Sep 022014

This week’s news about celebrities’ personal photos being stolen from their iCloud accounts would be irritating Apple ahead of their September 9 media event.

Unfortunately for Apple they seemed to have walked into this by making things convenient for users rather than enforcing strong security measures.

As Arik Hesseldahl in Re/Code describes, this breach was probably due to Apple not encouraging two factor authentication and not limiting the number of password guesses.

The latter is particularly irritating as it shouldn’t be hard for a system to pick when a brute force attack — a computer guessing a password millions of times a second — is being staged against a user.

It’s also trivial to limit the number of guesses as most other services do.

For users, the best protection is to have complex passwords which reduces the effectiveness of brute force attacks. It’s also worthwhile being careful with your personal nudie photos.

The consequences of having your iCloud account compromised are more than just losing your embarrassing photos, Wired’s Mat Honan had his entire digital life hijacked through this method two years ago.

With Apple aspiring to control the smarthome and smartcar markets, the consequences of accounts being breached becomes exponentially greater. These are issues Apple and the rest of the internet of things industry need to take seriously.

Hopefully at Apple’s big media event next week, some brave journalist will stand out of the assembled masses of sycophant hacks and ask CEO Tim Cook some hard questions about security on the shiny new iDevices.

Aug 272014

A decade ago VM Ware disrupted the corporate IT world with its virtualisation software that changed the way big organisations used their servers. Today the company is facing up to the challenge of dealing with its own business being disrupted.

In the late 1990s when a big business wanted a new server it had to get someone to physically install one, VM Ware’s founders came up with the idea of ‘virtualisation’ with their software creating a virtual server that looked to the network like it was a discrete, real computer.

Naturally this was quicker and cheaper than buying and setting up a whole new server and VM Ware was an immediate success that upended the ‘big iron’ end of the computer industry.

Today VM Ware is valued at $42 billion on the stock market and is one of the IT industry’s giants.

However the virtualisation market itself is being disrupted by cloud computing. For many businesses, it’s even cheaper to pay Amazon, Microsoft or another cloud service to provide the servers for you.

So VM Ware is reinventing itself with a range of services to meet the challenge from the cloud providers. One of it’s key strategies is to provide a ‘hybrid’ cloud where customers run some IT services on their own servers and others on the cloud, the idea is this offers the best of both worlds.

This is almost the same challenge that Microsoft faces as both companies see their core business models being threatened by internet based technologies, something that VM Ware CEO Pat Gelsinger concedes.

“We think of Microsoft having a strategy much like ours, given they have on premise and in the cloud,” says Gelsinger. “We sort of agree on the shape of the market. We would say that Amazon and Google see a different shape in the market.”

Amazon and Google’s view is a ‘pure cloud’ model where companies and consumers run all their IT on web based services. In that world, purists like Xero’s Rod Drury are openly disdainful of the hybrid model believing it to be cumbersome and adding complexity to a simple business solution.

For companies like VM Ware and Microsoft their future lies upon the hybrid model being adopted by business. This is a high stakes industry battle which will define the careers of many IT workers and the shape of the businesses they work for.

Paul travelled to the VM World conference in San Francisco as a guest of  VM Ware.

Aug 202014

“My ambition is to only spend four or five hours in the office,” said Vodafone Australia CEO Iñaki Berroeta when asked at a lunch in Sydney today about how he would like to structure his working day.

For many Australians, this is becoming the reality of work as increasingly their job is following them home and into their social lives according to Microsoft’s Life On Demand white paper released this week.

The blurring of the lines between home and work is no surprise to small business owners, senior executives or those establishing a startup, however according to Microsoft this is becoming normal for the majority of workers.

In their paper, Microsoft found 30% of Australian workers are checking work emails on devices at home before they leave for work and 23% are doing work activities while they are socialising with their friends.

Overall, more than a quarter of Australians work from anywhere which has more than doubled in the last five years.

This is largely due to the rise of tablet computers and accessible wireless broadband. A direct consequence of this is nearly half of commuters work or study while on public transport.

Being able to work on the train, bus or tram is changing the usage of public transport with many commuters preferring to use the usually slower option (at least in Australia) over driving as it’s seen as more productive time. This is a cultural change that governments have been slow to understand.

Equally slow have been many businesses in understanding they have to deploy the tools that allow workers to be efficient while out of the office, this is the whole point of cloud services.

The workplace is changing as mobile internet becomes an expected part of society. How is your businesses catering to both your staff and customers’ needs in the age of the smartphone and tablet computer?

Jul 282014
Mikkel Svane and Michael Hansen of Zendesk

Two years ago we interviewed Mikkel Svane the founder of cloud service provider Zendesk about modern customer support.

Since we spoke to him Zendesk have had a successful IPO and is now worth over a billion dollars.

In the latest Decoding the New Economy video interview we catch up with Mikkel and discuss the journey from being a three person startup to a billion dollar listed company.

Jul 212014
teamwork in the cloud

Today in Technology Spectator, I have a piece on collaboration based around the Google and Deloitte paper released last week.

At the moment Google are on a marketing campaign promoting Apps for Business, for a previous campaign I prepared The Future of Teamwork which examined the benefits of cloud computing for industry.

It’s interesting how the message hasn’t changed a great deal in the last five year, despite it being valid.

Jul 152014

After last week’s long memo from CEO Satya Nadilla, it was inevitable Microsoft would have to restructure around the company’s new direction.

Bloomberg now reports Microsoft will be laying off thousands of employees – possibly more than the 5,800 laid off in the recessionary depths of 2009.

With 127, 000 employees Microsoft could almost certainly do with a cull, to make the company as nimble as it needs to be may take more than 5,000 jobs.

Jun 102014

Today I spoke about online safety to the Australian Seniors’ Computer Clubs Association about staying safe online.

Hopefully I’ll have a copy of the presentation up tomorrow but what was notable about the morning was the concern among the audience about security and safety of cloud services.

The ASCCA membership are a computer savvy bunch – anyone who disparages older peoples’ technology nous would be quickly put in their place by these folk – but it was notable just how concerned they are about online privacy. They are not happy.

Another troubling aspect were my answers to the questions, invariably I had to fall back on the lines “only do what you’re comfortable with”  and “it all comes down to a question of trust.”

The problem with the latter line is that it’s difficult to trust many online companies, particularly when their business models relies upon trading users’ data.

Resolving this trust issue is going to be difficult and it’s hard to see how some social media platforms and online businesses can survive should users flee or governments enact stringent privacy laws.

It may well be we’re seeing another transition effect happening in the online economy.