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IFA 2015: Lenovo ‘redefines’ tablet – again

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Lenovo has announced a range of the new products, including the PHAB Plus, which it says will redefine tablets at this year’s IFA conference in Berlin.

The Lenovo PHAB Plus is a beautifully designed premium phablet, optimized for single-hand use. Targeted at today’s millennials, the Lenovo PHAB Plus promises to eliminate the dilemma of choosing between costly smartphones with big screens and underwhelming small tablets by offering a sweet-spot 6.8-inch device with best-in-class entertainment, speedy Internet, and all-day battery life.

“With today’s tech-savvy millennial generation in mind, Lenovo is addressing the popularity of larger-screen personal devices, while acknowledging the portability struggles associated with tablet computers. The new PHAB Plus conquers these boundaries, merging the fun of a tablet with the portability of a smartphone in a stylish metallic uni-body casing. Unlike other phablets on the market, the Lenovo PHAB Plus boasts a full HD display optimized for one-hand usage and provides an unrivaled viewing and sound experience, all within an attainable and very competitive US$299 price tag,” said Jeff Meredith, General Manager and Vice President, Tablet Business Unit, Lenovo.

New ThinkPad Yoga and ThinkCentre Tiny

Lenovo announced a broad redesign of its ThinkPad Yoga and ThinkCentre portfolios. A recent Lenovo survey of more than 6,000 businesses suggested that security, mobility and reliability were amongst the top pain points today and more than a quarter plan to introduce convertible devices. The latest generation of thinner and lighter ThinkPad Yoga 260 and 460 convertibles and faster than ever ThinkCentre desktops have been designed to provide customers with solutions to their critical needs.

·         ThinkPad Yoga 260 is the world’s lightest 12.5-inch convertible notebook for ultimate mobility starting at 2.9 pounds

·         ThinkPad Yoga 260 and 460 are world’s first convertible notebooks to incorporate an LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) wireless WAN option

·         ThinkCentre M900 Tiny proves to be the most powerful desktop per cubic inch2

·         Lenovo also introduces new OneLink+ Dock and Pro WiDi adapter, designed to reduce or eliminate complex wired connections

·         New ThinkCentre desktops offer purposeful design and performance for end users with simple deployment and management tools

Lenovo Inspire PC refresh

Lenovo announced seven new desktops, laptops and tablets across its popular ideacentre and ideapad sub-brands, giving discerning shoppers multiple reasons to upgrade this holiday season. The fresh portfolio of devices include the new ideapad MIIX 700 2-in-1 tablet, new ideacentre AIO 700 desktop and five new laptops – ideapad 300 and 500 and their thinner and lighter cousins ideapad 100S, 300S and 500S.

The new ideacentre AIO 700 desktop delivers up to double the power, screen resolution and memory capacity from its three-year-old previous generation – ideal for watching videos and gaming. In addition to the performance leap, all the new devices boast state-of-the-art Lenovo design, significantly improved portability and the promise of intuitive, new technology like Windows 10 and Intel RealSense Cameras. The new trio of ideapad MIIX 700 2-in-1 tablet, ideacentre AI0 700 desktop and ideapad 500 laptop are all available with optional Intel RealSense Cameras so users can explore, discover and create new and intuitive ways to 3D game, video chat, scan and print through gesture-based computing.

The computing trifecta of Lenovo design, performance and the latest advancements in software and hardware offers consumers a completely refreshed computing experience.

·         New Lenovo design paired with Intel RealSense Cameras and Windows 10 deliver fresh PC performance

·         New ideapad MIIX 700 12-inch 2-in-1 tablet is recognizably different with a unique dual watchband hinge kickstand for those who value stylish design

·         New ideacentre AIO 700 desktop makes this holiday season twice as nice for music and movie lovers, with up to double the CPU performance, screen resolution and memory capacity than three years ago

·         New ideapad 300 and 500 laptops are thinner and lighter than three years ago – debuting with their even thinner and lighter cousins ideapad 100S, 300S and 500S for those on the move

Lenovo Y Series gaming PCs

Lenovo announced the company’s trio of new premium PCs and accessories designed exclusively for gamers: the Lenovo ideacentre Y900 and Y700 desktops and ideapad Y700 laptop with Windows 10. Crafted for the growing population of working gamers who now demand a powerful and stylish machine that can move with them through their life from day to play, the family of new Y series devices and accessories have been built from the ground up to serve mature gaming enthusiasts’ professional and social life. The new ideacentre Y900 and Y700 desktops look as distinct as their performance – an edgy design with internal and external red LEDs turns heads while inside the box includes extreme gaming performance and ample room for future upgrades. For the business traveler, the new ideapad Y700 provides the mobility of a laptop with plenty of horsepower to swap between spreadsheets and graphics-heavy game time.

·         New ideacentre Y900 and Y700 desktops offer a wide range of choice in a sleek, edgy design for busy gamers who demand hassle-free performance with Windows 10 and the latest Intel processors, but want the option to upgrade in the future.

·         New ideapad Y700 offers power and portability for gamers on-the-go, combining the latest Intel or AMD processors, discrete graphics and optional touch or Intel RealSense 3D camera (on the 15-inch laptop).

·         Five new ways to accessorize the gaming experience, including: Lenovo Y Gaming Surround Sound Headset, Lenovo Y Gaming Mechanical Keyboard, Lenovo Y Gaming Precision Mouse, Lenovo Y Gaming Active Backpack and Lenovo Y Gaming Mouse Mat.

ThinkPad and Lenovo PCs

Lenovo announced its latest portfolio of laptops and desktops specifically designed for the small and medium business. Loaded with the latest technology and stylish designs, the portfolio includes the ThinkPad E Series, the updated Lenovo M, B and E line of laptops and S series desktops including elegant all-in-ones. Small and medium businesses are looking for PC solutions to reduce IT headaches and increase efficiency and collaboration between employees in the office and on the road. They need to keep business data safe and ensure critical data protection as they look towards expanding their business information and services to the cloud.

Lenovo Entertainment Tablets

Lenovo unveiled the latest line-up of its award-winning YOGA tablets, the YOGA Tab 3 Pro and YOGA Tab 3. Designed as the ultimate video tablets, the new series offers a best-in-class multimedia experience while retaining its signature multimode design.

The series premier offering – YOGA Tab 3 Pro – boasts a built-in 70” projector and is optimized for Netflix. The YOGA Tab 3 Pro features four front-facing powerful JBL speakers to reproduce high-octane sound, and for the first time ever, a virtualized Dolby Atmos experience over built-in speakers that creates a sensation of sound moving in all three dimensions around the listener. The tablet comes loaded with a Netflix app to deliver personalized recommendations and content, right from the home screen of the tablet, in high-quality optimized HD. The YOGA Tab 3 Pro also features Dolby Digital Plus, which Netflix streams with its HD content, allowing for crisper dialogue and immersive sound on Netflix.

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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