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Africa wearables grow 66%

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) wearables growth story continues, with the latest figures from IDC showing that the market grew 66.0% year on year in Q2 2016 to total approximately 482,000 units for the quarter.

The global technology research and consulting firm’s findings indicate that shipments of basic wearables (i.e., devices that do not support third-party applications) increased 79.8% year on year in Q2 2016, while shipments of smart wearables (i.e., devices that do support third-party applications) increased 40.5% over the same period.

“Fitness trackers continue to make up much of the market’s volume and are proving popular for the value for money they offer,” says Nakul Dogra, a senior research analyst for personal computing, systems, and infrastructure solutions at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. “Price points continue to fall, which is further fueling the growth of these devices, with basic wearables accounting for 70.3% of overall MEA shipments in Q2 2016. Smart wearables are also gaining traction in the region, but uptake is not so strong as consumers don’t yet perceive much added value in opting for more expensive smart devices.”

A splurge by early adopters helped drive the initial growth for smart wearables, but IDC expects the next wave of adoption for these devices to come from value-seeking consumers or those looking to upgrade from basic wearables. “Vendors are currently undertaking efforts to improve the form factor of these devices and make them more appealing to the mass market,” says Dogra. “But there is still considerable ground to be made up in convincing more price-conscious consumers that these products have a valuable role to play in everyday life beyond fitness.”

“As with smartphones, there are numerous vendors present in the market but there is little differentiation between their products other than price,” continues Dogra. “As such, it is important for vendors to develop compelling new applications and designs for their products. For example, the launch of new products incorporated within clothing, earwear, and footwear, will help to further boost the appeal of wearables to a wider audience.”

Looking at 2016 as a whole, IDC expects the MEA wearables market to grow 33.9% year on year in unit terms. This growth will be driven by a 42.5% increase in shipments of basic wearables, while the growth for smart wearables will be a more modest 16.7%. “There is still plenty of room for the MEA wearables market to grow as penetration remains on the low side,” says Dogra. “The market has almost reached a stage where the further miniaturization of devices will become a major challenge, so the onus lies on vendors to develop new applications, increase the use of historical data to simplify the user experience, and enable interaction between multiple gadgets in order to push the market’s growth potential further.”

These are exciting times for the wearables market, with niche and mass-market introductions set to change the way we interact with technology in our day-to-day lives. To keep pace with the changes taking place in this fast-moving market, IDC has launched its Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, which assists vendors that are looking to enter this market, promote new product developments, or accelerate the growth of their wearables divisions.

The tracker includes details on products, vendors, and technology trends at both global and country levels, as well as historical market data and five-year forecasts. The report also provides valuable insights into the adoption of core wearable features, such as form factor, connectivity, sensors, operating systems, and applications, and offers invaluable assistance to tech firms looking to develop successful long-term business strategies for wearable devices.

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Personal computing devices sales still decline in MEA

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) personal computing devices (PCD) market, which is made up of desktops, notebooks, workstations, and tablets, suffered a decline of -7.3% year on year in Q2 2017, according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation (IDC).

The global technology research and consulting firm’s Quarterly PCD Tracker for Q2 2017 shows that PCD shipments fell to around 6 million units for the quarter.

“As forecast, the market followed a similar pattern to recent quarters, with the downturn primarily stemming from a decline in shipments of slate tablets and desktops,” says Fouad Charakla, IDC’s senior research manager for client devices in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa. “This was the result of desktop users increasingly switching to mobile devices such as notebooks or even refurbished notebooks, while users of slate tablets shifted to smartphones. These trends translated into year-on-year declines of -21.9% for desktops and -15.7% for slate tablets in Q2 2017, while shipments of notebooks and detachable tablets increased 11.0% and 63.3%, respectively over the same period.”

“Market sentiment in the region remained low overall, although an aggressive push from some slate tablet vendors meant the market declined much slower than expected,” continues Charakla. “At the same time, heightened competition has also made it harder for certain players to sustain their slate tablet businesses and generate profits, causing them to lose interest in the slate tablet market altogether. Despite this, slate tablets are still the most popular computing device among home users in the region.”

Looking at the region’s key markets, IDC’s research shows that when compared to Q2 2016 overall PCD shipments were down -11.4% in the UAE, -8.9% in Turkey, and -6.7% in the ‘Rest of Middle East’ sub-region (comprising Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, and Afghanistan). South Africa and Saudi Arabia bucked this trend, recording year-on-year increases of 3.5% and 9.6%, respectively.

A massive education delivery in Pakistan acted as a key driver for notebook shipments in the region overall. Similarly, the education sector was the biggest driver of detachable tablet shipments, triggered by a huge delivery in Kenya, as well as two other deliveries in Pakistan and Turkey, which enabled this category to achieve the fastest growth of all the PCD categories.

“While a component shortage prevented market players from reducing their prices too much, the average price of consumer notebooks experienced a considerable year-on-year decline in Q2 2017,” says Charakla. “This played a key role in driving demand from the consumer segment, and was reflected in the growing popularity of lower-priced notebook models.”

Looking at the PC market’s vendor rankings, each of the top five vendors maintained their respective positions compared to the previous quarter, with the top four all gaining share.

Middle East & Africa PC Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017

Brand Q2 2016 Q2 2017
HP Inc. 23.7% 27.6%
Lenovo 19.8% 21.5%
Dell 16.3% 16.7%
ASUS 8.7% 9.4%
Acer Group 5.9% 4.1%
Others 25.7% 20.7%

Although Samsung continued to lead the tablet market, the vendor rankings in the space saw quite a few changes, with Huawei catapulting itself to second place. Lenovo also climbed up a position compared to the previous quarter, causing Apple to drop to fourth place.

Middle East & Africa Tablet Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017

Brand Q2 2016 Q2 2017
Samsung 20.5% 18.9%
Huawei 11.2% 15.8%
Lenovo 12.7% 9.8%
Apple 9.1% 8.8%
Alcatel 2.9% 5.0%
Others 43.5% 41.7%

“Looking to the future, the MEA PCD market is expected to decline at a faster rate than previously forecast for 2017 as a whole,” says Charakla. “Technological shifts are playing a pivotal role in deciding the future of this market, with demand for certain products shifting to other PCD products and beyond (i.e., smartphones). Accordingly, shipments of slate tablets are expected to continue declining over the coming years as demand is cannibalized by smartphones. Meanwhile, the ongoing shift to mobile computing will see growth in the desktop market remain close to flat throughout IDC’s forecast period ending 2021. Notebook shipments will experience very slow growth beyond 2018, while detachable tablets will remain the fastest growing PCD category, eating away share from other computing devices.”

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Gazer cyber-spies exposed

ESET has released new research into the activities of the Turla cyberespionage group, and specifically a previously undocumented backdoor that has been used to spy on consulates and embassies worldwide.

ESET’s research team are the first in the world to document the advanced backdoor malware, which they have named “Gazer”, despite evidence that it has been actively deployed in targeted attacks against governments and diplomats since at least 2016.

Gazer’s success can be explained by the advanced methods it uses to spy on its intended targets, and its ability to remain persistent on infected devices, embedding itself out of sight on victim’s computers in an attempt to steal information for a long period of time.

ESET researchers have discovered that Gazer has managed to infect a number of computers around the world, with the most victims being located in Europe. Curiously, ESET’s examination of a variety of different espionage campaigns which used Gazer has identified that the main target appears to have been Southeastern Europe as well as countries in the former Soviet Union Republic.

The attacks show all the hallmarks of past campaigns launched by the Turla hacking group, namely:

  • Targeted organisations are embassies and ministries;
  • Spearphishing delivers a first-stage backdoor such as Skipper;
  • A second stealthier backdoor (Gazer in this instance, but past examples have included Carbon and Kazuar) is put in place;
  • The second-stage backdoor receives encrypted instructions from the gang via C&C servers, using compromised, kegitimate websites as a proxy.

Another notable similarity between Gazer and past creations of the Turla cyberespionage group become obvious when the malware is analysed. Gazer makes extra efforts to evade detection by changing strings within its code, randomizing markers, and wiping files securely.

In the most recent example of the Gazer backdoor malware found by ESET’s research team, clear evidence was seen that someone had modified most of its strings, and inserted phrases related to video games throughout its code.

Don’t be fooled by the sense of humour that the Turla hacking group are showing here, falling foul of computer criminals is no laughing manner.

All organisations, whether governmental, diplomatic, law enforcement, or in traditional business, need to take today’s sophisticated threats serious and adopt a layered defence to reduce the chances of a security breach.

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