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Government report identifies six disruptive tech trends to watch

11:04AM | Friday, 21 November

Mobile messaging apps such as Whatsapp are killing traditional text messages while multi-screening is going mainstream, according to an Australian Communications and Media Authority.   The ACMA paper, titled Six emerging trends in media and communications, attempts to identify disruptive media and communications trends that “strain the effectiveness and efficiency of existing regulatory settings”.   Here are the six media and communications trends identified in the report:   1. Communications go over the top   Consumers are increasingly rejecting carrier-based phone calls and text messages in favour of apps and online services such as Apple iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Snapchat and Microsoft’s Skype.   According to the report, revenues from fixed line phone services have collapsed by 34% in five years, from $18.296 billion in 2008 to just $12.045 billion in 2013.   Over the same time frame, the number of voice over internet protocol (VOIP) users has surged from 2.1 million to 4.6 million.   However, this extra data users has been good news to mobile phone carriers, which have seen their revenues surge from $15.967 billion to $20.014 billion.   2. Consumers build their own links It’s not just the number of communications apps that is booming. Australian consumers are using them with a wider variety of devices, which are connected over a growing number of network technologies.   Consumers now regularly switch between fixed-line internet connections, Wi-Fi, mobile broadband and – especially in remote areas – satellite connections, depending on the time of day.   The number of devices they use is also increasing, with the number of Australians owning a tablet, laptop and smartphone increasing from 28% in 2013 to 53% in 2014.   3. Wearables are set to boom   On top of smartphones, tablets and laptops, the report predicts wearables (including Google Glass, smartwatches and fitness trackers) are set to become increasingly common over the coming years.   The report suggests the number of wearables worldwide will grow from 22 million in 2013 to 177 million in 2018.   It also predicts that an increase in the number of devices running Google’s Android Wear platform, along with the release of the Apple Watch early next year, will lead this trend to accelerate.   4. Online content is going mainstream   The internet is not just disrupting the way we communicate.   According to the report, consumers are increasingly viewing a greater number of TV services (including pay TV, broadcast TV, streaming TV and catch-up TV) delivered to a growing number of devices, over a growing number of network technologies.   In a typical week, 97% of Australians watch a free-to-air or pay TV service. By contrast, one-in-two Australians have watched online TV over the past six months. This includes professionally produced catch-up or streaming TV services, pirated movies and content from video sites such as YouTube.   Meanwhile, people aged between 16 and 24 now watch more TV over the internet than they do from broadcast television services.   5. Multistreaming is now mainstream   In many cases, new forms are television are complementing, rather than replacing older ones.   The report shows 74% of Australians with internet access regularly watched TV and used the internet at the same time, up 25 percentage points from 2009. It is as high as 89% for people aged 25 to 34.   Overall, 71% of people still prefer to watch TV shows and movies on television, compared to on mobile phones (5%), tablets (4%) and computers (29%).   Meanwhile, user-generated content is mostly watched on computers (71%) or mobile phones (41%), rather than tablets (17%) and televisions (10%).   6. TV is still the one for news   Finally, when it comes to getting the news, the more things change, the more they stay the same.   The report shows that 92% of free-to-air or subscription television viewers watched a news or current affairs programs on television in 2014.   While newspaper circulation has dived 18% between 2009 and 2013, the drop has been a drop of just 10% from TV over the same time.   Image credit: Flickr/alvy   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Understanding the new Accelerating Commercialisation government grant scheme for startups

11:19AM | Thursday, 20 November

The federal government has just announced details of the Accelerating Commercialisation component of the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme, a funding program that replaces the Commercialisation Australia program.   The Accelerating Commercialisation (AC) program is designed to help small to medium businesses and researchers commercialise on what is being referred to in the information packs as “novel products, processes and services”.   There seems to be a stronger emphasis on connecting those applying with a network of commercialisation advisors to provide guidance on early-stage commercialisation.   There are certainly quite a few changes to the previous Commercialisation Australia program and there are some important points to note: Two parts of the offer – portfolio and/or grants First, being part of the Accelerating Commercialisation Portfolio gets your company publicly listed on a database, gives you a commercialisation advisor contact and also gives you opportunities to connect with a new Expert Network of  advisors.   Secondly, you may apply for grants (up to $250,000 for the commercialisation group of a research agency and up to $1 million for a company).   Importantly, you don’t have to seek funding (grants) to apply to be part of the Accelerating Commercialisation Portfolio. Two stage application process To apply, you’ll need to complete the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme (EIP) Accelerating Commercialisation Expression of Interest (EOI) form online at business.gov.au.   Your application will be reviewed by a customer service advisor, after which you may progress to the more detailed Accelerating Commercialisation application or they may point you in the direction of other applicable grants. Grant eligibility criteria and funding When applying for funding there are some things to be aware of around the eligibility criteria: Any funding needs to be matched 50:50. (Good news for companies in the BlueChilli incubation and accelerator programs is that BCVF qualifies as one of the matched fund providers). If you have already made sales and are looking for funding for scale or marketing you won’t qualify Funding for next versions of your product (unless major) don’t qualify. It’s worth completing the Expression of Interest BEFORE launching your MVP. You need to make your first sales in AUSTRALIA Maximum length of project is two years. Funding will be tied to agreed milestones around that timeframe. Tech sector restrictions removed Previously, there were limits on the tech sectors that could apply for commercialisation support. Now, companies from any tech sector can apply.   That being said, there are five key areas that have been identified as ‘growth sectors’. If your business targets a growth sector, you get bonus points: Advanced manufacturing; Food and agribusiness; Medical technologies and pharmaceuticals; Mining equipment, technology and services; Oil, gas and energy resources; or Enabling technologies and services for the above In summary Overall, this new program seems to be for earlier stage companies looking for funding to complete development, prove commercial viability, make first sales in Australia and move towards commercialisation of novel IP.   The new program has stronger ties into the Expert Network of advisors, industry, corporations and government which has the potential to help accelerate the commercialisation of these early stage businesses. It also aims to increase visibility of the ecosystem as a whole (this is a good thing!)   For more information, see accelerating commercialisation.   Catherine Eibner joined BlueChilli After spending her previous years mentoring startups as the head of the Microsoft Bizspark program in Australia. Eibner brings her passion and experience across technology and business to help the BlueChilli startups achieve global success.   This article first appeared at BlueChilli.

Inside Slush: day one of Europe’s biggest tech conference

11:14AM | Wednesday, 19 November

The first impressions of Helsinki in winter evoke words like “grim” and “desolate”. Rather than shying away from the imagery of a frozen northern landscape, Slush embraces it with the slogan “welcome to the north”.   While slightly foreboding, the message is one of a frontier in both location and the startup ecosystem. Where Nokia once held the world’s attention for Finnish tech companies, the country’s gaming scene has charged into focus with Rovio’s Angry Birds followed by Supercell’s Clash of Clans as almost default downloads for addictive mobile gaming.   The Slush experience starts right from the beginning, at a sparse airport with a surprising amount of the non-European startup community spilling out into the freezing winds. Including more than a few Australians, who we will meet over the coming days.   Day One    With what can only be called spectacular growth, Slush has outgrown its previous venue and settled into the Messukeskus convention centre on the edge of town. With an almost absurd amount of attention to detail, the team have converted an enormous convention centre into a thriving and beautiful rave, complete with smoke machines, lasers, and dubstep breakdown.   The venue is set up around four major stages, one dedicated entirely to the startup battle pitching 100 international and local startups against each other for a top prize of 250,000 euros. Yes, euros. This alone would be an incredible ringside event, but the day kicks off at high speed with Finland’s Prime Minister Alexander Stubb taking the Silver Stage to launch the event. In the process affirming his support for the national tech and startup community and sharing his belief that "kids need to learn coding at school”.   A small comment but a big point of difference compared to the debate surrounding reports in Australia released by Education Minister Christopher Pyne, suggesting that a digital technologies curriculum was unnecessary in Australia as a point of focus for our future workforce.   Cementing the contrast are furthers comments by Estonia’s young Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, taking the stage to boast that the country sets the record for most startups per capita, and that he has actively studied the success of major local startup success stories that include the Microsoft acquisition of Skype.   Also on the political tip, a few words from surprise guest Chinese Vice Prime-Minister Wang Yang, who despite the pomp and ceremony of his attendance, managed to drop a locally relevant joke by way of “I’m not angry, I’m a fan of Angry Birds”. A little lost in translation perhaps, but it’s the thought that counts.   Game On    Elsewhere, the schedule splits the crowds into three major streams of Gaming, Leadership and Enterprise Software. On the gaming tip, Rakuten founder Hiroshi Mikitani speaks about leading the curve in converting his company to operating in English, a tactic that is now taught in business school as one of the secrets of Samsung’s success on South Korea. For Mikitani’s moves, he said the appreciation was a long time coming.   “Many people really critiqued me & called me crazy,” he said. “But it now allows them to hire from all over the world, and 80% are non-Japanese and the diversity has helped us to become more innovative and is core to our growth.”   Similar scaling lessons were shared by GungHo Online Entertainment founder Taizo Son and Supercell’s CEO Ilkka Paananen in a surprisingly intimate fireside chat.   Taizo Son notably sharing tales of the days of his shame in being unable to make payroll for the staff of the then-fledging gaming company. The now-billionaire laughing now about advice that startup life is not unlike a video game. "You are like Super Mario,” said Son. "You are struggling in the first stage but its fun to play”.   Building a successful company is a game that has come at the cost of many mistakes, with Son claiming that more than 80% of his decisions over the last 15 years have been failures. He advises that startups embrace the opportunity to fail as not only one to learn, but one to define the potential path.   "In most of cases we can’t execute what we think ideally so we have to align with the failures.”   Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen on the other hand advised a theme of team dynamics and persistence as a path to luck.   "Most successful people don’t know why they are successful so luck does play a role,” said Paananen.  "Even if they did know, how do you know those methods are applicable to you situation?”   Instead of reliance on advice he spoke of the importance of forming a hard working team with a strong dynamic, and taking the input of adviser’s with a grain of salt.   "Be humble and listen to everybody, but make the decisions yourselves and trust your instincts,” Paananen said. Adding a cautionary comment on the topic of diversity, stating that he "would never invest in a group that does the same thing as I did".   Back from the dead (but where is Snake?)   Of the many product announcements making the most of the event’s media platform today, the most high profile was the launch of the Nokia N1 tablet. Being released in time for the Chinese New Year of February 15, Nokia is jumping back into the consumer hardware space with a competitively priced $249 tablet.   The bombastic launch and focus on releasing into the Chinese market first showed a renewed enthusiasm after the Finnish company sold its handset business to Microsoft. To be clear, this is the Nokia mothership reasserting its relevance after selling off it’s most well-known product arm, and we will reserve judgement until we get our hands-on media demo on the second day of Slush tomorrow. In the meantime, the bravado is infectious. At least as far as Scandinavian culture goes, with Nokia’s head of products Sebastian Nystrom taking his time to soak up the stage.   “They said RIP Nokia. I say they couldn’t be more wrong”.   It wasn’t quite a Jobs-esque performance, but the local crowd were rapturous with the potential of the local heroes rising again.   Mikko, don’t kill my vibe    In the “mind equals blown” category of the day was the direly titled “RIP Internet”, presented by Finnish security expert (and regular conference celebrity talker) Mikko Hypponen. As a veteran of computer security, Mikko spoke of the looming dangers in the infrastructure of the internet, and the potential for it to be damaged or destroyed by either neglect or intent.   “Sometimes it feels like we’ve built a monster,” Hypponen reflected. “We are running our critical infrastructure with ‘projects’”. While an advocate for open source, he points out the recent Heartbleed and Shellshock vulnerabilities of popular and in many cases essential open-source projects, and asks if there’s not a better way to ensure the development of such ubiquitous infrastructure technology.   On a darker note, Hypponen walks through an example of governmental interference, showing examples of a WhatsApp message sent during the Hong Kong riots. The message claimed to be from protesters, linking to software to allow them to communicate and organise via a private network. The network allegedly run by the Chinese government as a way to access personal details and track the key organisers of the riots. Heavy.   Other examples of impending doom included known cases of bot networks formed via insecure devices in the category of the Internet of Things.   “Who wants to infect [web enabled] toasters? It beats me - but combined they make an effective bitcoin mining network!”   Design first (or when you need a pick-me-up)    For those needing a break from the security downers, a Product Design feature on the Green Stage ranged across topics of interface design, UX and hardware design.   Microsoft’s hardware phone designer Peter Griffith talked about obsessive details in hardware development, while Infogram’s Ikko Jarvenpaa talked about the responsibility and ethics of startups where trends and opportunities outpace the legal framework.   “Technology moves faster than laws, creating unregulated opportunities,” said Järvenpää. “But we need to be mindful of societal repercussions. With great power comes great responsibility, yes, but those of us working with highly scalable technologies wield great power”   What does on sauna stays in sauna    As the sessions wound down for the day the halls were cleared to transform into party mode, seeing a literal army of local volunteers spill out to convert the promo stands, stages and social spaces into one big party venue.   Given it already looks like that rave I accidentally went to that time and didn’t inhale at, it’s no surprise.   But what goes on startup tour, stays on startup tour. Unless you follow the tweet stream, in which case you can tune in tomorrow for more live action on the floor of Slush 2014 – including a hands-on with the Nokia N1 and an introduction to the (crazy) Australians that have made the pilgrimage from Down Under to the northern frontiers of global technology and startup culture.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Robert Scoble thinks Australia’s WattCost should be Google’s next purchase

11:42AM | Monday, 17 November

Could WattCost be the next Australian startup acquired by Google? Former Microsoft evangelist Robert Scoble believes so.   The startup has developed a device which attaches to a household’s power meter and provides homeowners with real-time power usage data, and uses that data to help them save power, money, and reduce their carbon footprint.   The WattCost team is currently in the United States meeting with Scoble, who is Rackspace’s startup liaison officer, after winning the company’s 2014 Small Teams Big Impact Pitching competition.   WattCost co-founder David Soutar says the trip to Silicon Valley has been fantastic so far, and praised the job Scoble and Austrade have done in introducing the WattCost team to investors, advisers and other successful Australian founders.   “Silicon Valley investors seem to value what we’re doing at a much higher level than back home, but we would really like to work with Australian investors if possible,” he says.   “We believe we’ve developed a world-class product, that will change the way consumers interact with their homes to control their electricity costs, and people over here are opening their doors on short notice to listen to us.”     Scoble described WattCost as the most interesting new startup he’s seen all year. He says Google is leading the race to become the dominant home IoT platform.   “We don’t know who’s going to win, but Google’s in the early lead because they bought Revolv, they bought Dropcam and they bought Nest,” he says.   “And I think this is going to be another one that they’re going to buy, because knowing how much electricity is going through the house, knowing when the rates are changing, that’s really important.”   WattCost works by monitoring fluctuations in power usage and uses machine learning to iron out any ambiguities.   “Every appliance has its own unique digital signature, so we’ve learnt what those signatures are,” Soutar says.   “Some things you can talk about instantaneously because of the load, but when I talk about digital fingerprints, that’s how it is used over time. If you imagine a microwave, say you put it on for a minute, it runs through a certain power signature cycle.”   When something is plugged into the home network that WattCost isn’t familiar with, it prompts the user through its smartphone app to let the system know what it is. That smartphone app is where users can find real-time power consumption information on their home. It can make suggestions like delaying using the dishwasher until off-peak times, or updating a fridge that is consuming more energy than it should be.   “We want to help people save money and lower their carbon footprint,” Soutar says.   “There’s never been a way to do that from a personal point of view, so we’re really passionate about helping people do that.”   That passion, Soutar says, will eventually lead to WattCost releasing its own API.   “The consumers should own the data and they should be able to use it in whichever way they want,” he says.   The WattCost energy monitor is available for pre-order for $149 (the first 1000 can be pre-ordered for $99) and it’s expected to ship in the middle of 2015. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Asia-Pacific region could lead the way on IoT, says Akamai

11:50AM | Monday, 17 November

The Asia-Pacific region is likely to be an early adopter for the internet of things (IoT), creating opportunities for Australian startups, according to Akamai president of products and development Rick McConnell.   “Overall, Australia is one of our top markets in the world in terms of revenue. While IoT specifically depends on adoption of IoT devices by end users, in our experience web delivery will map closely to what happens with IoT,” McConnell says.   “I think Asia is leading the way on smart connected cities, which include a lot of things that are connected devices. It wouldn’t surprise me on connected homes and cities if the adoption rate for devices and capabilities across Asia leads the world.   “For example, there are buses in Singapore that are available to be tracked through an app, a perfect use case where IoT is invaluable.”   Competition in the IoT marketplace is intensifying in recent years. A range of major IT and tech firms are already competing as cloud-based platform providers for the sector, battling for the attention of tech startups. These companies include the likes of Microsoft Azure, Cisco, IBM and others.   McConnell claims his company is in a unique position in the marketplace, with a content delivery network responsible for 15-30% of all internet traffic, with 2000 server regions across 95 countries.   “The one thing that Akamai does better is deliver content fast and reliably around the world, while IBM and Microsoft Azure have their strengths in computing power and storage,” McConnell says.   “We think there’s an ecosystem opportunity to work with other companies, such as IBM for storage or Microsoft for computing power, while we have a highly distributed network to get the content out.   “We have servers within 20 milliseconds of the users of the internet. That provides the transport layer.”   McConnell says there is likely to be opportunities for tech startups in collecting and compiling data, for building devices, and providing functionality to smart devices.   “You have thermostat functionality, pacemaker functionality, the remote management of an MRI machine that communicates to GE notifying it needs to be repaired,” he says.   Security, reliability and real-time communications should be key considerations, according to McConnell.   “Drones are a great example. A drone is in the air making deliveries and will need to compute so it does not hit a person or fly into restricted airspace. Many of those instructions will come remotely and will need to be at near real time,” he says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How these six new technology predictions fared in 2014: Control Shift

11:03AM | Thursday, 13 November

Futurologists are a common feature at business conferences.   Unfortunately, many aren’t held accountable to how their predictions pan out. We’re all still waiting for our flying cars, clean reliable fusion power plants and 3D holograms.   In November last year, I picked six new technologies that were likely to make an impact in 2014. So how did they fare?   Here’s what happened:   1. Curved and flexible displays   This first pick came with a caveat:   “Unfortunately, getting devices with a curved or flexible screen produced on a production line designed for flat screen devices has turned out to have been far more difficult than it initially seemed… As a result, you’re unlikely to see these devices outside South Korea in the immediate future.”   Sure enough, at the International CES in Las Vegas, Samsung demonstrated curved-screen TVs as the centrepiece of its display. In January, LG launched the G Flex curved-screen smartphone in Australia.   Meanwhile more recently, at its Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 event alongside the IFA trade show, Samsung unveiled a new curved-edge smartphone called the Galaxy Note Edge.   As predicted, there have been issues putting flexible and curved glass into mass production. However, LG Display appears to have come up with a solution: Using plastic instead of glass in a new display technology called P-OLED (Plastic-Organic Light Emitting Diode).   The thin, flexible display technology helped it to create a round-screen Android Gear smartwatch called the G Watch R, along with a smartphone that has a display that runs right to the edge screen.   The company expects smartphones and tablets that are designed to bend (and fold flat after being bent) to begin appearing next year, with rollable tablets, foldable-screen laptops and flexible TVs coming sometime in 2017.   2. Smart TVs   Whether it’s smart TVs that run apps out of the box, set-top boxes or HDMI thumb sticks (such as Google ChromeCast), 2014 was a massive year on the smart TV front.   The year kicked off at CES with LG reviving the Palm Pilot operating system (webOS) for its smart TVs and Panasonic partnering with Mozilla to put Firefox OS on its TVs.   Not to be outdone, in June Google announced Android TV, a new platform for smart TV apps and content. Last month, it announced the first set-top box to use the platform, known as the Nexus Player. Also from Google, a little device known as the ChromeCast finally reached Australia in May.   Amazon saw the action and said “me too”, releasing its version of the ChromeCast in October and a set-top box called Fire TV in April.   So what will people watch on all these smart devices? The best news is that streaming video service Netflix is set to launch in Australia.   It seems the humble “idiot box” has never been smarter than it was in 2014.   3. Smartwatches   Apple Watch was announced this year. Need I say any more?   Even putting Apple Watch aside, 2014 was a huge year for smartwatches. Google also announced its smartwatch platform, known as Android Wear, which in turn powers devices from a range of companies including Sony, LG, Samsung, Motorola and others.   These devices are all packed with a range of apps and features – and they’ll even tell you what the time is.   4. Augmented reality glasses   Google Glass got a limited public release this year with a range of fashionable frames and prescription lenses. Sony released the software development kit for its Google Glass clone.   But the real big mover was a related technology called virtual reality. Jaws dropped when Facebook paid $2 billion for virtual reality device maker Oculus. Last month, Samsung announced the first consumer device based on the technology, known as Gear VR.   You could say 2014 was the year augmented reality and virtual reality became a reality for consumers.   5. Home automation   Google kicked off the year by launching its home automation push with the $3.2 billion takeover of smart thermostat maker Nest. The tech giant encouraged other businesses, including Australian smart-light maker LiFX, to build new devices that connected to Nest.   Apple responded in June by launching HomeKit as part of iOS 8. The technology makes it easy for third-party device makers to allow their devices to be controlled with iPhones and iPads.   6. Low-end smartphones   This is a topic I’ve touched on over the past couple of weeks. The short version is we’re reaching a saturation point in the smartphone market, while low-cost vendors such as Xiaomi are booming in China.   The great news for consumers is, even with the Australia tax, buying an affordable smartphone has never been more affordable.   Throughout the year, a range of devices (including the Moto E and Moto G, the Kogan Agora 4G and the Microsoft Lumia 635 and 530) hit the local market. Each boasted features once the preserve of high-end devices and – best of all – prices well under $300 outright.   Conclusion   Forget about waiting for that flying car.   From smartwatches to smart TVs and low-end smartphones to home automation, the six technologies on the future gadget form guide ran a strong race in 2014.   When some of this technology will make it into the average person’s home is another question.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Xiaomi in talks to raise $US1.5 billion in private capital

11:51AM | Monday, 10 November

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is negotiating a capital raise of $US1.5 billion ($A1.75 billion), at a valuation of $US40 billion, in the largest private financing for a venture-backed company since Facebook in 2011.   The company is speaking with investors including DST – the Russian internet company that also backed Alibaba, Facebook and Airbnb, with a deal yet to be finalised, sources told CNBC.   Both Wall Street and Silicon Valley investors are largely uninvolved in the Xiaomi raise, instead the company is hoping to secure funds from Asia-based investors. Uber seeking to raise $1 billion at a valuation over $17 billion Transportation network startup Uber is in early talks with investors about raising $1 billion in new capital, the Financial Times reports.   The talks come less than six months after Uber received $1.2 billion in funding at a valuation of $17 billion. After strong interest from investors, the company is looking to take the opportunity to build a balance sheet “proportionate” to the scale of its business, a source told the Financial Times. Microsoft completes Minecraft purchase Microsoft has completed its $2.5 billion acquisition of Minecraft developer Mojang, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox Division Phil Spencer says.   Spencer had previously confirmed that although Microsoft was making Mojang a first-party developer, it had no intention of forcing a halt to Minecraft development on any non-Microsoft platforms. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 19.46 to 17,573.93. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.

Xbox director praises independent Aussie game developers

10:32AM | Friday, 31 October

Independent game developers are crucial for an “amazing, innovating” industry, according to Chris Charla, the director of the Independent Developer Program for Xbox One.   Charla is in Melbourne for the PAX 2014 festival, and said the Independent Developer Program for Xbox shows Microsoft is committed to supporting independent and emerging developers.   The program allows qualified game developers to self-publish digital games on Xbox One and also assists them with some of the costs that would normally be a barrier for small development studios.   “We think independent developers are crucially important,” Charla told StartupSmart.   “We want to make sure when someone turns on their Xbox they have access to the broadest, most diverse range of games on the planet. It’s really hard to make a game and if you talk to a game developer they put their heart into it.”   The Independent Developer Program also assists developers in promoting their products. Charla says they initiative has already see a “broad array” of independent games released onto the Xbox platform – everything from horror games to pinball.   As for the Australian independent gaming community, Charla says it is “amazing”.   “It’s not surprising that when it comes to video games the country is able to punch above its weight in terms of its cultural impact.”   Charla praised co-working spaces and the way the gaming community comes together without government or large corporations telling them to.   “All these developers know each other, they can help each other out… it’s an amazing spirit,” he says.   “Worldwide we are seeing local groups of independent developers coming together to support each other, whether it’s through nights where they come together to drink beer and play each other’s games or attend co-working spaces.   “It’s a really exciting time in the gaming industry both to be a player with awesome new choices with consoles and games... and as a developer. It makes me excited to get up in the morning.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: China’s iPhone users get caught by the Great Firewall

10:23PM | Monday, 20 October

China received its first official iPhones last week, but the Chinese firewall is blocking all local connections to iCloud.com, instead redirecting users to a dummy site which looks exactly like Apple’s login page.   Users browsing the web with Chrome or Firefox will see a warning page, but those using Qihoo, the most popular browser in China will be taken straight to the dummy site with no indication that it is not run by Apple. A similar attack is being used against Microsoft’s Login.live.com.   The Verge speculates that because the attack is taking place at the level of the Great Firewall, it is likely that it’s an attempt by Chinese authorities to harvest usernames and passwords. IBM abandons 2015 profit target IBM has abandoned a long-promised plan to deliver $20 a share in profits by 2015 after a significant slowdown in spending by its clients that sent its shares falling by more than 8%, Re/code reports.   The company says it missed sales and profit expectations for the quarter, blaming an “unprecedented change” in the IT industry. Apple releases iOS 8.1 The latest update for iOS is now publicly available and comes with new features like Apple Pay, iCloud Photo Library and additional Continuity features.   The update is available on iPhone 4s and higher, iPad 2 and higher, iPad Mini and higher, and iPad touch fifth generation. The Apple Pay feature is only available for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 19.26 to 16,399.67. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.

When the ATM runs Windows, how safe is your money?

10:50AM | Wednesday, 15 October

How safe is Microsoft Windows? After all, the list of malware that has caused major headaches worldwide over the last 15 years is long – viruses, worms and Trojans have forced computers to shut down, knocked South Korea offline and even overloaded Google’s servers.   Now, how safe do you feel knowing that cash machines across the world run Microsoft Windows?   An exploit has been discovered, apparently spread across Russia, India, and China, whereby cash machines can be turned into a free money vending machine.   The hack requires re-starting the cash machine – essentially a Windows terminal – from a prepared CD that injects malware into the system to circumvent the security. At set times of the week, a unique code is generated and given to a “mule” who would approach the machine, enter the code, and withdraw up to 40 notes, anonymously and without trace.   From skimming to hacking   Attacks on ATMs (those more sophisticated than removing the cash machine and cutting into its safe) started around 10 years ago with card reader devices containing a tiny integrated camera and card reader. As a user withdraws cash, the device reads the account details from the card’s magnetic stripe and videos the pin number entered into the keypad.   Earlier generations of ATM machines were often built around computer terminals running IBM’s OS/2 operating system (which started life as a joint IBM-Microsoft venture, and which somewhat ironically spawned Microsoft’s Windows NT, the grandparent of modern Windows, and IBM’s OS/2 when that project collapsed). Due to its more esoteric and rare nature there are far fewer attacks for OS/2, but now it is standard builds of Windows, potentially vulnerable to all the usual malware and exploits, that run modern ATMs.   So it is not surprising that intruders have started to find ways inside the ATM’s card processing and cash dispensing systems. Malware that can offer external control to an ATM have been reported for some years, allowing attackers to dispense cash, record and print out card details and PIN numbers. Under the hood   This latest malware is Backdoor.MSIL.Tyupkin, which while running continuously will only listen for commands on a Sunday and Monday night. The criminal gangs operating the malware generate a random, unique, six-digit keycode that activates the program, which is given to the “mule” who is withdrawing the money.     Like previous efforts to crack into ATMs, the malware requires physical access to the ATM, typically by booting the ATM from a CD prepared to install the malware. At present the malware has been active on at least 50 ATMs in Russia and Eastern Europe, but also in the US, China and India.   The malware is the file ulssm.exe, which is copied into the c:\windows\system32 directory and which is protected and maintained on the system between reboots by modifying the Windows registry (a database of configuration settings) so that Windows automatically runs the program at startup. The program then interacts with the ATM through the Extension for Financial Services (XFS) library, MSXFS.dll. To avoid detection it will only allow access controller commands on Sunday and Monday evenings.   This shows an example of malware installing itself onto a system, updating the Windows registry to autorun when started (at 25:20), and then going into hiding.     Playing catch up   The threat of re-booting machines from CDs or bootable USB sticks in order to install malware and abusing Windows autorun feature to sustain the program in memory, is an exploit that has been common for over a decade. It seems few lessons have been learned in terms of securing physical access to the device, and also in the privileged rights that malware can gain. Even as companies focus on improving and securing the user interface, often the debugging and diagnostic side can provide further routes into a system.   Versions of Windows used in embedded control systems are now sufficiently secure, but as ATM manufacturers use standard installations of Windows they are opening themselves up to further problems – not least because it allows hackers the opportunity to simulate and craft their malware on well-known versions of the operating system.   However, at the core of this attack – as with those before it – is the need for physical access to the device, which implies an insider working in the bank. That means with monitoring of who has access to the cash machine, this can be prevented. The key lesson is that the ATM operating system is a weak link in the chain which needs to be closed.   *This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

Do we want an augmented reality or a transformed reality?

10:06AM | Tuesday, 14 October

It seems we are headed towards a world where augmented reality (AR) systems will be as common as smartphones are today – it’s already about to revolutionise medicine, entertainment, the lives of disabled people and of course advertising and shopping.   The big three tech companies have all invested heavily in research and development in the AR domain. Google will be releasing Google Glass later in the year, Microsoft has been working on its own AR device and not long ago Facebook bought the virtual reality (VR) company Oculus Rift.   The notion of AR that these companies are proposing is a kind of “smartphone for the eyes”, as traditional AR and VR converge in the optic realm. The reality boost We are moving into an era where we will, on a commercial scale, be taking our visual information in real time and integrating this with a wealth of external information to transform our daily lives. This will give us some degree of control over how we see the world, in the fundamental sense.   For example, we might be offered information about people or objects as they pop into our field of view. Or it could introduce into our visual field view things that don’t exist at all in the real world to potentially filter out of our vision things that are in fact there, such as giant advertising billboards (see below).   But this is not just another article about the radical changes that AR is likely to bring about. Rather it’s a call to begin thinking critically about the possibilities AR presents and the idea that perhaps instead of merely augmenting reality, we could transform it. The unspoken future Extrapolating from the recent history of technology gives us a glimpse of what the future of AR is likely to look like in the hands of the big tech companies.   First, the idea of the “app” will extend into the visual domain, giving us apps that aid us in all the things we already do: building a house, studying at a distance, travelling in a new city and even making love.   Second, the price for access to these new services and of having information at our fingertips is likely to involve surrendering ever more of our personal information. Critically, it will open up new markets for advertisers to promote their products and services in both tacit and explicit ways – an extension of the world of “advertising everywhere”.   The increased human consumption of advertising – driven perhaps largely by the increase of screens in the world – has begun to be referred to by some as the pollution of the mental environment.   By surrendering control over our immediate field of vision, advertising no longer needs to be limited to a screen or a surface but could become truly ubiquitous. Transformed reality? The name “augmented reality” gives it away. The vision of AR that we are seeing in the media and in press releases for products such as Google Glass is a vision of our world as we know it, but perhaps made a little easier through this technology.   In contrast, this technology, that can change what we sense in real time, has the potential to fundamentally change how we live. Do we have the imagination to dream about how instead of merely augmenting reality we could be aiming to transform it?   The transformative potential of this technology has begun to be envisioned by a number of different artists.   In the Artvertiser project, artists have developed an application that replaces billboards within the visual field with images of art. So instead of subconsciously consuming giant advertisements on a billboard from the bank, users could perhaps be consuming artworks by Banksy.   The example above is just the tip of the iceberg. What kind of a built environment do you want to inhabit? Your AR has the potential to change both the cityscape and the horizon, to overlay worlds upon worlds.   Other artists have begun experimenting with ways that the technology could be used to add extra dynamics to public artworks, bringing them to life.   The advent of AR presents a significant choice. Through detection, replacement and synthesis AR has the potential to both add to and subtract from our sensations. Aspects of the environment, even buildings and people could potentially be filtered in or out based on personal preference – our generation is the first in human history that holds this possibility.   The proposal is that rather than simply waiting to see what purposes are dreamed up by the purveyors of this technology, we need to begin thinking about how we want to use it.   Now is the time to start dreaming about how the advent of ubiquitous AR could not merely augment society, but transform it for the better.   Nick Kelly does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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

10:05AM | Monday, 13 October

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

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter sues US Government

10:12PM | Tuesday, 7 October

Twitter is suing the US government, alleging that the Justice Department’s restrictions on what the company can say about government national security requests for data violate the company’s First Amendment rights, The Washington Post reports.   Earlier this year five other technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, reached a settlement with the government on the permissible scope of disclosure.   Twitter vice president Ben Lee says it is the company’s belief that it is entitled under the First Amendment to respond to its users’ concerns and to the statements of US government officials by providing information about the scope of government surveillance.   “We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad inexact ranges,” he says.   Blockchain raises $30.5 million   Bitcoin wallet provider and software developer Blockchain is expected to announce it has closed a $US30.5 million ($AU34.6 million) fund-raising round, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Wicklow Capital, The New York Times reports.   The investment, raised from Blockchain’s first round of outside financing, is one of the biggest in the digital currency industry to date.   Microsoft to hold cloud media event   On October 20, Microsoft will be holding a “What’s ahead for Microsoft’s Cloud” event in San Francisco.   Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella and executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group Scott Guthrie will be both presiding during the one-hour event for press and analysts.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 272.52 to 16,719.39. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.

Significant new features for app developers in Windows 10

10:10AM | Friday, 3 October

This week Tech giant Microsoft unveiled the next major release of its Windows operating system, known as Windows 10.   At this stage, Microsoft has only released an early technical preview for PCs, so it would be premature to praise the latest version too highly. Nonetheless, especially for small businesses and Windows app developers, there’s a lot of promising news about the new operating system.   The big change   The big overarching change is a shift in how Microsoft applies the Windows platform over a range of devices, including everything from smartphones and tablets to Xbox game consoles, PCs and servers.   With Windows 8, the idea was to create a single user interface (UI) that works the same way on everything from smartphones and tablets to desktops and servers. This led some to complain the tablet-optimised smart screen interface didn’t work well with a keyboard and mouse on a desktop PC.   As Microsoft executive vice president of operating systems Terry Myerson explains in a statement, there’s been a subtle but very significant shift that takes place with Windows 10. “We’re not talking about one UI to rule them all – we’re talking about one product family, with a tailored experience for each device,” Myerson said.   A key example of this is the return of the start menu in the desktop PC version of Windows 10. The start menu has been a fixture of Microsoft’s desktop user interface since the days of Windows 95 and NT, and its removal in Windows 8 in favour of the tile-based start screen was the cause of many complaints among loyal long-time users.   The revitalised start menu has an area to the right where users can arrange their tiles, in a manner similar to the start screen, without having to leave the desktop.   Another is that Windows Store apps will work in a window on a desktop, unlike in Windows 8, where they ran in full-screen like they do on a smartphone or tablet.   Likewise, on a desktop PC, users will be able to have multiple desktops. This has long been a favourite feature among desktop Linux users, and will be a very welcome addition to Windows desktops.   Good news for app developers   For developers, the really big news with Windows 10 is that while the user interface is tailored for all Windows 10 devices, universal Windows apps will work on all of them. One set of code will be able to target everything from a full-screen app on a smartphone or tablet through to a windowing app on a PC. Because of this, there will be just one Windows app store developers will need to deal with for all devices.   This is a huge step up from Windows 8, which required different versions of an app to be developed for Windows Phone smartphones, the desktop environment for PCs, and the start screen interface on Windows RT tablets.   Benefits for businesses   Meanwhile, for businesses, the major change is that mobile device management style separation for work and personal apps will be a feature of all devices running Windows 10, from smartphones through to tablets and PCs.   With a growing number of businesses opting for bring-your-own-device policies, the ability to securely wipe work files and data from an employee’s device while leaving their personal apps and files intact will be welcome.   Windows 10 will also make it much more difficult for sensitive data to accidentally or maliciously fall into the wrong hands. This is because the ability to open files will be linked to user accounts at a file level, meaning the protection follows a file wherever it goes.   And now we play the waiting game (or Hungry Hungry Hippos)   Now, as I mentioned at the start of the article – and this is very important to note – Microsoft has only released a technical preview at this stage. It is aimed at developers and IT experts who are comfortable with using and evaluating unfinished software.   Microsoft itself recommends people only install this software on a secondary computer, because there is a risk that there might be serious bugs on any given day. Sensible PC users should wait for the full version to be released before using it on their production machines.   Nonetheless, on a number of important fronts, the direction Windows 10 is taking should be exciting news for those who rely on Microsoft products for their business. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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

10:13AM | Thursday, 2 October

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

LG agrees to partnership with Microsoft on Internet of Things

9:15AM | Thursday, 25 September

LG will partner with Microsoft on the Internet of Things, in a deal that will see the consumer electronics giant develop new products and services based on Microsoft’s cloud computing platforms.   According to reports in the Korea Times and the Korea Herald, the agreement was struck between senior LG executives and Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella during a dinner meeting at the InterContinental Hotel in Seoul.   The agreement will see LG unveil new products aimed both at consumers and the business market at a Microsoft event in Las Vegas, Nevada, next year.   Both LG and Microsoft are members of the AllSeen Alliance, an industry body which is working on open standards for Internet of Things devices.   The agreement comes just a day after Microsoft agreed to peace talks with Samsung over ongoing patent infringement litigation between the companies.   However, it is unclear whether LG is planning to build smartphones in the future running Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system, with its plans subject to change due to “market conditions”.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany..

Clipp to get the Microsoft treatment

9:42AM | Thursday, 18 September

Australian mobile payment startup Clipp has appointed former Microsoft executive Todd Forest as its new chief executive.   The startup, which describes itself as Uber for bar tabs, has experienced rapid growth this year and is now used in 270 venues across the country.   Clipp’s co-founder Greg Taylor told StartupSmart the decision to bring Forest on as chief executive came about after examining where the business was at and where it needed to be.   “The first step is sitting down and saying what do we do really well, what areas we are lacking in and where we need help,” he says. “Everyone should be doing what they do best. For some co-founders it can be difficult to let the reins go a little bit but that comes down to who the candidate is.”   Taylor says bringing onboard external, experienced talent can make a startup more rounded. For Clipp, the priorities are improving the point of sale as well as getting venues and consumers on board.   “As we head into that space, Todd’s experience fits really nicely and positions the business really well as we head into that second phase of growth,” Taylor says. “It’s an opportunity more than anything to work under and work with someone with that level of experience.”   Australia’s geographical distance from startup hubs like San Francisco has not stopped local startups from building strong relationships with international talent, according to Taylor. The most important thing is that the new team member fits with the startup’s culture. For example, earlier this year Guy Kawasaki joined Sydney design software startup Canva.   “Cream rises to the top and if there’s a good business and there’s a good business model there will be a natural attrition into that space,” Taylor says. “The world is flat in that regard.”   In a statement, Todd Forest said he was looking forward to cementing Clipp as Australia’s go-to mobile payment solution.   “I join Clipp at a time when the mobile payments space is beginning to heat up,” he said. “2014 has been an incredible year for Clipp and we’re looking to continue that momentum right through to next year with some product updates and other big news which I can’t wait to share with you all.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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

9:47AM | Wednesday, 17 September

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

THE NEWS WRAP: Prominent VC Bill Gurley warns tech startup risk approaching dotcom bubble levels

9:29PM | Monday, 15 September

Prominent venture capitalist Bill Gurley, a general partner at VC firm Benchmark, has told The Wall Street Journal over the past year Silicon Valley may have taken on more risk than it can handle.   “I think that Silicon Valley as a whole, or that the venture capital community or startup community, is taking on an excessive amount of risk right now – unprecedented since ‘99,” he says.   “In some ways less silly than ‘99 and in others ways more silly than in ‘99. I love the Buffett quote because it lays it out. No one’s fearful, everyone’s greedy and it will eventually end.”   Minecraft founders to leave company   Markus “Notch” Persson, Carl Manneh and Jakob Porser, co-founders of Mojang, the developer of Minecraft, have announced they will leave the company after its $2.5 billion acquisition by Microsoft.   In a statement announcing the move, Mojang’s Owen Hill and Lydia Winters confirmed the trio were leaving, but it’s unknown what they’re planning to do next.   “Minecraft will continue to evolve, just like it has since the start of development,” the statement says.   “We don’t know specific plans for Minecraft’s future yet, but we do know that everyone involved wants the community to grow and become even more amazing than it’s ever been. Stopping players making cool stuff is not in anyone’s interest.”   Microsoft announces Windows 9 event for September 30   Microsoft has confirmed rumours that it would be unveiling Windows 9 later this month, announcing it will be holding a “Windows event” in San Francisco on September 30, The Verge reports.   The company is expected to deliver a Windows Technical Preview at the event or soon after so that developers and enterprise customers can evaluate a number of changes the company is making.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 43.63 to 17,031.14. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US90 cents.

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

9:24PM | Sunday, 14 September

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

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