About Jean-Baptiste Su

Jean-Baptiste Su

Jean-Baptiste Su is the technology columnist for L'Expansion, the leading business publication in France. He's also the co-founder and editor of TechPulse 360, a blog at the crossroads of business and technology, exploring the innovation and companies defining the high-tech and clean-tech industries.

Jean-Baptiste started his journalistic career 18 years ago at IDG in France, first as reporter at InfoPC (PC World) and then senior editor at Le Monde Informatique (ComputerWorld). He later joined Decision Informatique, part of Groupe Tests (01 Informatique, 01net.com...) as senior editor, before heading to France's financial daily newspaper La Tribune as its local Silicon Valley correspondent.


Latest Posts by Jean-Baptiste Su

Watch O’Reilly Velocity Live!

June 13, 2011 by  

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The O’Reilly Velocity conference is back in Silicon Valley. And the only conference for web performance and operations that I know of has sold out again this year! But you still can watch it live by clicking on this link, courtesy of the organizer.

Analysts: Seagate Buys Samsung Disk Business; Is Toshiba Next?

April 19, 2011 by  

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The hard disk drive market is now down to 3 suppliers: Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba.

Seagate and Samsung announced a broad agreement this morning (April 19, 2011) that the two companies will “combine” their HDD businesses. Seagate will pay Samsung $1.38 billion, half cash and half newly-issued shares of Seagate stock, which will result in Samsung owning 9.6% of Seagate, earning Samsung a nomination for a position on Seagate’s board.

In addition, the companies entered into sourcing agreements, with Samsung supplying NAND to Seagate for SSDs and Hybrid HDDs, and Seagate supplying HDDs to Samsung for PCs, notebooks, and consumer electronics. The companies will jointly develop “enterprise storage solutions.”

The deal also involves patent cross licensing.

The companies state that this agreement broadens a strategic relationship between Seagate and Samsung that began with a joint development agreement announced in August 2010.

Seagate expressed an opinion that this event does not expect any material restructuring costs to result from this deal.

What this means to the HDD Market

The acquisition of Samsung’s HDD business by Seagate comes close on the heels of the pending merger of Hitachi’s HDD business with Western Digital. Based upon calendar Q4 2010 shipments combining Seagate and Samsung would give Seagate about 40% of the HDD market and combining Hitachi GST and Western Digital would result in Western Digital having about 48% of the HDD market. Total shipment share for the two companies should be close to 90% with the remaining balance owned by Toshiba, who finished their acquisition of Fujitsu’s HDD business in late 2009.

The price Seagate paid for Samsung’s HDD business far exceeds the value of the company’s HDD business alone. Samsung makes 2.5-inch HDDs for mobile applications and 3.5-inch HDDs for desktop applications and uses many of the drives it makes. Samsung also has an external storage business which presumably will be part of the deal. Seagate currently ships products to all three of these markets and so does not realize a significant gain in any market segment from the deal. The bulk of the payment is probably closely associated with the flash memory supply agreement between Samsung and Seagate. Seagate thus joins Apple in strategic flash memory supply contracts (in Seagate’s case to support the company’s developing enterprise SSDs as well as its hybrid HDDs which are due for a refresh soon.)

The release also states: “In connection with its strategic alliance with Samsung, Seagate expects also to strengthen its relationship with TDK Corporation/SAE Magnetics (H.K.) Ltd.” TDK/SAE is the only remaining independent HDD head supplier and Samsung was their customer. We believe that the statement implies that Seagate will continue to buy heads from TDK after the Samsung HDD business acquisition. This move will help to stabilize the remaining independent head supplier, who provides high capacity heads to Seagate and Western Digital as well as Samsung and Toshiba.

What this means to SSDs
This announcement shows that Seagate is finally taking the SSD market seriously. So far its efforts in SSDs have amounted to little more than a gesture.

For the past four years or more SSDs have been chipping away at the fringes of Seagate’s enterprise HDD market, a market that Seagate dominates with a 61% unit shipment market share. Some analysts believe that enterprise HDDs are Seagate’s only profitable business. We have wondered when Seagate would understand that SSDs pose a threat to enterprise HDDs and finally take action to participate in this important business. Unlike photo film companies (Kodak, FujiFilm, Agfa, Polaroid…), we didn’t expect Seagate to simply ignore the problem and hope that it would go away.

With a solid supply agreement with Samsung, Seagate can assure that the company will be in a leading position any time that NAND flash enters a shortage. Without such an agreement, Seagate’s currently small SSD market share and its resultant tiny level of NAND purchases would be likely to drive NAND suppliers away as they struggled to supply the needs of more significant NAND consumers. Thus Seagate may be assuming the sort of supply agreement on flash memory for enterprise and computer applications that Apple has had for consumer applications.

We have to suspect that the “enterprise storage solutions” development efforts that these companies have agreed to undertake will involve the development of enterprise SSDs and other potential alternatives to the enterprise HDD, including PCIe solid state storage devices and other new developments utilizing faster performing interfaces and networks..

Will Toshiba Survive?
Toshiba is left with about 10% of the HDD market after he Seagate/Samsung and Western Digital/Hitachi GST mergers. Thus the company is a much smaller player in the market than the two remaining larger suppliers. Toshiba’s situation is only sustainable if the company can nimbly establish viable niche markets where the other players are not participating or if it can gain some market share from Hitachi GST or Samsung that would otherwise go to Seagate or Western Digital. Past mergers indicate that this could happen but seldom has the industry hosted two mergers of this size simultaneously.

Seagate and Western Digital supply 2.5-inch mobile and enterprise HDDs and in the long run Toshiba will face increasing pressure in these markets. Assuming that the Western Digital/Hitachi GST enterprise HDD business maintains the current Hitachi GST market share Toshiba may face significant competition there as well. There is some possibility of a 5-10% share gain by Toshiba in the notebook computer market and possibly a similar share in the enterprise market resulting from the merger. Combined this could increase Toshiba’s overall market share to perhaps 15% by units at least in the short term.

One area where Toshiba does maintain a unique position is that it is the only supplier of 1.8-inch HDDs. These HDDs could be a great fit for a “fat tablet” for business applications that could include an HDD (perhaps in addition to flash memory-see HDDs and Flash Memory: A Marriage of Convenience by Coughlin Associates and Objective Analysis, 2011, www.tomcoughlin.com/techpapers.htm). These small HDDs have been used in Apple iPod Classic AV players and in ultra-mobile notebook computers but shipment numbers have been steadily declining in the last few years as mobile products have increasingly migrated to flash memory. In light of the spate of HDD mergers Toshiba might want to reconsider what it could do with this unique storage device, currently offering storage capacities as high as 320 GB.

How will OEMs Fare?
Typically prices are higher when there are fewer competitors. With the HDD makers consolidating recently from six to three makers it would be natural to expect to see less price volatility than the market has suffered in the past.

How is market concentration measured? The US Department of Justice uses the HHI or “Herfindahl-Hirschman Index”, which is simply the sum of the squares of the suppliers’ shares. A highly concentrated (and less competitive) market has an HHI of 1,800 or more. Moderate concentration is 1,000-1,800, and low concentration is below 1,000. With this acquisition both Seagate and Western Digital (with that company’s Hitachi Data Systems acquisition) will be roughly 48² + 40² + 12² = 4,004, a fact likely to create significant inquiries on the government’s side before this transaction goes through.

Why is the Market Consolidating so much?
In 2009 Objective Analysis compiled a brief: Why the DRAM Market Must Consolidate. In a nutshell this brief points out that the costs of DRAM fabrication plants are rising faster than the market is growing. The only way for a DRAM maker to afford to construct tomorrow’s plant is by increasing its share, which is most easily done by acquiring a competitor. This could be a factor in recent consolidations, but more issues appear to be involved.

The consolidation of the HDD industry is following a trend often repeated in mature technologies. As the differentiation between products in an industry is based less on technology and niche markets and more on the total cost of manufacturing the number of sustainable suppliers tends to decline. However HDDs are increasing in technology (areal density) as well as unit volume and thus the reason for consolidation is a bit different than for normal mature industries where technology is usually fairly static (such as household appliances).

On average the HDD unit growth is 15% annually and the areal density increase for HDDs will probably be in the range of 30-40% annually over the next few years. The HDD industry is different than many industries in that the costs of new HDD technology and the components needed to build the HDDs exceed the amortized cost of the factories, but the scale of product introductions of these technologies favors faster cost reductions for larger manufacturers compared with smaller manufacturers. This results in a reduction in manufacturers over time but for somewhat different reasons than the classic model for mature industries.

Analysis by Tom Coughlin of Coughlin Associates and Jim Handy from Objective Analysis, a Semiconductor Market Research company.

Filed under: news

Samsung: Facebook Has Huge Impact On Device Sales, Electronics Industry Growth

March 23, 2011 by  

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At a press event today, Samsung Electronics gave a brief overview of some of the key technologies and driving forces that the Korean company is working on these days.

To kick off the lunch event, Vice President Jim Elliott described how mobile computing has reached a key inflection point within the electronics industry.

Mobile Computing to be 10X Desktop Computing

Mobile Computing to be 10X Desktop Computing

“We’re expecting more than 10 billion units of sales of these connected devices or mobile Internet devices over the next decade. This is an order of magnitude over the desktop Internet era which helped propelled the growth of the last decade,” said the Samsung executive.

These connected devices are GPSes, laptops, tablets, all integrated seamlessly to the cloud. “There is a tremendous amount of back-end infrastructure that is needed to drive all these connected devices seamlessly as people look more and more to the cloud to power this data transfert.”

Samsung sees Facebook driving the growth of the entire electronics industry

The Impact of Facebook on the Electronics Industry Keeps Growing

Interestingly, for Samsung, Facebook is now the new killer app that is driving the whole electronics industry. The social network is having a huge impact on connected device sales as more than 200 million people are accessing it a mobile device. And according to Facebook, people that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active than non-mobile users.

“In the past, a lot of times it was when a new operating system launched that really spurred PC sales, now it’s social networking and particularly Facebook is so impactful on people’s usage patterns and daily lives and this is having a huge impact on infrastructure and device sales,” adds Elliott.

For the Samsung executive, social networks are also the driver for Internet usage, even more popular than e-mail!

Web 3.0 traffic has a huge impact on Internet traffic load

“Think about the traffic, the load impact that this has on the Internet, on the backbone to move this around. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, about 31K petabytes per month needed to drive these pictures, videos… 1 petabyte is 13.3 years of HD video.”

Analysts: Industry Impacts of Western Digital Acquisition of Hitachi Storage

March 7, 2011 by  

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On Monday March 7 Western Digital (WD) announced that the company had reached an agreement to purchase Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) for $4.3 billion in cash and common stock. The deal has already been approved by both companies’ boards and is expected to close in the third quarter assuming regulatory approval.

HGST’s parent Hitachi will retain a 10% stake in the combined company and HGST’s current CEO, Steve Milligan, will be president of the new business reporting to WD president and CEO John Coyne. The merger will impact the HDD industry including component and equipment suppliers and change the landscape for enterprise SSDs.

Biggest in HDDs

From a unit shipment perspective WD and HGST are the largest and third largest manufacturers of hard disk drives (HDDs). Today Seagate remains the revenue leader, thanks to the company’s dominance of the enterprise SSD market. The pending merger will push WD’s revenues ahead of Seagate’s.

WD is already the unit shipment leader, having surpassed Seagate’s unit shipments over a year ago. Combined unit shipments for WD and HGST account for nearly 48% of the world HDD market.

Hitachi GST was formed by the merger of IBM and Hitachi’s HDD units in 2003. After many years of losses HGST turned profitable for most of the last two years. Although the division is profitable, Hitachi was rumored to have been looking to divest itself of its HDD unit for several years. In 2010 and even in 2009 rumors reported that Hitachi was shopping for a buyer for the division with WD mentioned as one of the suitors. WD was also rumored to have been interested in Fujitsu’s HDD business before that company was acquired by Toshiba.

Impact on HDD Component and Equipment Suppliers

The merger of HGST with WD will have an impact on more than direct competitors to the two companies. Suppliers of components and capital equipment that service the two companies, and to some extent those that furnish the rest of the industry will feel the impact of the acquisition. There will be a period of uncertainty when production equipment that was on order or anticipated to be ordered by HGST and WD will be in limbo while the real needs of the combined company are determined. It is quite likely that the combined company will consolidate manufacturing capacity over time and this plus the greater potential efficiency of a combined company could reduce overall capital demand (separate from the overall unit growth in HDD and HDD components).

Capital equipment companies such as Veeco, Intevac, Xyratex and KLA-Tencor will need to pay close attention to their customers to determine how this merger will impact their businesses. Since the merger is scheduled to happen in Q3 2011 the biggest impact will be felt in the second half of 2011 and into 2012.

Fixing a Weak SSD Presence

This deal has an SSD angle as well. Both WD and HGST participate in the SSD market through different approaches, although neither has a leading market position at this time.

In 2009 WD acquired SSD maker SiliconSystems as a means of entering the SSD market. Although SiliconSystems had its sights set on the enterprise SSD market, WD’s current offerings are more strongly oriented towards embedded SSDs for the military and industry, with few offerings of any substance in the enterprise space.

Late in 2008 Hitachi signed a deal with Intel to produce SSDs that would combine the highly-reputed Intel SSD architecture with Hitachi’s enterprise HDD interfaces. Hitachi would introduce SAS and Fibre Channel SSDs, with Intel continuing to serve the SATA market. Last November Hitachi introduced the first of these products.

Assuming that the Intel/HGST agreement successfully transfers to WD, WD’s enterprise storage group will finally introduce fast SSDs into the enterprise market.

Impact of the New Company

This merger will significantly change the HDD competitive landscape by the end of 2011 when there will remain only four HDD companies with WD commanding close to half of the market. This will put pressure on the other players in the industry to look at their options, possibly driving the formation of additional alliances or mergers over the next year or two.

Of course those who follow the disk drive industry know that merged companies generally don’t retain the combined market share of the prior two companies. It remains to be seen if the larger WD will be able to retain a market share close to 50%. There are reasons to believe that the combined company will lose less market share than other merged companies have lost in the past. For one thing HGST brings WD a solid enterprise storage product line, bolstering the fledging enterprise products that WD has introduced over the last few years. Assuming that WD retains HGST’s enterprise development and support team it should be possible for the combined company to continue to participate strongly in this market segment and compete against Seagate in that company’s most profitable sector.

Not only will WD become an important force in the enterprise HDD market, but the company also looks likely to gain a potentially strong candidate in SSDs, allowing WD to boast a very broad offering from cost-leading capacity HDDs through high-speed enterprise HDDs and SSDs, addressing all speed levels of the disk drive market. With this strong product portfolio the company to compete very strongly against Seagate.

There are significant differences that will need to be overcome between HGST and WD. Although WD leads the HDD industry in cost structure by reducing their manufacturing costs and controlling materials costs, HGST suffers from a disjointed international production system which has given the company high costs. This high cost structure has made it difficult for HGST to profit in the competitive HDD business. We would expect WD to move quickly to lower HGST’s production costs and further limit the loss of HGST’s current customers to lower-priced competitors. However it may take some time to merge the HDD component and HDD production units of the two companies.

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), another Hitachi division that deals heavily with HDDs, does not appear to be impacted by this acquisition. HDS manufactures storage arrays based on HDDs from a variety of manufacturers, so the relationship with HGST is loose. HDS has done well for Hitachi and we do not believe that Hitachi is considering selling it.

In summary, this appears to be a very significant deal that should dramatically change the disk drive market while providing WD with a good number of highly complementary products.

Tom Coughlin, Coughlin Associates

Jim Handy, Objective Analysis

DEMO’11: First Look at Ten Start-Up Companies in Palm Desert

March 1, 2011 by  

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DEMO conference executive producer Matt Marshall heads the “Orientation Meeting” on Saturday Feb 26th, for the 50 or so demonstrators attending

Here are brief descriptions of our  top 10 favourite products that will be unveiled this week at the DEMO conference in Palm Springs, Calif. We’ll be posting more hands-on details and videos on them later on.

  1. Ajax – Cloud9 IDE
    Cloud9 IDE empowers Web developers to lead the revolution of Web technologies like HTML5 and JavaScript. The first-ever cloud-based integrated development environment (IDE) for JavaScript developers, supporting HTML5, Python, Ruby and PHP, Cloud9 enables Web developers to access, edit and share projects anywhere, anytime. Using this next-generation technology, developers can build, test, debug, and deploy millions of applications.
  2. Bizness Apps
    Bizness Apps is trying to make iPhone and Android apps affordable and simple for small businesses. It’s a do-it-yourself iPhone and Android app platform that allows small businesses to simultaneously create, edit, and manage iPhone and Android apps online without any programming knowledge needed.
  3. FetchFans.com
    FetchFans, a social media design application, computer generates highly interactive custom branded Facebook pages, Twitter and blog backgrounds for companies with multiple holdings to effectively and efficiently brand advertise through the social networks.
  4. InfiniWing – KloudDock
    KloudDock brings a platform for diverse functional expansion targeted for Apple laptops. With patent pending locking technology, it utilizes electrical ports on two opposite sides of the laptop for mechanical attachments. With its secure integration with Apple laptop and its slim footprint, it can provide a secure desktop docking station or a carry-on attachment. Its applications are secure locking configuration, kickstand, 3G/4G data modem, GPS, external battery, HDMI/VGA port, Ethernet port, USB hub, and so on.
  5. News360
    News360 is a new way of consuming news on the iPad. The platform collects news from more than a thousand sources, and uses semantic analysis to identify the important trends and stories throughout the day. News360 focuses on making the news real-time, local and social, by using the user’s location and social graph to tailor the news stream to specific interests.
  6. SocialReplay
    SocialReplay helps businesses investing in social media extract key strategic information through qualitative data & analytics of their Facebook Page & Twitter accounts which assists them in the formulation of their marketing programs. The analysis of social media is in its early days and somewhat limited to structured quantitative analysis. Social Replay provides qualitative information that allows individual businesses to analyze the information in ways that match their changing needs.
  7. Speaku
    SPEAKU is a Topic-Driven, Real-Time Network. We make creating a new topic like composing an email. We make discovering new topics as simple as checking an inbox. It is the quickest and easiest way to broadcast rich content that you would typically find in blogs and forums to a live global audience. Speaku is to blogs and forums what Twitter is to status updates.
  8. TrendSpottr
    TrendSpottr is a search and curation service for Twitter, Facebook and other real-time data streams. Using advanced algorithms and curation tools developed specifically for the real-time Web, TrendSpottr filters, aggregates and publishes the top trending headlines, videos, images, phrases, hashtags and places for any search term or topic of interest. TrendSpottr improves the signal-to-noise ratio on the real-time Web by intelligently discovering the most timely, relevant and trending information.
  9. v3 Systems – Stratosphere
    Stratosphere supports up to 400 virtual desktops in a 2U server. These virtual desktops are faster than traditional desktops, use 1/30th the power and cost significantly less than other virtual and traditional desktop solutions.
  10. Websense – Defensio for Facebook
    Security for the social Web that prevents Facebook page owners from attackers posting unwanted content. Protects brand reputation, image, customers and prospects from being infected on Facebook.

Orange Vallée ‘ON VoiceFeed’ Enhances iPhone’s Voicemail

February 27, 2011 by  

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A worthy Google Voice competitor?

The ON VoiceFeed app is a new iPhone service specifically developed by Orange Vallée, the innovation hub of France Telecom, that enhances exchanges with family, friends, colleagues and any contact within the phone by creating customized groups and personalized greetings.

The app also delivers unique features for converting text to voice messages. Google Voice does the reverse, from voice to text.

Here are some of its key features:

  1. Communications Modified According to Contacts and Groups. Using the ON VoiceFeed App, ON users can create personalized voicemail greetings by groups of contacts. For example, a user can inform his work colleagues, via one personalized greeting, that he is stuck in a meeting, and at the same time send a different greeting to his wife that he misses her and will be home late.
  2. Record an Absent Message. The ON VoiceFeed App can easily be adapted to the needs of each user. If a user is, for example, delayed in a meeting, and needs to record an “away” message on his voicemail system, s/he can type the message on his iPhone and the text is converted into a voice message.
  3. Enhanced visual voicemail. ON VoiceFeed makes all the functions of visual voicemail available to iPhone owners. At a glance, you can visually consult all voice messages received and select which is most important to listen to, no matter when they are received. You can also see the Facebook or Twitter status of anyone who left you a message.

Nimble Unveils New Social CRM Platform

February 27, 2011 by  

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Nimble brings social to CRM

Today Nimble Contact, a Web social CRM platform, launched as a public beta at the DEMO Spring 2011 conference in Palm Springs, Calif.

Created by Jon Ferrara, the founder of GoldMine, a pioneering SFA/CRM product, Nimble Contact integrates LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google, email contacts, calendar and conversations into one single user interface.

“The problem today is our contacts and our communications are in too many places,” said Jon Ferrara, CEO of Nimble. “Between IM, text messaging, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and email, we can’t keep track of it all. Trying to manage all of this in eight different tabs on your browser isn’t the solution. We created Nimble to solve our own needs and we’re bringing it to the world to help small businesses solve theirs.”

Nimble’s Key Features

  1. One Unified Solution — Nimble connects contacts to calendars, communications, tasks and social conversations — all in one easy-to-use interface.
  2. Social Listening — Nimble lets companies monitor the most popular social networks — LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook — from one screen.
  3. Social Engagement — Nimble’s unified inbox helps companies respond to conversations and engage prospects more quickly via email or social media networks.
  4. Works with your existing tools — Nimble synchronizes with Google Apps, including email and calendars, so users can continue to use their familiar tools.
  5. Easy to Use — Unlike more traditional CRM systems, Nimble’s sleek interface reveals the information companies need to see and hides the rest.
  6. Web-based — As a web-based solution, Nimble requires no set-up or maintenance, making it far easier to get up and running.
  7. Secure — Nimble Contact’s encrypted security and redundant servers are built to keep information safe.

Top Ten Happiest Cities to Work in the U.S. Are: (San Jose is First)

February 10, 2011 by  

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And San Francisco, Calif. comes second! The report published today by CareerBliss, an online career community, is based on an analysis from more than 200,000 independent company reviews.

While San Jose, Calif. earns the title of the Happiest City to Work, Minneapolis, Minn., takes the title as the Unhappiest City to Work. Employees in Minneapolis rated very low on all eight factors that measure job satisfaction levels.

“Some may be surprised that a smaller city like El Paso, Texas actually outranks large metropolitan areas like New York and Chicago. Our data highlights how different industries and employers create work environments that greatly affect employee happiness, and the overall temperature of the workforce within a city.”

CareerBliss picked the top fifty cities by evaluating eight factors that affect work happiness: growth opportunities, compensation, benefits, work-life balance, career advancement, senior management, job security and whether the employee would recommend the company to others.

Cities which ranked high for having happy employees include Birmingham, Ala., Memphis, Tenn., and El Paso, Texas, which all outranked well-known metropolitan areas such as Chicago, New York, and Atlanta.

The research shows that workers in cities such as Jacksonville, FL and Washington, DC are happier with job security, work-life balance, and growth opportunities.

The Top 10 Happiest Cities to Work are:

  1. San Jose, CA
  2. San Francisco, CA
  3. Jacksonville, FL
  4. Miami, FL
  5. Washington, DC
  6. Memphis, TN
  7. El Paso, TX
  8. Los Angeles, CA
  9. San Diego, CA
  10. Birmingham, AL

And the Top 10 Unhappiest:

  1. Saint Paul, MN
  2. Indianapolis, IN
  3. Omaha, NE
  4. Cleveland, OH
  5. Pittsburgh, PA
  6. Salt Lake City, UT
  7. Brooklyn, NY
  8. Tucson, AZ
  9. Portland, OR
  10. Tampa, FL

Filed under: news

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