Microsoft breaks revenue record thanks to Windows 8, but is still dwarfed by Apple’s hardware hegemony

Autore: ExtremeTech

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, looking rather pleased for themselves

Hot the heels of Apple’s record breaking quarter, Microsoft (MSFT) has broken its own revenue record and raked in $ 21.5 billion in Q2 2013 (calendar Q4 2012). Revenue was only up 3% on the same period last year, though, and profits at $ 6.4 billion were actually down 4%. Apple’s profits, by comparison, were up 13.5%.

Microsoft’s earnings were almost entirely bolstered up by the Windows division, which saw revenues of $ 5.9 billion — up 24% from the same time last year.  Most of this growth obviously comes from the recent release of Windows 8, but the past year has also seen steady growth in enterprise adoption of Windows 7. The Surface RT and Pro tablets also fall under the Windows division, though Microsoft still refuses to tell us just how well — or badly — its home-grown tablets are doing.

Microsoft's Q2 2013 (Q4 2012 calendar) revenue chart/slide thing

During its earnings call, Microsoft also took the chance to fill us in on some other salient points. 60% of all Windows PCs now run Windows 7 — but, for a more complete picture (which Microsoft didn’t provide during its earnings call), Windows 8 only accounts for 3% of Windows installations. Windows Phone sales are apparently four times higher than this time last year — but again, Microsoft still doesn’t have any exact figures to share. Windows Phone falls under the Entertainment and Devices division, which saw its revenues drop to $ 3.8 billion — down 7% from the same time last year. This will be due to sales of the Xbox slowing down, and Windows Phone failing to fly off the shelves.

Wrapping up, the Business division (the Office suite) saw revenues fall 10% year-over-year to $ 5.7 billion, while Online Services grew 11% YOY to $ 869 million — good growth from a division that has historically been rather weak (Bing!) Microsoft also reiterated that it has sold 60 million Windows 8 licenses — but again, we have strong doubts about how many of those licenses are actually installed.

Windows Phone 8, Nokia Lumia 920 smartphoneAll told, Microsoft had a fairly good quarter, though it’s clear that the company is still primarily a one- or two-trick pony. If Windows 8 hadn’t been released, only one core division at Microsoft would’ve posted an increase in revenues (Server & Tools). The upcoming year will be very interesting: If Windows 8 manages to establish a beachhead in both the consumer and enterprise markets, Microsoft should be OK — if it doesn’t, then it will come down to Windows Phone and Surface to boost Microsoft’s revenues, which seems like quite a stretch.

As an interesting aside, you might find it rather amusing that the iPhone brought in roughly $ 30 billion of revenue for Apple last quarter — more than Microsoft’s entire quarterly revenue. The iPad, with revenues of around $ 15 billion, made more money for Apple than Microsoft’s Windows, Server, and Entertainment divisions combined. Now you know why Microsoft is trying to get into the hardware business.

Now read: Apple breaks revenue records again, but stock prices tumble as iPhone and iPad reach their zenith, or check out our extensive collection of Windows 8 tips and tricks

Element Sector 5 Case for iPhone 5 Review

Autore: AnandTech

Most of the AnandTech crew seems to be averse to putting cases on their phones for a variety of different reasons. I’m still of the persuasion where I want a case for everything that I’m going to carry regularly both to prevent putting scratches and and also have a resulting device form factor something that looks a bit different than the norm.

A few weeks after our iPhone 5 review posted, Element case reached out to me and offered to sample a review unit of their upcoming iPhone 5 case, the aptly named Element Sector 5. Element has been known for a while for making exotic cases that use metal instead of plastic and look like nothing you’ll see others carrying around, so when I heard about the iPhone 5 version I jumped at the opportunity. In addition, since I spent a lot of time back in the iPhone 4 and 4S days doing attenuation testing, getting to the bottom of whether this unique case detunes the antenna was particularly intriguing.

Inside the box is the case itself, a removable adhesive suede back cover, keychain mountable screw driver, a “transit EVA case” which is a hard pouch with zipper for the phone, and some rash guards for the aluminum side.

For installation, Element wants you to apply removable sticker “rash guards” which essentially prevent the anodization from chipping off of the device. In theory these are great, but not totally necessary, as the case includes a soft rubber material around its inner perimeter to prevent aluminum from touching aluminum. The Element Sector 5 wraps around the iPhone 5 and then screws together at top left to lock the phone in place. The supplied screwdriver is keychain mountable so that if you need to get your iPhone out of the case it’s handy. In practice there really shouldn’t be any need to take it out of the case unless you’re moving to a different one or have a stubborn docking station, since the SIM tray and other connectors are easily accessible on the device.

The Element Sector 5 is a completely different case than the norm, since, like I mentioned earlier, it’s made from 6061 aluminum instead of polycarbonate plastic, silicone, or some other polymer. This gives it a completely different in-hand feel than basically every other case on the market, one that’s eerily similar to the iPhone’s native aluminum characteristics. With the case on, the overall package is still surprisingly light since there’s a lot of material machined out of the sides. With the case installed, I measured a mass of 133.7 grams over the iPhone 5’s native 112 grams.

For the back there’s an adhesive sticker which in my case was suede, though there are different back materials available. Having a suede backed device is something very different from what I’m used to, and surprisingly enough works well. I haven’t picked up a lot of dirt or grime leaving the phone backside down on surfaces, and the suede feels great.

On the left side is a large cutout for accessing the vibration switch and volume buttons. They’re a little difficult to get to because of the depth of the machined groove, but still workable. At top is the power button, and beside it a groove where more material was machined out. I have no issues with the power button, it is still clicky and communicative.

The right side has a cool cantilever looking structure with a large enough gap to get to the SIM try and ejection port. I’m very grateful that Element chose to leave the SIM tray accessible since I’m constantly swapping SIMs, and making you take the whole case off to get to this would get old fast.

At bottom are cutouts for the microphone, speaker, earphone jack, and lightning connector. The lightning connector is big enough for the standard Apple USB to Lightning cable, but not quite big enough for the lightning to 30-pin or the Amazon Basics Lightning to USB cable, both of which required filing to make fit. I’m not surprised by this however since it seems as though every Apple ecosystem case I come across requires filing to make all the accessories work. The earphone jack hasn’t been a problem with my Shure SE535 cable, thankfully.

The aesthetics of the Sector 5 case are radical. You quite honestly are highly unlikely to run across someone with the same case on their iPhone 5, and as a result it’s always drawing attention when I have it on. Quite honestly the Sector 5 looks like something out of Quake rather than an iPhone case, with the aggressive geometric protrusions at the four corners, modern angular shape, and radical design. It’s definitely a bit crazy in the industrial design department as far as an iPhone case goes. I’m definitely a fan of how this makes the device look. In terms of feel, the Sector 5 is a bit sharp at times, but also is easy to get a firm hand grip on, as the bulges at the four corners make it easy to grasp onto. The Sector 5 also doesn’t make the device much thicker than it is already as a result of its design. The tradeoff is that there’s not too much front display protection beyond the supplied screen protector (which I almost always refuse to install when supplied with cases), but there is a lip so that when laid front down the device isn’t totally coplanar with the surface it rests on.

I’ve dropped the Sector 5 with the iPhone inside twice and was left only with a small deformity from the impact that is hardly visible, with no discoloration or scratching off of anodization. The case looks like it wouldn’t afford too much protection, but it does a good enough job at deflecting impacts on the sides or back, just avoid the front unless you’ve applied the screen protector.

The big question is just how much adding an aluminum case to a smartphone affects antenna gain and cellular performance. I’ll note that I’m still using the case on a daily basis when using the iPhone 5, so the short of the matter is — not a whole lot, if at all.

First, Element has included polymer links between each of the four main aluminum blocks so there’s no continuity between them, which is easy enough to verify with a multimeter. In addition the case is insulated from the aluminum exterior of the iPhone 5 with a rubber material, so there’s really no galvanic contact between case and phone. That’s a good first step to not change too much of the ground plane or inadvertently create a path between the bottom primary antenna and top secondary antenna on the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 has an RFMD RF1102 tuning block and seems to do a good job dealing with any antenna detuning that the Sector 5 might introduce. I won’t say that the Sector 5 doesn’t affect the antennas at all, adding conductors this close to the device clearly does, but the much improved tuning onboard the device seems to cope with it perfectly well and I haven’t noticed any ill effects.

101 dBm RSRP on the iPhone 5 with Incipio Dual Pro, -102 on iPhone 5 with Sector 5. I’ve done other testing where both were identical.

I compared my iPhone 5 against a few others also on AT&T LTE (Band 17) and on AT&T WCDMA (Band 2 PCS) and didn’t notice any difference in RSRP or RSCP respectively after allowing the two to stabilize. I’m impressed that there really is no difference, and in using the device a lot with the case on I haven’t noticed any difference on my mental signal map.

At $ 139.95 the Element Sector 5 definitely isn’t a normal case, nor one that’s in everybody’s price range, but if you’re looking for something that stands way out from the norm and has rugged construction I’d definitely recommend it. It’s quite a head turner.

Cisco sells Linksys to Belkin

Autore: Welcome to Fudzilla

linksys logo

Pulls out of home networking market

Cisco’s sale of Linksys has been making news ever since the company hired Barclays to help with the sales but the exact buyer was a mystery, at least until today. Belkin has apparently stepped up and struck a deal with Cisco. The deal should be finalized by March this year.

Cisco has been behind Linksys for 10 years as it bought the company back in 2003 for US $ 500 million. Earlier, Bloomberg reported that it is highly unlikely that Cisco will be getting those US $ 500 million back due to quite low margins in that part of the home network market.

Cisco has been slowly pulling out of the consumer business and is focusing on big businesses. Existing customers need not worry as Belkin announced that it will maintain the Linksys brand, offer full support for Linksys products and honor all valid warranties.

The companies did not reveal any precise details regarding the actual deal.

In Europa guida Android ma Windows Phone cresce molto


Android conserva una posizione da leader in alcuni fra i mercati mondiali considerati più “strategici”: Gran Bretagna, Cina, Spagna, Australia e Germania. I dispositivi a cuore Apple iOS, invece, si sarebbero guadagnati la palma d’oro in Paesi quali Stati Uniti e Giappone. Ad affermarlo è un recente studio elaborato da Kantar Worldpanel ComTech che si riferisce all’ultimo periodo del 2012. Secondo la società londinese, anche Microsoft, con il suo Windows Phone, avrebbe iniziato a far sentire la sua voce sul mercato dei dispositivi mobili. Kantar parla di una decisa crescita per Windows Phone in Europa, specialmente in Gran Bretagna ed in Italia. Se nel Paese anglosassone Windows Phone sarebbe riuscito a conquistare il 5,9% delle quote di mercato, il sistema operativo “made-in-Redmond” sarebbe arrivato, nel Belpaese, addirittura al 13,9%.
Gli analisti di Kantar definiscono di tutto rispetto i dati fatti registrare dal sistema operativo Microsoft: basti pensare che un anno fa, in Gran Bretagna, Windows Phone era accreditato del 2,2% mentre in Italia del 2,8%.

Dominic Sunnebo, uno dei principali analisti di Kantar, evidenzia la posizione di primo piano di Android pur facendo presente come la crescita del robottino verde tenda a rallentare, ben lontana dai numeri esponenziali fatti segnare in passato. Per quanto riguarda Windows Phone, “la crescita, pur essendo più bassa rispetto alle aspettative di Microsoft, ha permesso di guadagnare importanti quote di mercato soprattutto in Europa“, ha aggiunto Sunnebo che precisa però come le performance del sistema operativo restino ancora “poco convincenti” nei due mercati più importanti al mondo: Stati Uniti e Cina. “Imporsi in questi due mercati sarà l’obiettivo di Microsoft per il 2013“.

Apple iOS continua a primeggiare negli States con circa il 50% delle quote di mercato ed arrivando ad accaparrarsi due terzi del mercato giapponese, in continua e rapida espansione.

Per quanto riguarda i produttori di dispositivi mobili, Kantar offre dati relativi alla sola Gran Bretagna ove Samsung resta al comando con il 35%, seguita da Apple con il 32% e da Nokia al 6,2%. Numeri incoraggianti per il produttore finlandese che, rispetto all’anno scorso, avrebbe raddoppiato la sua quota di mercato.

Researchers create first non-toxic super-gel that could revolutionize medicine

Autore: ExtremeTech

Paul Kouwer/Nature

Nature tends to try to leave herself as many outs as possible. The neurotic completism of natural selection has furnished our cells with a molecular contingency plan for virtually every possible crisis. From heat to physical trauma, viral invasion to old age, our cells use an arsenal of yes-no reactions to try to feel their way blindly through a jungle of metabolic dangers. As such, biological systems tend to be open-ended, both versatile and specific. The classic example is DNA, organized by a principle so simple and powerful that we’re now using it to store huge amounts of data. A paper published this week in Nature shows researchers replicating the effects of another basic molecule, using it to create a gel with some truly astonishing possibilities.

The gel (which has, in a glaring PR oversight, not been given a catchy sci-fi name) is normally just a clear and colorless liquid, seemingly quite normal in biotech labs filled with dozens of different clear, colorless liquids. Its invention was quite accidental — part of an effort to create polymers for electronics — but researchers soon noticed that the gel thickened under heat, rather than liquefying, and that it became stiffer when stretched. When subjected to both heat and sheer force, the gel became downright rubbery, stiff and remarkably strong. This “low molar-mass gel” is the first ever to show stress stiffening without being unwieldy and toxic.

Soon enough the team reverse-engineered the reason for these odd capabilities: they had created a synthetic molecule that mimicked the structure and function of intermediate filaments in the cell. These are the the support proteins that give the cell its shape, anchor its compartments in place, and help move cells throughout the body. Heat releases long, water resistant chains from polyethylene glycol, which form bundles in attempting to escape the water. A second molecule mediates the binding of these bundles into a strong, flexible matrix. If heated to the necessary temperature, these molecules can stiffen a solution of 99.994% water until it can support its own weight.

This gives us the ability to quickly and cheaply create so-called semi-flexible polymers; gels that become stiffer as they are subjected to strain. At the extreme of their ability to hold together, the strength increases dramatically. This is a difficult property to achieve synthetically, but many biological tissues exhibit it to some extent — partly because of intermediate filaments. This gives it some immediate application in medicine, as both molecules involved here are non-toxic, and because the body works best with its own systems. A strong but flexible film of gel, applied cold as a liquid then thickened by body heat, could form wash-off bandages of exceptional resiliency. A gunshot wound might be filled entirely by a quick-gelling liquid laced with antibiotics. A cushion of soft gel injected into a worn down joint might still be able to stretch and strongly hold the bones together.

As with DNA, these synthetic filament molecules can be intentionally tuned to affect their behavior. Already researchers have used similar molecules to build scaffolds for brain repair and neuron regeneration, or even drugs that form gel matrices to resist the immune system. Inducing mechanical changes is one of the body’s oldest tricks, used to get molecules in and out of tight spots all the time, but there are a wealth of possibilities associated with this basic technique. Rather than temperature, an acid-activated gel, however, might be used to ferry drugs to certain sections of the digestive system.

In the last 30 years we’ve at least attempted to mimic nature’s creativity with DNA, but essentially no other molecule has received that sort of attention. DNA is the library of the cell, and we’re now using it to wedge open arteries and stitch together micro-lacerations. With a similarly elegant organizational principle, it remains to be seen just what uses we might find for the pillars that hold the library up.

Now read: Brain pacemaker helps treat Alzheimer’s disease

Research paper: doi:10.1038/nature11855 – “Materials science: Synthetic polymers with biological rigidity”