For new and old investors, taking full advantage of the stock market and investing with confidence are common goals.
Many investors also have a go-to methodology that helps guide their buy and sell decisions. One way to find winning stocks based on your preferred way of investing is to use the Zacks Style Scores, which are indicators that rate stocks based on three widely-followed investing types: value, growth, and momentum.
Why Investors Should Pay Attention to This Value Stock
Value investors love finding good stocks at good prices, especially before the broader market catches on to a stock's true value. Utilizing ratios like P/E, PEG, Price/Sales, and Price/Cash Flow, the Value Style Score identifies the most attractive and most discounted stocks.
HP Inc. is the surviving entity following the November 2015 split of Hewlett-Packard Company into publicly traded entities - Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company and HP Inc.
HPQ boasts a Value Style Score of A and VGM Score of A, and holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) rating. Shares of HP are trading at a forward earnings multiple of 7.5X, as well as a PEG Ratio of 1.9, a Price/Cash Flow ratio of 6.9X, and a Price/Sales ratio of 0.5X.
A company's earnings performance is important for value investors as well. For fiscal 2022, six analysts revised their earnings estimate higher in the last 60 days for HPQ, while the Zacks Consensus Estimate has increased $0.03 to $4.30 per share. HPQ also holds an average earnings surprise of 8.4%.
With strong valuation and earnings metrics, a good Zacks Rank, and top-tier Value and VGM Style Scores, investors should strongly think about adding HPQ to their portfolios.
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HP Inc. (HPQ) : Free Stock Analysis Report
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China has been in the headlines lately for the ongoing acceleration of its capital outflows and concerns over the reliability of its reported economic data. As various businesses and investors hastily adjust their forecasts and expectations, to me, this period of uncertainty represents an opportunity for U.S. companies: To take the time to learn, reflect, and consider what their China strategy should be. (I share specific strategies for how to approach a China strategy in part two of this post.)
But first, doing business with -- or in -- China requires understanding nuances that go beyond the stats and typical headlines. Until now, most entrepreneurs and commenters have been so focused on the obvious market size opportunity that they often forget the less obvious reason to study China: That there is much to learn from, not just about, Chinese companies. This includes everything from redefining how we think of innovation and how internet companies can monetize beyond advertising revenue to lessons on how startups can scale in a hyper-urban environment.
Frankly, while China is behind the U.S. in areas like enterprise SaaS, augmented reality, VR, and healthcare, it can provide a glimpse of the future in other areas, such as mobile payments; transportation; O2O or “online to offline” commerce (coined by my a16z partner Alex Rampell and popular in China); ecommerce and travel.
Ultimately, however, learning from China involves rethinking our mindsets around it … beginning with how to be open to learning from China in the first place, to preparing for future competition from there as Chinese companies aim to realize their global ambitions.
Mindset #1: Rethinking the definition of “innovation”
A long-held and common belief about Chinese, Indian, African, and other non-Western internet companies is that they are just copycats of U.S. counterparts. Even the language we (and sometimes they, too) use propagates this misconception: e.g., Alibaba as the “eBay of China”; Flipkart as the “Amazon of India”; the “Groupon of Iran”, and so on.
Derivatively calling a company the “X brand (we’re familiar with) of Y country” tricks us into thinking that those companies are just clones of the original U.S. company. Yet the reality is there’s a ton of grit and creative thinking that led the entrepreneurs behind Alibaba and others to build their companies the way they did. Furthermore, examples of international companies leading -- not just following -- U.S. innovation now abound, from messaging app WeChat to drone manufacturer DJI in China alone.
There are also a number of enabling conditions that make Chinese companies do things in a way that U.S. companies aren’t forced to. For example, the speed at which things move in China is unprecedented, and the sheer number of people makes it an eat-or-be-eaten environment that urges forward momentum in all things and at any cost. Chinese companies are therefore used to lightning-fast execution, shorter product cycles, and letting a thousand experiments bloom (even if 999 of them fail and have to be ripped out!). I believe that U.S. companies should closely watch all these Chinese experiments play out -- not just to inspire their own experiments, but as proxies to focus their own efforts directionally.
Now, some may argue that many of these innovations are really just “incremental” (as compared to 10x magnitude leaps or moonshots). But when compounded, seemingly incremental improvements can lead to bigger things in their own right. Especially when combined with a mobile-first ecosystem.
Take the example of Chinese online travel provider C-trip, which not only offers flight and hotel bookings but insurance and visas as well. Because over 70% of its online transactions are mobile, the company thinks deeply about the needs of mobile travelers. So in 2015, C-trip launched a “virtual tour manager” program, where it creates WeChat messaging groups for individual travelers heading to the same city around the same time. Each of these groups are administered by a human tour guide who helps book restaurants, looks up traffic patterns on travel routes, and sends alerts in case of emergencies (about earthquakes, attacks, etc.) -- all in Mandarin Chinese.
This service is now live for over 100 countries. It’s an example of a Chinese tech company stretching its creativity to meet unarticulated user needs. But what if this small customer service innovation led to an entirely new kind of communication model, one that facilitates communication among complete strangers? And on a far more intimate platform -- something normally reserved for friends, families, and close-ties groups -- than on the likes of Sina Weibo or Twitter? If so, the resulting changes in social behaviors could be profound.
Another example of a seemingly incremental innovation that could have significant consequences comes from Didi, China’s leading ride-hailing service. The company, which provided 1.4 billion rides in 2015, installed touchscreen booths -- really, gigantic tablets mounted on displays -- all around Shanghai so that people (especially the elderly) could still hail a Didi car without having a smartphone.
It’s a convenient but relatively minor service. Yet if this kind of thing spread, it could reshape the way entire cities look, as public surfaces everywhere become the “shared phone screen” (i.e., instead of something held as a central command center only in an individual’s hands).
Beyond such product inspiration, there are incremental business model (not just tech) experiments that can change century-old practices -- like reading and storytelling -- in potentially far-reaching ways. Consider China’s largest online/ebook publishing company, Yuewen Group, which has over three million digital books in its catalogue. More notable than the scale here however is how the company monetizes: Chinese readers can pay per every 1000 words (sort of like by chapter), and have been able to do so for more than half a decade.
Not only does this micro-transaction model encourage more readers to demo more e-books while providing instant revenue to writers (who can begin selling a book right after the first chapter is completed), the collected data can help TV producers make series-optioning decisions at a more granular level. But the unintended consequence of all this is that authors with extremely popular books never want the story to end, changing the narrative significantly. Over time, it could even change the act of storytelling altogether; it’s not unlike what’s already happening in the U.S. with shows like Game of Thrones or with binge watching/streaming leading to an entirely new genre of entertainment.
More broadly speaking, Yuewen is also an example of how Chinese and Western users monetize differently across multiple tech categories. For instance, less than 20% of Tencent’s (the creator of WeChat) revenues come from advertising compared to over 95% for Facebook’s revenue. In fact, most large consumer mobile companies in China (and elsewhere around the world) do not rely on advertising as their primary source of revenue; they focus on transactions instead. Chinese internet companies have therefore experimented with numerous non-advertising business models including in-app or in-game fees, other microtransaction models, free-to-play, and more. For a U.S. company that was previously monetizing only via ads, studying its Chinese counterpart could reveal alternative ways of generating revenue so it’s less dependent on advertising as many U.S. internet companies are.
Mindset #2 Rethinking scale, and scaling
Despite conflicting views on the real growth rate of the Chinese economy, no one would question the growth rate of China’s population!
When we read headlines about tech companies in China, the true scale of the reported user stats often get lost in translation. Part of this is because most people -- journalists and readers alike -- have simply not been exposed to such population density. And as with other classic estimation experiments, people are just really bad at imagining (let alone visualizing) the true magnitude of things they haven’t experienced personally.
To put it bluntly, a company that has reached 1 million registered users in China hasn’t really “cracked” China; for instance, if Tencent had a product with just five million monthly active users in China, it might consider shutting the app down! Now, to be fair, reaching a million users is an achievement to be celebrated. And even relatively smaller numbers compared to the real size of the Chinese market can yield huge business gains. But it’s important to keep the numbers in perspective…
China has a lot of people. Shanghai and Beijing alone have 20 million residents, each. Compare this to New York City’s population (8.4 million), Los Angeles’ (3.9 million), and San Francisco's (less than 1 million). And while some ghost towns exist do in China, there are still 1.3 billion people in China; if you took China’s total population and subtracted out the entire population of the United States, you would still have a billion people left.
Now tack on the news that China is committed to moving 100 million Chinese people from rural farming regions into more urban regions in the next five years. Beijing, Shanghai, and other major cities in China continue to face hyper-urbanization issues that will force them to go where no other modern city has gone before. Already, China’s biggest cities are overflowing to such a point that license plates are distributed via a lottery system to control the number of cars on the road. This has been the case in Beijing since 2011, and in Shanghai since 2013.
Meanwhile, in mobile, China Mobile apparently has (as of the end of last year) nearly as many 4G mobile subscribers as the entire U.S. population. Not to mention nearly three times as many total customers as there are people in the U.S.
China is thus an ideal place for startups to find all sorts of insights on user behaviors at scale, whether one believes in the concepts of “blitzscaling” or not. Watching Chinese experiments play out also helps indicate what new problems (and solutions) will arise in urban centers around the world -- especially on the transportation, logistics, and infrastructure front -- as they, too, become more densely populated.
If being first to scale is indeed more important than being first to market, what better place to study scaling strategies than in China, a country with a population of 1.3 billion people?
Mindset #3 Rethinking the nature of competition
Last year, investors both in and out of China deployed $37 billion into Chinese startups (more than double 2014 and more than 8x of 2013). We can debate the record speed of new businesses being created, observe the problem of overfunding at the seed stage (and subsequent difficulty of meeting milestones later), or question private valuations of specific companies. But one thing is undisputable: Many startups in China are getting funded in some form or another.
Why does this matter? Simply put, if a startup is an experiment in a new way of doing things, then that means many experiments in China are happening overall. While it’s true that more global funding went into U.S. startups in 2015, the U.S. and Chinese startup ecosystems are different. Both ecosystems may have a winner-take-all dynamic, but that dynamic is far more intense in China. This results in far more trial-and-error -- as well as rapid product cycles -- as companies attempt to win market share from each other, quickly. Such rapid experimentation in turn leads to much faster change, willingness to accept and allow faster company deaths, and faster potential breakaway hits.
When you take this environment of experimentation, supported by so much funding, and combine it with a “Chinese” work ethic and talent base, it results in a “multiplier” effect of sorts. To break the components of that effect down further:
War games mindset. Company executives in China are trained, at the outset, to think in terms of war analogies, with the ultimate goal of outlasting the competition. This mindset leads to a sort of Hunger Games-like paranoia where “only the paranoid survive” (to borrow Andy Grove’s phrase), which in turn drives continual improvement, results in more experiments as described above, and gives Chinese companies more optionality than Western companies. Finally, since entrepreneurs are always under direct attack from competitors, they are groomed to fight defensively and offensively. Even PR is used as a weapon: For instance, funding announcements are made (and sometimes inflated) to discourage investors from backing competitors.
Work ethic. The average number of hours worked in China per worker in 2015 was 2,432 hours and 1,767 in the U.S. (Germany, meanwhile, comes in at 1,372 and France at 1,495). On average, the Chinese worker is likely working more than the U.S. worker; note however that this data includes factory workers and does not measure efficiency of work. Regardless, labor is obviously cheap in China. Furthermore, a standard workday in China is 9AM to 9PM, and a standard work-week is 6 days long, from Monday through Saturday. This schedule is not just for a special event or right before a product launch; it’s the norm in China. In the same way that people hypothesize that Europe is lagging behind the U.S. due to a different work ethic (among other policy reasons), the same could one day be argued of China and the United States.
Talent landscape. The talent landscape in China for engineers has changed so drastically in the last few years that some Chinese companies are actually coming to Silicon Valley to hire big data engineers because they are “cheaper” here. While so far limited to the big data space, this is a huge inversion of the traditional outsourcing model! Meanwhile, many Chinese tech companies appear bloated compared to their U.S. counterparts because they have many more employees including engineers. This is because companies in China can’t afford to wait to hire that elusive 10x engineer. Instead of risking falling behind, they’ll just hire the 10 engineers they can hire today (even if less skilled) to get the job done faster. This mentality applies to international expansion as well.
It’s a mistake to think this phenomenon is all about quality of talent: It’s really about the pace of competition. That’s the salient point here.
So why does any of this matter to anyone outside China? Because not only are a ton of companies -- and experiments -- in China getting funded, they’re run in an intense environment. The result of this intense Darwinian struggle for survival is that the species that survives is very fit. Those surviving companies will become formidable global players, which is why I think it’s worth learning from -- and possibly partnering with -- them now. Eventually, as Chinese companies enter the global arena, all U.S. startups will need to compete in such an intense environment or learn to stay ahead in other ways regardless of whether or not they enter China.
Mindset #4: Rethinking what “local” advantage means
When eBay entered China, Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma described it as “a shark in the ocean”. He said, “I am a crocodile in the Yangtze River. If we fight in the ocean, we lose, but if we fight in the river, we win.”
What Ma meant was that he understood the smaller Chinese merchants and consumers far better than eBay did; this included everything from where to find them to how to keep them engaged. Ma’s local competitor to eBay, Taobao, used TV ads and door-to-door sales reps instead of internet-based advertising. It made listings more customer- vs. product-centric. It optimized its marketplace model for Chinese notions of trust.
Unfortunately, when many entrepreneurs discuss “local” understanding or localization of their offerings, they tend to focus on things like the color palette, logo, design layout, language, even etiquette. All of which matters, but ignores fundamental insights about customers that take form in many other specific yet subtle ways.
For example: Chinese consumers really, really, really love deals and discounts. Even if a particular U.S. startup doesn’t offer discounts for its product, it should consider doing so in China (though obviously not at the expense of its unit economics!) -- especially around the holidays. Similarly, even if it feels cheesy or passé to a U.S. audience, companies doing business in China should recognize how effective celebrity endorsements and physical billboard or elevator poster advertising are. And so on.
Another example of local advantage -- but at a global scale -- plays out in emerging economies. U.S. companies are more adept than Chinese ones at designing high-tech products for a demographic that closely resembles Western Europe. But Chinese companies can more quickly gain market share in emerging economies (like those in Africa, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia) since they are already experts in serving a user base that is mobile-first and Android-centric; limited in bandwidth or power; highly engaged and motivated by entertainment apps; hyper-urbanized; young in internet use; and so on.
In short, there will likely be not one but two stables of “unicorns”: one in the Western world, and one stabled in China and developing regions. Because even if many of these developing regions have far more in common ideologically with the U.S. than with China, Chinese companies could still win in those markets for the reasons I just outlined.
This suggests a paradox: U.S. companies’ greatest competition isn’t their local competitor but their counterpart abroad, wherever they are -- the international #1, not just the local #2. And sometimes the competition isn’t obvious but lying latent in wait. An example of this is Cheetah Mobile, the creator of CM Security, Clean Master, Battery Doctor, and other smartphone apps. Across its suite of utility apps, Cheetah reportedly has 567 million MAUs -- 74% of which are not in China. Cheetah took its product (which was already refined and robust from Chinese users heavily pounding away at it), localized it for the rest of the world with very little extra work, and quickly grabbed global market share. In fact, 4 of the top 5 free apps in the U.S. Google Play store tools category are apps that originated in China. This isn’t just happening in the “invisible” tools category; right now, 3 of the top 10 free apps in the photography category on the U.S. Google Play store are also made in China.
* * *
Many of the examples I share are anecdotal, because I’m arguing for two kinds of learning from China: passively watching (as described in the first two mindsets above), and/or actively learning to prepare for the competition (as described in the last two mindsets).
Whatever else one thinks of China, we need to accept that:
The government, of course, plays a role here for better or worse. For example, it is mandating that companies expand globally. Starting this year, the government will also create incentives for high-tech investors to take even larger risks on startups, which changes the risk:reward ratio. Either way, the outcomes don’t change much for us. It just means more global ambitions and experiments keep getting funded. (And even if they don’t survive to the next stage, those learnings will cycle through the Chinese startup ecosystem in some form, manifesting themselves in later companies as is the case in startup ecosystems all over the world.)
Now, none of this is intended to alarm or make us double up our workloads. There are unique attributes of Silicon Valley that enable it to continually innovate that other parts of the world haven’t really been able to replicate. This is simply a call for U.S. companies to critically evaluate how they match up against their competitors in China, to take that competition more seriously than ever, and really learn from them.
When considering their true competition, most U.S. companies intuitively list their domestic and local counterparts only. But does it only matter that one is faster than the second or third athlete in the race -- or does it matter more that they know where the finish line is? In that sense, why should the #1 company in the U.S. only watch players #2 and #3 in their home market when it can also study (and possibly even partner with) its #1 counterpart in China or elsewhere? To me, “competition” isn’t just about who is taking market share away from you in that moment or place; it’s about who can help inspire your roadmap, who can really help drive you forward. That’s what innovation is after all: It’s about finding a better way of doing things.
One major caveat to the spread of electric vehicles is the question of what we’re going to do with all of these car batteries once their time is up. There’s also concern about the environmental impact of lithium mining, not to mention that of other essential metals, like cobalt and nickel. Let’s take some time to look at what goes into EV batteries, where they go when they’re dead, and whether EVs are in the end still the best choice for the environment.
EV batteries are highly recyclable. Over 95% of a lithium-ion battery’s components can be extracted via hydrometallurgy. This involves grinding up battery components and running them through an acidic solution. A series of solvents and rounds of electroplating are able to pull individual elements out of the solution. Smelting recovery is common but more energy-intensive and less effective. The pollution caused by this recycling process is negligible. The problem right now is that we don’t have enough recycling facilities currently running at the scale needed to meet the deluge of EV batteries coming off their end of life. We’re currently only recycling about 5% of our lithium-ion batteries, but luckily the growing value of lithium, cobalt, and nickel makes the prospect of recovering it much more attractive.
Making the recycling process profitable can be challenging, depending on the materials you’re targeting, but this study runs down the economics pretty well.
“Most process routes achieve high yields for the valuable metals cobalt, copper, and nickel. In comparison, lithium is only recovered in few processes and with a lower yield, albeit a high economic value. The recovery of the low value components graphite, manganese, and electrolyte solvents is technically feasible but economically challenging.”
Though a vital component of batteries, lithium only makes up about 11% of a cell’s total mass. You can see how it factors into battery chemistry over here. Australia, Chile, and China produce the lion’s share of the world’s lithium supply. Automotive applications eat up about 31% of that supply, but that demand is expected to continue a sharp upwards trajectory.
There are two ways lithium is extracted: salt flats and hard rock mining. When hard spodumene ore is mined, it’s broken down, separated, subjected to an acid bath, and eventually, lithium sulfate can be teased out of the mix. This is a very traditional mining method with all of the usual risks of pollutants gathering in tailing ponds. It’s a relatively cheap process compared to salt flat processing but also produces a lower-grade product. Australia, with a whopping 46% of the world’s lithium output, relies heavily on hard rock mining. Since this method is so labor-intensive, it’s no surprise that it produces about triple the emissions per metric tonne of lithium, compared to salt flats.
Salt flats are created when water is pumped underground and returns to the surface with dissolved minerals. This brine is spread across wide pools to evaporate, leaving behind the minerals to be separated and processed. Salt flats are common in a triangle overlapping Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. The nearby Andes mountains have created large deposits not far below the surface thanks to geothermal activity that leaches minerals from volcanic rock. Higher elevation also promotes faster evaporation in the brine pools.
The major cost of lithium extraction in salt flats is water usage. Getting exact numbers is challenging, however. Estimates range from 250 gallons of water per pound of lithium, all the way up to a million gallons. Data from the Chilean government suggests that brine production in the Atacama flats is outpacing the aquifer’s ability to recharge by about 30%. About 65% of the region’s water is used for lithium mining. These operations are taking place in deserts where water supply is already tenuous for local populations and puts additional strain on local agriculture. On top of dealing with increasingly scarce water in the driest places on Earth, aboriginal groups that inhabit neighboring areas are also at risk of dealing with abandoned materials and disrupted ecosystems due to the mining industry. Many have already been subject to this kind of abuse from international mining companies in the past. As a result, they’ve either put up staunch opposition to new projects or claimed significant ownership of them.
Batteries have loads of other materials in them, like nickel, cobalt, and graphite.
Cobalt is primarily mined out of Congo, which produces roughly half the world’s supply. Heavy Chinese investment has resulted in many industrial mining operations being built to feed their production demands, but local workers are often excluded from this enterprise. Instead, they’re relegated to digging their own artisanal mines with few safety precautions and little recourse in the case of injury. They end up selling their cobalt to the same traders who ferry industrially-mined cobalt to refiners back in China.
Nickel production is less fraught, but not without its costs. It’s widely mined around the world, with Indonesia delivering about 30% of the total supply. Most of it goes into making stainless steel, and only 6% toward batteries.
Collectively, that might seem like a high cost to make our EVs a reality. Lifecycle assessments comparing electric to traditional cars show EVs are indeed front-loaded with emissions thanks to the cost of batteries. Where that difference is made up is over the lifetime of the vehicle. Internal combustion engines make cars between 60% and 68% more emissive than EVs in the US. Considering the outsized role fuel makes in this calculation, cleaning up the electrical grid is almost as important as getting a bunch of EVs on the road. Average emissions savings in Europe can range between 28% and 72% depending on how electric vehicles are getting charged.
Ultimately, EVs are still a necessary transition to make to put a dent in global emissions. That said, those living close to mines still have a wealth of challenges stacked against them. They’re confronted with the ugly environmental effects of mining well before those of climate change. Governments will need to do a better job holding the mining industry to account for proper site management before we get too smug about populating a green future full of electric vehicles.
The amount of stolen data on the dark web is so huge that compromised system credentials are selling for under $5, the report says.
Cyber-criminal organizations have become so professionally proficient that they’re now selling malware kits to amateur hackers for less than $10 and compromised system credentials for under $5, according to a new security report released Thursday.
In “The Evolution of Cybercrime,” HP Wolf Security, the new security platform arm of HP Inc., says a team of its investigators, along with researchers from Forensic Pathways, spent more than three months investigating the dark web and the cybercriminals lurking there.
The researchers said they analyzed more than 35 million cybercriminal marketplaces and forum posts to better “understand how cybercriminals operate, gain trust, and build reputation,” HP said in a press release.
[RELATED STORY: THE 10 BIGGEST DATA BREACHES OF 2022 (SO FAR)]
In general, researchers found what others have discovered as well: cybercriminal organizations are becoming increasingly more professional and business-like in the way they run their illegal operations, such as actually advertising stolen data and other ill-gotten materials on the dark web..
But HP researchers said they were surprised how professionally proficient cybercriminal organizations have become, such as setting up entire vendor platforms, or marketplaces, to sell an array of “products,” such as malware kits, sensitive stolen data, compromised system credentials and other items.
The cybercriminal world has become so competitive among sellers, with ever more stolen data and information, that some prices have fallen to bargain-basement levels, researchers say.
Researchers found that 76 percent of malware advertisements listed, and 91 percent of exploits (i.e. code that gives attackers control over systems by taking advantage of software bugs) retail for under $10 in the dark web.
The average price of compromised Remote Desktop Protocol credentials is just under $5. That’s less than what many Americans are paying for a gallon of gas today, HP said in its press release.
The vast majority of those products are being sold to amateur hackers who don’t possess advanced coding skills, the report found.
“Vendors are selling products in bundles, with plug-and-play malware kits, malware-as-a-service, tutorials, and mentoring services reducing the need for technical skills and experience to conduct complex, targeted attacks,” the company said in statement.
In a video conference with journalists and others on Thursday, Alex Holland, senior malware analyst at HP, said the low prices being charged for stolen digital items stunned researchers. “It’s really incredible,” he said.
The low prices perplexed researchers at first, he said. But then they realized it all comes down to the old-fashioned supply-and-demand principle of economics: The large number of sellers and huge amount of data for sale on the dark web has been driving down prices for some, though not all, items.
“It’s about supply – abundant supply,” said Holland.
Another finding from the report is that there seems to be a sort of “honor amongst cyber-thieves” approach to dealings on the dark web.
“Much like the legitimate online retail world, trust and reputation are ironically essential parts of cybercriminal commerce,” according to the HP statement.
The report found that 77 percent of cybercriminal marketplaces analyzed required a so-called “vendor bond,” or a license to sell, that can cost up to $3,000.
And most marketplaces provide “third-party dispute resolution” services and even vendor feedback scores.
Researchers also found that cyberhackers also target popular software, such as the Windows operating system and Microsoft Office, in order to “get a foothold and take control of systems.”
Dr. Mike McGuire, a University of Surrey lecturer who has studied cybercrime and who took part in the HP study, said in the HP video conference on Thursday that cybercriminals may be advertising their ill-gotten digital gains on the dark web.
But he said most nitty-gritty negotiations between cybercriminal buyers and sellers are conducted “behind the scenes,” on what he calls the “invisible ‘net,” such as through private and encrypted messaging services.
Reverb is HP’s second VR headset, and this time around the company is aiming mainly at the enterprise market, but not shying away from selling individual units at a consumer price point. As the highest resolution headset presently available at that consumer price point, it has a unique selling point among all others, though the usual compromises of Windows Mixed Reality still apply.
To be up front, the HP Reverb headset itself is a solid improvement over its predecessor by most measures. The new design is comfortable and feels higher quality. The new displays and lenses offer a considerably better looking image. And on-board audio is a huge plus. However, while its hardware has improved in many ways, it’s still a ‘Windows Mixed Reality’ headset, which means it shares the same irksome controllers as all Windows VR headsets.
Reverb’s headlining feature is its high-resolution LCD displays, which are significantly more pixel dense than any headset in its class. On paper, we’re talking about 2,160 × 2,160 per display, which is a big step up over the next highest resolution headsets in the same class—the Valve Index, showcasing a resolution of 1,440 × 1,600 per display (also LCD, which means full RGB sub-pixels), and HTC Vive Pro’s dual 1,440 × 1,600 AMOLEDs, which feature an RGBG PenTile pixel matrix. Among the three, Reverb has a little more than twice the total number of pixels.
There’s no doubt that Reverb’s displays are very sharp, and very pixel dense. It’s impossible to focus on a single pixel, and the screen door effect (unlit spaces between pixels) is on the verge of being difficult to see. It has the best resolving power of any headset in its class, which means textures, edges, and text are especially crisp.
Unfortunately, overall clarity is held back in a large way by plainly visible mura. At a glance, mura can look similar to the screen door effect (in the way that it’s ‘locked’ to your face and reduces clarity) but is actually a different artifact resulting from poor consistency in color and brightness across the display. It ends up looking like the display is somewhat cloudy.
As HP is mostly pushing Reverb for enterprise, they probably aren’t terribly concerned with this—after all, text legibility (a major selling point for enterprise customers) gets a big boost from the headset’s high resolution whether or not mura is present. For anyone interested in Reverb for visual immersion though, the mura unfortunately hampers where it might be otherwise.
There’s also a few other curious visual artifacts. There’s a considerable amount of chromatic aberration outside of the lenses’ sweet spot. There’s also subtle—but noticeable—pupil swim (varying distortion across the lens that appears as motion as your eye moves across the lens). In most headsets, these are both significantly reduced via software corrections, and I’m somewhat hopeful that they could be improved with better lens correction profiles for Reverb in the future. While I couldn’t spot any obvious ghosting or black smear, interestingly Reverb shows red smear, which is something I’ve never seen before. It’s the same thing you’d expect with black smear (where dark/black colors can bleed into brighter colors when you move your head, especially white), but in Reverb it manifests most when red (or any color substantially composed of red, including white) shares a boundary with a dark/black color. In my testing this hasn’t led to any significant annoyance but, as ever, it could be bothersome in some specific content.
From a field of view standpoint, HP claims 114 degrees diagonally for Reverb, which is higher than what’s typically quoted for headsets like the Rift (~100) and Vive (~110). Nobody in the industry really seems to agree what amounts to a valid field of view measurement though, and to my eyes, Reverb’s field of view falls somewhere between the two. So whether you call it 105 or 114, Reverb is in the same field of view class as most other PC VR headsets. These are Fresnel lenses, which means they are susceptible to god rays, which are about as apparent on Reverb as with latest headsets like the Rift S, and a bit less prevalent than the original Rift and Vive.
Reverb’s other big feature is its major ergonomic redesign. HP has ditched the halo headstrap approach seen on every other Windows VR headset and instead opted for a much more (original) Rift-like design, including on-ear headphones. At least to my head, Reverb’s ergonomics feel like a big improvement over HP’s original Windows VR headset.
I found it quite easy to use for an hour or more while maintaining comfort. As with all headsets of this design, the trick is knowing how to fit it right (which isn’t usually intuitive). New users are always tempted to tighten the side straps and clamp the headset onto their face like a vice, but the key is to find the spot where the rear ring can grip the crown of your head, then tighten the top strap to ‘lift’ the visor so that it’s held up by ‘hanging’ from the top strap rather than by sheer friction against your face. The side straps should be as loose as possible while still maintaining stability.
I was able to get Reverb to feel very comfortable, but I’m a little worried that the headset won’t easily accommodate larger heads or noses. Personally speaking, I don’t fall on either ends of the spectrum for head or nose size, so I’m guessing I’m fairly average in that department. Even so, I had Reverb’s side straps as loose as they would possibly go in order to get it to fit well. If I had a bigger head, the straps themselves wouldn’t have more room to accommodate; all the extra space would be made up by further stretching the springs in the side struts, which would put more pressure on my face than is ideal.
I also felt like I was pushing the limits of the headphones and the nose gap. The best fit for the headphones is to have them all the way in their bottom position; if there were a greater distance between the top of my head and my ears, or if I preferred the top strap adjustment more tightly, the headphones wouldn’t be able to extend far enough down to be centered on my ears.
With the nose gap, I was feeling a bit of pressure on the bridge of my nose, and actually opted to remove the nose gasket entirely (the piece of rubber that blocks light), which gave me just enough room to not feel like the headset was in constant contact with the bridge of my nose. If you have a larger nose or a greater distance between the center of your eye and your nose’s bridge, you might find the nose gap on Reverb annoyingly small.
As with most other Windows VR headsets, Reverb lacks a hardware IPD adjustment, which means only those near to the headset’s fixed IPD setting will have ideal alignment between their eyes and the optical center of the lenses. We’ve reached out to HP to confirm the headset’s fixed IPD measurement, though I expect it to fall very close to 64mm. If you are far from the headset’s fixed figure, you’ll unfortunately lose out on some clarity.
So, if it fits, Reverb from a hardware standpoint is a pretty solid headset, and the singular choice for anyone prioritizing resolution over anything else. However, Reverb can’t escape the caveats that come with all Windows VR headsets.
Mostly that’s the controllers and their tracking. Reverb uses the same Windows VR controllers as every other Windows VR headset except for Samsung (which has slightly different controllers). Yes, they work, but they are the worst 6DOF controllers on the market. They’re flimsy, bulky, and not very ergonomic. They actually track quite well from a performance standpoint, but their tracking coverage hardly extends outside of your field of view, which means they lose tracking any time your hands linger outside of the sensor’s reach, even if that means just letting them hang naturally down by your sides.
The tracking coverage issue is primarily driven by the tracking system used in every Windows VR headset: a two-camera inside-out system. HP says Reverb’s tracking is identical to the first generation headsets, and as such, Reverb’s two cameras lose controller tracking as often as its Windows VR contemporaries. Luckily, the headtracking itself is pretty darn good (on par with Rift S in my experience so far), and so is controller tracking performance when near the headset’s field of view. For content where your hands are almost always in your field of view (or only leave it briefly), Windows VR controller tracking can work just fine. In fact, Reverb holds up very well when playing Beat Saber on its highest difficulty because your hands don’t spend much time outside of the field of view before entering it again (to slice a block). But there’s tons of content where you hands won’t be consistently held in the headset’s field of view, and that’s when things can get annoying.
For all of its downsides, the Windows VR tracking system also means that Reverb gets room-scale 360 tracking out of the box and doesn’t rely on any external sensors. That’s great because it means relatively easy setup, and support for large tracking volumes.
The compromises on the controller design and tracking were easy to swallow considering how inexpensively you could find a Windows VR headset ($250 new in box is not uncommon). But Reverb has introduced itself as the new premium option among Windows VR headsets at $600, which shines a much brighter light on the baggage that comes with every Windows VR headset to date.
While Windows Mixed Reality—which is built into Windows and comes with its very own VR spatial desktop—is the native platform for Reverb and all other Windows VR headsets, there’s an official plugin that makes it compatible with most SteamVR content, which vastly expands the range of content available on the headset.
Disclosure: HP provided Road to VR with a Reverb headset.
A flash flood triggered by heavy rain led to a road blockade in Himachal Pradesh's Lahaul-Spiti district on Wednesday evening, the state disaster management said.
Lahaul-Spiti district emergency operations centre (DEOC) informed that the flash flood occurred at Tindi on State Highway 26 in Keylong sub division due to which Tindi-Killar Road was blocked around 6.45 pm.
The work to restore traffic movement will start on Thursday morning, it said.
(With PTI inputs)
Private equity firm Thoma Bravo is buying Ping Identity for US$2.4 billion, deepening a bet on the cybersecurity sector that has been one of the big winners of the pandemic.
The deal announced on Wednesday values each share of Ping Identity at $28.50, a premium of 63 percent to the last closing price of the company whose authentication and security services are used by businesses from Chevron Corp to HP Inc.
Thoma Bravo has been on a shopping spree for cybersecurity firms in latest years, with its acquisitions including Sophos, Proofpoint and Sailpoint Technologies.
Analysts said the latest purchase - which has an equity value of $2.4 billion, according to a Reuters calculation - could work well with Thoma Bravo's other acquisitions because of similar areas of focus.
"We could foresee them all being stitched together as an all-in-one identity platform at some point," D.A. Davidson analyst Rudy Kessinger said, adding the deal was "one of the least surprising acquisitions" he has ever seen.
Thoma Bravo, whose assets under management total more than $114 billion, has also bought software firms such as Anaplan Inc in the past few years.
Ping Identity's shares surged over 60 percent on Wednesday. The company's biggest shareholder is Vista Equity Partners with a stake of nearly 10 percent, according to Refinitiv data.
Vista had bought Ping Identity in 2016 and then taken it public three years later in an initial public offering that valued the company at $1.16 billion.
Vista has agreed to vote in favour of the deal, which has an enterprise value of $2.8 billion, Ping Identity said.
(Reporting by Nivedita Balu and Akash Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Aditya Soni)
A suspected monkeypox case has been found in Himachal Pradesh's Solan district, health officials said on Friday. Samples of the man have been sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune for confirmation, the state health department said in a press statement.
The man, a resident of Baddi area, showed symptoms of the infection 21 days ago and he is currently recovering. He has been kept in isolation as a precautionary measure and surveillance is being done in the surrounding areas, the press statement added.
The man has no history of foreign travel, it added. Four confirmed cases of monkeypox disease -- three from Kerala and one from Delhi -- have been reported in the country as on July 27, the central government informed the Lok Sabha on Friday. There has been no death due to monkeypox in the country, it said.
(With PTI inputs)
A wide variety of malwares and vulnerability exploits can be bought with ease on underground marketplaces for about $10 (£8.40) on average, according to new statistics – only a few pennies more than the cost of London’s most expensive pint of beer.
The average price of a pint of beer has risen by 70% since the 2008 financial crisis and earlier this year, researchers at customer experience consultancy CGA found one pub in London charging £8.06. The researchers, perhaps sensibly, did not name the establishment in question.
But according to a new report, The evolution of cybercrime: why the dark web is supercharging the threat landscape and how to fight back, produced by HP’s endpoint security unit HP Wolf Security, the price of cyber criminality is tumbling, with 76% of malware advertisements, and 91% of exploits, found to retail for under $10.
Meanwhile, the average cost of an organisation’s compromised remote desktop protocol (RDP) credentials clocked in at just $5 (£4.20) – a far more appealing price for a beer as well, especially in London.
Vulnerabilities in niche systems, predictably, went for higher prices, and zero-days, vulnerabilities yet to be publicly disclosed, still fetch tens of thousands of pounds.
HP Wolf’s threat team got together with forensic certified Forensic Pathways and spent three months scraping and analysing 35 million posts on dark web marketplaces and forums to understand how cyber criminals operate, gain each other’s trust, and build their reputations.
And unfortunately, said HP senior malware analyst and report author Alex Holland, it has never been easier or cheaper to get into cyber crime.
“Complex attacks previously required serious skills, knowledge and resource, but now the technology and training is available for the price of a gallon of gas,” said Holland. “And whether it’s having your company and customer data exposed, deliveries delayed or even a hospital appointment cancelled, the explosion in cyber crime affects us all.
“At the heart of this is ransomware, which has created a new cyber criminal ecosystem rewarding smaller players with a slice of the profits. This is creating a cyber crime factory line, churning out attacks that can be very hard to defend against and putting the businesses we all rely on in the crosshairs.”
The exercise also found many cyber criminal vendors bundling their wares for sale. In what might reasonably be termed the cyber criminal equivalent of a supermarket meal deal, the buyers receive plug-and-play malware kits, malware- or ransomware-as-a-service (MaaS/RaaS), tutorials, and even mentoring, as opposed to sandwiches, crisps and a soft drink.
In fact, the skills barrier to cyber criminality has never been lower, the researchers said, with only 2-3% of threat actors now considered “advanced coders”.
And like people who use legitimate marketplaces such as Ebay or Etsy, cyber criminals value trust and reputation, with over three-quarters of the marketplaces of forums requiring a vendor bond of up to $3,000 to become a licensed seller. An even bigger majority – over 80% – used escrow systems to protect “good faith” deposits made by buyers, and 92% had some kind of third-party dispute resolution service.
Every marketplace studied also provides vendor feedback scores. In many cases, these hard-won reputations are transferrable between sites, the average lifespan of a dark web marketplace clocking in at less than three months.
Fortunately, protecting against such increasingly professional operations is, as ever, largely a case of paying attention to mastering the basics of cyber security, adding multi-factor authentication (MFA), better patch management, limiting risks posed by employees and suppliers, and being proactive in terms of gleaning threat intelligence.
Ian Pratt, HP Inc’s global head of security for personal systems, said: “We all need to do more to fight the growing cyber crime machine. For individuals, this means becoming cyber aware. Most attacks start with a click of a mouse, so thinking before you click is always important. But giving yourself a safety net by buying technology that can mitigate and recover from the impact of bad clicks is even better.
“For businesses, it’s important to build resiliency and shut off as many common attack routes as possible. For example, cyber criminals study patches on release to reverse-engineer the vulnerability being patched and can rapidly create exploits to use before organisations have patched. So, speeding up patch management is important.
“Many of the most common categories of threat, such as those delivered via email and the web, can be fully neutralised through techniques such as threat containment and isolation, greatly reducing an organisation’s attack surface, regardless of whether the vulnerabilities are patched or not.”
The best student Chromebooks are one of the smartest choices for going back to school, college or university. Not only are they incredibly affordable but they're also geared towards online use, which is where the vast majority of studying takes place.
As we note in our best Chromebooks (opens in new tab) guide, these laptops are ideal for learners, studiers and even school kids. Student Chromebooks are very portable and tend to have great battery lives, making them ideal for days where students are taking classes and seminars on campus, or for those visits to the library for an all-day study session.
Our choices for the best Chromebooks for students differ to our recommendations for most people, in the sense that we're looking for value for money and affordability over everything else. Many students don't have lots of money to drop during their studying years. As such, we've kept our recommendations to Chromebooks that we feel have affordable or budget price points. Keep reading for the best student Chromebooks, perfect for all studying needs and budgets.
If you're headed back to school, college or university, you're going to need a laptop or other computing device to take lecture notes, attend virtual seminars, study during test season and keep in touch with friends and family.
Before you head to the checkout, we think it's important to note that any prospective buyer should consider if one of the best student Chromebooks is a good fit for them. For many students they'll be perfect, but remember that these systems run ChromeOS and, in general, are not as powerful as, say, one of the best laptops (opens in new tab), best 2-in-1 laptops (opens in new tab) or best lightweight laptops (opens in new tab).
If you're going to spend the majority of your student years writing essays in Google Docs, a Chromebook is the obvious choice, as they come with all Google apps, including Google Drive, Dropbox and Google Sheets. Chromebooks also have access to Microsoft 365 apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote. Chromebooks are also ideal for attending Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet online classes.
However, if you're on a course where serious computing is needed (such as video editing, 3D modelling, heavy image editing, rendering or number crunching), you're probably best plumping for a laptop running Windows or macOS. That's where our recommendations for the best laptops for engineering students (opens in new tab) come in.
Of all the Chromebooks on the market today we think Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is the best all-round choice for students. This is because it delivers a strong all-round combination of robust build, stylish design, good screen and powerful internal hardware – everything you need for going back to school or college.
The Spin 713's screen, for example, is a lovely 13.5-inch panel with crisp resolution of 2265 x 1504 pixels, while its core internal hardware spec includes up to an Intel Core i5-10210U processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. That's the sort of spec you'll find on most laptops, and that means that as well as crushing every application in the Google Workspace and Android app store, it's also got plenty of grunt for photo and video editing.
The Spin 713 also ticks other boxes we're looking for on a student Chromebook, including impressive connectivity options (it actually comes with a HDMI out port, which is not something a lot of Chromebooks have, and is perfect for when you want to hook the system up to a TV or monitor), a 3:2 aspect ratio on the display, which means you can fit much more on the screen vertically compared with a 16:9 or even a 16:10 aspect ratio display, and the ability to rotate the screen into a tabletop viewing mode, which is ideal for watching movies and TV shows.
Overall, this is a really strong all-round Chromebook, and we consider it our number one choice for students.
This is the one system in our list of student Chromebooks that costs a decent chunk of change, but that's because it really does make a great case for why, if you can afford it, you'd be well rewarded for doing so. That's because the HP Pro c640 comes with a hardware sheet which, at max spec, rivals many full-blown laptops and delivers an incredibly speedy performance across the board.
What we like especially, though, is that this premium student Chromebook can be picked up in a wide range of configurations, meaning you can tailor what it delivers directly to your college's course needs. If you're on a technical or creative course where you need plenty of processing power, then you can slot a 10th-gen Intel Core i7-10610U along with 16GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD in, for example, but equally you could spec more of an entry level system in the same chassis that is equipped, say, with an Intel Core i3 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 32GB storage drive.
Regardless of the spec you choose, the HP Pro c640 Chromebook's screen is another reason to consider dropping the extra cash on it. That's because it is a 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display that is bright and sharp, and the construction of this laptop impresses, too. The screen can't fold right over, but it can lay flat if you need it to, and its size is greater than what a lot of Chromebooks deliver.
You also get a good webcam built-in to the top of the display, a battery that is good for all-day use away from a power socket, and a full full-sized HDMI port as well that you can use to connect up an external display. Overall, a very strong portable computer that we feel is the best premium student Chromebook on the market today.
To save on your order, make sure you check our HP discount codes page.
If you want to keep the costs of your student Chromebook purchase down but still want as much as you can get in the way of power and features, then the Asus C523 is a great choice. It's got basic specs but providing you don't need to do much in terms of heavy duty processing or editing work, then it'll do everything that you need a Chromebook to do, without costing you much at all.
There's another great reason to pick this Chromebook if you're a student, too – it comes with a large (for a Chromebook) 15.6-inch screen. As such, if you're going to want to stream movies and TV shows from places like Netflix and Disney Plus between study sessions then the Asus C523 provides the screen real estate for a genuinely immersive experience.
In terms of other specs nothing is standout and beaten easily by other systems in this guide, with an Intel Celeron N3350 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage completing the core package, but it's enough for what this system is designed to do, which is run Android apps and Google's suite of applications and software well.
The matte grey finish is professional looking, too, and the equipped keyboard and a trackpad is not unlike something Apple might put out. Connectivity is also stong with four USB ports, a headphone jack and an SD card reader to make use of.
Overall, a strong budget student Chromebook buy. To learn more about this system be sure to check out T3's should I buy the ASUS Chromebook C523? guide.
Value for money is important for everyone, but especially for students, and that's why 2-in-1 systems make perfect sense – they bag you a laptop and a tablet in one device. Naturally there a few 2-in-1 student Chromebooks of note, but our pick of these is the very capable Lenovo IdeaPad Duet.
The Duet is primarily a tablet running Chrome OS, but you can snap on the included in the price keyboard and it's a great laptop, too, delivering a system loaded with a 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display, MediaTek P60T processor, 4GB of RAM and up to 128GB of internal storage. Yes, those specs aren't top tier or anything to write home about, but they're still more than enough to run Chrome OS, Google's suite of applications as well as any Android app you can think of.
Oh, and the Duet also delivers excellent battery life – we're talking multiple days of normal usage without having to recharge. That flexibility is fantastic on campus as you can go from taking notes in class, to writing up an essay in the library, to chilling out in the common room while browsing the internet, and onto watching your favourite shows or listening to music in your dorm room, all on one very light and portable device.
Overall a really strong (and affordable) 2-in-1 Chromebook experience, and our number one choice of hybrid Chromebook for students going back to college or university.
The HP Chromebook 11 is the best student Chromebook on the market today for a seriously low price point. We're talking about a system that retails for under $200/£200, which here at T3 we feel every student can afford. From a value for money perspective it is therefore right up there.
And, while you absolutely don't get a beastly powerhouse of a system for that spend, what you do get is a very capable Chromebook that will be more than enough for many students going to college or school today. The Intel Celeron N3060, 4GB of RAM and 16GB storage drive don't sound impressive, but they're more than capable of running ChromeOS well, as well as Google's applications and Android apps.
The screen is only 11 inches, mind, so you really don't get much screen real estate, and the screen's bezels are large, too. But if those things aren't deal breakers for you then this is super portable Chromebook that makes studying on a super tight budget not just possible but a good experience.
As we mentioned in this guide's introduction, the first thing you should ask yourself when thinking about buying a Chromebook for study is just why are you considering a Chromebook and not a laptop running Windows or macOS. If the answer to that is due to budget then that makes sense but with some caveats, while if it is because you just need a simple, online-focussed system to read and write essays then that makes total sense regardless.
First off, there are affordable laptops that run Windows and, in the second hand market, macOS, so if you've got a decent budget and feel you need the full functionality that those operating systems deliver (as well as their, in general, better specs) then you should consider those first and foremost for sure.
Secondly, though, if you've already identified that a Chromebook is a right fit for your needs then you need to consider exactly what they are, as that will determine how much you spend on a student Chromebook and if you need anything specific like 2-in-1 functionality.
As a rule we'd say only students who are going to be expected to need serious computing or processing power (such as those involved in engineering, for example) should spend big on a Chromebook, as even the most basic spec Chromebooks all run ChromeOS and Google's suite of apps like Google Docs perfectly. You'd just end up wasting money. Remember, for example, that a lot of Google's apps are cloud based, so you don't even need much storage space for files or images. So, yes, don't overspend on a student Chromebook.
The other thing we'd suggest is weighing up how much entertainment you're expecting to get out of your student laptop. If you need a system to stream movies and play games on then, then we'd suggest opting for a Chromebook with a decent size screen (14-inch or higher), or with 2-in-1 functionality, so you can unwind with the system in tablet mode in the evening when the day's study in laptop mode has been completed.
Although, it is important to remember, too, that Chromebooks can easily be hooked up to an external monitor. So while buying one does increase spend, you may be best buying a cheap, portable Chromebook with a modest screen size (like 13.3-inch), and then adding in a 27-inch monitor to your shopping basket, rather than spending a lot more money on a 15 or 17-inch Chromebook.