Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick has revealed plans to expand the company’s operations in Europe. Re/Code reports the controversial ride-sharing service wants to create 50,000 jobs and reduce traffic congestion in European cities, should governments promote “progressive regulation”. Speaking at the DLD Conference in Munich, Kalanick said out-dated regulation across the globe was preventing safe, affordable rides. “We want to make 2015 the year where we establish a new partnership with cities,” he said. The news follows increasing scrutiny of Uber’s operations and several governments cracking down on the ride-sharing service. Earlier this month a Melbourne UberX driver was arrested following allegations he sexually assaulted a teenage passenger. Lexus roles out smart billboards Car maker Lexus will announce the roll-out of ‘smart’ billboards in key locations across Australia today. Fairfax reports the billboards are able to identify what kind of car someone is driving, before tailoring a message just for them while taking into other factors such as the weather. The billboards are currently located at Sydney and Perth domestic airports, as well as at popular intersections and streets in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Apple likely to roll-out stylus for new iPad model Apple could be set to unveil a new stylus to compliment the launch of its new iPad model later this year. The stylus will be used to enhance the user experience of the long-rumoured 12.9-inch iPad Pro, according to AppleInsider. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a track record of predicting new Apple products and features, suggests the stylus will be an optional add-on rather than a built-in feature of the new iPad model. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 1.1%, rising 190.86 points to 17,511.57. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US82 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
With the recent acquisition by Facebook of voice-recognition company Wit.ai, all four major players in the post-PC market (Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook) now have a significant infrastructure for hands-free communication with your device. But what will that mean for our communication with our devices? Is voice just another method to talk to your computer, or are we on the cusp of a revolution in computer communication? How old is your keyboard, anyway? The humble computer mouse was created in the 1960s by engineer Doug Engelbart. The keyboard, through its ancestor the teleprinter, is even older, having been developed in the 1900s by mechanical engineer Charles Krum and connected to a video display terminal that owes its ancestry to a device developed in the 1930s. Despite the age of these devices, they still remain the main input devices for your personal computer on your desk or laptop. Sure, they have more buttons, or more colours, or higher resolution, but the basic input mechanism for the average home computer is the same now as it was in 1984 when the Macintosh became the first commercially available computer to provide a graphical user interface and mouse and keyboard input. Even the multi-touch screen, made famous by the iPhone and other devices in 2007, could be considered a direct descendant of the mouse, simply moving control of the pointer from an indirect method on your desk to a more direct method on the screen. But perhaps that is all about to change, with voice-recognition technology finally becoming important to the main players and other technology changing the way we interact with computers. Your voice is your password to a world of possibilities Like the mouse and keyboard, voice-recognition technology has been around for a number of years. Commercial voice-recognition software has been available for computers since the early 1990s. But it was only with the advent of technologies such as Apple’s Siri and Google’s Voice Search around 2010 that voice recognition became part of many people’s lives. Through a natural language, context-aware interface that is always connected to the Internet, technologies such as Siri allow users to address a vast range of needs while skipping touching their device altogether. Instead, they rely on their voice to set timers, check the weather, find movie times and even query where to hide a body. In 2014, Microsoft introduced Cortana, a Siri-like competitor, meaning that all three leading smartphone platforms had voice recognition. Also in 2014, Apple introduced the “Hey Siri” feature in iOS 8, allowing users to “hail” a smartphone from across the room (as long as it’s plugged in) and ask it a question without touching any buttons at all. Finally, in 2012 Google released Google Now, an extension to Google Voice Search that provides users with contextual information prior to them requesting it, such as providing traffic information as you leave the office or a list of good restaurants to eat at when you arrive in a new town. And it’s widely rumoured that both Google and Apple have plans for voice-recognition technology in their television products as well. While these solutions sometimes have a way to go (John Malkovich surely remains the only person in history to get Siri to correctly interpret “Linguica”), they present a starkly different view from the mouse-keyboard combination of old. It surely won’t be long before users can have a standard conversation with their device, talking it through a problem rather than frantically tapping the on-screen keyboard or clicking the mouse. Blending the digital and the physical world The revolution extends beyond our voice to other devices as well. It would appear that along with replacing old-fashioned input devices, output devices like the monitor are slowly being phased out. Earlier this year, before it acquired Wit.ai, Facebook made news for acquiring pioneering virtually reality company, Oculus VR for a staggering $US2.3 billion. The major product of Oculus VR is the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that immerses you fully in a 3D virtual experience. Using positional sensors, the Oculus Rift can track your head movements to allow you to look around the environment. The device is still in development. Given the cost of the development kit at around $A400, it’s expected that the final product will retail for less than $A500, bringing virtual reality to the everyday consumer. Even if you don’t want full immersion, new output products are making it easier for us to step in and out of a digital world without needing a computer monitor. Google Glass, still in development but having been in beta for a number of years, provides a small display that you can view while wearing the glasses. Products such as the new Android Wear watches from Motorola and others, as well as the Pebble smartwatch and upcoming Apple Watch, provide us with small, customised views into the digital world. These can all put notifications, music control, sleep and activity monitoring and all the power of those voice-control systems literally at our fingertips, all without the need to use a full input or output device. Even in your car, Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay provide a glanceable, touchscreen and voice-controlled interface to your smartphone to ensure you’re always connected to the cloud. Sensors everywhere Beyond these standard options, input devices and data-gathering devices are continuing to pop up in places that we don’t expect, making it easier to interact with your devices and control your digital world. At the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) this year, gadgets using Bluetooth Low Energy for communication with your home network abound, from a smart chair that helps you work out to a pot for your plants that monitors their vitals and allows you to apply water with a touch of a button. These add to items from the last year such as the connected toothbrush that monitors your brushing time and style and reports on how you’re doing and the Vessyl cup, a smart cup that can tell you the calorie and caffeine content of your beverages as well as keep track of your daily water intake. No longer are we tied to our keyboard and mouse to look up and record this data. Our devices will now do it for us automatically and let us know when something needs to be changed. This trend towards the Internet of Things has been brewing for a number of years, but if the CES is any indication, this year shows a real explosion in external input devices that collect data about us and feed it into the cloud. It will be interesting to see what the future brings. It could be argued that the new ways of communicating with your computer are already here, although just beginning. As the year progresses and these models mature, perhaps it won’t be long before we are speaking to our device using natural language while wearing a VR headset and being instantly alerted about the status of our plants and how much activity, sleep and caffeine we’ve had so far today. With all of these solutions, perhaps finally the old mouse and keyboard are looking mighty old-fashioned. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Tax is back in the spotlight with coalition MPs and the Australia Institute talking about getting rid of some of the exemptions to the GST. There has also been a lot of talk about whether or not corporate Australia is paying their fair share of tax. Many big companies, including Apple and Google have been in the firing line because of the small amount of tax they pay on their Australian earnings. Some suggest that our corporate tax rate is too high and this creates a strong incentive for multinationals to shift taxable income to other countries. Lowering our corporate tax rate and shifting to taxes that target economic rent could help resolve structural problems with our tax system, create a more productive economy and reduce incentives for corporate tax dodging. Such a tax shift could be designed to be revenue neutral or to increase overall tax take. Even for many economists, economic rent is a slippery term that’s difficult to grasp. Economic rent is unearned income. This means that it has no clearly associated cost of production. Unearned income can be obtained in many different ways but is almost always derived from privileged access to something scarce. The market power that monopolies can employ to raise prices generates economic rent. A rise in land values beyond inflation generates economic rent for the owner (the “earned” income from real estate is the actual rent or value derived from the use of the land). Unearned income also comes from artificial scarcity created by government policy. Taxi licenses and poker machine licenses are clear examples. When a communication company uses a part of the electromagnetic spectrum for profit making, nobody else can use that wavelength. The auctioning of electromagnetic spectrum is an effective type of economic rent tax. The spectrum gets put to efficient use and the public is compensated for giving up a shared resource. The company then profits according to how well they use the resource rather than simply because they have a monopoly over it. There is bipartisan support for the auctioning of electromagnetic spectrum but the principle can be applied much more broadly. The same logic sits behind mineral resource rent taxes - such as the first incarnation of the now-abolished mining tax. When the international price of a resource goes up, those who own the resource (every Australian) receive little benefit. The benefit goes to the mining companies even though they have done nothing to facilitate those price rises and they don’t own the material whose price has risen. This is unearned income and could be taxed in order to return the income flows to the public. Most businesses in Australia would greatly benefit from a tax shift to economic rents with a commensurate reduction in company tax and the abolition of inefficient taxes such as stamp duties and insurance taxes. Vast sums of money that are currently directed towards rent seeking would be redirected into productive activity, generating employment and diversifying the economy. Boom and bust property cycles would be flattened due to reduced speculation and, as a result, the broader scale ups and downs of the business cycle would be somewhat moderated. While the 2010 Henry Tax Review recommended many rent-based taxes (including land tax, gambling taxes and a resource rent tax) as well as taxing environmental degradation, very few of the recommendations were endorsed, let alone implemented. The most significant of the recommendations that were implemented (even if somewhat half-heartedly), the carbon tax and the mining tax, have recently been repealed, primarily due to the inevitable backlash of the rent-seekers. The political hurdles to serious tax reform are very high. However, the consequences of not reforming the tax system are severe. Tax reform policies are easy prey for opportunistic political opponents. This is why we need some clear principles for tax reform that are clearly explained to the public. Liberal politicians should favour shifting taxes off productive business and onto economic rents and the exploitation of shared resources because such reforms target market failure and free up productive and sustainable businesses to flourish. Labor politicians too should approve of these principles because they reduce taxes on labour and shift them onto the rent seekers who contribute little to society. The inherently progressive nature of most rent taxes should also appeal to The Greens, the Labor left and the increasing number of others concerned about economic inequality. Our politicians will need courage to stand up to powerful individuals and groups who have an interest in maintaining the status quo. They can get that courage from the rest of us who stand to benefit from a taxation system that supports a more productive and sustainable economy. This article originally appeared at The Conversation. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Ride-sharing service Uber today announced it will share its data with the City of Boston in order to help improve traffic ingestion. “The data will provide new insights to help manage urban growth, relieve traffic congestion, expand public transportation, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the company’s statement reads. Uber says it will anonymise the data it gives policymakers and city planners. This is the first time the company opened up its transportation database to government officials. Uber is in talks with New York City and is open to sharing its data with other cities across the US, according to The Wall Street Journal. The announcement follows a string of bad PR for the company, including a number of incidents where drivers have allegedly assaulted their passengers as well as politicians calling the service illegal. Cricket Australia catches deal with Apple TV Cricket Australia has become the first content provider in Australia to strike a deal with Apple’s fast-growing TV platform. The Australian Financial Review reports the deal, to be formally announced today, will see a dedicated cricket channel on the Apple TV network. The channel will feature match highlights, news stories, player interviews and historic matches. Its content will be produced by both Cricket Australia as well as Nine Entertainment. Nearly one million Australians are estimated to own an Apple TV digital media player, allowing them to stream movies, video and music to their home televisions. App Annie raises $55 million in Series D funding App Annie, a platform that measures app downloads, revenue and rankings, has raised $55 million in Series D funding. TechCrunch reports the latest funding round was led by Institutional Venture Partners as well as existing investors Sequoia Capital, Greycroft Partners and IDG Capital Partners. App Annie has also announced a new product called Usage Intelligence, which aims to give app publishers, markers and investors to gain deeper insights into user retention. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 36.47 points, falling 0.21% to 17,604.37. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US82 cents.
A year ago, SmartCompany listed the top new technologies set to race into 2014. Well, another year has come and gone, and a new group of technologies are emerging over the horizon. So what new technologies should you look out for in 2015? It’s time to gaze again into the crystal ball and take a look at six technologies you should keep an eye on in 2015: 1. Make-or-break time for smartwatches Over the past year, both in the form of devices running Google’s Android Wear platform and the Apple Watch, the tech giants have made big bets on smartwatches. However, so far consumers have been a bit ambivalent. Sure, smartwatches can bring notifications to your clockface and apps on your wrist, and being able to do a voice search with Google without pulling out your phone or tablet is nifty. On the other hand, a majority of the people inhabiting the planet already carry a far more powerful device with a larger screen in their pocket or handbag, in the form of a smartphone. So the real question now is whether consumers will embrace this new technology. Over the next year, entrepreneurs and innovators will either come up with a “killer app” for the smartwatch that drives it into the mainstream, or else the technology will be remembered as a flash-in-the-pan tech fad. Either way, the next 12 months will be crucial to the long-term prospects of this much-hyped technology. 2. Mobile payments and tickets Another technology rapidly approaching the critical make-or-break point is mobile payments. These days, from “touch and go” chip-and-pin credit cards to public transport tickets, there are a growing number of smartcards that are based on a technology called near-field communications (NFC). Over recent years, a growing number of smartphones have embedded these chips, allowing the “tap to share” features on Samsung Galaxy and Microsoft Lumia smartphones. NFC technology received a surge of mainstream attention with its inclusion on iPhone 6, which uses the chip as part of its Apple Pay payment platform. Of course, the great thing about NFC is that you don’t need to be tied into a proprietary walled garden platform such as Apple Pay. Potentially, all of the smartcards in your wallet could potentially be replaced with an app on a smartphone with an NFC chip. Since we’re now at the point where just about every flagship smartphone has NFC, we’re also at the point where it’s plausible for consumers to replace a wallet full of cards with a phone full of apps. Whether consumers embrace the convenience over the next year will be interesting to watch. 3. Multi-device app development The number of tech gadgets on offer to consumers is greater than ever before. A couple of decades ago, the average consumer just had a desktop or laptop in their study at home, and a second on their work desk. Today, a consumer could potentially use a smartwatch, a smartphone, a tablet, a desktop or laptop computer, a smart TV (or a set-top box or games console) and an in-car entertainment system in the course of a single day – and all of them run apps. Where Apple, Google and Microsoft once created operating systems for single devices, they’re now creating app platforms and ecosystems for devices. With Mac OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, Apple added a feature called Handoff that allows users to pass activities from one device to another. With Windows 10, Microsoft will allow a single app to run across a range of devices, including everything from smartphones and tablets to Xbox game consoles, PCs and servers. Meanwhile, with 5.0 Lollipop, Android apps can now run on Chromebooks. Not only that, but Google has created a range of versions of Android for different devices, including cars (Android Auto), wearables (Android Wear), and TVs (Android TV). For businesses, what this means is that consumers are likely to increasingly expect their apps, websites and online services to work seamlessly across a range of different devices and contexts. 4. Health tech The interesting thing about many of these devices is they have potential therapeutic benefits for people with otherwise debilitating medical conditions. Others could be used as a preventative tool to warn users about possible health risks. For example, Google Glass can potentially overlay graphics for people with poor vision highlighting potential risks and dangers. Cloud platforms can be used to collate health records and readings from a range of different devices and sources. Robotics can be applied to help people with limited mobility carry out everyday tasks. The great news is that there are a range of Australian businesses already doing some great research in this area. A great example is Eyenaemia, a new technology, developed by Melbourne medical students Jarrel Seah and Jennifer Tang, which allows users to diagnose anaemia by taking selfies with their smartphones. The technology has grabbed the attention of none other than Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates himself. “I could see a future version for Eyenaemia being used in developing countries, especially with pregnant women, since anaemia contributes to nearly 20% of deaths during pregnancy,” Gates says. As of August, a health-tech startup group in Melbourne has already managed to attract close to 1000 entrepreneurs and medical professionals to some of its meetings, and a similar group in Brisbane is attracting around 100. Health tech is an area Australia could become a world leader in over the coming years – if the investment and political will is there. 5. Plastic OLED displays A year ago, low production yields put a limit to the production volumes of curved or flexible screen devices. The first curved screen displays appeared on smartphones such as Samsung’s Galaxy Round and the LG G Flex, and at some curved-screen TVs at the International CES trade show. However, prices were high and volumes were limited. It required specialist types of glass, such as Corning’s bendable Willow Glass, to make. The situation is set to change over the coming year thanks to a new technology called called P-OLED (plastic-organic light emitting diode). P-OLED works by sandwiching a layer of organic material, which lights up on receiving an electrical charge, between two sheets of plastic. Along with the organic material, there’s a thin grid made up of a transparent material that conducts electricity (known as an active matrix) that can deliver a charge to each individual pixel. Unlike LCD displays, which require a backlight, all of the light is generated by the organic material, meaning P-OLED displays are thinner as well. It is also thinner than glass AMOLED displays. LG Display, one of the top three display manufacturers worldwide alongside Japan Display (Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi) and Samsung, says we should expect to see bendable tablets next year, with rollable TVs and foldable laptops screens in 2017. 6. Rise of the Chinese tech giants This last one is not so much a new technology, per se, as it is a potential tectonic shift in the tech industry landscape. During 2014, Xiaomi overtook Apple as China’s second-largest smartphone maker and – according to some figures – overtook Samsung as its largest. By the end of the year, it was the world’s third largest smartphone maker by volume, trailing only Samsung and Apple. But while Xiaomi attracted most of the attention, it’s far from the only Chinese electronics maker set to make an impact over the coming years. Lenovo became the world’s largest PC maker by buying IBM’s PC division in 2005, and has recently completed its purchase of Motorola from Google. Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, is also making its consumer electronics play. In their shadows are a range of other brands, such as Coolpad and ZTE. But it’s not just device makers that are having an impact. Look no further than the record-setting $US231.4 billion ($A258.8 billion) IPO of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. In conclusion From health tech to mobile payments, there are a range of technologies that will potentially have a big impact on Australian small businesses over the next year. But perhaps the most important thing for businesses will be to make sure your consumers have a seamless digital experience across all of them. This article originally appeared at SmartCompany.
Best of the Web: How the Simpsons changed the English language; Lessons in entrepreneurship from The Colbert Report; When Marissa Mayer tried to be Steve Jobs12:52AM | Friday, 19 December
We see the influence of The Simpsons in all aspects of our lives – from cultural references to the products on supermarket shelves. But over on the Oxford Dictionaries blog, Michael Adams takes a look at how the cult TV show has influenced the English language. “The first episode of The Simpsons aired twenty-five years ago, on 17 December, 1989, and since then, English has never been the same,” says Adams. While most people will be able to rattle off the words invented by The Simpsons creators, or the catchphrases of the main characters, Adams says it is “two small but powerful words” that have made the biggest impact: d’oh and meh. Lessons in entrepreneurship from The Colbert Report Cultural touchstone The Colbert Report gave us plenty of laughs during its time, but the long list of successful entrepreneurs who appeared on Stephen Colbert’s show also dished out some important lessons. Writing for Inc, Oscar Raymundo rounds-up some the best of these lessons from the likes of Virgin founder Richard Branson and media entrepreneur Arianna Huffington. The one skill Colbert’s guests all have in common? The ability to laugh at themselves. When Marissa Mayer tried to be Steve Jobs Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer has a tendency to compare herself to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, writes Nicholas Carlson. In this piece for New York Times Magazine, Carlson uncovers exactly how Mayer went about attempting to transform the fate of aging tech giant Yahoo and her varying degrees of success. “Mayer often compares her situation with the one Jobs inherited, and many expect her to insist that she needs at least the five years he received before his turnaround began to succeed with the release of the iPod.” But with growing pressure from shareholders with a preference to see a merger of Yahoo and AOL, means Carlson says “Mayer may not be able to buy herself the time”. This article originally appeared at SmartCompany. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Anonymous social network Secret is relaunching as a faster, more text-based service that puts new emphasis on chat, according to The Verge. The buzz around Secret has slowed since its launch in February. Several news stories broke first on Secret, helping popularize the app which has been downloaded more than 15 million times in 10 months. It was number one on the app store in seven different countries. Secret’s power has diminished and it’s no longer among the top 1500 apps, according to app analytics website App Annie. As activity slowed, its co-founders began work on the second version of the service. Boston Uber driver charged with rape A Boston man who is an Uber driver has been charged with taking a woman to a secluded area and raping her, Bloomberg reports. Police and prosecutors allege the 46-year-old man arrived at a Boston residence where the young woman was waiting for a pre-arranged ride-sharing driver. Police say they don’t known whether he used information gained through his position as an Uber driver to target the victim. BBC investigation finds Apple not meeting its supply chain standards Poor treatment of workers in Chinese factories which make Apple products has been discovered by a BBC Panorama investigation. Filming on an iPhone 6 production line showed Apple’s promises to protect workers were routinely broken. Standards on workers’ hours, ID cards, dormitories, work meetings and juvenile workers were being breached at the Pegatron factories. Apple says it strongly disagreed with the program’s conclusions. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 421.40 to 17,778.27. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at 81 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
New York-based video journalism startup NowThisMedia has raised $6 million in Series C funding lead by previous backer Oak Investment Partners, TechCrunch reports. The capital raise follows an investment by NCB Universal News Group earlier this year. The startup, founded by BuzzFeed chairman Kenneth Lerer and Huffington Post chief executive Eric Hippeau in 2012, aims to reinvent video journalism in the smartphone era by producing short news clips than can be distributed across mobile and social media platforms. The company’s videos were watched around 40 million times during the month of November. Samsung considers taking on Apple Pay Samsung is in talks with a startup that would help it unveil a wireless mobile payments system that could rival Apple Pay in 2015. The smartphone manufacturer is in talks with mobile payments startup LoopPay and a prototype has been created, according to Recode. The partnership could see Samsung customers pay for items by waving their phone instead of swiping their card or paying with cash. Apple Pay was launched in September this year, using near field communication technology in the iPhone 6 to do away with credit cards and overcrowded wallets. Jury rules Apple did not violate antitrust laws in 2006 An American jury has decided Apple did not violate antitrust laws in 2006, letting the company walk away from a case that could have seen them pay $1 billion in damages. The Verge reports the plaintiffs in the case unsuccessfully argued Apple’s iTunes 7.0 reduced competition by making it less easy for consumers to purchase music for their iPod that wasn’t from Apple. The eight person jury delivered a unanimous verdict that the update was a genuine product improvement and did not adversely harm consumers. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 51.18 points or 0.3% to 17,129.66. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at US82 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Instagram has surpassed Twitter’s 284 million active users, hitting the 300 million mark nine months after recording 200 million users. “We’re thrilled to watch this community thrive and witness the amazing connections people make over shared passions and journeys,” the company said in a statement. Instagram also announced it would be rolling out verified badges for celebrities, athletes and brands – in the same way that Facebook and Twitter has verified users. The social network is also cracking down on spam accounts in order to “improve” the user experience. As a result, the company has warned that some users’ follower counts may change. Instagram was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012. More than 70 million photos and videos are shared on the platform each day. Apple and IBM launch their first wave of apps for enterprises Apple and IBM have launched the first apps resulting from their partnership today, in a bid to bring mobile analytics to enterprises. The software includes apps made for companies such as Air Canada, Citi and Sprint. Senior vice president of IBM’s Global Business Services, Bridget van Kralingen, said in a statement the new enterprises will see businesses be able to unlock big data and drive individual engagement in a mobile-first world. “Our collaboration combines IBM’s industry expertise and unmatched position in enterprise computing, with Apple’s legendary user experience and excellence in product design to lift the performance of a new generation of business professionals,” she said. Google tells Android developers to watch this face Google has opened up watch-face creation to third-party developers for the Android Wear community, according to TechCrunch. The tech giant has also created a dedicated section of the Google Play store so that users can download watch faces just as they do with apps. The updates will be rolled out over the next week. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 267.7 points to 17,533.47. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US83 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Joe Hockey has hinted he may introduce a “Google tax” as a new weapon to tackle profit shifting by multinational enterprises. The Treasurer’s suggestion is not only political as a counter to aggressive tax avoidance by multinationals, but also suggests the government may not have full confidence in a successful outcome of the G20/OECD work on base erosion profit shifting (BEPS). The suggestion of a “Google tax” in Australia appears to be a coordinated action with the UK. Last week, the UK Treasury announced the introduction of a “Diverted Profits Tax” (commonly dubbed the Google tax). The tax will be imposed on profits artificially shifted from the UK at a rate of 25% from 1 April 2015. The tax is expected to generate more than £1 billion over the next five years. Details of the Australian tax are yet to be delivered, but it’s likely to work as follows, using Apple’s tax structure as an example. Apple has successfully sheltered US$44 billion in Ireland for four years, and that amount has never been taxed anywhere in the world. The US$44 billion represents the profits shifted from Apple’s sales in many countries, including Australia. If Australia had a Google tax, the ATO would impose 30% tax on a portion of the US$44 billion that represented the profits derived from sales in Australia. Will it work? The proposal, if properly designed, should be a powerful weapon for two reasons. First, it provides the much-needed legal basis for the ATO to impose tax on profits shifted from Australia to “taxpayer-friendly” countries such as Ireland. At present, even though the ATO is aware of the US$44 billion sitting in Ireland, the existing international tax regime does not empower the ATO to lay its hands on the profits. Second, a Google tax would be a unilateral action. Its introduction does not require international consensus and Australia does not have to wait for that to happen before taking action on profit shifting by multinationals. The G20 and OECD have been working very hard in an attempt to achieve consensus on measures to address the issues of BEPS. However, one major player may not support the project wholeheartedly. The US has been knowingly facilitating avoidance by its multinationals of foreign income taxes through its own tax system. To make matters worse, its participation in the G20/OECD BEPS Project has been described by a prominent US tax commentator as “a polite pretence of participation with quiet undermining”. International consensus is the ideal course of action to comprehensively resolve the issues of BEPS. However, without full support from the US, it is doubtful the project will be able to achieve meaningful measures to curb tax avoidance by multinationals. Therefore, unilateral actions may be the pragmatic response of other countries like Australia to protect their tax bases. Not so fast… The proposal will face a number of challenges. First, the tax would apply only if a multinational has shifted profits from Australia under a tax avoidance structure. This raises the question: what is a tax avoidance structure? Apple’s example is clear-cut. As the US$44 billion has never been taxed anywhere in the world, it will be difficult for Apple to argue it is not engaged in a tax avoidance structure. However, what about profits shifted to a country where the tax rate is 10%? This is one of the technical issues policymakers will have to address. Second, the ATO will have to find a way to determine the amount of profit shifted from Australia. Going back to the Apple example, how should the ATO estimate how much profit out of the US$44 billion booked in Ireland should be subject to the Google tax? This issue may be difficult and controversial, but should be manageable. The third and possibly most formidable obstacle to the introduction of a Google tax is that multinationals are likely to offer significant resistance to its introduction. They can be expected to apply intense political pressure, lobbying against this proposal. A common argument by multinationals is that unilateral action by a country will scare businesses away. This may or may not be a concern, depending on the types of businesses of multinationals. One important factor that policymakers should remember is that the location of customers is not mobile. Apple can generate A$600 sales income only if it sells an iPad to a customer in Australia. It is highly unlikely, and does not make any commercial sense, that Apple would give up the Australian market because it does not want to pay 30% tax on sales profits. This article originally appeared on The Conversation.
The Australian designer behind Google's now-defunct Wave service has shared the key lessons learnt from the innovative but ultimately unsuccessful service. Cameron Adams, now the chief product officer at Canva, has spent 16 years as either a graphics designer or chief designer. During the Above All Human conference in Melbourne, Adams shared the following three key lessons about design: 1. Design it how it works "Every time a conference speaker quotes Steve Jobs, an angel investor loses their wings. Nonetheless here's another one: 'Design it how it works'," Adams says. Back in 2007 Lars Rasmussen, then an engineering manager at Google, contacted Adams about working on a new service called Wave. Wave was launched at the 2009 Google I/O conference in the first YouTube video to run over 10 minutes. It was conceived of as being a feature-rich 'next-generation' email service and received positively, with the launch clip eventually watched over 80 million times. "If you ever have a product that has inerrant flaws launch the way we did -- we gave an 80 minute talk and demoed every single feature," he says. "There was only small problem with Wave, and that was no-one on the team had any idea what Wave should do," According to Adams, design maturity within a company is a spectrum. "At one end, some companies think design is like lipstick. And at the other end, you have companies like Apple that think is design is everything," he says. Google at the time was the former, according to Adams, with the Wave project having 50 engineers, five product managers and him as the sole designer. It led to the absurd situation where engineers added a range of features with no coherent vision for how the overall product would work, while Adams spent three days making sure the drop-shadows looked right. 2. Design is not everything After leaving Google, Adams launched an email design startup called Fluent. "The product itself was a great design... The problem was we forgot about the business.Following an Article in the Sydney Morning Herald, we got 60,000 people trying to use our service," he says. "We flew to San Francisco and spoke to VCs. They were like 'awesome product, but what's your business model?'" It was estimated the service, though solidly designed, would need to raise $5 per user per month to break even. It was a price consumers were unwilling to pay. "We created an experience that was well designed, but didn't move the bar enough to be a great product." 3. Design is cultural Compared to his previous two ventures, Adams says the secret of Canva has been that it has created a design culture, in which design decisions have been delegated throughout the organisation. "The design culture has to be embedded into your company so everyone can make great design decisions. And the best way to do that is to embed it from the top," he says. "Having a holistic design culture throughout your company has been critical to our experience."
Global payments platform Stripe has raised a $70 million investment and is now valued at $3.5 billion, according to Re/Code. The $3.5 billion figure is double the last valuation Stripe received after raising $80 million in January this year. The startup has partnerships with Apple, Twitter and Facebook – allowing businesses to accept local and international payments from customers without a complicated matrix of bank accounts or third-party software. Stripe launched in Australia in July, with the head of Stripe in Australia and New Zealand, Susan Wu, telling StartupSmart the platform was the “best thing since Vegemite”. Twitter tackles online trolls Twitter is improving its harassment reporting processes and has promised faster response times for people who flag abusive tweets. A number of new controls and features will mean users can view which accounts they have blocked from their setting menu. In addition, people who block users will be able to rest easy knowing that the accounts in question will not be able to view their profile. In an online statement, the social media giant said its users can expect to see further improvements to reporting abusive accounts in coming days. “We’ll continue to work hard on these changes in order to improve the experience of people who encounter abuse on Twitter,” the company said. The updates are currently available to a small group of users but will be rolled out to all Twitter users in the coming weeks. US businesses warned of more cyber attacks following Sony hacking The FBI has warned businesses that hackers have used malicious software to launch cyber attacks in the United States, according to Reuters. The FBI did not say how many companies have been affected. Last week, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer systems were hacked – resulting in several unreleased movies being leaked online and employee data being breached. The attack is being described as the “first major destructive cyber attack” on US soil. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 92.42 points to 17,869.22. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 84 US cents.
The Apple Watch launch is scheduled to arrive later than originally anticipated, according to Apple’s senior vice president of retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts. Ahrendts told retail employees in a video message the launch is scheduled for the US spring, according to 9to5mac. “We’re going into the holidays, we’ll go into Chinese New Year, and then we’ve got a new watch launch coming in the spring,” she says in the video. Spring begins on March 20 in the US and lasts until June. Apple has consistently said the Apple Watch will ship in early 2015. Publicis buys Sapient for $3.7 billion Publicis Groupe SA has agreed to purchase Sapient Corp for $US3.7 billion ($A4.26 billion), pushing the world’s third-largest advertising company deeper into digital offerings and the United States, Bloomberg reports. The French company is moving on from a failed $35 billion merger with Omnicom, which was abandoned after executives clashed about how to run the combined entity. Google updates Calendar app Google has updated Google Calendar app, features include automatic event creation from emails, and a new Schedule View that includes photos and maps of the places its users are going. The new Google Calendar works on all Android 4.1+ devices. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 24.28 to 17,366.24. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.
Neuroscientists are fed up with the brain training industry, Michael Byrne reports in Motherboard. According to Byrne, neuroscientists object to the claim that brain games offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline when there is no compelling scientific evidence to date that they do. Sorry Lumosity, Fit Brains and Brain HQ. Sadly there doesn’t appear to be an app which can make you smarter. How Yelp revolutionised customer feedback Yelp’s presence in Australia may still be small compared to the United States but David Kamp’s article in Vanity Fair ‘How Yelp chief executive Jeremy Stoppelman created a revolutionary product’ is still a fascinating read. Kamp reports that “something funny happened shortly after Stoppelman’s project at PayPal, Yelp went live: its users embraced the site’s “Write a review” feature to a degree far greater than anticipated.” “A few weeks of hasty re-coding later, Yelp was reconfigured to make reviewing its raison d’être, and Stoppelman has never looked back. “Ten years after its founding, Yelp is the web’s premier site and app for customer reviews—not just of restaurants, but of shops, kiosks, food trucks, parks, bus lines, funeral homes, D.M.V. offices, and even human attractions. (The Naked Cowboy in Times Square was averaging four stars out of five at press time.)” Dealing with toxic people In Inc, Jessica Stillman outlines ‘7 Ways To Deal With Toxic People.’ She says the sad reality is that toxic people are common. “Equally troubling is the effect those individuals – who like to push others' buttons, stymie projects, and inject pessimism into every situation – can have on their better-adjusted co-workers,” Stillman says. She outlines seven strategies for managing this noxious breed. Tim Cook’s personal statement Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken a step away for a moment from the rigours of running one of the biggest companies in the world to write in Bloomberg Businessweek about being gay. “While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.” It’s an understated but proud proclamation by Cook about his sexuality and about his pride in Apple’s history and continued commitment to human rights and equality.
China received its first official iPhones last week, but the Chinese firewall is blocking all local connections to iCloud.com, instead redirecting users to a dummy site which looks exactly like Apple’s login page. Users browsing the web with Chrome or Firefox will see a warning page, but those using Qihoo, the most popular browser in China will be taken straight to the dummy site with no indication that it is not run by Apple. A similar attack is being used against Microsoft’s Login.live.com. The Verge speculates that because the attack is taking place at the level of the Great Firewall, it is likely that it’s an attempt by Chinese authorities to harvest usernames and passwords. IBM abandons 2015 profit target IBM has abandoned a long-promised plan to deliver $20 a share in profits by 2015 after a significant slowdown in spending by its clients that sent its shares falling by more than 8%, Re/code reports. The company says it missed sales and profit expectations for the quarter, blaming an “unprecedented change” in the IT industry. Apple releases iOS 8.1 The latest update for iOS is now publicly available and comes with new features like Apple Pay, iCloud Photo Library and additional Continuity features. The update is available on iPhone 4s and higher, iPad 2 and higher, iPad Mini and higher, and iPad touch fifth generation. The Apple Pay feature is only available for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 19.26 to 16,399.67. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.
In 2012, the UK’s Sunday Times reported that actor Bruce Willis was going to sue Apple because he was not legally allowed to bequeath his iTunes collection of music to his children. The story turned out to be false (and shockingly bad journalism) but it did start a conversation about what we can, and can’t, do with our digital possessions. It turns out that “possessions” is actually a misnomer. We actually don’t own the music, books and movies we “buy” from Apple and Amazon. As Amazon puts it in its license terms, “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider”. In other words, we are allowed to read the content but we are not allowed to pass it on. It comes as no surprise then that 93% of Americans surveyed were unaware or misinformed when asked about what digital assets they were able to pass on in the event of their death. But the problems don’t stop there. Relatives of the recently deceased are frequently left with a range of decisions and challenges when it comes to dealing with their online accounts, especially social media. This is not made easier by the fact that every company implements different strategies in dealing with accounts belonging to a deceased user, coupled with the fact that in the UK in 2012 at least, the average user had 26 accounts. In most cases, getting an account shut down requires close family to produce a range of documentation to prove that they have the right to request that the account is terminated. This doesn’t allow for those relatives to get access to the content of the accounts however. Taking a lead in making the process of handling accounts of the deceased simpler, Google has implemented their Inactive Account Manager. This allows anyone to specify what should happen in the event that an account has not been accessed for at least 3 months. Up to 10 people can be notified and the contents of the accounts, including services such as YouTube and Google+, shared with them. Alternatively, the accounts can simply be automatically deleted. Facebook will, on request, “memorialise” a person’s Facebook page. This freezes the page with the same permissions as it had when it was last accessed by the user but will stop the page from being discovered in a search and will not actively promote the page to others. The role of social media in the bereavement process has been the focus of an increasing amount of research. Generally, it is thought that social media can help in the bereavement process, although the persistence of a person’s profile online may make final acceptance of the passing more difficult. An interesting finding has been that when people post on a memorial page, they frequently do so in the present tense as if the person was still alive. In the UK, a survey has found that 36% of people would like their profiles to continue being available online after they die, with a larger proportion of 18-24 year olds preferring this option than over 55s. It doesn’t have to stop there. There are now services which allow you to continue Tweeting after you die using a bot that has studied your tweeting style. Other services allow users to send final messages via Facebook and LinkedIn. Digital estate planning is starting to become more of the norm and people are being prompted to think about what they want done with their digital assets and accounts after they die. This is going to be a significant issue for social media companies in the future. Since Facebook started, about 10-20 million users will have died. This number will increase and eventually overtake the number of living users on the site, by one estimate, in 2060. In one humorous envisioning of the future, Tom Scott has produced a disturbing possibility in his video “Welcome To Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers”. In it, he describes a corporate sponsored network as a resting place for the digital version of your consciousness, that is, of course, ad sponsored. In this case as with the question today, it is perhaps best for all if your online social presence ends when you do. David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella’s excruciating gaffe that women should not ask for a raise but trust in “karma” that they would be rewarded eventually has been met with widespread condemnation. He made the statement, ironically enough, during an interview at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference. The conference , dedicated to women in technology, had a largely female audience who were confounded when Nadella gave his advice. The statement was met with an instant reaction on social media and Nadella, realising the seriousness of his mistake, issued a retraction saying that his answer to the question on whether women should ask for a pay raise was “completely wrong”. Nadella’s statement is completely wrong for a whole host of reasons but in particular, it highlighted the fact that he seemed completely unaware of the context of the question given that Microsoft’s workforce is made up of just 29% women. When looking at the high status tech jobs at Microsoft, that number drops to 17%. Nadella also seemed unaware that the 17% of the female tech work force at Microsoft are likely to be paid salaries of around 87% the salaries of men. Of course, when you take merit-based bonuses into account, the gender pay gap is even greater, as women receive bonuses that are half the size of men’s. He must have been unaware of these facts, because if he was aware of them, how could he possibly have thought that a woman’s silence would result in the “right thing” happening? For Nadella, a 22 year veteran of Microsoft it is perhaps not surprising that he would have been unaware of the reality of being female and working at the company. The truth of the matter is that he may rarely have encountered women in his day-to-day job other than those employed in non-technical roles. As CEO of the company however, it is particularly revealing that he would have been insensitive to the challenges women face in that working environment. His statements perhaps point to the limitations of his abilities and will now remain as the “elephant in the room” when he is trying to navigate Microsoft from being relegated into irrelevance by its stronger rivals, Apple and Google. At the very least, Nadella joins the ranks of other CEOs who have made similarly public missteps, three of whom lost their jobs as a result: Mozilla’s CEO, Brendan Eich eventually was forced to step down over his support of anti-gay marriage legislation Lululemon’s CEO Dennis “Chip” Wilson also stepped down after blaming the fact that some of their yoga pants became see-through on overweight women saying that “Some women’s bodies “just don’t actually work” for Lululemon trousers” BP CEO Tony Hayward was forced to resign after a series of PR bombs in dealing with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill that included his famous quote “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.” The fact that a CEO can lose their job over a single statement reflects the nature of the job. The perceived importance of the CEO to a company’s performance is highly debated, especially when it is framed in terms of how much pay they are worth. However, the consensus is that CEOs have little impact on the overall performance of a company. Nadella comes as a novice to the job of chief executive and his turn in this position follows on from a long reign of the founders running the company. A chief executive’s main role however is to present the public face of the company and to inspire the market and their customers as a visionary. Perhaps we should have expected less of Nadella given that his first email to Microsoft employees encapsulated this vision as Microsoft enabling people to “do more” and that staff should “believe in the impossible”. Presumably the latter was aimed at female staff wanting equal representation and pay at the company. David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Popular online music and audio sharing platform SoundCloud’s rapid growth is seeing its costs runaway from its revenues, TechCrunch reports. The platform is now exceeding 175 million listeners each month, and is on track to reach 200 million. The company posted a turnover of $US14.1 million ($A16.2 million) in 2013, up 40% from 2012. However, its operating loss for the period more than doubled to $US29.2 million. The company says it’s trying to grow SoundCloud into the market-leading platform for listening to, creating and sharing sound. “This has necessitated investment in technology, headcount and marketing. Our overhead base has increased faster than our revenues,” it says. Raspberry Pi sales pass 3.8 million Sales of the Raspberry Pi microcomputer have now passed 3.8 million, dwarfing its creator’s original expectations. Its creators, the Pi Foundation, envisaged selling as few as 10,000 boards of the course over its lifetime. The Pi shipped just over a million in its first year on sale, and two and a half years later sales continue to trend upwards. Patent trolling pays Statistics published by the lawfirm Goodwin Protector as part of a manual that provides tips for fighting patent trolls show that in the US, from 2010 to 2013, non-practising entitles (patent trolls) received three times more in damages than real companies, Gigaom reports. Michael Strapp, one of the manual’s authors, says the result is because of patent trolls squeezing settlements from dozens of smaller companies and then suing larger companies like Apple or Google. He also says another factor is a dysfunctional feature of the American patent system, which allows the trolls to choose the venue of legal action. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 115.15 to 16,544.10. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.
Apple has admitted it found sapphire screen manufacturer GT Advanced Technologies (GT) decision to file for bankruptcy “surprising”. Earlier this week GT abruptly filed for bankruptcy, stunning investors, creditors and Apple, who had backed the materials maker for its bet on sapphire screen technology, The Wall Street Journal reports. As recently as August GT executives said they expected to end the year with $US400 million ($AU 453 million) in the bank. Apple called the bankruptcy “a surprising decision”. A source told The Wall Street Journal that Apple had been working with GT to keep it solvent. Symantec exploring split Symantec is the latest technology company to explore a breakup. Sources told Bloomberg the company is in advanced talks to split up its business into two entities, one that sells security programs, and another that does data storage. The company has been struggling to strengthen its growth. Revenue declined in the latest fiscal year and is projected to be unchanged this year as it grapples with a PC sales slump that has damaged sales of its antivirus software. Truecaller secures $60 million in funding Swedish startup Truecaller has announced it has raised $US60 million ($AU68 million)in a Series C round led by Atomico, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, and Sequoia Capital, TechCrunch reports. The company helps users identify all the phone numbers calling their smartphone, whether that number is listed in the phone’s contacts or not. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 274.83 to 16,994.22. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.
Microsoft will skip the version 9 of Windows and will release instead Windows 10 in 2015. This upgrade will be the last major release of Windows. The decision to stop releasing Windows as a series of major releases is long overdue and follows the approach (including the choice of the number 10) taken by Apple in releasing minor versions of its Mac OSX system. After the disastrous release of Windows 8, subsequent releases have been largely about rolling back the more radical changes in the user interface. As attention shifts to mobile, the marketing and commercial advantages of releasing major upgrades to operating systems have all but disappeared. Microsoft will now release changes to Windows via smaller point upgrades, following Apple’s lead with Mac OSX which will shortly be at version 10.10. This is actually good news for both consumers and businesses who have to deal with the inevitable bugs that come with upgrades along with updates of software changed only to support the new operating system. At the same time, the new features in the upgrade are bringing diminishing direct benefits to consumers as changes become increasingly gratuitous. Insult is added to injury of course when consumers are actually asked to pay for the new versions, a practice that Apple at least has largely stopped. Businesses who use Windows will also find the end of large upgrades easier to manage as it becomes simpler to deal with more frequent and smaller changes than to deal with a major version change. For Microsoft as well, this will have the added benefit of eventually persuading more of its users to all be on the same operating system. Currently only around 14% of Windows users are actually using Windows 8.x. Nearly twice that are still using Windows XP, a system they offcially stopped supporting this year. Operating systems should never really have to change as much as they have. The fundamental core of the operating system, called the “kernel)” does now what it has always done. New hardware can be accommodated by adding “device drivers”, something that doesn’t need a change in the kernel to achieve. Likewise, Microsoft learned the hard way that major changes to the user interface are not necessarily welcomed by its customers and even in this case, it would be possible to change this without a major release in the operating system as a whole. The fact the we may not see radically different versions of Windows, Mac OS or even Linux does not mean that this signals the death of the PC. Like the software that runs on it, hardware on PCs is unlikely to change radically in the future because it has turned out that people are prepared to use multiple devices. Functionality that might have been built into a PC is unnecessary because that functionality becomes available in distinct device types like tablets, phablets, mobile phones and wearables. It has also turned out that adding features like a touch screen to a laptop didn’t make much sense as this was largely made redundant through the use of the keyboard and mouse. Likewise, it is unlikely that devices like the “leap” motion tracking device will become standard on the laptop or PC because again it doesn’t radically improve on what you can already do. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that products can reach a point where they fundamentally do not evolve any further and reach a steady state. Technologies that we interact with every day are fundamentally the same as they have been for years, if not decades. A trivial example being the electric toaster which utilises the same technology that it has done for the past 100 years. With computing technology however, we have constantly held an expectation that each year will bring revolutionary change. This is because the mobile phone and tablet have really driven highly public declarations of change in annual launch events. Even here though, we will see mobile phones reach the so-called “climax state”, it might just take the public some time to accept and come to terms with it. David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.