Paul Wallbank

Paul Wallbank is a speaker and writer charting how technology is changing society and business. Paul has four regular technology advice radio programs on ABC, a weekly column on the smartcompany.com.au website and has published seven books.

Jul 312015
 
twitter-headquarters

This week showed the disparate

At the time of its IPO in February 2012, Facebook claimed to have 845 million active monthly users. Eighteen months later at the time of their stock market float, Twitter boasted a more modest 232 million.

This week Facebook reported 1.19 billion monthly active users while Twitter still languishes at 300 million, a number that disappointed the market and saw the smaller company’s shares drop 11% after their quarterly earnings announcement.

Even more worrying for Twitter, and competing networks like Google, is Facebook’s success in mobile services with 874 million people accessing the service through their smartphones every day last quarter.

So successful is Facebook in engaging roaming users that some pundits are predicting the company’s Instagram product may well overtake both Twitter and Google in mobile advertising revenues over the next few years.

More concerning for Twitter is the company is still not profitable – of the business’ $957 million gross profit, an astonishing $854 million was eaten up in administration and sales costs which indicates their overheads are in need of some dramatic pruning.

What is clear that Facebook and Twitter have very different user behaviour and, as a consequence, the revenue models are not the same. Twitter is never going to be Facebook.

So the question for Twitter is what does it want to be? Certainly the current quest to drive up revenues seems doomed. Perhaps it’s time to accept the company is a smaller operation and start to plan accordingly.

Jul 302015
 
Windows-10-microsoft-announcement

Last night Microsoft formally launched Windows 10, the company’s latest desktop operating system.

A decade ago a new Microsoft operating system would have had people queuing at computer shops all night but today, in a world of cloud computing, what software runs on a computer has become less important to users.

To entice users onto the new operating system, Microsoft are making the upgrade to Windows 10 free for the next year to those using the earlier versions 8 and 7 and many will have noticed the messages appearing on their computers over the past few weeks.

Windows 10 is a good system, Microsoft has learned from the user unfriendly missteps of Windows 8 and added features that make the system smoother and takes advantage of the desktop computers’ power.

Microsoft have also continued with their philosophy of providing a system that works on all sizes of devices from smartphones to large monitor PCs and Windows 10 adapts to the needs and use patterns of the different screens.

That Windows 10 works on smartphones is less of a pressing matter given Microsoft’s attempts to crack the mobile market have been unsuccessfully and Windows phones languish with a tiny market share.

For business users, the question is whether to take advantage of the upgrade. The short answer is maybe if use cloud based services in your company and wait if you have desktop applications that rely on Windows.

Should you have applications that run on desktops and servers in your office then it’s essential to wait and see if your software runs properly on Windows 10. You’ll need to talk to the program’s supplier and your IT support person. Generally the advice is to wait a few months to iron out any bugs.

If you’re using cloud services then the operating system running on your computer is largely irrelevant as long as you have a modern web browser. Microsoft’s new Edge web browser that’s built into Windows 10 so far appears to be a fast and capable piece of software that’s an improvement on the much maligned Internet Explorer that still lurks on the system for backwards compatibly reasons.

Upgrading though isn’t without its risks, sometimes things go wrong and even the best planned transition doesn’t always work out and generally most cautious IT advisors will take the attitude “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

One other potential trap is in hardware. It may be that some printers, cameras and other hardware doesn’t have the right drivers for the new system so while the software upgrade is free, you may end up having to stump up a few hundred dollars for new peripherals.

For businesses users, if things ain’t broke and the existing computers are working well then the upgrade to Windows 10 is adding unnecessary complexity to the office and it’s probably best to hold off the transition until new computers are needed.

Jul 292015
 
bosch-ebike-connected-vehicle

“There is no perfect product,” says Jim Fish, “but the Internet of Things makes it possible to deliver a close to perfect message.”

Fish, the Chief Innovation Officer & VP Global Automotive Diagnostics at Bosch North America, was speaking to Decoding the New Economy ahead of his visit to Sydney to speak at the 2015 ADMA Global Forum.

For marketers, the connected car and the Internet of Things presents a unique set of opportunities, particularly when overlaid with today’s social media tools.

“If you think about your ability to message with today’s Facebook and the ability for marketers to micro-target messages so you could push a message to people according to things they’ve shown preference for or things that they have liked.”

“The next leap frog ahead from an automotive perspective is in vehicle advertising specific to vehicle and location,” says Fish. “There is a battle for the real estate in vehicle’s infotainment systems. The automakers are placing a lot of effort in delivering the experience the mobile user desires.”

In the auto industry this has seen a battle between software vendors to stake a position on the smartcar’s dashboard. Fish sees Google with its mapping, search and advertising technologies as being the best placed in that field but doesn’t think there will be one single winner in the automobile space.

Smart Connected Living

One of the biggest opportunities beyond marketi Fish sees is in combining the smarthome with the connected car. “We see this exploding,” he says of Bosch’s future plans. “We see it as perfectly integrating,”

Fish sees how the connected home integrates with other technologies to provide seamless connectivity for people. Even if people lose their smartphones the smart house will be able to inform and communicate with them.

Again, combining the information gathered by social media and other services presents opportunities for businesses and governments.

Networking the smart city

For the smart city, Fish sees connected cars providing a key part in managing and planning the towns of the future citing how the Michigan Department of Transportation sees how equipping vehicles with road monitoring sensors could save the state 11 million dollars a year in inspection costs.

Fish also cites how cities are experimenting with monitoring how taxis and public vehicles are using their windshield wipers to determine weather conditions. The US Department of Transportation flags the smartcar as the mobile weather station.

Again Fish sees Google as having an advantage in applying these technologies with their acquisition of Israeli traffic crowdsourcing service Wayze.

“Crowdsourcing is in its infancy. There are many things computers can do but there are some things they will never be able to do. There are some human elements still required.”

Fish sees much of our understanding of what we can do with the internet of things and the data we generate from it as being in its infancy. The real value lies in extracting the value from it. For marketers the journey is only just beginning.

 

Jul 292015
 
facebook-buy-button-powered-by-stripe

Payment service Stripe joins the unicorn club as credit card company Visa becomes the latest investor reports the Re/Code website.

Two years ago this site interviewed John Collison, one of the Irish twins who founded Stripe about their mission to bring the payments industry in the 21st Century.

With the Visa investment it now means two of the world’s three major credit card companies are investors in Stripe, the other being American Express, and this shows the incumbent players are acutely aware of the changes happening in the payments world.

That credit card companies are investing in the businesses that threaten to disrupt their industry indicates the incumbents’ savvy management; while there are cultural and ethical barriers in trying to undercut the existing profitable products, having a stake in the new competitors gives companies like Visa and AmEx to remain relevant in a post credit card world.

For Stripe, investment from what could have been their major competitors not only takes some of the pressure off the the business but also opens opportunities for technology sharing and access to bigger markets.

Probably the most important thing for Strip with the Amex and Visa investments is they legitimise the business and the entire payments startup sector. It’s an important vote of confidence in the technologies and market.

For the Collison twins it also helps build better businesses, as John told Decoding the New Economy two years ago, “if we just building a business to take transactions from PayPal and get them onto Stripe, that’s not that interesting. What is interesting is if we can create new types of transactions that would not have existed otherwise.”

“By providing better infrastructure for anyone to build a global business. That will change the kind of things people will build.”

Now more people will be looking at what they can build on these payment platforms.

Jul 272015
 
bronze-buddha-taiwan

This is a paid post as part of the Nuffnang blogger program

Last year the Taiwanese trade promotion agency MEET TAIWAN launched Asia Super Team, an Asian business contest to promote the island as a desirable destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.

In its second year, the contest has been expanded to Australian businesses, with the Aussie finalist winning an all-expenses-paid tour of Taiwan to experience the beauty of the country’s incentive offering. The global winner will receive an incentive travel package to Taiwan worth USD 50,000 plus MEET TAIWAN will donate USD 5,000 to a charity of the winner’s choice.

The Asia Super Team contest starts with an online proposal submission, followed by public voting to determine the finalist from each country – this year being Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand – who will win a trip to Taiwan to attend the final stage of the competition.

Often overlooked by MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition) travellers, Taiwan is a unique destination. While the West Coast strip is one of the world’s largest electronics manufacturing centres, most of the island is rugged and picturesque, overlaid with a complex Twentieth Century history. The capital of Taipei and the second city of Kaohsiung are vibrant, global cities.

To enter the competition the online stage invites organisations to submit an itinerary proposal illustrating their passion and understanding of Taiwan’s incentive travel attractions. The contestants then share their proposals on social media to help attract the highest number of public votes, determining the finalists who will go through to the tour in Taiwan.

For the successful finalists the tour of Taiwan includes participating in a five-day-four-night competition that will test them with a series of team-bonding challenges. These may include hunter training in an indigenous tribe in Leshui; performing a drum session with Grammy nominated Ten Drum Art Percussion Group at the Ten Drum Ciaotou Creative Park in Kaohsiung; and singing popular Taiwanese songs on board Taiwan’s parade floats.

The public can vote for their favourite proposal on social media to be entered into a draw to win round-trip China Airlines air tickets to Taiwan.

The overall winner will receive an incentive travel package to Taiwan valued at USD 50,000 and a donation from MEET Taiwan of USB 5,000 to the not-for-profit of their choice.

Registration and proposal submissions to Asia Super Team: Team Up for Good are open and run until 30 August with the public voting running from August 3 until 30 August 2015. You can enter through the MEET TAIWAN website.

As one of East Asia’s economic powerhouses with a fascinating history and spectacular scenery, Taiwan is well worth a visit.

This is a sponsored post brought to you by Nuffnang and the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA)

Jul 262015
 
how easy is it to make money online

Is capitalism dead? Journalist Paul Mason discusses his book outlining a post capitalist future on a Guardian Live panel that covers how technological change is undermining the foundations of what we understand to be capitalism today.

While it’s arguable that capitalism is dying, more likely its evolving away from the current corporatist, consumerist model driven by easy credit, the panel makes some excellent points about how technology is changing the underpinnings of our society’s economic structures.

While the video’s long at 90 minutes, it’s well worth watching for some interesting observations on how our society and economies are evolving in a connected century.

Jul 252015
 

San Francisco is an expensive city to stay, so a place at $80 a night that includes breakfast and dinner is bargain that can’t be ignored.

The Kenmore Residence Club  is a slightly run down Victorian building in the Pacific Heights neighbourhood, just over a mile from San Francisco’s Union Square.

Given the price and location, it would be unfair to judge the place on its looks. Its 65 rooms vary from doubles with ensuites for $140 a night to singles with shared bathrooms for $80.

The singles with shared baths are surprisingly large rooms with a double sized bed and a walk in wardrobe. Also included in the room are a fridge, wash basin and flat screen TV. Sheets are changed twice a week along with the included hand and bath towels.

WiFi included

As almost always with cheaper hotels and hostels, Wi-Fi is included in the room rate and is surprisingly good throughout the building. In the room I stayed in, 308, the internet access was sufficient to work with and stream radio although Skype required sitting in one of the hallway sofas.

In other rooms patchy Wi-Fi may also be a problem as many of the other guests – which seemed to be mainly Japanese and German backpackers – were working on laptops in the hallway sofas.

Working in the room was fine with a basic desk, a not uncomfortable chair and plenty of power points. The view of the opposite peeling paint on the opposite wall meant there was little to distract an attention deficient worker.

Shared Facilities

Those German and Japanese tourists mean the two shared bathrooms on each floor are quite clean – apart from one unfortunate morning where someone had been sick. This wasn’t such a problem as it was always possible to find a vacant room. Soap dispensers are in the bathrooms but for showers it’s probably best to buy your own.

On the ground floor the dining room seats around forty people for breakfast between 7am and 9am and dinner, Monday to Saturday, between 5.30 and 7. If you’re in San Francisco for sightseeing or business, it’s hard to get back in time for dinner so don’t budget on eating too many evening meals there.

The meals themselves are adequate with a self service salad or breakfast bar and a cooked option. The dinners were fairly stodgy while the eggs or pancakes are fine at breakfast but the bacon and sausages are forgettable. I found myself eating just fried and scrambled eggs with toast and loading up with salad and fruit.

If you don’t eat in the hotel, it’s only two blocks away from Japantown where there’s no shortage of good and cheap ramen, sushi and other Japanese restaurants. There’s also a Whole Foods and Walgreens within three blocks if you want to make your own meal.

Getting there

Should you want to get down to the touristy parts of San Francisco, the 38 Muni bus down Geary Street is the quickest and most reliable way to Union Square and the Ferry Building. Two blocks away on Van Ness, the 18 will take you to Fisherman’s Wharf and on weekends the 76X goes to the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands.

Coming back from Union Square, the number 2 and 3 buses stop almost outside the hotel but are far less frequent or reliable than the Geary services. If you need a Clipper Card or Muni Passport the Walgreens a block away on the corner of Post and Gough street is the place to visit.

The neighbourhood itself is quite safe although south of the Cathedral and into the Hayes Valley things get somewhat less salubrious and walking around that part of SF at night is not recommended by the locals. A stroll back from Union Square or the Embarcadero though isn’t unpleasant.

Doing your laundry

Another benefit with the Kempton is the coin operated laundry in the basement. If you’ve been travelling for a while – I’d spent the previous week in San Jose – being able to wash your clothes is a godsend, laundry powder and change is available at reception and you’ll need lots of quarters for the driers.

Staff at the hotel seem to be mainly made up of long term residents who are working to defray their rent, this means they are a quirky mixed bag of characters. Some are a bit gruff while others are delightfully helpful, again it’s not the Marriott Marquis and the rates reflect that.

There are some downsides to the Kempton, the rooms aren’t particularly quiet – this is something to be expected at cheaper hotels and there are no strong boxes or other security beyond the door locks in the room. While the place seemed safe, nervous travellers may want to consider their storage of passports and valuables.

On balance, The Kenmore is a bargain in one of America’s most expensive cities. If you’re prepared to deal with the quirks and stay a little bit out of the San Francisco tourist spots then the price is unbeatable.