There is a lesson for us all in the continuing revelations from stolen Sony emails being splashed over world-wide media. It is a lesson that Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairperson Amy Pascal could have benefited from before sending emails with racist comments about President Obama. Or an email calling Leonardo DiCaprio’s behaviour “Absolutely Despicable” when he decided to pull out of a planned Steve Jobs biopic. The lesson is a very simple one. It is that when you are writing an email (or any other corporate document), imagine that it will inevitably one day end up on the Internet for everyone to see. Even without the hacking episode, there have been enough horror stories of private emails being accidentally sent to the wrong people who have little issue with making the contents public. The emails of Amy Pascal and other Sony Pictures’ executives reveal damaging internal discussions about business practises and commentary on a wide range of people that the company relies on to do their business. It is hard to imagine how those involve retain their credibility as more of the emails become public. The dangers of emails being used against an organisation was something that former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates discovered the hard way during US antitrust investigations. After that point, Microsoft internally discussed a practice of not keeping any emails for longer than 6 months. In many other cases, emails have been obtained by journalists and others and used against the owners under Freedom of Information requests. Deleting emails after a set amount of time would have helped a great deal with Sony’s problems but it comes with its own issues. Many organisations, including universities, are subject to legal regulations governing how long official records need to be retained. Emails can be considered part of official records and so it is sometimes difficult to apply a blanket policy that requires all emails to be deleted after a relatively short time. The problem of email could also potentially be solved by using other forms of electronic communication instead. There have been suggestions that email could be replaced with instant messaging. This is certainly the case but many of these services keep records of conversations. Google for example, allows individual hangouts to be switched into “off the record” mode, but does not allow this setting as a default for all conversations. To delete the record of the conversation, it has to be done individually. Special software that automatically deletes conversations can be used such as messaging apps Telegram and OneOne but these require widespread use. In terms of the types of email exchanges that were highlighted in the Sony releases, it is unlikely that the participants would have had the presence of mind to use more secure communications in any event. Although companies should be advising all of their staff, especially the senior ones about good email hygiene, there is still a much easier way of avoiding all of these issues by not writing the email (or document) in the first place. If that is not possible, then there are a few definite things you should do when writing email: 1) Always keep it brief. The more you write, the harder it is to check you haven’t said something you will regret. 2) Never write email when you are angry or emotional. Leave it for 24 hours before writing, if at all. 3) Never write email when you have been drinking. 4) Never include personal, intolerant, or insensitive statements in corporate email. If it helps, it is also useful to imagine a prosecuting lawyer looking over your shoulder as you write every email you send. This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Bill Gates is known for his business acumen and philanthropy. But the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft is also known for his reading habits. Following on from his summer reading list, released in July, this morning Gates named the five best books he read this year. While Gates’ annual reading list is not packed full of how-to business manuals, he said in a blog post it is fitting that this year’s collection does touch on economics and business as for him at least, inequality and the rising prominence of Asian economies has dominated the news. SmartCompany was given a sneak peek at Gates’ list of best books of 2014 and why he recommends you put them at the top of your Christmas reading pile. Business Adventures by John Brooks Brooks’ collection of articles is Gates’ favourite business book and a regular feature on his recommended reading lists. “Shortly after we met, Warren Buffett loaned me this collection of New Yorker business articles from the 1950s and 1960s,” says Gates. “I loved them as much as he did”. “Brooks’ insights about business have aged beautifully, and they are as true today as ever. I still go back to this book from time to time and this year I had a chance to re-read the chapter on Xerox. Business Adventures is a neglected classic and it’s still my favourite business book ever.” You will find it difficult to purchase a hard copy of Brooks’ book in your local bookshop as it is out of print, but the ebook version is readily available. Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty Gates credits Piketty’s tome as sparking “a fantastic global discussion this year about inequality”. “Piketty kindly spent an hour discussing his work with me before I finished my review,” says Gates. “As I told him, although I have concerns about some of his secondary points and policy prescriptions, I agree with his most important conclusions: inequality is a growing problem and that governments should play a role in reducing it.” “I admire his work and hope it draws in more smart people to study the causes of, and cures for, inequality.” How Asia Works by Joe Studwell According to Gates, Studwell’s book provides “compelling answers to two of the greatest questions in development economics: how did countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and China achieve sustained, high growth? And why have so few other countries managed to do so?” Gates was particularly taken with the agricultural section of Studwell’s book, which he says is “particularly insightful”. “It provided ample food for thought for me as well as the whole Agriculture team at our foundation,” Gates says. “And it left us thinking about whether parts of the Asian model can apply in Africa.” The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion Gates’ affection for the writing of Melburnian Graeme Simsion is well known, and despiteThe Rosie Effect not yet being published in the US, Simsion gave Gates his own early copy. “The hilarious follow-up to The Rosie Project is one of the best novels I’ve read in ages,” Gates says. “It’s a funny novel that also made me think about relationships: what makes them work and how we have to keep investing time and energy to make them better. A sweet, entertaining and thought-provoking book.” Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization by Vaclav Smil Smil’s books are a perennial feature in Gates’ reading lists and this year the billionaire has selected Smil’s take on the world’s use of materials. “If anyone tries to tell you we’re using fewer materials, send him this book,” Gates says. “With his usual scepticism and his love of data, Smil shows how our ability to make things with less material – say soda cans that need less aluminium – makes them cheaper, which actually encourages more production. We’re using more stuff than ever.” This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.
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 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! http://t.co/NDOWKAH2sc — 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. pic.twitter.com/ZOU3MI6e0H — Skype (@Skype) August 5, 2014 The World Championships were judged by Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella, Code.org 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.
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.
“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!
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
Bill Gates has set entrepreneurs an unusual but potentially lucrative challenge: create a “next generation” condom in return for US$1 million in funding. The prize is part of Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant program funds solutions aimed at improving the lives of the world’s poorest people. The foundation is currently accepting applications for round 11 of the program, with US$100,000 grants available for a number of topics, including the development of “the next generation of condom”. On top of the initial US$100,000, projects that demonstrate potential will have the opportunity to receive additional funding of up to US$1 million. “Condoms have been in use for about 400 years yet they have undergone very little technological improvement in the past 50 years,” the foundation says. “The current rate of global production is 15 billion units a year with an estimated 750 million users and a steadily growing market.” “Condoms have almost universal product recognition. There are few places on earth where condoms are not recognised or not available.” “We are looking for a next generation condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use.” “Additional concepts that might increase uptake include attributes that increase ease-of-use for male and female condoms… In addition, attributes that address and overcome cultural barriers are also desired.” According to the foundation, proposals must have a testable hypothesis, an associated plan for how the idea would be tested or validated, and yield “interpretable and unambiguous data” in phase one in order to be considered for phase two. Examples of work that would be considered for funding include the application of safe new materials that may preserve or enhance sensation, and the development and testing of new condom shapes or designs that may provide an improved user experience. In addition to the condom project, topics for round 11 include improving data for social good, and harnessing commonalities between human and animal health. The Gates Foundation, along with an independent group of reviewers, will select the most innovative proposals, and grants will be awarded within approximately four months from the proposal submission deadline. “To overcome persistent health and development problems, we need new, game-changing ideas,” said Chris Wilson, director of global health discovery and translational science at the foundation. “Inspiration can come from anywhere and we are hopeful that this new round of Grand Challenges Explorations will uncover innovative approaches to improve lives around the world,” Wilson said in a statement. Since launching in 2008, Grand Challenges Explorations has funded more than 800 grants in 52 countries.
Forbes has welcomed a number of notable newcomers to its World’s Billionaires list, including the founders of fashion brands Diesel and Tory Burch, and China’s version of Steve Jobs.
Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain. (Viking, London, 2012, RRP$29.95) “If we assume quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good (and bad) ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day.”
Some say it’s too late. Some, even those who have been continuously calling for the nation to go to the polls for the past three years, say it’s too early, given the budget announcement isn’t until May.
I was recently reminiscing about my first day of Year 12. Sadly, it’s a lot longer ago than I care to admit.
US President Barack Obama might be the world’s most powerful person, according to Forbes, but there’s a handful of entrepreneurs on this year’s list for start-ups to draw inspiration from.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been named by Forbes as the richest American for the 19th year in a row, accumulating a fortune of $66 billion, up $7 billion on last year.
Australia’s 20 years of economic growth could be under threat if businesses do not see a return to previous levels of productivity, a new report has warned.