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Asus transforms the Transformers

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ASUS was under pressure to deliver at this year’s Computex expo in Taiwan, and responded by pushing the edges of transforming notebooks once again, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

The Computex expo that goes down in Taipei, Taiwan, every June has yet to create the buzz of events like International CES in Las Vegas and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, despite being the only one of these shows that occurs in a technology heartland.

This year was no different, but it wasn’t for want of trying. And few tried harder than the hometown team, ASUS. One of the world’s biggest manufacturers of computer motherboards, it also leads the global market in hybrid ultramobile laptops. According to Gartner, it took 41 per cent of the world market in 2014. That only amounted to 3,1-million units, but it was up 263 per cent on the previous year.

As a result, the ASUS keynote address at Computex earlier this month was expected to be an important pointer to the next phase in the transformation of the laptop. Sure enough, it unveiled the Transformer Book T100HA, which takes the 2-in-1 concept to a new level of performance – and will be one of the first laptops to ship with Windows 10 pre-installed.

T100HA.0

It is both a 10.1-inch ultra-light notebook and a 8.45mm super-thin tablet , and offers 14 hours battery life to cement its mobility credentials. ASUS promises that the transformation between laptop and tablet modes is completely seamless, and that the Windows display automatically adjusts to the appropriate mode.

The device highlights how quickly ASUS is moving to reinforce its claims to the hybrid market. Two years ago, the equivalent device lasted less than 12 hours and was anything but seamless in its transformation.

That won’t be immediately relevant in South Africa, but a wide range of transforming devices from the Taiwanese company has been available on local shelves for some time. One of the more impressive, the Transformer Flipbook TP300L, was first announced at last year’s Computex, drawing applause for its innovative design. The Flipbook’s 13.3-inch screen swivels through a full 360 degrees, turning it into a large tablet, or slate, running Windows 8.1.

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That’s pretty big for a tablet, and it’s pretty heavy too, weighing in at around 1.75kg. The equivalent device from ASUS’s main competitor in this category, Lenovo, is the 1.2kg Yoga Pro.

Clearly, the intention is not for it to be used in the same mobile fashion as smaller tablets, but rather as a portable device designed to be moved from desktop to desktop – and perhaps even to tray tables in an aircraft, where economy seats no longer allow easy use of foldout laptops.

The specs are decent, with Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia GeForce 820M graphics processor, 4GB RAM and Full HD 1080p display. Depending on those specs, it could cost upward of R12 000, as much as the Yoga Pro or even the Macbook Air – still the first laptop choice in ultra-mobility.

A more serious issue is the fact that the machine is not particularly fast or responsive, meaning that the serious gamer is not going to be persuaded by the graphics chip. Battery life is good for a heavyweight laptop, at four hours, but well behind its ultra-notebook siblings.

It’s not intended to compete in that category, but any suggestion of compromised performance could have a knock-on effect across the brand.

Little wonder, then, that the pressure was on ASUS at Computex. Lenovo is breathing down its neck: it is world leader in PC sales and second in hybrid

ultramobile laptops, with 1.9-million units shipped last year – not massive, but up 331 per cent on the year before.

Such competitive pressure will ensure that we will see a continued  transformation of the laptop. Judging by Computex 2015, there is little doubt that the Transformer range will continue to be at the forefront of this transformation.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/GGadgets

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Now for hardware-as-a-service

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Integrated ICT and Infrastructure provider Vox has entered into an exclusive partnership with Go Rentals to introduce a Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) offering, which is aimed at providing local small and medium businesses (SMEs) with quick, affordable, and scalable access to a wide variety of IT infrastructure – as well as the management thereof.

“Despite an increasingly competitive business environment where every rand counts, many business owners are still buying technology-based equipment outright rather than renting it,” says Barry Kemp, Head of Managed IT at Vox. “The problem with this is that the modern device arena has grown in variety and complexity, making it more difficult to manage, and to reduce the overheads of controlling these devices.”

According to Kemp, there is a global trend being observed in businesses moving away from owning and managing IT infrastructure. This started with the move away from servers and toward cloud-based subscription services, and now organisations are looking to do the same with the remaining on-premise hardware – employees’ desktop systems.

The availability of HaaS changes the way in which local businesses consume IT, by allowing them to direct valuable capital expenditure toward the more efficient and competitive operation of their organisation, rather than spending on hardware products. 

“The rental costs are up to 50% lower than if they buy these products through traditional asset financing methods. Furthermore, using HaaS gives businesses the ability to scale up and down depending on their infrastructure requirements. Customers on a 12 month contract can return up to 10% of the devices rented, while those customers on 24 and 36 month contracts can return up to 20% of the devices – at any time during the contract,” adds Kemp.

More than just a rental

HaaS gives business access to repurposed Tier 1 hardware from vendors such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, equipped with the required specifications (processor, memory, and storage), and come installed with the latest Microsoft Windows operating system, unless an older version is specifically requested by the customer.

Kemp says: “Where HaaS is different from simply renting IT hardware is that businesses get full asset lifecycle management, such as having all company software pre-installed, flexible refresh cycles and upgrades, support and warranty management and transparent and predictable per user monthly fees.”

The ability to upgrade during the contract period means that businesses can keep pace with the latest in technology without needing to invest on depreciating equipment, while ensuring maximum productivity and efficiency for employees. Returned devices are put through a decommissioning process that ensures anonymity, certified data protection, and environmental compliance. 

Businesses further stand to benefit from Vox Care, which incorporates asset management and logistical services for customers. This includes initial delivery and setup in major centres, asset tagging of all rented items, creation, and the repair and/or replacement of faulty machines within three business days – again in the main metropolitan areas. 

Vox Care also assists in the design, testing and deployment of custom images, whereby HaaS clients can have the additional programmes they need (security, productivity tools, business software, etc) easily pre-installed along with the Windows operating system, on all their machines.

Kemp says HaaS customers can get further peace of mind by outsourcing the day to day management of their desktop environment to Vox Managed Services, as well as leverage the company’s knowledge and expertise to manage and host workstation backups to ensure business continuity.

Says Kemp: “Hardware-as-a-Service allows businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership of their hardware and ensure they only pay for what they use. Making the switch to a service model helps them take advantage of the global move in this direction, and to turn their business into a highly functional, flexible, low cost, change your mind whenever you want workplace.”

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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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