Album sales hit historic low, falling below four million sold in week >> Rolling Stone
The music industry has struggled in recent years as consumers have shifted from physical CDs to MP3s, but even the digital side has been hit hard in 2014: Digital album sales are down 11.7% for the year, and à la carte downloads are down another 12.8% according to Billboard. Illegal downloading has no doubt eroded much of those digital sales, but it’s the emergence of legal streaming sites like Spotify and Pandora that has also chipped away at overall sales. Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” had 544,000 digital sales this week partly because the track isn’t available on Spotify, forcing fans to download the song (or watch it on YouTube, where it has already accrued 46m views).
Xiaomi continues as China’s number one manufacturer >> Kantar Worldpanel
Dominic Sunnebo, Kantar’s strategic insight director:
“Considering the success of rapidly growing local brands in the Chinese market, it will be only a question of time before they seek further expansion internationally in a similar way to Huawei, and more recently Xiaomi”. The same success however is not shared by all local brands such as ZTE, Lenovo and Oppo who have seen their shares come under real pressure recently.
Android has been instrumental to the success of Chinese brands, and also for smaller local European brands such as Wiko, which have helped grow Android’s market leading share in Europe to 75.1%. [Across the five largest economies, Germany, UK, France, Italy, and Spain] Apple still retains second place with a 14.5% share of the market, while Windows takes third, accounting for 8.5%.
In Great Britain, Samsung’s share of the market has been boosted from 32% to 36% compared with the same time last year. Samsung’s success is mainly thanks to its new flagship handset – the Samsung Galaxy S5 – performing strongly. The Galaxy S5 was the best selling model in the UK in July, taking 11.5% of handset sales.
Samsung’a Galaxy S5 has been notably successful in attracting former customers of Apple and HTC, Kantar says.
Microsoft confirms 1,050 Finnish jobs to go as union negotiations end >> Yle Uutiset
unions and employers’ groups sat down at the end of July for a series of negotiations which have now ended, paving the way for many of Microsoft’s previously announced plans to go ahead.
Under the measures, a former Nokia research and development centre in Oulu will close, with further details of reductions in other areas to be announced at a later date.
Microsoft said they intend to carry out the majority of the reductions by the end of the year.
Meanwhile the firm announced that its mobile phone handset development operations would be concentrated in Salo and Tampere, with the Salo plant focusing on the higher-end Lumia devices, while the Tampere plant will work on cheaper models in the Lumia range and basic handsets.
Microsoft claims biggest white spaces trial in world >> Rethink Wireless
Only about 14% of the Namibian population is using the internet, according to ITU estimates, and the MyDigitalBridge Foundation aims to increase this and, as chairman Hylton Villet put it, to “facilitate appropriate private-public sector initiatives to ensure the underserved and unserved communities in Namibia are included in the technology landscape”.
The project comes under the auspices of Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative, which launched in February 2013. “Internet access is a fundamental pillar in Africa’s leap forward towards a sustainable knowledge economy,” commented the firm’s general manager for Africa initiatives, Fernando de Sousa, in a statement.
IDC lowers tablet projections for 2014 as demand in mature markets levels off >> IDC
IDC anticipates that price pressure on tablets with smaller screen sizes (less than 8 inches) and evolving tablet usage in emerging markets will fuel that unit growth. While average selling prices (ASPs) are expected to stabilize at US$373 in mature markets in 2014 due to the shift to larger screens and cellular-enabled tablets, ASPs in the rest of the world will decrease to US$302, representing an annual decline of 10%. As an illustration of evolving tablet usage, shipments of tablets featuring a built-in option of voice calling over cellular networks in the Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan)(APeJ) region reached 25% this quarter, representing annual growth of 60%. This trend suggests that end users in this region are looking for a single device that can meet their needs in terms of voice communication and media consumption, and for some that single device is a tablet and not a smartphone.
“Driven primarily by small devices, we expect the rest of the world to account for the majority of shipments in the years to come,” said Jitesh Ubrani, Senior Research Analyst for the Worldwide Tablet Tracker. “But in terms of dollars spent, medium- to large-sized devices in North America and Western Europe will still produce significant revenues.”
40% of US adults already have a tablet, according to Pew Internet. The next 50% might take slightly longer than four years to get one.
MSN Messenger is shutting down after 15 years of memories >> The Verge
Microsoft’s MSN Messenger, or Windows Live Messenger as it’s now known, will be fully retired on October 31st. The software maker originally announced its plans to shift users over to Skype last year, but Microsoft kept the service running in China. After October 31st Chinese Messenger users will need to use Skype, bringing an end to 15 years of the service.
Why some privacy apps get blocked from the Android Play store >> WSJ Digits blog
Google Tuesday removed a smartphone app called “Disconnect Mobile” from its Android Play store because it violated a policy prohibiting software that interferes with other apps.
Interference was precisely the point of Disconnect Mobile, a privacy tool aimed at stopping other apps from collecting data on users. In the six days it was available in Google’s store, it was downloaded more than 5,000 times.
Disconnect, a San Francisco startup that spent a year and $300,000 to develop the app, says it was careful to build its product according to Google’s rules, but that the policies are so vague that Google could, in essence, ban any app in its store.
“It’s like a Kafka novel – you’re getting kicked out or arrested for reasons you don’t even know,” says Casey Oppenheim, Disconnect’s co-founder.
Google has banned similar ad-blocking apps before because they, too, could interfere with other apps. “When we were kicked out, virtually every other ad blocker was kicked out as well,” said Ben Williams a spokesman for Eyeo, maker of Adblock Plus, which was removed from the Play store in March 2013.
Google declined to comment on the removal of Disconnect and other privacy apps. “Our policies are designed to provide a great experience for users and developers. That’s why we remove apps from Google Play that violate those policies,” a Google spokeswoman said.
A failed experiment: how LG screwed up its webOS acquisition >> Gigaom
[The Consumer Electronics Show] CES was approaching quickly, and LG’s engineers [in Korea] ran out of time trying to make their complicated interface work, so the decision was made to go with the webOS launcher instead in order to have anything up and running at all.
“We got lucky,” said one member of the original webOS team, who like others in this story declined to be identified by name.
I’ve been told that this anecdote was symptomatic of many of the struggles the webOS team was facing across all parts of its operation, including engineering. Despite repeated requests, LG never hired more engineers for the Silicon Valley group. Instead, it put them at the mercy of engineers in Korea who were beholden to their local management, and frequently built features that the webOS team didn’t ask for, or worse, had long fought against.
On the engineering side, the webOS team also struggled with a culture clash of sorts that pitted company politics against its attempt to simplify the company’s smart TV platform. Sources told me that LG had a policy in place to reward managers with bonuses or even promotions if their features were part of the final product. The result was a constant feature bloat, as everyone tried to add on one more thing.