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Microsoft boss Nadella's gender pay gaffe: Trusting in "karma" is poor advice

10:05AM | Monday, 13 October

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella’s excruciating gaffe that women should not ask for a raise but trust in “karma” that they would be rewarded eventually has been met with widespread condemnation. He made the statement, ironically enough, during an interview at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference.   The conference , dedicated to women in technology, had a largely female audience who were confounded when Nadella gave his advice. The statement was met with an instant reaction on social media and Nadella, realising the seriousness of his mistake, issued a retraction saying that his answer to the question on whether women should ask for a pay raise was “completely wrong”.   Nadella’s statement is completely wrong for a whole host of reasons but in particular, it highlighted the fact that he seemed completely unaware of the context of the question given that Microsoft’s workforce is made up of just 29% women. When looking at the high status tech jobs at Microsoft, that number drops to 17%.   Nadella also seemed unaware that the 17% of the female tech work force at Microsoft are likely to be paid salaries of around 87% the salaries of men.   Of course, when you take merit-based bonuses into account, the gender pay gap is even greater, as women receive bonuses that are half the size of men’s.   He must have been unaware of these facts, because if he was aware of them, how could he possibly have thought that a woman’s silence would result in the “right thing” happening?   For Nadella, a 22 year veteran of Microsoft it is perhaps not surprising that he would have been unaware of the reality of being female and working at the company. The truth of the matter is that he may rarely have encountered women in his day-to-day job other than those employed in non-technical roles.   As CEO of the company however, it is particularly revealing that he would have been insensitive to the challenges women face in that working environment. His statements perhaps point to the limitations of his abilities and will now remain as the “elephant in the room” when he is trying to navigate Microsoft from being relegated into irrelevance by its stronger rivals, Apple and Google.   At the very least, Nadella joins the ranks of other CEOs who have made similarly public missteps, three of whom lost their jobs as a result:   Mozilla’s CEO, Brendan Eich eventually was forced to step down over his support of anti-gay marriage legislation Lululemon’s CEO Dennis “Chip” Wilson also stepped down after blaming the fact that some of their yoga pants became see-through on overweight women saying that “Some women’s bodies “just don’t actually work” for Lululemon trousers” BP CEO Tony Hayward was forced to resign after a series of PR bombs in dealing with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill that included his famous quote “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.”   The fact that a CEO can lose their job over a single statement reflects the nature of the job. The perceived importance of the CEO to a company’s performance is highly debated, especially when it is framed in terms of how much pay they are worth. However, the consensus is that CEOs have little impact on the overall performance of a company.   Nadella comes as a novice to the job of chief executive and his turn in this position follows on from a long reign of the founders running the company.   A chief executive’s main role however is to present the public face of the company and to inspire the market and their customers as a visionary. Perhaps we should have expected less of Nadella given that his first email to Microsoft employees encapsulated this vision as Microsoft enabling people to “do more” and that staff should “believe in the impossible”. Presumably the latter was aimed at female staff wanting equal representation and pay at the company.   David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Overheads and investment costs outstripping growth for SoundCloud

10:27PM | Sunday, 12 October

Popular online music and audio sharing platform SoundCloud’s rapid growth is seeing its costs runaway from its revenues, TechCrunch reports.   The platform is now exceeding 175 million listeners each month, and is on track to reach 200 million.   The company posted a turnover of $US14.1 million ($A16.2 million) in 2013, up 40% from 2012. However, its operating loss for the period more than doubled to $US29.2 million.   The company says it’s trying to grow SoundCloud into the market-leading platform for listening to, creating and sharing sound.   “This has necessitated investment in technology, headcount and marketing. Our overhead base has increased faster than our revenues,” it says.   Raspberry Pi sales pass 3.8 million   Sales of the Raspberry Pi microcomputer have now passed 3.8 million, dwarfing its creator’s original expectations.   Its creators, the Pi Foundation, envisaged selling as few as 10,000 boards of the course over its lifetime.   The Pi shipped just over a million in its first year on sale, and two and a half years later sales continue to trend upwards.   Patent trolling pays   Statistics published by the lawfirm Goodwin Protector as part of a manual that provides tips for fighting patent trolls show that in the US, from 2010 to 2013, non-practising entitles (patent trolls) received three times more in damages than real companies, Gigaom reports.   Michael Strapp, one of the manual’s authors, says the result is because of patent trolls squeezing settlements from dozens of smaller companies and then suing larger companies like Apple or Google. He also says another factor is a dysfunctional feature of the American patent system, which allows the trolls to choose the venue of legal action.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 115.15 to 16,544.10. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple surprised by sapphire screen maker’s bankruptcy

10:20PM | Wednesday, 8 October

Apple has admitted it found sapphire screen manufacturer GT Advanced Technologies (GT) decision to file for bankruptcy “surprising”.   Earlier this week GT abruptly filed for bankruptcy, stunning investors, creditors and Apple, who had backed the materials maker for its bet on sapphire screen technology, The Wall Street Journal reports.   As recently as August GT executives said they expected to end the year with $US400 million ($AU 453 million) in the bank.   Apple called the bankruptcy “a surprising decision”. A source told The Wall Street Journal that Apple had been working with GT to keep it solvent.   Symantec exploring split   Symantec is the latest technology company to explore a breakup.   Sources told Bloomberg the company is in advanced talks to split up its business into two entities, one that sells security programs, and another that does data storage.   The company has been struggling to strengthen its growth. Revenue declined in the latest fiscal year and is projected to be unchanged this year as it grapples with a PC sales slump that has damaged sales of its antivirus software.   Truecaller secures $60 million in funding   Swedish startup Truecaller has announced it has raised $US60 million ($AU68 million)in a Series C round led by Atomico, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, and Sequoia Capital, TechCrunch reports.   The company helps users identify all the phone numbers calling their smartphone, whether that number is listed in the phone’s contacts or not.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 274.83 to 16,994.22. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.

The PC reaches its twilight years as Windows 10 becomes the last major upgrade

10:13AM | Thursday, 2 October

Microsoft will skip the version 9 of Windows and will release instead Windows 10 in 2015. This upgrade will be the last major release of Windows.   The decision to stop releasing Windows as a series of major releases is long overdue and follows the approach (including the choice of the number 10) taken by Apple in releasing minor versions of its Mac OSX system. After the disastrous release of Windows 8, subsequent releases have been largely about rolling back the more radical changes in the user interface. As attention shifts to mobile, the marketing and commercial advantages of releasing major upgrades to operating systems have all but disappeared.   Microsoft will now release changes to Windows via smaller point upgrades, following Apple’s lead with Mac OSX which will shortly be at version 10.10.   This is actually good news for both consumers and businesses who have to deal with the inevitable bugs that come with upgrades along with updates of software changed only to support the new operating system. At the same time, the new features in the upgrade are bringing diminishing direct benefits to consumers as changes become increasingly gratuitous. Insult is added to injury of course when consumers are actually asked to pay for the new versions, a practice that Apple at least has largely stopped.   Businesses who use Windows will also find the end of large upgrades easier to manage as it becomes simpler to deal with more frequent and smaller changes than to deal with a major version change. For Microsoft as well, this will have the added benefit of eventually persuading more of its users to all be on the same operating system. Currently only around 14% of Windows users are actually using Windows 8.x. Nearly twice that are still using Windows XP, a system they offcially stopped supporting this year.   Operating systems should never really have to change as much as they have. The fundamental core of the operating system, called the “kernel)” does now what it has always done. New hardware can be accommodated by adding “device drivers”, something that doesn’t need a change in the kernel to achieve. Likewise, Microsoft learned the hard way that major changes to the user interface are not necessarily welcomed by its customers and even in this case, it would be possible to change this without a major release in the operating system as a whole.   The fact the we may not see radically different versions of Windows, Mac OS or even Linux does not mean that this signals the death of the PC. Like the software that runs on it, hardware on PCs is unlikely to change radically in the future because it has turned out that people are prepared to use multiple devices. Functionality that might have been built into a PC is unnecessary because that functionality becomes available in distinct device types like tablets, phablets, mobile phones and wearables. It has also turned out that adding features like a touch screen to a laptop didn’t make much sense as this was largely made redundant through the use of the keyboard and mouse. Likewise, it is unlikely that devices like the “leap” motion tracking device will become standard on the laptop or PC because again it doesn’t radically improve on what you can already do.   It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that products can reach a point where they fundamentally do not evolve any further and reach a steady state. Technologies that we interact with every day are fundamentally the same as they have been for years, if not decades. A trivial example being the electric toaster which utilises the same technology that it has done for the past 100 years. With computing technology however, we have constantly held an expectation that each year will bring revolutionary change. This is because the mobile phone and tablet have really driven highly public declarations of change in annual launch events. Even here though, we will see mobile phones reach the so-called “climax state”, it might just take the public some time to accept and come to terms with it.   David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

'Bendgate' tests: Just 31 kg of pressure to deform an Apple iPhone 6, compared to 68 kg for Samsung Galaxy Note 3

9:37PM | Monday, 29 September

It takes significantly less pressure to bend an Apple iPhone 6 than most other smartphones, according to tests conducted by US consumer website Consumer Reports.   The results come after claims on social media and online message boards that the company’s latest flagship smartphones can be easily bent went viral.   Following reports on social media about iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones being bent in users’ pockets, YouTube user Lewis Hilsenteger posted a series of videos demonstrating how easily the device can be bent with human hands.   The videos appear to show that applying pressure on the back of an iPhone 6 Plus at a specific spot near the volume controls while at the same time pushing downwards on the edges of the screen can cause the device to first warp and then break.   Consumer Reports responded by testing how much pressure it takes to break the iPhone 6, although with the pressure applied across the middle of the device rather than in the specific spot demonstrated in Hilsenteger’s videos.   The report notes that the iPhone 6 bends at 70 pounds (or 31 kilograms) of pressure and breaks at 100 pounds (45 kg), while the iPhone 6 Plus bends at 90 pounds (40.8 kg) and breaks at 110 pounds (49.8 kg).   This is significantly less than the 130 pounds (58.9 kg) required to bend the iPhone 5 or 150 pounds (68 kg) for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3.   For its part, Apple is claiming just nine users have complained about their device bending within the first six days of the product’s release, although the bending phenomena was noticed by Wired in its review of the device.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany..

Fitness app Zova gets smart about health tech with iOS launch

9:04AM | Monday, 29 September

Brisbane startup Zova is hoping its contextual awareness will carry its female-focused health and fitness app to mainstream popularity.   Zova launched for iOS two days ago, and thanks to its Apple Health integration, it is one of 14 apps being featured on Apple Health App Store page.   Co-founder Niall McCarthy says while there’s no shortage of health and fitness apps available, none really make the most of a smartphone’s capabilities, nor the communities that want to use those products.   The Zova team, in conjunction with its “Zova Ambassadors”, a bunch of exercise and lifestyle professionals, has created a number of exercise programs that combine custom-made music with “exercise science” to achieve better results.   The app is also aware of the context. What that means, McCarthy explains, is when its user opens the app, it suggests workouts based on factors like time of day, weather, and location.   “Once you’ve downloaded the app, it will recommend based on your time and location. For example, you can click on your workout stream, and follow immediately, visual and vocal cues, along with music and rhythm that will help you,” he says.   The music and rhythm aspect of Zova was central to its development. McCarthy and his fellow co-founder James Tonkin originally came up with an idea to use rhythm to help kids exercise, while washing dishes at a pizza shop. They went on to develop a sports product which helped kids get active and rolled out the product to schools around the world.   About a year ago they decided to pivot to enter the consumer fitness market with support from the investor and founder of health and fitness company Jetts, Brendon Levenson.   “Health and fitness is the next thing to be disrupted, and the time is now with companies like Apple and Google providing wearables to help realise that,” McCarthy says.   Users will be able to try the app for a week for free and after that they’ll be asked to pay $25 for a 12 week subscription, or $75 for a yearly subscription.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Apple and Google make changes in the battle for new markets

9:47PM | Tuesday, 23 September

Has Google finally decided to take total control of its Android destiny with the release of its Android One operating system?   Aimed at “emerging markets”, such as India, Google will operate the smartphone device rather than handing over to hardware partners such as Samsung and HTC.   Historically, Google has taken a hands-off approach to Android, providing it “free” to manufacturers as an open source product.       These manufacturers have a reputation for adding on their own extra features such as the Samsung TouchWiz user interface.   The assumed goal was that a better mobile experience for consumers would funnel them towards Google’s other products such as its popular search.   In contrast, Android One will not allow that customisation, giving Google full control of the operating system users get. So perhaps the latest move represents a paradigm shift for the company?   The life and times of Android   The approach taken with the Android operating system has always been more open than that taken by rival Apple with its iOS operating system.   In fact, in general Android has always been considered more open than iOS, starting from the very beginning before the company was acquired by Google and the original Android operating system was released open source to the community.   That version of the operating system still exists today and is used by companies such as Amazon on its Kindle Fire tablet. This creates what software developers call a “fork”, with the base Android operating system sitting underneath the customisations that Amazon makes.     But in recent times Google has begun to demonstrate a desire to take more control of its operating system. Starting with the Nexus phones and devices, which involved Google providing a reference design for both phone and operating system free of the extras added by the hardware manufacturers and the carriers.   This has continued with the announcement of Android One, with Google starting to become more involved in the entire process and trying to own the user experience.   Products such as Google Glass represent other forays into this vertical integration, an area traditionally embraced by their main competitor, Apple.   But Apple is starting to change its approach as well.   A more open Apple?   Apple has always been a product focused company. Starting with the launch of the Macintosh in 1984 and continuing with the iPhone and other iOS devices, Apple has always strived to control the whole experience of hardware, software and services.           Earlier this month in a television interview with Charlie Rose, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple values vertical integration and wants to control their primary product.   But looking at Apple, industry insiders can begin to see a shift in the way that the company operates. The most recent hardware and software announced by Apple (announced one week before the first Android One smartphones) provides a lot more control for developers and users than they’ve ever had before.   Features such as extensions allow apps to communicate with each other and users to share data among apps through the share pane. Developers can add features to place small apps called widgets in the notification centre or to enable actionable notifications, allowing you to (for instance) respond directly to a Facebook message from within the notification.   And, in an unprecedented move, users can replace the Apple provided keyboard with a third party alternative. While all of these sound like small changes, they represent Apple relinquishing control of some parts of their iOS experience back to developers, a major departure from when Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007.           In his interview with Charlie Rose, Tim Cook was also asked what companies Apple competed with and, without hesitation he nominated Google as the main competitor, even going so far as to downplay Samsung as a competitor as the Android operating system was created by Google.     This is especially interesting given that Apple has slowly moved Google out of its phones, (in)famously replacing Google Maps with Apple Maps a couple of years ago as well as slowly enhancing the voice recognising personal assistant, Siri, to perform many of the functions that Google performs with search.   Even though the Apple Maps launch was riddled with problems (with users claiming the experience was sub par compared to the Google offering and prompting Tim Cook to issue an apology), Apple is clearly looking to shed itself of Google and own more of this part of the experience too.   A new battle for market (and mind) share   So, over the course of September, both Google and Apple have shown a new side to themselves. Both are pushing into new markets, with Android One specifically targeted at the China/India market.   Many analysts suggest that the iPhone 6 Plus is an Apple foray into the desire for “bigger phones” in the same market.   To conquer this market and maintain a foothold on the market in existing developed countries, it would appear both companies are making some changes - with Google taking control of its destiny while Apple becomes more open.   Both are baby steps for now, but perhaps this is the beginning of a new battle, for the market (and mind) of more and more consumers.

Apple iPhone 6 release: Australian app developers and startups react

9:54AM | Monday, 22 September

Apple has now released its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones in Australia, and the near inevitable crowds are – once again – lining up around the block.   So what does the news mean for Australian software studios and app developers?   Is this likely to be an “insanely great” development that will boost revenues and sales for local startups? Perhaps it will mean more headaches for developers? Or will this mean less than some would anticipate?   We asked a number of developers and entrepreneurs to find out:   Clipp co-founder and chairman Greg Taylor   It looks like a bigger iPhone 5s – but with some amazingly beautiful and innovative new rounded edges!   The best part for Clipp is Apple Pay. Apple Pay will provides our customers with another payment option to credit card and PayPal, the major benefit being customers not having to enter their credit card, overcoming any concerns of credit card security.   Apple Pay will be a huge driver to mobile payment adoption, which is great for Clipp.   Anytime Apple releases a new iOS, I get very nervous, particularly a major release like iOS 8. There is a strong history of many apps not working on each major release. I have already received an email from a widely used app this morning warning customers not to upgrade to iOS 8. Apple don't give developers much time at all from releasing the final version until consumers can download it. If something does not work, there is not enough time to fix it, test it and put it through the App store approval process (approximately two weeks) prior to it hitting the market.   Tapit co-founder Jamie Conyngham   The fact that NFC is in the iPhone 6 is a huge reversal for Apple, and we are super excited by it. As recent as 12 months ago TechCrunch reported that Apple was never going to take NFC up so we're really glad to see it's there.   The fact that they have put it in for payments is amazing for the industry and we are already feeling the shock waves. People now understand that everything is going to be NFC payments in a short amount of time. We have been waiting for the banks, credit card companies and retailers to begin educating the mass market about NFC for payments for a while, as it was always going to be a big driver for the technology so it will be a great opportunity. Organisations are finally realising that NFC services are coming and they are all going to start planning for it.   Unfortunately, it won't be available for other great NFC applications like tag reading/pairing and apps for about 12 months. In the meantime, Tapit will continue working with open NFC partners like Samsung to improve and innovate on new ways to use NFC, as well as executing bigger information and advertising projects. Tapit will also continue using beacons and QR for Apple users in the meantime as well.   Outware Mobile director Danny Gorog   “iPhone 6 and iOS 8 are an incredible opportunity for Outware. Many of our clients including ANZ, Telstra, AFL and Coles are excited about the new larger displays and the added flexibility that iOS 8 provides. We’re already well underway to ensure our clients apps are fully iOS 8 and iPhone 6 compliant.   As specialists in large scale finance and insurance apps, we believe the new NFC capabilities in iPhone 6 will change the mobile payment landscape and the way Australians want to pay and shop. Australia has one of the highest penetration rates of tap and go terminals in the world so we are a perfect fit for this technology.”   Squixa chief executive Stewart McGrath   Devices like the iPhone 6 are a response to the consumer demand for easier access to more content. In the last four years, the average webpage size has nearly tripled while average connection "speeds" have only doubled. This is putting great pressure on website owners to utilise better ways of delivering increased content to these devices but still maintain a quality user experience.   The challenge to keep pace and make use of the attributes of these devices is now being pushed back onto website owners. Higher resolution screens mean images need to be sharper and improved processing capacity means laggy web content delivery is more noticeable for a user.   We expect the consumer demand for content to grow at an exponential rate and platforms like the "six" are the hardware manufacturers' answer. The pressure is on website owners now for sure. The ones who are responding are setting themselves apart from their competition.   Will Heine, Wicked WItch Software   Again the new iPhone launch has been very successful, so there will be more iPhones in the marketplace and new consumers that can enjoy our games like Catapult King. As well as more users, the new devices are again more powerful, which allows more advanced features of our game engine technology to run on mobile and tablet devices, resulting in improved graphical and gameplay quality in all of our upcoming titles.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Minimal meetings and managers: the tech companies shaking up the “big company” mentality

9:47AM | Wednesday, 17 September

Vending machines full of free Apple products, fully catered meals, band rooms, huge cafeterias that look like any on-trend café; the offices of Yammer, Dropbox and Stripe leave a lasting impression on anyone that is lucky enough to score a look-in.   As part of the AngelCube tour of San Francisco, this year’s startups got a small taste of what “non-corporate” could look like. In a bid to attract the best talent – the number one priority that all startups identified as their pain point – tech companies have reimagined work life. And it looks good.   But perks are only a small part of what creates a culture at these companies.   For Stripe, whose home in an old trunk factory in the Mission District of San Francisco, the focus is on employing people that they would happily spend time with outside of work.   They’ve made internal transparency a big focus and keep all email “open” which means that anyone within the company can access all communication in order to find out what is happening elsewhere and reduce the inclination for teams to work in silos. A “nombot” also announces lunch where everyone heads to the kitchen to spend time together. Meetings are kept to a minimum.   At 150+ employees and growing fast, it’s still much smaller than Dropbox at around 800. The scale of Dropbox is evidenced by the fact it takes up an entire floor of a large building based down near the Giants ballpark that spans almost a block.   It’s not uncommon for employees to be spotted on scooters getting from one side of the building to the next. Like everyone else experiencing huge growth, Dropbox is investing a lot of time making the right hires, and trying not to compromise on that even when departments are crying out for more staff.   Yammer has probably had the most interesting journey in that it was acquired by Microsoft in 2012, just after it had moved into its new headquarters on Market St, in the same building as the Twitter office.   As a result the desks that were put aside for growth remain empty, but most importantly they have tried to resist the Microsoft mentality (or the perceived “old business thinking”) and keep things as close to the original Yammer vibe as possible.   For those who have been with the company from the beginning that has not always been an easy battle, and the slightly barren vibe indicates they have not had an outright win on this front.   For now though, the bright blue and green common areas are inviting enough for groups to sit down and relax together, or talk at length about a new feature.   Indeed, holding on to that startup heart seems like a worthwhile pursuit.   For myself, it was good to see that big companies still aspired to be little companies too. Well, ones with great internal restaurants attached to them at least.

THE NEWS WRAP: Microsoft set to unveil $2.5 billion bid for Minecraft developer

9:24PM | Sunday, 14 September

Microsoft will unveil a $2.5 billion bid to buy Mojang, the Swedish developer of Minecraft, Monday morning US time, sources have told Reuters.   Minecraft has over 100 million players and the deal is aimed at pulling users onto Microsoft’s mobile platform, as opposed to its PC systems, or Xbox console.   Minecraft is the top paid app on both the iOS and Android. After launching five years ago on PC, about 40% of copies are now downloaded onto phones and tablets.   Product Hunt raises $6 million   Aggregations site Product Hunt, which helps surface new tech products and startups, has raised $6 million in Series A funding, TechCrunch reports.   According to the report, the round was led by Andreessen Horowitz at a valuation of $22 million although sources were unsure whether that valuation was pre or post money.   The startup raised $1 million in seed funding in August.   Before $100 million raise, Square was in talks with Apple   Mobile payments platform Square has raised another $100 million in capital, according to a filing obtained by VCExperts, TechCrunch reports.   Multiple sources have told TechCrunch that Square and Apple were in acquisition talks recently, but Square walked away, the sticking point being price – Apple wanted to buy Square for less than half of the $6 billion valuation it would eventually raise at.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 61.49 to 16,987.51. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US90 cents.

What can we learn from Apple’s celebrity leak fail? Five ways to keep data safe

9:39AM | Wednesday, 3 September

The internet exploded this week with a cache of private photos taken from the devices or online accounts of several high-profile celebrities.   Beyond the ethical and social questions raised by this incident are the technology questions and risks that have been exposed through this leak. There are lessons here on what businesses can do to better secure their information and that of their customers.   From what we know so far, the photos were claimed to have been taken from the iCloud accounts of the celebrities involved. It’s recently been revealed that Apple’s Find My iPhone service was vulnerable to password brute-forcing.   Brute-forcing is a password analysing technique which works by testing a large number of passwords until one is shown to be the correct one. Because Apple didn’t block repeated incorrect login attempts, it was vulnerable to this technique.   This recent iCloud vulnerability, whether or not it’s how the photos were gained, is terrifyingly easy to exploit. It’s not a stretch to believe this vulnerability could have also been behind the iPhone ransom incident from a few months ago.   As data continues to move to the cloud, it’s important to implement good security practices to reduce the risk of exposure. If you operate a business that involves handling sensitive or personal information, you are responsible for the security measures that keep that information out of the wrong hands.   Here are five things businesses can do to prevent unauthorised access to their online information:   1. Perform regular security audits on any online applications that store personal data.   Even a fairly rudimentary security audit would have revealed the brute-force vulnerability that Apple was exposed to. You can perform your own security audits using software such as WebSecurify, or hire a “penetration testing” consultant.   2. Ensure all software developers that work on your online applications have adequate knowledge and training in computer security.   This one can be tricky to measure, but most software developers are quick to learn when made aware of hacking techniques and how to protect against them. Resources such as the “Security Now” podcast help increase awareness. Depending on the technologies your company relies on, following related technical blogs is a great way for your developers to stay abreast of any security developments they need to react to.   3. Do not reuse passwords across multiple applications and do not use easily guessable passwords.   The Find My iPhone vulnerability still required a fairly rudimentary password to successfully gain access to an account. Remembering passwords (and creating strong ones!) is a tough process, look to software tools that make it easier and also remember the passwords for you. My personal recommendation would be AgileBits' 1Password, but many software applications exist that do this well.    4. Keep software up-to-date by installing updates as promptly as possible.   This applies to everything from your operating system, to your browser, to the plugins it may rely on (Java and Flash updates in particular are crucial). Modern operating systems (Windows, OSX, iOS, Android) all display prompts for security updates. Mobile operating systems in particular prompt for updates often, don’t ignore them! If you’ve had a particular software package that doesn’t have auto-update or update prompts, be sure to periodically check online for updated versions of that particular software. Never run unsupported software, or software with known security issues.   5. Finally, if you ever have a security breach, make diagnosing and patching it your number one priority.   Depending on the breach, this is a task that can be performed by your developers, although in some cases you may wish to consult an expert with background in computer forensics or computer security to help diagnose and rectify the problem. Notify your customers if you have a vulnerability that concerns the integrity of their data, and give them the information they need to secure it again.   Remember, your customers might not be happy about the breach, but they’ll be furious if they find out you covered it up or failed to try your best to prevent it.   Farid Wardan is a lead software engineer at Terem Technologies, an Australian company that specialises in developing custom software and technology solutions for corporate innovations and high-tech ventures.

Five key features you can expect to find up Apple’s sleeve with the iPhone 6

9:22AM | Wednesday, 3 September

Apple is expected to launch the latest version of the iPhone at an event it is hosting at the Flint Center for Performing Arts in Cupertino, California, next week.   Apple has already sent invitations to an event taking place on September 9th at 10am, local time. In a curious move, there are reports the notoriously secretive tech giant has gone so far as to construct its own multi-storey structure alongside the venue.   The choice of location is particularly significant because it is the venue where Apple launched its first Macintosh computer in 1984. It is also significantly larger than the Yerba Buena Center or the theatre at Apple’s corporate headquarters, where the tech giant normally makes its major new product announcements.   Speculation about the new device hasn’t escaped its key rivals, with a list of consumer electronics giants including LG, Samsung, Microsoft and Motorola – and possibly others – all gearing up for major product launches of their own over the next month.   So what can we expect to find from the iPhone 6? Here are some of the more credible rumours about what we can expect from the device: 1. A larger screen and, perhaps, a phablet   As far back as November last year, there have been persistent and credible reports Apple has been working on two different models of the iPhone 6.   According to most reports, the first model is set to feature a 4.7-inch display, while the second will include a 5.5-inch screen. This would make them close in size to the 5-inch display on the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the 5.7-inch display used on the Galaxy Note 3.   Along with the move to two screen sizes, Apple is reportedly moving away from the plastic casing used on its current low-end device, the iPhone 5s.   Aside from the usual Apple rumours sites, reports about the two screen sizes have appeared in a number of credible business publications, including The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.   Unfortunately, it is not clear if both versions of the iPhone will be available at launch, with some speculation the larger 5.5-inch phablet version could be on hold until next year. 2. Mobile payments   According to a second credible rumour, Apple has been working on its own mobile payments platform centred on the iPhone 6.   During the past week, a number of respected publications including The Information, Re/Code and Bloomberg have independently confirmed with sources that Apple has struck a number of deals with major payment providers, retailers, and banks.   Those signing up to the payment platform include credit card and payments giants American Express, Visa and MasterCard.   The reports suggest the iPhone 6 will include an NFC (near-field communications) chip, a technology used to power tap-and-pay credit cards and public transport systems.   It will allow iPhone 6 users to make purchases with their smartphones, rather than by using a credit card or by paying with cash.   While NFC-chip technology has long been a standard feature of Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry smartphones, Apple has long held out on using it in its devices. 3. Does Apple have anything up its sleeve?   For years, it has been rumoured Apple has had a smartwatch, or iWatch, up its sleeve.   In recent years, the hype surrounding wearable devices, including smart bracelets and smartwatches has grown, with many expecting Apple to eventually join the market.   Following the release of the Pebble in January 2013, a number of consumer electronics and device manufacturers have dipped their toes in the market, including Sony, LG, Motorola and Samsung, among many others. Other companies, such as Microsoft, are believed to be working on wearables of their own.   At the Google I/O developer conference, the search and mobile giant unveiled its Android Wear device platform. Meanwhile, rival consumer electronics makers are working on smartwatches with their own SIM cards, as well as round clockfaces.   The growing speculation is that the time is right for Apple to release its smartwatch – before it’s too late. 4. iOS8   Whether or not the iPhone 6 comes in a larger form, accepts mobile payments or is partnered to a smartwatch, one thing is for certain: it is set to run iOS8.   First unveiled during the company’s WorldWide Developer Conference during June, iOS8 will bring along a number of new features for users.   The new version of the mobile operating system is designed to be interoperable with the new version of Mac OS X, known as Yosemite.   The improved interoperability means users will be able to use their Mac as a speakerphone for their iPhone, read and send their iPhone messages from their Mac, or use a feature called Handoff to pass activities from one device to another.   It will also come with a new health tracking app called Health, which uses a new underlying API called Healthkit to gather health tracking data from a range of third-party health tracking apps and devices.   iOS8 also includes the foundations of Apple’s Internet of Things home automation platform, known as Homekit. 5. A sapphire display   In August, some photos of the new device leaked showing a thinner, lighter version of the iPhone. But one feature in particular was notable: the use of sapphire, rather than glass, for the screen.   While the choice of material is likely to make the device significantly more expensive, a less shatter-prone iPhone will certainly be music to the ears of anyone who has ever accidentally busted a mobile phone screen.   This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple investigators say celebrity photo hacks highly targeted

9:21PM | Tuesday, 2 September

The celebrity photo leak was a very targeted attack on specific accounts, Apple says in an update on its investigation into the incident.   Apple engineers have been working for more than 40 hours in an attempt to find the source of the leak.   “We have discovered that accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the internet,” the statement says.   “None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find My iPhone.   “We are continuing to work with law enforcement to help identify the criminals involved.”   UberPop ride-sharing service banned in Germany   A German court has banned Uber’s most popular service from operating in the country until a hearing this year is completed, The New York Times reports.   The hearing will examine whether or not the service unfairly competes with taxis.   UberPop allows people to use their smartphones to book rides with freelance drivers. Uber Black is unaffected by the ruling. Uber says it will continue operations and appeal the ruling.   Ouya in acquisition talks   Ouya, the maker of a low-cost Android-based gaming console of the same name, is in preliminary acquisition talks with a number of big players in China and the US, including Xiaomi, Tencent, Google and Amazon, sources have told Re/code.   Those sources say the acquisition is related to company’s staff talent, rather than the Ouya console.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 30.89 to 17,067.56. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple partners with Amex, Mastercard and Visa for iPhone 6 payments

8:27PM | Sunday, 31 August

Apple is partnering with American Express, Mastercard and Visa, to enable iPhone 6 owners to pay for goods in physical stores.   Sources have told Re/code that American Express has agreed to be part of the company’s mobile payments platform, while Bloomberg sources confirmed the involvement of Visa and Mastercard.   The new payments system is expected to let iPhone 6 owners use their phones in place of credit cards, debit cards or cash to pay for goods in brick-and-mortar stores.   It’s not clear which retailers have signed on to accept such payments.   Alibaba IPO planned for next week   Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, will hold what is expected to be the world’s largest initial public offering next week, a source familiar with the deal has told The Wall Street Journal.   The deal could raise more than $20 billion and be the world’s largest in years, and would mean Alibaba shares would begin trading as soon as September 18 or 19.   $400 for Apple’s wearable?   Apple executives have discussed charging around $400 for the company’s new wearable device, although it’s not yet clear whether or not the price will be set in time for Apple’s September 9 press event, where it’s expected to be unveiled.   Sources have told Re/code to expect a range of prices for different models, including lower priced versions.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 18.88 to 17,098.45. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Uber SLOGS its competitors

8:14PM | Tuesday, 26 August

Uber is giving teams of independent contractors burner phones and credit cards as part of a sophisticated effort to undermine Lyft and other competitors, The Verge reports.   Interviews with current and former contractors, along with internal documents obtained by The Verge, outline those methods.   Using contractors it calls “brand ambassadors” Uber requests rides from Lyft and other competitors, recruits their drivers, and takes multiple precautions to avoid detection.   The program known as “SLOG” has resulted in thousands of cancelled Lyft rides and made it more difficult for competitors to gain a foothold in new markets.   Apple CEO defends Tablets Last month it was reported that tablet sales were crashing, which lead to some commentators to argue that the tablet boom was over.   Apple CEO Tim Cook disagrees.   In a brief interview with Recode’s Walt Mossberg Cook says he couldn’t be happier with the first four years of the iPad.   “I’d call what’s going on recently a speed bump, and I’ve seen that in every category,” he says.   Instagram releases Hyperlapse Instagram has launched one of its first apps outside of Instagram itself – Hyperlapse.   The app makes it easy for users to use their phones to create tracking shots, and fast time-lapse videos.   The app is currently only available on iOS but Instagram hopes to develop an Android version soon.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 29.83 to 17,106.70. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

The technology hype cycle: From disillusionment to enlightenment

8:13AM | Monday, 18 August

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.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple looks at sapphire screens but cost is a factor

8:34PM | Thursday, 14 August

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 finally admits it has a diversity problem

8:45AM | Wednesday, 13 August

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.

Eight great startup quotes to help you get through your day

8:08PM | Wednesday, 13 August

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.

THE NEWS WRAP: Uber hits back at Lyft with counterclaims of wrongdoing

8:31PM | Tuesday, 12 August

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.

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