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THE NEWS WRAP: Internal documents reveal Amazon plans for credit card reader

7:24PM | Sunday, 27 July

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.

Apple iPad and Samsung duopoly slips as tablet market grows 11%: IDC

7:57PM | Sunday, 27 July

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 tentatively planning to announce iPhone 6 in September

7:27AM | Thursday, 24 July

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.

iPhones still Apple’s bread and butter as profits reach $US7.7 billion

7:01AM | Wednesday, 23 July

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.

NEWS WRAP: ‘Strong sales of iPhone and Mac’ boost Apple’s third quarter revenue

7:25PM | Tuesday, 22 July

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.

THE NEWS WRAP: Microsoft to axe jobs

7:38PM | Tuesday, 15 July

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.

Australian startups need growth capital funding to thrive: FSI interim report

7:38AM | Tuesday, 15 July

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 launches a blog aimed at Swift developers

7:39AM | Monday, 14 July

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.

Tablo aims to make publishing e-books as easy as publishing blogs

7:19AM | Thursday, 10 July

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.”

'Phablets' and wearable tech on-trend for Aussie consumers

7:41PM | Wednesday, 2 July

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.

The pizza drone that won’t get a slice of the action

6:55AM | Tuesday, 24 June

“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’s Fire Phone launch offers a warm platform for growth

6:36AM | Thursday, 19 June

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

Web Directions celebrates 10 years with a star line-up

6:38AM | Thursday, 19 June

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.

Show me the money! Four Australian disruptive financial services startups to watch

6:59AM | Wednesday, 18 June

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.

Will Apple’s HealthKit and Health app empower or frustrate?

6:00PM | Tuesday, 10 June

If you thought that self-tracking and the collection of personal health and fitness metrics was just a fad then an announcement last week by Apple CEO Tim Cook at the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference might suggest otherwise.   A Health app and a developer tool named HealthKit, which is designed to serve as a hub to allow various health apps and fitness tracking devices to “talk” to one another, have been included in iOS 8.   But are these “new” developments from Apple really all that new – and do they indicate that matching hardware in the form of wearables is next on Apple’s launch list?   What Apple and partners such as the Mayo Clinic envisage is, for example, an app that monitors heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol. It would then be able to seamlessly share data with a hospital app or directly with healthcare professionals.   Building a technical infrastructure to develop health apps, or to enable the sharing of information between various third party apps, is an ambitious task.   Both Microsoft and Samsung are already entering the field of wearables with announcements of plans to release smart watches.   Apple’s latest offering adds to the speculation of the long awaited iWatch with reports in could be released as soon as October.   Meanwhile the latest advertisement (below) for the iPhone 5S shows people using a variety of wearable products already on the market.   The benefits of aggregating health and fitness data in this way are fairly clear in terms of how medical histories will be taken, how they are shared and the aggregation of personal data. It should provide better experience for those who use personal metrics in various aspect of their daily lives.   What’s in a brand name?   Some of the celebratory hype around HealthKit was overshadowed by an Australian start up which took Apple to task for using the same name of their practice and patient management software.   In a blog post the Melbourne-based company was both flattered and annoyed that Apple had used its established brand name:   They didn’t feel that they had to do a quick domain search – it would have taken 5 seconds to type www.healthkit.com into their browser and discover us. Would it have made any difference to them? Are they so big that they are above doing an ordinary Google search?   We might also wonder what other issues Apple’s health data aggregation system might face beyond this naming fiasco.   When a user opens any of Apple’s HealthKit enabled apps the information they produce will be housed in database and is immutable and read-only. What this means for developers is that apps can be developed which can collect and analyse this data in a variety of pre-determined ways.   Permissions and privacy   This highlights a range of problems that are likely to implicate and frustrate users, health care professionals and administrators. Naturally issues of privacy are likely to be significant factor in how well Apple’s health apps actually work.   Developers will need to seek end-user permissions to collect data on their behalf when they build Apple’s HealthKit into their apps, which means spelling out exactly which permissions they are seeking.   Given the whole logic of HealthKit assumes, to some degree, an interoperability between applications and datasets, it would be fair to suggest that there are likely to be gaps between what the technical capacities and outcomes for end-users.   Take for instance an app that has been designed to use a measurement from one device and ignore data on that same variable from another device. Or a user may grant access to a third party app to their pedometer data but this might not mean that the same app has the permissions to access other variables to produce meaningful data (such as location, heart rate, age, weight or gender).   Not so healthy competition   Vendors operating in this market will compete not only at the level of the brand but also at the level of components, algorithm and databases. An app might use Nike Fuel Band data over Fitbit when it takes calorie data to make some or another secondary calculation based on that data.   Organisations such as Microsoft are also partnering with developers who are designing apps available for medical practitioners to use in telemedicine and the consulting room.   This tethering of devices and data to proprietary platforms (Apple vs Microsoft) means that patients and doctors might need to use a certain product and patients might be restricted in terms of what systems they can use to track their health.   The trade-off of openness to get systems to market quickly is going to make attracting users and developers difficult and makes Apple’s (and others) vision of health data aggregation far less attractive or whole.   Suneel Jethani is a PhD candidate and lecturer in the media and communications program in the school of culture and communication at the University of Melbourne. This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Swift: How Apple’s new coding language lives up to its name

6:51AM | Tuesday, 10 June

As Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) winds up in San Francisco today, 1,000 Apple engineers and 5,000 developers will return to their parts of the world armed with Apple’s own programming language.   In his keynote on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled – among other new developments – programming language Swift and claimed it to be a significantly faster code for development across iOS and OSX.   Apple is the latest tech firm to produce their own programming language (Google and Microsoft also have their own languages) and Swift can be used by Apple developers as of today with 677 pages of documentation available in the iBooks store.   But why would a company want their own programing language – especially when existing, general purpose codes such as Objective-C and C have been successfully used for 20 years?   So what’s so good about Swift?   It pretty much comes down to speed.   While Apple (and other companies) supply the hardware, developers ultimately bring the most utility value out of technologies. The faster developers can code, the more apps can be created.   So let’s have a look at why Swift is the next big thing (and why developers should take the time to learn a new language, as it were):   Swift is much easier to code with. Swift looks much “cleaner” than traditional code. In addition to getting rid of nested brackets and semicolons (which makes code look very complex and harder to maintain), programmers can now use inferred types, which means that variables and constants can be declared without necessarily specifying the data type.   Developers can reduce debugging time over mundane and trivial errors (if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, Swift manages unsafe codes by self-managing memory, preventing overflows – in arrays, for example – and properly handling nil objects).   It also means that new developers can be spared the need to learn Objective-C’s complex and verbose syntaxes (but Swift will sit alongside existing Objective-C and C codes).   Swift is fast and powerful. Fast programming is a key ingredient in Apple’s new hardware and software capabilities. Swift codes will be compiled using the same high-performance compiler, and it will be run natively to combine the best features from Objective-C and C.   Based on the presentation in WWDC, we saw statistics showing complex algorithms can be run much faster than Objective-C.   Swift supports “interactive playgrounds”. “Interactive playgrounds” allow developers to immediately see the results of changing codes and keep track of progress timelines. This is particularly useful for debugging complex loops, algorithms and animations.   Speaking of new developments …   As widely expected, Apple joins Google and Microsoft’s moves towards delivering health and home automation applications, as well as supporting stronger integration between native features (such as Siri and Notification View) and third-party apps and sensors.   The Health app joins Samsung’s Gear Fit, Nike and Fitbit to bring health and fitness data, measured by mobile and wearable devices, into our palms.   A new tool for developers called HealthKit adds to the standard activity, heart rate and diet measurements by allowing developers to create third-party apps and sensors to measure factors such as blood pressure and sleep patterns.   Users can also create emergency cards with important health information such as allergies and blood types, accessible from the lock screen and emergency call screen.   Another development tool – HomeKit – will let us control aspects of our homes (such as lights and temperature) using our phones.   To enable natural interactions with our phone for home and health apps, iOS has evolved to allow Siri be hands free, similar to its Android counterpart Google Now.   We could say: “Hey Siri, I’m ready for bed”, then the lights will automatically dim for sleep and the phone will go into “do not disturb” mode – perhaps even playing our favourite relaxing music.   With the introduction of Swift, we can expect to see more apps than ever – truly building upon Apple’s 2007 slogan, “There’s an app for everything”.   Dian Tjondronegoro is an Associate Professor of Mobile Multimedia at Queensland University of Technology. This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

HealthKit founder gets a rude shock as Apple uses its name for iOS 8 platform

6:07AM | Thursday, 5 June

The co-founder of Melbourne-based startup HealthKit, Alison Hardacre, was surprised and confused to learn Apple is using its name for one of iOS 8’s features.   Even the capital K.   In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Hardacre woke to the startling news. . @HealthKit was around a long time before iOS 8... #justsaying — Healthy Startups (@healthystartups) June 3, 2014   “I just happened to wake up at 4.15am and couldn’t get back to sleep, so like any good tech entrepreneur I decided I’d check my emails on my iPhone,’’ Hardacre says.   “I found an email from a friend asking, ‘Has Apple just trampled on your name?’”   Surprised, she jumped out of bed and checked for herself and found numerous reports about HealthKit, Apple’s new native health tracking platform.   Apple’s HealthKit is designed to help users keep track of all their health and fitness data, effectively collating health data from the many health apps available by allowing them to share data.   The Melbourne-based HealthKit is a global health administration platform which enables patients to find practitioners online and enables users to track, manage and share their health records.   “Every startup worries that Google, Apple or Facebook will enter their market, but nobody thinks they’ll take their name when they do it,’’ Hardacre says.   @healthystartups @HealthKit The new cyber squatting. The big don't have to care! #notfairapple — Tim Offor (@timoffor) June 3, 2014 Following the announcement her company’s name was the fifth most popular trending term on Twitter yesterday and traffic on its website www.healthkit.com, which it has owned since 2012, was 10 times more than usual, according to Google Analytics.   “We’ve been growing at a rate of 7% a week, which is really a fantastic rate of growth, it’s what the founders of Airbnb say you should be aiming for,’’ Hardacre says.   “We’ve been over in San Francisco at health tech conferences; we’re not like some company hidden in some backwater. We’ve grown and we’ve followed a particular strategy, we’ve looked at moving the company to Silicon Valley.   “Part of me thinks it’s the cut and thrust of the business, but it’s actually not.   “It made me realise that this could happen to every startup.   “I kind of felt a little bit let down – didn’t they spend five seconds to visit HealthKit.com?”   Hardacre says HealthKit had already filed a trademark for HealthKit in Australia.   StartupSmart contacted Apple for comment, but has yet to receive a response.   @tim_cook @HealthKit I know you're new to this whole Ruthless-Like-Steve-Jobs game, but my good man, you need to learn subtlety! — Daniel Cohen (@CodaAzzurra) June 3, 2014 Executive director of Premier IP Ventures and intellectual property expert Brian Goldberg says the incident serves as a warning to startups to ensure they register their brand name as a trademark.   Goldberg says it’s not conclusive at this stage that the brand HealthKit is entirely owned by the Australian startup, nor whether or not Apple will use it as a standalone brand name or in conjunction with its core Apple brand.   “So at this stage the Australian startup may have some brand rights in Australia but it’s not definitive as to the extent,’’ he says.   “It is important to file your brand as a trademark. This provides certainty and clear rights for the brand owner. Importantly the rights can then be enforced as well as negotiated."   Note: this story has been updated for clarification. 

Apple and Beats: When musicians and geeks collide

6:50AM | Tuesday, 3 June

Apple recently announced its purchase of Beats Electronics, for a reported US$3 billion.   Beats Electronics was started by Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine, and includes the signature headphones range and Beats Music, an online streaming service. With music streaming services gaining popularity, arguably it was only a matter of time before Apple made a move into that territory to take on the likes of Spotify, MOG and Rdio.   Streaming technology is not new, I’m sure many of us remember Realplayer, but contemporary services such as Spotify, Rdio and MOG are the latest significant intervention in music consumption. Fuelled by faster and mobilised internet connections, streaming services are the heavenly jukebox for computers and post-PC devices like smartphones and tablets.   Naturally, streaming services are not without their controversies. Spotify continues to be on the receiving end of critical blows concerning royalty payments to artists, which has led some notable high profile acts such as Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to pull music from the service. And Twitter controversially bought and shut down Australian streaming music service We Are Hunted. Just as iTunes is not alone in the pay-for-download market, Spotify is not the only streaming service.   At first blush, Beats Music, which only started in 2012, is yet another streaming service and has much in common with its brethren. Where it appears to really stand out from the crowd is in its curatorial capacity: like similar services, Beats has deals with all the major labels and streams the majority of their portfolios, but it employs a sophisticated personalisation system that mixes algorithmic and human choices. As Trent Reznor puts it, it’s:   like having your own guy when you go into the record store, who knows what you like but can also point you down some paths you wouldn’t necessarily have encountered.   Beats aims to respond to your tastes more accurately than its competitors. When you have more than 20 million songs at your fingertips, discovery and recommendation systems become increasingly important. Apple CEO Tim Cook is invested in Beats because he believes it’s “the first subscription service that really got it right”, evangelising “how important human curation is”.   The deal represents Apple’s first foray into the market for streaming music. (iTunes Radio doesn’t count as it’s not on-demand), and it’s unusual for Apple to make such a large, not to mention high profile purchase. Historically, the tech company has preferred to absorb smaller companies and integrate their products into its brand.   Why now, why Beats?   Although Spotify has yet to turn a profit, on-demand streaming services are touted as the future of music consumption. Given the steady increase in Spotify’s consumer base, this is plausible especially with younger audiences seeking legal music services but constrained by limited disposal income. There will, of course, always be those who prefer to own music, just as there are still those who swear vinyl is the only way to listen to music.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below.   Music consumption models, however, are far from consistent across the globe; for example, 91% of Sweden’s digital music income is derived from streaming, while German and Canadian consumers prefer to download their music. The differences between individual nations aside, the popularity of streaming is rising and in order to maintain its position Apple had to venture into the streaming market to keep the record labels on side if nothing else.   According to The Wall Street Journal, “one major record company makes more per year, on average, from paying customers of streaming services like Spotify or Rdio than it does from the average customer who buys downloads, CDs or both”. That is not to say that Apple would simply buy up any old streaming service, there has to be a reason that it selected Beats over Rdio or Spotify.   Bringing the experts back   It was Apple - a technology company - that came to the aid of the recording industry as it struggled with 21st century consumer behaviours. In a 2007 interview, Doug Morris, then-CEO of Universal Music responded to queries as to why the recording industry was so behind the eight-ball:   There’s no one in the record industry that’s a technologist … That’s a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn’t. They just didn’t know what to do.   Since then, technologists have led the recording industry’s new distribution platforms. Rdio and Spotify were both founded by technologists and entrepreneurs. Perhaps the tables have turned and the new platforms required a (re-)intervention of music industry professionals? The credentials of Beats Electronics founders Jimmy Iovine bring together technology and music expertise.   As part of the deal, both Dre and Iovine are taking senior positions within Apple. Iovine had reportedly been trying to push subscription-based models to Steve Jobs as early as 2003 and while a move towards streaming did not happen in Jobs’ lifetime, Apple has now jumped in with both feet. So what does this mean for the future of music distribution?   Apple, Dre and Iovine have declined to share any details as to the future of their collaboration so any thoughts are purely speculative at this stage. It is, however, worth noting that to date iTunes has offered a number of exclusive releases, and Apple has begun exerting pressure on record labels to sign exclusive distribution deals. For example, Coldplay’s latest album Ghost Stories is exclusive to iTunes (pirated versions are of course available via the usual suspects) and the band declined to add its latest offering to Spotify’s catalogue.   Combined with the Beats streaming service as well as Apple’s own hardware, it is likely Apple will attempt to block out its competitors and (further) lock in consumers. At present, Beats Music is only available in the USA, but Australia will be the second country to have access to the service courtesy of Beats’ acquisition of MOG.   The digital music ecology is evolving at an advanced pace and accurate predictions are difficult to make. One thing, however is sure, as the physics of the media space change, we shouldn’t expect the winners to remain constant.   Steve Collins is a senior lecturer in multimedia at Macquarie University. This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple unveils iOS 8

6:27PM | Monday, 2 June

Apple has unveiled iOS 8 in what it says is its biggest release since the launch of the app store.   Some of the main features include:   Interactive notifications which gives users the ability to respond to notifications within the notification pane, without having to switch apps. An improved mailbox with Mailbox-style actions enables users to easily tag or dismiss emails without needing to open them. Spotlight now lets you search for apps you haven’t installed yet, along with songs in the iTunes store, movie location times and more. HealthKit, which is a one-stop shop for all the health tracking apps on your phone.   No Microsoft Start Menu until 2015   Microsoft won’t be delivering a new Start Menu for Windows 8 with its coming Windows 8.1 Update 2, sources told Zdnet.   Microsoft’s operating systems group has decided to hold off on delivering a Microsoft-developed Start Menu until Threshold, the next major release for Windows, expected to be released in April next year.   Google scraps Zavers   The tech giant has decided to discontinue Zavers, a service that lets shoppers clip coupons online and get those savings when they purchase products in the stores of retailers.   The service had been running for 17 months, launching in January of last year following Google’s acquisition of a startup called Zave Networks.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 26.46 to 16,743.63. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US92 cents.

Can Google convince us that an oversized golf cart is the car of the future?

6:23AM | Tuesday, 3 June

Google have recently shown us a car of sorts. The self-driving Google Car is the internet giant’s latest foray into physical products.   Visually it’s a cute cross between a golf cart and a Japanese anime character, with an obvious ‘face’ and round, soft features that exude friendliness and care. However, ideologically the driverless vehicle is more akin to an escalator than a car.   Interestingly, in developing a car that doesn’t need a driver, Google are venturing into completely virgin territory and as a result they have exaggerated the friendliness of the product to make it appealing to the public. The Google Car’s cuddly aesthetic is designed deliberately as a counterpoint to the abject fear most people would have in handing over control of their car to a computer.   The Google Car does contain amazing technology, even at a prototype level. The autonomous, self-learning vehicle has sensors that can remove blind spots by detecting multiple distinct objects simultaneously in all directions for hundreds of metres and hopefully react safely. Sound impossible? So did the iPod before Steve Jobs and Jony Ive put their minds to it.   Watching the publicity video clearly illustrates Google’s ideas on the target demographic, with older people, the blind and children the focus. At least initially, they seem to see the car as a device for people who can’t drive or don’t want to. Unsurprisingly, everyone appears to be having a ridiculous amount of fun.   Like all designers of products that create a paradigm shift, Google’s team needs to answer questions that others haven’t tackled before. Who would use it, how and why? Can current technology deliver a suitable solution? How much actual driver control should be relinquished? In discussing the Google Car in our studio, debate raged about what would happen in a crowded street. How would the Google Car react to a random mistake by another driver or pedestrian? These are the unknowns that still need to be worked through.   Therein lies the most important aspect of this project. The Google Car is a big innovation, but it really is only the first foray into the unknown. This prototype will challenge what we think and allow people to test the technology in the semi-real world. No doubt it will fail some tests, but it’s sure to provide insights that we don’t expect, and lead to innovations that most can’t imagine right now.   Like Apple and Nike before them, Google is applying their massive resources to looking outside their comfort zone for bigger opportunities. In doing so, they are risking failure and ridicule (look no further than the backlash against Google Glass), but they also open the opportunity for enormous rewards as the first into a new market.   Perhaps the biggest hurdle to acceptance of the Google Car may not be confidence in the technology, but people’s love affair with the glamour of a fast car. The ability to be reckless, to feel the power of the engine or to show off to your peers may still be that intangible desire that an oversized golf cart could never deliver.   Although many will scoff at the idea of a self-driving car, pointing to countless issues and dangers with the concept, the fact is that it seems almost inevitable in some form or other. If we look to science fiction we could expect these types of vehicles to be very much part of our lives sooner than we imagine.   In the words of the great Henry Ford, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said a faster horse.” Perhaps the Google Car represents the first small step towards one of the biggest changes to our society since the internet was invented.   Nathan Pollock is director at Katapult Design Pty Ltd.

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