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Blackstone Drops Dell Bid, Cites Declining PC Market

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the we-didn't-want-that-anyway dept.

Businesses 137

An anonymous reader writes "The Blackstone Group has notified Dell's board that it has ended its bid for the company after performing 'due diligence' on Dell's books. The private equity firm gave two reasons for its withdrawal in a letter to the special committee of the board reviewing privatization offers: the 'unprecedented 14 percent market decline in PC volume in the first quarter of 2013' and 'the rapidly eroding financial profile of Dell.' IBM's recently announced intention of withdrawing from the x86 server market may have also spooked investors. Blackstone was one of two outside bidders that emerged after founder Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners announced a deal to take the company private for $24.4 billion. The remaining bidders did not comment on Blackstone's withdrawal; however, the Bloomberg piece notes that Dell's original deal with Silver Lake Partners contains language preventing the latter from backing out."

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It's dead Jim (5, Funny)

tedgyz (515156) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503173)

I'm a doctor, not an investor.

Re:It's dead Jim (0)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503621)

If the rumors are true...and i really REALLY hate to say this as I fricking HATE Windows 8, but if the rumors are true? Dell and MSFT may actually be able to pull a win out of their ass, shocking yes but it looks like they really have a shot.

For those that haven't heard? Haswell based Intel Atom tablet for less than $250, rumors have it at $225, possibly even lower. Intel has a ton of leftover capacity and the Atom duals are dirt cheap to make and the new Atom is supposed to be able to do 1080P over HDMI due to the new graphics engine. MSFT of course is so desperate not to have Windows 8 go the way of Vista they have to be practically giving the OS away to get the price that low, but if they pull it off?

Honestly this thing could just explode and be the hot new thing if marketed right. All they'd have to do is sell an optional keyboard, ala the Asus Transformer, you'd have a laptop that runs all day and can run your Windows software and at the end of the day you can just pop the keyboard off and use it as a tablet. If the sub 2w power usage is true we are talking about an all day portable that can take the place of your laptop AND your tablet for less than the cost of a netbook...who wouldn't want that?

Its gonna be ironic as hell if old sweaty monkey ends up pulling a win out of his ass when it comes to windows 8, sure it won't be the "premium experience" market which he was wanting but it could really pull their asses out of the fire and give them that foot in the mobile door they have been trying so hard to get. I know that no matter how much I dislike metro I'd snatch one of those up in a heartbeat, I mean a touchscreen laptop that gets 9+ hours and when I'm just gonna be stuck somewhere i could leave the keyboard at home and have a tablet that all my stuff runs on, at less than $250 what's not to like?

Re:It's dead Jim (2)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503697)

Dell and MSFT may actually be able to pull a win out of their ass, shocking yes but it looks like they really have a shot.

A chance for Microsoft to spend too much money on a sunset business? A chance for Dell to have whatever life remains squashed by Microsoft's toxic corporate culture? Sure, they have a shot at something but I do not think it is what you think it is.

Re:It's dead Jim (-1, Troll)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504093)

You must be a socialist.

If it's a win for the next quarter, it's a win for Wall Street.

If it's a win for Wall Street, it's a win for the USA.

USA! USA! USA!

(I'll bet you voted for Obama.)

Re:It's dead Jim (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504321)

Gotta love slashdot strawmen-- if nothing else of worth can be posted, always try to make ridiculous jabs at your opponents.

Re:It's dead Jim (1)

peragrin (659227) | about a year and a half ago | (#43505779)

while I agree in concept that wasn't a straw man but an actual political position held by 50% of the country.

Fuck next year only next quarter matters.

Re:It's dead Jim (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year and a half ago | (#43506455)

So tablets are a sunset business now? Me think doth hate the company too much if you are trying to claim tablets are a sunset business. oh and FYI PCs ARE NOT GOING AWAY they simply were in a bubble from 94-07, to say its a sunset business is just as stupid as saying houses are a sunset business sense they aren't being flipped like before. the modern PC, even the cheap ones at Worst Buy, are multiple core with plenty of RAM and HDD space. I mean they are selling AMD quad laptops for just $400 and quad desktops for around $300 now...who is gonna need more than that? Very VERY few that is who.

And for the one who seems confused by the "Haswell Atom" it does not mean it is actually Haswell, it means it took a lot of its design cues from Haswell, such as its out of order processing and its GPU. The reason why they did this is obvious, Haswell is a power sipping monster so if you are wanting to build a ULV chip for the embedded and tablet markets taking some cues from a winning design just makes sense.

But it just shows how Slashdot has become another Reddit, filled to the brim with religious loonies, because if the rumor was exactly the same, word for word, but the OS was supposed to be ubuntu? The batshit brigade would be tripping over themselves to praise it. Well lucky for the rest of the planet nobody else cares about ubuntu because I'd say a tablet that gets all day battery life AND lets you run all your Windows programs, and all for less than $250? I could easily see this being the hot new device to have and I sure as hell would be in line to buy one and I fricking hate Windows 8, but all day battery life and compatibility with all my software? sign me up!

Re:It's dead Jim (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503859)

So Blackstone is out, and Icahn is capped by what he can buy? Looks like Dell could yet survive w/ the Michael Dell/Silver Lake Partners plan. I'd hate to see a leveraged buyout of Dell, which is why I do hope that Michael Dell's plan succeeds. Other companies that want to do other things w/ laptops, tablets, all-in-ones and so on are free to do so.

Re:It's dead Jim (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43504071)

There is no such thing as a Haswell-based Atom. Haswell is the code name for the upcoming desktop/laptop skew that is i3/i5/i7. Atom is the low-cost, low-power line. The new Haswell chips are low power, and can fit in fanless chassis like tablets, but they'll likely retail for $400-$800. The upcoming Atom line is very nice (22nm, out-of-order, etc.) and should find its way into $250 tablets, but their performance & power is in the ballpark of an ARM A15. Intel hopes it'll actually be a bit better than the A15 but who knows.

Re:It's dead Jim (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43504333)

You're astroturfing for a non-existent product? You think people only buy based on price? How would Dell be able to turn itself around on the basis of one product? Why isn't Dell selling Win 8 tablets already? Why isn't there a Dell smartphone? Michael Dell wants to turn Dell into a services company, even though the company has no experience in this area, yet you want them to suddenly cling to their existing business, where low price rivals are eating them alive. And nothing would stop a competitor from building a similar device.

It's amazing what the ipad can do... (0, Offtopic)

mitcheli (894743) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503179)

Just saying....

Re:It's amazing what the ipad can do... (0)

Servaas (1050156) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503455)

You're really dumb. Did I use You're correctly?

Re:It's amazing what the ipad can do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503721)

It's very absorbent.

Re:It's amazing what the ipad can do... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503959)

But sadly it simply is no replacement for a good book when one of your table legs is too short. Minus points for that.

Re:It's amazing what the ipad can do... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504107)

I disagree. The iPad box is perfect for that application.

Dude, you're getting a Dell! (1)

toolip (789009) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503195)

Easy, bring back the Dell Dude [foxnews.com]

Re:Dude, you're getting a Dell! (1)

geoskd (321194) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503315)

Easy, bring back the Dell Dude [foxnews.com]

Yeah, sure, the only problem Dell is facing is a lack of quality advertising, and an out of work actor has really managed to outsmart the board of directors.

I'm not a stock analyst, but I'll wager that the overall decline of the PC market in general, coupled with Dells complete lack of innovation in any space, is why the investors backed off. Dying companies' books have a certain smell, even if the company is showing no other outward signs of trouble.

Dell poisoned their brand (3, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503213)

Dell just makes computers out of the same Chinese parts that everyone else uses to make computers. They once had an appealing brand, which gave them an advantage over all the other people who were selling an indistinguishable product. But this is not the case anymore. The "we don't care about our exploding capacitors" fiasco has forever tied Dell to an image of a company that cuts corners on quality. Sure, they kept some deals with the corporate and education sector, but my employer is going through hardware upgrades and now we can choose a new Dell or a new iMac. I won't miss you, Dell!

Then who instead of Dell? (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503225)

Dell just makes computers out of the same Chinese parts that everyone else uses to make computers.

Then which Chinese computer maker should we patronize instead? Is Lenovo still making good laptops?

Re:Then who instead of Dell? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503289)

just buy the model you want from whoever happens to make it. they all source parts from same companies and past performance on not having exploding caps(or other quality issues) is no guarantee whatsoever that the next batch they buy is any better, as shown by dell and others. acer used to have all their hinges break from their laptops for a year, but that again could not be guessed by looking at their models prior and after those.

what I'm trying to say is that brand loyalty is just a recipe for the brand to sell you shit.

Re:Then who instead of Dell? (3, Informative)

oldlurker (2502506) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503387)

just buy the model you want from whoever happens to make it. they all source parts from same companies and past performance on not having exploding caps(or other quality issues) is no guarantee whatsoever that the next batch they buy is any better, as shown by dell and others. acer used to have all their hinges break from their laptops for a year, but that again could not be guessed by looking at their models prior and after those.

what I'm trying to say is that brand loyalty is just a recipe for the brand to sell you shit.

I agree about not having "brand loyalty", but disagree about all being the same in terms of quality. In my experience the Lenovo Thinkpads fx are certainly more consistently solidly built and have less issues than other PC laptops. A long time ago Toshiba had a similar thing going for it, but lost it. If Samsung should prove to be able to step up (they are making good attempts in their top end), I'd be happy to switch to Samsung over Lenovo, so not married to Lenovo by any means.

Even as a PC user I admit that same argument can be made for Macbooks, even if they too are just using standard PC components and Chinese production, there is a build quality difference vs the cheapest PCs.

Re:Then who instead of Dell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503423)

I'm happy with my two year old HP desktop (Pavilion Elite). The advantage of a name brand vs. a generic or DIY is that you can assume the former will do some design work and QA for overall system performance and meeting customer expectations, e.g. USB ports in the front of the unit. Whereas some of the generics might advertise great specs for a low price, but maybe those specs won't be usable because of a bottleneck or reliability problem.

Re:Then who instead of Dell? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504003)

I'm happy with my two year old HP desktop (Pavilion Elite). The advantage of a name brand vs. a generic or DIY is that you can assume the former will do some design work and QA for overall system performance and meeting customer expectations, e.g. USB ports in the front of the unit. Whereas some of the generics might advertise great specs for a low price, but maybe those specs won't be usable because of a bottleneck or reliability problem.

I think no matter what brand desktop pc you would have bought you would have ended up with usb ports in the front. as to meeting overall performance and customer expectations.. buying hp doesn't cut it. you still have to check what gpu they stuck into it or risk being totally assfucked by them. the point was that you cannot just go into a shop and "DUDE YOURE GETTING A DELL" and expect everything to be just fine - you have to buy by the model not by the brand.

Re:Then who instead of Dell? (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503515)

Lenovo is about as Chinness as Toyota is Japaneses - which means you millage will vary.

IIRC, Lenovo has it's headquarters and a good chunk of it's design team in America. I even think it has a assemble plant (not sure if it's open, being built, or just under consideration.).

Lenovo is not only Chinese but part of the party (1)

Su27K (652607) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503709)

Lenovo CEO is a deputy to the national congress of communist party.

Re:Lenovo is not only Chinese but part of the part (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503971)

Give it time, sooner or later that's gonna be true for most companies that we consider "American" today.

Re:Then who instead of Dell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503733)

Well, ASUS for example. Okay, I'm cheating. It's based in Taiwan. But given that their motherboards were in HP and Dell machines for many years and ASUS has now moved into complete laptop and desktop machines themselves, what exactly do traditional PC manufacturers like HP and Dell have to offer that justifies the slight premium their better-known brand names might demand? What value are they adding? Quality? Integration? Less crapware, maybe (nope)?

Dell and HP long ago outsourced the most technical aspects of their PC business. Any company could source practically the same components. All they're really left with is a lot of marketing and supply-chain skills, which counts for something, sure, but I expect that in 10 years they'll have about the same level of relevance as Packard-Bell [wikipedia.org] , which is still technically in business.

Re:Then who instead of Dell? (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503755)

For classic laptops and minitowers, try Gateway. I did and I'm very pleased with the value for money. I'll be a repeat customer.

Re:Then who instead of Dell? (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503881)

I wasn't trying to give advice about whose computer to buy, but making a statement about the value of Dell the company. I think they're cruising on the inertia of their past corporate deals, but apart from that, they're having to compete on price in a very low-margin market. That does not make for a good financial outlook.

If I were to advise on computer purchases, I'd say this: For desktops, buy the parts you want from Newegg and plug them together. That's a no brainer. For laptops, figure out the sort of specs you like and then look at the reviews of individual models. Every company seems to produce a few winners and many stinkers. But gone are the days when it makes sense to give buying advice that includes a computer builder brand name, unless you don't care about quality or performance per dollar.

Re:Then who instead of Dell? (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503889)

Has Acer's biz model changed over the years? They've always manufactured them there, so if we are gonna patronize Taiwanese/Chinese companies, why not just go w/ one which has had one of the longest presences in the US - good ole Acer?

Re:Then who instead of Dell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43505479)

Then which Chinese computer maker should we patronize instead?

Apple, of course. Even if you have to suffer with Windows.

Nobody else is making quality hardware.

Re:Dell poisoned their brand (5, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503749)

They once had an appealing brand, which gave them an advantage over all the other people who were selling an indistinguishable product.

The reason Dell became big was because of really good just-in-time manufacturing control.

The biggest selling point for computers back when Dell became big was the CPU and its clock speed. It was also the fastest-depreciating component of the computer. In order to get good prices you needed to buy them in bulk, but if you stockpiled them and then took six months to sell them you'd be wiped out by the depreciation (you pay $1000 for a CPU that is worth $300 in six months).

Dell did build-to-order, mail-order, and just-in-time extremely well.

Build-to-order means that you don't end up with 47 models where you end up with 10 that don't sell well and have to be sold at firesale prices. It means that each customer gets exactly the computer they want, at the lowest price possible for that computer (well, assuming they want to buy a copy of Windows and MS Works). Their very-friendly website meant that people didn't have to walk down rows of PCs at the local retailer and try to compare the 47 different models their competitors were selling.

Mail-order means that they had little warehousing/distribution, which means less PCs stuck depreciating in the pipeline between consumers and the manufacturing plant. If they didn't sell as many model 3 video cards they just didn't order that many - they didn't have 30,000 PCs with those cards sitting in stores all over the country depreciating.

Just-in-time means that the part comes in from Intel/etc the day before it gets mailed out as part of a PC, or close to it. Again, inventory is rapidly depreciating, so you don't want to sit on anything. They were able to react to changes in the market - they didn't have a stake in one model or another selling better - they could just go where the customers were. If they offered a particular model and nobody bought it they didn't lose much, because they didn't build it until somebody ordered it.

Things like this are what made Dell big. Everybody else figured out what they were doing, and the MHz war wound down making the CPU less critical and slowing down depreciation.

Note - I'm not particularly close to the PC hardware market, so if there were other factors I'm all ears.

Re:Dell poisoned their brand (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504317)

Not that I disagree with anything you said, but early Dell also had a reputation for quality in the days when the hardware/components industry hadn't consolidated as much as it has today, which parts you picked really did matter, and a lot of PCs suffered silly problems because of careless assembly. If you wanted a solid, reliable office PC, buying a Dell was about as safe a bet as you could place.

At the same time, their reputation for customer service and after-sales support might not have been anything special, but it wasn't bad either. They provided a good level of customisation earlier than many suppliers, probably because of the flexible process you mentioned.

Today, they've squandered both, with a succession of quality control problems and with lousy support and much hand-washing any time anything goes wrong. Apparently some of the equipment they make is still pretty good, when it works, but downtime can make a massive difference to the TCO for business equipment so that "when it works" is a serious drag on everything else they do, and much of what they make is nothing special anyway.

That leaves Dell is much the same position as Cisco: a big name brand that is hoping businesses will still buy their high-priced gear because of the name on the front while somehow not noticing that what's inside the box often isn't very good these days and you might find a better business relationship elsewhere as well. Unfortunately for them, the "no-one ever got fired for buying IBM" strategy doesn't really work any more, at least not for long.

Re:Dell poisoned their brand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43504843)

I always thought Dells were cheap plastic junk. But they were inexpensive and you could order direct as opposed to dealing with a HP/Compaq "reseller". I suppose the components were generally pretty standard well-supported stuff (no weird chipsets etc.)

Dell's business model was really killed by the move to laptops. Systems became much more standardized and there's less need to custom order. Plus the "hands on" feel of a laptop is so much more important. Dell's cheapness at all costs approach doesn't fly and just tainted their reputation.

Re:Dell poisoned their brand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43504935)

derp derp de herp herp

Re:Dell poisoned their brand (1)

jcr (53032) | about a year and a half ago | (#43505505)

I always thought Dells were cheap plastic junk.

That was not always the case. There was a time when their quality matched IBM and HP.

-jcr

Re:Dell poisoned their brand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43504487)

You're absolutely right about the JiT stuff - the obvious point being that this enabled them to sell stuff cheaper than the competition.
So you could get the latest stuff from Dell, cheap.

One other thing, the PCs were, well, OK in terms of quality.
This is were they dropped the ball later.

Re:Dell poisoned their brand (1)

jcr (53032) | about a year and a half ago | (#43505501)

The reason Dell became big was because of really good just-in-time manufacturing control.

I'd say that was half of it. The other half was their technical support and customer service. Back when I was using Dells for NeXTSTEP, they were one of the best vendors around.

-jcr

Companies still need PCs (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503775)

and with IBM out of the picture and Lenova making darn near the same cheap junk Dells the only one left that's big enough you can trust them not to fold and bail on warranty. Yeah, I know they're hurting, but they're a long way from dead. For those of you citing Hostess they really just folded so they could get out of paying the workers pensions. Dell's got everything in Mexico except a tiny bit of support staff that's non-Union, so that liability's a non-issue for them.

I guess what I'm saying is if you're mid sized you're options are Dell, HP or Lenova. Sure, they're interchangeable, but you're going to have to pick on. At least until Chromebooks become viable.

Re:Dell poisoned their brand (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503869)

I pretty much share this. The recent laptops that I have bought - all Dell - have a worrying issue of the touchpad, and while touchfreeze works sometimes, sometimes my work does get derailed. Part of the fault is also the more recent designs of Internet Explorer, where hitting the back button sends you to the previous page even while you're editing, instead of deleting the character immediately before the cursor. I do hope the new chromebooks are better.

Re:Dell poisoned their brand (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504341)

Id say its deserved, since they do cut corners on quality, hence the exploding capacitors.

Not many tears shed, the only thing they have that I remotely care about is their servers because theyre easier to spec and order than HP's crap.

This says it all... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503221)

The Blackstone Group has notified Dell's board that it has ended its bid for the company after performing 'due diligence' on Dell's books.

They didn't like what they saw. Dell ran that company very lean and I bet that Blackstone couldn't figure out how to get the returns they want from any investment in that company. And since PC sales growth has stagnated, they couldn't count on expanding revenues and cash flows to support an obscene amount of leverage (ie debt) that these types of firms like to burden takeovers with.

Re:This says it all... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503385)

And since PC sales growth has stagnated

No, not just the rate of growth. PC *sales* are in rapid decline, as in, fewer devices are being sold year over year, and this trend is expected to accelerate.

Quarterly Shipments Drop 14% as Windows 8 Fails to Stem Advance of iPads [wsj.com]
PC Sales in Steep Decline [forbes.com]
Intel Corp said its current-quarter revenue would decline as much as 8 percent and trimmed its 2013 capital spending plans, as personal computer sales drop due to the growing popularity of tablets and smartphones. [yahoo.com]

And about a million others. Average consumers are sick of the PC, and most of their needs can be served well by smartphones and tablets, which are much easier for them to use. Thus, that is where the market now goes. Couple that with a general dislike for Windows 8, and there's very little chance of anything but the bottom falling out, as the world shifts to mobile.

The fingers-in-ears from some quarters reminds me very well of how the 68000-based workstation community reacted to the rise of PCs back in the day: utter refusal to recognize what was happening.

Re:This says it all... (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503399)

PC *sales* are in rapid decline, as in, fewer devices are being sold year over year, and this trend is expected to accelerate.

Is it getting to the point where a substantial fraction of households will choose to own only an iPad and no PC within the next three years?

Re:This says it all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503465)

Is it getting to the point where a substantial fraction of households will choose to own only an iPad and no PC within the next three years?

Different AC here... but yes, I think it is reaching that point. For a time, people wanted both, but more and more, it's possible for many people to exist quite well without a traditional PC.

Among younger people (I'm 23 and have lots of friends in the 18-25 range) it's pretty common now to not replace PCs when they die, but go tablet-only. PCs are seen as both a pain in the ass, and as "old person tech", for your parent's generation. As voice recog gets better in the future, that's only going to accelerate.

Also, I work for a small company (75 people) that is struggling to react to this trend right now. Our market base for our software is moving more and more heavily onto iPads, and we're in a mad scramble to finish a port, before our sales fall so far on the PC that we have to lay people off. Our customers want an iPad port - it's THE number one request we get, and the number one answer when we collect market data about why they buy from our competitors instead of us.

in a word: HELL YES!!! (ok, two...) (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503493)

a year ago I bought my mom, who's NEVER used a computer in her life, an iPad 2 to be able to facetime with the kids (she has MS & traveling is getting progressively harder/less frequent) & see pictures on facebook, etc. I figured anything else she used it for would be gravy but she took to it like a duck to water & now my dad has pretty much abandoned his PC in favor of it!

I keep posting this on different threads on different sites but bottom line is the two dominant macro trends right now are that backend computing is consolidating into "the cloud" (despise term but basic premise is valid) and client/UI is going mobile (tablets & phones). unfortunately for dell & m$, they're irrelevant in both spaces (well, other than m$ patent-trolling android). they'll be around for years to come but we've clearly passed the inflection point like mainframes did in the 90s (actually, there is some irony in that one could argue that amazon, etc are the new issc/etc & that browsers/apps are the new 3270s/fat clients).

Re:This says it all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503527)

Is it getting to the point where a substantial fraction of households will choose to own only an iPad and no PC within the next three years?

Yep. By some surveys, up to 25% of PC-owning households say they do not plan to replace their PC with another PC when it dies, but to move to tablets only. And those surveys were done in 2012 - it's expected to have increased by now.

Social computing, simple to use UIs and computing experiences, relative lack of malware on more locked down devices, it's all shifting the culture away from PCs.

Re:This says it all... (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503783)

I'm wondering if that will balance out though once everybody's first tablet becomes obsolete.

Right now you can buy a PC and get 5-10 years out of it if you don't play games and such. Tablets are largely designed to be obsolete in 2-3 years, and they aren't cheap (the cheap ones are practically obsolete while still on the shelves).

Honestly, I'm not sure if that is going to matter to the average consumer or not. However, when people decide to not upgrade their PC and get a tablet, and find that in 3 years they're still using that non-upgraded PC but the tablet doesn't run the stuff they need to run, they might think twice about upgrading the tablet.

Re:This says it all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503953)

Maybe... but thing is, most people don't upgrade PCs even now. Most PC sales are notebooks or laptops. Desktops still have a big presence in the workplace, but among Joe Sixpack, not as much any more. And notebooks are usually pretty hard to upgrade beyond maybe a few simple things like adding more memory or a solid state drive.

Re:This says it all... (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504201)

Most PC sales are notebooks or laptops.

But one can still get a longer useful life out of a laptop PC than out of a tablet.

Re:This says it all... (2)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504473)

I wasn't talking about upgrades in the sense of replacing components, but outright replacement. My point was just that PCs have a lot more longevity.

A PC from 2002 is still pretty usable today, and can run XP with full security updates. I suspect it would run Win7 reasonably well, though it would be getting a bit outdated. However, we're talking about something 11 years old.

Contrast that with a 4-year-old Android phone or even iPhone. An iPhone from that era stopped getting security updates about a year ago most likely, and an Android phone from that time stopped getting updates several years ago, assuming it ever got them.

Unless you really check facebook from your lap on the sofa, the PC still offers a LOT of value - you can spend $300 and make it last a decade - not $400 every other year.

Facebook on the sofa (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43505789)

Unless you really check facebook from your lap on the sofa

My aunt does exactly that on her iPad 2.

Re:This says it all... (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504509)

I don't believe that PCs will really die out in the home or that tablets will somehow take over the entire space. They're different tools for different jobs, divided sharply by whether or not consuming information or creating new material is the priority, and by whether depth of capabilities or simplicity of operation is more important. Plenty of people will still want to do jobs where PCs are better.

What the current situation does show is that a lot of things that have sucked about PCs since forever are finally becoming the commercial liabilities they always should have been now that there's genuine competition. Poor usability, poor security, and bloated, overcomplicated software are not your friends whoever you're working with, but particularly not if you're working with non-expert users who don't care about operating systems or browsers or office suites and just want to read the news, buy stuff on-line, or catch up with friends and family.

Re:This says it all... (2)

D1G1T (1136467) | about a year and a half ago | (#43505917)

I don't believe that PCs will really die out in the home or that tablets will somehow take over the entire space. They're different tools for different jobs,

This is true except that the vast majority of home users are just consumers. Google, Facebook, banking, simple photo editing are all they do. Those PC's are going away to be replaced by tablets. Even if that's only 50% of homes, that's a HUGE loss in sales.

Re:This says it all... (1)

gtirloni (1531285) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504827)

So Microsoft is right in focusing Windows 8 on the tablet market? Just making sure I understand /. because depending on the day it goes like this "Microsoft screwed Windows with all the touch stuff" and "Tablets and touchscreens are the future, the PC will die".

Re:This says it all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503659)

PC *sales* are in rapid decline, as in, fewer devices are being sold year over year, and this trend is expected to accelerate.

Is it getting to the point where a substantial fraction of households will choose to own only an iPad and no PC within the next three years?

3 years? That's a random and irrelevant restriction to apply. Tablets are less hassle for the same functionality a laptop will provide. Desktops for the most part has been out of the running for quite some time anyways.
Tablets provide the same basic stuff an average user will need: access to the internet, the ability to take the device with them to have [techie-type-guy-they-know] fix it for them, the ability to plug in a keyboard to write shit, play angry birds.
To the average consumer there are no drawbacks to picking up a new tablet compared to picking up a replacement laptop/desktop. There is however much to gain, notably a touch screen with an interface that's easier to use.

Bringing programming homework home (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504245)

3 years? That's a random and irrelevant restriction to apply.

I chose three years to be the median time between paid upgrades to the Windows OS. Among Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, all except Windows XP were replaced about three years in.

Tablets are less hassle for the same functionality a laptop will provide.

Johnny is in a programming class in high school, and he brings homework home, and it happens to be in a language other than Lua [twolivesleft.com] or Python [pythonforios.com] . Can he complete his assignment on an iPad?

In addition, many video streaming sites have been known to block users of tablets. Hulu's free tier is PC-only. Amazon video plays on PCs but not on any tablet other than a Kindle or an iPad. Vimeo requires (or required?) the uploader to have a Plus subscription or the videos won't be playable on tablet operating systems. Viewing any other video produces a message to the effect "Click here to remind yourself to watch this video on a computer." I've found that a lot of videos on YouTube are blocked on mobile as well, with a similar message.

There is however much to gain, notably a touch screen

A touch screen gets fingerprints all over the screen, and a capacitive touch screen alone is far coarser than a mouse or even a trackpad. A touch screen with a fine-pointed stylus like some recent Samsung tablets might work, but let me know when the next iPad supports that.

Re:Bringing programming homework home (2)

jbburks (853501) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504655)

Our model we've discussed at work is that PCs are for content creators and tablets are for content consumers.

Very few people program or develop complex spreadsheets on tablets. Those users typically use laptops or desktops (whether MacOS, Windows or Linux).

People on tablets review spreadsheets, read web pages and read/reply to email.

In my experience, very little content is created on tablets.

That may mean that 90% of the users will be fine with a tablet, but there will still be a place for the desktop/laptop. The downside for us content creators, if that happens, is the price will go up as we become a specialty market rather than a mass market.

Re:Bringing programming homework home (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504821)

For business use, even consumers can't get by with a tablet at times. Are iOS devices restricted to uploading certain types of files to web pages? That requirement comes up more often than you might think in a business setting.

Re:Bringing programming homework home (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504805)

Plus, if you have a camera other than an iPhone, or want to use an external drive, etc, iOS devices are right out due to crippled connection options, and even Android devices require rooting in many cases for USB OTG. Quite a few people have these requirements. There are lots more bits of missing functionality too, many of which are due to artificial restrictions in iOS. With both devices, input in many cases requires bluetooth (or USB with android as well) add-ons to be useful. I don't think the portion of people that can get by with just a tablet is as high as you think.

Re:Bringing programming homework home (0)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504929)

Plus, if you have a camera other than an iPhone

Expected iOS advocate response: There's a camera connection kit for both 30-pin iPads and Lightning iPads.

or want to use an external drive

Expected iOS advocate response: Instead of using a flash drive to share photos, use iCloud services.

There are lots more bits of missing functionality too, many of which are due to artificial restrictions in iOS.

Expected iOS advocate response: Bits that affect geeks but don't affect the majority of people.

I don't think the portion of people that can get by with just a tablet is as high as you think.

Tablet advocates would claim that even if a lot of people can't get by with just a tablet, everybody who doesn't create works of authorship for a living can get by with a tablet and a keyboard. "Hah hah hah hah, boom boom."

Re:This says it all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43504001)

It's not that they won't have a PC. It's that they won't have, or want to have, a *new* PC. Instead of being the device where you play new games and run new apps, the PC is now the device where you do boring work-related stuff, or log in to your bank and reconcile your checking account. And it's also the device you probably want to use if you're composing a multi-paragraph email.

So let's say this household has a PC that the typical slashdotter would consider ridiculously, laughably ancient. Let's say they have a 2005 Gateway (complete with "cow patches") with a Pentium 4 at 3Ghz, 1Gb RAM, and a 120Gb hard drive, running Windows XP.

This PC still does all those things. You can still use it to do boring work-related stuff, as long as your job isn't 3D modeling in Maya. You can use it to reconcile your checking account. And you can use it to browse the web and compose emails. None of these things would actually be any better on a new computer. So why buy one?

What the PC industry needs is a new killer app: Something that simply cannot be done on an iPad or smartphone but requires a full PC, that can't be done on an old PC but requires a new PC, and that an appreciable percentage of consumers will actually care about. It's hard for me to think what that might be, though.

Used PCs (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504269)

It's not that they won't have a PC. It's that they won't have, or want to have, a *new* PC.

And when their PC breaks, they'll buy a used PC from a pawn shop. Is that what you're trying to say?

Something that simply cannot be done on an iPad

There are plenty of things that can't be done on an iPad, such as video games that satirize an identifiable organization, video games published by a company now out of business, homework for programming class in a language other than Lua or Python, and uploading things other than photos or videos to a web site. But you're right that most of these can be done on a used PC, so long as a family chooses to buy a PC to replace its dead PC.

Re:This says it all... (1)

yoshi_mon (172895) | about a year and a half ago | (#43505379)

How the actual market will trend is I think still going to be very driven by how the overall reaction of the integration of tablets into the consumer market ends up. Or to put that market speak another way, how people are going to react as this initial wave of tablets is over. That is because as much as tablet/smartphone devs/makers/"experts" want to make them into a replacement for all the needs that a PC (be that a desktop or laptop) fills, they just do not.

In some areas you can get by with them and in other areas not at all. Sure as time goes on the latter's catagory will get more and more narrow but still from the various forms of data entry, data manipulation (burning discs), and overall power PC's will still have a role. But again how big a role that will play as the tablet market gets refined will be told by time.

One other platform that I think is somewhat ignored is the HTPC and or SmartTV functionality. I've setup a few clients such that they have a HTPC that acts as their main base; hooked up to their household printer, for storage, for DVR functionality, and just general computing use. With the ability to have a huge HD TV these days you can scale up Win7, give the user a wireless keyboard and mouse, and then they still have access to a computer even they don't view it as such.

And while the SmartTV setups still seem very primitive (hence their low adoption rates, they would be better served to just go with a customized Android install rather than all trying to be the TV versions of a Kindle/Nook) as well as the HTPC setup not being exactly plug and play, there IMO is room in the market for that type of "PC" to remain in households that might otherwise not use one.

HTPC ergonomics (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43505861)

data manipulation (burning discs)

Why must one burn a disc instead of connecting the tablet to a stereo system or television?

power PC's will still have a role

Yet Apple switched away from them to Intel in 2006 :-P Power Architecture has been pretty much restricted to workstations and PlayStations nowadays.

One other platform that I think is somewhat ignored is the HTPC and or SmartTV functionality.

Apple makes a wireless extender for iPad video called Apple TV.

With the ability to have a huge HD TV these days you can scale up Win7, give the user a wireless keyboard and mouse, and then they still have access to a computer even they don't view it as such.

And put the wireless keyboard and mouse where? I've discussed HTPC with others on Slashdot, and they can't seem to understand how the ergonomics of using a PC for both PC tasks and home theater tasks would work.

there IMO is room in the market for that type of "PC" to remain in households that might otherwise not use one.

There's more [slashdot.org] than one [slashdot.org] person who would disagree [slashdot.org] with you.

Re:HTPC ergonomics (1)

yoshi_mon (172895) | about a year and a half ago | (#43506313)

Lots of fail:

Why must one burn a disc instead of connecting the tablet to a stereo system or television?

A DVD/BRR is a much better archival tool than filling up tablet after tablet. Never mind that some people actually still seem to want to use them for some things that they really don't have to.

Yet Apple switched away from them to Intel in 2006 :-P Power Architecture has been pretty much restricted to workstations and PlayStations nowadays.

I clearly did not word that as well as I could have but really? Try reading it again with you Apple fanboy goggles off. (Hint, I'm NOT talking about CPU architecture, but I am talking indirectly about CPUs.)

Apple makes a wireless extender for iPad video called Apple TV.

Great, not everyone is an Apple fanboy like you.

And put the wireless keyboard and mouse where? I've discussed HTPC with others on Slashdot, and they can't seem to understand how the ergonomics of using a PC for both PC tasks and home theater tasks would work.

On their coffee table, in their lap, on a tray table, or however their own personal comfort feels best to them. Most mice even work just fine on a sofa. Just because YOU think it can't work does not mean it does not.

There's more [slashdot.org] than one [slashdot.org] person who would disagree [slashdot.org] with you.

So? If I come off as hostile it is only because your post was stupid. (That bit about PowerPC was particularly funny in its stupidity thou.)

Good point about archiving (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43506593)

About archiving photos, videos, and the like to a hard drive, you make a good point. I'd like to see what certain staunch iOS advocates on Slashdot would say about that.

About the PowerPC joke, perhaps it was my fault for not coming up with a clearer symbol for tongue-in-cheek than ":-P".

About Apple TV, I'm not an Apple advocate; I'm just stating what's available. The Apple TV does a lot of what people expect out of a set-top box for over-the-top music and video services. I bring up the facts because solid counterarguments to Apple advocates' arguments interest me more than ad hominems.

About ergonomics, I was told [slashdot.org] that tray tables are unstable and for trailer trash. It appears the majority find "their own personal comfort" in a TV-style remote control.

There's more than one person who would disagree with you.

So?

I'm just trying to figure out how to defuse the most common arguments of HTPC haters. If you think posts using the devil's advocate technique are necessarily "fail" or "stupid", I'm sorry.

Re:This says it all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503569)

And since PC sales growth has stagnated

No, not just the rate of growth. PC *sales* are in rapid decline, as in, fewer devices are being sold year over year, and this trend is expected to accelerate.

Quarterly Shipments Drop 14% as Windows 8 Fails to Stem Advance of iPads [wsj.com] PC Sales in Steep Decline [forbes.com] Intel Corp said its current-quarter revenue would decline as much as 8 percent and trimmed its 2013 capital spending plans, as personal computer sales drop due to the growing popularity of tablets and smartphones. [yahoo.com]

And about a million others. Average consumers are sick of the PC, and most of their needs can be served well by smartphones and tablets, which are much easier for them to use. Thus, that is where the market now goes. Couple that with a general dislike for Windows 8, and there's very little chance of anything but the bottom falling out, as the world shifts to mobile.

The fingers-in-ears from some quarters reminds me very well of how the 68000-based workstation community reacted to the rise of PCs back in the day: utter refusal to recognize what was happening.

Windows 8 could be about Microsoft recognizing that this would happen anyway, and jump all-in on a tablet/touch-centric strategy.

Re:This says it all... (1)

Mike Frett (2811077) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503591)

Well my needs for Video Editing, Recording and having complete control over my OS and Hardware can't be served by a Phone or Tablet. I am not average and Millions of other people aren't average either; you 'PC is dead' people are only fooling yourself. While the PC may not be in Billions of Homes, it does have a niche market that has to be filled.

So unless you can write Apps and do very high level work on a Phone and Tablet, you NEED a Desktop. It must really piss you Mobile people off that your Apps are developed on real computers or something, or maybe your going through puberty still.

Will a PC meet those goals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503833)

" and having complete control over my OS and Hardware"

Locked down BIOS means your PC won't meet those goals. But setting aside that niche one, the video editing and photoshop functionality IS heading over to Android. I sort of expect Android to branch into desktop forms, just as its branched into TV sticks and tablets and phones and games boxes and thermostats and NAS boxes.

PC still has a niche, but it may end up that niche is just users who won't switch.

That can be a rich niche, look at IBM and Mainframes, IBM can sell a mainframe for millions that isn't as powerful as the PC running the terminal software! Simply because companies stick with what they know. Companies are not going to switch from PCs in the immediate future, but that doesn't mean Android won't take more of that market.

Re:This says it all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503967)

> having complete control over my OS and Hardware

Do you really not see that you are a tiny, TINY niche? Most people perceive the lack of "complete control over their HW" as a *feature*. It makes things simpler for them, has less risk of malware, and generally provides an experience much closer to what they want.

For every person like you, there are twenty thousand who aren't, and it's those people who drive the market. You are a rounding error.

Re:This says it all... (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504173)

I don't buy that. Sure, the PC market is losing sales now to tablets and such, but I think you're ignoring that there's a lot of stuff the PC is superior at. Here's just I do that's better on the PC:
  • anything that can be done better with a keyboard and mouse - most data entry, game playing where speed is a factor, entering in URLs and file names, posting to Slashdot, etc. The touch screen keyboard is painful to use and you don't have access to hotkeys and keyboard macros.
  • More powerful apps. Programming, spreadsheets and numerical computing, business apps, distributed services, etc.
  • More power - faster CPU, CD/DVD writable drives, can drive inputs to speakers, can leave the PC running for weeks in a corner, etc.

Sure, a lot of these things are niche applications, but there's a lot of niches and some of those niches are very large as well. As I see it, tablets and smartphones are just lightweight computing devices that fit specialized needs. That works better for a lot of people which is why we're seeing a shift to these devices. But they aren't "most" needs by any stretch.

Re:This says it all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43504411)

The reality is that the tablet market is going to go through the same thing in a few years. Tablets are consumption devices. We like our consumption devices convenient that means disposable like a piece of paper is disposable. So in a few years time the push is going to be for cheaper and cheaper tablets, so that if you drop one it does not matter. Tablets will be something you buy in packages of 5 at a time. This will not happen so much to desktops an laptops. They are for creating content and doing serious work and even the average household needs to do serious work sometimes; Kids need to do homework, people need to take work home with them, etc. The PC market will contract certainly, since they last for 5 years or so but long term just about every household is going to have a PC.

People like to talk about how shortsighted the corporate culture has become, looking only to next quarters earnings. This is more of the same. Following doomed fads, and calling the end of an industry because it is not showing double digit year over year growth anymore.

Re:This says it all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43504767)

The car sales in Europe are also at 20 year low. The general economic environment don't seem to be very accommodating to a next generation luxury product (a product which is updated even if the previous unit works) which has less killer applications than ever before. Perhaps eventually this will lead to the year of the X terminal on every desktop, as "ordinary" people don't want to manage their cloudy home servers. ;)

The Dell tumble continues (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503227)

The Dell tumble continues...all from dropping their standards in the first place.

bigass community bid (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503229)

let's create a kickstarter and buy it.

I mean, shit, we need a manufactuer that actually doesn't hate the FOSS community.

The value might actually get low enough that it's possible... :P

Re:bigass community bid (1)

geoskd (321194) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503287)

let's create a kickstarter and buy it.

I mean, shit, we need a manufacturer that actually doesn't hate the FOSS community.

The value might actually get low enough that it's possible... :P

The kickstarter community doesn't have anywhere near that kind of money. Dell has a long way to slide before they do have enough.

All of that aside, The whole point of privatization is that a relatively small group of people own the business. If large groups of people want to buy something, they are more than welcome to go out and buy some stock. It is, after all, publicly traded. They can then start a proxy fight for control of the corporation. It would require far less capital, and probably be easier to actually accomplish. The whole thing is a pipe dream anyway, Dell is a has-been, and nothing short of a radical change of management is going to change that.

Re:bigass community bid (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504127)

The kickstarter community doesn't have anywhere near that kind of money.

It's **ONLY** $24 billion.

Control (that magical 51%) is only about $12 billion.

And yes, it's far easier to do this through NASDAQ than kickstarter.

Re:bigass community bid (3, Insightful)

geoskd (321194) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504849)

It's **ONLY** $24 billion.

Control (that magical 51%) is only about $12 billion.

No, you need the full $24bil. If you try and do a piecemeal buyout, the price per share goes up, and so you end up coughing up the full amount anyway. That is why buyout offers are done this way instead.

As far as it being " only" $24bil, the largest kickstarter projects attract less than 100k contributors for an average of $100 each. This would require 1 million contributors for an average of $24k. It just isn't going to happen.

Kickstarter is not nearly as big as people think it is The whole site has only generated a few hundred millions dollars in its entire history. Its an interesting idea, but is not terribly useful beyond a very narrow scope of projects.

Re:bigass community bid (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503819)

Stop and think about how Dell managed to do so well in business. They sold PCs that were desirable to the average consumer - they sold them by the trainload.

There is no way that some kind of FOSS community is going to be successful with that kind of model. The kickstarter would never end - any time you wanted a newer model you'd have to get the community to kick in to buy the parts to make 10 million of them so that each of the 2000 investors can get their 2 units and throw the rest in the landfill.

If you want FOSS hardware you need to find ways to make it work on a small scale.

SOUNDS LIKE HE SELLS A LOT ON EBAY !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503265)

Ebay !! It's not just for those without garages !!

Market manipulation... (1)

landofcleve (1959610) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503311)

Is what this is.

Beware Icahn! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503353)

Well Icahn's still in the game, he's claims to offer $15 a share vs Dell's $13.65 per share, I don't like Icahn. He tried to scam Yahoo shareholders (inc me) by claiming a deal was worth more than it actually was.

In the deal, he stripped Yahoo of all it's cash, handing it to shareholders, counted that money (the money we already owned) as money given by the Microsoft deal. He then added a loan from Microsoft which required Yahoo to pay it back with interest back to Microsoft. He counted that loan as income from the deal too. If a company CEO had done it, the SEC would be on him for fraud, but Icahn is a third party asset stripper and he's not obligated to be truthful about the value of a deal.

"Icahn's offer, which was also submitted the day before the deadline expired, includes purchasing $2bn of the firm's shares at $15 per share, and offering $2bn of cash equity financing."

So basically, Icahn is trying to buy only a portion of the shares (company is worth 22 billion), enough to scupper a full buyout. And there's the loan with interest.
He tends to list those as income to pretend an inflated figure on a buyout value. Loans are loans, you pay them back with interest, they're not income, they're not part of a buy price. If the company doesn't need the cash, they're a charge on the company. If the loan on Dell is to pay Icahns buyout, that's a leveraged buyout and its not worth squat to existing shareholders.

Dell shareholders, we Yahoo shareholders had bitter experience of that turd Icahn, you read his numbers very very closely, he tends to flat out lie in the summary about the true value of a deal. He didn't get rich by giving you his money. Classic games to watch out for: buying blocking positions to prevent a buyout, leverage buyout, buying a company by borrowing money against the assets of the company. Third party deals, e.g. agreeing with a competitor some gain if he poisons a company during buyout.

If you don't understand what I mean, look at the Yahoo deal. That would have stripped Yahoo of cash, made it dependant on Microsoft for short term money and made their income also dependant on Microsoft. MS for its part promised to buy a portion of shares in the future at a higher price. The likely block of shares that referred to was Icahns block, I believe that was to be his reward for poisoning Yahoo.

BEWARE!

Re:Beware Icahn! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503779)

You had me at Ichan.

Nobody Seems To Notice and Nobody Seems To Care (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503393)

Nobody Seems To Notice and Nobody Seems To Care - Government & Stealth Malware

In Response To Slashdot Article: Former Pentagon Analyst: China Has Backdoors To 80% of Telecoms 87

How many rootkits does the US[2] use officially or unofficially?

How much of the free but proprietary software in the US spies on you?

Which software would that be?

Visit any of the top freeware sites in the US, count the number of thousands or millions of downloads of free but proprietary software, much of it works, again on a proprietary Operating System, with files stored or in transit.

How many free but proprietary programs have you downloaded and scanned entire hard drives, flash drives, and other media? Do you realize you are giving these types of proprietary programs complete access to all of your computer's files on the basis of faith alone?

If you are an atheist, the comparison is that you believe in code you cannot see to detect and contain malware on the basis of faith! So you do believe in something invisible to you, don't you?

I'm now going to touch on a subject most anti-malware, commercial or free, developers will DELETE on most of their forums or mailing lists:

APT malware infecting and remaining in BIOS, on PCI and AGP devices, in firmware, your router (many routers are forced to place backdoors in their firmware for their government) your NIC, and many other devices.

Where are the commercial or free anti-malware organizations and individual's products which hash and compare in the cloud and scan for malware for these vectors? If you post on mailing lists or forums of most anti-malware organizations about this threat, one of the following actions will apply: your post will be deleted and/or moved to a hard to find or 'deleted/junk posts' forum section, someone or a team of individuals will mock you in various forms 'tin foil hat', 'conspiracy nut', and my favorite, 'where is the proof of these infections?' One only needs to search Google for these threats and they will open your malware world view to a much larger arena of malware on devices not scanned/supported by the scanners from these freeware sites. This point assumed you're using the proprietary Microsoft Windows OS. Now, let's move on to Linux.

The rootkit scanners for Linux are few and poor. If you're lucky, you'll know how to use chkrootkit (but you can use strings and other tools for analysis) and show the strings of binaries on your installation, but the results are dependent on your capability of deciphering the output and performing further analysis with various tools or in an environment such as Remnux Linux. None of these free scanners scan the earlier mentioned areas of your PC, either! Nor do they detect many of the hundreds of trojans and rootkits easily available on popular websites and the dark/deep web.

Compromised defenders of Linux will look down their nose at you (unless they are into reverse engineering malware/bad binaries, Google for this and Linux and begin a valuable education!) and respond with a similar tone, if they don't call you a noob or point to verifying/downloading packages in a signed repo/original/secure source or checking hashes, they will jump to conspiracy type labels, ignore you, lock and/or shuffle the thread, or otherwise lead you astray from learning how to examine bad binaries. The world of Linux is funny in this way, and I've been a part of it for many years. The majority of Linux users, like the Windows users, will go out of their way to lead you and say anything other than pointing you to information readily available on detailed binary file analysis.

Don't let them get you down, the information is plenty and out there, some from some well known publishers of Linux/Unix books. Search, learn, and share the information on detecting and picking through bad binaries. But this still will not touch the void of the APT malware described above which will survive any wipe of r/w media. I'm convinced, on both *nix and Windows, these pieces of APT malware are government in origin. Maybe not from the US, but most of the 'curious' malware I've come across in poisoned binaries, were written by someone with a good knowledge in English, some, I found, functioned similar to the now well known Flame malware. From my experience, either many forum/mailing list mods and malware developers/defenders are 'on the take', compromised themselves, and/or working for a government entity.

Search enough, and you'll arrive at some lone individuals who cry out their system is compromised and nothing in their attempts can shake it of some 'strange infection'. These posts receive the same behavior as I said above, but often they are lone posts which receive no answer at all, AT ALL! While other posts are quickly and kindly replied to and the 'strange infection' posts are left to age and end up in a lost pile of old threads.

If you're persistent, the usual challenge is to, "prove it or STFU" and if the thread is not attacked or locked/shuffled and you're lucky to reference some actual data, they will usually attack or ridicule you and further drive the discussion away from actual proof of APT infections.

The market is ripe for an ambitious company or individual to begin demanding companies and organizations who release firmware and design hardware to release signed and hashed packages and pour this information into the cloud, so everyone's BIOS is checked, all firmware on routers, NICs, and other devices are checked, and malware identified and knowledge reported and shared openly.

But even this will do nothing to stop backdoored firmware (often on commercial routers and other networked devices of real importance for government use - which again opens the possibility of hackers discovering these backdoors) people continue to use instead of refusing to buy hardware with proprietary firmware/software.

Many people will say, "the only safe computer is the one disconnected from any network, wireless, wired, LAN, internet, intranet" but I have seen and you can search yourself for and read about satellite, RF, temperature, TEMPEST (is it illegal in your part of the world to SHIELD your system against some of these APT attacks, especially TEMPEST? And no, it's not simply a CRT issue), power line and many other attacks which can and do strike computers which have no active network connection, some which have never had any network connection. Some individuals have complained they receive APT attacks throughout their disconnected systems and they are ridiculed and labeled as a nutter. The information exists, some people have gone so far as to scream from the rooftops online about it, but they are nutters who must have some serious problems and this technology with our systems could not be possible.

I believe most modern computer hardware is more powerful than many of us imagine, and a lot of these systems swept from above via satellite and other attacks. Some exploits take advantage of packet radio and some of your proprietary hardware. Some exploits piggyback and unless you really know what you're doing, and even then... you won't notice it.

Back to the Windows users, a lot of them will dismiss any strange activity to, "that's just Windows!" and ignore it or format again and again only to see the same APT infected activity continue. Using older versions of sysinternals, I've observed very bizarre behavior on a few non networked systems, a mysterious chat program running which doesn't exist on the system, all communication methods monitored (bluetooth, your hard/software modems, and more), disk mirroring software running[1], scans running on different but specific file types, command line versions of popular Windows freeware installed on the system rather than the use of the graphical component, and more.

[1] In one anonymous post on pastebin, claiming to be from an intel org, it blasted the group Anonymous, with a bunch of threats and information, including that their systems are all mirrored in some remote location anyway.

[2] Or other government, US used in this case due to the article source and speculation vs. China. This is not to defend China, which is one messed up hell hole on several levels and we all need to push for human rights and freedom for China's people. For other, freer countries, however, the concentration camps exist but you wouldn't notice them, they originate from media, mostly your TV, and you don't even know it. As George Carlin railed about "Our Owners", "nobody seems to notice and nobody seems to care".

[3] http://www.stallman.org/ [stallman.org]

Try this yourself on a wide variety of internet forums and mailing lists, push for malware scanners to scan more than files, but firmware/BIOS. See what happens, I can guarantee it won't be pleasant, especially with APT cases.

So scan away, or blissfully ignore it, but we need more people like RMS[3] in the world. Such individuals tend to be eccentric but their words ring true and clear about electronics and freedom.

I believe we're mostly pwned, whether we would like to admit it or not, blind and pwned, yet fiercely holding to misinformation, often due to lack of self discovery and education, and "nobody seems to notice and nobody seems to care".

##

Schneier has covered it before: power line fluctuations (differences on the wire in keys pressed).

There's thermal attacks against cpus and temp, also:

ENF (google it)

A treat (ENF Collector in Java):

sourceforge dot net fwdslash projects fwdslash nfienfcollector

No single antimalware scanner exists which offers the ability to scan (mostly proprietary) firmware on AGP/PCI devices (sound cards, graphics cards, usb novelty devices excluding thumb drives), BIOS/CMOS.

If you boot into ultimate boot cd you can use an archane text interface to dump BIOS/CMOS and examine/checksum.

The real attacks which survive disk formats and wipes target your PCI devices and any firmware which may be altered/overwritten with something special. It is not enough to scan your hard drive(s) and thumb drives, the real dangers with teeth infect your hardware devices.

When is the last time you:

Audited your sound card for malware?
Audited your graphics card for malware?
Audited your network card for malware?

Google for:

* AGP and PCI rootkit(s)
* Network card rootkit(s)
* BIOS/CMOS rootkit(s)

Our modern PC hardware is capable of much more than many can imagine.

Do you:

* Know your router's firmware may easily be replaced on a hacker's whim?
* Shield all cables against leakage and attacks
* Still use an old CRT monitor and beg for TEMPEST attacks?
* Use TEMPEST resistant fonts in all of your applications including your OS?
* Know whether or not your wired keyboard has keypresses encrypted as they pass to your PC from the keyboard?
* Use your PC on the grid and expose yourself to possible keypress attacks?
* Know your network card is VERY exploitable when plugged into the net and attacked by a hard core blackhat or any vicious geek with the know how?
* Search out informative papers on these subjects and educate your friends and family about these attacks?
* Contact antimalware companies and urge them to protect against many or all these attacks?

Do you trust your neighbors? Are they all really stupid when it comes to computing or is there a geek or two without a conscience looking to exploit these areas?

The overlooked threat are the potential civilian rogues stationed around you, especially in large apartment blocks who feed on unsecured wifi to do their dirty work.

With the recent news of Russian spies, whether or not this news was real or a psyop, educate yourself on the present threats which all antimalware scanners fail to protect against and remove any smug mask you may wear, be it Linux or OpenBSD, or the proprietary Windows and Mac OS you feel are properly secured and not vulnerable to any outside attacks because you either don't need an antivirus scanner (all are inept to serious attacks) or use one or several (many being proprietary mystery machines sending data to and from your machine for many reasons, one is to share your information with a group or set database to help aid in threats), the threats often come in mysterious ways.

Maybe the ancients had it right: stone tablets and their own unique language(s) rooted in symbolism.

#

I'm more concerned about new rootkits which target PCI devices, such as the graphics card and the optical drives, also, BIOS. Where are the malware scanners which scan PCI devices and BIOS for mismatches? All firmware, BIOS and on PCI devices should be checksummed and saved to match with others in the cloud, and archived when the computer is first used, backing up signed firmware.

When do you recall seeing signed router firmware upgrades with any type of checksum to check against? Same for PCI devices and optical drives and BIOS.

Some have begun with BIOS security:

http://www.biosbits.org/ [biosbits.org]

Some BIOS has write protection in its configuration, a lot of newer computers don't.

#

"Disconnect your PC from the internet and don't add anything you didn't create yourself. It worked for the NOC list machine in Mission Impossible"

The room/structure was likely heavily shielded, whereas most civvies don't shield their house and computer rooms. There is more than meets the eye to modern hardware.

Google:

subversion hack (view via archive.org, main site is dead):
tagmeme(dot)com/subhack/

network card rootkits and trojans
pci rootkits
packet radio
xmit "fm fingerprinting" software
"specific emitter identification"
forums(dot)qrz(dot)com

how many malware scanners scan bios/cmos and pci/agp cards for malware? zero, even the rootkit scanners. have you checksummed/dumped your bios/cmos and firmware for all your pci/agp devices and usb devices, esp vanity usb devices in and outside the realm of common usb devices (thumbdrives, external hdds, printers),

Unless your computer room is shielded properly, the computers may still be attacked and used, I've personally inspected computers with no network connection running mysterious code in the background which task manager for windows and the eqiv for *nix does not find, and this didn't find it all.

Inspect your windows boot partition in *nix with hexdump and look for proxy packages mentioned along with command line burning programs and other oddities. Computers are more vulnerable than most would expect.

You can bet all of the malware scanners today, unless they are developed by some lone indy coder in a remote country, employ whitelisting of certain malware and none of them scan HARDWARE devices apart from the common usb devices.

Your network cards, sound cards, cd/dvd drives, graphics cards, all are capable of carrying malware to survive disk formatting/wiping.

Boot from a Linux live cd and use hexdump to examine your windows (and *nix) boot sectors to potentially discover interesting modifications by an unknown party.

#
eof

Dell's prices are much higher (1)

warewolfsmith (196722) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503425)

Dell's prices are much higher than Xmas last year when I bought my last laptop, so this would appear to be news to Dell. And that is with a high Aussie dollar.

You fa1l 1t!? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503529)

anYbody's guees am protesting

Dem mobile devices (1)

puddingebola (2036796) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503657)

I tink dat this has 2 doo with dem mobile devices. Dem mobile devices are found in your ARM, which is inside your smartphone, inside your tablet, and inside your car (!!!!!!!!!). I hope dat you get one soon, and now the apple has their ipad and the android devices everywhere. But Windows 8 is good! And soon dey will have it running office on a tablet with 3 hour battery life@! Kewl.

the real story here (0)

spirit_fingers (777604) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503789)

The aside about IBM exiting the x86 server business has me wondering. Perhaps the "International Business Machines" corporation needs to change its name to the "International Software as Services" corporation. Or how about the "American Software as Services" corporation? I prefer the acronym generated by that name.

Re:the real story here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503845)

There already is one. It's called EDS.

Re:the real story here (1)

Shimbo (100005) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504069)

There already is one. It's called EDS.

Was, you mean. It's part of HP now. I don't know what IBM wants to be, but it's sure as hell ain't HP.

Re:the real story here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43503951)

That was yesterday's story and we did see some acronym jokes. BTW it can't be "AAC" because that was just taken by the football colleges that just left the Big East.

Since you brought it up, it has since occurred to me that this move by IBM might come down hard on their workforce at Burlington VT, where they design and manufacture chips, including Intel-compatible CPUs if I'm not mistaken.

Why is there a declining PC Market? (2)

houbou (1097327) | about a year and a half ago | (#43503923)

What do people want to do most with computing devices?
  1. games
  2. email
  3. chat
  4. lookup info / read news, books, etc
  5. music
  6. videos
  7. pictures

So, obviously, smartphones, tablets, any device which is mobile is going to be more attractve than a desktop PC, for the casual user, since for the most part, it's cheaper and more convenient to get a mobile computing device than it is to get a Desktop PC.

Netbooks and Laptops or even Desktop Replacements will get more popular as they get lower in price and offer way much better battery life.

The Desktop PC won't go away soon, it has its use in business or for the hardcore "PC" gamers. But it will never again be the dominant form of computer usage, those days are gone.

But there is another reason why Desktop PC sales are down.

In the recent years, hardware specs even at the lower end of the spectrum are more than powerful enough to handle the demands of new software, and thus people have less reasons to upgrade. "Remember: if it ain't broke, don't fix it!" :)

Then you see Microsoft trying to get Windows 8 out there, but it's not working, because Windows 8, isn't flying with people. At this point in time, people who use a PC, don't want to use a PC like a mobile device.

Microsoft would have been better to stick to Windows 7 and keep improving it, adding an optional mobile interface layer and get people to purchase touch screen monitors instead.

They could have built a momentum towards a mobile OS experience, without alienating users.

Oh well :)

Re:Why is there a declining PC Market? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504885)

I dont really hate that thats happening, once upon a time people that used pc's actually controlled the market, then the influx of the normal's came in needing peeeceees to aol their email on the webernet. That's when stuff started really going downhill, we have spent so much effort dumbing down the computer for people who get confused by a toaster that our entire UI is now "durh hurh hur facebook button on screen".

Let those people move to phones and tablets, pray they never need to use a PC again then maybe the industry can again focus on making the personal computer a powerful tool, instead of a dumb-ass toy

Re:Why is there a declining PC Market? (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43504963)

What do people want to do most with computing devices?

  1. games
  2. email
  3. chat
  4. lookup info / read news, books, etc
  5. music
  6. videos
  7. pictures

So, obviously, smartphones, tablets, any device which is mobile is going to be more attractve than a desktop PC

How is it obvious, your point has nothing whatsoever to do with the list o'stuff you rattled off.

Re:Why is there a declining PC Market? (1)

houbou (1097327) | about a year and a half ago | (#43505051)

Wow.. people want to play games, do email, chat, lookup info, play music, videos and see pictures.. Most often, that's pretty much all the mainstream user does. and DUH.. the mobile devices provide them with those exact capabilities. For those who must choose between a desktop and mobile.. they will go mobile. THAT would be the POINT.. :)

Re:Why is there a declining PC Market? (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43505681)

At the risk of dignifying what slashdot has descended to, tablets and phones are useful for people who have to stand on a bus while they commute, as in Japan. For the rest of the world, people go from desktop to desktop, so no, your point has nothing to do with the list of stuff you rattled off.

Re:Why is there a declining PC Market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43505417)

What do people want to do most with computing devices?

  1. games
  2. email
  3. chat
  4. lookup info / read news, books, etc
  5. music
  6. videos
  7. pictures

Aham. How many people _work_ with PCs, what do you think? And, no I don't mean programmers.

The end of Wintel (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43504527)

Dim-bulbs will dribble on about Intel's and Microsoft's current profits. The irony is that the doom of the traditional PC marketplace is fully visible within the same. The Intel Tax (no decent CPU unless you spend 200 dollars) and the Microsoft Tax (no per-seat licence for the OS+Office unless you spend a fortune each year) means the entire world is ready for lower cost alternatives, none of which can possibly be provided by a future Intel or Microsoft.

Dell attempted to take the changing market head on by readying the ultimate in thin clients that would do the real work on the cloud. This thin client is a ultra-cheap ARM based product that replaces the traditional PC. Of course, Dell was looking for suckers who would then pay a fortune each year in 'cloud' fees to access traditional PC software remotely. The Microsoft Tax one stage removed still costs the same or more.

Those of us with a memory know the last great change for Dell came when it stopped developing its own proprietary PC hardware, and switched to using pre-made components from the Far-East. The birth of the 'generic' PC. Of course, as Dell grew, it once again reached the point where it could spec its own design of MB and PSU when useful.

The problem with the PC market today is massive over-pricing of key components, especially the Motherboard, CPU, and to a lesser extent the RAM and HDD. Compare the inners of your desktop PC with, say, the Raspberry Pi. Yes, there is a massive performance difference, but mostly because the Pi is based on a poor, obsolete ARM SoC. Switch that part for a quad-core A15, and a tiny card like that is a perfect replacement for the desktop PC used by 99% of people.

ARM tablets using similar tiny computers now have 2GB of pretty fast RAM, a GPU (graphics) powerful enough for everything but mid-end gaming, and 4-cores of CPU power that rival the early 2-core AMD processors that still make XP run acceptably fast today. Remember, the ARM parts can do the Windows 7/Windows 8 like screen acceleration in their sleep.

So where do companies like Dell go? Dell tried the non-PC product market big-time, but always failed to make an impression. Dell produced the world's most popular PDAs, but never built a lasting success. Why? Because like all big PC companies, Dell is predicated on GREED. The idea that the PC market will forever soak its customers with horribly high prices, and thus massive profits. Dell loved its PDAs while they could charge obscene prices for them.

Today, even the cheapest current Android tablets can be plugged into a monitor and mouse, and potentially make for an excellent desktop computer for the majority of users. Today, all that prevents this is a lack of default desktop functionality in Android and Android apps, but this is on the verge of changing. Desktop shells and windows environments are being crafted for Android at an exploding rate. We are only a year away from Android being seen as a desktop replacement for Windows.

What can companies like Dell do in the face of this? Dell needs its relationships with Microsoft and Intel, and the three of them need continuing obscene levels of margins.All they can do is hug each other ever tighter as they fall off the cliff together.

PS the x86 market will continue for years to come, but in a very different way. AMD is producing the model for the future, small efficient Jaguar cores that integrate excellent graphics on the same die, and can provide desktop like PCs using tiny laptop like motherboards. The complete boxed desktop PC, minus HDDs and display, but with integrated RAM, needs to be 150 dollars or less, and only AMD can bring this price-point with enough performance. High-end gaming PCs have got pretty much as fast as they ever will be from a CPU and RAM bandwidth POV, and will represent a declining market in the face of the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft. It is uncertain how long the manufacturing market can continue to support the traditional gaming PC, when the components for such PCs are used by fewer and fewer ordinary computer users.

minus 3, Tr0ll) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43505923)

fear the reapEr There's no Posts on Usenet are
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