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THE NEWS WRAP: Sydney Airport given first right of refusal over second airport

4:46PM | Tuesday, 15 April

Sydney Airport is set to negotiate with the federal government over the rights to build a second airport at Badgerys Creek, 50 kilometres west of Sydney.   Under a deal struck with the Howard government, ASX-listed Sydney Airport owns the “First rights over refusal” over the $2.5 billion project.   It will have nine months to negotiate terms with the federal government from the day federal Transport Minister Warren Truss issues an official “notice of intention” setting out the government’s terms for the project.   News of the proposal for a second major airport in Sydney, without the 11pm to 6am curfew on Kingsford Smith, has been welcomed by the transport industry.   “Sydney is the key gateway for air traffic in-and-out of Australia and the benefits of having two major airports will be felt nationwide,” Qantas chief Alan Joyce says.   NBN Co to speed-up deployment of FTTB to head off TPG   NBN Co's chief customer officer John Simon has announced plans to accelerate the rollout of fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) technology, warning other carriers not to follow in TPG’s footsteps with a rival rollout.   “If TPG can do it, then why can't six or seven other players do it? Then all of a sudden what you find is the more commercial or lucrative sectors of the market get picked off and you end up with a Swiss cheese network,” Simon says.   “This is not just a TPG response plan. This is our plan to bring forward those revenues and also at the same time make it clear that we will respond to competitive threats.”   Nadella calls on Microsoft to develop a “data culture”   Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella has told employees his company needs to develop a “data culture” in order to compete in a marketplace dominated by cloud services and mobile devices, during his third major appearance since taking the role.   “Every aspect of Microsoft's business is being fundamentally transformed because of data. You have to build deeply into the fabric of the company a culture that thrives on data,” Nadella says.   “To be able to truly benefit from this platform you need to have a data culture inside of your organization. For me, this perhaps is the most paramount thing inside of Microsoft.   “It's not going to happen without having that data culture where every engineer, every day, is looking at the usage data, learning from that usage data, questioning what new things to test out with our products and being on that improvement cycle, which is the lifeblood of Microsoft.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 16262.6. The US dollar is down to US93.66 cents.

Microsoft warns Windows XP users will be more vulnerable to viruses and malware after support ends

4:47AM | Tuesday, 8 April

Microsoft is warning small businesses still using Windows XP will be at increased risk of viruses and malware after the company stops providing security patches for the operating system later today.   Windows product manager Emmanuel Silanesu told SmartCompany the end of support means users will no longer receive bug patches, security updates or technical updates for the software.   “End of support means there will be no more security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates from Microsoft. This is in-line with our existing Support Lifecycle policy that has been in place since 2002.   “After April 8, 2014, Windows XP users will no longer receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates from Microsoft.   “Third parties may provide ongoing support, but it’s important to recognize that support will not address fixes and security patches in the core Windows kernel. Support for Office 2003 will also end at this time.”   According to Silanesu, there are a number of risks for businesses that continue to use XP beyond the cut-off date.   “Technology has changed a lot over the past 12 years. Many newer apps won’t run on Windows XP, new hardware may not support Windows XP and without critical Windows XP security updates, PCs may become vulnerable to harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software which can steal or damage your personal information and business data. Anti-virus software will also not be able to fully protect you once Windows XP itself is unsupported.”   For his part, Silanesu recommends businesses look at upgrading to PCs and other devices running Windows 8.1, which is the most recent version of its operating system.   “Small businesses are the lifeblood of the Australian economy and having the ability to not just be connected, but also productive is a part of modern business.   “By moving to the latest desktop and mobile Windows OS, customers will experience a fully connected and seamless experience across all devices. It is also costly to remain on Windows XP devices.   “In fact, according to a commissioned study by IDC, companies that chooses to stay on Windows XP will have to incur three times more cost per user as compared to migrating to a newer OS.”   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

What Apple’s app price hike means for local developers

4:23AM | Friday, 4 April

Apple is set to raise the prices of apps sold through the Australian app store by up to 30%, raising the average price from 99 cents to $1.29.   According to the email sent to Apple developers earlier this week, the price hike is due to foreign exchange rate fluctuations.   India, Turkey, South Africa and Indonesia will all see similar rises.   Chris Kettle, the coordinator of Mobile Mondays Brisbane, a community of several hundred app developers, told StartupSmart the price rise was an issue developers would need to factor into their business models.   “On behalf of developers, in my personal opinion, for apps and in-app purchases that are seeking a causal purchase then the price rise will have an impact,” Kettle says, adding it’s too early to know if the extra 30% revenue will offset the reduction in purchases.   “For premium App developers who offer a quality product, I don't think the price rise will stop people purchasing their product.”   Kettle adds the issue could stoke conversation about Apple’s commission on apps sold on their platform.   “People often say they feel Apple taking 30% is a lot. However’ I think the access to a global market of millions and the collecting of revenue on the developers’ behalf is still great value.”   The news comes almost a year after a parliamentary enquiry into why technology prices charged by large tech companies such as Adobe and Microsoft are significantly higher in Australia.

How one Aussie startup is bringing augmented reality to the web

4:58AM | Thursday, 3 April

Augmented reality (AR) is often understood in terms of wearable technology and device-driven capabilities, but an Australian technology company, buildAR, has built technology to enable it in your browser.   Often thought of as a futuristic play, the augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) markets are expected to grow 15.18% from 2013 to 2018, reaching $US1.06 Billion in 2018, and that’s excluding mobile based AR and non-immersive VR.   It puts some perspective into Facebook’s recent $US2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift – a VR play in that it creates a virtual world, where AR lets you see the world with more information overlaid on what you’re looking at.   According to TechCrunch, Microsoft is also reported to have bought the augmented reality-related intellectual property of wearable tech company Osterhout Design Group for between $US100 and $US150 million.   What makes buildAR unique is that they are “augmenting the web” and bringing the experience into your browser.   BuildAR founder Alex Young says there was a lot of fragmentation in the app world when it comes to augmented reality, but using it in a browser got around this problem and democratised the technology for everyone.   It has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign that makes it possible for anyone to deliver AR using standard Web browsers, but their focus is on utility based applications, particularly in education.   The Kickstarter campaign will allow anyone to “create a project and embed it directly in their webpage as easily as you do with a YouTube video.”   The campaign highlights some of the uses of the technology:   “If you back us as an educator, we'll give you the tools to create experiences such as an AR treasure hunt or historical exploration that'll have your students running around your school or campus having fun while they learn.   “If you back us as a curator, we'll give you the tools to enable your visitors to point their phone at items in your exhibition to unlock extra information that extends your collection beyond what's physically on show.”   The buildAR platform enables anyone to create digital content into the physical world around you by linking it to images, locations and more. When it comes to education this could mean using the technology to bring learning objectives to life.   The technology will work on smartphones and tablets, as well as wearable devices such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift.   There are limitations in the use of the technology on Apple devices though, something the buildAR team wants to draw attention to, claiming that “commercial decisions made by Apple have put the [iTunes] App Store ahead of their customers”. As Young points out, Apple have consciously decided not to support the latest open web standards.   buildAR have created a demo for their technology to show that how you can run augmented reality within your standard web browser, presenting the "Projects We Love" newsletter as AR images, floating in the real world.   If you open this on a modern Android device using the latest version of Chrome, Firefox or Opera you'll see a rich combination of augmented reality and the web, which is called the augmented web.   However, if you open the exact same page using an iPhone or iPad, you'll find that it works but that you can only see a very limited user experience.   Young says the company has a much higher profile overseas, than locally, but were committed to staying in Australia if it can. They have also launched some local meetups for those interested in Wearable tech, in both Sydney and Canberra.

THE NEWS WRAP: Microsoft announces senior executive shake-up

3:56PM | Monday, 31 March

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella has announced the first major management shakeup of his leadership.   Under the reshuffle, Nadella has appointed Scott Guthrie to his former role as head of cloud and enterprise group, former Nokia boss Stephen Elop is now head of devices, while Phil Spencer oversees Xbox.   “As I said on my first day, we need to do everything possible to thrive in a mobile-first, cloud-first world,” Nadella says.   “The announcements last week, our news this week, the Nokia acquisition closing soon, and the leaders and teams we are putting in place are all great first steps in making this happen.”   CBA calls for greater regulation of finance tech companies   Commonwealth Bank has called for the financial regulations applying to banks to be extended to “shadow banks” and new finance tech companies in a response to the Financial System Inquiry led by David Murray.   It argues that if non-bank entities conduct the same activities as banks, they should be regulated in a similar fashion.   In its submission, the bank also calls on the federal government to take a greater role in lending to startups, which it says find it tough to win bank financing.   Private sector credit grows   Total credit to the final sector grew by 0.4% in February, putting the annual rate of growth at 4.3%, according to new figures from the Reserve Bank.   The figures show business loans grew by 0.4%, up from 0.2% in January, which was less than the 0.5% rise in February for housing credit, although personal lending declined 0.2%.   “An improvement in business confidence and conditions is evident in rising business credit growth. However, shaky consumer confidence is weighing on personal credit growth,” Commonwealth Bank economist Diana Mousina said.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 16457.7. The Aussie dollar is up to US92.72 cents.

The hidden start menu in Windows 8.1

4:20AM | Tuesday, 1 April

One of the most common complaints about Windows 8 from long-time users was the lack of a traditional start menu.   With Windows 8.1, Microsoft reintroduced the start button, only to have it switch the user to the tile-based start screen. However, some of the original start menu functionality is still there – and here’s how to exit it.   Instead of tapping on the start button or clicking on it with the left mouse button, do a long press on the button or click it with the right mouse button.   The hidden start menu should appear, giving you access to a range of features including an option to shut down, launch the control panel, or access the task manager.

What these students learnt surviving the UNSW Startup Games

3:26PM | Thursday, 27 March

After an intense four weekend startup accelerator program, the cofounders of FoodEasy say they learnt a lot about how to make money from limited resources.   Once launched, Foodieasy will deliver ingredients and provide how-to videos to enable busy professionals to cook simple home cooked meals efficiently.   Cofounders Henry Law and Erick Supaman told StartupSmart it was unlike anything they’d done before.   “This is completely different to high school in Indonesia,” says Supaman, an international student who has been in Australia for three weeks. “I initially found it tough to sell and present Foodieasy due to the language barrier, but my cofounders have told me that I can’t learn this anywhere else in university.”   One of the eye-opening challenges was trying to make a profit with only two hours and $5. After a brief bewildered pause, the team made $38 locating and delivering library books to students around campus.   Law says intense challenges helped him realise the power of having a team that is diverse in background as well as skill sets.   “Our diversity has given us the opportunity to leverage each other’s strengths. Whilst Erick had only just arrived at university, another cofounder Varshaa is in his fifth year,” he says. “Our team comprised of members who had experience in marketing and technology-based companies including Apple and Microsoft.”   Despite being a university program, Foodieasy’s target clients were professionals so the team had to get off campus to validate their idea. Law says this process was invaluable.   “This validation served as a compass to navigate us through our startup journey, providing us with empirical data and evidence that is necessary for the decision making process.”   But the biggest lesson learned by the team over the weekend was the overwhelming importance of narrowing down your idea and sheer hard work.   “A startup is a combination of both a good idea and proper execution,” Law says. “Startups have been glamorised in media, but we learnt that in order to succeed you really need to wholeheartedly dedicate yourself to what you’re pursuing. Knowing what to do is equally as important as knowing what not to do.”   Of the 80 students who applied to be part of the program, only 28 were accepted into it after completing a series of tasks.

Why Australia is behind Vietnam when it comes to teaching programming to our children

3:38AM | Wednesday, 26 March

With an explosion in more jobs than there are computer science students, learning computer programming is as essential for the 21st century as learning to read or write.   Coupled with a drop in ICT graduates, there is an urgent need for something to change.   But there’s some good news, with a report in The Australian claiming that computer programming could become mandatory for schoolchildren from age eight, pending a government review.   The startup community has welcomed the announcement, with the general belief that such a move is long overdue.   Learnable investor Leni Mayo has been a passionate advocate for teaching early programming to children and said this was a welcome step in the right direction.   “Australia has a history of failure on this front and we’ve been screaming for something to be done,” Mayo says.   “There’s a current crisis in Australia with not enough skilled programmers to fill the need, and we’re addressing this through migration. What this proposal does is create opportunity for future generations.”   Mayo pointed to a post by Google engineer Neil Fraser, who visited Vietnam a year ago to see how they’re teaching computer science to students. Fraser writes that Vietnamese children begin basic programming lessons in second grade and in third grade they start learning how to use Microsoft Windows and how to type.   While that’s not dissimilar to current Australian curriculum, by fourth grade Vietnamese students are programming in Logo – starting with sequences of commands and then progressing to loops.   "By grade 5 they are writing procedures containing loops calling procedures containing loops," Fraser says.   Fraser’s post provides a window into what is possible, says Mayo, and is a good framework for Australia to teach its schoolchildren how to become computer programmers,   “By Year 11, kids should be writing programs,” he says.   It is hoped that getting children interested in computer programming from an early age will lead to greater interest in programming.   Mayo says building this interest was more important than skills they learnt in doing it.   “By year 9 and 10, kids already realise what it is they want to do, so getting in at primary school is the right move,” he says.   An immediate issue would be skilling current teachers to be able to teach computer programming.   “When you look at the research, most teachers in the system don’t have a STEM background or are even interested in it,” Mayo says.   “The issue is that fixing this could be a 10-20 year cycle.”   The Australian reports that 23,500 teachers would need training with a budget of $23 million.   In the meantime, Mayo says there are a lot of great programs out there for parents who want to help their kids learn to program. He played Robot Turtle with his own six and eight-year-olds.   The review is expected to be concluded by mid-year.

Why and how Australian start-ups must overcome their fear of failure

3:22PM | Wednesday, 12 March

When a home-grown entrepreneur returned from Silicon Valley recently to run a series of events in Brisbane, he was struck by a strong sense that Australia’s fear of failure was holding the community and technology sector back.   Adrian Turner cited the poor returns of the tech venture capital industry so far and the cultural background of the country as contributing factors.   To get to the bottom of the issue, StartupSmart spoke to a range of community leaders across the country.   Aaron Birkby is a serial entrepreneur and a co-founder of Gold Coast start-up incubator Silicon Lakes. He told StartupSmart cultivating a culture that embraced failure should be a priority for the start-up ecosystem.   “I absolutely agree that Australia has fear of failure and that it’s holding us back. It’s causing so many lost opportunities,” Birkby says. “We learn it in school where the focus on grades and scores discourages people from trying new ideas, taking risks and messing up.”   Birkby believes the key to creating a more robust culture is for successful entrepreneurs to share candidly about their failures.   To this end, he seeks out mentors for the incubator who have not only successfully exited start-ups, but also stuffed a few up.   “Mentoring, and entrepreneurship really, isn’t just about the business. It’s all the emotional aspects around it too,” Birkby says.   Beyond sharing the gory details of smashed start-ups, bankruptcies and broken relationships, Birkby says the start-up community embrace the fact failure is best way to learn.   “The time I’ve spent in Silicon Valley, people talk about failures as badges of honour. There are rumours some angel investors won’t even look at your idea if you haven’t failed at something first,” Birkby says.   A survey of over 1000 Australians conducted in 2013 found more were planning to launch their own businesses than ever before. But almost a third said they had a pronounced fear of failure and over a quarter feared giving up the security of full-time work.   Ann Parker is a co-founder of Telstra’s Sydney-based accelerator program Muru-d. She’s run accelerators across the world and says the fear of failure is more pronounced in Australia than the United States and Western Europe.   But she’s positive about Australia’s chances to create a more enabling culture, attributing the heightened concerns about failure as a growing pain of fledgling start-up communities.   “I think the best way to describe this fear of failure is a learning curve that we need to overcome, as we’re taught it from a very young age,” Parker says. “I’m not convinced that Australia is worse than all other countries, it’s just a bit behind on the curve.”   According to Parker, failure for tech companies is getting cheaper and easier to fix so start-ups can fail quickly and relatively painlessly.   “We need to keep celebrating that failure is good. The only thing that’s bad is if you try the same mistakes again,” Parker says. “If we can embrace the culture of fail fast and embrace the lessons learned and if we can get that across more parts of the ecosystem then we’ve done a good job.”   Fear of failure doesn’t exist in isolation. Parker says the best antidote and action start-up communities can take is encouraging an open and collaborative culture.   Businesses fail for a range of reasons. According to a study published in 2013, the most common reasons were management issues.   Of the 1000 business owners surveyed, 61% of S said small businesses failed because of an inability to manage costs, 50% said inexperienced management, 50% said poorly designed business models or no business plan, 49% said insufficient capital, 37% said poor or insufficient marketing, and 35% said insufficient time managing the books.   But attitude also plays a powerful role, says Harry Schiff, the founder of Adelaide-based errand outsourcing start-up Agent Anything.   Originally from Canada, Schiff told StartupSmart both countries, but especially Australia, needed to get comfortable with the arrogance break-out start-ups require.   “I don’t think anywhere, besides Israel so far, has had the balls of the Americans when it comes to totally disregarding what people say. But that arrogance and bravado helps a lot in the fake-it-till-you-make-it tactic that truly innovative start-ups need to be the next huge thing,” he says.   The impact of a chronic fear of failure isn’t just about people not trying their ideas. Schiff says it is also shaping how our entrepreneurs work.   “There is a lot of momentum here to go and work, but people focus on activities rather than on getting stuff done. Because setting a firm goal with a due date makes it far more likely you’ll have to admit, even just to yourself, that you’ve failed.”   He recently ran an event in Adelaide in which start-up community leaders shared their biggest mistakes so far and what they’ve learned.   “This event is not about celebrating failure. It’s about celebrating actually doing things, not just trying. When you do things, when you get out there and try stuff, you’ll fail. It’s just how these things go.”   In the coming months, the event team are launching a website to track the failed product releases of tech powerhouses such as Google, Apple and Microsoft to demonstrate innovation and failure go hand-in-hand, even for the biggest and best companies.   After the failure of Google’s Wave, Australian head of research and development Alan Noble told StartupSmart there while it was a failure, it was worth it.   “Australians can be too quick to judge our failed entrepreneurs. We should be giving them the credit to acknowledge they took a chance and they can try again,” he said.   “By almost any other criteria, there are incredible lessons that we learned from Wave – including technology lessons and execution lessons. The individuals from that project have gone on to do good things… It was a great undertaking for us and something we learnt a lot from.”   Schiff, who studied science in university, adds it takes a long time to normalise and embrace failure, but adds substituting a call to get comfortable with failure for a call to implement a culture of experimentation, may be the key to change.

Four essential Windows 8 gestures

3:08AM | Wednesday, 5 March

This article first appeared on October 26th, 2012.   Microsoft has now introduced Windows 8 and its Surface tablets. Instead of having menus constantly cluttering up your screen, many of the menus in Windows 8 are hidden and appear after you swipe your fingers across the screen in a particular way.   Here are four key gestures you’ll need to remember: Swiping your finger from the right edge of the screen to the middle will reveal a menu that has search, share, devices, settings and a shortcut to your Start screen. Swiping your finger from the left edge to middle of the screen will bring up a list of all the apps you have open at the moment, allowing you to switch between them. Swiping your finger from the top edge to the middle will bring up a number of options for the app you’re running – sort of like the menu bar at the top of a window in Windows 7. Finally, swiping your finger from the top edge to the bottom of your screen will close the app that’s currently open.

Give 'em the razor, sell 'em the blades!

3:24AM | Tuesday, 4 March

Recently, Old Taskmaster looked at freemium pricing as a possible pricing model for your business. In short, the idea is you give away part of your product for free, with the expectation you will persuade your customer to purchase a value added extra.   For example, you might have heard the phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. It comes from a practice in New Orleans during the 1970s of offering customers a free counter meal item with any drink they purchased.   While the drinks did not cover the cost of the meal, the saloons prospered on the fact that customers would purchase two or three drinks at inflated prices with their meal, more than covering their meal cost. For the publicans, as in life, there indeed was no such thing as a free lunch.   Of course, while it might be feasible to give a customer a free counter meal, what if your product is too expensive to viably give away for free? What if your margins are already razor-thin?   This is when we start talking about razors and blades.   In 1901, an entrepreneur named King Gillette from Fond du Lac in Wisconsin noticed most barbers used razors with large, bolted-on blades. They had been nicknamed “cut-throat razors” for their propensity to wound the customers of a barber with a less-than-steady hand. And just think, you say you work in a “cut-throat” industry! Cowards!   Anyway, while the handles remained sturdy, the blades quickly dulled, requiring regular sharpening. Being the entrepreneurial sort, King Gillette developed a new type of razor. These featured a razor handle with an easily replaced blade.   Far more revolutionary than his blade design, however, was the design of his pricing structure. Gillette sold his handles at a significant loss in order to secure as many customers as possible.   Where Gillette made his money was in the sale of blades, which were sold at a significant premium. By purchasing the handle, customers were effectively locked into purchasing several blades, which more than covered the subsidy on the handle.   Today, Gillette’s razor and blade pricing model today is applied to a number of industries.   For example, that cheap little ink-jet printer on your office desk was sold to you at a considerable subsidy, like a razor handle. The ink cartridges it uses, like Gillette’s blades, are sold at a significant premium. Once you’ve printed a few documents with ink more expensive per litre than crude oil, it turns out the total cost of ownership is higher than you anticipated.   Likewise, it’s not feasible to give away plane tickets for free. However, low-cost carriers sell tickets on the cheap in the hope you’ll pay a premium for using a credit card, having extra baggage or enjoying an in-flight meal.   Similarly, your kids’ PlayStation or Xbox is, at its core, a computer powerful enough to play graphics processor-intensive games. It’s also sold to you at a subsidised price – but Sony or Microsoft extract a licensing fee for every game they sell.   Optus will sell you an $899 Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone for just $17 a month for 24 months, or $408. Oh, but you’ll also need a $50 per month plan, which means it’ll cost you a total of $1608 by the time 24 months are up – nearly double the cost of the phone.   And the cinema sells you tickets for roughly the extortionate price the Hollywood studios and distributors charge them for public exhibition of their film. However, if you want some popcorn or a choc-top during the show, be prepared to pay.   You get the picture.   As the publicans of New Orleans discovered well over a century ago, in life there’s no such thing as a free lunch. However, if that model doesn’t work for your industry, consider giving your customers a subsidised razor – and sell them the blade at a profit.   So can the razor-and-blade model work in your industry? Even in a cut-throat industry, Old Taskmaster says it’s worth considering.   Get it done – today!

The eight biggest announcements from the 2014 Mobile World Congress

2:47AM | Friday, 28 February

This week in Barcelona, the GSMA – the peak global standards body for the mobile phone industry – is hosting its annual industry trade event, the Mobile World Congress.   The MWC is arguably the largest annual event in the telecommunications industry. It brings together carriers with mobile phone makers, equipment makers and app developers.   It’s where handset manufacturers make the big pitch to mobile carriers for the year ahead. A strong presentation can bring your products to the attention of mobile carriers the world over.   Perhaps more than the Consumer Electronics Show in January, the MWC is the big event where mobile phone makers unveil their new smartphones and other products for the year ahead.   This year’s event certainly hasn’t underwhelmed, with major announcements from some of the industry’s biggest players.   It’s time to take a look at eight of the biggest announcements from this year’s show:   1. Samsung Galaxy S5   Samsung is now easily the biggest handset maker in the industry. According to IDC, for the full year of 2013, it shipped a massive 313.9 million smartphones worldwide – that’s three out of every 10 smartphones shipped anywhere in the world.   Forget about Apple versus Samsung, it’s not even a race anymore at this point. Apple shipped 153.4 million units in 2013, meaning that for every handset Apple shipped, Samsung shipped more than two.   In fact, with the exception of the US and Japan, Apple is not even really competitive with Samsung anymore. That race was lost two years ago.   In addition to manufacturing smartphones, it also supplies itself with almost every component, from batteries and processors to cameras, memory chips and displays.   It is both the world’s second biggest chip builder, and the world’s second biggest ship builder.   So when Samsung unveils its main, flagship smartphone for the year, you better believe that everyone in the industry – from carriers to competitors – is watching very closely.   This year’s flagship, the Galaxy S5, was largely an incremental improvement on its predecessor, with the South Korean tech giant confirming speculation the new device is both dust-proof and waterproof.   Needless to say, both Telstra and Optus have already announced they’re carrying the new smartphone.   Aside from the Galaxy S5, Samsung shocked the industry when it snubbed Google for the latest version of its Galaxy Gear smartwatches. Instead of Android, the new devices will be powered by its own operating system, known as Tizen.   2. Microsoft’s Nokia X smartphones – powered by Android   For nearly two decades, Microsoft’s Windows operating system had battled an open source rival, known as Linux. While Linux has struggled to make inroads in the desktop PC market, it has emerged as the dominant operating system for servers.   Linux also forms the basis of Google Android, which competes head-to-head with Microsoft Windows Phone.   Meanwhile, in September last year, Microsoft bought the mobile assets of Nokia, along with a licence to use its patents, for $US7.2 billion.   In light of this, there was some scepticism when rumours first surfaced that Nokia was gearing up to release a series of smartphones powered by Android.   At MWC, Nokia confirmed the rumours by unveiling a new smartphone product line powered by Android called the Nokia X series. The new devices will come with Microsoft’s cloud-based apps and services pre-installed and won’t come with the Google Play app store.   Nonetheless, when Microsoft takes control of Nokia in April, it will be selling a consumer product based on Linux. Who would have thought it? 3. Facebook buys WhatsApp for $US16 billion   A week before the MWC, Facebook announced it is taking over mobile messaging service WhatsApp for an incredible sum – $US16 billion.   With both WhatsApp co-founder and chief executive Jan Koum and Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg delivering keynote speeches at MWC, the tech world was certainly going to pay attention.   During the keynote, Koum did not disappoint, announcing WhatsApp was launching free voice calls through its app during the second quarter, once the takeover by Facebook has been completed.   No doubt some of the mobile carriers were a little edgy about the prospect of Facebook launching an all-out assault on their lucrative voice call and text message businesses.   4. Mozilla unveils a $25 smartphone   This year’s Mobile World Congress marked the one year anniversary of the debut of Mozilla’s smartphone platform, Firefox OS.   For those unfamiliar with the platform, Mozilla is best known for its Firefox web browser. Last year, it announced it was creating a mobile operating system based on Firefox that would compete head-to-head with Google Android, Apple iOS, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10.   In Firefox OS, all apps basically work like interactive websites and are coded in web standards, including HTML5 and CSS. Since this is less demanding than running a “full” operating system with apps, the theory went that Firefox OS would perform well on low-end devices aimed for emerging markets.   In practice, some of the first Firefox OS smartphones, including the ZTE Open, have left a lot to be desired.   As I explained in Control Shift last week, Mozilla’s expansion drive has left it in a precarious position in the marketplace:   As if the situation weren’t already urgent enough already, Mozilla’s lucrative deal with Google expires in November of this year. In a sense, it’s fitting that [Mozilla founder Mitchell] Baker has taken up trapeze as a hobby, because Mozilla’s in the middle of a high-wire act. It might be that, over the coming months, one of Mozilla’s growing number of Firefox OS-driven side-projects gains traction in the market place. However, it could also backfire spectacularly, endangering its main source of revenue in the process.   Aside from the seven new smartphones on display, Mozilla also announced that a smartphone costing just $25 would hit the market this year.   Given that, up until the fourth quarter of last year, more than half of all mobile phones sold worldwide were still featurephones, mostly in emerging markets, the $25 phone might just be the big hit Mozilla’s looking for.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Major updates for BlackBerry enterprise customers   BlackBerry chief executive John Chen’s bid to turn around the fortunes of the smartphone pioneer were filled out in a series of major product announcements at MWC.   Up until now, enterprises using BlackBerry Secure Work Spaces on BYOD (bring your own device) smartphones needed to use different versions of BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) depending on whether staff used newer BlackBerry 10/Android/iOS devices, or older BlackBerrys.   That has been cleared away with the release of BES 12, in the process clearing away many headaches for IT administrators. As an added bonus, it supports Windows Phone devices too.   The company also unveiled a new flagship phone with a full keyboard called the Q20 and an enterprise version of its BlackBerry Messenger service called eBBM Suite.   6. At least Sony’s new products are water-tight   Earlier this month, Sony announced it is selling its VAIO PC business to investment firm Japan Industrial Partners, spinning off its Bravia TV business into a separate subsidiary and slashing its global headcount by 5000 as part of a major restructure.   At the time, the Japanese tech giant announced it’s setting its sights on the smartphone, tablet and wearables markets for its future growth. Suffice to say, the company is hoping it delivered a hit with the products it unveiled at MWC.   The company unveiled a new flagship smartphone called the Xperia Z2, a 4G Android 4.4 KitKat smartphone powered by a 2.3 GHz quad-core Qualcomm processor. The company is proclaiming its 20.7-megapixel camera capable is the most ever used in a waterproof smartphone.   Which I’m sure is fantastic news for scuba-diving photographers.   The company also unveiled a 10.1-inch tablet called, imaginatively enough, the Z2 Tablet. The tablet is being marketed as the lightest ever used in a waterproof tablet.   Finally, the company unveiled a smart wristband called the SmartBand.   7. Opportunity knocks for LG?   The highlight for LG was an update of the KnockON security system called “Knock Code”, which uses a series of knocks rather than a password to secure a device. The new feature will appear on the LG G Pro 2 phablet, a new six-inch phablet set to go head-to-head with Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note devices.   The company also unveiled its “L Series 3” range of low- to mid-range smartphones at the show.   That said, most of LG’s big announcements came at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, including its LG Lifeband Touch activity tracking bracelet, LG Heart Rate headphones, and webOS-powered smart TVs.   8. Tickets please!   With the rapid growth of mobile ticketing, it’s no surprise the world’s largest telecommunications show would embrace NFC tickets.   Telstra was one of a range of carriers to trial NFC badge technology for tickets to this year’s event.   The badges use information stored by a mobile carrier, including name and telephone number, to help verify an attendee’s identity. The validation process also includes a photo ID check.   This year’s show also features an NFC Experience demonstrating NFC-based mobile commerce systems for payment, retail, transport, mobile identity and ticketing/access.   In addition, there are 61 NFC-enabled Tap-n-Go Points providing event news, schedules, documents, presentations, videos and other information.   According to figures published by ABI research, in the next five years, 34 billion tickets to be sent to mobile devices,. In terms of technology used to authenticate tickets, the figures show 48% will rely on QR codes, near-field communications (NFC) will be used on 30%, while SMS or other technologies will be used on 22%.   If the forecast is accurate, it suggests using our smartphones to touch on for events, public transport or entry into secure areas could soon be a part of everyday life.

Trademark troubles and the day Adobe went after Envato: Start-ups are Scary series

2:17AM | Friday, 14 February

When two-year-old Envato received a firmly worded legal letter from tech juggernaut Adobe in 2009, the team thought their business was over.   “We were terrified. It was just, oh my god our company is about to be demolished. Terrible things are going to happen and our world was rocked,” co-founder and business intelligence director Vahid Ta’eed told StartupSmart.   Launched in August 2006 by four co-founders in Sydney, Envato was originally called Flash Den, after their first marketplace that connected buyers and sellers of Flash content.   Despite registering a logo including the word “flash den” when they launched, they didn’t attempt to trademark the word until 2009. This is probably what triggered Adobe, which owns the trademark for “Flash”, to send the young company a sternly worded letter.   “We got a concerning, and I would even say ugly, letter from Adobe’s lawyers. I still remember reading it, my heart was beating crazily and sweating,” Ta’eed says.   According to Ta’eed, the letter informed Flash Den of a series of legal consequences if they didn’t change their company name, website and trademark swiftly.   “They were a massive company. It felt like the Borg had come and we were about to be devoured,” he says.   (For those who may not watch Star Trek, the Borg are an alien race that forces other races into their collective by turning them into cybernetic organisms.)   Flash Den was managing four marketplaces with a team of 15 who had worked hard for two years to build their brand.   “We worked through the panic. At first you’ve just got to get past the denial and anger, but then we realised we wanted to switch away from just selling Flash anyway, so maybe a forced branding change wasn’t such a bad thing,” Ta’eed says.   They renamed that particular marketplace and their business from Flash Den to Active Den, which enabled them to include emerging technologies such as Microsoft’s Silverlight.   They negotiated with Adobe to keep the Flash Den domain for a few months so they could redirect users to their new site.   “We’d spent two years and didn’t want to just vanish,” says Ta’eed, adding the Adobe team were actually pretty good about the situation after their first exchange.   The team decided to be transparent about the issue and communicated the brand change through a concerted PR effort that included stories in TechCrunch and the Washington Post.   “We’d moved beyond just Flash, but we were still that brand, bolted onto that word. To move beyond it was challenging but as a start-up you do what you have to do,” Ta’eed says.   The plan had always been to build a portfolio of marketplaces selling online content such as website templates and stock photography. Armed with a deeper understanding of trademarks and a more nimble approach to branding, the Flash Den team went on to explore new company brand names.   They originally explored the possibility of rebranding to Eden but abandoned that plan due to the difficulty of trademarking a common word.   In 2010, they bought Envato for about $1000 out of a catalogue of brands, complete with the brand, domain and first logo.   “I remember when we picked it; I wasn’t convinced we seemed like an Envato. But now it feels like we’ve always been this,” Ta’eed says.   Armed with a new brand, they went on to launch four new marketplaces. The team never took any external funding.   “Being entirely self-funded is pretty cool. You get to make your own decisions and your own mistakes, which you learn from and live with,” Ta’eed says.   Envato now employs over 100 people in Melbourne, with another 100 scattered around the world. In seven years, they have paid out over $140 million in payments to the marketplace “authors” or content creators.

Telstra confirms talks with Google over Australian Chromecast launch: What app developers need to know

2:16PM | Tuesday, 11 February

Telstra has confirmed it has entered into early stage talks about a potential Australian launch of Google’s Chromecast digital media player, which retails in the US for $US35.   Introduced in the US alongside Android 4.3 JellyBean in July of last year, although yet to see an official Australian release, the Chromecast is a digital media device that plugs into the back of a TV and resembles a USB stick in its form factor.   It allows users to view music and videos from selected online services, including YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV and Google Play Music, through their TV set.   The Chromecast can be controlled from a compatible Android smartphone and tablet, and was originally introduced as a replacement for the company’s ill-fated Nexus Q set-top-box.   A Telstra spokesperson told StartupSmart the telecommunications giant is looking at the device, while cautioning talks are still at an early stage.   “We are always looking at ways we can bring brilliant and innovative entertainment experiences to our customers and so will always explore and consider new technology that can deliver that,” the spokesperson said in a statement.   “There are no ‘secret talks’ with Google – we speak to Google all the time about all sorts of things.   “As we have said we are taking a look at it – but very early stages – if it’s a product/device that we will stock we will let customers know.”   The news comes just days after Google opened Chromecast up to developers, releasing an SDK (software development kit) for the device, which is available for download through the Google Cast website.   In a post on Google's official developers' blog, Google engineering manager John Affaki explains some of the device's functionality for developers, in creating apps that play back audio or video, as well as for other potential purposes.   "You have many options for displaying content on Chromecast. For simple media applications, you can use the default media player that can play back HTML5 media content. You can also customise it with your own branding and style using CSS.   "For non-media applications, or for more flexibility and design options, you can build your own custom receiver application using standard web technologies. With a custom receiver you can build virtually any application while including support for many [video] streaming protocols, including MPEG-DASH, HLS, and Microsoft Smooth Streaming, all of which are available in the Media Player Library."   Affaki is also keen to explain the developer kit contains a range of pre-written libraries, making it easy to stream content from pre-written apps to the device.   “To make it easier for you to provide an optimized user experience on the TV screen, we have created sample apps for Android, iOS and Chrome. For Android, you’ll find a Cast Companion library to make your integration of Google Cast even easier.   "The Google Cast SDK is simple to integrate because there’s no need to write a new app. Just incorporate the SDK into your existing mobile and web apps to bring your content to the TV. You are in control of how and when you develop and publish your cast-ready apps through the Google Cast developer console. The SDK is available on Android and iOS as well as on Chrome through the Google Cast browser extension.”

Don’t create a doberhuahua!

2:42PM | Thursday, 6 February

Especially if you’re an inventive sort – not an unreasonable guess, given you’re reading StartupSmart – there can be a temptation to take two successful inventions and combine them.   Now, there’s a place in this world for tools that do many things. Your humble correspondent always carries around a Swiss Army knife, for example.   But, while convenient for those times you need a cross-head screwdriver in a hurry, your average Swiss Army knife makes neither a great magnifying glass, nor a great pair of scissors.   Don’t get me wrong, there have been cases where combining two different inventions into one can be useful. After all, the smartphones in our pockets are basically PDAs with mobile phone capabilities tacked on.   What sets smartphones apart is the combined functionality – being able to send data or make calls from PDA-style apps – fills a useful purpose.   But, more often than not, combining two different inventions means you end up with a splayd, or worse, a Microsoft Surface!   Seriously, what additional use case is filled by combining a laptop and a tablet that you couldn’t fill better with a proper laptop and a tablet? None!   Now, earlier this week, Old Taskmaster was watching the Super Bowl while cheering on the winning team – capitalism – when an ad perfectly illustrating the point came on the TV:     So are you toying with the idea of combining two different products into one?   Before you do, think through about whether any additional benefits are gained by combining the two inventions. You don’t want to create a doberhuahua!   Get it done – today!

Mobile commerce visionary Tomi Ahonen on the newest mass media: You must watch this video

1:51AM | Wednesday, 22 January

Are you thinking about developing an Android or iPhone app? Perhaps you have already established a business and remain a mobile sceptic?   Or maybe you are looking for a good business idea?   If so, it’s time to take some inspiration from one of the world’s pre-eminent experts on mobile, Tomi Ahonen.   Who’s this Tomi Ahonen character, you ask? He was a senior executive at Nokia back in the ‘90s, the good ‘ole days when the Finnish mobile phone giant dominated the planet. Since leaving the company, Ahonen has become an outspoken critic of the now-former Nokia chief executive, Stephen Elop, and the company’s recent Windows Phone 8-powered smartphones.   If you carried a Nokia 3210 in your pocket back in the late ‘90s, it was partly due to forward thinking Finnish engineers and executives like Ahonen. Amongst many other achievements, he oversaw Nokia’s 3G Research Centre and wrote the first industry white paper on bringing internet services to mobile.   Back in the golden age known as the late ‘90s, Ahonen foresaw that online services on mobile would be used in a fundamentally different manner to how it is on a desktop computer. It’s a theme he discusses in greater depth in his book The Seventh Mass Media, which argues mobile is the seventh and most recent of a series of fundamentally different media forms, following print, recordings, cinema, radio, television and the internet.   See, these days, Sonny Jim Crockett, it’s common sense to assume that your desktop website will work differently to a well-designed mobile site. Not so, back in the ancient days of the internet.   Heck, right up until recently, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer was still insisting mobile devices were just PCs in a different form! But that’s another story!   Anyway, during the video, Ahonen lists nine unique benefits of mobile. They are:   1. It’s the first personal media form. 2. It’s (almost) permanently connected. 3. It’s always carried. 4. It has a built-in billing system. 6. It has the most accurate audience info of any media. 7. It captures the social context of consumption. 8. It enables the eight mass media: Augmented reality. 9. It’s a digital interface to the real world.   What implications do these nine unique benefits have if you own or are about to start a business? How should you optimise your business for mobile communications? And why does mobile matter for business in the first place?   All is revealed in this video.   Your task for today is simple. Watch it:     Get it done – today!

Microsoft announces $8 million partnership for natural user interface technology research centre

12:19AM | Monday, 9 December

Microsoft, the University of Melbourne and the Victorian government have joined forces to open an $8 million research centre for social new interactive technologies that use voice, touch, gesture, gaze and physical movement.   The Microsoft Centre for Social Natural User Interface (NUI) Research will have funded positions for researchers exploring the social uses of technology that enables digital products to use physical human engagement more intuitively and naturally.   NUIs, such as Wii game consoles and Xbox Kinect, moved away from the desktop and mouse to use direct physical engagement such as capturing voice, gesture, touch and even brain recognition with sensors that interact with technologies.   Centre director Professor Frank Vetere, who also heads up the Interaction Design Lab at Melbourne University, told StartupSmart the centre would push the emerging field of NUI design towards reaching its social potential.   “The recent explosion of social media shows the extraordinary human desire to use technology for our own personal needs and interaction, so there is definitely a growing role for social NUIs,” Vetere says. “The centre is not just about the fun stuff like Facebook. It’s also the way we’re social in the workplace, in schools, in hospitals, and how we relate in public spaces.”   This is Microsoft’s first NUI centre focused on the social uses of the emerging technology. Vetere says there is ample opportunity for Australia to become a leader in this emerging tech industry.   “Clearly this is an opportunity to extend the thinking and knowledge happening elsewhere. We’ve got enormous strong support with Microsoft, so we can clearly leverage and contribute to their wider NUI work,” Vetere says.   The research centre is intended to explore the emerging field of how technology can encourage positive social and collaborative behaviours. Resources have been allocated for three years.   In a statement, Microsoft Research vice president Tony Hey said the three-way partnership was great news for achieving their goals.   “This is a world class research centre, located at a world class university in a forward thinking state,” Hey said. “I am confident the centre will open the floodgates to innovative social uses of NUI. The potential for social NUI will only be limited by our imagination.”   The 28 supported academics and PhD students will have the opportunity to spend time at other Microsoft research centres such as Cambridge, Beijing, and Redmond in the US.

10 events and trends that shaped the tech industry in 2013

12:02AM | Friday, 6 December

The tech sector has always been hyper-competitive, and never has this been truer than in 2013.   For the likes of Twitter, Samsung and Google, the harvest of 2013 was bountiful.   However, from the perspective of Nokia, Microsoft, BlackBerry or the PC industry, it was a year to forget.   Here’s a look back at 10 of the big events and trends that shaped the tech sector in 2013.   1. One billion smartphones sold this year – and counting   The most important tech story of 2013 didn’t take place with a major product announcement or a Steve Jobs-style keynote speech.   Instead, it took place without fanfare at an ordinary mobile phone retailer somewhere deep in suburbia.   It was there that a consumer decided to purchase the one billionth smartphone to be sold during 2013.   To put that number in perspective, it is projected that 227.3 million tablets shipped worldwide during 2013, 158 million television sets, 180.9 million portable PCs and 134.4 million desktop PCs.   Meanwhile, figures from market analysts IDC show smartphones also outsold featurephones worldwide for the first time in history during the first quarter of 2013.   What this means is that while smartphones now account for more than half of the 418.6 million mobile phones shipped worldwide each quarter, there are still millions of old-fashioned featurephones being sold each year.   Especially in the low-end of the market and in emerging economies, that means there’s plenty of extra room for growth in the future – especially at the low-end of the market.   Make no mistake about it. The smartphone industry is big – far bigger than the PC or TV business. And it’s only going to get bigger in 2014.   2. Google Android and Samsung: The juggernaut rolls on The biggest winners from the spectacular, ongoing growth of the smartphone market have been Samsung and Google.   Last year, smartphones running Google Android outsold Apple. In 2013, that trend morphed into total industry domination.   For example, of the 261.1 million smartphones shipped worldwide during the third quarter of 2013, 211.6 million or over 80% ran Google’s Android operating system.   That compares to just 33.8 million iPhones, representing around 12.9% of the market, and a measly 3.6% for Windows Phone.   Samsung managed to ship 72.4 million smartphones during the second quarter of 2013 alone, representing around 30.4% of the market – more than double Apple’s sales during the same period.   Those device sales also mean increased component orders flowing through the various divisions of the South Korean tech conglomerate, which manufactures everything from semiconductors to batteries and smartphone displays.   The growing strength of the South Korean electronics behemoth is demonstrated by its advertising and marketing budget, which has been estimated at around $US14 billion worldwide.   To put that figure into perspective, as of 2011, North Korea’s entire national economy was estimated to stand at $US12.385 billion.   3. The PC industry bloodbath   While Google and Samsung have had a stellar year in 2013, the same certainly can’t be said for the PC industry.   The September quarter was the sixth consecutive quarter of falls, according to Gartner, with shipments falling to 80.2 million units for the quarter from 87.8 million a year earlier.   Figures released by IDC forecast PC shipments for the full year to fall 9.7% in 2013.   More alarmingly, it appears the emerging middle class in China, India and Brazil aren’t keen on buying computers, with total PC shipments in emerging markets expected to drop from 205.2 million to 185 million this year.   Australia and New Zealand led the trend, with a massive 21% year-on-year fall in shipments for first quarter in Australia, along with a more astounding 27% fall in New Zealand.   The implosion of the PC market was disastrous for a number of PC makers, including Dell, HP and Acer.   In August, HP announced a major shake-up of its senior management team after announcing a large 15% year-on-year drop in net earnings and a 22% drop in revenue from consumer devices during its quarterly results.   That same month, Dell reported a massive 72% year-on-year collapse in quarterly earnings, while a consortium including founder Michael Dell, Silver Lake Capital and Microsoft successfully fought off high-profile investor Carl Icahn’s bid for control of the company.   And at Acer, founder Stan Shih made a surprise return as interim chairman and president, following the resignation of former chief executive JT Wang and president Jim Wong after the company recorded a record third-quarter loss.   The resignations came after Acer announced its consolidated revenues for the third-quarter of 2013 fell 11.8% year-on-year to $US3.11 billion, resulting in an operating loss of $US86.6 million.   4. Surface falls flat   On top of falling PC sales and 3.6% Windows Phone market share, the news was dire for Microsoft on another front in 2013.   Late last year, Microsoft launched its Surface series of tablets as a first step towards making devices, with the company believed to have manufactured around six million units.   The release of the Surface instantly made Microsoft a direct competitor to many of its already struggling PC partners, straining relations in the process.   Fast forward to July of this year when Microsoft announced a massive $US900 million writedown on its inventory of unsold tablets. The writedown came less than a week after Microsoft announced a large price cut of $US150 for the struggling product line.   Adding insult to injury, Microsoft also revealed it has spent $US898 million advertising the tablets, while only generating $US853 million in sales.   According to many leading analysts, the company was believed to have sold just 1.7 million of the six million tablets it had built.   To put those numbers in perspective, Apple sells around 14.6 million iPads each quarter, while Samsung sells around 8.8 million.   5. Steve Ballmer resigns   During the 1990s, Microsoft was undeniably the 800-pound gorilla of the tech industry.   Then, in January 2000, founder Bill Gates stood aside as chief executive, in favour of Steve Ballmer, in order to focus on his philanthropic efforts.   Since then, the company has lost much of its former dynamism, and has failed to become the dominant player in a range of new technologies that have emerged since then, including search, tablets, smartphones or social media.   In August last year, Vanity Fair magazine journalist Kurt Eichenwald ran a feature exploring why Microsoft fell behind its rivals. A management technique called stack ranking was almost universally blamed.   “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review,” a former software developer told Eichenwald. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”   Add the low market share for Windows Phone, poor sales of the Surface and the PC industry bloodbath, and it became clear something had to give at Microsoft.   In July, the company announced a major management restructure, with the company’s strategy shifting to focus on “devices and services”.   Then, just one month later, Ballmer resigned as chief executive, with stack ranking dumped as a management technique soon after.   The Redmond, Washington-based tech giant is currently searching for his replacement.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 6. Nokia sold for a song   Soon after Ballmer’s resignation, the news was overshadowed by an even bigger story.   In September, Microsoft announced it was buying Nokia’s smartphone and devices businesses for $US7.2 billion, with the Finnish telecommunications company retaining its Nokia-Siemens services network equipment business and the Nokia brand name.   The deal came after Nokia announced its smartphone sales had slumped 27% year-on-year during the second quarter of 2013, with an overall loss of €115 million ($A190 million) for the quarter.   The sales plunge was led by the company’s Windows Phone-based Lumia smartphone unit, where shipments fell 27% from 10.2 million units during the second quarter of 2012 to just 7.4 million for the same quarter in 2013.   To put that number into perspective, it was a little over one-tenth the number of smartphones sold by Samsung during the same quarter.   It was an inglorious end to a company that absolutely dominated the mobile industry through the 1990s and 2000s. As recently as 2010, when Apple sold 47 million smartphones, Nokia managed to sell 104 million.   According to prominent industry analysts, such as former Nokia executive Tomi Ahonen, the fateful moment came in February 2011, when then chief executive Stephen Elop made the decision to switch its smartphones to the Windows Phone operating system.   Soon after, a leaked internal letter from Elop known as the “burning platform” memo likened the company’s situation in the mobile phone market to a person standing on a burning oil platform.   After the takeover was announced, Elop was named as one of the top contenders for the position of Microsoft chief executive.   7. BlackBerry’s failed comeback and takeover attempt   It wasn’t just Nokia that had a tough time in the smartphone market at the hands of Samsung and Google.   In January, BlackBerry launched its new, all-touch BlackBerry 10 smartphone operating system. The platform, originally scheduled for late 2011, had been delayed by a year, preventing the company launching a flagship phone in 2012.   The Australian launch for the first smartphone to run the new platform, the Z10, came in March at a gala event in Sydney hosted by Adam Spencer. A second device using a traditional BlackBerry keyboard, called the Q10, came soon after.   While the reviews were generally positive, the new devices failed to be the big comeback success the company’s then-chief executive, Thorsten Heins, had hoped for.   By August, the company formed a special five-member panel to examine takeover options after director and Canadian investment guru Prem Watsa quit the board.   In its September quarter results, the full carnage was laid bare. The Canadian smartphone maker reported just $US1.6 billion in revenues for the quarter, down 45% year-on-year and 49% quarter-on-quarter.   The company also revealed it sold just 3.7 million smartphones for the quarter – and less than half of those ran BlackBerry 10.   Total losses came in at $US965 million, including a massive $US934 million inventory writedown against unsold stock of the company’s Z10 smartphone.   The company announced more than 4500 staff layoffs, representing nearly 40% of its global workforce, while Heins bought a new private jet.   Meanwhile, the company’s rollout of its Messenger app for Android and iOS was frozen due to technical issues with its release.   In early November, with banks uncertain of the company’s long-term future, Watsa failed to raise the requisite $4.7 billion for a buyout, instead lending the company $US1 billion.   As part of the deal, Heins stood aside as chief executive, replaced by former Sybase chief executive John Chen, with Watsa rejoining the board.   Heins received a $US22 million golden parachute for his efforts, significantly less than the $US55.6 million he would have received had the sale gone through.   8. The Twitter IPO   Last year, Facebook’s disastrous IPO ended in tears – followed by lawsuits.   Thankfully, the outcome was not repeated when its social media rival, Twitter, listed on the New York Stock Exchange in November.   After opening at $US26 per share, the company’s share price surged 72.69% in its first trading session.   It closed at $US44.90 per share, before dropping slightly to $US44.44 in after-hours trading.   Making the result even more amazing was the state of its balance sheet.   While the tech giant has revenues of $US534.46 million and around 230 million users worldwide, it has never posted a profit.   Despite this, the company now has a market capitalisation north of $US20 billion, with chief executive Dick Costolo claiming the company’s long-term investment strategy has prevented it from chasing profits in the short term.   9. iOS7, iPhones and iPads   For Apple, 2013 was a solid if somewhat unspectacular year.   In June, the company released a redesigned version of its smartphone and mobile operating system, iOS7, alongside a new version of its Mac OS X desktop operating system, known as Mavericks.   It was the year that Apple finally unveiled a low-cost version of its iPhone, known as the iPhone 5c, alongside a new 64-bit flagship smartphone called the iPhone 5s, complete with a 64-bit processor and a fingerprint sensor.   Then, in October, the company unveiled a lighter version of its iPad, known as the iPad Air.   None of the products had the industry-shaking impact of the unveiling of the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone or iPad.   That said, with billions in profits each quarter, a solid second place in the smartphone market and the world’s biggest selling tablet, solid and unspectacular for Apple is better than most companies could dream of.   10. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launch   Last, but certainly not least for gamers, 2013 marked the introduction of next generation games consoles from both Sony and Microsoft.   Coming a year after Nintendo launched its Wii U system, Sony announced one million first-day sales of its PlayStation 4 system, but the launch was marred by a number of angry consumers taking to social media to complain about non-functional systems.   Sony’s first-day sales were soon matched by the first-day sales of Microsoft’s new Xbox One system.   So how will the two new devices perform over the long term? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out!   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

SafetyCulture closes $3 million fundraising round

11:39PM | Thursday, 28 November

Workplace health and safety start-up SafetyCulture has this week closed a $3 million fundraising round.   The round is made up of $1.79 million from Commercialisation Australia, $1 million from Blackbird Ventures and $210,000 from angel investors.   Launched in 2011, over six million workplace health and safety inspections have been logged through the app created by Safety Culture. The app has been downloaded over 200,000 times and has over 25,000 active daily users.   Co-founder and chief executive Luke Anear told StartupSmart the funding will go towards doubling its team of 38 by mid-next year.   “We’re recruiting 40 new team members, about half of which will be in software engineering. We’ve had to get pretty innovative about how we attract these guys because we’re competing with Google and Microsoft,” Anear says.   The SafetyCulture team is offering to relocate people from anywhere in the world, support them rent-free while they get settled and if it doesn’t work out, they will fly them home after 12 months.   Anear says it’s working, as they’ve got applications rolling in from all over the world, including start-up hot spots such as the United States and Israel.   Anear says he thinks the company is attractive to investors as it has built up significant traction, with very little energy invested in the product.   It’s a disruptive product for a global market that’s got a lot of traction that’s been self-propelling,” he says. “We just built an app, put it in the app store and launched a website. That’s it for marketing so far.”   The SafetyCulture team was surprised to discover the adoption of its enterprise software solution was being worker-driven.   “We didn’t anticipate the worker-driven model. Usually enterprise software comes from the top and pushed down. But we found workers are our quickest adopters because they want to be safer at work and they’re convincing their management to embrace it,” Anear says.   It’s working on a suite of complementary apps to release in the next six to 12 months. Anear adds the successful uptake of the app is opening up new opportunities.   “This has now become a big data project, which we never anticipated. There is so much data in the back-end that we’re beginning to explore the uses for.”

International investment trends: Mobile apps up and games down

11:24AM | Friday, 15 November

Over $US60 billion ($64 billion) worth of investment deals were done internationally in quarter three this year, up significantly from $US23 billion in the same quarter in 2012, with the Asia-Pacific region leading the average deal value with $30.4 million.   According to quarter three’s Internet Dealbook produced by Right Click Capital, 985 deals were made this quarter, down from 1248 made in the same period in 2012.   In the last year, financial services and transaction related deals were up by 284%, and mobile apps up by 381%. E-commerce deals were down by 36%, and software as a service by 11%.   The games industry has slumped with total deal value dropping by 90% since quarter two 2013.   Right Click Capital partner Benjamin Chong told StartupSmart the data revealed some interesting target industries for local founders.   “There continues to be a lot of interest in mobile apps, so the acquisition and investment amounts have gone up, but there has been a big decrease on games,” ,” Chong says. “There are some amazing success stories but it appears investor appetite for games has waned. Investors are focusing more on serious apps and those that can provide ongoing value to users.”   Chong says he was surprised software-as-a-service (Saas) investment trend.   “I would’ve assumed software-as-a-service would’ve trended up, so this is definitely one to keep an eye on. I’m still very positive and bullish about SaaS, as for the target business market the model of pay by month makes a lot of sense and anecdotally is taking off,” Chong says.   Despite the lower number of deals made, the average deal value (over $81 million) was almost triple 2012 quarter three average (over $27 million).   RightClick Capital omitted the multi-billion Verizon deal from the totals as it would skew results, but infrastructure investment boomed on the back of Dell returning to being a privately owned businesses and a series of large deals including the Microsoft-Nokia deal.   “Australian founders who have start-ups who can add significant strategic value to these large companies and recent deals should explore the new partnerships to create value for themselves,” Chong says.

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