The startup scene continues to flourish in Australia, with hundreds of new startups launching this year and many scaling nationally and overseas. Here is StartupSmart’s pick of some of the startups to keep an eye on in the new year. 1. Bitcoin Group Melbourne-based Bitcoin Group, the entity behind bitcoin arbitrage fund Bitcoins Reserve, has big plans for 2015. The company plans to raise $20 million at 20 cents a share by listing on the ASX. On top of that, the startup is a big supporter of the local bitcoin community. Chief financial officer Allan Guo previously told StartupSmart Bitcoin Group hopes to raise the profile of bitcoin in Australia and make sure more people understand digital currencies. “There are people building exchange platforms, as well as payment systems, wallets, all the technology, but for us we see the biggest problem with bitcoin is the lack of understanding, the lack of trust,” he says. “The transparency, the legitimacy, that’s what we want to bring.” 2. Swift Swift is a Melbourne startup that grew out of after-hours alcohol delivery service Liquorun, and allows retailers and other businesses to deliver their products to consumers within one hour. Swift is a classic example of an Aussie startup taking a niche concept and applying it to the broader market. “Shopping online is very convenient until it comes down to accepting delivery of the item,” founder Joel Macdonald previously told StartupSmart. “You know where you’re going to be in the next 60 minutes but you don’t necessarily know where you’re going to be the next day. Everyone’s time poor.” Swift was one of five companies to recently secure funding from BlueChilli’s $10 million venture capital fund and is in talks with a number of US retailers. 3. Stashd Fashion-discovery startup Stashd launched earlier this year and allows users to swipe left or right on an item depending depending on whether they would like to ‘stash’ or ‘trash’ it. The app features more than 100,000 items and users in more than 80 countries. Co-founder Jessica Wilson says 30% of the apps users are “power users” and have engaged with the app more than 100 times since downloading it. “I think a lot of it is you become super addicted to it,” she says. “Internationally we’ve grown well because it is different, and we’re one of the first people in the fashion app space.” Stashd has plans to grow the product range to include items from the likes of Zara, The Iconic and Asos.com. The startup will likely announce a seed investment round in the next few months. 4. Wattcost Aussie startup WattCost has developed a device that can be attached to a household’s power meter to provide home owners with real-time data on power usage. Former Microsoft evangelist Robert Scoble says WattCost was the most interesting startup he has seen all year and Google could very well buy the company in the race to become the dominant Internet of Things platform. “We don’t know who’s going to win, but Google’s in the early lead because they bought Revolv, they bought Dropcam and they bought Nest,” he says. “And I think this is going to be another one that they’re going to buy, because knowing how much electricity is going through the house, knowing when the rates are changing, that’s really important.” 5. TalkLife Global social network TalkLife was founded in Adelaide and this year announced a collaboration with a London-based business accelerator. The startup allows young people to discuss issues such as depression and suicide and support one another online. It has grown rapidly since its launch in 2012, with currently more than 100,000 users worldwide. Founder Jamie Druitt previously told StartupSmart the startup is working with Harvard and MIT research teams to investigate how data can be used to predict high-risk mental health episodes in young people. “I think it is fantastic that TalkLife can give them the opportunity to see data on mental health in real time,” he says. “I think we need to look at how we can grow TalkLife now – it has only ever grown organically but we’re not even scratching the surface of mental health. We’ve got a long, steep road ahead.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
An Australian startup leading the way in contactless communications has opened an office in New York as part of its expansion into the US market. Tapit, founded in 2011, has been finding new ways for consumers to access information instantly on their phones – all off the back of an aggressive international expansion. Earlier this year the startup collaborated with the likes of Google and HBO to allow people to access film and television-related content on their smartphones by scanning event posters. In September, Tapit entered the Chinese market via a partnership with mobile commerce giant 99 Wuxian. Co-founder and chief executive Jamie Conyngham told StartupSmart the company opened an office in New York because it wanted to position itself where its clients were. “There’s a concentration of media in New York and a lot of iconic brands have their global headquarters there, so it made more sense for us to relocate there rather than San Francisco,” he says. Conyngham says the startup has been using Australia as a “launchpad” for global deals, which has worked well because it can bring those case studies to the US. “If you do a deal with Google or Microsoft in Australia you have that case study and you can then go to their global teams,” he says. “You can’t do that unless you do those deals in the US – Skype only takes you so far.” The company has been helped by the fact that Australia is ahead with contactless communication in comparison to other countries, according to Conyngham. “You’ve seen the massive take-up of tap and pay with credit cards and that has put us ahead in the contactless ecosystem. So we’ve been lucky to have headquarters here in that regard because the US is a bit behind – even in the UK.” Tapit also has offices in Tokyo, Shanghai and Dubai. The fast-growing startup has pioneered contactless communications for brands such as Telstra, Vodafone, Coca-Cola, Samsung and Sony. There are around 635 million smartphones fitted with near-field communications technology around the world, and Tapit expects that number to grow to one billion by 2015. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
There is a lesson for us all in the continuing revelations from stolen Sony emails being splashed over world-wide media. It is a lesson that Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairperson Amy Pascal could have benefited from before sending emails with racist comments about President Obama. Or an email calling Leonardo DiCaprio’s behaviour “Absolutely Despicable” when he decided to pull out of a planned Steve Jobs biopic. The lesson is a very simple one. It is that when you are writing an email (or any other corporate document), imagine that it will inevitably one day end up on the Internet for everyone to see. Even without the hacking episode, there have been enough horror stories of private emails being accidentally sent to the wrong people who have little issue with making the contents public. The emails of Amy Pascal and other Sony Pictures’ executives reveal damaging internal discussions about business practises and commentary on a wide range of people that the company relies on to do their business. It is hard to imagine how those involve retain their credibility as more of the emails become public. The dangers of emails being used against an organisation was something that former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates discovered the hard way during US antitrust investigations. After that point, Microsoft internally discussed a practice of not keeping any emails for longer than 6 months. In many other cases, emails have been obtained by journalists and others and used against the owners under Freedom of Information requests. Deleting emails after a set amount of time would have helped a great deal with Sony’s problems but it comes with its own issues. Many organisations, including universities, are subject to legal regulations governing how long official records need to be retained. Emails can be considered part of official records and so it is sometimes difficult to apply a blanket policy that requires all emails to be deleted after a relatively short time. The problem of email could also potentially be solved by using other forms of electronic communication instead. There have been suggestions that email could be replaced with instant messaging. This is certainly the case but many of these services keep records of conversations. Google for example, allows individual hangouts to be switched into “off the record” mode, but does not allow this setting as a default for all conversations. To delete the record of the conversation, it has to be done individually. Special software that automatically deletes conversations can be used such as messaging apps Telegram and OneOne but these require widespread use. In terms of the types of email exchanges that were highlighted in the Sony releases, it is unlikely that the participants would have had the presence of mind to use more secure communications in any event. Although companies should be advising all of their staff, especially the senior ones about good email hygiene, there is still a much easier way of avoiding all of these issues by not writing the email (or document) in the first place. If that is not possible, then there are a few definite things you should do when writing email: 1) Always keep it brief. The more you write, the harder it is to check you haven’t said something you will regret. 2) Never write email when you are angry or emotional. Leave it for 24 hours before writing, if at all. 3) Never write email when you have been drinking. 4) Never include personal, intolerant, or insensitive statements in corporate email. If it helps, it is also useful to imagine a prosecuting lawyer looking over your shoulder as you write every email you send. This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Bill Gates is known for his business acumen and philanthropy. But the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft is also known for his reading habits. Following on from his summer reading list, released in July, this morning Gates named the five best books he read this year. While Gates’ annual reading list is not packed full of how-to business manuals, he said in a blog post it is fitting that this year’s collection does touch on economics and business as for him at least, inequality and the rising prominence of Asian economies has dominated the news. SmartCompany was given a sneak peek at Gates’ list of best books of 2014 and why he recommends you put them at the top of your Christmas reading pile. Business Adventures by John Brooks Brooks’ collection of articles is Gates’ favourite business book and a regular feature on his recommended reading lists. “Shortly after we met, Warren Buffett loaned me this collection of New Yorker business articles from the 1950s and 1960s,” says Gates. “I loved them as much as he did”. “Brooks’ insights about business have aged beautifully, and they are as true today as ever. I still go back to this book from time to time and this year I had a chance to re-read the chapter on Xerox. Business Adventures is a neglected classic and it’s still my favourite business book ever.” You will find it difficult to purchase a hard copy of Brooks’ book in your local bookshop as it is out of print, but the ebook version is readily available. Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty Gates credits Piketty’s tome as sparking “a fantastic global discussion this year about inequality”. “Piketty kindly spent an hour discussing his work with me before I finished my review,” says Gates. “As I told him, although I have concerns about some of his secondary points and policy prescriptions, I agree with his most important conclusions: inequality is a growing problem and that governments should play a role in reducing it.” “I admire his work and hope it draws in more smart people to study the causes of, and cures for, inequality.” How Asia Works by Joe Studwell According to Gates, Studwell’s book provides “compelling answers to two of the greatest questions in development economics: how did countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and China achieve sustained, high growth? And why have so few other countries managed to do so?” Gates was particularly taken with the agricultural section of Studwell’s book, which he says is “particularly insightful”. “It provided ample food for thought for me as well as the whole Agriculture team at our foundation,” Gates says. “And it left us thinking about whether parts of the Asian model can apply in Africa.” The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion Gates’ affection for the writing of Melburnian Graeme Simsion is well known, and despiteThe Rosie Effect not yet being published in the US, Simsion gave Gates his own early copy. “The hilarious follow-up to The Rosie Project is one of the best novels I’ve read in ages,” Gates says. “It’s a funny novel that also made me think about relationships: what makes them work and how we have to keep investing time and energy to make them better. A sweet, entertaining and thought-provoking book.” Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization by Vaclav Smil Smil’s books are a perennial feature in Gates’ reading lists and this year the billionaire has selected Smil’s take on the world’s use of materials. “If anyone tries to tell you we’re using fewer materials, send him this book,” Gates says. “With his usual scepticism and his love of data, Smil shows how our ability to make things with less material – say soda cans that need less aluminium – makes them cheaper, which actually encourages more production. We’re using more stuff than ever.” This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
Microsoft is believed to have spent over $US20 million to a startup called Acompli, which makes an email app for Android smartphones and iPhones. The news was reported by Re/Code, with Microsoft later confirming the deal in an official blog post from the company’s corporate vice president for Outlook and Office 365, Rajesh Jha. The email client was developed by veterans from Zimbra and VMWare, and supports both Microsoft and Google email services. US retailers concerned about Chinese online marketplace Alibaba A number of leading US retailers have called on Congress to end special tax treatment for online retailers, citing fears Chinese marketplace Alibaba could “decimate” their businesses. According to Reuters, claims were made in a series of TV and radio ads by a lobby group called Alliance for Main Street Fairness, which includes major US retail chains such as Best Buy, Target and JC Penney. While Alibaba has not yet launched in the US market, the retailers are concerned the company could use some of the money raised through its recent IPO on a US expansion. Google Fiber signups in Texas Google Fiber has opened up signups in the US city of Austin, Texas, according to The Verge. The fibre-to-the-premises internet service costs $US70 per month for data only, with 1 terabyte of cloud storage and TV setting consumers back $US130 per month, and a slower 5Mbps download and 1Mbps upload service available for a once-off $US300 fee. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 43.45 points to 17784.8. The Aussie dollar is down to US85.04 cents.
Mobile messaging apps such as Whatsapp are killing traditional text messages while multi-screening is going mainstream, according to an Australian Communications and Media Authority. The ACMA paper, titled Six emerging trends in media and communications, attempts to identify disruptive media and communications trends that “strain the effectiveness and efficiency of existing regulatory settings”. Here are the six media and communications trends identified in the report: 1. Communications go over the top Consumers are increasingly rejecting carrier-based phone calls and text messages in favour of apps and online services such as Apple iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Snapchat and Microsoft’s Skype. According to the report, revenues from fixed line phone services have collapsed by 34% in five years, from $18.296 billion in 2008 to just $12.045 billion in 2013. Over the same time frame, the number of voice over internet protocol (VOIP) users has surged from 2.1 million to 4.6 million. However, this extra data users has been good news to mobile phone carriers, which have seen their revenues surge from $15.967 billion to $20.014 billion. 2. Consumers build their own links It’s not just the number of communications apps that is booming. Australian consumers are using them with a wider variety of devices, which are connected over a growing number of network technologies. Consumers now regularly switch between fixed-line internet connections, Wi-Fi, mobile broadband and – especially in remote areas – satellite connections, depending on the time of day. The number of devices they use is also increasing, with the number of Australians owning a tablet, laptop and smartphone increasing from 28% in 2013 to 53% in 2014. 3. Wearables are set to boom On top of smartphones, tablets and laptops, the report predicts wearables (including Google Glass, smartwatches and fitness trackers) are set to become increasingly common over the coming years. The report suggests the number of wearables worldwide will grow from 22 million in 2013 to 177 million in 2018. It also predicts that an increase in the number of devices running Google’s Android Wear platform, along with the release of the Apple Watch early next year, will lead this trend to accelerate. 4. Online content is going mainstream The internet is not just disrupting the way we communicate. According to the report, consumers are increasingly viewing a greater number of TV services (including pay TV, broadcast TV, streaming TV and catch-up TV) delivered to a growing number of devices, over a growing number of network technologies. In a typical week, 97% of Australians watch a free-to-air or pay TV service. By contrast, one-in-two Australians have watched online TV over the past six months. This includes professionally produced catch-up or streaming TV services, pirated movies and content from video sites such as YouTube. Meanwhile, people aged between 16 and 24 now watch more TV over the internet than they do from broadcast television services. 5. Multistreaming is now mainstream In many cases, new forms are television are complementing, rather than replacing older ones. The report shows 74% of Australians with internet access regularly watched TV and used the internet at the same time, up 25 percentage points from 2009. It is as high as 89% for people aged 25 to 34. Overall, 71% of people still prefer to watch TV shows and movies on television, compared to on mobile phones (5%), tablets (4%) and computers (29%). Meanwhile, user-generated content is mostly watched on computers (71%) or mobile phones (41%), rather than tablets (17%) and televisions (10%). 6. TV is still the one for news Finally, when it comes to getting the news, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The report shows that 92% of free-to-air or subscription television viewers watched a news or current affairs programs on television in 2014. While newspaper circulation has dived 18% between 2009 and 2013, the drop has been a drop of just 10% from TV over the same time. Image credit: Flickr/alvy Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The federal government has just announced details of the Accelerating Commercialisation component of the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme, a funding program that replaces the Commercialisation Australia program. The Accelerating Commercialisation (AC) program is designed to help small to medium businesses and researchers commercialise on what is being referred to in the information packs as “novel products, processes and services”. There seems to be a stronger emphasis on connecting those applying with a network of commercialisation advisors to provide guidance on early-stage commercialisation. There are certainly quite a few changes to the previous Commercialisation Australia program and there are some important points to note: Two parts of the offer – portfolio and/or grants First, being part of the Accelerating Commercialisation Portfolio gets your company publicly listed on a database, gives you a commercialisation advisor contact and also gives you opportunities to connect with a new Expert Network of advisors. Secondly, you may apply for grants (up to $250,000 for the commercialisation group of a research agency and up to $1 million for a company). Importantly, you don’t have to seek funding (grants) to apply to be part of the Accelerating Commercialisation Portfolio. Two stage application process To apply, you’ll need to complete the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme (EIP) Accelerating Commercialisation Expression of Interest (EOI) form online at business.gov.au. Your application will be reviewed by a customer service advisor, after which you may progress to the more detailed Accelerating Commercialisation application or they may point you in the direction of other applicable grants. Grant eligibility criteria and funding When applying for funding there are some things to be aware of around the eligibility criteria: Any funding needs to be matched 50:50. (Good news for companies in the BlueChilli incubation and accelerator programs is that BCVF qualifies as one of the matched fund providers). If you have already made sales and are looking for funding for scale or marketing you won’t qualify Funding for next versions of your product (unless major) don’t qualify. It’s worth completing the Expression of Interest BEFORE launching your MVP. You need to make your first sales in AUSTRALIA Maximum length of project is two years. Funding will be tied to agreed milestones around that timeframe. Tech sector restrictions removed Previously, there were limits on the tech sectors that could apply for commercialisation support. Now, companies from any tech sector can apply. That being said, there are five key areas that have been identified as ‘growth sectors’. If your business targets a growth sector, you get bonus points: Advanced manufacturing; Food and agribusiness; Medical technologies and pharmaceuticals; Mining equipment, technology and services; Oil, gas and energy resources; or Enabling technologies and services for the above In summary Overall, this new program seems to be for earlier stage companies looking for funding to complete development, prove commercial viability, make first sales in Australia and move towards commercialisation of novel IP. The new program has stronger ties into the Expert Network of advisors, industry, corporations and government which has the potential to help accelerate the commercialisation of these early stage businesses. It also aims to increase visibility of the ecosystem as a whole (this is a good thing!) For more information, see accelerating commercialisation. Catherine Eibner joined BlueChilli After spending her previous years mentoring startups as the head of the Microsoft Bizspark program in Australia. Eibner brings her passion and experience across technology and business to help the BlueChilli startups achieve global success. This article first appeared at BlueChilli.
The first impressions of Helsinki in winter evoke words like “grim” and “desolate”. Rather than shying away from the imagery of a frozen northern landscape, Slush embraces it with the slogan “welcome to the north”. While slightly foreboding, the message is one of a frontier in both location and the startup ecosystem. Where Nokia once held the world’s attention for Finnish tech companies, the country’s gaming scene has charged into focus with Rovio’s Angry Birds followed by Supercell’s Clash of Clans as almost default downloads for addictive mobile gaming. The Slush experience starts right from the beginning, at a sparse airport with a surprising amount of the non-European startup community spilling out into the freezing winds. Including more than a few Australians, who we will meet over the coming days. Day One With what can only be called spectacular growth, Slush has outgrown its previous venue and settled into the Messukeskus convention centre on the edge of town. With an almost absurd amount of attention to detail, the team have converted an enormous convention centre into a thriving and beautiful rave, complete with smoke machines, lasers, and dubstep breakdown. The venue is set up around four major stages, one dedicated entirely to the startup battle pitching 100 international and local startups against each other for a top prize of 250,000 euros. Yes, euros. This alone would be an incredible ringside event, but the day kicks off at high speed with Finland’s Prime Minister Alexander Stubb taking the Silver Stage to launch the event. In the process affirming his support for the national tech and startup community and sharing his belief that "kids need to learn coding at school”. A small comment but a big point of difference compared to the debate surrounding reports in Australia released by Education Minister Christopher Pyne, suggesting that a digital technologies curriculum was unnecessary in Australia as a point of focus for our future workforce. Cementing the contrast are furthers comments by Estonia’s young Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, taking the stage to boast that the country sets the record for most startups per capita, and that he has actively studied the success of major local startup success stories that include the Microsoft acquisition of Skype. Also on the political tip, a few words from surprise guest Chinese Vice Prime-Minister Wang Yang, who despite the pomp and ceremony of his attendance, managed to drop a locally relevant joke by way of “I’m not angry, I’m a fan of Angry Birds”. A little lost in translation perhaps, but it’s the thought that counts. Game On Elsewhere, the schedule splits the crowds into three major streams of Gaming, Leadership and Enterprise Software. On the gaming tip, Rakuten founder Hiroshi Mikitani speaks about leading the curve in converting his company to operating in English, a tactic that is now taught in business school as one of the secrets of Samsung’s success on South Korea. For Mikitani’s moves, he said the appreciation was a long time coming. “Many people really critiqued me & called me crazy,” he said. “But it now allows them to hire from all over the world, and 80% are non-Japanese and the diversity has helped us to become more innovative and is core to our growth.” Similar scaling lessons were shared by GungHo Online Entertainment founder Taizo Son and Supercell’s CEO Ilkka Paananen in a surprisingly intimate fireside chat. Taizo Son notably sharing tales of the days of his shame in being unable to make payroll for the staff of the then-fledging gaming company. The now-billionaire laughing now about advice that startup life is not unlike a video game. "You are like Super Mario,” said Son. "You are struggling in the first stage but its fun to play”. Building a successful company is a game that has come at the cost of many mistakes, with Son claiming that more than 80% of his decisions over the last 15 years have been failures. He advises that startups embrace the opportunity to fail as not only one to learn, but one to define the potential path. "In most of cases we can’t execute what we think ideally so we have to align with the failures.” Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen on the other hand advised a theme of team dynamics and persistence as a path to luck. "Most successful people don’t know why they are successful so luck does play a role,” said Paananen. "Even if they did know, how do you know those methods are applicable to you situation?” Instead of reliance on advice he spoke of the importance of forming a hard working team with a strong dynamic, and taking the input of adviser’s with a grain of salt. "Be humble and listen to everybody, but make the decisions yourselves and trust your instincts,” Paananen said. Adding a cautionary comment on the topic of diversity, stating that he "would never invest in a group that does the same thing as I did". Back from the dead (but where is Snake?) Of the many product announcements making the most of the event’s media platform today, the most high profile was the launch of the Nokia N1 tablet. Being released in time for the Chinese New Year of February 15, Nokia is jumping back into the consumer hardware space with a competitively priced $249 tablet. The bombastic launch and focus on releasing into the Chinese market first showed a renewed enthusiasm after the Finnish company sold its handset business to Microsoft. To be clear, this is the Nokia mothership reasserting its relevance after selling off it’s most well-known product arm, and we will reserve judgement until we get our hands-on media demo on the second day of Slush tomorrow. In the meantime, the bravado is infectious. At least as far as Scandinavian culture goes, with Nokia’s head of products Sebastian Nystrom taking his time to soak up the stage. “They said RIP Nokia. I say they couldn’t be more wrong”. It wasn’t quite a Jobs-esque performance, but the local crowd were rapturous with the potential of the local heroes rising again. Mikko, don’t kill my vibe In the “mind equals blown” category of the day was the direly titled “RIP Internet”, presented by Finnish security expert (and regular conference celebrity talker) Mikko Hypponen. As a veteran of computer security, Mikko spoke of the looming dangers in the infrastructure of the internet, and the potential for it to be damaged or destroyed by either neglect or intent. “Sometimes it feels like we’ve built a monster,” Hypponen reflected. “We are running our critical infrastructure with ‘projects’”. While an advocate for open source, he points out the recent Heartbleed and Shellshock vulnerabilities of popular and in many cases essential open-source projects, and asks if there’s not a better way to ensure the development of such ubiquitous infrastructure technology. On a darker note, Hypponen walks through an example of governmental interference, showing examples of a WhatsApp message sent during the Hong Kong riots. The message claimed to be from protesters, linking to software to allow them to communicate and organise via a private network. The network allegedly run by the Chinese government as a way to access personal details and track the key organisers of the riots. Heavy. Other examples of impending doom included known cases of bot networks formed via insecure devices in the category of the Internet of Things. “Who wants to infect [web enabled] toasters? It beats me - but combined they make an effective bitcoin mining network!” Design first (or when you need a pick-me-up) For those needing a break from the security downers, a Product Design feature on the Green Stage ranged across topics of interface design, UX and hardware design. Microsoft’s hardware phone designer Peter Griffith talked about obsessive details in hardware development, while Infogram’s Ikko Jarvenpaa talked about the responsibility and ethics of startups where trends and opportunities outpace the legal framework. “Technology moves faster than laws, creating unregulated opportunities,” said Järvenpää. “But we need to be mindful of societal repercussions. With great power comes great responsibility, yes, but those of us working with highly scalable technologies wield great power” What does on sauna stays in sauna As the sessions wound down for the day the halls were cleared to transform into party mode, seeing a literal army of local volunteers spill out to convert the promo stands, stages and social spaces into one big party venue. Given it already looks like that rave I accidentally went to that time and didn’t inhale at, it’s no surprise. But what goes on startup tour, stays on startup tour. Unless you follow the tweet stream, in which case you can tune in tomorrow for more live action on the floor of Slush 2014 – including a hands-on with the Nokia N1 and an introduction to the (crazy) Australians that have made the pilgrimage from Down Under to the northern frontiers of global technology and startup culture. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Could WattCost be the next Australian startup acquired by Google? Former Microsoft evangelist Robert Scoble believes so. The startup has developed a device which attaches to a household’s power meter and provides homeowners with real-time power usage data, and uses that data to help them save power, money, and reduce their carbon footprint. The WattCost team is currently in the United States meeting with Scoble, who is Rackspace’s startup liaison officer, after winning the company’s 2014 Small Teams Big Impact Pitching competition. WattCost co-founder David Soutar says the trip to Silicon Valley has been fantastic so far, and praised the job Scoble and Austrade have done in introducing the WattCost team to investors, advisers and other successful Australian founders. “Silicon Valley investors seem to value what we’re doing at a much higher level than back home, but we would really like to work with Australian investors if possible,” he says. “We believe we’ve developed a world-class product, that will change the way consumers interact with their homes to control their electricity costs, and people over here are opening their doors on short notice to listen to us.” Scoble described WattCost as the most interesting new startup he’s seen all year. He says Google is leading the race to become the dominant home IoT platform. “We don’t know who’s going to win, but Google’s in the early lead because they bought Revolv, they bought Dropcam and they bought Nest,” he says. “And I think this is going to be another one that they’re going to buy, because knowing how much electricity is going through the house, knowing when the rates are changing, that’s really important.” WattCost works by monitoring fluctuations in power usage and uses machine learning to iron out any ambiguities. “Every appliance has its own unique digital signature, so we’ve learnt what those signatures are,” Soutar says. “Some things you can talk about instantaneously because of the load, but when I talk about digital fingerprints, that’s how it is used over time. If you imagine a microwave, say you put it on for a minute, it runs through a certain power signature cycle.” When something is plugged into the home network that WattCost isn’t familiar with, it prompts the user through its smartphone app to let the system know what it is. That smartphone app is where users can find real-time power consumption information on their home. It can make suggestions like delaying using the dishwasher until off-peak times, or updating a fridge that is consuming more energy than it should be. “We want to help people save money and lower their carbon footprint,” Soutar says. “There’s never been a way to do that from a personal point of view, so we’re really passionate about helping people do that.” That passion, Soutar says, will eventually lead to WattCost releasing its own API. “The consumers should own the data and they should be able to use it in whichever way they want,” he says. The WattCost energy monitor is available for pre-order for $149 (the first 1000 can be pre-ordered for $99) and it’s expected to ship in the middle of 2015. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The Asia-Pacific region is likely to be an early adopter for the internet of things (IoT), creating opportunities for Australian startups, according to Akamai president of products and development Rick McConnell. “Overall, Australia is one of our top markets in the world in terms of revenue. While IoT specifically depends on adoption of IoT devices by end users, in our experience web delivery will map closely to what happens with IoT,” McConnell says. “I think Asia is leading the way on smart connected cities, which include a lot of things that are connected devices. It wouldn’t surprise me on connected homes and cities if the adoption rate for devices and capabilities across Asia leads the world. “For example, there are buses in Singapore that are available to be tracked through an app, a perfect use case where IoT is invaluable.” Competition in the IoT marketplace is intensifying in recent years. A range of major IT and tech firms are already competing as cloud-based platform providers for the sector, battling for the attention of tech startups. These companies include the likes of Microsoft Azure, Cisco, IBM and others. McConnell claims his company is in a unique position in the marketplace, with a content delivery network responsible for 15-30% of all internet traffic, with 2000 server regions across 95 countries. “The one thing that Akamai does better is deliver content fast and reliably around the world, while IBM and Microsoft Azure have their strengths in computing power and storage,” McConnell says. “We think there’s an ecosystem opportunity to work with other companies, such as IBM for storage or Microsoft for computing power, while we have a highly distributed network to get the content out. “We have servers within 20 milliseconds of the users of the internet. That provides the transport layer.” McConnell says there is likely to be opportunities for tech startups in collecting and compiling data, for building devices, and providing functionality to smart devices. “You have thermostat functionality, pacemaker functionality, the remote management of an MRI machine that communicates to GE notifying it needs to be repaired,” he says. Security, reliability and real-time communications should be key considerations, according to McConnell. “Drones are a great example. A drone is in the air making deliveries and will need to compute so it does not hit a person or fly into restricted airspace. Many of those instructions will come remotely and will need to be at near real time,” he says. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Futurologists are a common feature at business conferences. Unfortunately, many aren’t held accountable to how their predictions pan out. We’re all still waiting for our flying cars, clean reliable fusion power plants and 3D holograms. In November last year, I picked six new technologies that were likely to make an impact in 2014. So how did they fare? Here’s what happened: 1. Curved and flexible displays This first pick came with a caveat: “Unfortunately, getting devices with a curved or flexible screen produced on a production line designed for flat screen devices has turned out to have been far more difficult than it initially seemed… As a result, you’re unlikely to see these devices outside South Korea in the immediate future.” Sure enough, at the International CES in Las Vegas, Samsung demonstrated curved-screen TVs as the centrepiece of its display. In January, LG launched the G Flex curved-screen smartphone in Australia. Meanwhile more recently, at its Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 event alongside the IFA trade show, Samsung unveiled a new curved-edge smartphone called the Galaxy Note Edge. As predicted, there have been issues putting flexible and curved glass into mass production. However, LG Display appears to have come up with a solution: Using plastic instead of glass in a new display technology called P-OLED (Plastic-Organic Light Emitting Diode). The thin, flexible display technology helped it to create a round-screen Android Gear smartwatch called the G Watch R, along with a smartphone that has a display that runs right to the edge screen. The company expects smartphones and tablets that are designed to bend (and fold flat after being bent) to begin appearing next year, with rollable tablets, foldable-screen laptops and flexible TVs coming sometime in 2017. 2. Smart TVs Whether it’s smart TVs that run apps out of the box, set-top boxes or HDMI thumb sticks (such as Google ChromeCast), 2014 was a massive year on the smart TV front. The year kicked off at CES with LG reviving the Palm Pilot operating system (webOS) for its smart TVs and Panasonic partnering with Mozilla to put Firefox OS on its TVs. Not to be outdone, in June Google announced Android TV, a new platform for smart TV apps and content. Last month, it announced the first set-top box to use the platform, known as the Nexus Player. Also from Google, a little device known as the ChromeCast finally reached Australia in May. Amazon saw the action and said “me too”, releasing its version of the ChromeCast in October and a set-top box called Fire TV in April. So what will people watch on all these smart devices? The best news is that streaming video service Netflix is set to launch in Australia. It seems the humble “idiot box” has never been smarter than it was in 2014. 3. Smartwatches Apple Watch was announced this year. Need I say any more? Even putting Apple Watch aside, 2014 was a huge year for smartwatches. Google also announced its smartwatch platform, known as Android Wear, which in turn powers devices from a range of companies including Sony, LG, Samsung, Motorola and others. These devices are all packed with a range of apps and features – and they’ll even tell you what the time is. 4. Augmented reality glasses Google Glass got a limited public release this year with a range of fashionable frames and prescription lenses. Sony released the software development kit for its Google Glass clone. But the real big mover was a related technology called virtual reality. Jaws dropped when Facebook paid $2 billion for virtual reality device maker Oculus. Last month, Samsung announced the first consumer device based on the technology, known as Gear VR. You could say 2014 was the year augmented reality and virtual reality became a reality for consumers. 5. Home automation Google kicked off the year by launching its home automation push with the $3.2 billion takeover of smart thermostat maker Nest. The tech giant encouraged other businesses, including Australian smart-light maker LiFX, to build new devices that connected to Nest. Apple responded in June by launching HomeKit as part of iOS 8. The technology makes it easy for third-party device makers to allow their devices to be controlled with iPhones and iPads. 6. Low-end smartphones This is a topic I’ve touched on over the past couple of weeks. The short version is we’re reaching a saturation point in the smartphone market, while low-cost vendors such as Xiaomi are booming in China. The great news for consumers is, even with the Australia tax, buying an affordable smartphone has never been more affordable. Throughout the year, a range of devices (including the Moto E and Moto G, the Kogan Agora 4G and the Microsoft Lumia 635 and 530) hit the local market. Each boasted features once the preserve of high-end devices and – best of all – prices well under $300 outright. Conclusion Forget about waiting for that flying car. From smartwatches to smart TVs and low-end smartphones to home automation, the six technologies on the future gadget form guide ran a strong race in 2014. When some of this technology will make it into the average person’s home is another question. This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.
Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is negotiating a capital raise of $US1.5 billion ($A1.75 billion), at a valuation of $US40 billion, in the largest private financing for a venture-backed company since Facebook in 2011. The company is speaking with investors including DST – the Russian internet company that also backed Alibaba, Facebook and Airbnb, with a deal yet to be finalised, sources told CNBC. Both Wall Street and Silicon Valley investors are largely uninvolved in the Xiaomi raise, instead the company is hoping to secure funds from Asia-based investors. Uber seeking to raise $1 billion at a valuation over $17 billion Transportation network startup Uber is in early talks with investors about raising $1 billion in new capital, the Financial Times reports. The talks come less than six months after Uber received $1.2 billion in funding at a valuation of $17 billion. After strong interest from investors, the company is looking to take the opportunity to build a balance sheet “proportionate” to the scale of its business, a source told the Financial Times. Microsoft completes Minecraft purchase Microsoft has completed its $2.5 billion acquisition of Minecraft developer Mojang, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox Division Phil Spencer says. Spencer had previously confirmed that although Microsoft was making Mojang a first-party developer, it had no intention of forcing a halt to Minecraft development on any non-Microsoft platforms. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 19.46 to 17,573.93. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.
Independent game developers are crucial for an “amazing, innovating” industry, according to Chris Charla, the director of the Independent Developer Program for Xbox One. Charla is in Melbourne for the PAX 2014 festival, and said the Independent Developer Program for Xbox shows Microsoft is committed to supporting independent and emerging developers. The program allows qualified game developers to self-publish digital games on Xbox One and also assists them with some of the costs that would normally be a barrier for small development studios. “We think independent developers are crucially important,” Charla told StartupSmart. “We want to make sure when someone turns on their Xbox they have access to the broadest, most diverse range of games on the planet. It’s really hard to make a game and if you talk to a game developer they put their heart into it.” The Independent Developer Program also assists developers in promoting their products. Charla says they initiative has already see a “broad array” of independent games released onto the Xbox platform – everything from horror games to pinball. As for the Australian independent gaming community, Charla says it is “amazing”. “It’s not surprising that when it comes to video games the country is able to punch above its weight in terms of its cultural impact.” Charla praised co-working spaces and the way the gaming community comes together without government or large corporations telling them to. “All these developers know each other, they can help each other out… it’s an amazing spirit,” he says. “Worldwide we are seeing local groups of independent developers coming together to support each other, whether it’s through nights where they come together to drink beer and play each other’s games or attend co-working spaces. “It’s a really exciting time in the gaming industry both to be a player with awesome new choices with consoles and games... and as a developer. It makes me excited to get up in the morning.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
China received its first official iPhones last week, but the Chinese firewall is blocking all local connections to iCloud.com, instead redirecting users to a dummy site which looks exactly like Apple’s login page. Users browsing the web with Chrome or Firefox will see a warning page, but those using Qihoo, the most popular browser in China will be taken straight to the dummy site with no indication that it is not run by Apple. A similar attack is being used against Microsoft’s Login.live.com. The Verge speculates that because the attack is taking place at the level of the Great Firewall, it is likely that it’s an attempt by Chinese authorities to harvest usernames and passwords. IBM abandons 2015 profit target IBM has abandoned a long-promised plan to deliver $20 a share in profits by 2015 after a significant slowdown in spending by its clients that sent its shares falling by more than 8%, Re/code reports. The company says it missed sales and profit expectations for the quarter, blaming an “unprecedented change” in the IT industry. Apple releases iOS 8.1 The latest update for iOS is now publicly available and comes with new features like Apple Pay, iCloud Photo Library and additional Continuity features. The update is available on iPhone 4s and higher, iPad 2 and higher, iPad Mini and higher, and iPad touch fifth generation. The Apple Pay feature is only available for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 19.26 to 16,399.67. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.
How safe is Microsoft Windows? After all, the list of malware that has caused major headaches worldwide over the last 15 years is long – viruses, worms and Trojans have forced computers to shut down, knocked South Korea offline and even overloaded Google’s servers. Now, how safe do you feel knowing that cash machines across the world run Microsoft Windows? An exploit has been discovered, apparently spread across Russia, India, and China, whereby cash machines can be turned into a free money vending machine. The hack requires re-starting the cash machine – essentially a Windows terminal – from a prepared CD that injects malware into the system to circumvent the security. At set times of the week, a unique code is generated and given to a “mule” who would approach the machine, enter the code, and withdraw up to 40 notes, anonymously and without trace. From skimming to hacking Attacks on ATMs (those more sophisticated than removing the cash machine and cutting into its safe) started around 10 years ago with card reader devices containing a tiny integrated camera and card reader. As a user withdraws cash, the device reads the account details from the card’s magnetic stripe and videos the pin number entered into the keypad. Earlier generations of ATM machines were often built around computer terminals running IBM’s OS/2 operating system (which started life as a joint IBM-Microsoft venture, and which somewhat ironically spawned Microsoft’s Windows NT, the grandparent of modern Windows, and IBM’s OS/2 when that project collapsed). Due to its more esoteric and rare nature there are far fewer attacks for OS/2, but now it is standard builds of Windows, potentially vulnerable to all the usual malware and exploits, that run modern ATMs. So it is not surprising that intruders have started to find ways inside the ATM’s card processing and cash dispensing systems. Malware that can offer external control to an ATM have been reported for some years, allowing attackers to dispense cash, record and print out card details and PIN numbers. Under the hood This latest malware is Backdoor.MSIL.Tyupkin, which while running continuously will only listen for commands on a Sunday and Monday night. The criminal gangs operating the malware generate a random, unique, six-digit keycode that activates the program, which is given to the “mule” who is withdrawing the money. Like previous efforts to crack into ATMs, the malware requires physical access to the ATM, typically by booting the ATM from a CD prepared to install the malware. At present the malware has been active on at least 50 ATMs in Russia and Eastern Europe, but also in the US, China and India. The malware is the file ulssm.exe, which is copied into the c:\windows\system32 directory and which is protected and maintained on the system between reboots by modifying the Windows registry (a database of configuration settings) so that Windows automatically runs the program at startup. The program then interacts with the ATM through the Extension for Financial Services (XFS) library, MSXFS.dll. To avoid detection it will only allow access controller commands on Sunday and Monday evenings. This shows an example of malware installing itself onto a system, updating the Windows registry to autorun when started (at 25:20), and then going into hiding. Playing catch up The threat of re-booting machines from CDs or bootable USB sticks in order to install malware and abusing Windows autorun feature to sustain the program in memory, is an exploit that has been common for over a decade. It seems few lessons have been learned in terms of securing physical access to the device, and also in the privileged rights that malware can gain. Even as companies focus on improving and securing the user interface, often the debugging and diagnostic side can provide further routes into a system. Versions of Windows used in embedded control systems are now sufficiently secure, but as ATM manufacturers use standard installations of Windows they are opening themselves up to further problems – not least because it allows hackers the opportunity to simulate and craft their malware on well-known versions of the operating system. However, at the core of this attack – as with those before it – is the need for physical access to the device, which implies an insider working in the bank. That means with monitoring of who has access to the cash machine, this can be prevented. The key lesson is that the ATM operating system is a weak link in the chain which needs to be closed. *This article originally appeared on The Conversation.
It seems we are headed towards a world where augmented reality (AR) systems will be as common as smartphones are today – it’s already about to revolutionise medicine, entertainment, the lives of disabled people and of course advertising and shopping. The big three tech companies have all invested heavily in research and development in the AR domain. Google will be releasing Google Glass later in the year, Microsoft has been working on its own AR device and not long ago Facebook bought the virtual reality (VR) company Oculus Rift. The notion of AR that these companies are proposing is a kind of “smartphone for the eyes”, as traditional AR and VR converge in the optic realm. The reality boost We are moving into an era where we will, on a commercial scale, be taking our visual information in real time and integrating this with a wealth of external information to transform our daily lives. This will give us some degree of control over how we see the world, in the fundamental sense. For example, we might be offered information about people or objects as they pop into our field of view. Or it could introduce into our visual field view things that don’t exist at all in the real world to potentially filter out of our vision things that are in fact there, such as giant advertising billboards (see below). But this is not just another article about the radical changes that AR is likely to bring about. Rather it’s a call to begin thinking critically about the possibilities AR presents and the idea that perhaps instead of merely augmenting reality, we could transform it. The unspoken future Extrapolating from the recent history of technology gives us a glimpse of what the future of AR is likely to look like in the hands of the big tech companies. First, the idea of the “app” will extend into the visual domain, giving us apps that aid us in all the things we already do: building a house, studying at a distance, travelling in a new city and even making love. Second, the price for access to these new services and of having information at our fingertips is likely to involve surrendering ever more of our personal information. Critically, it will open up new markets for advertisers to promote their products and services in both tacit and explicit ways – an extension of the world of “advertising everywhere”. The increased human consumption of advertising – driven perhaps largely by the increase of screens in the world – has begun to be referred to by some as the pollution of the mental environment. By surrendering control over our immediate field of vision, advertising no longer needs to be limited to a screen or a surface but could become truly ubiquitous. Transformed reality? The name “augmented reality” gives it away. The vision of AR that we are seeing in the media and in press releases for products such as Google Glass is a vision of our world as we know it, but perhaps made a little easier through this technology. In contrast, this technology, that can change what we sense in real time, has the potential to fundamentally change how we live. Do we have the imagination to dream about how instead of merely augmenting reality we could be aiming to transform it? The transformative potential of this technology has begun to be envisioned by a number of different artists. In the Artvertiser project, artists have developed an application that replaces billboards within the visual field with images of art. So instead of subconsciously consuming giant advertisements on a billboard from the bank, users could perhaps be consuming artworks by Banksy. The example above is just the tip of the iceberg. What kind of a built environment do you want to inhabit? Your AR has the potential to change both the cityscape and the horizon, to overlay worlds upon worlds. Other artists have begun experimenting with ways that the technology could be used to add extra dynamics to public artworks, bringing them to life. The advent of AR presents a significant choice. Through detection, replacement and synthesis AR has the potential to both add to and subtract from our sensations. Aspects of the environment, even buildings and people could potentially be filtered in or out based on personal preference – our generation is the first in human history that holds this possibility. The proposal is that rather than simply waiting to see what purposes are dreamed up by the purveyors of this technology, we need to begin thinking about how we want to use it. Now is the time to start dreaming about how the advent of ubiquitous AR could not merely augment society, but transform it for the better. Nick Kelly does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella’s excruciating gaffe that women should not ask for a raise but trust in “karma” that they would be rewarded eventually has been met with widespread condemnation. He made the statement, ironically enough, during an interview at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference. The conference , dedicated to women in technology, had a largely female audience who were confounded when Nadella gave his advice. The statement was met with an instant reaction on social media and Nadella, realising the seriousness of his mistake, issued a retraction saying that his answer to the question on whether women should ask for a pay raise was “completely wrong”. Nadella’s statement is completely wrong for a whole host of reasons but in particular, it highlighted the fact that he seemed completely unaware of the context of the question given that Microsoft’s workforce is made up of just 29% women. When looking at the high status tech jobs at Microsoft, that number drops to 17%. Nadella also seemed unaware that the 17% of the female tech work force at Microsoft are likely to be paid salaries of around 87% the salaries of men. Of course, when you take merit-based bonuses into account, the gender pay gap is even greater, as women receive bonuses that are half the size of men’s. He must have been unaware of these facts, because if he was aware of them, how could he possibly have thought that a woman’s silence would result in the “right thing” happening? For Nadella, a 22 year veteran of Microsoft it is perhaps not surprising that he would have been unaware of the reality of being female and working at the company. The truth of the matter is that he may rarely have encountered women in his day-to-day job other than those employed in non-technical roles. As CEO of the company however, it is particularly revealing that he would have been insensitive to the challenges women face in that working environment. His statements perhaps point to the limitations of his abilities and will now remain as the “elephant in the room” when he is trying to navigate Microsoft from being relegated into irrelevance by its stronger rivals, Apple and Google. At the very least, Nadella joins the ranks of other CEOs who have made similarly public missteps, three of whom lost their jobs as a result: Mozilla’s CEO, Brendan Eich eventually was forced to step down over his support of anti-gay marriage legislation Lululemon’s CEO Dennis “Chip” Wilson also stepped down after blaming the fact that some of their yoga pants became see-through on overweight women saying that “Some women’s bodies “just don’t actually work” for Lululemon trousers” BP CEO Tony Hayward was forced to resign after a series of PR bombs in dealing with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill that included his famous quote “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.” The fact that a CEO can lose their job over a single statement reflects the nature of the job. The perceived importance of the CEO to a company’s performance is highly debated, especially when it is framed in terms of how much pay they are worth. However, the consensus is that CEOs have little impact on the overall performance of a company. Nadella comes as a novice to the job of chief executive and his turn in this position follows on from a long reign of the founders running the company. A chief executive’s main role however is to present the public face of the company and to inspire the market and their customers as a visionary. Perhaps we should have expected less of Nadella given that his first email to Microsoft employees encapsulated this vision as Microsoft enabling people to “do more” and that staff should “believe in the impossible”. Presumably the latter was aimed at female staff wanting equal representation and pay at the company. David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Twitter is suing the US government, alleging that the Justice Department’s restrictions on what the company can say about government national security requests for data violate the company’s First Amendment rights, The Washington Post reports. Earlier this year five other technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, reached a settlement with the government on the permissible scope of disclosure. Twitter vice president Ben Lee says it is the company’s belief that it is entitled under the First Amendment to respond to its users’ concerns and to the statements of US government officials by providing information about the scope of government surveillance. “We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad inexact ranges,” he says. Blockchain raises $30.5 million Bitcoin wallet provider and software developer Blockchain is expected to announce it has closed a $US30.5 million ($AU34.6 million) fund-raising round, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Wicklow Capital, The New York Times reports. The investment, raised from Blockchain’s first round of outside financing, is one of the biggest in the digital currency industry to date. Microsoft to hold cloud media event On October 20, Microsoft will be holding a “What’s ahead for Microsoft’s Cloud” event in San Francisco. Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella and executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group Scott Guthrie will be both presiding during the one-hour event for press and analysts. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 272.52 to 16,719.39. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.
This week Tech giant Microsoft unveiled the next major release of its Windows operating system, known as Windows 10. At this stage, Microsoft has only released an early technical preview for PCs, so it would be premature to praise the latest version too highly. Nonetheless, especially for small businesses and Windows app developers, there’s a lot of promising news about the new operating system. The big change The big overarching change is a shift in how Microsoft applies the Windows platform over a range of devices, including everything from smartphones and tablets to Xbox game consoles, PCs and servers. With Windows 8, the idea was to create a single user interface (UI) that works the same way on everything from smartphones and tablets to desktops and servers. This led some to complain the tablet-optimised smart screen interface didn’t work well with a keyboard and mouse on a desktop PC. As Microsoft executive vice president of operating systems Terry Myerson explains in a statement, there’s been a subtle but very significant shift that takes place with Windows 10. “We’re not talking about one UI to rule them all – we’re talking about one product family, with a tailored experience for each device,” Myerson said. A key example of this is the return of the start menu in the desktop PC version of Windows 10. The start menu has been a fixture of Microsoft’s desktop user interface since the days of Windows 95 and NT, and its removal in Windows 8 in favour of the tile-based start screen was the cause of many complaints among loyal long-time users. The revitalised start menu has an area to the right where users can arrange their tiles, in a manner similar to the start screen, without having to leave the desktop. Another is that Windows Store apps will work in a window on a desktop, unlike in Windows 8, where they ran in full-screen like they do on a smartphone or tablet. Likewise, on a desktop PC, users will be able to have multiple desktops. This has long been a favourite feature among desktop Linux users, and will be a very welcome addition to Windows desktops. Good news for app developers For developers, the really big news with Windows 10 is that while the user interface is tailored for all Windows 10 devices, universal Windows apps will work on all of them. One set of code will be able to target everything from a full-screen app on a smartphone or tablet through to a windowing app on a PC. Because of this, there will be just one Windows app store developers will need to deal with for all devices. This is a huge step up from Windows 8, which required different versions of an app to be developed for Windows Phone smartphones, the desktop environment for PCs, and the start screen interface on Windows RT tablets. Benefits for businesses Meanwhile, for businesses, the major change is that mobile device management style separation for work and personal apps will be a feature of all devices running Windows 10, from smartphones through to tablets and PCs. With a growing number of businesses opting for bring-your-own-device policies, the ability to securely wipe work files and data from an employee’s device while leaving their personal apps and files intact will be welcome. Windows 10 will also make it much more difficult for sensitive data to accidentally or maliciously fall into the wrong hands. This is because the ability to open files will be linked to user accounts at a file level, meaning the protection follows a file wherever it goes. And now we play the waiting game (or Hungry Hungry Hippos) Now, as I mentioned at the start of the article – and this is very important to note – Microsoft has only released a technical preview at this stage. It is aimed at developers and IT experts who are comfortable with using and evaluating unfinished software. Microsoft itself recommends people only install this software on a secondary computer, because there is a risk that there might be serious bugs on any given day. Sensible PC users should wait for the full version to be released before using it on their production machines. Nonetheless, on a number of important fronts, the direction Windows 10 is taking should be exciting news for those who rely on Microsoft products for their business. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.