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Samsung takes appliance approach to IFA

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Samsung Electronics used its IFA 2016 press conference in Berlin this week to showcase a range of home appliance, visual display and home entertainment devices.

It stayed away from smartphones and tablets, reserving those for its own Unpacked events that will probably commence with Mobile World Congrees in Barcelona in February.

It did make a foray into personal gadgetry, however, with the launch of the Gear S3 smartwatch, which brings GPS and music streaming to a more traditional round watch style.

“At IFA 2016, we want to show delegates how we are continually striving to revolutionise the Samsung experience for all our customers and partners – and across all our product lines, from television and home audio to home appliances,” said Matthew Thackrah, Deputy Managing Director at Samsung South Africa. “Everything Samsung creates is borne out of our determination to enrich peoples’ daily lives with innovative technology, based on a deep understanding of what consumers really want and need.”

During the press conference in the CityCube at Messe Berlin, Samsung reiterated its commitment to Europe, employing 14 000 people in 34 countries. European Q2 revenue is up five percent year on year, and seven out of 10 European households own a Samsung mobile phone, as well as one in three families using Samsung TVs.

Among other, Samsung announced a new partnership with MakerBot, the global leader in 3D printing, which will equip schools, colleges and museums in five European markets with 3D printers, as well as train teachers and students in the use of the technology. With more than 100 000 MakerBot printers around the world, it represents the world’s largest 3D printing community and an incredibly powerful tool inside the classroom. Samsung said that, as part of the European Commission’s Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, it is on track to deliver its pledge to support 400 000 young people by the end of 2016 – three years earlier than expected.

“Samsung’s investment to Europe is mirrored by its expanding footprint in Africa, with the company strongly focused on creating jobs and developing skills for the future,” said Thackrah. “This is being achieved through its Samsung Academies, Brand Stores, Service Centres and many other local partnerships.”

Samsung provided the following information:

The Future of Television: Redefined by Quantum Dot 

Samsung reinforced its focus on Quantum dot display technology at IFA 2016.

Samsung revealed its new Quantum dot TV, the 88-inch KS9800, offering the ultimate in picture quality, brilliance and, as with all of Samsung’s SUHD TVs, a display capable of producing up to one billion colours. Samsung now offers the largest range of SUHD TVs in Europe, with 19 available sizes from 43” up to 88”, capitalising on the limitless flexibility of Quantum dot in terms of screen size and definition. Samsung also announced the world’s first curved Quantum dot PC Monitors – the new CF791, with a 34” Ultra Wide QHD screen and the stunning new CFG70, the first curved monitor with a one millisecond moving picture response time and 144 hertz refresh rate for smooth, flawless gaming.

Samsung is the only company able to offer consumers cadmium-free Quantum Dot TVs – a point made by guest speaker, Jason Hartlove, President & CEO of Nanosys and one of the world’s top authorities on Quantum dot technology. Hartlove revealed Quantum dot is among the most stable and reliable display materials available anywhere on the planet, enabling superior performance and more environmentally-friendly displays with an extraordinary lifespan. Such is the company’s confidence in the reliability of Qantum dot, Samsung announced a new 10-year warranty for its SUHD TVs with Quantum dot display, protecting consumers against the effects of burn-in for an entire decade.

Samsung introduced its content platform, Smart Hub and announced the formation of a new premium HDR content partnership that will help realise the full potential of Quantum Dot SUHD TV. This included plans to expand Samsung’s TV Plus service – which has proven so popular in South Korea – to both the United States and Europe.

Ever mindful that great television is about amazing content as well as outstanding picture quality, Samsung said it was strengthening its collaborative relationships with global partners, such as Amazon and Netflix. Netflix in particular is expanding its range of HDR content for European customers, with film titles such as Marco Polo, The Do-Over and The Ridiculous Six. European partners including RTVE and Insight TV will also begin to offer HDR content in the second half of 2016.

Samsung also showcased the capabilities of the Samsung Smart Remote, which allows users to easily navigate all of their connected devices with one single remote control. The Smart remote is designed to auto-detect any and all external devices connected to the TV, making it simple for consumers to switch between and use them – without having to hunt around for multiple remotes.

Lastly, Samsung underlined its position as the leader in European home audio and the number one soundbar manufacturer in the region. On display were products including Samsung’s Wireless Audio 360 line-up and HW-K950 Soundbar featuring Dolby Atmos audio technology for cinematic, multi-dimensional sound. Combined with its SUHD TV, UHD Blu-ray Player and HDR content ecosystem, such a range makes Samsung the only company capable of providing the complete 4K home entertainment experience.

Redefining Home Appliances

Samsung’s drive to redefine the consumer experience goes well beyond the living room. Over the last three years, Samsung’s home appliance business has grown approximately five times faster than the rest of the industry in Europe. The success of new products such as AddWash, first revealed at IFA 2015, have made Samsung the number one premium washing machine brand in France, Poland, Italy and the UK. At IFA 2016, Samsung announced two new AddWash products – the AddWash Combo, which eliminates the need to purchase a separate dryer and the AddWash Slim, which can fit into a smaller kitchen space without compromising on load size.

Following extensive research into what European consumers really want from their kitchen, Samsung introduced three new built-in line-ups, the Contemporary Line with a new built-in refrigerator, the Black Line which uses a semi-matte black that delivers a modern, timeless look and the original Chef Collection. The new true built-in refrigerator unit from the Contemporary Line delivers a seamless fit and flawless, advanced performance thanks to innovative technologies such as No Frost, Twin Cooling PlusTM, Cool Select Zone Plus.

In addition, Samsung announced that its sensational Family Hub is coming to Europe. This top-of-the-line refrigerator features Twin Cooling Plus TM technology to maximise food freshness, as well as Precise Chef Cooling TM, which keeps temperature fluctuations within plus or minus 0.5 degrees. Family Hub also features a special ‘Chef Zone TM’, which is ideal for managing temperature-sensitive proteins. It also provides three interview cameras, which take photos that consumers can access via their mobile devices, enabling them to see what’s inside, wherever they may be.

Family Hub also features a 21.5-inch Full HD touchscreen, offering consumers a wide range of functionality. It can serve as the family’s interactive white board for notes, photos, shared calendars and artwork. Content can be uploaded directly via the touchscreen or remotely by mobile phone or tablet. Consumers can use the touch screen and online shopping app to order groceries straight from their kitchen for delivery right to their door. Samsung is partnering with a range of European online grocery shopping portals including premium Italian food provider, Eataly, to other European food delivery services such as Supermercato24 and Switzerland’s coop@home.

Family Hub will give European customers a chance to cook with the masters, via the Club des Chefs App. Straight from the Family Hub screen, Club des Chefs offers professional cooking tips through text and video advice. Being able to watch world-class culinary experts at work on the upper half of the screen while being talked through a recipe on the lower half is an excellent example of how Samsung is redefining the kitchen experience.

“IFA has always provided a wonderful opportunity for Samsung to showcase its latest technologies, with 2016 being no different,” said Thackrah. “The innovative new offerings on show at this event, both in the TV and large appliance space, indicate that Samsung takes both the present and future of technology extremely seriously. The appliances on display at IFA represent Samsung at its best and offer a window into the amazing technologies that South Africa can expect to experience in the near future.”

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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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