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EMEA PC sales keep falling

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The Middle East and Africa (MEA) PC market experienced a 13.3% year-on-year decline in shipments in the second quarter of 2016 to total 2.9 million units, according IDC.

While this is a continuation of a long-running tend, the overall decline seen in Q2 2016 was the slowest in the past five quarters. When segmenting the market, notebook shipments fell 11.4% to total 1.7 million units, while desktops suffered a sharper decline of 15.7% to total 1.2 million units.

“The speed of the market’s slump was slowed by the growth seen in countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia,” says Fouad Charakla, senior research manager personal computing, systems, and infrastructure solutions at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. “But some key markets experienced significant declines, with Nigeria’s shipments suffering the biggest fall at 63.4% year on year, while the Saudi PC market almost halved in size. Other key markets to experience notable declines included the Rest of Middle East sub-region (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, and Afghanistan) and the smaller Gulf markets (Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar). The reasons for these declines vary from country to country but include political instability, currency issues and fluctuations, security concerns, low oil prices, and high levels of inflation.”

Another key reason for the overall decline was a significant slowdown in consumer demand, caused primarily by the ongoing shift away from PCs towards tablets and smartphones. This shift is particularly pronounced in the consumer segment, although home users continued to account for the majority of PC demand in the region.

The market continued to see some consolidation in terms of vendor share, with the top five players combined gaining share both quarter on quarter and year on year. Indeed, the top three vendors – HP Inc., Lenovo, and Dell – accounted for over 60% of overall PC market share in Q2 2016, and over 70% of demand stemming from the commercial segment. Notebook vendor Toshiba has all but exited the region’s PC market, with the vendor recording only a few shipments in just one country during the quarter.

Despite losing market share from Q1 2016, HP Inc. was once again the region’s leading PC vendor by a significant margin, courtesy of its strong distribution and channel network. Lenovo retained its position at number two, dominating the consumer segment with its strong presence in the retail space. Dell ranked third, experiencing notable growth within both the corporate and SMB segments, while fourth-placed ASUS was the only player among the top five to increase its shipments year on year. The vendor continues to focus on the consumer segment, which is where it experienced gains. Acer suffered the sharpest decline of the leading vendors, after suffering intense competition in the consumer space.

“Demand in the MEA PC market will continue to be inhibited by a variety of factors over the coming quarters,” says Charakla. “However, the market will decline at a slower rate than previously experienced. It is worth noting that IDC’s forecast for Turkey, the single biggest market in the region, has been revised significantly downwards for the second half of 2016 due to the insecurity and instability that has followed July’s failed coup attempt. Post 2016, the MEA PC market will likely return to a slow growth trend as PC penetration in certain parts of the region is still relatively low and we expect IT adoption in general to continue increasing steadily.”

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Personal computing devices sales still decline in MEA

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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

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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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