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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
There is a myth that there is an inevitable path of technological advance where new, superior technologies inevitably knock off their older predecessors. It’s a myth many tech tart-ups are prone to. Build a better mouse trap and they’ll sell by the truckload. Well, to any of you holding these myths to be self-evident, Old Taskmaster has just three words to say: Amiga Video Toaster. See, back in the day when people asked “Mac or PC”, (well, Mac or IBM compatible as it was back then), there was a third option many opted for: The Amiga. Now in 1990, on the Mac side of the fence, Apple was still charging over $6,000 for a black and white Macintosh (like the SE/30). Before 1987, they couldn’t run more than one program at a time. When they finally did do multitasking, it was with a crash-prone method called co-operative multitasking. Contrary to popular myth, the first true pre-emptive 32-bit multitasking colour Mac didn’t arrive until the release of OS-X in 1999. The PC side of the fence was far worse. For those who have never experienced the "joy" of a PC running MS-DOS refusing to boot because the AUTOEXEC.BAT or CONFIG.SYS file isn’t configured correctly, just imagine the computer equivalent of root canal surgery. It didn’t get a colour pre-emptive multitasking operating system until Windows 95. In contrast, first released in 1985, the Amiga was a useful colour video editing tool. By 1990, you could hook up to four video cameras up to one and switch between them in real time: Why the name video toaster? Because it was designed to make high-end video editing something you could do on an everyday appliance. Aside from video editing, it also did 3D animation, was in full colour, had four-channel stereo sound, pre-emptive multitasking, mouse control, windows, icons and menus. It also ran many of the regular PC productivity apps, including WordPerfect. From the computer animation on television series like Seaquest DSV, to tracking NASA satellites, to running the displays at Brisbane’s Central station, to the Israeli Air Force, to – by some accounts – powering the graphics at some of the early Macworld shows and in the video production department at Microsoft, there was an Amiga behind the scenes. Even though it used the same series of processors (the Motorola 68k) as the early Macintoshes, because it had a series of separate graphics and sound processors, it was a magnitude faster and more powerful than its rivals. Yet it still cost less. However, despite all this, it failed to gain sufficient traction in the marketplace. It's time for some guru meditation on why this happened. Poor management and poor marketing shoulder a lot of the responsibility. Just like BlackBerry 10, while it was ridiculously more advanced than any of its competitors, this was never effectively communicated to the public. As a result, its demise ended up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Dealers and sales reps in stores explained to customers that while indeed the Amiga was more advanced, it didn’t have enough traction in the marketplace. In turn, because those customers failed to buy it, it failed to get traction in the marketplace. Other salespeople, mostly out of ignorance, stressed the importance of getting a “serious” computer (ie an IBM PC) that could run WordPerfect (badly) but not have enough horsepower to do high-end video over one that could do both (the Amiga). The moral of the story for anyone with a tech start-up is clear. It’s just not good enough to arrogantly assume your technology or product will succeed on merit, even if it is clearly ahead of everything else in the marketplace. You need to do the hard yards in selling and marketing your product, or else it will flounder. Get it done – today!
Earlier today, old Taskmaster read about an ad by Microsoft that has been criticised for attacking Apple. Apparently the folks up in Seattle think putting the latest iPhone in a range of different coloured plastics isn’t particularly innovative. And they’d be right – Apple first offered a selection of different coloured plastics for the original iMac, back in 1998. However, what some of you young’uns might not realise is that there’s nothing new about one tech company directly naming, attacking and mocking its rivals. In fact, attack ads have been a feature of the tech sector for almost as long as they have been used in politics. Back in the 1980s, Commodore founder Jack Tramiel made it a regular feature of his advertising. From William Shatner having a dig at Atari while selling the VIC-20 to a Commodore 64 advert literally chewing out Apple, competitors were regularly named and shamed: During the late 1980s, then videogame giant Sega took Commodore’s attack ads and added ‘blast processing’. Now, whether or not blast processing exists outside a counter-terror squad investigation remains dubious. Nonetheless, Sega claimed to have it and Nintendo didn’t (or should that be Nintendon’t?). Apple is certainly no stranger to this form of advertising either. The first and best known example was the company’s now infamous 1984 ad. That said, even during their weak late 80s and early 90s period, the attacks continued: And then there’s the company’s Mac and PC ads: Like most things, Samsung has taken this concept off Apple and then begun churning out variations like sausages. Here’s one recent example: So, like many things in the computer industry, the attack ad was first developed by a company like Commodore, was quickly followed by Apple, was mass-produced by Samsung, and then Microsoft eventually had a go. And the big problem with their ad? Compared to the other examples, it’s a bit boring: The moral of the story is simple. If you want to make an ad (or YouTube clip) attacking your rivals, go for it. Just make it interesting. Even if you have to make up a phrase like ‘blast processing’ to do it! Get it done – today!
So the last article I wrote got a little bit of exposure and was by far the most successful article I've written in terms of reader interaction. I have thought about this for the past four weeks and wondered why did that article fly? While some of my other articles, which I consider to be better quality, haven't. I've basically narrowed it down to four reasons why I feel that the cloud has taken off in the public’s eyes and become a bit of a hot topic. 1. It's getting political After the election and Mr Abbott's dicing of the NBN plans – people are now either for or against the decision. Debate is now raging. I am on the raging end FYI and although people say there are two sides to every story, which I can appreciate. The simple fact of the matter is that I want faster internet, and so does the rest of Australia. 2. The cloud is becoming commercial People now want to know what the cloud is, what it does and how it can help them. Businesses want to know how it can keep their business secure and also save them money. Most of all, people want to know what people mean when they say "the cloud". 3. Big consumer companies are beginning to utilise it What do I mean by this? Quite simply, now that Apple has iCloud, Dropbox is popular and Microsoft has SkyDrive, the cloud has been introduced to home life. Now that the clouds are in homes and are seeing efficiency and success – why wouldn't larger companies decide to take on the cloud for their business? They do personally! 4. It's simply a hot topic No explanation needed here. It's simply a hot topic to talk about, just as social media was five years ago. Social media went through its ups and downs, so has the cloud. I personally see the light at the end of the tunnel for the cloud, and I love what I am seeing. So this is one of my shorter articles – I know that. I know though that the majority of people reading this article will agree with what I'm saying, regardless of whether they like the cloud or not. I'd love to see people share this article with social media and I'd love people to comment as much as they like. I would also like well-balanced judgments on my writing, but I know I probably will never get that. I'm a writer, so do I care? No. Conclusion For those that emailed me over the last month with long and drawn out emails that literally took longer to write than the article itself, I feel for you. You wasted your time. All you've done is cemented the fact that the cloud is a hot topic and worth a great debate! I'm calling on the television networks to actually discuss this and spread the word where they can! #7pmProject let's see what you guys can do! Should you wish to get in contact with me regarding this article please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and for those of you who would like to migrate to the cloud in an efficient and swift manner please also send me an email – I’d love to hear from you.
Although Windows 8 has quickly become a popular operating system, Microsoft has changed how some things work. One of those is privacy settings. To change your privacy settings, press the Windows Key + I, and then select "Change PC Settings". There you select the Privacy setting, and from there you can amend them to how you'd like.
Omny, an app allowing users to combine news clips, emails, social media updates and articles via voice-to-text software, launches today after over 20 months in development. Created by 121Cast, the app allows people to create their own customised audio channel. The app also includes a recommendation algorithm to suggest content. 121Cast co-founder and chief operations officer Ed Hooper told StartupSmart they were excited to see it finally launch. “Seeing how it can change people and their behaviour is really exciting, as is the opportunity make that commute period really productive all over the world,” Hooper says. “We’ve all been doing this for so long and everyone knows about it, so how this goes is tied to our personal brands, what we stand for, and our credibility.” Co-founders Long Zheng and Hooper began exploring the idea for the app in 2011. They had previously worked on an international award winning start-up involving farm irrigation automation software. “But it was the GFC and we were still students, so for a whole lot of factors it didn’t work out but it was an amazing journey,” Hooper says, who gave up studying at Stanford to return to Australia to work in the Groupon team just as coupon sales were taking off. He was working at Groupon when Zheng got in touch to talk about how to turn the issue of commute productivity into a business opportunity. “I was constantly looking for a good opportunity, but I didn’t want to jump on something unless it was awesome, because you want to put everything into it. When Long called me up and we started talking about an audio solution that read you your emails and updates, I realised this was it. I literally could not stop thinking about it,” Hooper says. Omny sources content from over 30 providers, from music apps such as Spotify, to news groups such as the ABC and BBC, to Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Hooper says all the early conversations were focused on the difficulties of developing such an app, rather than building a business around it. “Whenever we’ve spoken to potential partners or investors, the assumption is always if we can make the app work, the money stuff will be fine,” Hooper says. “The feedback we got was the idea was there and it could definitely be a business, but also that it was going to be really hard to build and we’d need significant expertise.” They brought on third co-founder and chief technology officer Andrew Armstrong in February 2012. They’ve gone on to hire a front-end developer and a data scientist as well. To guide the development, the 121Cast team launched a test app, SoundGecko, in mid-2012. “We realised we didn’t have a clear idea of what we were creating and needed some real data. We tried surveys and interviews, but it didn’t really get us there. So we took a small fraction of this app, and bundled it as a standalone,” Hooper says. SoundGecko, an app which read websites and PDF documents for users, has almost 50,000 active monthly users. It allowed 121Cast the opportunity to test the reception of voice-to-text, and also the data requirements for sending audio to thousands of users across the world. Over 210,000 people have downloaded SoundGecko on iOS, Android and Microsoft phones. “We found that managing all three platforms was quite hard. As soon as we’d launch a version, we’d see things we needed to change and there were always things we should have done on the first one,” Hooper says. “For the resources we have, it just isn’t feasible to be updating the app on all three platforms. So we’re fine tuning the iOS one while we do the core Android development.” Omny is currently a free app. 121Cast will introduce ads and affiliate marketing in the coming months, and are exploring a premium subscription for launch later next year. “SoundGecko definitely validated that people would pay for the premium features, such as more voices, and the Omny premium subscription will probably not include ads,” Hooper says. Hooper adds financial opportunities will emerge from the user data over time. In order to fund the development, the 121Cast team used their own capital and raised a series of seed investments. “We burnt our own savings and lived off them for quite a while. We decided we were going to do this regardless, and between us we could go for about a year without raising funds. Let’s just build this because we have to do it,” Hooper says. They went on to raise $250,000 from Adventure Capital and the SingTel Optus Innov8 program in November 2012; $20,000 from the University of Melbourne Accelerator program in late 2012, and just over $250,000 from Commercialisation Australia in July 2013. “With the investment, if we knew we need to do something in the future, we started building the relationship as early as possible and find out what’s important to our potential partners and match them on multiple data points,” Hooper says. Hooper says they’re focused on Australia at this stage, but will be looking to expand to the US, United Kingdom and other English speaking markets in the next few years.
Surfwear giant Billabong is walking away from a $325 million refinancing deal from Altamont Capital, instead accepting a rival bid from Centerbridge Partners and Oaktree Capital Management. The new arrangement will see Billabong repay a $315 million bridge loan facility to Altamont along with a $6 million break fee. The Centerbridge Oaktree offer will see the surfwear retailer gain a six-year senior secured term loan of $386 million, along with a further $135 million through an equity placement. "This is a turning point for the company," Billabong chairman Ian Pollard says. "We'll now be back focused on business with a clear direction [and] new leadership. I must say, I'm looking forward to it." US Federal Reserve’s stimulus announcement causes the Aussie dollar to surge The US Federal Reserve’s announcement that it will continue its bond-buying stimulus program has caused an unexpected boost to the Australian dollar. The Aussie dollar recorded its largest single-day rise since 2011 – up US1.5 cents – following the announcement as the ASX 200 surged more than 1.1%. Stephen Elop’s $US25.5 million Nokia golden parachute Outgoing Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop is set to receive a €18.8 million ($25.5 million) golden parachute if shareholders agree to sell its mobile phone division to Microsoft. Elop’s termination agreement is set to include 18 months of his base salary, worth around €4.2 million, along with €14.6 million accelerated vesting of his outstanding equity awards. The controversial chief executive has been dubbed a “Trojan horse” by sections of the Finnish media. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 15636.6. the Aussie dollar is up to US94.40 cents.
Freelancer.com’s $US400 million takeover offer from Japanese recruitment company Recruit Co has attracted plenty of attention. It’s a hefty chunk of money for a company that grew out of chief executive Matt Barrie’s garage. If the $US400 million offer for the global online outsourcing platform is accepted, it’s likely to be one of the biggest technology company deals done in Australia this year. Here are some of the top technology deals in Australia in the past 12 months whose dollar value has been reported, from data compiled by Charles Lindop of KTM Capital: 1. M2 Telecommunications and Dodo Australia, Eftel In March this year M2 Telecommunications bought phone and internet provider Dodo Australia and telecommunications infrastructure company Eftel for $248 million. M2 said in a statement at the time Dodo and Eftel were highly complementary to its “sizeable” consumer division. “The acquisitions are an excellent complement to our consumer division and combined, our business possesses an excellent capability to grow our share of both the consumer and small to medium business market,” M2 chief executive Geoff Horth said. 2. Corporation Service Company and Melbourne IT Melbourne IT sold its Digital Brand Services division to US-based Corporation Service Company for $152.5 million in March. DBS provides online brand protection and consultancy services to global organisations. “While this was not a business that we had specifically earmarked for sale, given the value creation provided by the transaction, this was an opportunity which could not be ignored,” Melbourne IT chief executive Theo Hnarakis said in a statement. 3. William Hill and tomwaterhouse.com UK betting giant William Hill took a punt on bookmaker Tom Waterhouse’s online business last month in a deal that could be worth up to $104 million. Under the deal, William Hill paid $34 million up front, and a potential further $70 million if certain earnings targets are met. “International expansion is a key part of William Hill’s growth strategy and making Australia our second home is our priority,” William Hill chief executive Ralph Topping said in a statement. 4. iiNet and Adam Internet Internet provider iiNet offered to buy South Australia-based Adam Internet for $60 million in August. Telstra had tried to buy Adam but was thwarted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. “We believe that this transaction provides real benefit to Adam Internet’s customers and staff as it aligns them with iiNet, Australia’s leading ISP in customer service,” Adam’s chief executive Greg Hicks said. 5. Webjet and Zuji Travel booking website Webjet snapped up fellow online travel agency Zuji for $25 million in December last year. Webjet managing director John Guscic told SmartCompany the deal represented a unique opportunity to substantially expand Webjet's marketing footprint, particularly in Asia. “We've known Zuji since its inception and we know they’ve built out a very attractive business in Asia and we have a desire to expand into the Asian markets and Zuji has given us the platform to achieve that,” he said. 6. SMS Management & Technology and Indicium In July SMS Management & Technology bought IT infrastructure and managed services company Indicium for $22 million. SMS CEO Tom Stianos said in a statement at the time: “The acquisition of Indicium supports our growing Managed Services and Infrastructure Consulting capability, and meets our strategic imperative to increase our annuity revenue. This is a high growth segment of the market and Indicium will accelerate SMS’ offer of managed services in the cloud market.” 7. Woolworths and Quantium The supermarket giant took a 50% stake in Quantium, Australia’s leading data consultancy, for a reported $20 million in May. Quantium said in a statement it would provide a “wide range of data, analytical, media and software services to Woolworths as well as help deliver customer insights to Woolworths’ suppliers”. And where would the Freelancer.com deal rank among deals in the world? Pretty highly according to data compiled by Australian investment firm Right Click Capital. While it’s nowhere near the $US130 billion deal Verizon Communications has made to buy Vodafone’s 45% of Verizon Wireless this month, or Microsoft’s $US7.2 billion takeover of Nokia, it’s not far off the €360 million ($US477 million) paid by French payment solutions provider Ingenico for online payment provider Ogone in January.
The software industry has taken a leap for joy this morning after the New Zealand government announced it would abolish certain software patents – and local experts say we should follow suit. The abolition of software patents is a long-running issue in the developer community. Although traditionally used to protect copyright, critics say patents have become so general and broad they are effectively useless. Now, major companies such as Samsung and Apple have used patents as tools in litigation to win royalties – leading to the creation of entire entities dedicated to buying patents and suing for profits. “There is no doubt the current patent system is antiquated,” the chief executive of incubator Pollenizer, Mick Liubinskas, told SmartCompany this morning. The New Zealand government passed a bill to ban software patents this week, with the vast majority of MPs in favour of the motion. In a release, commerce minister Craig Foss says the bill marks a “significant step towards driving innovation in New Zealand”. Critics of the patent system say they stop companies from developing new projects based on other ideas that should essentially be taken as very basic innovations. Liubinskas says it’s time the Australian government investigated making a similar motion. “If you manage intellectual property protection the right way – and not through patent protection – you can do a lot to really drive innovation,” he says. “It comes back to the question of whether we want to put entrepreneurs first. How much do we want to drive entrepreneurial innovation? Do we want to put our foot down and be a world leader in this area?” In New Zealand, the Institute of IT Professionals says the patent system doesn’t work for software, because it is “almost impossible for genuine technology companies to create new software without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of software patents that exist”. This is the main problem cited regarding patent infringement in the United States, where major companies including Apple, Microsoft and others have applied for patents that are extremely general. For example, last year Apple filed a patent application on a graphical user interface that can “display electronic lists and documents”. “Apple’s patent covers UI modules covering blogging, email, telephone, camera, video player, calendar, browser, widgets, search, notes, maps and more importantly, a multi-touch interface.” Liubinskas says for entrepreneurs to do their best work, they need freedom – which is why the system needs to be changed. “We’ve incremented to ugliness, and so the only way we can actually get anything done is to blow the whole thing up.” This story first appeared on SmartCompany.
Troubled surfwear retailer Billabong is ignoring calls by the Australian Shareholders’ Association to delay its deal with Altamont in order to properly evaluate a rival offer from private equity firms Centerbridge and Oaktree. “It seems to us you can't proceed and lock up one proposal that you say will be complete by October (when Billabong has flagged a shareholder vote) and properly evaluate another at the same time,” ASA chairman Ian Curry says. “It feels like Billabong is going to take the position it is too late to proceed with any new offers.” However, a Billabong spokesperson rejects the ASA’s demand, telling The Australian the company’s priority is to find the fastest path to certainty for employees and shareholders. “Is it really going to benefit the business and the 6000 people employed globally to go through another six months of due diligence, management discussions and the like? This also has costs,” a Billabong spokesperson says. Murray Goulburn calls for improved access to finance for agriculture Murray Goulburn Co-operative general manager of shareholder relations Robert Poole has called on the banks to forge alliances with overseas investors in order to finance the agricultural sector. The call comes as the co-op, which trades under the Devondale brand, launches MG Partnerships. “A lot of the banks are still funding agriculture like they did in the 1950s and 60s, with 50% equity and mums and dads borrowing money," Poole says. “That is, I think, going to rapidly change; and I think the banks are going to be involved in that or they are not, because the external capital is inevitably going to come. “Overseas investors are taking a more positive long-term view of agriculture than what a lot of local banks and superfunds are.” Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer announces resignation Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has announced plans to resign within the next 12 months, ending a controversial 13-year reign at the helm of the tech giant. “There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," Ballmer says in a statement. "This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love." Microsoft’s share price rose 7% following news of the resignation. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 15010.51. The Aussie dollar is up to US90.29 cents.
Liquid State, a cloud-based online publishing platform for digital publishing, has received $785,000 of government funding from Commercialisation Australia and the Brisbane Angel Investors network. Just over half of the funds, $350,000 came from Commericialisation Australia, a federal government initiative to boost Australian start-ups. Chief marketing officer Kit Kriewaldt told StartupSmart the government funds were an indication the government was increasingly focused on supporting Australian tech start-ups. “That’s the way the start-up industry is going in Australia. Commercialisation Australia funded a lot of heavy industry and mining start-ups as well, but part of what drew them to us was we’re representative of the new economy and a bit of a shift in Australia’s business direction,” Kriewaldt says. The platform allows users to publish ebooks, brochures and corporate newsletters as apps for mobile and desktop devices. The platform is running on the iOS system, with the Android version in later stage beta testing. They intend to have a Microsoft 8 version out later this year. The funding will allow the start-up to scale globally in the coming months. “We’re looking to establish strong customer relationships in different key markets, including continental Europe, the UK, New York and Asia. We’re going to use the money to either get people on the ground and start some serious business development or for travel expenses of the core team,” Kriewaldt says. They’ve already hired a business development manager in the UK, and will be using networks built while taking part in a Berlin accelerator program last year to locate similar roles in Europe. “Asia is closer for us to travel to and we have fewer inroads there, so it’s better for us to send people there (Europe) for now,” Kriewaldt says. Liquid State incorporated in October 2011. After graduating from the Startupbootcamp Berlin accelerator program in November 2012, the team of four returned to Brisbane and began raising funds. “We’re still asking ourselves exactly how we got the angel funding,” Kriewaldt says, adding they had always intended to pitch to Brisbane Angels. “It’s not a very sexy or exciting process, but we pitched to the group and it went from there.” Kriewaldt says that having to pitch their business every day for six months during the Berlin bootcamp helped them get a clear vision for their business and how to sell it.
Here’s a question for all the trivia buffs out there in the tech start-up community. Between 1983 and 1986, one computer model accounted for around 40% of the worldwide market. It was the biggest selling desktop computer model in the world. Now, take a guess at what it was. Could have been the IBM Personal Computer, introduced in 1981? Or the original Apple II? Keep in mind the Macintosh was introduced in the US in January 1984. Need a clue? Here’s the answer, from John Laws: Let me guess – you said the PC, didn’t you? Kids these days! For all the historical revisionism about the early days of the home computer revolution by both Microsoft and Apple, the early market leader was the Commodore 64. Forget about nerdy high school dropouts in a garage. How it was that a Holocaust survivor, refugee and – later – US Army engineer managed to grow a typewriter repair shop into a calculator giant and then pivot it into the world’s largest computer company is one of the great business stories in tech history? It’s a tale told in Brian Bagnall’s book Commodore: A Company on the Edge. So how did Jack do it? A large part of his secret was a high degree of vertical integration. Vertical integration is where you grow your company by buying or starting a number of businesses along the same supply chain in one industry at different stages of production. (It’s the opposite of horizontal integration, where all your businesses are at the same stage of production). At its peak, Commodore produced chips, manufactured cases at his metalwork shops, developed software, assembled computers, distributed those machines and retailed them. However, unlike ‘80s diversified conglomerates like Pacific Dunlop, all its attention was focused on a single industry (making computers). With a motto of “business is war”, this level of vertical integration meant Tramiel could control costs at each stage of production. While at each stage of production his competitors depended on suppliers who sold their products at cost plus profit, Tramiel supplied himself at cost price. In the early computer business, this meant he was retailing a computer for $US595 with heavy marketing, where his rivals were forced to charge over $US1000 just to break even. Better yet, because he used in-house supplies and tight cost control, each computer cost just $US135 to make, so as his competitors dropped their prices below their cost price, Tramiel was still in profit. Where IBM and Apple brought computers to the classes, Commodore brought them to the masses. Now, obviously Old Taskmaster isn’t telling you to run off and build a highly vertically integrated business and destroy all your competitors in an aggressive price war (as fun as that would be to do). However, when you’re looking at developing a long-term strategy for your businesses, there certainly can be advantages to vertical integration. Just make sure all of the businesses are within your company’s core competencies, or else the loss of focus can be costly! Get it done – today!
Yesterday, 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!
There are many people who think they know what the cloud is. Truth be told, the majority of these people would have absolutely no idea how to describe what is becoming a buzz word in business technology – and a concept potentially annoying to all those supposedly against it. I want to lay a few silly rumors to bed today and tell you the five things you should know about the cloud – and no, not the fluffy white things in the sky – the technology that will help us move forward as a society into the next stratosphere. 1. A common misconception about the cloud is that it’s not physical. The cloud is actually infinitely physical. A big reason behind the success of Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, was the construction of his data centres in the USA that store all the data of Microsoft’s loyal users – yes SkyDrive is actually a multimillion dollar, state of the art facility that looks more like a super computer than a cloud. 2. Another common misconception about the cloud is that if you don’t have access to all of your files immediately on your desktop (without the internet) you’re doomed! Well, as of June 30, 2012, there was a report that posted eight new users are added to the internet world wide every second. For those who aren’t good with maths – that’s almost 700,000 a day with new access to the net. In a month that’s roughly 20 million users added to the internet (almost the whole population of Australia). What I’m saying is if you can’t find internet access these days you should probably try a little harder. 3. But what if my data goes missing? I get that question a lot. Truth be told – if you store your data on the cloud, not only is it easier to search, it’s not going anywhere. Most data centres we use on a daily basis have IRS grade security, which means your files are just as secure as the President’s taxable income figure. Long story short, it won’t go missing because not many people are going to rob a multimillion dollar data facility; your house/office on the other hand? 4. It would be so slow, wouldn’t it? Another question I get almost every day. I always answer it the same way – “you pay for what you get!” Maybe it adds a second to saving a document; however, it saves more than a second for finding a document, so the cloud comes out trumps in this department. Unless you are operating on the same dialup internet that you had when Mark Zuckerberg was still crawling, you have nothing to worry about speed wise. Plus – the more you store on your computer, the slower it gets. The more you store on the cloud, well, nothing happens. 5. The final misconception I would like to lay to rest – and something that, being in finance, I think is an absolute no-brainer – is that the cloud is expensive. If you are an individual, then box.net, DropBox, SkyDrive, Google Drive and the like should be enough for you to store your important data until you kick the bucket. Google will make their offering free as long as humanly possible as always. The key is not to hoard! For business, look at your capital outlay on tech and hardware upgrades every three years. Yes, they are periodical expenditures and you don’t have to worry about them for years. The problem being, when you do have to worry about them. On the cloud, you just have to worry about a monthly fee. The outsourced party does the rest. Over a three-year average life span of tech and hardware, they work out to be almost even. Subtract the hassles of doing it yourself and you get the cloud comes out on top. Well, I hope that was a little informative and has opened your mind to something that you’ll either have to open your mind to or have it opened for you. Should you have any questions in relation to the above please do not hesitate to send me an email on email@example.com. I always love a good cloud discussion! And if you’re thinking of moving to the cloud now, let me know where you are and what industry you are in and I’d be happy to help with the transition.
A spam-fighting start-up from Brisbane has launched their gamified alternative to computer tests that ensure a user is human, known as captchas, and won the People’s Choice award at this week’s Mobile Monday meet-up. SwipeAds offers very short games as an alternative to the twisty letter style captchas website users have to decipher and fill in to prove they are human and gain access to sites and downloads. Co-founder Matthew Ford told StartupSmart they were launching a new website next week as they move out of beta, but they quietly stopped calling the system beta last week. Born out of a start-up weekend in Brisbane, the business was registered in January and launched in February. Rather than peering at twisted letters and typing them in, the FunCaptcha product by SwipeAds offers very short and easy games instead, such as a digital version of whack the rabbit on the head or choosing which faces are the female ones from a line-up. “We’ve made games that can separate the humans from the spam bots. We’re not all that good recognising text, computers are actually better at that. So we’re moving away into our own human territory, play and images,” Ford says. Co-founders Matthew Ford and Kevin Gosschalk are both from game design background, and third co-founder Chris Macauley has a marketing background. More than 2400 sites are currently using the software, and Ford says they’ve stopped 14 million spam attacks already. Ford says the strength of the idea comes from the universal hatred of captchas. “A captcha stops spammers from abusing websites so they’re necessary but the amazing thing is that there are 280 million of those twisty letter ones being solved by people all over the world, but people hate them. Humans are investing so much time into something they just hate doing, and so obviously it’s a solution that needs to be updated,” Ford says. Ford says the software is genuinely fun, and is faster and has a much higher completion rate than twisty letter captcha options. “Replacing twisty letters with games is actually much faster. And more importantly, 96% of the people we’ve been testing finished it. They don’t give up and click off. I actually haven’t seen anyone fail, so I don’t know what the 4% are doing, maybe their cat jumped on the keyboard at the key moment,” Ford says. The software is currently free to use, but the team at SwipeAds have several plans to monetise it eventually. “Investors love to see eyeballs; we’re just getting to use the solution at first so we’re not worrying about money. Once we’ve got those eyeballs, there are several ways to monetise it,” Ford says, adding they can work brand images into the games as a way of advertising, provided it doesn’t slow the program or diminish the fun. “This is eyeballs and engagement, and that’s what advertisers really want. Captchas are one of the few opportunities where you know that’s exactly what they’re looking at,” Ford says. The team of three is currently self-funding their work. They’re not too fazed about the fact the major provider of captchas, and therefore their main competitor, is tech superpower Google. “We love it. Google are a great company and they’ve got a lot of things drawing their attention so we’re not too worried about it right now. We have a different offering, I’d like them to work with us because we both have to recognise we have a problem, everyone hates captchas,” Ford says. But the end goal isn’t necessarily being bought by Google. “Our dream end goal is fun captcha to be everywhere. So we’ll do whatever it takes, but there are many ways to get to that dream. I’d love to keep working on it forever, so if Google did buy us, I’d be out of a job,” Ford says. As a games designer with decades of experience across Atari and Microsoft, Ford says he’s delighted to see games flourishing out of the entertainment sector and into business. “Games are the new lingo, they’re universal now. We know enough about making casual games now that seriously anyone can play. It’s so great to see the rise of games,” Ford says.
Once upon a time, figuring out which personal computer platform to develop your program or website for was easy. In these tech good ‘ole days known as the mid-90s, DOS and – later – Windows accounted for well over 90% of both the home and office computer markets. Old Taskmaster remembers the days when the overwhelming majority of computer users knew the frustration of an error message that said “illegal operation”. Bill Gates racked up a number of anti-trust lawsuits trying to keep it that way. Any company standing in the way of this tech juggernaut – from Borland and Word Perfect to Netscape and very nearly Apple – were driven out of town like the evildoer in a spaghetti western. Back then, the rules were simple: Develop it for Windows. If it particularly appealed to graphic designers in black skivvies and berets, consider porting it to the Mac. If you were a blind open source ideologue, you might also port it to Linux and boast about it on Slashdot (after all, 1999 was the year of Linux on the desktop – or was that 2009?). But nowadays, things are a little more confusing. There are smartphones, tablets, PCs, laptops and other web devices to consider. Even if you just have a website, you still have to consider which devices and browsers to optimise for. (And before you say “it should work perfectly on everything”, you probably won’t test your site on Contiki for the Commodore 64, or the Telecom Computerphone, now will you?!) If you’re developing for Australian consumers, which of the big three – Android, iOS or Windows – should you focus on? Old Taskmaster has some food for thought: Smartphones If you want to develop a smartphone app it has to work on Android. Period. According to Kantar WorldPanel, Android now accounts for 69.4% of all Australian smartphones and 69.6% of the world market. In comparison, iPhones make up 28.1% of the market in Australia and 18.4% worldwide. In other words, if you have a mobile app that doesn’t run on Android or a mobile site that doesn’t quite look right on a Samsung Galaxy S4, you’ve just lost three-quarters of the market. Tablets The Australian tablet market grew 147% year on year, with Aussies now buying 1.14 million of the things each quarter. But as sales of tablets have gone up, Apple’s marketshare has gone down. One year ago, the iPad made up 80% of the Aussie market, while today it’s just 56%. Meanwhile in the same time Android has grown from 18% to 36%. Meanwhile, despite all the hype from Microsoft, they only claim 8% of the market. Desktops While desktop computer sales fell a massive 21% year-on-year during the first quarter of 2013, they still remain an important platform. Here, Windows still runs the show. HP controls 19% of the market, followed by Dell (15%), Lenovo (11%), and Toshiba (9%), with no-name computer shops down the road making up the other 28%. In contrast, Apple has 18%. Still confused? By the numbers, Old Taskmaster says it’s really simple. Find out which sort of device your customers prefer to use the most, and prioritise your apps and websites accordingly. If you want your app or website on smartphones, it has to be built for Android. If you want it primarily on tablets, it’s Apple first and Android second. If you want desktop computers, it’s still Windows, with Apple a distant second. So knowing the figures, are you developing for the right platforms? If not, it’s time to get your priorities right! Get it done – today!