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A Galaxy of choice

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Samsung has revealed South African tablet sales figures, which are closing in on iPad numbers, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK. And that was before a new range of Samsung devices was launched last week.
Thendays of the iPad’s dominance of the tablet market are numbered. Until recently,nmore than two thirds of tablets sold across the world have been made by Apple.nThat has afforded the manufacturer the luxury of dictating the direction of thenmarket, from size to functionality to case studies of ideal uses.

Butnthat is all about to change. And the South African market offers a goodnindication of the coming shift in the balance of tablet power.

Thenlaunch of a range of new tablets in Cape Town last week, along with newnstatistics on the size of the tablet market, mark the beginning of the next bignshift.

It’snnot bad news for Apple, however: figures compiled from retailers show they havensold 205 000 iPads to South Africans since the device was launched in Apriln2010. Of those, 20 000 were sold on the “grey” market by unofficial importersnor bought on overseas trips. Since then, official distributors have sold 150n000 iPads in stores, while First National Bank alone have moved another 35 000nthrough a massively successful special offer to their own customers.

Thesenhuge volumes have stunned the market, but have also obscured the rise ofnApple’s most formidable competitor in both the smartphone and tablet market:nSamsung Electronics.

Untilnnow, most of Samsung’s sales have been left out of the tablet equation due tonlack of clarity on their numbers. MTN SA head Karel Pienaar has confirmed 100n000 tablets on their network, of which close to 40 000 are Samsung tablets.nVodacom CEO Pieter Uys has confirmed it has about 120 000 tablets on itsnnetwork, with a high proportion being iPads. However, these numbers onlyninclude 3G devices, as WiFi-only tablets are not active on mobile networks –nand these make up half the market.

Now,nSamsung has shared its tablet sales figures, and reveals that their impact onnthe market has been every bit as dramatic as Apple’s.

Theirnanswer to the iPad, the Galaxy Tab 10.1, sells around 20 000 units a month innSouth Africa. In combination with a 7-inch option, it’s coming close to totalniPad sales. According to Samsung’s Chief Operating Officer for Africa, GeorgenFerreira, they have moved 180 000 of the devices in South Africa since thenbeginning of 2011 – about the same as Apple have sold through officialnchannels. Most of Samsung’s sales have come through contracts and bundles withnthe mobile networks.

Ifnone makes a modest assumption that other brands have accounted for only anothern5 000 or so tablets (HTC, Asus and Acer have not revealed numbers), that makesnfor total tablet sales of 400 000, with Apple taking just over 50% of thenmarket and Samsung just under 50%.

Atncurrent growth rates, the half-million figure of tablets sold in South Africanwill be reached before June 2012.

Andna tipping point may well have arrived by then. At the annual Samsung AfricanForum in Cape Town last week, the Korean giants unveiled the new Galaxy Tab 2 range,nwith both 10.1” and 7” models running the new Android 4.0 operating systemncreated by Google.

Alongnwith these, Samsung also formally launched two in-between models, a 7.7” and ann8.9” tablet. If that isn’t enough of a choice, the 5.3” Galaxy Note straddlesnthe gap between the smallest tablet and the largest smartphone. At the top end,nthe 10.1 is now joined by a Galaxy Note 10.1 – a subtly different device to thenTab 10.1 in that it comes with a stylus and is geared towards artistic uses.

Andnthen, to top it all, Samsung have quietly released the Series 7 Slate PC, whichnlooks like a tablet with an accessory wireless keyboard. In reality, it is a fully-fledgednWindows computer with an 11.6” screen, but designed for both portability andnversatility. When used on the desktop, the tablet part rests in a small docknwhile you type on the keyboard or use a stylus on the touchscreen. Whenntravelling, you can use the device as a tablet computer, but with the fullnfunctionality of a Windows device.

ThenSlate will be upgraded to Windows 8 the moment Microsoft release the newnversion of their operating system – probably by October this year –  but is already evidence of the coming ofnMicrosoft to the tablet market. When the software behemoth arrives in fullnforce across other tablet brands like Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and HTC, the momentumnmay finally push Apple below 50% of the local tablet market, and eventually acrossnthe globe as well.

Ofncourse, the imminent release of the new third generation iPad, which have gone  on sale in Apple’s 10 priority markets at thensame price as the previous version, will give Apple a huge boost. And with thenprice of the iPad 2 slashed at the same time, even sales of the older modelnwill accelerate.

Clearly,nthis is a story that will still have many a twist in the plot.

* Arthur Goldstuck is editor-in-chiefnof Gadget, Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

* A more conservative total for thenSouth African tablet market was reported in memeburn last week (http://memeburn.com/2012/03/tablets-arent-taking-off-in-emerging-markets-think-again/), but these excluded updated figures fromnSamsung and Vodacom.

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Old school is history

As South Africa goes into lockdown, the quest begins for new ways of teaching and learning, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It happened so suddenly. One week schools and universities were considering their options if a “worst case scenario” forced them to shut down campuses. The next they were scrambling to adapt to an utterly changed world.

Many universities had for some time used online lectures to augment teaching, but primarily in the form of recorded lectures that could then be viewed at any time. The concept of “Moocs”, for “massive open online courses”, brought free online university courses to the world, and is now dominated by commercial offerings like Udemy and Coursera. Many traditional universities launched online offshoots as they embraced Mooc thinking.

Some schools referred their students to the likes of Khan Academy to revise or learn ideas they couldn’t grasp in class. Many embraced Google Classroom for assignments or Apple Teacher for extending lessons.

But it is hard to find any physical university or school that was fully prepared for the scale and scope of the shutdown that occurred in a wave across the world over the past month. Most scrambled to adapt their courses to a combination of live and recorded lectures and teaching sessions, but were still left floundering when practical and physical participation was required.

In South Africa, the government provided a convenient escape clause, declaring an early school holiday. It meant that those schools with the means could start devising online teaching programmes that would, with luck and a great deal of expertise, be ready when the new term was due to start.

Sadly, the vast majority of South African schools do not have that luxury: the schools themselves are not equipped for digital teaching, both due to lack of training and lack of resources, and the students simply do not have the means to learn remotely. A decade-and-a-half of dithering over wireless spectrum allocation has made sure that data costs remain too high, coverage to spotty, and technology too inaccessible, to allow for a universal digital education culture.

We cannot underestimate the challenge, now or for the future: the crisis has revealed how utterly unprepared the schooling system has been all along for the future world of work. It has also revealed how utterly essential it is to prepare for that future.

However, we do not have to blunder blindly into fumbled new models and uncertain new techniques. Numerous case studies have evolved over the years, and a vast body of best practice is available.

Read more on the next page about how difficult online education is to implement in many parts of the work, and how curricula must change.

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MTN announces ‘lifeline data’

As part of its agreement with the Competition Commission, MTN will give all customers 20MB free data every day, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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Correction: The article initially stated 20GB of free data per day, instead of 20MB. Apologies for any confusion caused.

MTN South Africa has announced the outcomes of engagements with the Competition Commission (CompCon), including 20MB of free “lifeline data” daily.

The timing of the announcement could not have been better, as the COVID-19 crisis forces millions of South Africans to stay at home. World Wide Worx has long argued that a basic allocation of free data was essential to expand Internet access in South Africa. 

With much of the country going into lockdown, access has now become a basic need, along with housing, water and electricity, as the entire school and university population is forced to turn to remote education.

MTN made the decision in response to an announcement in December 2019 by the CompCom of a Data Service Market Inquiry, which required that mobile network operators provide “lifeline data”, as well as bringing down the cost of prepaid data.

The outcome of MTN’ss engagements with the CompCom is a set of voluntary undertakings “in the form of a social compact to further address the affordability of data services for its customers”. MTN says it remains in discussion with the CompCom on the options to formalise these elective solutions.

MTN has focused on three areas of reducing the cost to communicate: the affordability of monthly prepaid bundles, lifeline data and the zero-rating of data for public benefit service websites.

Vodacom made a similar announcement on 10 March, but rather than offer lifeline data, it expanded its range of zero-rated sites.

MTN SA said it will, from April 2020, reduce the price of its monthly bundles of 1GB and below by between 25% and 50%. The 1GB monthly bundle, formerly costing R149, will decrease by 33% to R99. This is the same reduction announced by Vodacom last week.

MTN will also expand the range of zero-rated websites, which already includes schools, to include health, public universities, vocational colleges, educational resources and employment sites. As Vodacom did in announcing a catch-all zero-rated portal called Connect U, MTN announced OpenTime, which will enable free access to public benefit services.

MTN’s approach is to offer a monthly 500MB free data access to public benefit services websites every month, making allowance for up to 500 sites. While this may prove insufficient to address all the needs of remote learning, MTN went a step further by agreeing to provide lifeline data.

It will provide each of its customers with 20MB of free data daily – the equivalent of 600MB per month. The data will be accessible via its instant messaging platform, Ayoba, which currently has 500 000 customers. It is likely that the free data allowance will see an explosion of use of the service.

While this does not address the issue of smartphone users being unable to update or use apps due to not being able to afford data, it does allow them to access the world of instant messaging at no cost.

The Ayoba app is available in isiZulu, isiXhosa, English and Afrikaans and can be used on Android devices.  On 1 July, Ayoba Browsing of general websites will be made available.  The service will allow MTN customers to browse the internet on websites of their choice between midnight and 5am.

Ayoba messages sent to a feature phone, or another user without the Ayoba app, arrive at these customers as a standard SMS. The response back from an MTN customer to the smart phone arrives as an Ayoba message and the MTN customer’s text reply is also free.

MTN hastened to assure investors that this would all be good for business. It said in a statement: “While there will be pressure on MTN SA’s short-term financial performance from these initiatives, MTN believes that the reduction in pricing will be compensated over time by elasticity and customer growth, and growth in prepaid data service revenue will return in a couple of quarters.”

It also called for the swift allocation of spectrum to make free and affordable services more viable: “Radio spectrum is the digital highway upon which we depend to carry increasing mobile data at more cost-effective prices. This is acutely felt in South Africa, which has among the lowest spectrum allocation in all our MTN markets. The release of new spectrum in South Africa is urgently needed and will greatly assist our ability to service increased customer demand in a more cost-effective manner.”

MTN SA CEO Godfrey Motsa said: “MTN believes that everyone deserves the benefit of a modern connected life and that starts with connectivity.”

Click here to read about additional measures MTN is taking to address the coronavirus crisis.

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