• Windows 8 PC-tablet 'mesh' to go slowly, says IDC 

  • Windows 8 and ultrabooks should spur global PC shipment growth in the latter half of the year, but don't expect the market to catch fire.

    Global PC shipments are expected to pick up in the second half of the year, but Windows 8-based ultrabooks will go through a period of trail and error, market researcher IDC said. The launch of Windows 8 on ultrabooks should drive stronger second-half PC shipment growth after a weaker first half, IDC said today. For the whole year, worldwide PC growth will be a modest five percent with most of the growth occurring in the latter half of the year. "Many consumers are holding off making PC purchases at the moment because tablet devices like Apple's iPad are proving to be a powerful distraction," according to Bob O'Donnell, vice president of Clients and Displays at IDC.

    But IDC doesn't see tablets as replacing PCs outright. "End user surveys tell us that few people consider media tablets as replacements for their PCs, so later this year when there is a new Microsoft operating system, available in sleek new PC form factors, we believe consumer interest in PCs will begin to rebound." Nevertheless, the PC market risks falling further and further behind the Apple tablet phenomenon if analogous designs don't emerge in force. "2012 and 2013 will bring significant challenges for Microsoft and the PC community," said Jay Chou, senior research analyst at IDC. "Windows 8 and ultrabooks are a definitive step in the right direction to recapturing the relevance of the PC, but its promise of meshing a tablet experience in a PC body will likely entail a period of trial and error, thus the market will likely see modest growth in the near term," Chou said. IDC's growth forecast for China has been lowered to 9 percent, the first time single-digit growth has been forecast for a year. "Part of the adjustment amongst emerging markets comes from the shortage of disk drives, which greatly impacts white box PC manufacturers who play a prevalent role in these markets," IDC said. Worldwide PC shipment growth for 2011 ended on a slightly positive note, growing to 1.8 percent on the year.

  • What's going on with Firefox for Android? 

  • More than three months after Mozilla unveiled the first stages of its Android browser reboot, the native version of Firefox for Android remains a work in progress.

    The new year started strong for Firefox on Android, as it relaunched with a completely new interface native to Android. Three months on, though, and it's still not ready for prime time. The decision came toward the end of 2011: in order to create a more seamless Firefox on Android experience, Mozilla would scrap its then-current Android browser, built in XUL, and rebuild it with native Android code. The look and basic functionality debuted on January 3, but since then the new interface has missed two ship dates on Mozilla's six-week rapid-release cycle. So where does it stand now?

    In some ways, much progress has been made. Firefox 13 Aurora for Android (download) has made some significant advances. Right out of the gate, the first developer's release of the new interface was faster than the stable version. Less than a month later, Firefox Sync landed in the Aurora build, re-establishing Firefox's tool for instantly sending personal data such as settings, history, bookmarks, and passwords between browsers. Mozilla itself notes that the browser is moving "at a quick pace," wrote a Mozilla representative in an e-mail to CNET. "Start-up time has been significantly improved, Flash is now supported, and we've reduced memory usage, to name just a few improvements." Another development is the addition of a "reader" feature. Currently well-received in browsers such as the desktop Safari and the mobile Dolphin, Reader Mode streamlines an article or gallery and temporarily hides much of the browser "chrome," the visible bits of the interface. So, claims of significant improvements are not without merit. The performance gains are noticeable even to the naked eye, and they're backed up by at least one internal Mozilla tool that's available to the public.