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THE NEWS WRAP: China could have its own operating system by October

8:28PM | Sunday, 24 August

China could have a new homegrown operating system by October, to take on imports Microsoft, Google and Apple.   The US and China have had a number of disputes regarding cyber security in recent months.   The operating system would first appear on desktop devices, before being extended to smartphone and other mobile devices, the head of an official OS development alliance, Ni Guangnan, says.   Ni says he hopes the Chinese-made software would be able to replace desktop operating systems within one to two years and mobile operating systems within three to five years.   Coin apologises to customers   Connected credit card startup Coin issued an apology to customers on the weekend after mishandling the announcement of a product delay.   The San-Francisco based startup was criticised last week after revealing, after months of ambiguity, it would be delaying the launch of its connected credit card and replacing it with a beta program in which its 10,000 pre-order customers could opt in to receive a prototype. They would be required to pay $30 to upgrade to the finished product when it launched.   Coin reversed its stance and the beta program will now be free. It apologised to its users for a “lack of transparency and clarity” in its communications.   Facebook most popular app in US   In comScore’s latest mobile app report, which tracks the 25 most popular smartphone apps in the US, Facebook leads the way by a considerable margin.   The Facebook app had 115.4 million US unique visitors over the age of eighteen in June 2014, with YouTube finishing in second with 83.4 million. The top subscription app is Netflix with 28 million unique visitors.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 38.27 to 17,001.22. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Ballmer steps down from Microsoft board to focus on basketball

8:17PM | Tuesday, 19 August

Former Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer has announced he will be stepping down as a board member at the company.   Ballmer, who retired six months ago, has been a member of the Microsoft board for the past 14 years.   He recently purchased the Los Angeles Clippers NBA franchise and plans to focus on running that team.   In a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, he says his confidence that the company is heading in the right direction, combined with a “multitude of new commitments” made it impractical to continue to serve on the board.   “I have confidence in our approach of mobile-first, cloud-first, and in our primary innovation emphasis on platforms and productivity and the building of capability in devices and services as core business drivers,” he says.   “I bleed Microsoft – I have for 34 years and I always will. I continue to love discussing the company’s future.”   Uber hires top Obama adviser as new campaign manager David Plouffe, who ran United States president Barack Obama’s breakthrough 2008 election campaign, has been named Uber’s new SVP of policy and strategy, Re/code reports.   Last July, Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick was closing in on hiring a high profile manager to head its policy and strategy and fight “an asshole named Taxi”.   Lyft COO leaves company Travis VanderZanden has left his post as COO of transportation network startup Lyft after “some level of tension with its founders, sources told Re/code.   VanderZanden arrived at the company after it acquired his on-demand car wash service Cherry last year.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 80.85 to 16,919.59. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

Global events marketing platform raises $2 million in The Big Pitch funding

8:48AM | Tuesday, 19 August

ECAL, a global events marketing platform, has raised $2 million from investor and former Dodo Internet founder Larry Kestelman’s Oxygen Ventures, after winning The Big Pitch.   Oxygen Ventures offered up to $5million worth of funding to startups who won its Big Pitch competition, the final of which was held in Melbourne in June.   Joint winner WeTeachMe is still in negotiations with Oxygen Ventures, as is People’s Choice winner Black Delta and finalist etaskr.   ECAL, founded by Patrick Barrett in 2012, delivers on-time marketing information into consumers’ calendars, driving increased awareness, engagement and sales.   It serves more than 6 million calendar activities each day, a figure growing month on month.   ECAL has over 100 major clients across the US, Europe and the Asia pacific. Its initial focus was major sports and has big name American clients like the NFL’s New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins and the NBA’S Boston Celtics.   The $2 million will drive new product development outside of major sports, the launch of a Software-as-Service version of the platform and expand the sales in North America.   “The capital will enable us to expand our geographic footprint, to service new markets, and to develop our product further,” he says.   “By having someone with Larry’s experience involved in the next phase of growth, we will be the beneficiary of far more than the $2 million on investment Oxygen brings to the business.”   Kestelman says he’s thrilled to be involved in the company.   “ECAL is such a terrific idea, brilliant in its simplicity, and we see great potential for its use beyond sport and entertainment,” he says.   “At Oxygen, we back great teams, big ideas and bold plans, and we are very much looking forward to our partnership in ECAL.”   Joining Barrett and Kestelman on the E-DIARY Pty Ltd Board is former is iSelect CEO Matt McCann and Oxygen Investment Director Ilya Frolov. The company has also recruited an advisory board that includes Microsoft’s Chris Bernard and David Riemer, formerly of Yahoo, in addition to current MYOB CTO Simon Raik-Allen.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Australia’s listed technology sector is about to boom

8:02AM | Wednesday, 13 August

In my last article I responded to an interview in Vox with Marc Andreessen. Andreessen lamented that, in spite of a historic gold rush in technology companies, the IPO is dying in the United States due to zealous over regulation in the form of Sarbanes–Oxley, for example.   As a result, the general public is missing out on the incredible gains that were experienced in the listed US technology companies of yesteryear.   Yes, the regulators have gone too far and it is creating serious friction in the IPO pipeline. However I argued that perhaps the real reason that technology companies appear to Marc to be listing later and later is because, not surprisingly, the top venture capitalists are keeping these returns all for themselves.   It's been a relatively recent phenomenon that US technology companies have been waiting longer and longer to go public. In the US, technology IPOs of yesteryear companies went public much earlier, with market capitalisations in the hundreds of millions of dollars instead of the tens of billions.   As a result, the general public had the ability to share in the spectacular returns that technology companies can generate over time as software eats the world and industry after industry is being wholesale remapped and reshaped, with revenue growth at a speed unprecedented in history.   Even though eBay's share price went up a spectacular 163% on opening day, if you bought shares on market after this rise and held on until today you'd have made over 3500%. If you bought Amazon the day after it listed, you'd be up over 27,000%. If you'd bought Microsoft at IPO in 1986, you'd be up 66,500% today and 3000% in the first eight years alone.   Unfortunately for investors in the US, the general public is missing out. You only have to look at Facebook listing at $104 billion and Twitter listing at $24 billion to get a feeling for just how late these companies are going to market.   So who is making all the money as the stocks go from the tens of millions of dollars in market capitalisation to the tens of billions? The answer, not surprisingly, are the venture capitalists. You can't blame them for doing so, because of course their business model is to make as much money as possible for their limited partners.   There is another stock market, however, outside the US that is not subject to Sarbanes–Oxley and where technology listings are about to boom. This market is already quite a large market for equity capital issuances. In fact, as much money was raised there in the last five years as NASDAQ. The only problem from a technology company perspective is that most of the money raised there has been for resources companies.   I am, of course, talking about the Australian Securities Exchange.   Now let me tell you how this has all come about, and why now.   There is a disaster in venture capital in Australia with only around $30 million per annum for the whole of seed stage investments, $40 million in early stage and $20m in late stage. AVCAL reports there were 16 "investments" done with this grand sum of $20 million in late stage venture capital in 2013.   I am quite perplexed about how they defined "late stage" here, because the very definition of a late stage round size is usually greater than $20 million in one single investment, let alone 16. The only conclusion I can make is that these investments were triaged into bleeding zombie companies – hardly a sign of a successful late stage industry. Either that, or AVCAL has now taken up reporting of late stage investments to include lemonade stands.   Atlassian, one of Australia's most successful technology companies, just raised $US150 million in a late stage round. The entire Australian venture capital industry simply isn't big enough to fund that single round.   In addition to the lack of venture financing, a major terraforming of the economy is needed. Although we have $1.5 trillion dollars in the fourth largest pool of retirement funds (superannuation) in the world, these funds don't invest very much in Australian venture capital because none of the VCs to date have demonstrated that they can generate a return.   It's hard to claim that venture capital is even an asset class in this country, as it's missed every single major technology success story this country has produced all the way back from Radiata: Atlassian, Kogan, Big Commerce, RetailMeNot, Campaign Monitor, OzForex. The list goes on and on. For the life of me, I can't think of one they actually invested in.   The funds being invested into Australian VC come roughly equally from corporates, government and high net worth individuals. Corporate investment in VC in Australia is in decline, and with the government recently turning its tap off with the cancellation of the IIF program, I don't see a path to resurrecting a domestic venture capital industry any time within the next decade or two without a serious change in philosophy, which is not going to come from either of the two major political parties.   The incumbent Liberal party is currently implementing a program of austerity, and the previous Labor government was, at best, only interested in trying to win union votes from bailing out the inefficient and dying local manufacturing sectors. The biggest impact Labor had on the sector during their tenure was to change the laws on the taxation of option schemes, which wiped out the primary incentivisation mechanism for the technology industry (and, ironically, the primary means by which wealth is redistributed from owners to workers).   While I personally was not sorry to see the IIF go, I was hopeful that the axing of the program would be replaced with something more effective for financing technology companies down under. A better way would be through taxation reform for investors in qualifying risky technology ventures –front-end relief in the form of tax credits or a reduced rate of tax and back-end relief in the form of capital gains tax reductions or exemptions like the UK's Enterprise and Seed Enterprise Investment Schemes.   At the end of the day, the Australian government only provided $25 million a year into the IIF program, which is paltry when you consider Singapore, with a population of 5.4 million, has committed $SG16 billion ($US12.8 billion) into scientific research and development over a four year period from 2011 to 2015.   So how are Australian companies getting financed? Whilst the big US VC brands like Accel, Sequoia, Spectrum and Insight are actively prospecting down here, they are mostly just looking for cheap deals by value investing in late stage companies outside the hot money Silicon Valley market.   The investments that they have made to date, and which have been trumpeted in the media, have for the most part been majority buyouts or exits (Campaign Monitor, 99designs, RetailMeNot, etc).   A notable exception to this has been Accel's investment in Atlassian.   However, the lack of funding has not deterred Australia's entrepreneurs from building world class technology companies. Instead, they have focused on raising funds from the best source possible: selling something valuable to their customers.   This story continues on page 2. Please click below.  Almost all of Australia's best technology companies have bootstrapped all the way through. Those that did take outside funding, for the most part, didn't take it until they reached quite a late stage. As a result, we have some very well run technology companies, and some world class companies in the making.   Although I am pretty active in the startup community, every second week I am shocked to discover yet another Australian technology company that I have never heard of generating $10 million, $20 million, $50 million or more in revenue per annum. Until recently, I had never heard of companies like RedBubble, Nitro, and Pepperstone. The latter of which has, in just three years, become the 11th biggest forex broker in the world, turning over $70 billion a month through their online platform).   Because the Australian technology industry is mostly bootstrapped, it took longer to get here, but coming down the pipeline are an incredible number of great technology companies.   So if the Australian VC industry is dead, then how are these great companies going to raise funds when they need them? Well, I believe the answer is staring them right in the face. It's called the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).   After all, what better way to fund a company than by crowdsourcing it? This is what the resources industry already does today, via the ASX. If you have an early stage speculative mining company, you don't go begging down Coal Hill Road pitching to mining VCs and spending six months negotiating a telephone directory thick preferred stock structure. No, you write a prospectus detailing what you're going to do with the money and list it on the ASX.   Likewise if you're BHP or Rio Tinto, you can go to the ASX and the market is deep enough to raise billions. Crowd sourcing equity from the public has been done successfully for decades in resources. The ASX is in the top five globally for the total amount of money raised for equity issuances from 2009-13. There is no Sarbanes–Oxley in Australia, and listing costs are quite low. (In Freelancer's IPO, the underwriting fees were $450,000, legal fees were around $100,000, and investigating accountants cost about $50,000.)   Why go to a venture capital middleman unless they are a rockstar with solid operating experience that can add demonstrable value in some way?   I believe that Malcolm Turnbull will bring in legislation to allow the general public to crowdfund early stage ventures without a registered offering document, as is starting to happen elsewhere around the world. This will generate further interest and appetite in investing in technology companies from the general public which already actively takes a punt on speculative, early-stage mining companies (not to mention the Melbourne Cup).   At the moment, to invest in companies without a registered offering document you need to be a "sophisticated investor", which is curiously defined as a person having income of $250,000 per annum in each of the last two years, or net assets of $2.5 million.   I don't know why being rich makes you automatically sophisticated, and being poor means you’re incompetent with your money, but I'm sure that something sensible will happen here. If, by miracle, we see some taxation relief for technology investments, then this will be accelerated.   But I'm not holding my breath, even though the Australian government used to provide some form of taxation relief for investors in the mining industry.   When we were considering listing Freelancer on the ASX, many people gave us the usual regurgitated responses as to why it wouldn't work; investors here don't understand technology and that we would trade at a discount compared to US markets.   Professor George Foster from Stanford Graduate School of Business showed some time ago that country specific factors were a lot less important than company-specific financial statement-based information in explaining valuation multiples in an international setting.   Markets are increasingly globalised. It's almost as easy for a US investor to buy Australian shares as US ones. Money flows to where it gets the greatest return for a given risk profile; basically if arbitrage exists, someone will take it. Our stock going to $2.50 from a 50 cent issue price in the biggest opening in the last 14 years and third biggest opening ever on the ASX for an issuance larger than seed size is testament to the amount of pent up interest amongst the general public to invest in technology.   We took a calculated risk – nobody wants to be the first to try something new. But so far it has paid off.   It’s great to see the sector now heating up with recent listings from companies like Ozforex, iSelect, iBuy and MigMe (up 95% yesterday on their IPO, and like I did, broke the bell), and with WiseTech Global, Vista Group, 1-page, Covata, BPS Technology, Grays Australia imminently coming down the pipeline.   I suspect Ruslan Kogan will also be considering his options given the tremendous effort he has done bootstrapping Kogan to date. What surprised me is that the process was significantly easier, quicker and resulted in a more equitable and transparent capital structure than what I have experienced in any of the dozen venture capital financings I have been involved with in the past.   Projecting forward, I think that the ASX will be the primary way in which technology companies raise equity in this country in the future. The ASX realises this as well, and is moving to position itself as a regional hub for the Asian technology sector.   If it is successful—and I think there is a good chance it will be—it will cover a massive market. There are significantly more people in Asia (with dramatically rising incomes), significantly more micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). It’s a much bigger market for many industries, and there are a lot more mobile phones than the US, to draw comparison to just a few metrics.   The ASX is in a fantastic position to capture this opportunity. In the second half of 2013 a total of 14 technology companies listed on the ASX. Since January 2014 there has been 55. In the entirety of 2013, a total of 59 companies were financed by Australian venture capital.   This is the future for financing technology companies in Australia.   Matt Barrie is chief executive at Freelancer.com

Eight great startup quotes to help you get through your day

8:08PM | Wednesday, 13 August

Starting your own company can be the hardest thing you ever do, but a few words of wisdom never go astray. In fact, there are whole websites dedicated to inspirational quotes for people who want to set up their own business.   Here at StartupSmart we decided to trawl the web for eight of the best.   1. “Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.” – Satya Nadella, Microsoft   Nadella is the chief executive of Microsoft and has been with the company for 22 years. This particular quote is exemplified in his push for Microsoft to embrace cloud computing.   On the company’s website, Nadella says Microsoft must continue to transform and bring innovative products to customers more quickly.   2. “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are a few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” – Nolan Bushnell, American engineer and entrepreneur   Bushnell is an American entrepreneur renowned being the cofounder of Atari Inc, a company that helped pioneer arcade and home video games. Interestingly, Steve Jobs and Al Alcorn used to work for him in the 1970s.   3. “Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that.” – Anthony Volodkin, founder of Hype Machine   Volodkin founded Hype Machine – an online music database – while he was still a computer science student. The website aggregates the most recently posted songs from a range of music blogs, and markets itself as a way to find “new music worth listening to”.   Speaking of blogs, Volodkin has a personal Tumblr where he often posts about startups.   4. “Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.” – Tony Hsieh, chief executive of Zappos.com   Despite being a workaholic himself, Tony Hsieh is renowned for promoting a fun workplace culture that involves everything from a man dressing up in a hot-dog suit and doing backflips to “Tutu Tuesdays” (yes, yes you did just read that correctly).   5. “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple   Many entrepreneurs talk about the importance of having the courage to take risks, and this quote by Steve Jobs sums it up rather nicely.   6. “A culture that supports women doesn’t come about spontaneously; it only happens when the leaders of companies create policies and initiatives to stimulate such a culture. In my experience, mentoring women into leadership is fundamental.” – Naomi Milgrom, chief executive of the Sussan Group   Let’s face it: the majority of startup quotes floating around the internet are by men. Milgrom is a refreshing voice and renowned champion for women – particularly when it comes to flexible work practices.   7. “There is a whole myth about super people. That super people can do everything and they do it on their own.” – Therese Rein, founder of Ingeus   While entrepreneurship is often stereotyped as a lonely pursuit, Rein’s quote is important because it highlights that even the most talented people cannot do everything by themselves. Often it takes a skilled co-founder or co-working space to really make a startup the best it can be.   8. “Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” – Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox   Houston is the founder and chief executive of online storage service Dropbox. If anyone knows about only needing to be right once, it’s Houston – before Dropbox he worked on a number of startups and is now worth $1.2 billion.

Meet the Aussie startup hoping to Prezentt the future of slideshows

8:40AM | Tuesday, 5 August

Perth-based startup Prezentt has launched its cloud-based slideshow service which it hopes will complement, rather than compete with, existing presentation apps such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides or Apple Keynote.   Co-founder Jeff Robson told StartupSmart the new service is designed to work in a web browser.   “Before a presentation, [the presenter] uploads a PDF of their slideshow,” Robson says.   “Then, during the event, while the presenter shows off their PowerPoint presentation, the attendees can view the slides on their own smartphone or tablet, take notes on their mobile device, or request a contact. In the future, you will also be able to share your presentation on social media.”   Because it works in a web browser, Robson also says that aside from Apple or Android smartphones and tablets, Prezentt will also work on a range of other platforms, including BlackBerry and Windows Phone.   According to Robson, a number of high-profile customers having already signed up to use the product, including News Corp, RSM Bird Cameron, SaaSu, Access Analytic and Pitcher Partners.   “We have about 200 people signed up from a range of different industries – big businesses, small businesses, consultants who present, and even charities. There’s directors who use it for meetings and presentations,” Robson says.   “At our launch event, we had a number of people from local universities, so tertiary education is an obvious market. But there’s no reason it couldn’t be used in high schools or even schools at more junior level.”     In terms of monetisation, the cloud-based service uses a subscription-based model rather than advertising.   Robson justifies the strategy, saying if it manages to land a presenter one extra sale per year, the subscription price pays for itself.   “There’s nothing worse than having your slides with your competitors’ ads on your slides,” he says.   “So it’s subscription-based, where it’s free for the attendees, presenters get their first four presentations free per year… But if you want to do more than that, the subscription is $20 per month if you pay annually.”   The service has already won critical acclaim, taking out the development domain prize at Western Australia’s premier Information Technology awards event, the WAiTTA Awards. Prezentt will now represent WA at the National ICT iAwards in Melbourne later this month.   Looking ahead, Robson says slideshows are a market ripe for disruption over the coming years.   “We see this as the future of presentation – a little like mobile banking. Seven years ago, no-one did mobile banking. Now, if you went into a bank branch and told you they don’t have an iPhone or Android app, you’d think they were a little backward, he says.   “We think it will be the same thing with presentations.”

EU push for worldwide ‘right to be forgotten’ laws tests internet freedom

7:30PM | Thursday, 31 July

I wrote an article in May which commented that the rest of the world was not sure how the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling would be managed outside of the European Union.   Now, thanks to privacy and data protection groups, EU regulators are pushing for the EU court ruling on the ‘right to be forgotten’ to be extended worldwide.   Brief background After the EU Court of Justice ruling requiring search engines to comply with ‘take down’ requests from individuals, Google has been trying to comply with the more than 90,000 requests it has received. It has removed approximately half of these so far from its European searches. It’s been a struggle since the ruling: how to decide who and what should have a right to be taken down, how to identify the person requesting the take down, the sheer numbers of requests, etc.   And companies, newspapers, journalists and other media outlets have been openly against this ‘take down’ move as their articles are no longer appearing in search engine searches.   ‘Right to be removed’ causes flood of requests First, after going through the massive task of removal requests that Google managed, there was widespread criticism about the links Google removed. So they reinstated some of the links.   The search engines have continued to struggle to balance the need for transparency with the need to protect people’s identities. They are dealing with a difficult process thanks to the vague EU Court of Justice ruling.   But still the EU regulators are not happy.   EU regulators unhappy with Google   Google had included a notice on search results pages where links were removed alerting people when stories or information was removed.   Regulators and data protection groups were not happy with this so, instead, Google’s European search results now show a message on nearly every search on a ‘name’ that results ‘might’ have been removed.   Google also did the right thing and alerted websites and businesses that the links were being removed. This, in some instances, ironically resulted in more publications writing about it and brought it back into the public eye. So, job well done, EU courts.   The EU wants to set regulation worldwide   The EU summonsed representatives from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to argue that the removals should be global and not just in Europe. And that the search engines should stop notifying websites if their stories were removed.   This push is primarily coming from privacy groups complaining that the removal of content on EU search engines only is ineffectual and that it must be across international search engines to be effective.   Can the EU set worldwide regulation of the internet?   The thought that EU courts can dictate content and how search engines work around the world seems ludicrous. A court that seems to think it can dictate how websites work in other countries will end up in a jurisdictional chaotic mess.   If they also block sites from being informed, this would seem to go against basic transparency principles and websites will be left wondering what happened to their articles that are now no longer available in Google searches around the world.   The issue and problem is still with the original EU ruling: that people should have the right to require removal of embarrassing, criminal, political or otherwise historical information they are not proud of on the internet.   The result of the privacy groups, data protection groups and regulators in the EU pushing may well result in Google ending up in European courts faced with legal action by member EU countries for many years to come. We can only hope it stays there.

THE NEWS WRAP: Mooted Alibaba deal could put Snapchat in the $10 billion club

7:25PM | Wednesday, 30 July

Snapchat is in talks with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba for a round of financing that may value the company at $10 billion, sources told Bloomberg.   Talks are ongoing and the terms of the funding may change, one of the sources said.   If the funding is completed, Snapchat would join an elite group of technology startups, including Airbnb and Dropbox, valued at or above $10 billion.   People send more than 700 million disappearing “snaps” a day and more than 500 million stories are viewed daily.   Tablet sales crashing?   Best Buy chief executive officer Hubert Joly has told Re/code that the company has seen a revival in PC sales in the company’s first quarter.   Joly puts attributes the growth in PC sales at least in part to Microsoft’s decision to stop supporting Windows XP, and says tablet sales have dropped off.   “The tablets boomed and are now crashing,” he says.   “The volume has really gone down in the last several months.”   He says the issue facing tablets is that once you have a tablet of a certain generation, it’s not clear that you have to move to the next gen.   Twitter acquires Madbits   Madbits, a deep-learning-based computer vision startup, has been purchased by Twitter.   Details of the acquisition are unknown, but Madbits confirmed the purchase in a statement on its website.   Over the past year the company has been building visual intelligence technology that “automatically understands, organizes and extracts relevant information from raw media”.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 31.75 to 16,880.36. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

Australian startup to coach office workers on how to improve efficiency by writing better

7:01AM | Thursday, 31 July

An Australian startup is looking to help office workers write cleaner, sharper documents and in doing so boost productivity in the workplace.   Credosity, the brainchild of Magneto Communications, is a virtual writing coach for Microsoft Word. Co-founder Petrina Buckley told StartupSmart the idea for the software came from the desire to create a tool that will help people write more effectively.   “Credosity will not only give simple, visual feedback on the readability and professionalism of your Microsoft Office documents, but also use interactive eLearning to teach the principles behind its suggestions,” she says.   Buckley says one in three employees could write better, saving both themselves and their boss time by not having to go back and rework draft letters and other documents.   “People spend up to 75% of their week writing, so the cost to business is huge,” she says. “It includes inefficiencies, lost sales and degraded brand image and reputation.”   Buckley and the team hope to utilise their experience at Magneto Communications – which has involved combining copywriting psychology with business writing – and apply that to Credosity.   “Good writing is not just about getting the spelling and grammar right,” she says. “It is about the thinking behind your communication.”   The reason for pairing the software with Microsoft Office came down to research and common sense, says Buckley.   “Microsoft office has 95% market share so it was a logical step as to how to add the most value in a corporate environment,” she says.   The startup is currently undertaking private beta testing. Buckley says they have been lucky enough to have key clients that have been involved from the start in order to provide them with important feedback.   “It’s a massive journey to do enterprise software,” she says. “We know from our experience with Magneto just how important it is to create something that hits the mark and is professional when it is going into the enterprise space.”   Buckley is one of three co-founders and says the right partnership can make or break a startup.   “We just have a really nice match of skills and that’s what allowed us to bootstrap,” she says. “When you get that little mix of skills so right that, between us, we can pick up most things because someone has done it before or learnt from a mistake, that’s really valuable.”   Buckley and her two other co-founders have received support from the Microsoft Innovation Centre in Brisbane for about a year, although they have not worked on Credosity for all of that time.   “Microsoft Innovation Centre and Microsoft have been really helpful,” says Buckley. “Just being in the Microsoft protégé program has given us great internal support and helped us build a robust marketing plan.”   Buckley says Credosity has just received a Commercialisation Australia grant and is in discussions with a potential investor. Her advice to fellow entrepreneurs would be to constantly ask how to improve.   “That honesty audit I think is really, really important,” she says. “Do that honesty audit from every angle: about yourself, about your business, about the idea, about your team.”

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter quarterly results confound analysts’ expectations

7:18PM | Tuesday, 29 July

Twitter stocks have surged by almost 30% in after-hours trading following the announcement of its second quarter financial performance, which included revenue of $312 million and $0.02 earnings per share.   The figures beat analysts’ estimates, with Wall Street expecting Twitter to post revenue of $283.07 million and losses of $0.01 per share.   Its revenue for the quarter is up 124% from the same period a year ago.   Eighty-one per cent of revenue in the period came from mobile advertising.   Its average monthly active users (MAUs) increased by 24% year-over-year, to 271 million, while Mobile MAUs reached 211 million, an increase of 29% year-over-year and made up 78% of the company’s total MAUs.   Twitter chief executive officer Dick Costolo says the strong financial and operating results show the company’s continued momentum.   “We remain focused on driving user growth and engagement, and by developing new product experiences, like the one we built around the World Cup, we believe we can extend Twitter’s appeal to an ever broader audience.”   New Microsoft Windows phones arriving soon Microsoft is planning to launch two new Windows 8.1 devices shortly, The Verge reports.   Sources told The Verge that Microsoft Devices chief Stephen Elop revealed the two handsets, a “selfie phone” and an “affordable high-end phone” at an internal company meeting this week.   E-commerce company Jet raises $55 million Marc Lore, the former CEO of Diapers.com parent company Quidsi, which was sold to Amazon for $550 million, has raised $55 million to build out a new e-commerce company called Jet, Re/code reports.   Little is known about what Jet plans on selling, but sources tell Re/code that the startup will be extremely tech focused and is working on innovating around its logistics network.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is 16,912.11 down 70.48. The Australia dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

Serial venture capitalists Daniel Petre and Craig Blair announce $60 million fund for tech businesses

7:38AM | Tuesday, 29 July

Former tech executives Daniel Petre and Craig Blair are planning to use the $60 million they’ve raised for their AirTree Ventures Fund to support the growth of 15 local technology startups.   While it was revealed Petre, a former Microsoft executive, and Blair, formerly of Expedia, were seeking to raise $50 million from private investors earlier this year, the duo said today they decided to extend the fund to $60 million and closed the fundraising early after attracting “significant interest from investors”.   “We were surprised at how quickly it happened and how quickly we met the target,” Blair told SmartCompany. “I think it is a function of investors realising that technological disruption is not going away any time soon, we’re just starting, and that venture capital is not broken.”   Blair says AirTree will invest between $2 million and $5 million in up to 15 technology businesses over the next three to four years.   He says the businesses chosen by AirTree will likely have already received some seed funding, and AirTree will provide their first professional round of funding.   “We’re looking for businesses that, broadly speaking, are using the internet to disrupt the digital market,” says Blair, who says the retail, media, finance and online marketplace sectors will be among the area AirTree looks closely at.   “We are quite agnostic there and we’re not necessarily looking for the next big global players to come out of Australia,” he says.   Blair says AirTree is looking for companies which have already gotten some “traction” and which understand their KPIs and the direction they are heading in.   “With the explosion of incubators and accelerators around the country, they are spawning dozens and dozens of companies, and not all of them will make it,” says Blair. “But the ones that do emerge who have their product and team right, we want to be the guys to help them.”   AirTree does not have a strict timeline for when its first investment will be made, with Blair saying “it’s more important to make the right decision rather than a fast decision”.   This is not the first time Petre and Blair have partnered to invest in new businesses, having previously run the Netus investment fund along with eBay Australia managing director Alison Deans, which invested in nine companies over six years.   AirTree is the third investment fund for Petre, who established and later sold Ecorp, which invested in eBay Australia and ninemsn.   “The Australian startup space is expanding significantly with a wide variety of accelerators and incubators helping bring more companies on stream than ever in the past,” said Blair in a statement.   “AirTree will complement this effort by being able to commit growth capital to the best of this new class of ventures. Great startups, once they have worked out what their product or service offering is, need the capital to fuel growth but they also need investors who can bring proven experience in helping to build successful companies. We feel this combination of funding and expertise is something that AirTree can provide.”   But while smaller startups will likely welcome the presence of the AirTree fund, the announcement of the fund did not impress some members of the startup community earlier this year.   “This isn’t a breakthrough,” Nitro co-founder and chief executive Sam Chandler told Private Media in March. “We still need more later-stage funding from funds in the $200 million plus range who can invest more like up to $20 million over the lifetime of the investment.”   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

THE NEWS WRAP: Internal documents reveal Amazon plans for credit card reader

7:24PM | Sunday, 27 July

Amazon is reportedly set to launch its own mobile credit card reading technology, according to internal documents from the office supply store Staples, obtained by 9to5mac.   The documents say Staples stores are preparing to stock a new product called the “Amazon Card Reader” alongside existing card readers from Square, PayPal, and Staples’ in-house brand.   Amazon recently launched a new wallet app for smartphones and 9to5mac speculates that Amazon’s card reader will likely connect to that.   Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi raises $40 million   Easy Taxi, a taxi calling app from Rocket Internet, has raised $40 million in a Series D funding round.   The company launched in 2011 and has roughly 185,000 drivers, with 150,000 of those added over the past year. It’s available in 160 cities across 30 countries predominantly in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.   Easy Taxi co-CEO Dennis Wang says the funding will allow the startup to continue its growth in existing markets, while also scaling its operations and improving its service so as to appeal to “more audiences and geographies”.   US cable companies say Google and Netflix biggest threat to net neutrality   In a filing to the US Federal Communications Commission, Time Warner Cable claimed that the controversy over internet providers potentially charging websites for access to “fast lanes” on the internet is a “red herring”.   It says the real danger is that Google or Netflix could start demanding payments from internet providers, as customers expect access to the most popular websites, an internet provider would have no choice but to pay.   The National Cable and Telecommunications Association says a relatively connected group of large internet companies such as Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Facebook have enormous and growing power over people’s ability to access what they want on the net.

Apple iPad and Samsung duopoly slips as tablet market grows 11%: IDC

7:57PM | Sunday, 27 July

Tablet sales surged by 11% year-on-year during the second quarter of 2014, despite sales of Apple’s iPad plunging by 9.3% over the same period, according to new figures from IDC.   The figures, compiled from IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, shows total shipments of tablets grew to 49.3 million units during the second quarter, up from 44.4 million a year earlier. The figures include sales of both traditional slate tablets, as well as “two-in-one” devices such as the Microsoft Surface.   Apple remains the largest competitor with a market share of 26.9%. However, its worldwide shipments for the quarter dropped to 13.3 million units, down from 14.6 million for the same quarter a year earlier.   Despite Apple’s falls, Samsung’s sales remained close to flat, growing from 8.4 million units a year ago to 8.5 million for the same quarter this year. Despite the small increase in volume, the South Korean tech giant’s market share dipped from 18.8% to 17.2%.   The big winner in the market was third-place Lenovo, which saw its tablet volumes grow 64.7%, from 1.5 million units during the second quarter of 2013 to 2.4 million this year.   Rounding out the top five were Asus, which shipped 2.3 million units during the quarter, and Acer, which shipped 1 million.   The 21.9 million units is divided between a range of smaller Android and Windows tablet makers, including Microsoft, with each shipping less than 1 million units.   In a statement, IDC research analyst Jitesh Ubrani says Apple and Samsung’s stranglehold over the tablet market is slipping.   “Until recently, Apple, and to a lesser extent Samsung, have been sitting at the top of the market, minimally impacted by the progress from competitors," Ubrani says.   "Now we are seeing growth amongst the smaller vendors and a levelling of shares across more vendors as the market enters a new phase.”   Image credit: Flickr/ m01229

How the internet was a big reset button for business

7:59AM | Thursday, 24 July

"Every large company is just another color of a spore in a petri dish."   In the latest ‘Decoding the New Economy’ video, internet pioneer Doc Searls discusses The Respect Network, online privacy and the future of business on the web.   Doc Searls is one of the internet's pioneers who helped write The Cluetrain Manifesto, which laid out many of the ideas that underpinned the philosophies driving the early days of the internet.   Searls' visit to Sydney was part of the rolling worldwide launch of the Respect Network, a system designed to improve internet users' privacy through 'personal clouds' of information where people can choose to share data with companies and others.   A big reset button for business   In many ways The Respect Network shows how the internet has evolved since the days of the Cluetrain Manifesto, something that Searls puts in context.   "We wrote the Cluetrain Manifesto in 1995," says Searls. "At that time Microsoft ruled the world, Apple was considered a failure – Steve Jobs had come along and they had the iMac but it was all yet to be proven – Google barely existed and Facebook didn't exist at all."   "On the one hand we saw the internet, we being the four authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto, and this whole new thing in the world that basically hit a big reset button on 'business as usual'."   "It did that. I think we're vindicated on that."   New giants, new data   "What we have now are new industrial giants; Apple became an industrial giant, Microsoft are fading away, Nokia was the number one smartphone company and they're all but gone."   One of the key things with today's markets in Searls' view is the amount of information that businesses can collect on their customers; something that ties into the original Cluetrain idea of all markets being conversations.   With the evolution of Big Data and the internet of things, Searls sees challenges for companies using old marketing methods which rely upon online tracking. Something that's a challenge for social media services and many of the existing internet giants.   "The interesting thing is there's a lot more intelligence that a company can get directly from their customers from things they already own than following us around on the internet."   Breaking the silos   Searls also sees the current trend towards the internet being divided into little empires as a passing phase, "every company wants a unique offering but we need standards."   For Searls, the key thing about the current era of the internet is we're only at the beginning of a time that empowers the individual, "the older I get, the earlier it seems."   "Anyone of us can do anything," Searls says. "That's the power – I'm optimistic about everything."   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

NEWS WRAP: ‘Strong sales of iPhone and Mac’ boost Apple’s third quarter revenue

7:25PM | Tuesday, 22 July

Apple has reported its third quarter results, posting a quarterly revenue of $37.4 billion and a quarterly net profit of $7.7 billion, or $1.28 per diluted share.   International sales drove 59% of the quarter’s revenue.   Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook says the company’s revenue in the quarter “was fuelled by strong sales of iPhone and Mac and continued growth of revenue from the Apple ecosystem”, which drove “the company’s highest EPS growth rate in seven quarters”.   “We are incredibly excited about the upcoming releases of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, as well as other new products and services that we can’t wait to introduce,” he says.   Microsoft Cloud drives strong fourth quarter results Microsoft has announced revenue of $23.38 billion for the quarter ended June 30, posting a gross margin of $15.79 billion, an operating income of $6.48 billion, and diluted earnings per share of $0.55 per share.   Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella says the company’s focus cloud technology was behind the strong results.   “I’m proud that our aggressive move to the cloud is paying off – our commercial cloud revenue doubled again this year to a $4.4 billion annual run rate,” he says.   Timehop raises $10 million Timehop, an app that serves as a personal “today in history” memo by sourcing social networking photos and posts from your past has raised $10 million in new funding, TechCrunch reports.   The Series B funding round was led by Shasta Ventures with the participation of previous investors Spark and O’Reilly Tech Ventures and angel investors including Randi Zuckerberg.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 61.81 to 17,113.54. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

How selfies can be used to diagnose anaemia

7:15PM | Thursday, 17 July

Selfies may now be used as a simple and easily accessible tool to detect anaemia, thanks to the efforts of two Monash University medicine students.   Jarrel Seah and Jennifer Tang’s startup Eyenaemia uses technology that allows a user to take a photo of their eye using a smartphone, from which it’s able to calculate that person’s risk of anaemia.   Anaemia is a deficiency in the number or quality of red blood cells, which can be dangerous if left untreated.   Symptoms include tiredness, breathlessness and pale skin.   Eyenaemia is a world finalist in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup program. Seah and Tang will fly to Seattle in July to compete later this month.   Seah and Tang – who are both in their fifth year of studying medicine – came up with the idea while on a placement at a general practitioner in Mildura.   Tang says they came to realise how many people would need to come in for a blood test, often commuting considerable distances and at quite an inconvenience.   “We know that worldwide there are approximately 2 billion people with anaemia and it’s often very silent, but it can have consequences like heart failure, lung failure, and can continue undetected if you don’t see a doctor,” he says.   “The thing with anaemia is if you do pick it up early it can be preventable. Our app is trying to help early detection.”   Seah is a game designer in his spare time, while Tang says she has a passion for web design, and it was this basis, along with their knowledge in medicine, that allowed them to approach the problem from a unique angle.   “I think that’s what makes us a little bit different, going from that medical perspective, to being able to create a solution and try to work out if we can make it work,” Tang says.   Juggling such a venture while studying medicine hasn’t been difficult, despite the obvious time constraints.   “I think for both of us, when you kind of enjoy spending the time that way, when you really love doing something, you just keep doing it,” Tang says.   “Doing things after hours or whenever you can, fitting it in for both of us can be challenging, but we both love doing it.”   Microsoft Australia director of developer experience Sarah Vaughan says over the years Microsoft’s Imagine Cup has showcased many amazing ways technology can be used to solve real-world problems and Team Eyenaemia is another great example.   “The selection of Team Eyenaemia to represent Australia at the world finals later this month showcases Australian innovation at its finest,” she says.   “The beauty of the app for the Windows Phone lies in its simplicity and takes advantage of the platform to address the real need in discovering early onset anaemia.”  

Bill Gates reveals his top six books for 2014

7:00PM | Wednesday, 16 July

He might be the world’s richest person, but did you know Bill Gates is an avid reader?   The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft releases a list of six recommended books at the start of each US summer. And his endorsements have weight: the books climb up the bestseller charts as soon as Gates reveals his picks via his blog.   While the six books Gates has picked this year are not all manuals for business—there’s a debut novel by a Melbourne author on the list—taken together they give some insights into the mind of one the most successful businessmen of recent times.   Here’s Bill Gates’ annual summer reading list:   Business Adventures by John Brooks Gates says his close friend Warren Buffett first recommended this book to him in 1991, “and it’s still the best business book I’ve ever read”.   “Even though Brooks wrote more than four decades ago, he offers sharp insights into timeless fundamentals of business, like the challenge of building a large organisation, hiring people with the right skills, and listening to customers’ feedback,” says Gates.   “He is also a masterful storyteller, peppering his articles with compelling portraits of everyone from General Electric executives to the founder of Piggly Wiggly groceries … I wish all business writing were half as good.”   While you won’t find a hard copy of Brooks’ book in your local bookshop as it is out of print, the e-book version is readily available.   Stress Test by Timothy F Geithner Gates says it’s ironic that Timothy F Geithner, who was accused of lacking in communication skills during his tenure as the US Treasury Secretary, has written such a good book.   “Geithner paints a compelling human portrait of what it was like to be fighting a global financial meltdown while at the same time fighting critics inside and outside the administration as well as his own severe guilt over his near-total absence from his family,” says Gates.   But despite the ugliness of “the politics of fighting financial crises”, Gates says if more people read about the background of financial crises, it just might make a difference next time around.   The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin Gates says he read a lot about US President Theodore Roosevelt last year, but Goodwin’s book is a standout.   What interests him most about this biography is the central question: How does social change happen?   “Can it be driven by a single inspirational leader, or do other factors have to lay the groundwork first?” asks Gates. While some leaders can make a difference on their own, Gates says Roosevelt’s political reforms only really took off once he had the support of others, including members of the media.     The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion   It’s high praise for debut Melbourne author and former data modeller Graeme Simsion to make Gates’ list with his tale of a genetics professor with Asperger’s Syndrome on the lookout for a wife.   “It’s one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve read in a long time,” says Gates. “I started it myself at 11pm one Saturday and stayed up with it until three the next morning … It’s a funny and profound book about being comfortable with who you are and what you’re good at.”   Simsion’s book has been published and translated in more than 30 markets since its publication in Australia in early 2013, and the author has a sequel, The Rosie Effect, on the way this September.   The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert   Gates’ views on climate change are well-documented, and in the past he has spoken out about the dangers of global warming as well as invested in potential climate solutions. So it’s no surprise that one of the books on his list would be about environmental challenges.   “Natural scientists posit that there have been five extinction events in the Earth’s history … and Kolbert makes a compelling case that human activity is leading to the sixth,” says Gates.   “Unlike a lot of people who write about the environment, Kolbert doesn’t resort to hype. She just lays out the facts and wraps them in memorable anecdotes. It’s a sobering but engaging and informative read.”   Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Improve Our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System by Ezekiel J Emanuel   Emanuel is one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and Gates recommends this book to “anyone involved in the debate over health care, no matter what their point of view is”.   “Although he was deeply involved in its creation, Emanuel is good about making it clear when he’s educating you about the history of health care and when he’s advocating for his ideas,” says Gates. “And unlike a lot of experts, he’s willing to make predictions about how health care will change in coming years.”   This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Microsoft to axe jobs

7:38PM | Tuesday, 15 July

Microsoft is planning its biggest round of job cuts in five years, as the company looks to slim down and integrate Nokia Oyj’s handset unit, sources have told Bloomberg.   One of the sources speculates the reductions will be in engineering, marketing, and areas that overlap with Nokia.   The restructuring could be unveiled as soon as this week.   Apple and IBM partner to “transform enterprise mobility” Apple and IBM have announced an exclusive partnership on a new range of business apps that will bring IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities to iPhone and iPad.   A statement from Apple announcing the move says the partnership aims to “redefine the way work will get done, address key industry mobility challenges and spark true mobile-led business change”.   This will be done by a host of native apps for iPhone and iPad, unique IBM cloud services optimised for iOS, AppleCare support tailored for enterprise, and new packaged offerings from IBM for device activation, supply and management.   Alan Mulally appointed to Google’s board of directors Google has announced former Ford CEO Alan Mulally will be joining its board of directors and will serve on Google’s Audit Committee.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 5.26 to 17,060.68. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.

How to build a virtual reality system – in your living room

7:13AM | Thursday, 3 July

Virtual reality is no longer the expensive, cumbersome exercise it once was. Google Cardboard, launched at last week’s Google I/O conference, is a no-frills, cardboard frame that, when used with open software, transforms a smartphone into a basic virtual reality headset.   But for a more immersive experience, hobbyists can build their own virtual reality system in their living room using equipment they already have (and if not, can buy relatively inexpensively).   All you need to beam yourself onto the bridge of the USS Enterprise or into Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment is:   a computer an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset a Microsoft Kinect for Windows motion sensor a battery headphones a tablet with software used to create and develop videogames (also know as a game engine).   A stroll through virtual reality history   The term “virtual reality” was initially coined by American computer scientist Jaron Lanier in 1989 to describe a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment which a person can explore and interact with.   Virtual reality quickly attracted media attention and inspired films such as the The Lawnmower Man in 1992 and Disclosure in 1994 – but this fuelled expectations of virtual reality that couldn’t be met by the technology available at the time.   Virtual reality gaming interfaces such as the Virtuality HMD headset in 1991, Cybermaxx VR in 1994 and Nintendo’s Virtual Boy in 1995 left many enthusiasts of the technology disappointed, and often quite dizzy.   Systems that enable users to walk and interact in the space are generally expensive (to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars), unsuited to routine use and obtrusive, so it’s unsurprising that virtual reality has mostly remained in the laboratory.   Virtual roaming at home   To make virtual reality practical for home use, you need a system that is inexpensive, easy to set up, does not encumber the user and works in a lounge room-sized area.   The availability of head-mounted displays such as the Oculus Rift, motion tracking devices such as the Microsoft Kinect and game engines such as Unity 3D or UDK are a step into the right direction.   The Kickstarter success of the Oculus Rift in 2012 reinvigorated the appetite for virtual reality experiences and paved the way for new wave of virtual reality head-mounted displays such as the Sony Morpheus and the Google Cardboard.   The Nintendo Wii and the Microsoft Kinect have already started a revolution in home gaming by getting the gamer out of the chair. The Kinect tracks the user’s movement in the living room in seconds without the need for special markers or lengthy calibration.   Ultra-light tablet computers are also becoming more powerful and are now capable to render convincing three dimensional environments at acceptable frame rates.   Okay, I’ve got the goods. Now what?   SpaceWalk is a platform developed by researchers in the GEELab at RMIT University that allows a user to physically walk around and interact in a virtual environment. The platform uses two systems:   a virtual reality backpack a separate tracking station.   The tracking station consists of a standard desktop computer connected to Kinect. The Kinect has a practical tracking area of approximately 6m2, about the size of most people’s living rooms. It can track movements as little as 1.3mm when users are close to the sensor and 6mm at the end of its tracking range.   The user’s backpack contains an external phone charger battery pack [B] connected to the Oculus Rift controller box [C] via a USB to DC Barrel Jack [E] and provides the Oculus Rift [A] with power. The Oculus Rift connects via HDMI [G] to the tablet computer [D].   The platform is only meant at this point to serve as an experimental setup and users have to move slowly in the space as particularly fast movements have the potential to induce nausea. Frame rates, screen resolutions, tracking accuracy and latency are expected to improve with the availability of new hardware.   The Oculus Developer’s Kit 2 already promises refresh rates of up to 75Hz and a third higher screen resolution of 960 x 1080 pixels per eye. Similarly, the Kinect 2 for Windows features more accurate user tracking and a larger practical tracking area.   Moving and interacting naturally in virtual reality creates an extraordinary sense of immersion that cannot be experienced sitting down, and the experience of walking and interacting in a virtual game space has been explored by number of recent projects.   Apart from Architectural Visualisation and Industrial Training, defending yourself against a horde of zombies is a popular use case that has been explored by Project Holodeck and ZeroLatency.   On a similar vein, participants could experience vertigo using a setup developed by Inition at the 2013 Digital Shoreditch Festival.   If encountering your worst nightmare within the confines of a few square metres is not enough, users can explore the vast expanse of their virtual world on foot with an omni-directional treadmill.   To understand how virtual reality can be become a useful extension of our real world, the technology must break the boundaries of the dedicated virtual reality laboratory and become accessible by a wider user group with a variety of backgrounds and motivations.   We have just begun to realise the potential of virtual reality and there are many strange new worlds for us to explore. Stefan Greuter 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.

10 massive announcements from Google I/O: A new version of Android is coming for cars, smartwatches and TVs

6:48AM | Thursday, 26 June

Google’s head of Android, Sundar Pichai, delivered a keynote speech overnight to the tech giant’s annual developer conference, Google I/O.   In terms of big announcements, he didn’t disappoint, with key points including a new version of Android – called Android L – that will work with smart cars, wearables and TVs.   For small businesses, a major piece of news is Google Drive for Work, a new cloud computing product set to go head-to-head with Microsoft’s Office 365 and OneDrive.   The new product will cost businesses just $US10 per user per month, and allow them to access unlimited storage. Where Microsoft bumped its storage limits to one terabyte earlier this week, Google will allow individual files of up to five terabytes in size.   Meanwhile, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are now able to create or save Microsoft Office files in both Android and Chrome Browser, with support coming soon to iOS.   Here are 10 other massive announcements from the Google I/O keynote:   1. Android is absolutely hammering Apple in the marketplace   Sorry Apple fans, but the iPhone has well and truly been left in the dust.   According to figures read out during Pichai’s keynote, the number of users to have actively used an Android smartphone in the past 30 days has grown to over a billion. This is up from 77 million in 2011, 233 million in 2012, and 538 million last year.   But it’s not just in smartphones that Apple is being left behind.   Google revealed that in 2012, 39% of all tablets ran Android, growing to 49% last year. This year, that has grown to 62%.   In even worse news for the iPad, those figures exclude non-Google Android devices such as Amazon’s Kindle.   As if Google needed to stick the boot in to Apple further, Pichai told the conference: “If you look at what other platforms are getting now, many of these things came to Android four, maybe five years ago.”   The quote was a reference to a number of features, such as maps, text prediction, cloud services, widgets and support for custom keyboards, which have long been features of Android since around version 1.5, but have only recently been added to iOS.   2. Android L, with a new app platform and interface   The biggest news out of the conference was, of course, the newest version of Android, codenamed “Android L”.   The latest version is designed to power a range of new devices, including wearables, cars and TVs. The assumption will be that while users will always carry their mobile around with them, they are increasingly likely to be simultaneously using a second device.   Cosmetically, the new version will be built around a new, “flat” design language called “Material”, which bears a slight resemblance to Microsoft’s tile interface. The new interface will be carried through Google’s mobile apps, including its Chrome web browser.   However, the biggest changes are under the hood, with Android L getting upgraded to 64-bit. It also adds BlackBerry-style containerisation separating work and personal apps.   Meanwhile Dalvik, the app runtime environment used in Android, is getting dumped in favour of the new Android Runtime Environment (ART). For most developers, the change will mean better performance with no need to change their code.   ART is also truly-platform, meaning developers will be able to write apps once and deploy them to devices running Intel x86, ARM or MIPS processors.   Android L will be available to developers starting from today.   3. Android Wear   One of the big growth areas for mobile device makers is in wearables. Google has developed a platform for these devices, known as Android Wear, which it demonstrated at the conference.   “Android Wear supports both round and square displays, because we think there will be a wide array of fashionable choices,” said Pichai.   As many have predicted, notification cards and Google Now integration are key features of its wearables platform.   LG has made its first Android Wear device, the LG G Watch, available for pre-order, while Samsung is releasing a version of its Gear smartwatches that runs Android Wear, known as “Samsung Gear Live”.   Meanwhile, Motorola’s smartwatch, with a round clockface, will be available later this year.   For developers, Google has made a software development kit (SDK) available allowing for customer user interfaces, support for voice actions, and transferring data to or from a smartphone or tablet. This article continues on Page 2. Please click below. 4. Android Auto   Google has also released its smart car platform, known as Android Auto. Google says it has now signed up 25 major auto makers to the platform, including Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Volvo, Volkswagen, Kia, Renault, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Skoda, Jeep, Suzuki and Nissan.   Android Auto will be able to be driven by voice commands, and is designed to make app development for cars as simple as developing apps for smartphones and tablets. Again, for developers, Google has released an SDK allowing for car and auto apps.   Key focuses for the platform are navigation (Google Maps), communications (both audio and messaging) and streaming audio services.   Android Auto also contains a screen that displays notification cards in real time.   5. Android TV   Google’s new smart TV platform, announced during the keynote, is known as Android TV. It can be used to power a range of different devices, from smart TVs to set-top-boxes and dedicated streaming sticks.   Android TV allows the user to use their smartphone, tablet or smartwatch as a voice-powered remote control for their TV.   Android TV devices will include all the functionality of ChromeCast, but also add the ability of directly running apps directly.   6. ChromeCast   Speaking of things TV related, Google says its low-cost ChromeCast sticks are currently outselling every other streaming device combined.   New capabilities coming to the sticks include a new section on the Google Play app store for apps designed with added ChromeCast capabilities.   ChromeCast owners will soon be able to mirror the screen of their Android smartphone or tablet wirelessly on their TV screen.   Users will also soon get the capability of sending content to a ChromeCast device by logging in with a PIN, even if they aren’t on the same WiFi network.   Another new feature is that users will be able to set a picture or photo as a wallpaper on their ChromeCast for when they’re not using the device.   7. Android L integration with ChromeBooks   Up until now, Google has maintained two separate operating systems: Android for smartphones and tablets, and Chrome OS for its ChromeBook series of laptops.   A massive update for Android L is that ChromeBooks will now be able to run Android apps.   Meanwhile, apps running on a users’ tablet or smartphone will be mirrored on the screen of their ChromeBook device.   8. Google Fit   At Apple’s WWDC, the introduction of a health framework was one of the largest announcements. Given the sheer volume of announcements at Google I/O, the introduction of Google Fit is almost an afterthought.   Basically, like Apple HealthKit, Google Fit is a single set of APIs that blends data from multiple apps and devices to create a comprehensive picture of a users’ health.   Google is promising a developer preview of Google Fit in the next few weeks.   9. Google Play   Already, I’ve noted one big upgrade to Google Play, namely the addition of a section dedicated to apps with ChromeCast playback. Presumably, there will be similar sections dedicated to Android Wear and Android Auto.   But there are other changes afoot for Google’s Play download store.   First, Google says that it has paid out $US5 billion to app developers over the past year, which is two-and-a-half times higher than a year earlier.   Second, Google also announced the takeover of a startup called Appurify, which will provide automation services for apps being developed either for Google Play and Android or iOS.   And thirdly, for those interested in games, Google Play is adding the ability to save a snapshot of your progress in a game to the cloud, as well as special quests for games.   10. Cloud tools and services   Last, but certainly not least, Google has added a range of new cloud tools and services.   These include Cloud Monitoring, which provides a dashboard with real time metrics for apps running in Google’s cloud services.   A second, called Cloud Dataflow, is a data pipeline service similar to Amazon’s Data Pipeline. And a third, called Cloud Debugger, allows developers to more easily trace slowdowns in cloud-based apps.   This article first appeared on Smart Company.

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