Chinese car sales fall for first time in more than 20 years

Trade war with US is handbrake on growth in world’s second biggest economy

Sales of cars in China have dropped for the first time in almost 30 years, a sign of the importance of ending the country’s trade dispute with the US as the world economy begins to falter.

As the US and China appeared to be edging closer to ending the trade dispute between them on Wednesday, the figures illustrate how the bitter standoff, as well as sluggish local demand, have acted as a handbrake on growth in the world’s second biggest economy.

Related: US-China trade war: is the time ripe for peace to break out? | Larry Elliott

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New Synergy Research report finds enterprise data center market is strong for now

Conventional wisdom would suggest that in 2019, the public cloud dominates and enterprise data centers are becoming an anachronism of a bygone era, but new data from Synergy Research finds that the enterprise data center market had a growth spurt last year.

In fact, Synergy reported that overall spending in enterprise infrastructure, which includes elements like servers, switches and routers and network security; grew 13 percent last year and represents a $125 billion business — not too shabby for a market that is supposedly on its deathbed.

Overall these numbers showed that market is still growing, although certainly not nearly as fast the public cloud. Synergy was kind enough to provide a separate report on the cloud market, which grew 32 percent last year to $250 billion annually.

As Synergy analyst John Dinsdale, pointed out, the private data center is not the only buyer here. A good percentage of sales is likely going to the public cloud, who are building data centers at a rapid rate these days. “In terms of applications and levels of usage, I’d characterize it more like there being a ton of growth in the overall market, but cloud is sucking up most of the growth, while enterprise or on-prem is relatively flat,” Dinsdale told TechCrunch.

 

 

Perhaps the surprising data nugget in the report is that Cisco remains the dominant vendor in this market with 23 percent share over the last four quarters. This, even as it tries to pivot to being more of a software and services vendor, spending billions on companies such as AppDynamics, Jasper Technologies and Duo Security in recent years. Yet data still shows that it still dominating in the traditional hardware sector.

Cisco remains the top vendor in the category in spite of losing a couple of percentage points in marketshare over the last year, primarily due to the fact they don’t do great in the server part of the market, which happens to be the biggest overall slice. The next vendor, HPE, is far back at just 11 percent across the six segments.

While these numbers show that companies are continuing to invest in new hardware, the growth is probably not sustainable long term. At AWS Re:invent in November, AWS president Andy Jassy pointed out that a vast majority of data remains in private data centers, but that we can expect that to begin to move more briskly to the public cloud over the next five years. And web scale companies like Amazon often don’t buy hardware off the shelf, opting to develop custom tools they can understand and configure at a highly granular level.

Jassy said that outside the US, companies are one to three years behind this trend, depending on the market, so the shift is still going on, as the much bigger growth in the public cloud numbers indicates.

Baidu Cloud launches its open-source edge computing platform

At CES, the Chinese tech giant Baidu today announced OpenEdge, its open-source edge computing platform. At its core, OpenEdge is the local package component of Baidu’s existing Intelligent Edge (BIE) commercial offering and obviously plays well with that service’s components for managing edge nodes and apps.

Because this is obviously a developer announcement, I’m not sure why Baidu decided to use CES as the venue for this release, but there can be no doubt that China’s major tech firms have become quite comfortable with open source. Companies like Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and others are often members of the Linux Foundation and its growing stable of projects, for example, and virtually ever major open-source organization now looks to China as its growth market. It’s no surprise, then, that we’re also now seeing a wider range of Chinese companies that open source their own projects.

“Edge computing is a critical component of Baidu’s ABC (AI, Big Data and Cloud Computing) strategy,” says Baidu VP and GM of Baidu Cloud Watson Yin. “By moving the compute closer to the source of the data, it greatly reduces the latency, lowers the bandwidth usage and ultimately brings real-time and immersive experiences to end users. And by providing an open source platform, we have also greatly simplified the process for developers to create their own edge computing applications.”

A company spokesperson tells us that the open-source platform will include features like data collection, message distribution and AI inference, as well as tools for syncing with the cloud.

Baidu also today announced that it has partnered with Intel to launch the BIE-AI-Box and with NXP Semiconductors to launch the BIE-AI-Board. The box is designed for in-vehicle video analysis while the board is small enough for cameras, drones, robots and similar applications.

CES 2019 coverage - TechCrunch

Microsoft’s latest Teams features take aim at shift workers

Collaboration tools tend to be geared toward workers who are sitting at a desk for much of the day, but there are plenty of shift workers, also known as first-line workers, who rarely use a computer, but still need to communicate with one another and management. Microsoft released several new features today aimed at including these workers.

In a blog post announcing the new features, Emma Williams, Microsoft corporate vice president for modern workplace verticals, wrote that there are two billion such workers. By making the product more mobile-friendly and linking to existing enterprise employee management systems, Microsoft can make Teams more relevant for shift employees.

For starters, Microsoft is making mobile Teams more flexible to meet the needs of a variety of shift worker jobs. Some might need to record and share audio messages, while others might need to share their location or access the camera. Whatever the requirements, Microsoft has started with a Firstline Worker configuration policy template, which IT can customize to meet the needs of various worker types.

The mobile tool also includes a navigation bar, which allows workers to add the tools they use most often for easy access. The idea is to make it as simple as possible to access the tools they need, given that these workers tend to be on their feet or on the move a good part of the day.

Photo: MicrosoftNext, the company has released a new API to help IT connect Teams to existing workforce management systems. The Graph API for Shifts enables first-line managers, who are responsible for setting up worker schedules, to share data between a company’s workforce management system and Teams, allowing employees to get all of their shift information in one tool. This will be available in public preview later in the quarter, according to the company.

Finally, the tool now includes a new Praise feature, designed to let managers recognize good work by their employees by issuing badges with messages like “Thank you” and “Problem solver.”

The company wants Teams to be more than a tool for knowledge workers. These new features provide a way to include workers that are sometimes left out of these kinds of collaboration tools. The new features also help Microsoft compete with a number of startups that trying to attack the same problem.

These include Crew, a startup that scored a $35 million Series C round just last month and has raised almost $60 million, and Zinc, which also takes aim at the deskless worker, and has raised $16 million, according to Crunchbase.

Whether Microsoft can appeal to both the knowledge worker and the first-line variety in the same tool remains to be seen, but these updates are clearly an effort to take on this space.