For 20 years, consulting firm Gartner have been calling the future of technology using its now iconic “Hype Cycle”. The Hype Cycle: from hype to reality The Hype Cycle breaks the introduction of new technologies into five phases starting with the “Technology Trigger”, the first point at which a technology comes to the attention of the press and businesses. Technologies then rapidly become oversold or hyped. This is the point at which expansive claims are made about how technology X is going to radically transform and disrupt and the early innovators push to be amongst the first to ride the wave of excitement that technology generates. The initial hype eventually leads to a “Peak of Inflated Expectations” which is subsequently followed by the crash as it is realised that the technology isn’t going to be adopted in quite the way everyone predicted, nor is it generally as useful. This part leads to a “Trough of Disillusionment” which is accompanied by an increasing number of negative articles, project failures and lessening of interest in the technology generally. For some technologies however, the disillusionment is followed by a gradual increase in a more realistic adoption of the technology which eventually results in a “Plateau of Productivity”. Technologies for the next 10 years For Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle, the notable technologies are speech recognition which they are claiming to be well into the productive phase. Certainly mobile phones and increasingly, wearables, have driven the adoption of voice control and interaction and it is definitely usable on a day-to-day basis. Having said that however, Gartner also puts wearable user interfaces as having passed the peak of inlfated expectations and rapidly heading to the trough of disillusionment. Given that Google has based their interface for wearables very heavily on the use of voice, it seems odd that these two technologies would be so far apart according to Gartner. The position of the Internet of Things at the peak of inflated expectations will also come as a disappointment to all of the companies like Cisco that are claiming that we are already well and truly in the era of billions of interconnected and independently communicating devices. The future is lumpy Although the Hype Cycle is a convenient way of visualising the progress of technology from invention to universal use, it over-simplifies the way progress is made in innovation. As science fiction writer William Gibson once said: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed” Technology innovation is never smooth and never takes a single path. There can be businesses and individuals that are using technologies to radically improve productivity at the same time as almost everyone else is failing to do the same. A good example of this is the hype around “Big Data”. Whilst everyone acknowledges that we are creating enormous amounts of data that ultimately must hold valuable information and knowledge, very few organisations are attempting, let along succeeding, in finding it. Those that are experts in Big Data are the companies that have made digitally massive infrastructure their entire existence, companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Whilst Gartner has predicted that Big Data will reach the plateau of productivity within five to 10 years, it is also possible that it will never get there and that very few companies will have the skills to be able to take advantage of their amassed data. The other issue with Gartner’s representation of the technologies that it surveys is that it doesn’t distinguish between the different categories of technologies. Those that are aimed at consumers as opposed to the business sector. Here again, we are likely to see very different paths to adoption and acceptance of those technologies with very different time frames. What we are increasingly seeing is how technology is increasingly being used to enable a concentration of a very small number of very large companies. In turn, these companies are able to focus their resources on introducing new technologies for the public, rapidly iterating on designs until they work. Wearables from Apple, Google and companies like Samsung is a good example of this. As always with predictions around technology, it is very hard to tell what will be the key technologies next year, let alone in five to10 years time. Given that the Hype Cycle has been with us for 20 years however, my prediction is that it will still be here for the next 20. 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.
Apple is considering using its sapphire unbreakable screens in more-expensive models of the two larger iPhones it plans on unveiling later this year, if it can get enough of the material, sources tell The Wall Street Journal. Analysts estimate that a sapphire screen costs Apple about $16 to produce, compared to just $3 for Gorilla Glass, the heavy-duty glass used in current iPhones Sapphire is already used to cover the iPhone’s camera lens and fingerprint reader. It doesn't crack or scratch as easily as glass, withstands high temperatures and resists corrosion. Using sapphire would lead to fewer broken screens and Apple would save money in warranty costs, but analysts estimate those savings wouldn’t offset the higher cost of sapphire and, as such, would lead to smaller profit margins or higher prices for Apple products. Robin Williams’ daughter bullied off Twitter Twitter has vowed to improve its policies after trolls bullied Robin Williams’ daughter off of Twitter and Instagram just days after her father’s death, The Washington Post reports. A handful of Twitter users sent Zelda Williams messages on Twitter that blamed her for her father’s death, as well as pictures of her father altered to show bruises around his neck. Twitter says it will not tolerate abuse of this nature and a number of accounts have been suspended relating to the issue. Ask.com buys Ask.fm California-based Ask.com has announced it has acquired Ask.fm, a popular question-and-answer website, the New York Times reports. Formerly known as AskJeeves when it began as a search engine in 1995, this is Ask.com’s first significant push into social networking. Ask.fm has 180 million regular monthly users, 40% of whom are younger than 18. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 61.78 to 16,713.58. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
Apple has become the latest in a string of major tech companies to admit it has a problem with gender and ethnic diversity, according to figures it released overnight. The news follows a similar revelation from Google in May, which led to a string of other major tech companies, including LinkedIn and Twitter, admitting they too have gender and ethnic diversity issues. According to Apple’s figures, 70% of its 98,000-strong global workforce is male, a rate higher than LinkedIn where 61% of staff are male, but roughly equal to Google and Twitter. The figures also show 80% of Apple’s tech positions and 72% of its leadership positions are held by men. However, it’s not just in tech roles where Apple has a gender diversity problem, with the figures showing female employees make up just 35% of non-tech roles. This compares to 50% at Twitter. In terms of ethnic diversity, 55% of Apple’s US workforce identify as white, 15% as Asian, 11% as Hispanic, 7% as Black, 2% as two or more ethnicities, 1% as other and 9% are undeclared. However, the figures for ethnic diversity in leadership positions are far worse, with 64% identifying as white, 21% as Asian, 6% as Hispanic, 3% as Black and 6% as undeclared. In a statement, chief executive Tim Cook said “inclusion and diversity have been a focus” for the company under his leadership, but admitted the tech giant still has a long way to go. “Let me say up front: As CEO, I’m not satisfied with the numbers on this page,” said Cook. “They’re not new to us, and we’ve been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we’re committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products.” Cook said the company is taking a number of steps to overcome gender and ethnic inequality, including its sponsorship of LGBT rights group Human Rights Campaign, and its recent pledge of $100 million to President Obama’s ConnectED initiative. He also said the recent appointments of senior executives Eddy Cue, Angela Ahrendts, Lisa Jackson and Denise Young-Smith are examples of how the company’s culture is changing under his leadership. The figures were released just one day after the Victorian ICT for Women Network organised an event at Melbourne’s Deakin University called Go Girl Go for IT. The event was aimed at encouraging more high school aged girls, from Years 8 to 11, to consider a career in IT in order to overcome the gender disparity in the tech industry. Go Girl Go for IT communications team lead Sara Ogston told SmartCompany the challenge is to encourage more girls and women in the education system to consider a tech-related career. “I think a lot has to do with when applications are open for tech-related jobs, if girls or women don’t have the skills, they won’t apply or be considered for those jobs. So we need more diversity at the education level, at university and high school,” says Ogston. “I also think having work experience and internships available to people who aren’t necessarily from tech-focused universities or courses can also potentially be a first step into a tech-related role.” This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
Starting your own company can be the hardest thing you ever do, but a few words of wisdom never go astray. In fact, there are whole websites dedicated to inspirational quotes for people who want to set up their own business. Here at StartupSmart we decided to trawl the web for eight of the best. 1. “Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.” – Satya Nadella, Microsoft Nadella is the chief executive of Microsoft and has been with the company for 22 years. This particular quote is exemplified in his push for Microsoft to embrace cloud computing. On the company’s website, Nadella says Microsoft must continue to transform and bring innovative products to customers more quickly. 2. “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are a few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” – Nolan Bushnell, American engineer and entrepreneur Bushnell is an American entrepreneur renowned being the cofounder of Atari Inc, a company that helped pioneer arcade and home video games. Interestingly, Steve Jobs and Al Alcorn used to work for him in the 1970s. 3. “Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that.” – Anthony Volodkin, founder of Hype Machine Volodkin founded Hype Machine – an online music database – while he was still a computer science student. The website aggregates the most recently posted songs from a range of music blogs, and markets itself as a way to find “new music worth listening to”. Speaking of blogs, Volodkin has a personal Tumblr where he often posts about startups. 4. “Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.” – Tony Hsieh, chief executive of Zappos.com Despite being a workaholic himself, Tony Hsieh is renowned for promoting a fun workplace culture that involves everything from a man dressing up in a hot-dog suit and doing backflips to “Tutu Tuesdays” (yes, yes you did just read that correctly). 5. “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Many entrepreneurs talk about the importance of having the courage to take risks, and this quote by Steve Jobs sums it up rather nicely. 6. “A culture that supports women doesn’t come about spontaneously; it only happens when the leaders of companies create policies and initiatives to stimulate such a culture. In my experience, mentoring women into leadership is fundamental.” – Naomi Milgrom, chief executive of the Sussan Group Let’s face it: the majority of startup quotes floating around the internet are by men. Milgrom is a refreshing voice and renowned champion for women – particularly when it comes to flexible work practices. 7. “There is a whole myth about super people. That super people can do everything and they do it on their own.” – Therese Rein, founder of Ingeus While entrepreneurship is often stereotyped as a lonely pursuit, Rein’s quote is important because it highlights that even the most talented people cannot do everything by themselves. Often it takes a skilled co-founder or co-working space to really make a startup the best it can be. 8. “Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” – Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox Houston is the founder and chief executive of online storage service Dropbox. If anyone knows about only needing to be right once, it’s Houston – before Dropbox he worked on a number of startups and is now worth $1.2 billion.
Transportation network startup Lyft recently claimed Uber employees had requested and cancelled more than 5000 Lyft drivers, and now Uber has shot back. According to The New York Times, Uber has accused Lyft of doing the same thing. In a statement, Uber denied Lyft’s allegations and claimed that Lyft’s own drivers and employees, including one of Lyft’s founders, have cancelled 12,900 trips on Uber. “But instead of providing the long list of questionable tactics that Lyft has used over the years, we are focusing on building and maintaining the best platform for both consumers and drivers,” the statement says. “These attacks from Lyft are unfortunate but somewhat expected. A number of Lyft investors have recently being pushing Uber to acquire Lyft. One of their largest shareholders recently warned that Lyft would “go nuclear” if we do not acquire them. We can only assume that the recent Lyft attacks are part of that strategy.” OnePlus launches weird, sexist, smartphone contest Startup OnePlus recently launched its first smartphone, the One, and to deal with production issues, it’s been letting people buy them by invitation only. According to The Verge OnePlus began supplementing that system with a contest dubbed Ladies First. It asks women to draw the OnePlus logo on their body, or a sheet of paper they’re holding, take a photo of themselves, and then post it on the OnePlus forums. From there the 50 most well liked will get a free T-shirt and the option of buying the phone. Following widespread backlash, the startup removed the Ladies First contest page from its forums, but offered no further comment. Apple releases diversity report Apple has released its diversity report which shows that seven out of 10 of its workers globally are male, and in the United States 55 per cent of its workers are white. The company says the numbers represent a work in progress and it hopes to achieve more diversity over time. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 9.44 to 16,560.54. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
Apple is expected to hold an event to introduce its new iPhones on September 9, a source told The Wall Street Journal. It’s widely expected to launch two large-screen iPhones, one with a 4.7 inch display and another with a 5.5 inch display. The company declined to comment. Fox withdraws proposal to buy Time Warner Fox has announced it has withdrawn its $80 billion bid for the TV and movie conglomerate Time Warner. Fox chief executive officer Rupert Murdoch says his Time Warner counterpart Jeff Bewkes wouldn’t sit down and negotiate a deal, and Fox wasn’t going to negotiate with themselves. Time Warner shares fell after Fox announced it had withdrawn the proposal. Apple App Store breaking records Apple’s App Store saw record-setting revenue numbers in July, the company told CNBC. In addition to those numbers, the company also said its app store saw a record number of customers making transactions. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 139.81 to 16,429.47. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
Amazon is reportedly set to launch its own mobile credit card reading technology, according to internal documents from the office supply store Staples, obtained by 9to5mac. The documents say Staples stores are preparing to stock a new product called the “Amazon Card Reader” alongside existing card readers from Square, PayPal, and Staples’ in-house brand. Amazon recently launched a new wallet app for smartphones and 9to5mac speculates that Amazon’s card reader will likely connect to that. Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi raises $40 million Easy Taxi, a taxi calling app from Rocket Internet, has raised $40 million in a Series D funding round. The company launched in 2011 and has roughly 185,000 drivers, with 150,000 of those added over the past year. It’s available in 160 cities across 30 countries predominantly in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Easy Taxi co-CEO Dennis Wang says the funding will allow the startup to continue its growth in existing markets, while also scaling its operations and improving its service so as to appeal to “more audiences and geographies”. US cable companies say Google and Netflix biggest threat to net neutrality In a filing to the US Federal Communications Commission, Time Warner Cable claimed that the controversy over internet providers potentially charging websites for access to “fast lanes” on the internet is a “red herring”. It says the real danger is that Google or Netflix could start demanding payments from internet providers, as customers expect access to the most popular websites, an internet provider would have no choice but to pay. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association says a relatively connected group of large internet companies such as Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Facebook have enormous and growing power over people’s ability to access what they want on the net.
Tablet sales surged by 11% year-on-year during the second quarter of 2014, despite sales of Apple’s iPad plunging by 9.3% over the same period, according to new figures from IDC. The figures, compiled from IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, shows total shipments of tablets grew to 49.3 million units during the second quarter, up from 44.4 million a year earlier. The figures include sales of both traditional slate tablets, as well as “two-in-one” devices such as the Microsoft Surface. Apple remains the largest competitor with a market share of 26.9%. However, its worldwide shipments for the quarter dropped to 13.3 million units, down from 14.6 million for the same quarter a year earlier. Despite Apple’s falls, Samsung’s sales remained close to flat, growing from 8.4 million units a year ago to 8.5 million for the same quarter this year. Despite the small increase in volume, the South Korean tech giant’s market share dipped from 18.8% to 17.2%. The big winner in the market was third-place Lenovo, which saw its tablet volumes grow 64.7%, from 1.5 million units during the second quarter of 2013 to 2.4 million this year. Rounding out the top five were Asus, which shipped 2.3 million units during the quarter, and Acer, which shipped 1 million. The 21.9 million units is divided between a range of smaller Android and Windows tablet makers, including Microsoft, with each shipping less than 1 million units. In a statement, IDC research analyst Jitesh Ubrani says Apple and Samsung’s stranglehold over the tablet market is slipping. “Until recently, Apple, and to a lesser extent Samsung, have been sitting at the top of the market, minimally impacted by the progress from competitors," Ubrani says. "Now we are seeing growth amongst the smaller vendors and a levelling of shares across more vendors as the market enters a new phase.” Image credit: Flickr/ m01229
Apple is looking to launch the next version of the iPhone during a keynote address in mid-September, according to reports. Citing “sources briefed on the plans”, 9to5 Mac reports the second or third weeks of September are the most likely timeframe for a launch, although this could change as a result of manufacturing issues. There has been a steady stream of rumours Apple is gearing up to release two new models, with one version featuring a 4.7-inch display and the other a larger 5.5-inch display. The latest reports suggest that at least the 4.7-inch version will be unveiled, while no final decision has been made on the 5.5-inch version, contrary to earlier reports. Apple is also gearing up to release a fifth and final beta version of iOS 8 to developers on August 8, with the tech giant wrapping up development and shifting its efforts to iOS8.1 and iOS9. The latest news comes after Apple’s fiscal third quarter (April-June) results, posting a profit of $US7.7 billion ($A8.19 billion) off shipments of 35.2 million iPhones, up from 31.2 million a year earlier. This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
The iPhone is still Apple’s bread and butter gadget, as the tech titan reports strong quarterly profits led by its iPhone sales. Apple’s good news comes after its biggest rival in the smartphone market, Samsung, recently reported quarterly guidance far weaker than expected. Apple reported its fiscal third quarter (April-June) results overnight in the US, posting a profit of $US7.7 billion ($A8.19 billion), up from $6.9 billion for the same quarter last year, and a quarterly revenue of $37.4 billion. Apple sold 35.2 million iPhones during the quarter, compared to 31.2 million in the same period a year ago. According to The New York Times, the quarter ending in June is traditionally a slow time of year for smartphone sales industrywide, as many consumers hold out until the holiday shopping season to buy new phones. The highly anticipated release of the iPhone 6 with a larger screen, slated for later this year, will likely see the product remain the jewel in Apple’s crown. The tech giant’s Mac computers were its second best performing product, selling 4.4 million units in the quarter, up from 3.8 million the same time last year. “Our record June quarter revenue was fuelled by strong sales of iPhone and Mac and the continued growth of revenue from the Apple ecosystem, driving our highest EPS growth rate in seven quarters,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. International sales drove 59% of the quarter’s revenue. Tablets let the company down, with iPad sales shrinking to 13.3 million from 14.6 million last year. Apple shareholders will be satisfied with the results, with Cook announcing the company returned over $8 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the quarter. Apple also provided a guidance for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter, estimating revenue between $37 billion and $40 billion and a gross margin between 37% and 38%. This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
Apple has reported its third quarter results, posting a quarterly revenue of $37.4 billion and a quarterly net profit of $7.7 billion, or $1.28 per diluted share. International sales drove 59% of the quarter’s revenue. Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook says the company’s revenue in the quarter “was fuelled by strong sales of iPhone and Mac and continued growth of revenue from the Apple ecosystem”, which drove “the company’s highest EPS growth rate in seven quarters”. “We are incredibly excited about the upcoming releases of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, as well as other new products and services that we can’t wait to introduce,” he says. Microsoft Cloud drives strong fourth quarter results Microsoft has announced revenue of $23.38 billion for the quarter ended June 30, posting a gross margin of $15.79 billion, an operating income of $6.48 billion, and diluted earnings per share of $0.55 per share. Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella says the company’s focus cloud technology was behind the strong results. “I’m proud that our aggressive move to the cloud is paying off – our commercial cloud revenue doubled again this year to a $4.4 billion annual run rate,” he says. Timehop raises $10 million Timehop, an app that serves as a personal “today in history” memo by sourcing social networking photos and posts from your past has raised $10 million in new funding, TechCrunch reports. The Series B funding round was led by Shasta Ventures with the participation of previous investors Spark and O’Reilly Tech Ventures and angel investors including Randi Zuckerberg. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 61.81 to 17,113.54. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.
Microsoft is planning its biggest round of job cuts in five years, as the company looks to slim down and integrate Nokia Oyj’s handset unit, sources have told Bloomberg. One of the sources speculates the reductions will be in engineering, marketing, and areas that overlap with Nokia. The restructuring could be unveiled as soon as this week. Apple and IBM partner to “transform enterprise mobility” Apple and IBM have announced an exclusive partnership on a new range of business apps that will bring IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities to iPhone and iPad. A statement from Apple announcing the move says the partnership aims to “redefine the way work will get done, address key industry mobility challenges and spark true mobile-led business change”. This will be done by a host of native apps for iPhone and iPad, unique IBM cloud services optimised for iOS, AppleCare support tailored for enterprise, and new packaged offerings from IBM for device activation, supply and management. Alan Mulally appointed to Google’s board of directors Google has announced former Ford CEO Alan Mulally will be joining its board of directors and will serve on Google’s Audit Committee. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 5.26 to 17,060.68. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.
Medium and small businesses, including startups, need better access to growth capital funding, including venture capital and private equity, the Financial System Inquiry interim report has found. The report, which was released Tuesday morning, says Australian venture capital funds have not provided investors with adequate compensation for associated risks. Australian venture capital funds formed between 1985 and 2007 had a pooled internal rate of return -1.4%. It says barriers to generating significant investor interest include the aforementioned underperformance of VC funds, as well as the fee structures of VC and private equity funds, the tax treatment of venture capital limited partnerships, and scale. “The Australian market may be too small for some ventures to be viable, particularly when it comes to commercialising a product,” the report says. “In addition, certain cultures, particularly relating to risk, and extensive networks need to be developed to facilitate a thriving venture capital industry.” The inquiry notes it received submissions suggesting superannuation funds should be encouraged to invest in securitised SME loans and venture capital funds. “A mandate requiring superannuation funds to do so may also involve an implicit guarantee by the Government, which the enquiry does not consider to be appropriate,” it says. “Superannuation funds could consider investing in venture capital funds as part of a broader approach to diversifying their asset portfolios.” It says changing the research and development tax credit system to a quarterly basis for new ventures, which VC funds argue would help alleviate cash flow constraints, is an issue that should be considered as part of the Tax White Paper process. In a statement, Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association chief executive Yasser El-Ansary says if those barriers are removed, private equity and VC funds could play a more significant role in supporting startups. “Australian venture capital funds are currently invested in around only 200 startups and early stage ventures,” El-Ansary says. “There is substantial scope for the industry to play a greater role in building Australian businesses and creating new employment opportunities – especially in new high innovation industries of the future – if the enquiry makes recommendations for changes to some existing policies and regulations later in the year.” Technology and the financial system The report also highlights the role technology is playing in opening up the financial sector to non-traditional players. “Incumbents in the Australian payments industry are facing competitive challenges from new market entrants, such as PayPal, POLi, PayMate and Stripe,” it says. “Closed-loop pre-paid systems operated by companies outside the financial sector outside the financial sector, such as Apple, Skype and Starbucks, are holding growing amounts of customers’ funds. “Apple has also recently signalled its interest in mobile payments more broadly and recently developed fingerprint biometric authentication for its phones.” The inquiry received a number of submissions highlighting the potential risks virtual or crypto-currencies like bitcoin present to the current financial system. Those risks include the safety of the funds stored in such a way, which it says are at risk of system collapse or fraud, the highly speculative nature of virtual currencies which could lead to investor protection issues, their pseudonymity and the money laundering potential that comes with it, and their cross-jurisdictional nature. “Whether new entrants should be brought within a regulatory perimeter depends on the nature and scale of the risk they present, and who bears the risk,” the report says. “Government needs to strike a balance that allows the benefits of innovation to flow through the financial system, while maintaining stability.” The report concludes that government and regulators should take a flexible and technologically neutral approach to regulation, which is not currently the case as some federal and state regulations require the use of certain forms of technology.
Apple has launched a blog aimed at developers creating apps in its new programming language, Swift. The new programming language, used to create apps for Mac OS X and iOS, was unveiled during Apple’s recent Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) and coexists with the previous language, Objective C. The language is free to download for all registered Apple Developers as part of the company’s Xcode 6 beta software development kit. In its first blog post, Apple discusses app compatibility with Swift, explaining that software developed with Swift will work on current iOS and Mac devices. “You can target back to OS X Mavericks or iOS 7 with that same app. This is possible because Xcode embeds a small Swift runtime library within your app's bundle,” the post states. “Because the library is embedded, your app uses a consistent version of Swift that runs on past, present, and future OS releases.” This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
Ash Davies wants to make publishing e-books as easy as publishing blogs. In 2012 he founded Tablo, a cloud-based e-book publishing platform that has just secured $400,000 in seed funding. Tablo’s platform allows authors and readers to create, share and discover new e-books. “A lot of people think that, because publishing has gone digital, that it’s simple,” Davies says. “It’s still incredibly complicated and expensive though, and it’s even harder for an author to have their work discovered. “We’ve built the best publishing tool in the world, where publishing a book to major bookstores is as easy as publishing a blog. “Authors can drop in a document or write in the cloud and reach the iBooks Store or Amazon with a single click.” Lead investor and former CEO of the Catch Group, Paul Reining, has joined Tablo as a director and adviser, while other investors include Y Combinator partner Kevin Hale, and one of Tablo’s most successful authors, John Buck. Davies says the advantage Tablo has over traditional publishing methods is the service allows authors to build an audience as they write, by releasing parts of their book as they work on it. “Traditionally authors write solitarily for months and years before submitting to publishers,” he says. “Tablo empowers authors to connect with readers while they write their book.” The advantage of that share-as-you-write approach, Davies says, is that by the time the book is finished, it already has a following. “We have a number of successful authors on the platform, and the key point of difference is we help that author build their readership as they write their book. “The next bestseller can be discovered before it’s been published. “As opposed to traditional publishing where an author will work very hard for a long time and then publish to an empty audience.” Since going live roughly 12 months ago, Tablo has built a community of 10,000 authors from 100 different countries. It offers a ‘freemium’ based subscription model. It costs nothing to create and share books, but authors who want to publish on the iBooks Store and Amazon need to subscribe, which starts at $7.95 per month. Authors receive 100% of the royalties, once Apple and Amazon take their commissions. The startup is a graduate of the AngelCube accelerator program and he says the program had a big role in making the funding round possible. “As a new entrepreneur it was never going to be easy,” Davies says. “But going through AngelCube and working with their network made it easier and at the core of it we have a great product.”
Tablet-sized phones, or ‘phablets’, and wearable technology such as smartwatches are the big growth areas to watch as Australia’s attraction to smartphones continues to strengthen, according to research released yesterday. While recent studies have illustrated smartphone trends in the US, the latest research from local analyst firm Telsyte shows there were 16 million smartphone users in Australia at the end of June 2014, an increase of 1.1 million over the previous six months. Telsyte’s Smartphone Market Study 2014-2018, estimates 5.6 million new smartphones will be sold in Australia during the second half of 2014 and points to strong growth in the area of phablets, smartwatches and fitness bands. Phablets – or smartphones with a screen size of 5.5 to 6.9 inches – are still a niche market according to Telsyte, despite more manufacturers releasing larger-screen devices that blur the line between a smartphone and tablet. But Telsyte believes the phablet will be boosted by the entrance of Apple later this year, when the tech giant is expected to launch a 5.5 inch iPhone 6. “Some 40% of survey respondents that intend to purchase an iPhone 6 indicated they would only consider it if it has a larger screen,” said Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi. The research also found while smartwatch adoption is still embryonic in Australia, the product category might be accelerated with the arrival of an Apple “iWatch” in 2014. Samsung is the current market leader. Smart fitness bands are currently more popular than smartwatches, according to the study, due to their lower price points and popularity as a gift. Fitbit is the market leader. Telsyte research also shows that Android smartphones have now overtaken iPhones as the main devices purchased on contract from carriers, following strong carrier promotions and the reduction in iPhone subsidies. This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
“My idea is revolutionary! It’s a world first!” the would-be entrepreneur says. Instantly, Old Taskmaster was both intrigued – and alarmed. Sure, sometimes the person spruiking a ‘world first’ has a name like Ada Lovelace, Steve Wozniak, Sergei Brin, Sophie Wilson, Jay Miner or Bill Gates. Far more often, there’s either a good reason why no one has tried the world first, or alternatively, far from being a world first, it’s just another mobile messaging or e-commerce app. “I’m going to create a fully-automated drone-based pizza delivery business!” the crowdfunder says. “Here’s how it works: The customer picks a pizza and pays using the mobile app. “In a warehouse, I’ll set up a fully automated pizza production line. As the customer order comes in, flour, water, tomato paste, ham and other toppings go in, and fully baked pizzas come out the other end. “Those pizzas are picked up by drones, which fly the pizzas straight to the front door of the customer – with the customer getting a notification on the app as the pizza arrives. “Here’s the best part: You can put the warehouse in a run-down industrial backlot rather than a premium retail shopping strip. You only need three staff – a cleaner, an engineer, and a truck driver to pick up and deliver the raw ingredients. No cooks, no kids on counter, no delivery drivers. “And because the drones fly as the crows fly, instead of by following the road network, you could potentially cover a whole metro area like Melbourne within 30 minutes’ drone flight of our six warehouses!” Your humble correspondent complimented the idea, but asked whether they had a prototype pizza production line ready. “Nope,” says the would-be pizza tycoon. What about a drone? “Uhh… Nope.” A soldering iron, a fistful of capacitors or other components you might need to build this? “Nup.” What about the software? Do you have the app ready? Or a prototype? Or do you know about Android’s Dalvik or Apple’s Objective C? “Nope. Instead, I focused on the thing that matters the most: The end user experience. Why, I already spent over a quarter of a million dollars hiring designers to create a mock-up of what my app will look like!” Old Taskmaster’s stood, head in palm, like Jean Luc Piccard. So, do you want a slice of the action? Focus on a working prototype, rather than on hiring designers! Get it done – today!
Amazon, the e-commerce internet giant, is launching its first smartphone. Media attention is focusing on whether the phone’s features, such as its rumoured 3D interface, are really as cool as portrayed in its trailer video which aims to wow early users. But by entering into the fray of an already hyper-competitive mobile phone industry, Amazon is doing a lot more than adding another gee-whizz feature to a smartphone. This launch tells us a great deal about CEO Jeff Bezos' strategy for his company – and what it might mean for the future of competition and innovation in our increasingly digital world. First, let’s ask the obvious questions. Why is Amazon, known for internet retailing and related software development, entering a hardware market where leading incumbents like Nokia have already failed? After all, what does Amazon know about the telecoms business? Can it succeed where Google has failed? We have seen Google, which has virtually limitless financial resources, enter the mobile phone handset industry by purchasing Motorola Mobile in 2012, only to take a heavy loss after selling it on less than two years later. Even incumbent firms who had a very strong set of phone-making capabilities have taken tough hits in this turbulent market – witness Nokia’s dramatic plunge, which led to a sale of its mobile phone business to Microsoft. Platform Number 1 You cannot understand Amazon’s move without situating it in the broader context of platform competition. Platforms, these fundamental technologies such as Google search, Facebook and the Apple iPhone, are the building blocks of our digital economy. They act as a foundation on top of which thousands of innovators worldwide develop complementary products and services and facilitate transactions between increasingly larger networks of users, buyers and sellers. Platform competition is the name of the game in hi-tech industries today. The top-valued digital companies in the world (Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook) are all aggressively pursuing platform strategies. App developers and other producers of complementary services or products provide the armies that sustain the vibrancy and competitiveness of these platforms by adding their products to them. The more users a platform has, the more these innovators will be attracted to developing for them. The more complements available, the more valuable the platform becomes to users. It is these virtuous cycles – positive feedback loops, or “network effects” – that fuel the growth of platforms and transform them into formidable engines of growth for the companies and developers associated with them. The smartphone is a crucial digital platform. Achieving platform leader status in this space is a competitive position all the hi-tech giants are fighting for. Google has its ubiquitous Android operating system, Apple has shaped the whole market with the iPhone, Microsoft has purchased Nokia’s phone business, and Facebook has invested $19 billion in WhatsApp among other acquisitions for its growing platform. In fact, I suppose I should have rephrased my question a little earlier – why hasn’t Amazon already staked its claim to lead this digital space after having launched its Kindle Fire tablet and Fire TV set-top box? Opening the door Simply put, the smartphone is the main gateway to the internet today, and, in the hand of billions of users throughout the world, is the physical embodiment of a conduit that links those users to each other and to the whole content of the internet. There are almost 7 billion mobile phones in the world (and only 1 billion bank accounts). And the trend is staggering. Mobile payment transaction value surpassed $235 billion worldwide in 2013, and is growing at 40% a year, with the share of mobile transactions already reaching 20% of all worldwide transactions. So, while risky, Amazon’s entry into the smartphone business is a classic play: a platform leader entering an adjacent platform market that is also complementary to its primary business. All platform leaders aim to stimulate complementary innovation (think how video game console makers aim to stimulate the provision of videogames), and they often attempt not to compete too much with their complementors in order to preserve innovation incentives. But at some point all platform leaders start to enter these complementary markets themselves. Google has done it through Android, Apple has done it with iTunes, Facebook has done it with Facebook Home. It happens when platform leaders feel threatened by competition in their core market, or when they want to steer demand, competition and innovation in a particular direction. The idea is to use their own user base as well as their own content and technologies to create an unassailable bundle, one that is difficult for external competitors to break into. Think of it as creating barriers to entry, while expanding the core market. The reasoning behind entering a complementary market is well known, and related to the benefits of bundling. In the case of hi-tech platforms, the benefits are even stronger. By optimising and controlling the interface between a platform and complements, a company can have a structuring impact on the evolution of the platform ecosystem – and that means on all the innovators around the world that invest and make efforts to develop complementary products and services. In your hands So, these are the reasons why Amazon is entering the mobile phone market, despite the difficulties inherent in taking on an über-competitive market. This strategic choice makes a lot of sense. As to whether Amazon has a fighting chance of succeeding, there are reasons to be optimistic. Beyond its deep financial resources, Amazon has learned something of what it takes in the development and successful commercialisation of various versions of the Kindle. That has given it expertise in hardware, on top of its software background, and should prove a useful training ground to allow it to launch other consumer products such as the smartphone. But the ultimate judge will be you, gentle readers. Will you be willing to swap your favourite mobile phone for a yet another new kid on the block, even if it does let you browse Amazon’s ever-growing catalogue in splendid 3D? Annabelle Gawer is Associate Professor in Strategy and Innovation at Imperial College Business School. This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the
The internet ain’t what it was in 2004 and on the tenth anniversary of Web Directions, the conference organisers are taking the time to remember just how far it’s come. “When we started Web Directions, we were just looking at ‘the web’, but now it’s the foundation for almost everything,” says Web Directions co-founder John Allsopp. “It’s powering major financial institutions.” The conference has two tracks, engineering and product, and its status as one of Australia’s premiere web events is highlighted by some of the big local and international names Allsopp and fellow Web Directions founder Maxine Sherrin have managed to attract. Genevieve Bell, Intel Fellow and vice president of Intel Labs, as well as director of User Experience Research at Intel Corporation, is delivering a keynote. Bell leads a team of social scientists, interaction designers, human factors engineers and computer scientists focused on people's needs and desires to help shape new Intel products and technologies. On the product side, Douglas Bowman, who just recently left Twittier as its creative director, is one of the big names they’ve managed to attract. Also on the product line-up is Scott Thomas, who famously worked on the Obama campaign, but also for the likes of Fast Company, Apple, IBM, HP, Nike, Patagonia, Levis, the Alliance for Climate Protection, and Craigslist. Younghee Jung from Nokia’s corporate research team, focusing on enablers of social development through mobile technology, will also be speaking at the conference. On the engineering side, Bill Scott, senior director of business engineering at PayPal, will be speaking, along with Railsbridge founder Sarah Mei and Jake Archibald who works in Google Chrome's developer relations team. Allsopp says he feels the calibre of speakers makes it the best line-up they’ve had and competitive on an international level. “These are world class speakers by anyone’s standard,” he says. This year also means a change of venue, moving from the Convention Centre to the Seymour Centre. “It’s got a good vibe and it’s both edgy and accessible, which makes sense for us,” Allsopp says. Allsopp says they’ve always advocated the benefit for teams and individuals to get out of the office and become rejuvenated by immersing yourself in the amazing work so many in the industry are doing. “We want to create that feeling when you can’t wait to get back to work because you’re just pumped with ideas,” he says. “For a lot of people who come from all over Australia, it’s the one chance in a year to catch up with people in the industry.” The full program can be found here.
According to SEEK co-founder and Square Peg chief executive Paul Bassat, payments are the “holy grail of innovation”. He made the comment at The Australian Financial Review and Macquarie Future Forum on Tuesday, where some of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs declared the industry ripe for disruption. Despite banks in Australia being protected by complicated regulations, entrepreneurs are placing the industry under increasing pressure. Adding to banking woes are the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook eyeing entry to the payments market. Here are the top four Australian disruptive financial services startups to watch: 1. Society One Society One is Australia's leading peer-to-peer lending platform, with a $5 million investment from Westpac’s Reinventure Group, a $50 million fund set up to back early stage startups. It’s rumored to be on the investment radar of both James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch. Borrowers list loan requirements and investors decide which loans they choose, how much to invest in each loan, and the rate at which you want to earn their interest. Its personal loan rate for a prime borrower is 9.80% pa, 5% lower than the average rate from the major banks. 2. Tyro Payments Tyro provides credit, debit and EFTPOS card acquiring services and does not take money on deposit. It was founded in 2003 by ex-Cisco employees Peter Haig, Andrew Rothwell and Paul Wood as MoneySwitch Ltd. Eleven-year-old Tyro is in its second year of profitable business operations. Disrupting the Australian banking industry was never going to be easy, and it took the team over $30 million in capital and a founder break-up to get there. At launch it was the first new entrant into the eftpos space in 15 years. 3. Pin Payments Pin Payments is an Australian-based startup operating from Melbourne and Perth that offers onsite payments and a developer API without the need for a merchant account. It received a grant from Commercialisation Australia and partnered with some of the Australian banks to make its offering possible. Both overseas-based Braintree and Stripe operate in the same space, but Pin has a solid local focus. Getting access to a payment system has previously been a juggle for companies, especially early stage ones. Pin Payments is aimed at developers who can easily integrate its service through their API. 4. CoinJar CoinJar, a Melbourne-based bitcoin exchange and payment system, which has raised $500,000 in seed funding from a range of individual investors and the Blackbird Ventures seed fund. Launched in February by Asher Tan and Ryan Zhou, CoinJar has over 10,000 active users in Australia. The company charges a low single-digit percentage fee for each transaction. CoinJar was the first company to get its Bitcoin app re-listed in the iPhone App Store, after Apple revised its app guidelines to include virtual currency apps that it previously excluded.