Bill Gates


Windows 95 turns 20 – and new ways of interacting show up desktop's age

8:14AM | Tuesday, 25 August

 The arrival of Microsoft Windows 95 on August 24 1995 brought about a desktop PC boom. With an easier and more intuitive graphical user interface than previous versions it appealed to more than just business, and Bill Gates’ stated aim of one PC per person per desk was set in motion. This was a time of 320Mb hard drives, 8Mb RAM and 15” inch CRT monitors. For most home users, the internet had only just arrived.   Windows 95 introduced the start menu, powered by a button in the bottom-left corner of the desktop. This gives a central point of entry into menus from which to choose commands and applications. The simplicity of this menu enables users to easily find commonly used documents and applications. All subsequent versions of Windows have kept this menu, with the notable exception of Windows 8, a change which prompted an enormous backlash.     We take these intuitive graphic interfaces for granted today, but earlier operating systems such as DOS and CP/M allowed the user to interact using only typed text commands. This all changed in the 1970s, with Ivan Sutherland’s work with Sketchpad and the use of lightpens to control CRT displays, Douglas Engelbart’s development of the computer mouse, and the Xerox PARC research team’s creation of the Windows Icon Menu Pointer graphical interfaces paradigm (WIMP) – the combination of mouse pointer, window and icons that remains standard to this day. By the early 1980s, Apple had developed graphical operating systems for its Lisa (released 1983) and Macintosh (1984) computers, and Microsoft had released Windows (1985).   DOS - these were not good old days. Krzysztof Burghardt Imagining a desktop All these interfaces rely on the central idea of the desktop, a comprehensible metaphor for a computer. We work with information in files and organise them in folders, remove unwanted information to the trash can, and note something of interest with a bookmark.   Metaphors are useful. They enable users to grasp concepts faster, but rely on the metaphor remaining comprehensible to the user and useful for the designer and programmer putting it into effect – without stretching it beyond belief. The advantage is that the pictures used to represent functions (icons) look similar to those in the workplace, and so the metaphor is readily understandable.   Breaking windows But 20 years after Windows 95, the world has changed. We have smartphones and smart televisions, we use the internet prolifically for practically everything. Touchscreens are now almost more ubiquitous than the classic mouse-driven interface approach, and screen resolution is so high individual pixels can be difficult to see. We still have Windows, but things are changing. Indeed, they need to change.   The desktop metaphor has been the metaphor of choice for so long, and this ubiquity has helped computers find a place within households as a common, familiar tool rather than as specialist, computerised equipment. But is it still appropriate? After all, few of us sit in an office today with paper-strewn desks; books are read on a tablet or phone rather than hard-copies; printing emails is discouraged; most type their own letters and write their own emails; files are electronic not physical; we search the internet for information rather than flick through reference books; and increasingly the categorisation and organisation of data has taken second place to granular search.   Mouse-driven interfaces rely on a single point of input, but we’re increasingly seeing touch-based interfaces that accept swipes, touches and shakes in various combinations. We are moving away from the dictatorship of the mouse pointer. Dual-finger scrolling and pinch-to-zoom are new emerging metaphors – natural user interfaces (NUI) rather than graphical user interfaces.   What does the next 20 years hold? It’s hard to tell but one thing that is certain is that interfaces will make use of more human senses to display information and to control the computer. Interfaces will become more transparent, more intuitive and less set around items such as boxes, arrows or icons. Human gestures will be more commonplace. And such interfaces will be incorporated into technology throughout the world, through virtual reality and augmented reality.   These interfaces will be appear and feel more natural. Some suitable devices already exist, such as ShiverPad, that provide shear forces on surfaces that provide a frictional feel to touch devices. Or Geomagic’s Touch X (formerly the Sensible Phantom Desktop) that delivers three-dimensional forces to make 3D objects feel solid.   Airborne haptics are another promising technology that develop tactile interfaces in mid-air. Through ultrasound, users can feel acoustic radiation fields that emanate from devices, without needing to touch any physical surface. Videogame manufacturers have led the way with these interfaces, including the Microsoft Kinect and Hololens that allow users to use body gestures to control the interface, or with their eyes through head-mounted displays.   Once interaction with a computer or device can be commanded using natural gestures, movements of the body or spoken commands, the necessity for the Windows-based metaphor of computer interaction begins to look dated – as old as it is. Jonathan Roberts is Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at Bangor University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australia’s 2015 Imagine Cup finalists hope to follow in Eyenaemia’s footsteps

5:15AM | Friday, 22 May

Two Australian health tech teams, one tackling Alzheimer’s and the other looking at student mental health, are hoping to follow in the footsteps of Eyenaemia after being named as finalists in the Imagine Cup global tournament.   The global competition aims to encourage students aged 16 or over to take up coding by demonstrating how technology can be used to create solutions to social problems. It attracts over 100,000 participants worldwide, including the brightest university students from the US, UK, Russia, China, India and Europe.   Last year Eyenaemia, created by two medical students from Melbourne’s Monash University, were crowned Microsoft Imagine Cup world champions by developing an app that allows users to take photos of their eye in order to calculate their risk of anaemia.   The prize included a face-to-face meeting with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in Seattle, who praised their app saying their concept had “real promise” and could make a big difference in developing countries, where anaemia contributes to nearly 20% of deaths during pregnancy.   The team has found ongoing success since then, presenting at Microsoft’s Global Impact Forum, the UN Entrepreneurship event, and in the past week, taking out the top prize in STC’s Medtech’s Got Talent health tech pitching competition.   Another Australian team focused on agriculture, Team SOAK, took out the prize in 2008, while food-focused social startup Foodbank Local came third in 2013.   Hoping to follow in their footsteps are this year’s finalists, Team Opaque Multimedia and Team Speakerboxx.   Team Opaque Multimedia is working with Alzheimer’s Australia to develop a virtual reality experience for carers and family members that allows them to experience first-hand what life is like for a dementia sufferer.   Team Speakerboxx has developed an app that allows students to record a private diary, send anonymous messages to a teacher or school counsellor, or chat with friends. The app integrates cloud-based analysis of user recordings that looks for key phrases and can provide immediate support through links to mental health support services.   Microsoft Developer platform evangelist Lawrence Crumpton told StatupSmart Australian teams tend to punch above their weight – with Australia’s spirit of mateship a key factor – and this year’s teams are no exception.   “Right now, even if you study dementia, there’s a gap where you can never really understand what goes on for a sufferer,” Crumpton says.   Crumpton cites the example of a dementia sufferer who used to keep her lights off and blinds closed because she was sensitive to bright light, but had difficulty communicating this – a common situation for dementia sufferers. But her carer, who visited weekly, didn’t realise this and used to open the blinds and switch on all the lights.   The sufferer eventually refused to allow the carer to visit, and eventually had to be hospitalised – a bad outcome both in terms of cost and the patient.   “Now imagine you could take that carer, and put them in the mind of a dementia sufferer. Instead of them needing to remember what they read in a book, you could ask them to do a simple task like opening a door while experiencing the auditory and visual symptoms a dementia patient experiences. They would then know why patients react in the way they do – because they’ve experienced the same symptoms.”     The other team, Speakerboxx, demonstrates how technologies such as machine learning and smartphones can be used to achieve a social or health outcome.   “Azure ML [Machine Learning] is an environment where you can invite others to collaborate and access huge clusters of computing power at a mouse click,” Crumpton says.   “And just look at smartphone use globally. There are more people globally with access to smartphones than any other platform and that growth rate has happened at exponential speed… Medicine is a field where the costs are super-high, because of traditional practices. You combine smartphones and medicine, and the effect is like a match on dry kindling.   “[The Imagine Cup] might have started out as a competition, but it’s evolved to where students in dorm rooms and garages – much like the ones Bill Gates and Steve Jobs started out in – have moved beyond competition into building commercially viable solutions.”   Image credit: Microsoft Australia   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The seven books on Bill Gates’ reading list

5:39AM | Wednesday, 20 May

Jokes about scientists, an explanation about how statistics can be manipulated and arguments about the sustainability of eating meat are just some of the topics on Bill Gates’ reading list this American summer.   The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft puts out a list of book recommendations this time each year and his endorsements usually carry weight: the books climb up the bestseller charts as soon as Gates spruiks them on his personal blog.   This summer Gates has picked seven holiday reads, making an effort to “pick a few more things that are on the lighter side” compared to last year.   “Each of these books made me think or laugh or, in some cases, do both,” Gates says.   Here’s Gates’ annual summer reading list:   How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff   Gates has already made it known how much he likes this book for investors, having recommended it to everyone at TED earlier this year.   Huff’s book for investors was first published in 1954 but Gates says apart from a couple of examples that are no longer relevant, he says the book “doesn’t feel dated”.   “One chapter shows you how visuals can be used to exaggerate trends and give distorted comparisons—a timely reminder, given how often infographics show up in your Facebook and Twitter feeds these days,” Gates says.   “[This books is] a useful introduction to the use of statistics and a helpful refresher for anyone who is already well versed in it.”   Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh   Gates promises readers will “rip through” this book in just a few hours, “but you’ll wish it went on longer because it’s funny and smart as hell”.   The book is based on Allie Brosh’s popular Hyperbole and a Half blog, which is part-comic and part-memoir, told in short vignettes about her life.   “The adventures [Brosh] recounts are mostly inside her head, where we hear and see the kind of inner thoughts most of us are too timid to let out in public,” Gates says.   “I have interrupted Melinda a dozen times to read to her passages that made me laugh out loud.”   The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins   Gates says Richard Dawkins has “a gift for making science enjoyable”.   Gates describes Dawkins’ book as “an engaging, well-illustrated science textbook offering compelling answers to big questions, like ‘how did the universe form?’ and ‘what causes earthquakes?’”.   “This book is as accessible as the TV series Cosmos is for younger audiences—and as relevant for older audiences,” Gates says.   “It’s also a plea for readers of all ages to approach mysteries with rigor and curiosity.”   “Dawkins’ antagonistic (and, to me, overzealous) view of religion has earned him a lot of angry critics, but I consider him to be one of the great scientific writer/explainers of all time.”   What if? and XKCD by Randall Munroe   Gates has included two books by Randall Munroe on this year’s reading list: What If? is full of Munroe’s answers to “absurd hypothetical questions” from all fields of science and XKCD is a collection of cartoons that poke fun at scientists and computers.   In What If? Gates says Munroe provides funny answers to the questions, but “the science underpinning his answers is very accurate”.   “It’s an entertaining read, and you’ll also learn a bit about things like ballistics, DNA, the oceans, the atmosphere and lightning along the way,” he says.   When it comes to the jokes in XKCD, Gates says not everyone will love Munroe’s sense of humour, but he definitely does.   On Immunity by Eula Biss   Gates says he thought this book from Eula Biss would be a worthwhile read but he had “no idea what a pleasure reading it would be”.   “Biss, an essayist and university lecturer, examines what lies behind people’s fears of vaccinating their children,” Gates explains.   “Like many of us, she concludes that vaccines are safe, effective and almost miraculous tools for protecting children against needless suffering. But she is not out to demonise anyone who holds opposing views.”   “This is a thoughtful and beautifully written book about a very important topic.”   Should We Eat Meat? by Vaclav Smil   Gates admits this book is “probably the least beach-friendly” book on his list but says it is a “timely” read.   “The richer the world gets, the more meat it eats. And the more meat it eats, the bigger the threat to the planet,” Gates says.   “How do we square the circle? Vaclav Smil takes his usual clear-eyed view of the whole landscape, from meat’s role in human evolution to hard questions about animal cruelty.”   This article was originally published at SmartCompany.

Five tips to help entrepreneurs find a great co-founder

4:09AM | Tuesday, 21 April

General wisdom among tech entrepreneurs is that the ideal number of co-founders is two or three.   There is a good reason for it – an analysis of a dataset of 100,000 startups by Startup Genome shows that solo founders take 3.6x longer to reach the scale stage, compared to a founding team of two.   However, taking a co-founder on board brings its own risks. Here’s a short guide to picking the right person. 1. Find someone with a complementary skillset According to serial tech entrepreneur and Stanford lecturer, Steve Blank, startups are inherently chaotic, and finding a product/market fit in that chaos requires a team with a combination of skills.   The skills you need depend on the industry you’re in but, in general, co-founders should have complementary skills. In mobile and web startups, that usually means great technology skills, great business and marketing skills, great UX design and product skills. Most people are good at one or two of these, but it’s very rare to find someone competent in all areas. 2. Find someone who shares your vision and values Co-founder disputes are very common and are a frequent cause of startup failure. A lot of these disputes stem from founders having different ideas about how to run the company and where it should go. One thing is to put your vision and priorities on paper; another is to live it day by day, especially when your original idea proves wrong and you need to change direction.   Likewise, the values you live by will plant a seed for what becomes a company culture. The reality is that co-founders will have different values but, together as team, you have to define a common value system. Having done so will likely play an important role in taking your startup forward. 3. Find someone with grit Once you have an idea, you need to be able to pursue it, even in the face of adversity, if you want your startup to succeed. Frankly, entrepreneurship is extremely challenging, and to persist through those challenges, you need grit.   Professor Carol Dweck, of the Stanford Department of Psychology, has done extensive research on the subject of grit, which she defines as ”the disposition to pursue very long-term goals with passion and perseverance, stamina and ability to win things over the long-term and work very hard at it”.   According to her research, the key to grit is having the right mindset. Dweck observed two different mindsets among people:   Fixed mindset: A belief that you either are talented or not. Failure is proof of your inability. Intelligence and talent are just fixed traits. Growth mindset: A belief that abilities are developed. Setbacks and criticism are a sign that you need to improve. You learn and grow yourself and think long-term. People with a growth mindset are more resilient to challenges related to their abilities and performance than those with a fixed mindset. 4. Find someone who stands out Founder personalities are important and often popularised. Many companies end up looking like founder cults – Steve Jobs is a great example. Peter Thiel, investor and founder of two billion-dollar companies (PayPal, Palantir), believes there is a connection between being a founder and having extreme traits. According to him, the key to PayPal’s success was the eccentricity of all founders:   “Four of them were born outside of the United States. Five of them were 23 or younger. Four of them built bombs when they were in high school. Two of these bomb-makers did so in communist countries: Max in the Soviet Union, Yu Pan in China. This was not what people normally did in those countries at that time.”   According to his observations, if all traits distributed in the population were aggregated on a normal distribution chart with extreme traits on the right and left side of it, you will find most founders on both ends of the curve, rarely in the middle of it.   True or not, entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or Larry Ellison certainly add a little substance to this. 5. Find someone with whom you have a history of working together In the case of startup ‘unicorns’: 90% co-founding teams of $1 billion+ startups comprise people who have years of history together, either from school or work; 60% have co-founders who worked together; and 46% who went to school together. Further findings reveal that teams that worked together have driven more value per company than those who went to school together.   Only four teams of co-founders didn’t have common work or school experience, but all had a common thread. Two were known and introduced by the investors at founding/funding; one team were friends in the local tech scene; and one team met while working on similar ideas.   The take-away? The most successful co-founder teams are the ones where the people have known each other in other contexts, prior to the company at hand.   Sources: TechCrunch, Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 18 Notes, Stanford University.   This piece originally appeared on Appster’s blog.

A guide to navigating university for student entrepreneurs

3:13AM | Thursday, 19 March

A revolution in entrepreneurship is underway. A student, armed with a MacBook, an internet connection and a great idea can create a company that reaches people around the globe, with just $5000 dollars or less.   For entrepreneurial students at high school or university, your ambitions of bringing this idea to life will more often than not be met with indifference, even dismissiveness, from the usual career advice sources.   In my opinion, the career advice you’ll receive – study what you like, graduate, apply for graduate job at a consulting, finance or other established company and head into a career path that probably won’t exist in five years’ time – is outdated and wrong.   Entrepreneurship is a valid path for you as a student. So how can you navigate university to help your entrepreneurial career? Looking back In 2008, I accidentally sat down to lunch next to the CEO of a growing tech company, which landed me my first internship. Today his company, Atlassian, has changed how company teams collaborate, and is worth over $3.5 billion dollars. That same year, my lecturer at Sydney University founded, which now provides jobs to over 14 million freelancers around the world and is worth over $350 million. And around the same time, my friends founded a startup, OrionVM, in their dorm room. OrionVM is now a leading global cloud infrastructure company, supporting governments and organisations around the globe.   All of the ‘founders’ mentioned above were entrepreneurial students at university.   I believe talented students from our universities should be taking the leap, creating their own jobs. The resources at hand are arguably, limitless (compared with 20 years ago) – entrepreneurial students should be encouraged to be trailblazers in their fields.   I also believe entrepreneurship utilising technological innovation is the most important. And this is how I encourage all students to frame their thoughts. If you want more context of how tech innovation disrupts and progresses a nation, read the book Why Nations Fail, in which the authors observe that throughout history “technological change is only one of the engines of prosperity, but it’s perhaps the most critical one”.   At the core of this revolution are mindboggling creativity, innovation and opportunities created by new technology. Whereas the previous revolution, the Industrial Revolution, saw a surge in invention, the Entrepreneur Revolution will see a surge in new businesses that bring these innovations into the real world.   This guide is designed to give you a few tips on how to navigate your time at university, take advantage of this revolution and kick-start your entrepreneurial career.   I also asked a few great entrepreneurs to provide me with their one piece of advice for student entrepreneurs, which is dotted throughout this article:   “Put your heart and soul into everything that you do – every subject, every part time job, every project. At some point in life everyone faces a decision, to bet on themselves or to take an easier, safer road. Hopefully the bank of experiences that you build during university will enable you to bet on yourself to succeed.”—Melanie Perkins, founder and CEO at and created a web tool that allows anyone to do simple graphic design for free. Go to university To get this question out of the way, I can already hear you asking, “But Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both dropped out of uni! If I’m some uber-entrepreneur, should I go to university?” You should go to university. At least give it a go if you have the opportunity to study. University gives you qualifications, a great knowledge base and the opportunity you build your networks and experiences.     But which undergraduate degrees are useful to entrepreneurs?   Personally, I think including engineering and/or science in your degree is critical. Technical subjects are about understanding, experimenting and building useful ‘things’. Software is quite literally eating the world and those that understand technology stand to benefit in a much greater way. A great way to do this is to start with code.   I believe there is only one reason why you should not go to university: If it’s clearly obvious why you should not go.   The opportunities presented to you at university are great. Marc Andreessen, the guy who created the world’s first web browser, recommends aspiring entrepreneurs develop skills rather than plan for a career.   Similarly, university shouldn't teach you how to live your life; it should teach you how to learn. “The first rule of career planning: Do not plan your career. The second rule of career planning: Instead of planning your career, focus on developing skills and pursuing opportunities.”—internet pioneer and leading tech investor Marc Andreessen (From his Guide to Career Planning.) Make an effort Hanging out with ambitious, like-minded people can have a powerful effect on your studies, the friends you make and your career. Why do you think executives pay so much to do a Harvard MBA?   At the University of Sydney we have over 200 clubs and societies; everything from Quidditch Society to the 3D Printing Club. While unassuming on the surface, these groups can you help you forge life-long connections.   My first experience with this was when I became the president of the Sydney University IT Society. Before I joined I was failing half my subjects, found it hard to relate to people in my class and was disillusioned by my course content, which wasn’t what I expected leaving high school.   Joining one society led me to my first internship, forming strong friendships, helped increase my grades, introduced me to new subjects and ultimately stopped me from dropping out of university.   Whether you join a society, group or event, you’ll need to make an effort to hang out with good people, and you’ll never have as much free time as you do while at university. Don’t climb the wrong hill Many students don’t believe me when I tell them they to try new things at university — the idea of just going to lectures and home again seems totally reasonable. To explain how you should approach university, I’ve borrowed an analogy from computer science, recently highlighted in a blog post by serial entrepreneur and investor, Chris Dixon.   Imagine you are dropped at a random spot on a hilly terrain, where you can only see a few feet in each direction (it’s a foggy mountain range). The goal is to get to the highest hill; where you would like to be in 10 years.   The simplest action would be to take a step in the first direction that takes you higher, maybe that’s the most obvious piece of career advice you’ll receive from people around you, thus this is the direction you start taking. But what if you were dropped at the lower hill? What if the hill you should be climbing is the one you can’t see through the fog, that’s around the corner from you?   Exploring many different ‘parts of the terrain’ early in your career is essential in helping you discover what you’re passionate about, what gets you going and, for the entrepreneur, where you think you could make an impact. Once you discover this, get focused and start on that route.   People discover their ‘hill’ at different stages of their life and you’ll see this all the time in what inspired successful entrepreneurs.   “People early in their career should learn from computer science: meander in your walk (especially early on), randomly drop yourself into new parts of the terrain, and when you find the highest hill, don’t waste any more time on the current hill no matter how much better the next step up might appear.”—Chris Dixon. Building your ‘open network’ The question you should truthfully ask yourself in three to five years of graduating from university is: What do you want your network of friends to look like?   For the freshers out there, you will gain confidence over time and end up meeting some really cool people at university. However, this won’t happen just because you go to university. You need to network. And preferably place yourself in an open network And to prove the point, let’s look at network science. Networking may conjure up images of 90s businesswomen and men looking dorky (thanks stock imagery!), but in this context it is purely about connecting with new people from different groups.   And it can make a huge difference in your entrepreneurial career. Having a large open network is a strong indicator of entrepreneurial and career success versus a small, closed network.   Writer and social entrepreneur Michael Simmons, in an article recently published in Forbes, summarises that open networks can determine career success: “The bottom line? According to multiple, peer-reviewed studies, simply being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success.”   Simmons argues we often attribute the success of entrepreneurs to ‘personality quirks’, which helps them with their technical abilities, attention to detail and attracting world-class talent and holding them to high standards.   He goes on to say, “We think we understand what caused his success. We don’t. We dismiss usable principles of success by labelling them as personality quirks.”   “What’s often missed is the paradoxical interplay of two of his [Steve Jobs] seemingly opposite qualities: maniacal focus and insatiable curiosity. These weren’t just two random strengths. They may have been his most important as they helped lead to everything else.”   People in open networks have a more accurate view of the world, serve as a connector between groups and have exposure to more breakthrough ideas. Summary A revolution in entrepreneurship is underway. Student entrepreneurs involved in technological innovation can reach a global audience with their new product or service Go to university if you have the opportunity and there’s no obvious reason why you should not go Include a technical degree in your studies or at least start with a software engineering subject Make an effort: Meet new people, go to events and join clubs and societies ‘Meander in your walk’ while at university and early in your career — try doing things you wouldn’t normally consider Create an open network. Learn to be comfortable meeting people and develop into a network expert, be authentic and genuine in your interactions with others   James Alexander is program manager and co-founder of the Sydney Incubate accelerator program. This article originally appeared on Medium. Check back soon for part two.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems and the role of government policy

1:13AM | Thursday, 22 January

The final communique of the 2014 G20 Leaders’ Summit called for enhanced economic growth that could be achieved by the “promotion of competition, entrepreneurship and innovation”. There was also a call for strategies to reduce unemployment, particularly amongst youth, through the “encouragement of entrepreneurship”.   This desire to stimulate economic and job growth via the application of entrepreneurship and innovation has been a common theme in government policy since at least the 1970s. The origins of this interest can be traced back to the report produced by Professor David Birch of MIT “The Job Generation Process” that was published in 1979.   A key finding from this work was that job creation in the United States was not coming from large companies, but small independently owned businesses. It recommended that government policy should target indirect rather than direct strategies with a greater focus on the role of small firms. Fostering the growth of entrepreneurial ecosystems Over the past 35 years the level of government interest in entrepreneurship and small business development as potential solutions to flagging economic growth and rising unemployment has increased. It helped to spawn a new field of academic study and research.   This trend was boosted by the success the iconic “technopreneurs”. Technology entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs of Apple, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, or Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google have become the “poster children” of the entrepreneurship movement.   One of the best known centres of high-tech entrepreneurial activity has been California’s Silicon Valley. Although it is not the only place in which innovation and enterprise have flourished, it has served as a role model for many governments seeking to stimulate economic growth.   Today “science” or “technology” parks can be found scattered around the world. They usually follow a similar format, with universities and R&D centres co-located with the park, and venture financiers hovering nearby looking for deals. Most have been supported by government policy.   What governments want is to replicate Silicon Valley and the formation and growth of what have been described as “entrepreneurial ecosystems”. However, despite significant investments by governments into such initiatives, their overall success rate is mixed.   So what are “entrepreneurial ecosystems” and what role can government policy play in their formation and growth? This was a question addressed by the first White Paper in a series produced by the Small Enterprise Association of Australia and New Zealand (SEAANZ). The purpose of these papers is to help enhance understanding of what entrepreneurial ecosystems are, and to generate a more informed debate about their role in the stimulation economic growth and job creation. What is an entrepreneurial ecosystem? The concept of the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” can be traced back to the study of industry clustering and the development of National Innovation Systems that took place in the 1990s. However, the term was being used by management writers during the mid-2000s to describe the conditions that helped to bring people together and foster economic prosperity and wealth creation.   In 2010 Professor Daniel Isenberg from Babson College published an article in the Harvard Business Review that helped to boost the awareness of the concept. The diagram below shows the nine major elements that are considered important to the generation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. The focus of this first SEAANZ White Paper is on the role of government policy. Future White Papers will deal with the other eight elements.   Isenberg outlined several “prescriptions” for the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.   The first prescription was to stop emulating Silicon Valley. Despite its success the Valley was formed by a unique set of circumstances and any attempt to replicate it in other places were unlikely to succeed. This led to a second prescription, which was to build the ecosystem on local conditions. Grow existing industries and build on their foundations, skills and capabilities rather than attempting to launch high-tech industries from scratch.   The third prescription was the importance of engaging the private sector from the start. Here the role of government is indirect and one of a facilitator not a manager. In trying to shape the growth of such ecosystems attention should be given to the support of firms with high growth potential that can help to generate a “big win” early on. This is the opportunity for local success stories to become role models for others.   However, care must be taken by governments not to try to pick winners or over engineer the system. High growth firms by nature are inherently risky and highly innovative firms are typically unique. As such there is no magic formula for their success. Helping such firms to succeed is more about removing obstacles to their growth such as anti-competitive cultures, unfair taxation on small firms, unnecessary “red tape” or lack of access to markets, skilled employees or investment capital.   In seeking to help stimulate entrepreneurial high growth firms it is important, according to Isenberg, to avoid flooding the system with too much “easy money”. This can take the form of government grants and venture capital funds that are too easily obtained.   What is important is to grow firms with strong root systems that can sustain their own growth as much as possible before seeking additional funding. Such firms should be financially sound; profitable and well managed, or their likely success rates will be low.   The focus should be on encouraging sustainable, growth oriented and innovative firms not simply fostering more start-ups. Starting a new business is the easy part, successfully growing it is the challenge. What can government do to stimulate entrepreneurial ecosystems? The challenge for government policy is to develop policies that work, but avoid the temptation to try to effect change via direct intervention. A 2014 study of entrepreneurial ecosystems undertaken by Colin Mason from the University of Glasgow and Ross Brown from the University of St Andrews for the OECD, developed a set of general principles for government policy in the relation to these ecosystems.   They contrast “traditional” versus “growth-oriented” policy approaches to enterprise development. The first of these approaches tends to focus on trying to grow the total number of firms via business start-up programs, venture capital financing and investment in R&D or technology transfer.   This is a “pick the winner model” and can also include business or technology incubators, grants, tax incentives and support programs. Such programs are essentially transactional in nature. It is not that they are of no value, but they cannot guarantee success via such direct intervention.   A “growth oriented” approach is more relational in nature. This focuses on the entrepreneurial leadership of these growth firms. It seeks to understand their networks and how to foster the expansion of such networks at the local, national and international level.   The most important thing is the strategic intent of the team running the business. Firms seeking to grow need to be given help in linking up with customers, suppliers and other “actors” within the ecosystem who can provide resources.   Government ministers can play a critical role in fostering enterprise and innovation. Their role is to direct the government departments and agencies to focus on the problem and develop effective policies.   A minister who has a good understanding of what entrepreneurial ecosystems are, how they form and the role and limitations of government policy is well-placed to generate more effective outcomes. Key recommendations for government policy In summary, key recommendations for government policy in the fostering of entrepreneurial ecosystems are: Make the formation of entrepreneurial activity a government priority - The formulation of effective policy for entrepreneurial ecosystems requires the active involvement of Government Ministers working with senior public servants who act as ‘institutional entrepreneurs’ to shape and empower policies and programs. Ensure that government policy is broadly focused - Policy should be developed that is holistic and encompasses all components of the ecosystem rather than seeking to ‘cherry pick’ areas of special interest. Allow for natural growth not top-down solutions - Build from existing industries that have formed naturally within the region or country rather than seeking to generate new industries from green field sites. Ensure all industry sectors are considered not just high-tech - Encourage growth across all industry sectors including low, mid and high-tech firms. Provide leadership but delegate responsibility and ownership - Adopt a ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approach devolving responsibility to local and regional authorities. Develop policy that addresses the needs of both the business and its management team - Recognise that small business policy is ‘transactional’ while entrepreneurship policy is ‘relational’ in nature.   For more reading see:   Mazzarol, T. (2014) Growing and sustaining entrepreneurial ecosystems: What they are and the role of government policy, White Paper WP01-2014, Small Enterprise Association of Australia and New Zealand (SEAANZ).   Note: Tim Mazzarol is President of the Small Enterprise Association of Australia and New Zealand Ltd (SEAANZ). SEAANZ Ltd. is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1987. It is dedicated to the advancement of research, education, policy and practice in small to medium enterprises. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Canva competes at CES for the chance to pitch to Richard Branson

1:14AM | Friday, 9 January

Australian design startup Canva was one of the 10 finalists pitching at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas as part of Richard Branson’s Extreme Tech Challenge competition this week.   In total, more than 2000 startups from over 100 countries worldwide entered the competition.   The Las Vegas leg of the competition saw two finalists picked by a judging panel including some of the biggest names in the tech industry, along with a people’s choice champion.   While it didn’t win the contest, the competition was nonetheless a golden opportunity for Canva to pitch its business model to some of the most influential names in the tech industry.   The judges included CES producer Gary Shapiro, Bill Gates’ scientific advisor Boris Nikolic, Monster Products' head monster Noel Lee, Robert Scoble, Brazilian venture capitalist Veronica Serra, former Priceline chief executive Jeff Hoffman; and Bioheart founder Hoard Leonhardt.     The three winners were invited to visit Branson’s private island, Necker, to participate in the Necker MaiTai networking event.   Canva chief executive Melanie Perkins told Private Media the company is looking forward to the year ahead, and has a lot of exciting things in the pipeline.   “We're thrilled to have been selected as a finalist for the Extreme Tech Challenge and to be recognised alongside such innovative companies,” Perkins says.   “Last year, we reached one million users, launched our iPad app, unveiled the Canva Button to allow other websites to integrate Canva, and opened our designer marketplace for graphic designers to contribute their own layouts and elements, and earn a royalty whenever they're used.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Gadget guide: six new technologies to watch in 2015

12:51AM | Friday, 19 December

A year ago, SmartCompany listed the top new technologies set to race into 2014. Well, another year has come and gone, and a new group of technologies are emerging over the horizon.   So what new technologies should you look out for in 2015? It’s time to gaze again into the crystal ball and take a look at six technologies you should keep an eye on in 2015: 1. Make-or-break time for smartwatches   Over the past year, both in the form of devices running Google’s Android Wear platform and the Apple Watch, the tech giants have made big bets on smartwatches.   However, so far consumers have been a bit ambivalent. Sure, smartwatches can bring notifications to your clockface and apps on your wrist, and being able to do a voice search with Google without pulling out your phone or tablet is nifty.   On the other hand, a majority of the people inhabiting the planet already carry a far more powerful device with a larger screen in their pocket or handbag, in the form of a smartphone.   So the real question now is whether consumers will embrace this new technology.   Over the next year, entrepreneurs and innovators will either come up with a “killer app” for the smartwatch that drives it into the mainstream, or else the technology will be remembered as a flash-in-the-pan tech fad.   Either way, the next 12 months will be crucial to the long-term prospects of this much-hyped technology. 2. Mobile payments and tickets   Another technology rapidly approaching the critical make-or-break point is mobile payments.   These days, from “touch and go” chip-and-pin credit cards to public transport tickets, there are a growing number of smartcards that are based on a technology called near-field communications (NFC).   Over recent years, a growing number of smartphones have embedded these chips, allowing the “tap to share” features on Samsung Galaxy and Microsoft Lumia smartphones.   NFC technology received a surge of mainstream attention with its inclusion on iPhone 6, which uses the chip as part of its Apple Pay payment platform.   Of course, the great thing about NFC is that you don’t need to be tied into a proprietary walled garden platform such as Apple Pay. Potentially, all of the smartcards in your wallet could potentially be replaced with an app on a smartphone with an NFC chip.   Since we’re now at the point where just about every flagship smartphone has NFC, we’re also at the point where it’s plausible for consumers to replace a wallet full of cards with a phone full of apps.   Whether consumers embrace the convenience over the next year will be interesting to watch. 3. Multi-device app development   The number of tech gadgets on offer to consumers is greater than ever before.   A couple of decades ago, the average consumer just had a desktop or laptop in their study at home, and a second on their work desk.   Today, a consumer could potentially use a smartwatch, a smartphone, a tablet, a desktop or laptop computer, a smart TV (or a set-top box or games console) and an in-car entertainment system in the course of a single day – and all of them run apps.   Where Apple, Google and Microsoft once created operating systems for single devices, they’re now creating app platforms and ecosystems for devices.   With Mac OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, Apple added a feature called Handoff that allows users to pass activities from one device to another.   With Windows 10, Microsoft will allow a single app to run across a range of devices, including everything from smartphones and tablets to Xbox game consoles, PCs and servers.   Meanwhile, with 5.0 Lollipop, Android apps can now run on Chromebooks. Not only that, but Google has created a range of versions of Android for different devices, including cars (Android Auto), wearables (Android Wear), and TVs (Android TV).   For businesses, what this means is that consumers are likely to increasingly expect their apps, websites and online services to work seamlessly across a range of different devices and contexts. 4. Health tech   The interesting thing about many of these devices is they have potential therapeutic benefits for people with otherwise debilitating medical conditions. Others could be used as a preventative tool to warn users about possible health risks.   For example, Google Glass can potentially overlay graphics for people with poor vision highlighting potential risks and dangers. Cloud platforms can be used to collate health records and readings from a range of different devices and sources. Robotics can be applied to help people with limited mobility carry out everyday tasks.   The great news is that there are a range of Australian businesses already doing some great research in this area.   A great example is Eyenaemia, a new technology, developed by Melbourne medical students Jarrel Seah and Jennifer Tang, which allows users to diagnose anaemia by taking selfies with their smartphones.   The technology has grabbed the attention of none other than Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates himself.   “I could see a future version for Eyenaemia being used in developing countries, especially with pregnant women, since anaemia contributes to nearly 20% of deaths during pregnancy,” Gates says.   As of August, a health-tech startup group in Melbourne has already managed to attract close to 1000 entrepreneurs and medical professionals to some of its meetings, and a similar group in Brisbane is attracting around 100.   Health tech is an area Australia could become a world leader in over the coming years – if the investment and political will is there. 5. Plastic OLED displays   A year ago, low production yields put a limit to the production volumes of curved or flexible screen devices.   The first curved screen displays appeared on smartphones such as Samsung’s Galaxy Round and the LG G Flex, and at some curved-screen TVs at the International CES trade show. However, prices were high and volumes were limited. It required specialist types of glass, such as Corning’s bendable Willow Glass, to make.   The situation is set to change over the coming year thanks to a new technology called called P-OLED (plastic-organic light emitting diode).   P-OLED works by sandwiching a layer of organic material, which lights up on receiving an electrical charge, between two sheets of plastic. Along with the organic material, there’s a thin grid made up of a transparent material that conducts electricity (known as an active matrix) that can deliver a charge to each individual pixel.   Unlike LCD displays, which require a backlight, all of the light is generated by the organic material, meaning P-OLED displays are thinner as well. It is also thinner than glass AMOLED displays.   LG Display, one of the top three display manufacturers worldwide alongside Japan Display (Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi) and Samsung, says we should expect to see bendable tablets next year, with rollable TVs and foldable laptops screens in 2017. 6. Rise of the Chinese tech giants   This last one is not so much a new technology, per se, as it is a potential tectonic shift in the tech industry landscape.   During 2014, Xiaomi overtook Apple as China’s second-largest smartphone maker and – according to some figures – overtook Samsung as its largest. By the end of the year, it was the world’s third largest smartphone maker by volume, trailing only Samsung and Apple.   But while Xiaomi attracted most of the attention, it’s far from the only Chinese electronics maker set to make an impact over the coming years.   Lenovo became the world’s largest PC maker by buying IBM’s PC division in 2005, and has recently completed its purchase of Motorola from Google. Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, is also making its consumer electronics play. In their shadows are a range of other brands, such as Coolpad and ZTE.   But it’s not just device makers that are having an impact. Look no further than the record-setting $US231.4 billion ($A258.8 billion) IPO of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. In conclusion   From health tech to mobile payments, there are a range of technologies that will potentially have a big impact on Australian small businesses over the next year.   But perhaps the most important thing for businesses will be to make sure your consumers have a seamless digital experience across all of them.   This article originally appeared at SmartCompany.

When emails go public. How to avoid sharing the things you should never have said

12:57AM | Tuesday, 16 December

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 reveals the best books he read this year

12:43AM | Tuesday, 9 December

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.

Venture capitalists need to better understand failure for an ecosystem to thrive, says Steve Blank

10:50AM | Tuesday, 21 October

In a true, thriving startup ecosystem, venture capitalists understand failure, according to Steve Blank, the academic and entrepreneur who popularised the lean startup movement.   “In the US, this is kind of funny. When I used to get asked that question I’d change the subject by saying isn’t that Bill Gates over there? And maybe change the topic,” Blank says.   “In the last three or four years every VC in Silicon Valley needs to give lip service to lean startup. It’s changed dramatically.   “Whether they explicitly believe that failure means experience, I say hell yes. I think that is the nature of an entrepreneurial cluster. Now if you fail three or four times in a row they stop returning your phone calls. But a single failure, does not put you out of business.”   According to lean startup methodology, startups are able to “fail quickly” and learn from those mistakes to make the necessary pivot required to find a successful business model. Blank was speaking at the Australian Sports Technology Network’s annual conference in Melbourne yesterday.   He says when he created his seventh startup, Rocket Science Games, he had his own experience of failure.   “I made it onto the cover of Wired magazine. There I am, hot stuff: ponytail, baseball cap, kind of embarrassing my kids, still cringe when they see it. I was riding high – 90 days later I realised I’m going out of business,” he says.   “I’ve raised $35 million. Still the world thinks it’s great. Heading to the ground, I call my mum and I say, ‘Hey mum, I just lost $35 million’.”   He went on to tell his mother, a Russian immigrant, the two venture capitalists who had invested that money gave him $12 million to start his next venture.   “She said in Russian, ‘They told us the streets were paved in gold in America, it must be true’,” Blank says.   “I tell this story only because what happened was the VCs really did believe failure equals experience, and I returned a billion dollars each to the two VCs who gave me that $12 million.   “And by the way, that’s not a Steve Blank story. That’s a Silicon Valley story. That’s an entrepreneurial cluster story.   “Smart VCs, when you have a cluster, believe that entrepreneurship is not just execution. You’re betting on the team, on the people, on the passion, on the vision and sometimes on the circumstances.   “When you can’t get them to believe failure equals experience, you don’t have the right culture yet.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Australia’s Team Eyenaemia crowned World Champions at the 2014 Microsoft Imagine Cup

8:12AM | Wednesday, 6 August

Australia is producing world class entrepreneurs and Jennifer Tang and Jarrel Seah are proof.   The two Monash medicine students founded Team Eyenaemia and were recently crowned World Champions at this year’s Microsoft Imagine Cup, beating teams from 34 other countries.   Eyenaemia is an app which allows users to take photos of their eye in order to calculate their risk of anaemia.   Anaemia is a deficiency in the number or quality of red blood cells, which can be dangerous if left untreated. Currently two billion people worldwide suffer from the condition, including 293 million children.   Team Eyenaemia won both the World Citizenships category and went on to beat the other category winners to be named World Champions of the 12th Imagine Cup.   Honored to judge #ImagineCup with @hadip, @hueypriest. Congrats to World Champ @Eyenaemia – incredible project! — Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) August 1, 2014   They now get $50,000 in funding to help develop the product and a personal meeting with Bill Gates.   “It will always be a really memorable week for us,” Tang says. “It was really nice to go there and experience everything and experience everything and to meet really inspirational people as well.”   Congrats to @Eyenaemia for winning @ImagineCup! Thanks to you, a selfie a day might actually keep the doctor away. — Skype (@Skype) August 5, 2014 The World Championships were judged by Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella, founder Hadi Partovi and Reddit general manager Erik Martin.   Seah, who is a redditor, says a particular highlight was getting the chance to chat casually with Martin about issues like net neutrality as the teams were being ferried around by bus during the event.   Tang and Seah are both excited by the prospect of meeting Microsoft founder Bill Gates.   “He’s really an inspiration to the both of us,” Seah says. “To get the chance to get his opinion on other things as well, not just technology, but life in general, his thoughts and the future and what he thinks the main challenges that society has to overcome.”   Monash students Jarrel Seah and Jennifer Tang win @Microsoft's worldwide #ImagineCup challenge with @Eyenaemia. So, proud! — Monash University (@MonashUni) August 4, 2014 The duo say one of the most important parts of their pitch was the fact they were able to show a working version of the app on a feature phone, an important characteristic to ensure take-up in the developing world.   “Right from the start our vision has always been to have this screening option available in developing countries,” Tang says. “It’s very important to make this accessible, and by putting it on a feature phone it does that.”   The Eyenaemia app has been approved by the National Health and Medical Research Centre for trials at the Mildura Hospital and Cabrini Hospital, to research and further validate the technology.   Currently the Eyenaemia app accurately detects 95% of cases of severe anaemia. The Eyenaemia app will be trialled on patients that are also getting blood tests for anaemia and the results of the two tests will be compared, in order to help improve the app’s detection rate.   Microsoft Australia’s Sarah Vaughan says the duo is a great example of what Australian entrepreneurs can achieve. She says when Team Eyenaemia was selected to represent Australia at the Imagine Cup, the Microsoft Australia team knew they were onto something special.   “Their simple, yet unique use of technology to solve the real-world problem of anaemia, which affects two billion people around the world, truly showcases Australian innovation at its finest,” she says.

Bill Gates reveals his top six books for 2014

7:00PM | Wednesday, 16 July

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

The pizza drone that won’t get a slice of the action

6:55AM | Tuesday, 24 June

“My idea is revolutionary! It’s a world first!” the would-be entrepreneur says.   Instantly, Old Taskmaster was both intrigued – and alarmed. Sure, sometimes the person spruiking a ‘world first’ has a name like Ada Lovelace, Steve Wozniak, Sergei Brin, Sophie Wilson, Jay Miner or Bill Gates.   Far more often, there’s either a good reason why no one has tried the world first, or alternatively, far from being a world first, it’s just another mobile messaging or e-commerce app.   “I’m going to create a fully-automated drone-based pizza delivery business!” the crowdfunder says.   “Here’s how it works: The customer picks a pizza and pays using the mobile app.   “In a warehouse, I’ll set up a fully automated pizza production line. As the customer order comes in, flour, water, tomato paste, ham and other toppings go in, and fully baked pizzas come out the other end.   “Those pizzas are picked up by drones, which fly the pizzas straight to the front door of the customer – with the customer getting a notification on the app as the pizza arrives.   “Here’s the best part: You can put the warehouse in a run-down industrial backlot rather than a premium retail shopping strip. You only need three staff – a cleaner, an engineer, and a truck driver to pick up and deliver the raw ingredients. No cooks, no kids on counter, no delivery drivers.   “And because the drones fly as the crows fly, instead of by following the road network, you could potentially cover a whole metro area like Melbourne within 30 minutes’ drone flight of our six warehouses!”   Your humble correspondent complimented the idea, but asked whether they had a prototype pizza production line ready.   “Nope,” says the would-be pizza tycoon.   What about a drone?   “Uhh… Nope.”   A soldering iron, a fistful of capacitors or other components you might need to build this?   “Nup.”   What about the software? Do you have the app ready? Or a prototype? Or do you know about Android’s Dalvik or Apple’s Objective C?   “Nope. Instead, I focused on the thing that matters the most: The end user experience. Why, I already spent over a quarter of a million dollars hiring designers to create a mock-up of what my app will look like!”   Old Taskmaster’s stood, head in palm, like Jean Luc Piccard.   So, do you want a slice of the action?   Focus on a working prototype, rather than on hiring designers!   Get it done – today!

The self-lubricating skin-like condom that has piqued the interest of Bill Gates

6:35AM | Wednesday, 11 June

A team of researchers from the University of Wollongong are developing a next generation condom that “looks, feels and acts” like real tissue, and they have the support of Bill and Melinda Gates to do it.   They’re working to develop a replacement for latex condoms using materials called tough hydrogels.   Dr Robert Gorkin and the team pitched the idea unsuccessfully to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations initiative, which is offered twice yearly, and gives $100,000 grants to successful applicants, before being accepted the second time around.   It’s hoped that the new condom will help combat a variety of problems in the developing world, as well as its other obvious benefits.   By making this next generation condom more appealing than its latex counterpart, the hope is that one day it might help increase safe sex rates in the developing world, and in doing so, reduce the significant social, economic and environmental problems that stem from the lack of birth control and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, in particular AIDS.   Gorkin says hydrogels have been used in contact lenses, so they’ve been successful on “sensitive areas” before.   In addition to feeling more like skin than latex does, the other advantage of hydrogels is they also have the potential to self-lubricate or provide topical drug delivery.   “We may be able to put lubrication into the condom itself, instead of on it,’’ he says.   Just 52 grants to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were funded from 1700 applicants worldwide and successful projects have the opportunity to receive follow up funding of up to $US1 million.   It’s a tough application process, with applicants only having two pages to convince the foundation their idea is worthy and can make no mention of their credentials.   Gorkin says a big part of the reason their pitch succeeded the second time was because of his experience with University of Wollongong startup accelerator iAccelerate, where he was able to hone his pitching skill.   “We went back and did a little investigation and thought what do they really want, what’s they’re motivation?” Gorkin says.   “They’re putting out these calls so they can help the health and wellbeing of people in developing countries.   “We actually took out some of the science and thought about how we are going to craft it to make an impact.”   Gorkin says the team is looking into other ways to increase condom usage in the developing world.   “It’s really about challenging our own perceptions, particularly when developing new technologies to be deployed in places like sub-Saharan Africa and south-east Asia,” he says.   “We are looking to have a dialogue with people in those areas to look at social and cultural aspects for design that could be incorporated into eventual prototypes and products.   “We are also looking at manufacturing, regulation, distribution and other considerations, which will be critical for success in the regions.”   The researchers are yet to develop a prototype and are still in the process of determining whether or not tough hydrogels will be an acceptable replacement for latex.   “There’s a reason why latex is so successful: it can do what needs to be done in a safe manner,” he says.   “Mimicking that is the challenge.”

Help yourself – without reading a self-help book

3:53AM | Friday, 7 March

When it comes to reading materials, there are some perennial favourites for entrepreneurs. Generally, these have the phrases “Ruby on Rails”, “lean start-up” or “Steve Jobs” in the title somewhere.   Then there’s that other genre of books entrepreneurs love: The motivational self-help book, with its (usually) American author.   The very first chapter of these talks about all the other self-help books out there, and why they don’t work. The cliché here is that the advice is only as good as the adviser, and because the self-help guru is wealthy (mostly from shilling self-help books and seminars), you should follow their advice.   As for all those other self-help books you’ve read that have failed to make you as wealthy as Bill Gates? Well, the books don’t work because the authors aren’t “goal masters” who “worchieve”.   The general rule of thumb with these is that they’re always a list of six, seven, 10 or –sometimes 20 – steps (or keys, or secrets, or tips) to success.   The steps are always something you’d expect as the topic of an episode of Oprah Winfrey. Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with positive energy. Set goals. Work hard. Constantly remind yourself of your goals. Cut out time-wasting unproductive tasks. Don’t accept “no” for an answer.   Of course, you can tell what’s in the heading titles just by looking at them. That’s where heart-warming tales of people who survived horrible accidents and American minor league baseball teams that went from losers to champions come in – for padding.   Naturally, you can’t just call these super-secret tips something as blatantly obvious as “Work hard”. Instead, you get made up words and portmanteaus, so “work hard and achieve” becomes “worchieve” or some other abomination to the English language.   There’s usually a corny mantra that goes with these – something along the lines of “you need to believe before you can succeed”. This needs to be repeated again and again and again and again throughout the book. And again. And yet again.   Also, the few thousand people who read the book are given a term – “goal masters” or some such. You learn the human race is filled with exactly two kinds of people: Goal masters who follow the self-help guru’s program, and the rest of humanity who live in misery.   Thankfully, the “goal masters” include some good company. It turns out popular artists, successful businesspeople, political leaders, generals and other notable people all follow the program.   Steve Jobs? Bill Gates? Bob Dylan? Mark Zuckerberg? Marissa Mayer? President Barack Obama? Past American presidents – perhaps an Abe Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson? Michael Jordan? (Note the gender bias.) They’re all goal masters!   Meanwhile, why did Russian troops recently cross the border into the Ukraine? Forget the finer points of international relations, geopolitics and world affairs, the author will oversimplify and say it’s because most Eastern Europeans are not goal masters!   With all that being said, do you really want to give yourself a career boost? It’s time to follow Old Taskmaster’s Octagon of Opportunity! By following these eight simple tips, you too can be a genuine task master™ like your hero, Taskmaster!   It’s simple:   Just improve the positivity energy in your life – by not reading self-help books!   Focus on your goals – easier to do when you aren’t reading self-help books!   Worchieve – by working on them instead of reading self-help books!   Save money – by not wasting it buying self-help books!   Get a mentor – preferably a real one rather than a self-help guru!   Cut the negative people out of your life – such as the gurus who write self-help books!   Cut out those negative, unproductive tasks from your life – such as reading self-help books!   And if someone puts a self-help book in your hand, throw it in the bin, and don’t take no for an answer!   Old Taskmaster’s Octagon of Opportunity helped the Green Bay Packers’ star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, win the 2010 Super Bowl* and it can help you too!   Get it done – today!   * Disclaimer: Aaron Rodgers does in no way endorse or even know about the Old Taskmaster Octagon of Opportunity and his athletic performance is in no way connected to or caused by the Octagon of Opportunity. All mentions of Rodgers and all other figures, living or dead, purely for dramatic purposes only.

Three tips to help you with your New Year’s resolution to learn to code

1:51PM | Monday, 13 January

The ubiquity of technology, the burgeoning uptake of apps and the growing awareness about tech start-up potential and success stories has made learning how to code an increasingly popular New Year’s resolution.   Peter Argent can attest to this. After launching his Sydney-based coding school, The Coder Factory, in September 2013, he describes the first few months as slow-growing but they’ve been swamped since the calendar clocked over to 2014.   “Every second person these days has an idea for an app, but they don’t necessarily know how to build it themselves,” Argent says.   Argent says the stereotypes about coding and coders are beginning to melt, but they’re still holding people back.   “There is an underlying idea that it’s for geeks and nerds, that you have to be super smart and like maths. But that’s not true. Yeah, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are pretty nerdy, but it’s worth giving it a go as it’s an increasingly important skill set for every possible career.”   Argent shared his top three tips for learning how to code your way to your first app with StartupSmart.   Start with a particular project in mind   Beginning to learn how to code with a particular project in mind will make navigating the new language easier, and keep you motivated says Argent.   “It’s important to have a project or end goal in mind because that keeps you going. It enables you to actually get it, and move beyond theory,” Argent says.   “We recommend people play around with some of the free online courses first to get an inkling it’s not too hard, and then think of an app and start learning how to build it.”   Argent says they stay focused on actual apps and products the whole way through the course, exploring platforms such as Facebook and popular apps and showing the students how to build the same functionality.   Learn Ruby on Rails as your first coding language   While coders often recommend python as a good first language for new coders, Argent says the increasingly popular Ruby on Rails language is the best one to get started with because of the social support factor.   “I would always definitely recommend Ruby on Rails. There are a lot of languages that are good for beginners, but the Ruby community is amazing. It’s very friendly and you can ask questions online without people getting narky,” Argent says.   As learning how to code can be intimidating, working in a supportive community can be the make-or-break factor for many aspiring coders.   He adds the community has also spawned many free open source tools and plug-ins which enable coders to build out their functionality quickly as they learn the basics.   The second step is the hardest, so hang in there   According to Argent, many students falter and many aspiring coders give up after they’ve learned the basics and feel they’re beginning to understand how to code, and then realise there is another major step to reach understanding.   “The fundamentals of coding aren’t too hard, even young kids can pick up the core ideas quickly. It’s the next step that gets people,” Argent says.   Argent says the module introducing the model view controller passage is the toughest in the course. The module deals with how code is structured, and how it operates with what’s appearing on the screen.   “It’s tough because it’s a completely new way of thinking. Everyone can get there, but it’s a different approach so it takes a bit longer before I see the students’ eyes start to light up as it clicks into place.”

10 events and trends that shaped the tech industry in 2013

12:02AM | Friday, 6 December

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

Six reasons why LinkedIn is still the hottest social network for entrepreneurs

10:21AM | Tuesday, 8 October

LinkedIn is way more than just your online resume and Rolodex. LinkedIn is now a go-to source of business news, a content publishing platform and a contact relationship manager (CRM).   Find out why LinkedIn is the best social media platform for start-ups, hands-down. If you’re undecided, check out these six reasons to get on-board straightaway!   1. LinkedIn is your auto-updating Rolodex   Back before LinkedIn we’d all keep a Rolodex or maybe an online database of contacts, but if that person changed jobs or businesses, we’d lose contact when their details changed. Nowadays, LinkedIn means we don’t need to worry about losing contact with people or losing their business cards.   2. Now it’s your free CRM   Since the recent rollout of ‘contacts’ functionality, you can now tag contacts, add notes and reminders, and record how you met them.  That is a huge improvement in how we can manage our ever-growing network of business contacts.   Note: you can install this new functionality on your LinkedIn for free, but it doesn’t happen automatically.  You’ll be prompted to install it when you login, and it takes a few minutes to process all your contacts into this new format.  The invite to install it does look like a banner ad, so keep an eye out for it and don’t accidentally ignore it!   3. It’s the place for business news   LinkedIn is fast becoming the go-to place for business news. You can read unique articles written by a wide range ‘influencers’ and well-known business leaders, such as Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Arianna Huffington.   In addition, it also has the LinkedIn Today feature where they publish popular content from all around the web.   4. LinkedIn is your free content-sharing platform It is now as easy as ever to share your content with your entire professional network. You can also submit your best articles to LinkedIn Today and if they decide to publish your work, you’ll be exposed to thousands more readers.  And publishing your articles to LinkedIn Groups is the perfect way to introduce your content to new readers, and engage with them.   5. You can connect with fellow professionals   My colleague Selina Power got me thinking about better ways to use LinkedIn in her recent podcast. Until my subsequent discussions with Selina, I’d been quite closed in my approach as to who I accept as a ‘connection’ on LinkedIn.   My reluctance to accept people that I did not know personally lay in the fact that it may be seen an as endorsement of that person, when in reality I didn’t know any more about these people than what they say in their bio. I was initially sceptical about connecting, but since LinkedIn is becoming much more of a content publishing platform, it makes sense to broaden my network, so more people can read and interact with my content.   After all, we are marketing a business, and this is the perfect content marketing tool.  My rule of thumb now is to accept people if they have written a personalised request.   6. LinkedIn is improving everyday   LinkedIn continues to get better and I’m sure there are many exciting improvements in the pipeline. I still wish that LinkedIn had the ‘follow’ functionality for individuals like it does for Company Pages, because it would allow for people who you don’t know to still opt-in to receive your content. That way it would still mean you could limit your connections to people you actually know but share your content far and wide.  Maybe that will be next.   To help your LinkedIn marketing you may also like to download the LinkedIn 5-Minute Daily Marketing Plan – there’s a version for beginner, intermediate and advanced.

Should you develop your apps and websites for Android, Windows or Apple?

6:06AM | Wednesday, 19 June

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!