baker says that Windows 8 tablet sales “have been almost non-existent.” Unit sales, he says, have been less than 1% of all Windows 8 device sales to date. The caveat is that NPD’s numbers do not include sales of Microsot’s own tablet, the Surface. (We are contacting Baker at NPD to see if he can give more detail on how those are selling and why they have been left out.)

So do these numbers indicate that — despite the record-breaking sales we’ve seen so far for online shopping this holiday season, which often gives an annual boost to the consumer electronics industry — Microsoft has a turkey on its hands in the form of Windows 8? Not exactly, says NPD. The problems could be just as attributable to a sluggish market at this point.

“After just four weeks on the market, it’s still early to place blame on Windows 8 for the ongoing weakness in the PC market,” writes Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD. “We still have the whole holiday selling season ahead of us, but clearly Windows 8 did not prove to be the impetus for a sales turnaround some had hoped for.”

There are still devices being sold with earlier versions of Windows, and NPD says that since launch Windows 8 hasn’t been performing as well against legacy equipment, compared to the same period in the Windows 7 sales cycle. It says 58% of Windows devices sold are loaded with Windows 8, versu 83% powered by Windows 7 one month after its launch.

“The bad Back-to-School period left a lot of inventory in the channel,” Baker explains.

Silver lining: hybrid devices — notebooks with touchscreens, such as the Asus Transformer, pictured — seemed to be doing alright. Yes, they accounted for just 6% of notebook sales, but with an average price of $ 867 (compared to $ 433 across all Windows devices) they show that there is at least some appetite for premium products, an area where Windows OEMs traditionally compete against Apple.


TechCrunch » Gadgets

Zapstreak Goes Global With Public SDK Launch For Its AirPlay For Android Solution

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Poznan, Poland-based startup Zapstreak has just brought its AirPlay-style media streaming solution for Android out of beta, making the SDK it provides available to developers worldwide after a six-month extended testing period. The company’s tech allows Android developers to build music, video or picture-streaming right into their app. Because the tech is built on the DLNA standard, it doesn’t require devs to worry about additional hardware capabilities in consumer devices, and it should work out-of-the-box with a variety of existing TVs, receivers and other home AV equipment.

DLNA is built in to most connected TVs on the market, and it also works with audio-only devices like stereo receivers and even some game consoles (Xbox 360 and PS3 both support DLNA streaming). Developers can build in support for DLNA streaming on their own, but Zapstreak’s SDK is designed to make things much easier, taking away additional work and development costs and giving devs a plug-and-play solution they can integrate easily. Ease of use was what Zapstreak beta partners musiXmatch and video2brain cited as key to their decision to use Zapstreak as their means of providing DLNA access through their apps.

Back when Zapstreak debuted its product in April, founder Stefan Bielau explained how it originally wanted to build just a single app for streaming media, but recognized that there was a clear gap in the Android ecosystem with this type of tech, one which Apple was actively expanding on its own platform. Apple brought expanded AirPlay capabilities to the iPad first with full system mirroring, a feature which later also made it to iPhone devices. AirPlay video and desktop streaming is now also available from Mac OS X computers, features which alone make the Apple TV an attractive purchase to users heavily engaged in the Apple hardware and software ecosystem.

But times have changed. In the ensuing six months, Google has introduced and revoked its own Android media streamer (the Nexus Q), and Google wants to build media streaming right into Android with an open AirPlay standard that will be available cross-platform, according to a recent report from GigaOm. Many Android handsets also now ship with Miracast built in, which is a Wi-Fi Alliance-certified standard manufacturers are now putting into televisions as well as smartphone hardware. Android 4.2 brings official system-level Miracast support to Google’s mobile OS.

Zapstreak is offering free access to its SDK for a month after sign up for new developers, but after that, it starts at $ 29 per month. That might be a lot to ask developers looking for a service that could soon be provided by Google for free, but DLNA has the advantage of working with existing home theatre setups, and it’s available now, not planned for the future. Zapstreak is also working on similar SDKs for both iOS and Windows developers, though there’s no firm timeline on when those will make a public appearance just yet.


TechCrunch » android

The iPhone 5 Clears Its Final Regulatory Hurdle For Launch In China

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Things seem to be on track for the iPhone 5 to meet its December release timeline in Greater China, since the device has now received approval for the final piece in the regulatory puzzle required for it to go on sale. The Wall Street Journal reports that it has now obtained its “network access” license, and the notice mentions China Telecom by name, though not a version of the phone that would work with China Unicom.

China Telecom backed up the timeline proposed by Apple CEO Tim Cook during a conference call earlier this month, saying at an event that the phone would arrive on its network by early December at the latest. At the time, China Unicom did indeed express skepticism about when exactly the phone would be hitting its network, suggesting it was all in the hands of regulators at that point. If China Telecom has an exclusive head start on iPhone 5, it could attract away some subscribers hungry for the device.

People are interested in watching the iPhone 5′s progress in China because there’s a feeling that the company would be better served by getting its devices to market in that country as quickly as possible among analysts. Rival devices from Android handset makers are said to be growing in market share, according to recent info from Gartner, as consumers wait on the iPhone (or give up waiting) in order to get the latest model.

Generally, devices go on sale in China within a few weeks of receiving this final regulatory approval. Apple may do its best to hasten the device out the door, however, but that could depend on its manufacturing capacity. A big reason why it often waits so long to enter China is ensuring it has sufficient stock to cover other markets first: shortages meant the wait for iPhone 5 in its original markets was long until very recently, with shipping times recently improving to just one week in the U.S.


TechCrunch » Gadgets

Millennial: Apple Still Leads Samsung In Overall Impressions, But Android Dominates iOS With 52% Share

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Leading mobile ad network Millennial Media today released ist Q3 Mobile Mix report, and it would appear that Apple has kept its lead as top manufacturer on the platform, with the top device being the iPhone. However, Apple didn’t see a drastic spike in mobile ad impressions with the release of the iPhone 5, as was expected.

Apple accounted for 31.45 percent of overall device impressions, up from 31.38% in Q2, and the iPhone the number one device on the platform with 16.04 percent of impressions, up from 15.84 last quarter.

Samsung took the second place going from 21.9 percent in Q2 to 24.5 percent this quarter, showing steady growth. The Galaxy S line overtook the BlackBerry Curve to nab second place behind the iPhone, with 4.9 percent of overall impressions.

Despite the iPhone 5′s failure to spike impressions, Apple has maintained its lead over Samsung in the hardware realm, but the story of software is very different. Google’s Android operating system accounted for 52 percent of total impressions (vs. 46 percent in Q2), as opposed to Apple’s 34 percent piece of the pie.

In related news, more impressions are coming from non-phone connected devices like tablets and ereaders, with 20 percent of all impressions coming from the like, up 6 percentage points from the same time last year.

iOS 6 did generate 1200 percent greater volume of impressions than was the case with the launch of iOS 5, but that hasn’t stopped the steady growth of Android as it chips away at once-dominant platforms like RIM’s BlackBerry OS.

Click to view slideshow.


TechCrunch » android

An Interview With Jeroen “Sprite_tm” Domburg, Creator Of The Tiny MAME Arcade Cabinet

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When I first saw this tiny gaming cabinet this morning, I was fascinated. Who was the creator, Sprite_tm, and why did he do such and excellent and thorough job of turning a tiny Rasberry Pi device into a little gaming cabinet? In short, how did he get inspired as a maker?

I sent him a few questions and he was kind enough to reply.

TC: I love the project. Why did you do it?

Jeroen: The intro to the article basically states that already: I had a Raspberry Pi and I wanted to get familiar to how it works. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox: need a powerful controller running a standard OS for your robot / Internet-controlled doorbell / Twitter-based death ray? Just get one of these for a few quid. Knowing how they work means I can put them to work much faster the next time, which may come in handy if I actually try to make something useful.

TC: Who are you?

J: I’m Jeroen Domburg, nickname Sprite_tm. I’m a 30-year old software/hardware guy from the east of the Netherlands. I’ve been fiddling with electronics all my life and when I studied electronic engineering, I decided my projects should get a site of their own. That site became Spritesmods.com and I’ve been adding projects to it since. In real life, I have a job as a software engineer at a broadcast equipment manufacturer.

TC: What was the most difficult part?

J: I thought it would be designing the case; I’ve never designed something to be lasercut before, and immediately trying a ‘weird’ shape instead of a cube to try it on meant I’d have to learn about quite a few things. In the end, it did take up a lot of time to make sure I got everything right, but the process itself wasn’t as complex as I thought.

The most difficult part probably was the LiIon circuitry. Not only because the design itself is tricky (some components have two or three separate functions, making it hard to not break function A when you want to modify function B) but also because LiIon-batteries have the nasty habit of going ‘boom’ when you mis-treat them. It took some time and calculation to convince myself it was actually going to work OK all the time, and even if one part doesn’t do its job, I still won’t have an explosion on my hands.

TC: How did you start hacking?
J: I don’t know why I started it, mostly because I was probably too young to remember. It’s always been a hobby of mine, even in my childhood I’ve been tearing apart stuff to see how it works. I’ve never made hacking in itself my daytime job, although I’ve always been trying to get some overlap: hacking and electronic and software engineering go well with each other ofcourse.

TC: What’s your advice for folks trying to hack their own Raspberry Pi projects?

J: Just dive into it! Raspberry Pi’s are cheap as chips, and the community supporting it isn’t half bad. So, if you have an idea, just get one, read up on whatever you’re going to need and just try to make it work.

TC: Easy for you to say. What’s your favorite arcade game?

J: From a technical point of view, I really like the vector arcade games. It’s awesome to read the engineers had to almost build their own secondary CPU from scratch to get the vectors working, not to speak of the analog mess involved. I actually built one myself – Black Widow – just to see if I could do it.

Just to play, I have a soft spot for Dragon Saber. I ran into one of those on a holiday, and fell in love with the levels and especially the music. I also like Outrun, I was addicted to the PC-version when I was young and the arcade version is even better.


TechCrunch » Gadgets