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PCs still fall in Mid-East, Africa

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) PC market experienced a mild decline of 1.8% year-on-year (Y-o-Y) in Q4 2016 to total 3.2 million units, according to IDC.

The decline stemmed from the desktop segment, as weak commercial demand saw shipments fall -10.0% Y-o-Y to total 1.2 million units for the quarter. Notebook shipments were up 3.6% to total 2 million units, driven primarily by demand from the consumer segment.

“The narrowing price gap between desktops and notebooks was one of the key factors driving this trend,” says Fouad Charakla, senior research manager for client devices at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. “The gap narrowed because the overall notebook market average street price (ASP) experienced a considerable decline, while the desktop market ASP experienced marginal growth.

“The region’s single biggest market, Turkey, experienced significant growth year on year, as vendors continued to push volumes into the market, catering to demand from year-end festivities, and companies continued to liquidate their budgets, some of which went towards IT investments. At the same time, there was a spate of government-driven initiatives aimed at triggering a positive outlook for the country’s economy, and this also helped spur PC demand.

“Other key markets, namely South Africa, the UAE and the Rest of Middle East (comprising Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, and Afghanistan), all remained close to flat, while Saudi Arabia experienced a Y-o-Y decline. With the Kingdom’s heavy dependence on oil combining with low oil prices, government spending in the country continues to be constrained, which is causing a similar spillover effect on other sectors as well.”

The top vendor rankings remained unchanged, with all top five vendors maintaining their positions from the previous quarter. The top three vendors combined, namely HP Inc, Dell, and Lenovo, accounted for almost 73% of commercial demand for PCs in the region during Q4 2016, which validates their decision to focus largely on serving the commercial segment. Conversely, the other key market players in the region remain largely focused on addressing consumer demand.

As was the case in previous quarters, the overall market share of local assemblers in the MEA region continued to contract as a growing portion of end users opted for multinational brands, with some even shifting towards refurbished PCs.

Middle East & Africa PC Market – Vendor Shares, Q4 2015 vs. Q4 2016
Vendor Q4 2015 Q4 2016
HP Inc. 25.1% 26.3%
Lenovo 19.5% 20.5%
Dell 14.5% 14.0%
ASUS 7.2% 8.7%
Acer Group 4.8% 5.7%
Others 29.0% 24.8%

Source: IDC EMEA Quarterly PC Tracker, Q4 2016

HP continued to lead the MEA PC market in Q4 2016 in terms of share, after experienced a slight increase in overall shipments. Despite suffering a decline in commercial shipments, the vendor continued to comfortably dominate the commercial segment. Lenovo led the consumer space in terms of unit share, while Dell experienced a strengthening of its position in the commercial space and a loss of traction among home users.

Taiwanese vendors Asus and Acer placed fourth and fifth, respectively, with both experiencing strong Y-o-Y growth. The most significant increases for both vendors were seen in the ‘Rest of Middle East’ market. While it features much further down the vendor rankings ladder and is growing from a small base, i-life experienced the strongest shipment growth Y-o-Y. With a sub-$200 price point on the majority of its products, the UAE-based vendor has been able to catapult itself to notable market share in the region.

“With crude oil prices not showing any signs of strong growth in the near future, PC demand in several parts of the region is expected to suffer,” says Charakla. “This will include Nigeria, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and several other Gulf countries, as well as some countries within the Rest of Middle East sub-region. Exchange-rate fluctuations and currency weaknesses continue to be another key inhibitor in several countries across the region and are expected to hinder PC demand over the coming quarters. Two of the most affected countries in this respect are Nigeria and Egypt.”

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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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