Aug 242016
 
Apple_desktop_mouse

“I’ve been betrayed, I’ll never buy another Apple product again!” was the cry in 1998 when the company announced their new range of iMacs and portables wouldn’t support the long standing Apple Development Bus (ADB) system and floppy disks.

At the time Apple had been in decline, only the year before Microsoft had bailed the company out with a few conditions that had deeply irritated the company’s loyal customer base.

Many of those customers – mainly in education and graphic design – had invested deeply in ADB compatible equipment and their irritation at abandoning that investment for USB based kit was understandable.

Today we’re seeing similar protests about the rumoured dropping headphone jacks from the upcoming Apple 7 device, customers aren’t happy about the possibility being forced from a well established standard to a less reliable and likely more expensive system.

Unlike the computer world of 1998 today’s marketplace is very different, Apple is no longer a quirky and niche product but the most profitable of the tech industry’s giants – as Microsoft was back when Steve Jobs swallowed his pride and accepted Bill Gates’ bailout.

However most of Apple’s profits come from one product line, the iPhone. While the iPhone is probably the only truly consistently profitable smartphone, it competes in a fiercely fought for consumer market.

Already in China, one of the company’s most profitable markets, the iPhone’s market share is falling in the face of good quality but slightly cheaper Chinese and Korean devices.

Should Apple push those consumers too far by shifting the iPhone to a more expensive or proprietary system then the competing Android devices may well pick up market share and dent Apple’s fat profits.

However history shows that these hardware shifts do happen and older technologies are supplanted by more expensive, but better, inventions regardless of how much users have spent on the status quo. A century ago the automobile started replacing a millenia of investment in horse drawn technologies.

In the case of Apple abandoning the ADB back in 1998, it was the spur to adopt the USB standard which up until then had been buggy and unwanted as Bill Gates himself had found.

As history shows, Apple thrived after ditching the old technology despite the complaints at the time and if the company resists the temptation to lock users into a proprietary system there is no reason to think the same can’t happen again.

Apple mouse (with ADB connector) courtesy of Wikipedia

May 272016
 
lenovo-yoga-2-pro-in-laptop-mode

It appears faded mobile phone brand Motorola has proved disappointing for Chinese computer giant Lenovo reports TechCrunch.

For Lenovo, this is concern as the company explores ways to diversify away from the shrinking PC and tablet marketplaces although the smartphone market which itself suffers from poor  margins doesn’t seem to be the opportunity the company is looking for.

It does however show that Google is often right in casting off companies it doesn’t see a future in.

Mar 162016
 
Cisco networking head office

One of the things confronting technology vendors in the past five years has been the commoditization of hardware and the opening up of standards. As software has eaten the computer hardware industry, those companies are being forced to make their systems more open.

In that world of open systems, it’s the ecosystem of developers and products around platforms that drives success. The best example being the iPhone where the range of third party apps available made Apple’s product the most compelling on the market.

At Cisco Live in Melbourne last week Susie Wee, the company’s Vice President in charge of the company’s DevNet developer relations program, described how the networking company is opening their systems with Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to build an ecosystem.

“What we want to do is help people with this transition,” says Susie. “With the network, with the infrastructure and with the cloud we want people to get more out of it.”

Cisco, like most hardware companies, are finding the shift to opening their data streams to be wrenching. The business model of a decade ago involved mysterious black boxes running on proprietary software with the data dished out sparingly.

While the the ‘black boxes’ still remain, becoming a ‘platform’ and making data available to all comers is very much a cultural shift for once dominant hardware companies like Cisco.

The question for IT hardware companies is how long they can defend their proprietary software systems – the hardware side is already slowly declining as software defined equipment takes over – while establishing dominance with their software and data feeds.

Users too need to be treading carefully as those APIs and the data being fed through them is subject to the business imperatives of the

Cisco hopes they can achieve this through their current market power and business networks, it is a hard ask for them though. For the entire tech industry, the shift to an API driven marketplace is going to be testing.

Paul travelled to Cisco Live in Melbourne as a guest of Cisco

Feb 142016
 
pentiumee_processor_back_intel_cpu

One constant in the modern computer industry is Moore’s law, the rule described by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on a microprocessor will double every two years.

Nature magazine reports chip makers are now about to abandon Moore’s law as they reach the physical limits of etching an ever increasing number of transistors onto silicon.

This doesn’t mean the microprocessor industry is about to stagnate however as the demand for more mobile and energy efficient chips is expected to boom as the Internet of Things evolves and wearable technologies become commonplace.

 

Jan 292016
 
Windows-10-microsoft-announcement

Microsoft released its quarterly financial results to general acclaim from the stock market which drove the shares seven percent higher after reporting slightly better than expected returns.

The market was applauding the continued shift to cloud services with income rising five percent in the company’s Intelligent Cloud division, however the decline in the company’s more traditional strengths of software licenses and devices saw earnings fall by eleven percent over the corresponding period last year.

More concerning for the company’s shareholders would be the profits that have fallen 23% which once again proves that cloud services are much less profitable than Microsoft’s traditional software business.

To make matters worse margins on cloud services are falling with returns from the division declining despite sales being up five percent. It’s not hard to see the effects of Amazon Web Services’ ruthless driving down of cloud service prices.

While Microsoft’s results are encouraging in that they show the company is continuing its evolution to a cloud services business, it’s clear the legacy products are still the key cash generators.

As of December 31, Microsoft has a 102 billion dollars in the bank so there’s little risk the company will be going broke soon however the company has to find a way to make better profits from its new business models.

Jan 132016
 
should you throw out your computer equipment

Personal computer sales suffers a 10.3% fall in 2015, the sector’s greatest ever year on year decline reports IDC.

What might reverse the PC’s decline? Dell hopes it’s virtual reality as the company offers discount bundles with the computer power to run the Oculus Rift headset.

Dell’s move is based on the news that most computers in use today don’t have the power to run virtual reality headsets.

The question though is how long that will last as the power of smartphones and smaller form factor computers increase exponentially and developers find ways to optimise code to deliver more performance from less powerful processors.

Virtual reality may well open a range of new markets and products but it’s hard to see it saving the personal computer.

Nov 092015
 
radio programs for techonology, web, social media, cloud computing and computer advice

For November’s Nightlife tech spot we’ll be asking if wearable technologies overhyped and looking at what is going on with Australia’s sudden discovery of startup businesses.

Wearable technologies have been the next big thing. Two years ago Google Glass was all the news and earlier this year the Apple Watch was released to great fanfare.

Now Google Glass has been wound back in the face of widespread indifference and Apple are discounting the new watch as market experts find that wearable technologies are just not interesting to customers.

So are wearable technologies overhyped? We’ll be discussing where having a computer on your wrist or in your glasses may be useful and taking your questions on them.

Australia’s startup goldrush

There’s been a shift in the Australian business community since Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister and now tech startups have become the new black with a wave of corporate initiatives being launched to support fledgling companies hoping to be the next Facebook or at least Atlassian.

So why now all the interest and can Australia be the next Silicon Valley?

Some of the questions we’ll be answering include.

  • So where can we get a cheap Apple watch?
  • Have Apple done this sort of thing before?
  • What are the experts saying about wearable technologies?
  • Are there some industries they can be used in?
  • So why is Malcolm Turnbull so keen on startups?
  • What sort of things are governments doing to support the startup communities?
  • How many Australian tech industry successes have there been?
  • Can Australia be the next Silicon Valley?

Join us

Tune in on your local ABC radio station from 10pm Australian Eastern Summer time or listen online at www.abc.net.au/nightlife.

We’d love to hear your views so join the conversation with your on-air questions, ideas or comments; phone in on 1300 800 222 within Australia or +61 2 8333 1000 from outside Australia.

You can SMS Nightlife’s talkback on 19922702, or through twitter to@paulwallbank using the #abcnightlife hashtag or visit the Nightlife Facebook page.