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The technology hype cycle: From disillusionment to enlightenment

8:13AM | Monday, 18 August

For 20 years, consulting firm Gartner have been calling the future of technology using its now iconic “Hype Cycle”.   The Hype Cycle: from hype to reality   The Hype Cycle breaks the introduction of new technologies into five phases starting with the “Technology Trigger”, the first point at which a technology comes to the attention of the press and businesses. Technologies then rapidly become oversold or hyped. This is the point at which expansive claims are made about how technology X is going to radically transform and disrupt and the early innovators push to be amongst the first to ride the wave of excitement that technology generates.   The initial hype eventually leads to a “Peak of Inflated Expectations” which is subsequently followed by the crash as it is realised that the technology isn’t going to be adopted in quite the way everyone predicted, nor is it generally as useful. This part leads to a “Trough of Disillusionment” which is accompanied by an increasing number of negative articles, project failures and lessening of interest in the technology generally.   For some technologies however, the disillusionment is followed by a gradual increase in a more realistic adoption of the technology which eventually results in a “Plateau of Productivity”.   Technologies for the next 10 years   For Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle, the notable technologies are speech recognition which they are claiming to be well into the productive phase. Certainly mobile phones and increasingly, wearables, have driven the adoption of voice control and interaction and it is definitely usable on a day-to-day basis.     Having said that however, Gartner also puts wearable user interfaces as having passed the peak of inlfated expectations and rapidly heading to the trough of disillusionment. Given that Google has based their interface for wearables very heavily on the use of voice, it seems odd that these two technologies would be so far apart according to Gartner.   The position of the Internet of Things at the peak of inflated expectations will also come as a disappointment to all of the companies like Cisco that are claiming that we are already well and truly in the era of billions of interconnected and independently communicating devices.   The future is lumpy   Although the Hype Cycle is a convenient way of visualising the progress of technology from invention to universal use, it over-simplifies the way progress is made in innovation. As science fiction writer William Gibson once said:   “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”   Technology innovation is never smooth and never takes a single path. There can be businesses and individuals that are using technologies to radically improve productivity at the same time as almost everyone else is failing to do the same. A good example of this is the hype around “Big Data”. Whilst everyone acknowledges that we are creating enormous amounts of data that ultimately must hold valuable information and knowledge, very few organisations are attempting, let along succeeding, in finding it. Those that are experts in Big Data are the companies that have made digitally massive infrastructure their entire existence, companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter.   Whilst Gartner has predicted that Big Data will reach the plateau of productivity within five to 10 years, it is also possible that it will never get there and that very few companies will have the skills to be able to take advantage of their amassed data.   The other issue with Gartner’s representation of the technologies that it surveys is that it doesn’t distinguish between the different categories of technologies. Those that are aimed at consumers as opposed to the business sector. Here again, we are likely to see very different paths to adoption and acceptance of those technologies with very different time frames.   What we are increasingly seeing is how technology is increasingly being used to enable a concentration of a very small number of very large companies. In turn, these companies are able to focus their resources on introducing new technologies for the public, rapidly iterating on designs until they work. Wearables from Apple, Google and companies like Samsung is a good example of this.   As always with predictions around technology, it is very hard to tell what will be the key technologies next year, let alone in five to10 years time. Given that the Hype Cycle has been with us for 20 years however, my prediction is that it will still be here for the next 20.   David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bitcoin gets wave and pay treatment

5:39AM | Thursday, 22 May

Diamond Circle, a Brisbane-based startup that offers debit cards and cashless ATMs for bitcoin, is set to enter the UK and US, forgoing the local market which it claims is lagging.   Diamond Circle uses near-field communication technology, like that found in credit cards capable of wave and pay, to allow distributors and merchants to accept bitcoins, and earn commission by accepting bitcoins on purchases, providing cash-out facilities and by selling bitcoin debit cards.   Its ATMs are cashless, with users being able to purchase bitcoins using a credit card and sell bitcoins with the profits being placed into a user’s bank account through a direct deposit.   Chairman Mike Oswald says Diamond Circle has appointed distribution partners in the UK.   “We’re now negotiating bitcoin exchange banking arrangements with a confidential partner in North America,” Oswald says.   “We’re moving pay wave to bit wave.”   Oswald says not to expect an Australian rollout just yet.   “Australia’s taking a wait-and-see approach and I think that’s reflected in the investment community here,’’ he says.   Diamond Circle was founded a year ago and is in the process of raising its first round of funding.   Oswald says the banking payment system is ripe for disruption.   “I think it’s evolving very quickly,’’ he says.   “The banking payment system technology for global funds transfer hasn’t changed much for 50 years. Point-to-point transfer of funds in this domain is as revolutionary as the internet was to publishing.”   Recently, the company was named on Gartner’s Cool Vendors list for 2014.   “It’s certainly a badge of recognition that an Australian company can stand up and be counted amongst the best in technology globally,’’ Oswald says.   It’s an interesting time for Australian bitcoin startups with Melbourne-based bitcoin exchange system CoinJar recently launching CoinJar Stories, a series of interviews with ordinary Australians looking at how they’re using bitcoin in their everyday lives.   CoinJar has over 22,000 individual and business customers and has processed over $30 million worth of transactions in the last 12 months.   CoinJar growth strategist Sam Tate says the company wanted to get away from the complex discussion that often surrounds bitcoin.   “We wanted to shift the focus from the tech side of bitcoin to the human side of bitcoin,’’ he says.   “There was no resource for everyday people. We wanted to help overcome the uncertainty about what you hear about bitcoin in the news and in the media.   “It’s pretty cool. When I first found out about bitcoin it was a curiosity I would enjoy online. Now I can literally by a coffee, buy lunch, buy dinner, buy a beer with bitcoin, and not all from the same place.   “I think the idea will impact society, but the brand might not.   “I’m pretty optimistic about its potential, but there’s the potential for it to go the way of AOL or something like that.”   Australia’s first dedicated bitcoin fund the Future Capital Bitcoin Fund launched earlier this month, it will invest in companies that are leveraging services based on bitcoin and other crypto-currencies.

$28 billion mobile gold rush: Consumers spend two hours and 19 minutes each day using apps

4:46AM | Tuesday, 8 April

The average smartphone user now uses apps for an average of nearly 11 minutes for each minute they spend looking at a mobile website, according to recent figures from mobile analytics firm Flurry.   The figures show consumers spend an average of two hours and 42 minutes per day on either apps or mobile websites during the quarter to March, up four minutes year-on-year.   Of that time, 86% or two hours and 19 minutes is spent each day on apps, with just 22 minutes spent on mobile websites, down from 20% for the same quarter a year earlier.   The figures suggest consumers are increasingly choosing to interact with online services through apps than through mobile websites.   According to Flurry, consumers are increasingly viewing their mobile web browsers as just another app, rather than as their primary means of accessing online content on their mobiles.   Mobile game apps accounted for 32% of all app or mobile web usage, followed by Facebook (17%), mobile browsers (14%), mobile messaging apps (9.5%), utility apps (8%), entertainment apps (4%) and YouTube (4%).   The Flurry figures echo projections, made in a Gartner report late last year, forecasting the total number of apps download each year would reach 268 billion by 2017, including 253 billion free apps and 14 billion paid apps.   This is a significant increase from the 102 billion apps estimated to have been downloaded in 2013 and 63 billion in 2012.   Gartner’s figures also show total revenue from apps hit $US26 billion ($28.187 billion) worldwide in 2013, up from $US18 billion ($19.5 billion)a year earlier.   Dennis Benjamin from app development firm Appswiz told StartupSmart apps allow for faster and more convenient to access to content than the mobile web.   “Mobile apps allow for ready access to the information you want, at your fingertips 24/7. Combine this with the fact that a range of app features will still operate on your phone without an internet connection (unlike mobile web) and the advantages become clearer,“ Benjamin says.   “Having a mobile app can allow for a choice of alerts to be received, a feature not available from a mobile website. These alerts, for example special offers, time critical messages or updates all build customer engagement.   “Mobile websites in general provide one way communication to the user whereas mobile apps facilitate two way dialogue and engagement.”   Benjamin advises businesses to develop versions of their apps for smartphones running Google Android as well as for Apple iPhones.   “In the third quarter of 2013, Android made up some 81% of devices shipped and now far exceeds the downloads of the Google Play Store compared to the iTunes App Store,” he says.”   Today, just because an executive thinking about an app for their company has an iPhone doesn't mean that most of their customers do – they don't.”

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.

The big smartphone trends mobile app developers need to be aware of: Part Two

10:16AM | Tuesday, 8 October

Yesterday, your humble correspondent looked at four key trends in the smartphone industry that every mobile app developer should be aware of.   While the figures can be dry, the information is critical, whether you’re planning your start-up or looking for big numbers when you are strategising your future direction.   Likewise, coming up with a few hard numbers can be useful if you’re pitching for capital.   So, without further ado, here are four more essential trends emerging from the mobile sector:   1. Android dominates over Apple in most other major markets – except Japan   Okay, so Android is strong in the US and Australia, but what about the rest of the world?   In terms of market share the most competitive major market against Android is Japan. In Japan, Apple claims 47.4% of the market, compared to Android only a notch higher at 48.6%.   Across Europe, the story is very different, with Apple claiming 27.5% market share in the UK, compared to Android’s 56.3%. The situation is worse elsewhere in Europe, with Apple trailing 17.5% to 63.3% in France, 14.4% to 71.6% in Italy, 9.5% to 78.7% in Germany and claiming just 2.2% to 90.8% in Spain.   As for China, Android’s market share is now at 72.4%, compared to a respectable 20.8% for Apple. And there are a few very good reasons why you should pay attention to China when it comes to mobiles.   2. The world’s biggest smartphone market is China – and it’s huge!   Australia’s population stands somewhere around 23 million. The total population of the US is around 310 million.   This year, IDC anticipates China’s smartphone market will hit 360 million people. And that’s not including all the people still using older feature phones.   Next year, it is projected to hit around 450 million, including around 120 million users on 4G.   Now here’s an astounding statistic. The worldwide smartphone market reached 216.2 million units during the first quarter of 2013 according to IDC figures, while China’s shipments stood at 75.28 million. That means China accounted for around one-third (34.8%) of the worldwide market for smartphones.   And there’s still a lot more room for growth. The largest carrier in China – China Mobile – is estimated to have around 700 million mobile phone subscribers, including both smartphones and older phones.   Kinda makes Australia and New Zealand’s 2.6 million mobile phones per quarter look pathetic in comparison, doesn’t it?   3. Mobile apps are now a multi-billion dollar industry – and growing   If you thought China’s mobile market had some big numbers, take a look at the size of the worldwide app industry.   According to Gartner, last year there were 63 billion apps downloaded worldwide, including 57.3 billion free apps and 6.6 billion paid apps. Total revenue from apps hit a massive $US18 billion.   If you keep in mind that the total population of the Earth is estimated as being somewhere between 6 billion and 7 billion, a number like 6.6 billion paid app downloads starts sounding quite astounding – let alone 63 billion total downloads.   This year is on track to be even bigger. Worldwide, we’re on track for a total of 102 billion app downloads, with 92.8 billion free apps downloaded and 9.9 billion paid apps.   Gartner predicts those numbers are only going to get bigger.   In the year 2017, they anticipate a total of 268 billion apps will be downloaded. That’s right, two hundred and sixty-eight billion apps. Of those, 253 billion will be free and 14 billion will be paid.   4. Most Android users now use a recent version   One of the issues when it comes to developing for Android is how much you support legacy versions. Well, the answer is increasingly clear: Don’t bother!   According to Google, 48.6% of all devices running Android are now powered by JellyBean (that’s Android 4.1/4.2/4.3).   A further 20.6% run the previous version, 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, with 69.2% in total running a recent version of Android.   Meanwhile 0.1% of the Android user base is hanging on to 1.6 Donut, 2.1 Eclair or 3.0 Honeycomb. The only old versions to have significant user bases anymore are 2.2 Froyo with 2.2%, and 2.3 Gingerbread on 28.5%.   So sure, as far as Android fragmentation exists, much of it is over obsolete versions no-one uses anymore.   Time to cash in!   The global appetite for apps is huge – and growing. And contrary to popular myth, most of it isn’t in countries where English is the first language.   Now, are you going to let this opportunity pass you by? Or are you going to cash in?   Get it done – on mobile!   Click here to read part one.

Content marketing isn’t a buzz word, it’s here to stay

8:24AM | Tuesday, 20 August

Creating compelling content that builds audiences is an important marketing pillar for anyone starting out in business.   Known as content marketing, custom media, custom publishing, branded content and branded media, this style of marketing is particularly important given consumers are increasingly seeking out information they can trust.   Content marketing enables businesses to deliver content via tutorials, email newsletters, white papers, custom publications, ebooks, free reports, blogs or social media.   Anyone can create relevant content that spruiks their business. If you’re a landscape gardener launching your own business, you could own a niche audience of followers keen to hear your thoughts on drought-resistant gardens, for example.   Content marketing is the way of the future, says the chief executive of the Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising, Jodie Sangster.   “The future of marketing is content marketing. The convergence of data, technology, new consumer consumption habits and digital distribution mean the business case for content marketing has never been more compelling.”   Craig Hodges, chief executive and founder of King Content says content marketing has been around forever. It works best for companies that want to drive leads and sales, working across multiple sectors from banking and finance to fast moving consumer goods, he says.   “It’s not something that has developed in the last couple of months, as many people might think. The real game changer has been the transformation in the way consumers find brands and ‘stuff’ in general.   “Google has played an integral role in this by determining they wanted a search engine free of keyword-stuffed landing pages, instead ranking quality sites with great content,” Hodges says.   This has encouraged brands to begin investing in owned, searchable content assets that are of value to the consumer and share the essence of what the brand stands for through storytelling, he says.   “If you couple this with the role of social media, a powerful sharing and amplification tool, it’s easy to see why there has been such a focus on developing quality content marketing strategies.”   Content marketing works well for new online homewares/linen store, I Love Linen.   Melbourne founder Lauren Roe has had strong results from Facebook despite the brand only launching a few months ago.   “A great Facebook strategy is based on engaging with customers and promoting a certain image around a desired lifestyle and then finding ways to link it back to your products,” Roe says. One of her recent posts was shared by a popular blogger with a huge Facebook following, which resulted in a day of high traffic and sales, she says.   “It’s so easy to manage because once you have a good content strategy and you know the themes around how you want to post, then you can pre-source and pre-load all the content. We do this once a week so it’s locked and loaded so we don’t have to think of content ideas on the fly,” Roe says.   “I know Facebook works because I track the click-throughs from Google Analytics and can track the purchase journey that way. A great example is a customer that I generated via Facebook has purchased with us three times in just under six weeks,” she says.   Content marketing is also a key marketing pillar for Intrepid Travel, with content partnerships forged to develop content that will appeal to potential customers.   One of its most successful partnerships has been with sustainable food filmmakers The Perennial Plate. This partnership sent two chefs to 13 countries to create short videos that reflect local food culture, which aligns with Intrepid’s new range of food adventures and commitment to responsible and sustainable travel.   “The videos are authentic and compelling and each has its own distribution strategy. The first video that was produced received over 300,000 views and the series so far has been viewed by 2.75 million,” global public relations manager Eliza Anderson says.   Many start-ups already embark on a PR campaign, but minor tweaks to existing PR, communications and social media content isn’t the same thing as content marketing, according to a report by technology research firm Gartner.   Hiring freelance writers to create your content, create a pipeline of talent via online freelance marketplaces like elance or outsource your newsroom can be great ways to get the content you need, says Gartner analyst Jake Sorofman.   Ultimately, businesses need to decide what end result they want to achieve from content marketing from the outset, he says.   “Do you want to create blog posts, build a special website or blog, or generate Facebook comments or Tweets? Ensure that whatever content management system you are using can create content forms that match your goals. Also ensure that each asset you generate can be shared socially,” Sorofman says.   But creating content is one thing. Making sure it’s reaching an audience is something else altogether. Distribution of content is a major issue, according to a recent roundtable forum held in Sydney.   Hosted by ADMA and content marketing firm Edge, it found that many businesses overlook the importance of developing distribution strategies.   Care needs to be taken when it comes to distribution as distribution via social media can turn consumers off, according to a recent report by Pitney Bowes Software. It found that 83% of consumers have had a bad social media marketing experience.   Simon Bird, general manager Australia, warns that annoying customers can mean lost revenue, with 65% of consumers saying they’d stop using a brand that upset or irritated them through its social media behaviour.   “It’s critical for businesses to develop an in-depth understanding of their customers’ communications preferences and what makes them tick. You need to approach customers through the channels they like and with content that is relevant to them and their current situation.”   Five tips to help start-ups thrive in the age of content   Create brand ambassadors. Use Twitter Advanced Search to find people who are talking about similar offerings to yours. Contact them and get them excited about your brand   Understand and track your SEO. Use free Google tools like Adwords, Analytics and Trends to compare keywords, view keyword search traffic demand and find out if your keywords are converting traffic   Take advantage of hashtags. Simple and consistent hashtags like #apps help your target market find your start-up. Use social dashboard tools like HootSuite or TweetDeck to find relevant hashtags.   Find free publicity. Sign up for free services like SourceBottle and HARO, which connect journalists with sources to easily and cheaply build a reputation in your industry.   Protect your reputation before you have one. Use free tools like Google Alerts and watchthatpage.com to find out what is being said about your company, competitors and industry.   Source: Ali Berg, head of content, Online Circle Digital

Australian HR start-up named as one of the coolest vendors of 2013

6:12PM | Tuesday, 25 June

A Melbourne-based start-up has been named one of the coolest vendors in human capital management by international technology research group Gartner.   CultureAmp’s key product is Murmur, an online platform for managing staff and tasks in fast-growing organisations.   The software-as-a-service is used to gather and provide ongoing feedback, track progress and use data to help companies understand their workforce.   Founder and chief executive Didier Elzinga told StartupSmart CultureAmp’s success is due to a shift in how people work.   “The key to unlocking productivity and getting value out of people is culture and creating an environment in which people can and want to operate,” he says.   “If you look at the work we’re asking people to do these days, it’s cognitively driven. So there is a really, really big difference when someone who is engaged and enthusiastic.”   With team members in Melbourne and San Francisco and a client list boasting big names such as Hulu and 99designs, Elzinga attributes their growth to having an idea right at the heart of several trends.   “We’re on the right wave. A lot of our customers are in Silicon Valley, and what they’ve all got across the board is they’re using data everywhere. And they’re building companies at a ridiculous pace, and the hardest thing to build in a business is people,” Elzinga says.   The idea for Murmur emerged during discussions about the lack of innovation in the human resources and people management sector.   “In the world of marketing in the last five to ten years, there has been a torrent of new innovations and people doing cool stuff with data. But if you look at HR, there’s been nothing new and different since 1993,” Elzinga says. “It was about taking marketing analytics to how we listen to our people.”   The CultureAmp team is focused on developing its core engineering staff in Melbourne, and then developing a presence in Silicon Valley over the coming years.   Elzinga says being an Australian start-up can be challenging, but it also helps create the attitudes needed to scale globally.   “It’s hard but also good that we don’t have a big enough market here, so we’re forced from day one to think global,” he says. “It’s there if you want it – go and get it.”

The 10 biggest issues facing start-ups in 2013: #10 heading to the cloud

5:25AM | Monday, 6 May

Shadow small business minister Bruce Billson recently embarked upon a ‘listening tour’ to find out the problems faced by Australian enterprises.   So what are the main issues SMEs are grappling with? There is no exhaustive list, of course, but accountancy and business advisor network DFK recently conducted a survey of its clients and staff to identify the top 10.   In the coming weeks, we’ll be revealing, in reverse order, which 10 issues are top of mind for Aussie entrepreneurs. Today, we start with number 10 – cloud computing.   Are you embracing the cloud yet? Well, you better think about it. If not, you will most likely find that your competitors are already there, or on their way, and will leave you behind.   Cloud computing generally means accessing files or software programs from servers which are not in your office, providing online access features, such as Dropbox and Xero.   Cloud computing is making the biggest impact in the area of infrastructure. It is that foundation on which successful online businesses are built.   These businesses have the ability to move quickly; adapting to fast evolving customer demand automatically, provisioning servers in minutes and delivering services and products to the market.   Speed to market and agility is essential, particularly with new web-based business models.   Traditional market research has its moments, but the best insights come from customers. Today many successful cloud-based businesses start with a minimum of acceptable functionality as they enter the market, and then listen to their customers and are able to adapt quickly.   Going into the cloud is not a question about ‘if’, but ‘when’. But some businesses are still struggling with fear and resistance to the cloud.   “We have had to do some convincing with some clients. There is still a belief that if you have the content on a local desktop, it’s safer than if it’s in the cloud,” says Cheree Woolcock, partner of DFK Australia New Zealand in Melbourne.   US analyst firm Gartner is predicting that spending on public cloud services in Australia will grow 23% this year, reaching US$3.2 billion and US$5.2 billion in 2016.   Australia is well ahead of the average 18.5% increase in global spending this year.   These new cloud-based businesses can, in fact, start a business in a matter of weeks and be in the market almost immediately, without placing strain on capital, as opposed to non-cloud business.   This new landscape changes everything; how we purchase, plan and forecast.   Very shortly, all software will be leaving the shelves and we’ll get it online, but the major difference is that we won’t buy it, but hire it.   It doesn’t mean the death of retail as such. They just move their activities to a phone instead of a shop floor.   “In some cases it may only be a website to communicate with or a customer centre in Asia, which some clients will not appreciate. There will be several clients who will be forced to go in a direction they are not happy with,” says Woolcock.   She has, however, noticed that many clients who initially had an adversary attitude become advocates of the new technology in due time.   MYOB found in their latest Business Monitor that the financial gap between the online-savvy and the cautious ones is widening. Businesses that use the cloud are 106% more likely to see their revenue rise, than those who did not.   The Business Monitor also showed that those businesses using a cloud solution are more likely to plan to increase their activities in the market within the next 12 months, than those without.   So how do you build a cloud?   “We suggest investing in already developed products and to test them first, but of course if you can’t find what your business needs, you might have to develop it and that comes with a price tag. Many start-ups don’t have the money to develop something generic” says Woolcock.   In building cloud applications it is all about developing methods, applications built in days, reviewed in hours and rolled out in minutes.   No more old-fashioned lengthy specifications that need to be signed off by everyone.   Choosing the right technology and having the right people are, of course, crucial in that process.   Building a cloud is not for everyone, but again there are existing solutions that can be modified to your business needs.   Cloud advantages for small businesses:   You can access your files wherever you are. You can access your files on any device. The information is automatically backed up. Software is cloud-based, so there are no expensive licences.   Possible cloud disadvantages:   Don’t put everything to the cloud, including “secrets” that you don’t want anyone to see/know. If internet is down, your cloud is down – you need a reliable connection. Lack of support, sending an email and getting an answer 24 hours later, might cause havoc in your business. Is it cheaper? Compare pricing plans for every application in your contract.

Apple working on iWatch to be released later this year

3:35AM | Friday, 15 March

The pundits who have been waiting for Apple to come up with a new product category may just get their wish. New reports today suggest Apple is working on a wristwatch that could be released as soon as the end of the year.

Tablets and hybrid apps soar, PC sales dip: The IT trends you need to be across

3:19AM | Thursday, 14 March

The surge in mobile-based working provides great opportunities for start-ups, but looks likely to catch many businesses off guard.

Growth of Android ecosystem underlines app opportunities

3:03AM | Monday, 11 March

There are increasing opportunities for aspiring app developers in the Android ecosystem, new research suggests, as the wide range of brands and price points continues to win over consumers.

Analysts highlight hidden costs of mobile devices

11:32AM | Monday, 14 November

Small businesses need to be aware of the hidden costs associated with equipping employees with mobile devices, analysts warn, as employers attempt to make their staff more productive.

Amazon set to unveil long-awaited tablet on Thursday

9:33AM | Monday, 26 September

Retail giant Amazon has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday night in the US (Thursday AEST) where many analysts believe it will debut its long-awaited tablet device, which many believe could pose the first biggest threat to Apple’s iPad.

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