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Apple's mobile ad blocking will hasten the death of online advertising

8:07AM | Thursday, 27 August

 Apple is about to open a new front in the ongoing war against online advertising. The new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 9, will support ad blocking by Safari, its mobile web browser.   A study by Adobe and pro-advertising company PageFair finds that the popularity of ad blocking extensions in desktop web browsers is responsible for US$22 billion in lost revenue to the websites that host ads.   They estimate that there are now 198 million users worldwide actively blocking ads. Amongst 400 users surveyed by the report’s authors, the main reasons cited for using ad blocking software were avoiding privacy abuse by targeted advertising as well as the number of ads encountered when browsing.     A typical message from a website about the use of any ad blocking. TheGuardian.com screen grab   The practice of trying to guilt users into switching off their ad blocking software when visiting sites doesn’t appear to be working and the display of messages to ad blocking users by web sites has diminished.   Ad blocking apps that will be available for Safari on iOS 9 are already being made available to beta testers. One such app, Crystal, not only blocks ads but experiments by the developer has shown that using this ad blocking software speeds up web pages loading in the browser by four times. This also results in a significant reduction in data being used, which is significant on a mobile device using cellular data.   Another ad blocking app Purify that is also in beta testing appears to also block ads on YouTube.     The stand out, and that’s precisely why so many people block them. Pascale Kinchen Douglas/Flickr, CC BY-SA   Ad blocking on mobile is not completely new Ad blocking has been available for some time on Android for users of the Firefox mobile browser and for Google Chrome. In the case of blocking ads by Google Chrome, an app needs to be installed which is not from the Google Play app store.   Ad blocking has also been available on Apple devices but have worked by blocking access to certain domains that serve up the ads. AdBlock for example works by pretending to be a virtual private network (VPN) connection and filters out access to specific sites. This of course only works if the list of sites to block is up-to-date. It also doesn’t allow for “whitelists”, which are sites that are allowed through because they are deemed “acceptable”.   However, the move by Apple is going to boost ad blocking on mobile dramatically because it is going to make the process of doing so that much easier. This has advertisers, and sites that make money from advertising, increasingly worried because it raises their costs in terms of creating ads that are less intrusive and deemed more acceptable (although this may still not convince the public to view them).     Apple’s iOS 9 is due to be released later this year and will include content blocking. Apple   For Apple, though, the move to allow ad blocking gives iPhone users a better browsing experience at no cost to Apple. Apple makes no money from online advertising through mobile browsing. And, of course, its own ads that are served up through apps are unaffected by ad blocking software.   As a bonus to Apple, the company who is most affected by ads being blocked is Google, which derives 90% of its revenue from advertising.   Apple is able to increase the level of privacy it offers its customers without directly getting involved itself and risking annoying companies that rely on revenues from advertising.   The advertisers' dilemma   Many ads can be deliberately deceptive. Create Meme   It is hard to feel sorry for the advertisers and the sites that resort to displaying targeted invasive ads, such as those sold by Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others.   These ads are designed to target individuals based on information gathered about them as they use the internet. So not only are they annoying, but they are exploiting people’s privacy. Adding insult to injury, the inclusion of ads slows down web page loads and potentially ends up costing end-users money by using their data allocation.   The argument that content providers are only able to provide content based on the exploitation of their visitors is not a good one because it implies that those visitors signed up to an agreement to view ads in exchange for the content. Of course, users generally do no such thing. And given the explicit choice, might easily opt simply not to visit the site.   Most users don’t necessarily mind being provided with information that allows them to make a reasoned choice about a product when they have decided to buy it. But advertising that tries to persuade a consumer to buy something they weren’t considering buying is a different matter.   Once advertisers do more of the former and less of the latter, perhaps ad blocking will no longer be necessary. 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 95 turns 20 – and new ways of interacting show up desktop's age

8:14AM | Tuesday, 25 August

 The arrival of Microsoft Windows 95 on August 24 1995 brought about a desktop PC boom. With an easier and more intuitive graphical user interface than previous versions it appealed to more than just business, and Bill Gates’ stated aim of one PC per person per desk was set in motion. This was a time of 320Mb hard drives, 8Mb RAM and 15” inch CRT monitors. For most home users, the internet had only just arrived.   Windows 95 introduced the start menu, powered by a button in the bottom-left corner of the desktop. This gives a central point of entry into menus from which to choose commands and applications. The simplicity of this menu enables users to easily find commonly used documents and applications. All subsequent versions of Windows have kept this menu, with the notable exception of Windows 8, a change which prompted an enormous backlash.     We take these intuitive graphic interfaces for granted today, but earlier operating systems such as DOS and CP/M allowed the user to interact using only typed text commands. This all changed in the 1970s, with Ivan Sutherland’s work with Sketchpad and the use of lightpens to control CRT displays, Douglas Engelbart’s development of the computer mouse, and the Xerox PARC research team’s creation of the Windows Icon Menu Pointer graphical interfaces paradigm (WIMP) – the combination of mouse pointer, window and icons that remains standard to this day. By the early 1980s, Apple had developed graphical operating systems for its Lisa (released 1983) and Macintosh (1984) computers, and Microsoft had released Windows (1985).   DOS - these were not good old days. Krzysztof Burghardt Imagining a desktop All these interfaces rely on the central idea of the desktop, a comprehensible metaphor for a computer. We work with information in files and organise them in folders, remove unwanted information to the trash can, and note something of interest with a bookmark.   Metaphors are useful. They enable users to grasp concepts faster, but rely on the metaphor remaining comprehensible to the user and useful for the designer and programmer putting it into effect – without stretching it beyond belief. The advantage is that the pictures used to represent functions (icons) look similar to those in the workplace, and so the metaphor is readily understandable.   Breaking windows But 20 years after Windows 95, the world has changed. We have smartphones and smart televisions, we use the internet prolifically for practically everything. Touchscreens are now almost more ubiquitous than the classic mouse-driven interface approach, and screen resolution is so high individual pixels can be difficult to see. We still have Windows, but things are changing. Indeed, they need to change.   The desktop metaphor has been the metaphor of choice for so long, and this ubiquity has helped computers find a place within households as a common, familiar tool rather than as specialist, computerised equipment. But is it still appropriate? After all, few of us sit in an office today with paper-strewn desks; books are read on a tablet or phone rather than hard-copies; printing emails is discouraged; most type their own letters and write their own emails; files are electronic not physical; we search the internet for information rather than flick through reference books; and increasingly the categorisation and organisation of data has taken second place to granular search.   Mouse-driven interfaces rely on a single point of input, but we’re increasingly seeing touch-based interfaces that accept swipes, touches and shakes in various combinations. We are moving away from the dictatorship of the mouse pointer. Dual-finger scrolling and pinch-to-zoom are new emerging metaphors – natural user interfaces (NUI) rather than graphical user interfaces.   What does the next 20 years hold? It’s hard to tell but one thing that is certain is that interfaces will make use of more human senses to display information and to control the computer. Interfaces will become more transparent, more intuitive and less set around items such as boxes, arrows or icons. Human gestures will be more commonplace. And such interfaces will be incorporated into technology throughout the world, through virtual reality and augmented reality.   These interfaces will be appear and feel more natural. Some suitable devices already exist, such as ShiverPad, that provide shear forces on surfaces that provide a frictional feel to touch devices. Or Geomagic’s Touch X (formerly the Sensible Phantom Desktop) that delivers three-dimensional forces to make 3D objects feel solid.   Airborne haptics are another promising technology that develop tactile interfaces in mid-air. Through ultrasound, users can feel acoustic radiation fields that emanate from devices, without needing to touch any physical surface. Videogame manufacturers have led the way with these interfaces, including the Microsoft Kinect and Hololens that allow users to use body gestures to control the interface, or with their eyes through head-mounted displays.   Once interaction with a computer or device can be commanded using natural gestures, movements of the body or spoken commands, the necessity for the Windows-based metaphor of computer interaction begins to look dated – as old as it is. Jonathan Roberts is Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at Bangor University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Will the elderly rely on the Internet of Things to look after them?

8:22AM | Tuesday, 18 August

 We are facing the “silver tsunami” of an ageing society that within a few years will see for the first time, more people over the age of 65 living on this planet than those under 5 years of age. Apart from the increased burden of chronic diseases that accompanies old age, the biggest impact of an increasingly ageing population will be felt in the numbers of people with dementia, and in particular Alzheimer’s Disease. In Europe, around 7% of the population over 65 have dementia. This rises dramatically with age and nearly 50% of women and 30% of men over the age of 90 will suffer from the condition.   The Internet of Things For many of us, there is the desire to “age in place”, that is to remain in our homes and stay as active and independent for as long as possible. One possible way of achieving this is to use technological assistance, and in particular use connected smart devices that are collectively called the “Internet of Things” that are rapidly becoming a reality in the home.   The Internet of Things can communicate with each other and with software running in the cloud. These devices can act as sensors, monitoring what is happening in the environment and, in particular, with elderly people themselves. They can also process information and take actions, such as controlling heating and air conditioning, locking doors and windows and reminding people to take medications or encourage them to be active, or simply go for a walk.   Data collected through the Internet of Things in the home can be used to provide an overall assessment of “observations of daily living”. These observations form a pattern of everyday life from which any deviations can create triggers of that change to alert those living in the home, their family or their health carers.   The challenges to letting the Internet of Things do the caring Despite all of the possibilities of these devices helping the elderly to stay independent and active, there are some significant obstacles that need to be overcome before their full potential becomes a reality. The first is acceptance by the elderly themselves. They may see remote monitoring devices as an intrusion on their privacy. They may also see any outward signs of using this technology as a public symbol of their age and frailty and so avoid their use for that reason. They may be concerned about not being able to use the technology properly, in particular triggering false alarms. Finally, the devices may not be considered affordable, or at least, too much of a luxury to spend money on.   Dressing up the Internet of Things Some of these obstacles can be addressed by the design of the devices themselves. A US company, Live!y has created a smartwatch, not dissimilar to one from Apple or Samsung, that provides alerts and reminders and also can be used to summon help and communicate with a monitoring service. It also measures activity by counting steps, and usefully, tells the time. The watch acts in concert with a range of sensors that monitor medication use, access of the fridge and movement in various rooms. The watch can also detect falls and automatically call for help.   By making the device seem like an everyday watch, it reduces at least some of the potential barriers to the elderly in its use.   Sensing the state of their health Telehealth is another field of care of people in the home that utilises connected smart devices. Not only are we facing a rapidly increasing aged population, but a major proportion of that population have one or more chronic conditions. By using remote monitoring of weight, blood pressure, pulse and ECG, problems can be detected without a visit to a GP and more importantly, avoiding the hospital.   The smart devices can sense, make decisions locally, and act on that information. Ultimately, if this is to be of any use, the directions originating from these devices need to be followed by those that the technologies are caring for. This is still the most challenging aspect of the entire process. Reminding someone that they have failed to take their medication may be of no use if that person has decided simply that they don’t want to take it. What the health profession can do about the elderly not taking medications as they are intended is a still a major problem and having reminders is not the entire solution.   Because a solution does not work for everyone is not a reason for not adopting it for those that it will help. Before we see widespread adoption of the Internet of Things in the home however, we will need to see cheaper, more attractive, affordable, and useful devices that integrate with smartphones and computers and the apps that are running on them. The best chance for this happening are the initiatives from Apple and Google. Although Apple’s HomeKit and Google’s Brillo are aimed at everyone’s homes, their popularity may see the next generation of the elderly already prepared for their help in staying independent and active for longer.   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.

Technolog: Lawyers argue phone encryption helps criminals and blame Apple and Google

8:43AM | Friday, 14 August

  Three lawyers and a police commissioner from the US, France, England and Spain have used an opinion piece in the NY Times to hold Apple and Google to account for providing their customers with unbreakable encryption of their mobile devices.   Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (Manhattan District Attorney), François Molins (Paris Chief Prosecutor), Adrian Leppard (Commissioner of the City of London Police) and Javier Zaragoza (Chief Prosecutor of the High Court of Spain) have argued that the inability of law enforcement to access a user’s phone has, in their view, been directly responsible for disrupting investigations. They cite that in the 9 months to June of this year, 74 iPhones running iOS 8 could not be accessed by investigators in Manhattan and that this affected investigations that included “the attempted murder of three individuals, the repeated sexual abuse of a child, a continuing sex trafficking ring and numerous assaults and robberies”.   They claim that encrypting the phones provides no security for the customer against the type of wide-net surveillance carried out by the NSA, nor would it prevent “institutional data breaches or malware”.   How the authors of this piece could be so confident that the investigations they give as examples would have had different outcomes with access to the phones is not clear.   What is abundantly clear however, is that the encryption of these devices did exactly what it was supposed to do, it stopped someone other than the owner of the phone from gaining access to the contents. The authors didn’t mention the fact that this alone prevents criminals from accessing the content of the phone if it is stolen or lost. Given that 3 million phones were stolen in the US in 2013 and that the majority of people would go to extreme lengths to recover the data on their lost devices.   The opinion piece goes on to declare the benefits “marginal” and the consequences to law enforcement is the inability to guarantee the “safety of our communities”.   The lobbying by senior law enforcement officials in the press against the use of encryption is becoming a common occurrence. The NY Times piece follows FBI Director James Comey’s declaration that unstoppable terrorism was the consequence of allowing encryption to be used by consumers.   All of the rhetoric used in these arguments make so many leaps of faith as to undermine any credibility in their claims. The suggestion for example that criminals/terrorists would not seek to cover their tracks in their phone use, or execute care over what incriminating evidence they kept on their phones is not realistic. The further suggestion that any evidence that the phone itself revealed would be critical in an investigation is likewise, suspect.   Remember that police still have access to phone records, and also to all data communication carried out through the device. Both France and the UK have enacted extensive data retention laws. The police can also continue to get access to cloud services used by the phone’s owner, also social media and location data, and a host of other information leaked through the use of the device that continues to be unprotected in the same way as the device itself.   Perhaps this is really what is being fought over? The obvious next step in consumer privacy which is putting the encryption of all cloud-based resources in the hands of the consumer so that companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft are unable to hand over information to Government security and law enforcement agencies.   The Internet Architecture Board, a committee of industry, academic and government specialists concerned with the functioning of the Internet has declared that they “strongly encourage developers to include encryption in their implementations, and to make them encrypted by default.”   Ultimately, it will be society as a whole that determines the appropriate balance of privacy against the wishes of governments and agencies to surveil-at-will. The rights to privacy are stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it will take more than the alleged inconvenience it causes legal officials to give up those rights.   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.

Forget the Silicon Valley revolution: the future of transport looks remarkably familiar

8:32AM | Friday, 7 August

 From autonomous vehicles and the rapid rise of Uber to the global diffusion of bike-sharing schemes, transport is changing. Developments in information technology, transport policy and behaviour by urban populations may well be causing a wholesale shift away from conventional cars to collective, automated and low-carbon transport.   Yet there are still many uncertainties in technology development, finance and trends in user practices and expectations about the scale of these changes may well be inflated.   Perhaps the most significant development is “peak car” use – the stalled growth or modest decline in car ownership and use since around 1990 across the developed world. As well as economic reasons and the returning popularity of city living, this seems to be driven in part by a move away from pro-car planning. Metropolitan governments in particular are increasingly reallocating road space away from private cars and concentrating office and housing developments around public transport stations.   They are even supporting a wide range of innovations in local transport, including self-driving pod cars called up by a smartphone app. All these initiatives aim to reinvent “old” transport systems – metro, tram and cycling – as efficient, fashionable and healthy, enabling both economic growth and a better quality of life.   Public transport problems However, public transport still faces significant challenges. Research consistently shows that satisfaction with tripmaking is lower on bus and rail than on other forms of transport. The industrial-era logic of only offering services at particular stops or stations at specific times sits uncomfortably with the changing rhythms of work, shopping, care-giving and leisure in post-industrial societies.   These service provision problems are particularly acute in suburbs (and of course rural areas) where the flexibility afforded by private cars continues to be the norm. Yet, even in the densest parts of cities, public transport only meets everyone’s needs when there are more flexible options as well. This is why greater public transport use is linked to, and to some extent triggers, increased use of cycling and, more recently, smartphone-enabled taxi services.   These forms of transport are available (almost) everywhere at all times – and therefore better compatible with the individualised lifestyles of people accustomed to the convenience that private car use epitomises. But even bike and car-sharing schemes with fixed docking stations and parking bays suffer from some of the same limitations as public transport does. The future may well be brighter for smartphone-dependent “free-floating” schemes, whereby cars can be picked up and left at any location within a designated zone that stretches across a city or parts thereof.   Pod to the future. Department for Transport/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND   There are also big obstacles to a public transport revolution in the form of entrenched government patterns and vested interests. Past planning decisions, in particular, constrain current and future changes in transport systems. This is because the construction of road infrastructure, sprawling suburbs, car-dependent retail/leisure complexes and mono-functional business areas since the 1950s is largely irreversible, at least for the coming decades.   Industry fightback The car industry remains powerful and does not sit still. In many countries, car manufacturing continues to be important to the national economy and can therefore count on considerable support from local, national and supranational (EU) governments. This is exemplified by the UK government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles which was set up to stimulate the uptake of electric and other low-carbon vehicles.   Car manufacturers may now be experiencing competition from powerful technology companies such as Google and Apple, but this is catalysing their own development of innovations. The Google driverless car may be the most famous but the first such vehicles from conventional manufacturers are expected to hit the market by 2017-2018.   Many hurdles still need to be overcome. The technology needs substantial refining, major issues around insurance and liability need to be resolved, it is not clear how adaptations to road infrastructure will be financed, and public opinion is divided. Based on experiences with electric and fuel cell cars in recent decades, current expectations about commercialisation and consumer uptake are (vastly) over-optimistic.   Unexpected and unforeseeable events may radically reshape current development trajectories, but there are good reasons to expect that transport systems in 30 years will not be drastically different from today.   Tim Schwanen is Associate Professor in Transport Studies and Director of the Transport Studies Unit (from September 2015) at University of Oxford.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Technolog: Forget fixed broadband: Large phones and 4G drive UK over mobile tipping point

8:25AM | Friday, 7 August

 UK communications regulator Ofcom has released a report that gives a fascinating snapshot of digital society in the UK. It highlights the dominance of mobile, and the centrality of social media in social interactions and relationships. The change has been brought about, not by improvements in fixed broadband but by the availability of larger, more capable phones and faster 4G mobile networks. Phones and 4G are in turn facilitating communication through a variety of channels, especially social media.   Bigger phones allow people to do more In terms of the importance of mobile, 33% of UK residents now view their smartphone as the most important device to connect to the Internet compared to 30% who chose their laptop. This switch in preference has come about because of the general increase in the size of phones. The release of Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6S in response to the popularity of Android phones of the same size has helped cement the larger form-factor as a standard. People can now comfortably carry out many of the tasks that would have normally been reserved for a laptop, PC or tablet.   4G is the other key enabler of move to mobile The second reason has been the increase in speed of the average smartphone connection. 45% of UK smartphone users have access to 4G networks, a 28% increase on the previous year. The faster speeds have not only resulted in greater use of mobile data generally but has shifted what users will do with their phones. 4G users are more likely to use their phones to access audio-visual content(57% 4G users compared to 40% non-4G users). They are also more likely to use their phones to make online purchases and use online banking.   Faster fixed broadband plays a smaller part What is interesting is that the changes brought about by the increased use of smartphones have had more impact than the increase in speeds of fixed broadband services to the home. 83% of UK premises are able to receive broadband speeds of 30 Mbit/s or higher. 30% of homes have connected to broadband at these higher speeds. Mobile 4G users were less likely to use their home wireless than those not on 4G showing a general trend to “cutting the cord” even in the area of Internet access.   Changing communication and social media UK Internet users believe that technology has changed the way that they communicate and that these new forms of communication have made life easier. Traditional forms of digital communication such as email and text messaging are still dominant but 62% of online adults use social media and 57% instant messaging to communicate regularly with family and friends. Technologies such as Skype, Facetime and Google Hangout are also used by 34% of adults.   In terms of social media use, Facebook is by far the dominant platform with 72% of adults having a social media profile and 97% of those having one on Facebook. Although teenagers are likely to use other social media platforms, 48% of social media users use Facebook exclusively.   People are also spending greater amounts of time on Facebook than any other service. In March of 2015, users spent 51 billion minutes on Facebook’s website and apps compared to 34 billion on Google’s. YouTube was also watched by more people via mobile devices than on desk/laptops.   Change, but not in productivity Although digital technologies have brought about a major change in society in the UK, this hasn’t been reflected in any changes in productivity in the UK economy. The UK continues to rate behind France, Germany, US and even Italy in terms of worker productivity.   The results of surveys such as these enable several important points to be underscored. The first is that investment in fixed broadband infrastructure is not necessarily as important as investment in universal high speed wireless access in terms of its impact on society. Second, although we may see radical changes in social norms through the use of digital technologies, it won’t show up in increased productivity. The last point has to be qualified however. It may well be that existing businesses do not show any improvements in productivity but new forms of industry and business are enabled by a mobile economy which may well bring about radical changes in productivity. Uber, Airbnb, and other industries as part of the so-called “gig economy” threatens to disrupt industry and this will only be possible through the use of mobile phones and high speed wireless.   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 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.

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