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Windows 10 is not really free: you are paying for it with your privacy

8:18AM | Tuesday, 4 August

Windows 10, it seems, is proving a hit with both the public and the technology press after its release last week. After two days, it had been installed on 67 million PCs. Of course, sceptics may argue that this may have simply been a reflection of how much people disliked Windows 8 and the fact that that the upgrade was free. For others, though, it is the very fact that the upgrade is free that has them concerned that Microsoft has adopted a new, “freemium” model for making money from its operating system. They argue that, while Apple can make its upgrades free because it makes its money from the hardware it sells, Microsoft will have to find some way to make money from doing the same with its software. Given that there are only a few ways of doing this, it seems that Microsoft has taken a shotgun approach and adopted them all.   The question is whether it’s really ‘free’. Microsoft   Free upgrade Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s Chief Marketing Officer, has declared that Microsoft’s strategy is to “acquire, engage, enlist and monetise”. In other words, get people using the platform and then sell them other things like apps from the Microsoft App Store.   The trouble is, that isn’t the only strategy that Microsoft is taking. Microsoft is employing a unique “advertising ID” that is assigned to a user when Windows 10 is installed. This is used to target personalised ads at the user.   These ads will show up whilst using the web, and even in games that have been downloaded from the Microsoft App Store. In fact, the game where this grabbed most attention was Microsoft’s Solitaire, where users are shown video ads unless they are prepared to pay a US$9.99 a year subscription fee.   The advertising ID, along with a range of information about the user, can be used to target ads. The information that Microsoft will use includes: […] current location, search query, or the content you are viewing. […] likely interests or other information that we learn about you over time using demographic data, search queries, interests and favorites, usage data, and location data.   It wasn’t long ago that Microsoft was attacking Google for similar features it now includes in Windows 10. Internet Archicve   It was not that long ago that Microsoft attacked Google for doing exactly this to its customers.   What Microsoft is prepared to share, though, doesn’t stop at the data it uses for advertising. Although it maintains that it won’t use personal communications, emails, photos, videos and files for advertising, it can and will share this information with third parties for a range of other reasons.   The most explicit of these reasons is sharing data in order to “comply with applicable law or respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies”. In other words, if a government or security agency asks for it, Microsoft will hand it over.   Meaningful transparency In June, Horacio Gutiérrez, Deputy General Counsel & Corporate Vice President of Legal and Corporate Affairs at Microsoft, made a commitment to “providing a singular, straightforward resource for understanding Microsoft’s commitments for protecting individual privacy with these services”.   On the Microsoft blog, he stated: In a world of more personalized computing, customers need meaningful transparency and privacy protections. And those aren’t possible unless we get the basics right. For consumer services, that starts with clear terms and policies that both respect individual privacy and don’t require a law degree to read.   This sits in contrast to Microsoft’s privacy statement, which is a 38 page, 17,000 word document. This suggests that Microsoft really didn’t want to make the basic issues of its implementation absolutely clear to users.   Likewise, the settings that allow a user to control all aspects of privacy in Windows 10 itself are spread over 13 separate screens.   Also buried in the privacy statement is the types of data Cortana – Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri or Google Now – uses. This includes: […] device location, data from your calendar, the apps you use, data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device. Cortana also learns about you by collecting data about how you use your device and other Microsoft services, such as your music, alarm settings, whether the lock screen is on, what you view and purchase, your browse and Bing search history, and more.   Note that the “and more” statement basically covers everything that you do on a device. Nothing, in principle, is excluded.   Privacy by default It is very difficult to trust any company that does not take a “security and privacy by default” approach to its products, and then makes it deliberately difficult to actually change settings in order to implement a user’s preferences for privacy settings.   This has manifested itself in another Windows 10 feature called WiFi Sense that has had even experts confused about the default settings and its potential to be a security hole.   WiFi Sense allows a Windows 10 user to share access to their WiFi with their friends and contacts on Facebook, Skype and Outlook. The confusion has arisen because some of the settings are on by default, even though a user needs to explicitly choose a network to share and initiate the process.   Again, Microsoft has taken an approach in which the specific privacy and security dangers are hidden in a single setting. There is no way to possibly vet who, amongst several hundred contacts, you really wanted to share your network with.   There are steps users can take to mitigate the worst of the privacy issues with Windows 10, and these are highly recommended. Microsoft should have allowed users to pay a regular fee for the product in exchange for a guarantee of the levels of privacy its users deserve.   David Glance is Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

'Windows 10 on everything' is Microsoft's gambit to profit from its competitors

7:46AM | Friday, 31 July

Microsoft’s aim to make Windows 10 run on anything is key to its strategy of reasserting its dominance. Seemingly unassailable in the 1990s, Microsoft’s position has in many markets been eaten away by the explosive growth of phones and tablets, devices in which the firm has made little impact.   To run Windows 10 on everything, Microsoft is opening up.   Rather than requiring Office users to run Windows, now Office365 is available for Android and Apple iOS mobile devices. A version of Visual Studio, Microsoft’s key application for programmers writing Windows software, now runs on Mac OS or Linux operating systems.   Likewise, with tools released by Microsoft developers can tweak their Android and iOS apps so that they run on Windows. The aim is to allow developers to create, with ease, the holy grail of a universal app that runs on anything. For a firm that has been unflinching in taking every opportunity to lock users into its platform, just as with Apple and many other tech firms, this is a major change of tack.   From direct to indirect revenue So why is Microsoft trying to become a general purpose, broadly compatible platform? Windows' share of the operating system market has fallen steadily from 90% to 70% to 40%, depending on which survey you believe. This reflects customers moving to mobile, where the Windows Phone holds a mere 3% market share. In comparison Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure platform Azure, Office 365 and its Xbox games console have all experienced rising fortunes.       Lumbered with a heritage of Windows PCs in a falling market, Microsoft’s strategy is to move its services – and so its users – inexorably toward the cloud. This divides into two necessary steps.   First, for software developed for Microsoft products to run on all of them – write once, run on everything. As it is there are several different Microsoft platforms (Win32, WinRT, WinCE, Windows Phone) with various incompatibilities. This makes sense, for a uniform user experience and also to maximise revenue potential from reaching as many possible devices.   Second, to implement a universal approach so that code runs on other operating systems other than Windows. This has historically been fraught, with differences in approach to communicating, with hardware and processor architecture making it difficult. In recent years, however, improving virtualisation has made it much easier to run code across platforms.   It will be interesting to see whether competitors such as Google and Apple will follow suit, or further enshrine their products into tightly coupled, closed ecosystems. Platform exclusivity is no longer the way to attract and hold customers; instead the appeal is the applications and services that run on them. For Microsoft, it lies in subscriptions to Office365 and Xbox Gold, in-app and in-game purchases, downloadable video, books and other revenue streams – so it makes sense for Microsoft to ensure these largely cloud-based services are accessible from operating systems other than just their own.     The Windows family tree … it’s complicated. Kristiyan Bogdanov, CC BY-SA   Platform vs services Is there any longer any value in buying into a single service provider? Consider smartphones from Samsung, Google, Apple and Microsoft: prices may differ, but the functionality is much the same. The element of difference is the value of wearables and internet of things devices (for example, Apple Watch), the devices they connect with (for example, an iPhone), the size of their user communities, and the network effect.   From watches to fitness bands to internet fridges, the benefits lie in how devices are interconnected and work together. This is a truly radical concept that demonstrates digital technology is driving a new economic model, with value associated with “in-the-moment” services when walking about, in the car, or at work. It’s this direction that Microsoft is aiming for with Windows 10, focusing on the next big thing that will drive the digital economy.   The revolution will be multi-platform I predict that we will see tech firms try to grow ecosystems of sensors and services running on mobile devices, either tied to a specific platform or by driving traffic directly to their cloud infrastructure.   Apple has already moved into the mobile health app market and connected home market. Google is moving in alongside manufacturers such as Intel, ARM and others. An interesting illustration of this effect is the growth of digital payments – with Apple, Facebook and others seeking ways to create revenue from the traffic passing through their ecosystems.   However, the problem is that no single supplier like Google, Apple, Microsoft or internet services such as Facebook or Amazon can hope to cover all the requirements of the internet of things, which is predicted to scale to over 50 billion devices worth US$7 trillion in five years. As we become more enmeshed with our devices, wearables and sensors, demand will rise for services driven by the personal data they create. Through “Windows 10 on everything”, Microsoft hopes to leverage not just the users of its own ecosystem, but those of its competitors too.   Mark Skilton is Professor of Practice at University of Warwick. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Microsoft wants to win back your support with Windows 10

7:35AM | Wednesday, 29 July

The latest version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system will begin rolling out from Wednesday (July 29). And remarkably, Windows 10 will be offered as a free upgrade to those users who already have Windows 7 and 8.1 installed.   That the upgrade is free is an interesting move and comes off the back of much criticism over Windows 8. Interestingly, the software giant has also skipped over any planned version 9 of Windows.   So what does this mean for Microsoft and the 1.5 billion people it says use Windows every day? Can the company restore some of the consumer and user confidence it has lost in recent years?   Under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft is transforming itself into a “productivity and platforms company”. This is a bold re-invention of the company as it seeks to secure its future in a market moving steadily towards cloud-based services and mobile devices powered by Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.   Nadella sees it as necessity to broaden the company’s scope of operations beyond its current family of products and conventional modes of delivery. The market does not leave him with much choice if the company is to stay in the game, if not be a leader.   After Windows 10 it’s just Windows For decades, the latest release of Windows has been a major event in itself. But that is set to end.   Windows 10 will be the last numbered version of the operating system. After Windows 10, it will simply be known as Windows. And you will get your updates incrementally from from the cloud via a subscription service.     Many Windows users will have noticed the upgrade notification appearing on their taskbar. Microsoft   In what it is calling a “platform convergence strategy”, Microsoft is creating a unified operating environment for phones, tablets, ultrabooks, laptops, desktop computers and Xboxes. All will be integrated by Windows 10, and increasingly so with the later Windows.   The platform convergence strategy allows the creation of universal applications that can run on any platform with Windows 10.   Surprisingly, applications that have been developed to run on Android and iOS devices will also be able to run on Windows 10, albeit once they have been converted to make them compatible. Still, this will open up a vast number of potential applications to run across Windows platforms.   Focus on gaming Microsoft’s acquisition last year of the hit game Minecraft for US$2.5 billion is a measure of how seriously Nadella and his strategists take mobile gaming.   Minecraft is a hugely popular open world game that gives players the freedom to create create and manipulate an on-line world made of Lego-like blocks. The move will establish Microsoft in the booming world of mobile games as well as further popularising the Xbox gaming console.   But the question on many people’s minds is whether the personal computer itself is dead, and along with it Microsoft?   It’s not the first time we have heard such dire predictions. It is true that PCs are today part of a more complicated personal computing environment, but it is a stretch to declare the PC dead.   There is only so much you can do with a phone or a tablet. For serious work or fun, a full-spec laptop or desktop is still the machine of choice and will remain so. For example, I am writing this article using a laptop.   Microsoft’s latest upgrade of Windows will be free for many users. Flickr/Eric Li, CC BY-NC   The new digital economy The Internet of Things is expanding, with embedded sensors and data gatherers becoming pervasive.   Open platforms and operating environments that feed data into the cloud and allow people to derive value will be an important part of the new digital economy. With traditional jobs under threat from automation and artificial intelligence, imagination and creativity will be more important than ever.   Microsoft’s strategy to diversify and integrate its platform offerings and move its services to the cloud while opening itself up to using its competitor’s apps would seem to be a bold but rational response to the current challenges; one that stands a good chance of succeeding.   There will no doubt be loud complaints from those who claim to speak for all of us. But in the end if a computing environment delivers value and allows people to live their lives as they please, then that platform is likely to succeed, particularly when it has the muscle and know-how of a well-established company behind it.   How Google and Apple respond will be very interesting, but competition is a good thing.   David Tuffley is Lecturer in Applied Ethics and Socio-Technical Studies, School of ICT, at Griffith University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Lessons from the Apple e-book case

7:37AM | Tuesday, 21 July

The Court of Appeals in the US has ratified Apple’s guilt in the e-book case. It was a two-to-one decision by the three judges on the Court. And it provides two lessons for Australia.   First, when industries are being disrupted, incumbents may collude with entrants to prevent competition.   Second, those who are calling for changes to our competition laws need to read the dissenting judgement. It shows how easy it is to confuse protecting competition and protecting competitors.   The background Before 2010, Amazon dominated e-books. It set the price at US$9.99 per book, which was less than the wholesale price that Amazon paid to the publishers. The reason was simple. Amazon was loss leading on the e-books in order to encourage consumers to purchase its Kindle reader.   Amazon had achieved a significant market share, selling around 90% of all e-books in the US. But the publishers hated the Amazon model. Cheap e-books meant that the publishers sold fewer (highly profitable) hard and soft backs. The publishers also feared that Amazon could evolve as a peer-to-peer platform that would “allow authors to publish directly with Amazon, cutting out the publishers entirely” (Court of Appeal at 14).   When Apple entered, it offered a different business model. The publishers controlled the retail price of each e-book on the ibookstore, with Apple taking a 30% cut. This is not unusual. Apple uses a similar model for Apps. And by itself, Apple’s agency model was not illegal.   However Apple and the publishers also agreed to a ‘most favoured customer’ clause. Under this clause, the publishers had to ensure that the price they set on the ibookstore was no more than the price for the same e-book on any other site – such as Amazon. Effectively this meant the publishers had to go to Amazon and require that Amazon raise its prices. And the data shows that prices went up.   The agreement between Apple and the publishers breached the anti-collusion laws in Section 1 of the US Sherman Antitrust Act.   The incumbents fight back When industries are disrupted, whether by Amazon, Uber or Airbnb, the incumbents will fight back.   In the case of Uber, this has been through existing taxi laws, labour laws and government assistance.   In June 2015 the California Labor Commission ruled that an Uber driver should be treated as an employee. Uber is appealing. But fear of both labour and taxation laws have led a number of peer-to-peer providers, such as Shyp (a packing and shipping service) and Instacart (a grocery delivery company) to shift informal contract workers to full time employees.   On May 1, 2015, the Uber offices in Guangzhou, China, were raided and closed down. The municipal government then announced plans to launch its own online taxi App which would cover incumbent taxi services.   For Airbnb, the incumbents have fought back through zoning laws and takeovers. Hyatt hotels revealed in May 2015 that it is investing in Onefinestay, a competitor to Airbnb. Similarly, Wyndham hotels has invested in Love Home Swap, a UK home swapping site.   The Apple case illustrates how incumbents can fight back by using dirty competitive tactics. Fortunately, in the Apple case, the competition regulators were ready to act. But we can expect incumbents in other sectors to similarly push the legal boundaries to protect their profits.   Protecting competitors or protecting competition? The Apple case also highlights the problem of leaving the interpretation of abuse of market power laws to the Courts.   The US Sherman Act provides little guidance to the Courts. However, the US has a long history of sorting out ‘good’ behaviour from ‘bad’ behaviour. The ‘rule of reason’ approach adopted by the US Courts is similar to the approach under Australia’s current abuse of market power laws. In Australia, a firm with market power only breaks the law if it ‘takes advantage’ of that power. The US Courts similarly ask whether or not the impugned conduct is really pro-competitive, not anti-competitive, behaviour. Both approaches try and ensure the law fosters competition rather than protecting individual, potentially inefficient, competitors.   Unfortunately, the recent Competition Policy Review recommended changing our laws. The new laws will take out the ‘take advantage’ test and leave it to the Courts to sort out the behaviour. But even in the US, with more than 100 years of legal cases, the Courts can get this wrong.   The dissenting judgement in the Apple decision illustrates the confusion. The dissenting judge concluded that Apple’s behaviour, that raised prices for e-books, was unambiguously and overwhelmingly pro-competitive. By raising prices, the cartel made it easier for new businesses to enter the market!   On this basis, all cartels would be good. If you raise prices and profits then the businesses benefit. This encourages new entry, but harms consumers. It is the classic confusion between competition (which benefits consumers) and collusion (which benefits businesses but hurts consumers).   Fortunately, two judges in the Apple case avoided this confusion. But protecting competitors can be tempting for a court – particularly when the industry is rapidly changing through innovation and disruption. In the Apple case it was tempting enough to have one judge dissent. And in Australia, we risk throwing the courts in at the deep end, if the legal changes recommended by the Competition Policy Review go ahead. Stephen King is Professor, Department of Economics at Monash University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Technolog: Apple Watch sales stall, Microsoft ditches phones, Reddit's unhappy users

7:52AM | Friday, 10 July

This week brought news of the challenge that Apple faces with dwindling sales of the Apple Watch. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also pulled the plug on its smartphone business purchased from Nokia with the announcement of 7,800 job layoffs and writing off US$7.6 billion in assets. Another beleaguered CEO was Reddit’s Ellen Pao. After Reddit’s shutdown earlier this week, a petition calling for her resignation passed the 212,000 signature mark.   Apple Watch sales reportedly fall sharply in the US   This week Slice Intelligence reported that Apple Watch sales in the US had dropped to 15% of their levels in April, with only 5,000 watches selling per day. Selling large numbers of the Apple Watch was always going to be a big ask. Even for something that actually does function better than its competitors in this space, the price of the Apple Watch and its accessories, is going to be a disincentive for many.   The generalised adoption of the smartwatch as a technological category will rely on changing behaviours that have become ingrained over the past 20 years as we have adapted to using mobile phones. The last 10 years has seen smartphones become a real general computing device on which we are prepared to spend a great deal of time.   Apple has done a good job with the interface on its watch, but the small screen is always going to limit its capabilities. It will take take time before people decide what can be done on the watch and what they need to get the phone out for and ultimately that will determine the value they are likely to place on having that type of functionality on their wrist.   It is early days, however, and this is only version 1 of the watch. Until Apple release worldwide sales figures, it isn’t going to be possible to decide whether this has been a financial success from Apple’s perspective.   (Ed's note: AppleInsider has a good piece on the questionable nature of the Slice Intelligence research. In short: the stats also show that the Apple Watch is the most succesful smart watch by a considerbale margin.)   Microsoft repeats history and writes off its smartphone business In what is the final act of the tragedy that has been Nokia’s decimation, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Microsoft would be laying off a further 7,800 staff and writing down US$7.6 billion in assets associated with its smartphone business.   It could be argued that Nokia, like BlackBerry, would have struggled to survive in the smartphone business in any event. It had already chosen the wrong side by deciding to focus on using Microsoft’s operating system for its phones instead of embracing Android. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made an equally bad decision to buy the company in order to stop Nokia from changing its mind and abandoning Windows and adopting rival Google’s platform.   Microsoft has a history of making poor acquisitions. In 2012 it booked a US$6.2 billion charge for its acquisition of digital marketing company aQuantive. Driven again by wanting to compete against Google in the online advertising space, Microsoft was unable to make its online business profitable.   A year later, Microsoft took a US$900 million charge on poor sales of the Surface RT a line of devices that lost Microsoft US$2 billion in the first two years of sales.   If nothing else, the experience with Nokia should have finally convinced Microsoft that it is not ever really going to succeed as a devices company. For the moment, this is what CEO Satya Nadella seems also to have accepted. It is a pity that so many people should have had to lose their jobs for Microsoft to learn that lesson.   Reddit CEO Ellen (Chairman) Pao clings on to the role The shutdown of parts of Reddit earlier this week eventually came to an end. But a belated apology from CEO Ellen Pao hasn’t satisfied the moderators who took this action. Two moderators involved in the earlier action wrote in the NY Times that the company leaders still hadn’t fully explained their actions in removing staffer Victoria Taylor, a move that triggered the users’ protest.   It seems a very large number of the Reddit community are also still unhappy with the CEO’s response to this crisis, and a petition asking for her to stand down has passed the 212,000 signatures mark.   Ironically, the skills a CEO would need to possess to be able to recognise when they should go are similar to those that would have made them a good CEO in the first place. Bad leaders, by definition, aren’t able to take the the best decision for the sake of a company and leave when they should. So far, nobody in a position to tell Pao that it is time to move on has surfaced.   In Reddit’s case, and also an indicator of poor governance, there seem to be only two board members. Alexis Ohanian, a founder of the company and arguably not any better at handling the company than Pao, and Samuel Altman, who is involved with startup incubator Y Combinator. In the absence of a board to manage the CEO, it will be left to Reddit’s users to decide if it is worth sticking around to find out what she will eventually do.   David Glance is Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Magic Leap is launching an augmented reality developer platform

6:33PM | Tuesday, 2 June

Augmented reality startup Magic Leap has announced it is launching an augmented reality developer platform, according to TechCrunch.   Last year Google invested more than $600 million in the company, which says it can project light and graphics into the human eye alongside what it sees naturally.   Speaking at the MIT EmTech Digital conference, Magic Leap chief executive Rony Abovitz said the company was ready to start training developers.   “We’re out of the R&D phase and into the transition to real product introduction,” he said.   “There is no off-the-shelf stuff that does what we’re describing.”   Native Americans and domestic violence survivors protest Facebook’s naming policy   Native Americans, domestic violence survivors, drag queens and others have come together to protest at Facebook’s headquarters in response to the company’s policy of only allowing people to use their “real” names.   Fairfax reports more than 50 protesters held up picket signs and chanted outside Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.   Facebook says people need to use their real names in order to prevent instances of bullying or inappropriate behaviour on the social network, but has softened that position after complaints from the LGBTIQ community.   However, the protesters said they wanted Facebook to do more by not putting the onus on vulnerable groups to prove their identity.   Apple chief lashes out against companies that compromise customer privacy   Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has lashed out at companies that make a trade-off between customer privacy and security, according to TechCrunch.   Speaking at the EPIC Champions of Freedom event in Washington, Cook said people have the fundamental right to privacy.   “I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” he said.   “They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 28.43 points, falling 0.16% to 18,011.94. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77.72 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Coupa Software raises $US80 million, landing a $1 billion valuation

6:32PM | Monday, 1 June

Spending management company Coupa Software has raised $US80 million, making the cloud startup the latest fast-growing businesses to land a valuation of more than $1 billion.   The found was led by T Rowe Price along with Iconiq Capital, the firm managing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s personal investments, according to Re/code.   The latest capital injection is the startup’s seventh investment round, bringing the total capital raised to date to $US169m. Microsoft buys German startup for more than $100 million Microsoft will purchase the German startup behind the Wunderlist to-do list app for more than $100 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.   The acquisition is part of a bid to improve Microsoft’s mobile, email and calendar applications.   The Berlin-based 6Wunderkinder GmbH is backed by US venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and other VCs. Apple to launch music streaming service Apple is launching its own music streaming service to compete with Spotify, according to The Wall Street Journal.   The new Apple service will reportedly cost $10 a month; however, unlike Spotify, the company will not allow users to stream its entire catalogue.   The move represents a significant shift away from the downloading model that helped Apple revolutionise music a decade ago. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 29.69 points, rising 0.16% yesterday to 18,040.37. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.08 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Snapchat raises more than $700 million

5:30PM | Sunday, 31 May

Snapchat has raised an additional $US537 million in funding from investors, according to The Wall Street Journal.   The round was led by Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding and two hedge funds.   The latest capital injection values Snapchat at $US16 billion, up from $US10 billion in December. Apple buys German augmented reality software startup Apple has purchased a German augmented reality software startup to explore the possibility of integrating the company’s technology with its products.   The terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, Apple gave Reuters its usual one-sentence statement saying it buys smaller technology companies “from time to time” and does not comment.   Metaio specialises in augmented-reality software for the retail and automotive markets and has received investment from serial entrepreneur Carl Westcott and Silicon Valley equity fund Atlantic Bridge. Woolworths leaks customer data in $1 million gift card breach Woolworths has mistakenly emailed customer data along with the redeemable codes for more than 8000 gift cards, forcing the grocery giant to cancel more than $1 million in vouchers.   The company told Fairfax it takes data security and customer concerns “seriously”.   “We experienced a technical fault with an e-voucher offered to customers this week,” the statement read.   “We are working to resolve the issue and are assisting customers.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 115.44 points, falling 0.64% yesterday to 18,010.68. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.5 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Brillo and Weave among major announcements out of Google I/O

5:44AM | Friday, 29 May

Brillo, a cut-down version of Android aimed at embedded devices, and Weave, a framework designed to compete against Apple’s HomeKit API, were among the key announcements from the Google I/O developer conference this year.   Other key announcements from the tech giant include a photo sharing service and app designed to compete against Flickr called Google Photos, a series of major virtual reality announcements, and the latest version of the Android operating system, which is known as Android M.   Clinicloud founder Hon Weng Chong told StartupSmart that while Brillo and Weave are aimed more at the home automation end of IoT rather than medtech devices, a key issue for any embedded device is the trade-off between ease of programming and memory use.   “Right now, we’re not even using Embedded Linux. We’re working on bare metal in Assembler,” Chong says.   “There’s always a trade-off. When you use Windows 10 or Embedded Android, you need to have extra memory and more processing power, and that comes at a cost. So the trade-off is between the cost versus how easy it is to program.   “Certainly, it will be good for new startups that are just prototyping their ideas. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty of getting a product ready, you need to do a bit more work. I’m not sure the trade-offs and chip costs are something Microsoft and Google have really taken into consideration.” Assembler still the only way to go The sentiment is shared by Procept products and marketing manager Rob Crowder, who also serves as the managing director of Smash Wearables. He told StartupSmart Assembler is the only way to go right now, assuming you can write apps that basic.   Crowder also says multi-purpose wearable devices such as Android Wear smartwatches and the Apple Watch still lack the precision needed to do something like accurately measure a player’s tennis swing, as single-use wearables such as Smash Wearables’ device does.   “Right now, if we asked a wearable to do everything the Apple Watch does, and at the same time have the precision we need it to, you’d probably need a battery the size of a backpack, and no one would buy it.   “Our own wearables, that are useful for some very specific purpose, have a shelf life of somewhere around three to five years. At some time, someone will come up with a general device that’s precise enough with a battery good enough for tennis. But right now, there’s still a trade-off. How hard you ask it to work led us to develop our own wearable.” Concerns around Brillo’s memory use David Soutar, co-founder and chief executive at Wattcost, says a lot of embedded devices couldn’t support the memory use Brillo requires.   However, not all startups are as pessimistic. Oomi vice president Chris Hall says he intends to take a close look at Google’s IoT ecosystem – as long as it doesn’t compromise the user experience for Apple and Windows users.   “At our end, we’ve encouraged an open ecosystem. What’s been happening in the IoT space is a lot of fragmentation. So we’ve tried to be as platform-agnostic as possible,” Hall says.   “Oomi Touch integrates with Apple HomeKit to give full value to iOS users. We’re also a partner in Samsung’s Tizen Alliance.   “On the Google side, the big talk last year Nest Thread. However with Weave, there seems to be a distancing away from Nest and on the hardware side, we’ll take a close look at what the hardware offers.” Great to have an Apple HomeKit rival LEAPIN Digital Keys cofounder Steve Dunn says he thinks it’s great that Google have finally stepped in and set a new IOT platform with Brillo and Weave to rival Apple's HomeKit.   “It means that we can now more easily interface our smart lock products with other IOT products without having to go through a lengthy negotiation exercise with all the different companies with all their different IOT products one at a time.   “We’ve been talking with some overseas telcos, other startups, security product manufacturers, and even insurance companies about building interfaces, and pulling together smart home products and kits with our smart locks. But up until now it feels like we've been going on dates with all these other companies, talking and looking at each other’s products, discussing taking action, but not actually doing anything. This Project Brillo announcement by Google levels the playing field now, so it means that the best products can more easily come together and offer more choices for the consumer.   “Up until now, it’s only been the loudest voices and best negotiators (mostly in the US) and not necessarily the best products, which are coming together because there hasn't been one primary platform for IoT products… Hopefully, Brillo will enable the smaller startups like us with great IoT products to get all the interfaces done, and get their products out there in front of consumers easier than they do now.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple working on Google Now competitor

5:16PM | Wednesday, 27 May

Apple is developing a new iOS imitative code named “proactive” that will leverage Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Passbook and third-party apps to compete with Google Now.   Proactive will automatically provide timely information based on user data and device usage patterns, but respect its users privacy preferences, a source told 9to5Mac.   The feature will likely replace Apple’s Spotlight menu. Speculation suggests some form of Proactive will be introduced with iOS9 at the Worldwide Developers Conference on June 8. Comcast restarts Vox Media acquisition talks Before Vox Media acquired Re/code, it had been engaged in acquisition talks with Comcast.   Comcast has invested in both Vox Media and Re/code, and now following Vox Media’s purchase of Re/code, Comcast is ready to reopen acquisition talks with Vox Media, Quartz reports.   Vox Media has raised about $US110 million over the last six years and has been seeking a Valuation close to $1 billion. Desktop internet is not in decline The amount of time spent online on desktop has remained steady for the past two years, according to data from comScore.   Online mobile usage has grown steadily over that period and is adding to, not subtracting from the amount of time people spent online on desktop computers. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 121.45 to 18,162.99. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US77 cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Ribbit! App developed by Queensland scientists aims to be the Shazam of frog calls

5:22AM | Wednesday, 27 May

Queensland scientists have developed an app that allows users to identify frogs by their calls. It’s not quite Shazam for frogs yet, but it’s a step in that direction.   The app, developed by scientists at James Curtin University in Queensland and released earlier this month, stores the calls of all 238 known Australian frog species, along with other information, to help users identify frogs.   Designed to replace textbook field guides, the Frogs of Australia app features information about each of the 238 discovered Australian frog specifies. Users wishing to identify a frog can use geolocation to narrow that list of 238 to a more manageable one which includes those known to live in that area.   The frog can then be identified by matching it to profile pictures or an audio recording of the frog’s call stored within in the app.   Senior lecturer, College of Marine and Environmental Sciences at James Cook University’s Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, Dr Conrad Hoskin says there was a need for an updated field guide for Australian frogs and it made the most sense to throw away the old textbook format in favour of an app.   The dream is to eventually develop technology that helps such an app identify frogs, without user assistance, in the same way music discovery app Shazam identifies songs and artists. Shazam’s technology is how Apple’s virtual assistant Siri identifies songs.   “That’s where we’d like to end up. The thing with Shazam is when a song is playing, it’s the same song anywhere you’re playing it,” Hoskin says.   “When you’re out in the field, there’s never just one frog calling. There’s always lots of individuals, and the range in frog calls is quite amazing. So we’re not there yet. We’ve got the calls at your fingertips, but it still requires the user to identify them.”   On average two new frog species are documented in Australia every year, so the app also includes a submit feedback function, which puts users in contact with Hoskin and his team, so they can investigate any interesting finds.   Hoskin says that feature is designed to help the team tap into bushwalkers and explorers who might bump into new frog species in their travels.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Lyft raises an additional $US150 million in funding

5:33PM | Sunday, 17 May

Ridesharing service Lyft has raised $US150 million ($A187 million) in funding from serial investor Carl Icahn.   The latest capital injection comes off the back of a $US530 million Series E round in March, bringing the amount of capital raised by the startup this year to more than $800 million.   Icahn said in a statement he was very happy to be investing in Lyft because he believed very strongly in its team.   “I believe that ridesharing is poised to become a fundamental component of our transportation infrastructure,” he said.   “The Company’s revenue growth to date has been extremely compelling, and increasing urbanization over the next five to 10 years should enable the company to maintain that trajectory. Additionally, I’ve been very impressed with Lyft’s founders and management team, and I believe they are well-suited to take advantage of this opportunity and to make Lyft an extremely successful company.”   Lyft is a competitor of popular ridesharing service Uber, with an Australian launch in the works according to a partner company. Apple acquires US mapping startup Coherant Navigation Apple has snapped up San Francisco-based GPS startup Coherant Navigation in a bid to improve the company’s mapping technology.   “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” a spokesperson told The New York Times.   The acquisition is the latest in a string of mapping technology startups bought by the company in recent years. Payments startup Clinkle in hot water after employees quit in protest Mobile payments startup Clinkle is in trouble after seven employees walked out on the company due to ongoing frustrations with its 24-year-old chief executive, TechCrunch reports.   Clinkle shot into the spotlight in 2013 when it raised $25 million in seed funding from investors such as Peter Thiel and Accel Ventures without a publically available product.   The company’s founder and chief executive, Lucas Duplan, has previously fired a string of employees and has reportedly withheld information from employees regarding a potential buyout. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 20.32 points, rising 0.11% to 18,272.56. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 80.4 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Move over Melbourne Cup – let’s start betting on Australian unicorns

5:45AM | Friday, 8 May

Australians gamble more on the Melbourne Cup ($200 million, $9 per capita) than the entire venture capital industry invests in startups in a year ($100m, $4.55 per capita).   This disparity is especially concerning when we consider that in the US, three companies (Apple, Facebook and Google) contribute $1.3 trillion to GDP, which is higher than the value of our entire ASX. All three of those businesses were once startups with the youngest being Facebook founded a mere 11 years ago.   We rightly celebrate the success of Atlassian and REA Group, however, we need to create the conditions to drive a thriving and substantial ecosystem of startups. With this in mind Salesforce is supporting the recommendations of the StartupAUS Crossroads Report 2015, which provides an action plan for how Australia can develop a vibrant tech-startup ecosystem.   According to the report, the impact that tech startups could have on the Australian economy, if nurtured and supported, is huge. Two key findings that struck me are:   Each new technology-based job created adds five additional jobs in other sectors (3x a new job in manufacturing or extractive industries) 73% of a nation’s future wealth can be predicted by its Economic Complexity Index (ECI) – a measure of a nation’s ability to produce a range of goods varying in complexity from extracting and selling unprocessed natural resources to building and selling complex industrial products/services. Australia has “an amazingly primitive export basket”, according to Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann, which means unless we start driving more innovation, we would predict low future GDP growth.   Not only do tech startups positively impact the economy, they also provide the growth of the ecosystem through creating ‘unicorns’ – startups valued at over $US1 billion. The existence of unicorns raises the profile of entrepreneurship and creates a market of experienced and cashed-up employees who create and support new companies, attracting other hopeful entrepreneurs who want to be where the action is.   Australia’s tech ecosystem has seen huge progress over the last three years and with just a few tweaks there could be a tremendous wave of growth in the nation’s Silicon Beaches. While all of the eight action items recommended in The Crossroads Report are important, in my opinion, there are two that are most pressing:   Increase the number of people with ICT skills Improve access to startup expertise   Recent research by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicated that 75% of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills. However, enrolments and completions in university STEM courses have remained flat over the period 2001 to 2013, while non-STEM courses have grown steadily. There is an increasing gap in the skills we need and the type of workforce Australia is producing.   If we act now to produce the right work force and build our startup ecosystem, graduates educated in STEM will find many of their future jobs with the unicorns.   Key to building up this ecosystem for the workforce of the future is providing the right support to our existing startups. Initiatives like York Butter Factory, Fishburners, and our own Salesforce for Startups program are all aimed at providing the right conditions, expertise and technology to startups as they scale.   While the support currently available is valuable, there’s still more work to be done. If we want to build the next generation of unicorns we need both industry and government of all levels to work in concert to provide the right framework and support.   Australia is now at a crossroads, it’s time for the nation to foster a viable environment for startups to not only operate in, but to thrive and succeed.   Tom Karemacher is the regional vice president for mid-market and SMB at Salesforce APAC.

Guy Kawasaki: Eight ways to be an evangelist for your business

5:11AM | Tuesday, 5 May

Guy Kawasaki made his name as Apple’s “chief evangelist” a term he says was coined by the marketing team. He was one of Apple’s first employees and was responsible for marketing the Macintosh computer in 1984 under Steve Jobs. Now he’s the chief evangelist for Australian design business Canva which just announced an extra $6 million in funding. Whoever he’s working for, Kawasaki is passionate about being an evangelist for your business rather than just marketing it. Ahead of his keynote address at the CeBIT conference in Sydney, Kawasaki spoke to SmartCompany about how you can be an evangelist for your business. 1. Ignore the doubters Kawasaki says working with Steve Jobs at Apple taught him if entrepreneurs want to create truly innovative products they need to ignore what everyone else is saying.   “Most of those people will tell you they just want better things,” he says.   “If Steve Jobs had listened to the advice in the 1980s he would have just made a better Apple 2.” 2. Have the other person’s interests at heart “An evangelist has the other person’s best interest at heart also and, primarily, most sales people are trying to make a quota and commission,” Kawasaki says.   “Evangelists want to get people more creative and productive, which is good for them and which is also good for the evangelist.” 3. Trust is essential Kawasaki’s first job after he finished his MBA was working for a small family-owned jewellery manufacturer.   “The jewellery business is intensely personal, reputation is everything; it’s hand to hand combat and I really learnt how to sell,” he says.   “It’s all about how to get people to trust you.” 3. Be prepared for hand-to-hand combat “When you had a computer like Macintosh and you had no precedent it too was hand-to-hand combat,” Kawasaki says.   “We literally met with companies one at a time, like selling a $35,000 ring you had to sell people on creating software for the Mac.” 4. Have an underlying purpose Kawasaki describes his time at Apple as “the best days of my life”.   “We were on a mission to prevent worldwide domination by IBM and it got closer to a religion than to a business,” he says.   “I believe the essence of what Apple did back then was it democratized computers.”   Kawasaki says he finds Canva’s mission equally inspiring.   “For me it’s empowering people for design like Macintosh empowered people for computers.” 5. Have a magnificent enemy “I can’t tell you that every product and every service can find as magnificent an enemy as IBM,” Kawasaki says.   “There are not that many magnificent enemies and if you are a small business, in particular, it’s harder to define a magnificent enemy.” 6. Use technology Kawasaki says the tools available now make evangelism even easier.   “Back in 1983 I had a car, an airplane ticket and a copper-based telephone system,” he says.   “Now you have email, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google hangouts on air and Skype.” 7. Remove barriers to entry Canva operates using a freemium model where the basic product is free although the company is getting ready to launch the paid service Canva for Work.   Kawasaki says a freemium model makes life easy for him as an evangelist.   “The benefits are that it presents a very low barrier to buy something; it’s kind of a land grab,” he says.   “You want to give people a very slippery slope.”   “Remove all the barriers for adoption and make it as easy as possible to fall in love with your product,” he says.   “One barrier many companies make is that you have to download an app.” 8. Eat what you kill “You should eat what you kill,” Kawasaki says.   “I have never seen a company die because it couldn’t scale fast enough but I have seen many die because they scaled too quickly.”   CeBIT starts today at Sydney Olympic Park.   This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Newly launched Apple Watch poses unique challenges for app developers

4:02AM | Friday, 24 April

With the Apple Watch having now officially launched in Australia, developers and businesses releasing apps for the platform are describing a number of unique challenges posed by the device, including dealing with a smaller screen, unreliable Bluetooth links and new contexts for apps.   The highly publicised launch of Apple’s wearable device will see the number of companies with smartwatch apps explode. The list of companies committing to apps on the platform includes Domain, REA, CBA, Fairfax, Qantas, Woolworths, OzLotteries, Westpac, St George and Zova.   They join startups such as Rewardle and Freelancer which are already operating on smartwatches via Google’s Android Wear platform and, in some cases, created apps even before the Apple Watch was officially announced.   Klyp mobile lead Tyson Bradford says many more businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach to the platform.   “At the moment as a digital agency, we’re not seeing a lot of demand for apps, but there is a lot interest in the business community. A lot of businesses are watching the launch very closely,” Bradford says.   Bradford says screen size is one of the major user interface issues developers need to consider when designing an app.   “In general, smartwatch keyboards are unusable and on the Apple Watch it’s non-existent. That creates a number of UI challenges. So for example, for an app that relies on communicating between two people, instead of a keyboard, Apple allows you to use predetermined emoji, draw on the screen or call them by voice. That means the whole UI needs to be rethought,” he says.   “The other issue is processing power and the necessity of being synced to the iPhone for many of the features. So, for example, the watch can’t access the internet directly, meaning you need to have your phone nearby – in a pocket, a bag or on a desk – when you want to call someone.   “That means if you have a fitness app, there’s a good chance the user won’t have their phone in their pocket when they go running – and you won’t be able to get data onto the internet in real time. So you really need to consider the context as well as the UI.”   Among the Australian startups preparing to launch an Apple Watch app is mobile ordering and payments platform AirService. Its chief executive and co-founder, Dominic Bressan says it’s important to be mindful of battery life, and that design elements work differently on a smaller screen.   “It’s a new platform, a new experience, and you can’t just shrink an iPhone app down to a smaller screen. So you have to pick which elements you bring from the iPhone to the Watch,” Bressan says.   “So notifications are something that naturally flows from the phone to the watch. I don’t see the full ordering experience translating to the watch, at least this stage. We will allow users to save a couple of favourite orders, but a full browse of venues with photos will remain on the iPhone.   “It has been really tricky developing an app without a device to test on and needing to do everything in a simulator. You have to remember things like the Bluetooth Low Energy connection is prone to drop out on the real device, but always works flawlessly in the simulator.   Likewise, Airtasker chief executive and co-founder Tim Fung says notifications are likely to be a key focus for the startups forthcoming Apple Watch app.   “For us, the benefits of an Apple Watch app are proximity and immediacy. Most of our Apple Watch app features are worker-centric features. We’re looking at scheduling, alerts and notifications that will allow them to move quickly and respond to an alert,” Fung says.   “When it comes to posting tasks, at this stage the interface just isn’t strong enough. That will change over time, thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Over the long term, we’re looking at things like using voice-to-text for tasks.”   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple could ship Apple Watches to customers sooner than expected

4:53PM | Wednesday, 22 April

Customers who have pre-ordered the Apple Watch can expect to see their new gadgets at their doorsteps sooner than expected.   Customers in the US who pre-ordered the device were originally told their orders would not ship until May or April. However, many have received an email notification saying their orders are “processing”.   “We’re happy to be updating many customers today with the news that their Apple Watch will arrive sooner than expected,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch.   “Our team is working to fill orders as quickly as possible based on the available supply and the order in which they were received. We know many customers are still facing long lead times and we appreciate their patience.” Professional certification startup Simplilearn raises $US15 million Professional certification startup Simplilearn has raised $US15 million in Series C funding, according to TechCrunch.   The startup specialises in online self-learning and corporate training, with analytics, project management, marketing and programming courses proving the most popular among consumers.   To date the startup has raised $US27 million and plans to have one million users by the end of 2015. Facebook launches new app to identify unknown callers Facebook has launched a new Android app to identify mystery callers, Re/code reports.   Called Hello, the app taps into information publically available on Facebook to identify who’s calling you – even if you aren’t friends with the person calling on Facebook.   The application only works if the person calling you has shared their number publicly on the social media platform. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 88.64 points, rising 0.49% to 18,038.27. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: On-demand marijuana startup backed by Snoop Dog raises $US10 million

4:30PM | Tuesday, 14 April

A San Francisco startup that delivers medical marijuana to customers on-demand has raised $US10 million in Series A funding in order to launch nation-wide.   The capital injection was led by DCM Ventures, with 500 Startups and Fresh VC also participating in the round.   Founder and chief executive Keith McCarty said in a statement the funding will allow the company to fill 50 job vacancies across all areas of the business.   “We want to thank our early patients and partners in the San Francisco Bay Area who have contributed to our success to date,” he said.   “These major milestones are only possible with their support. The new funding enables us to expand rapidly by further developing our technology, building new dispensary partnerships and scaling our team for hyper-growth as we expand nationwide where marijuana is legal.”   Apple says no to selfie sticks   Apple is banning selfie sticks from this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, according to Apple Insider.   “You are not permitted to make audio or audiovisual recordings of WWDC or take professional photographic or video equipment, or wearable recording devices into Moscone West or Yerba Buena Gardens,” the event’s attendance policy reads.   “In addition, you may not use selfie sticks or similar monopods within Moscone West or Yerba Buena Gardens.”   Pocket raises additional $US7 million in capital   Pocket has raised an additional $US7 million in funding in order to expand its team and launch in products, according to Venture Beat.   The startup allows users to save content from across the web – including social media platforms such as Twitter – and read it later or keep on-hand for future reference.   Pocket has raised $US14.5 million to date.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 59.66 points, rising 0.33% to 18,0365.70. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.7 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

Apple Watch: Why are so many, prepared to pay so much, without even knowing why?

4:24AM | Monday, 13 April

Within hours of the pre-order launch, the initial batch of Apple Watches were showing shipping times of two months. Not only had the cheapest Apple Watch Sport at AUD $499 sold out, but so had the Apple Watch Edition with a rose gold case and retailing at AUD $17,000.   And all of this for a watch that reviewers have given decidedly mixed reviews. The fact that people are willing to spend that much money on a device that they have no forehand knowledge of is a testament to the power that Apple devices have over their customers. The Apple Watch does nothing that other, far cheaper devices have done for many years. The Pebble watch, available for the past 2 years, covers most of the same functionality as the Apple Watch and retails for just AUD $89.   The truth of the matter is that the majority of people don’t actually know the difference. It has been a long standing joke about the number of people asking if the Pebble watch people are wearing is, in fact, an Apple Watch. For those that have worn a Pebble, or Android Wear or other smart watch, the reality of the usefulness, or otherwise, of these devices will have been long apparent.   It is a useful thing to get notifications of text messages on your watch, but the novelty of having your wrist buzz every time one of the 200 hundred a day emails arrives, rapidly wears off. Rejecting calls from your watch is also a useful feature, but answering the call and speaking into your watch is as socially acceptable as wearing Google Glass. Switching on the fitness functions on most smart watches like the Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 does a much poorer job of hear rate measurement than a dedicated fitness devices like the Fitbit.   The Apple Watch, although aesthetically more attractive perhaps than other devices, is in essence the functional equivalent of an AUD $350 Fitbit Surge. Whether the Apple Watch works as well as the Fitbit in terms of fitness tracking is yet to be seen.   According to Finder.com.au, 800,000 Australians, or 4.2% of the adult population, are intending to buy an Apple Watch. This is a similar number to those in the US that are intending to buy a watch, although this number has dropped from the nearly 10% of iPhone users who were intending to buy one back in December 2014.   Whilst it is easy to think of people stopping wearing an $89, or even an $300 device, as nearly 40% of wearable owners in the UK have done. It is much more painful to think of someone spending $1,000 doing the same.   Once again, we are seeing the enormous power of the psychological and social drivers behind being an Apple fan. Buying one of these watches is not an impulse purchase and it is not necessarily something that those buying these devices can actually afford.   In the US in 2013, households were spending 17% of their budget on technology. In Australia, an average family with 2 children spends about $6,000 a year on technology that ranges from telecommunications (mobiles, Internet connection, landlines) to streaming services for music and video. Within this context, it is even harder to justify spending the amount of money Apple is asking people to spend, on a watch that for the most part will simply be used to tell the time.   What may determine the success of the Apple Watch is its social acceptance by people who are not Apple Watch owners. Google Glass suffered from a view that a socially unaccepted technology was at the same time made exclusive, and therefore exclusionary, through its price. Although smart watches are less of a social imposition than a pair of glasses with a camera, looking at a watch in the company of others may be considered rude or signifying that the wearer is looking to be somewhere else. These social cues will need to be adapted for the case when people are looking at their wrist to see who is calling or texting and whether it is worth breaking a conversation to respond. Although society may adapt to this behaviour, it will take some time.   Whether the sales of the Apple Watch extends beyond the initial wave of early adopters is yet to be seen. It is hard to see how this will be sustained and the more conservative users will wait until at least next year, along with the possibility of price drops in the technology. Until then, the success of the watch will be easy to gauge by the number of people who are compulsively and continually staring at their wrists.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Aussie startup eCal sets up shop in New York

4:36AM | Thursday, 2 April

Calendar marketing platform eCal has established US headquarters after receiving a $2 million capital injection from Oxygen Ventures.   The startup received the funding as part of a reward for co-winning last year’s Big Pitch competition.   eCal founder and chief executive Patrick Barrett told StartupSmart the company had been servicing clients in America for some time but recently decided to set up shop in New York.   “We investigated both options – east coast and west coast – and spoke to other Australian companies in the sport entertainment space as well and asked their advice,” he says.   “We certainly came to the conclusion that the east coast was better for us. We established around 80% of our targets were located around the east coast – whether that’s New York, Boston, Atlanta… it certainly isn’t easy to travel to but that’s why we have a dedicated office and a dedicated team.”   eCal is just one of many Australian startups escaping the herd mentality and shunning San Francisco in favour of the Big Apple. While Silicon Valley is home to tech giants such as Apple and Facebook, New York is close to media and finance companies.   “There’s a big move in New York to bring tech companies in, particularly in Midtown,” Barrett says.   “We have access to the sports clients, but also importantly a lot of major media companies – the likes of NBC are just around the corner. We’re also close to the advertising media agencies, so when we extend into new verticals beyond sport those relationships are key to give us access to major brands.”   Barrett says he would encourage entrepreneurs thinking about setting up overseas operations to have the right people on the ground.   “The reality is you get what you pay for, and that’s the biggest piece of advice I give people,” he says.   “The other key message I tell people is you need to be there yourself – there’s no two ways about it. That’s why I’m going back to the US on Monday. The ideal case is where you have a co-founder or someone in the business who’s prepared to move over there… I think that’s the ideal scenario.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple chief slams workplace discrimination

3:37PM | Monday, 30 March

Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has slammed so-called “religious freedom” laws in the US that allow employers to discriminate against their employees on the basis of personal beliefs.   In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Cook said that America’s business community recognised a long time ago that discrimination in all its forms is not just morally wrong but bad for business.   “Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open,” he says.   “Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.” Phhhoto now has more than 1 million users Camera app Phhhoto has broken the 1 million user mark.   The startup launched an app last year that allows users to record GIFs and upload them to a public feed.   Co-founder Omar Elsayed told TechCrunch the next stage for the app is to improve the user experience.   “The product has gotten to a point where the Phhhoto media type is something that our users are enthusiastic about, so now it’s about how we can loop that into new ways of communicating, and perhaps even new content types,” he says.   To date the startup has raised $US225,000 ($A294m) in seed funding. Drifty announces $US2.6 million capital injection Software startup Drifty has raised $2.6 million in order to fund its product development, TechCrunch reports.   The round was led by Chicago-based firm Lightbank with participation from Founder Collective and previous investor Arthur Ventures.   Drifty is a graduate of the TechStars Cloud 2013 incubator. Last year the startup raised $1 million in seed funding. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 263.65 points, rising 1.49% to 17,976.31. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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