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?

Aug 092014
neutral bay local brunch search on four square

Much to the irritation of many users both Foursquare and Facebook have split their apps into separate tools.

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, one of the investors in Foursquare, explains the reason for this are that different patterns meant the service had to cater for privacy models which threatened to confuse users.

The risk for both Facebook and Foursquare is that irritated users might give up on the service, it’s a tough balancing act.

Aug 032014

This is the unedited, submitted version of ‘is BlackBerry ripe for a comeback‘ that appeared in Technology Spectator on 30 July, 2014.

“What do we well?” is the question Blackberry CEO John Chen asked when he took the reigns of the Canadian communication company last November.

Chen was speaking on Tuesday at Blackberry’s Security Summit in New York where he and his executive team laid out the company’s roadmap back to profitability.

Since the arrival of the iPhone and Android smartphones, times have been tough for the once iconic business phone vendor as enterprise users deserted Blackberry’s handsets and the company struggled to find a new direction under former CEO Thorsten Heins.

Back to BlackBerry’s secure roots

In Chen’s view, the company’s future lies in its roots of providing secure communications for large organisations, “It became obvious to us that security, productivity and collaboration have to be it.”

“This is not to say we are not interested in the consumer, but we have to anchor ourselves around the enterprise.” Chen said in a clear move distancing himself from his predecessor and products like the ill fated Blackberry Playbook

An early step in this process of focusing on enterprise security concerns is the acquisition of German voice security company Secusmart which was the cornerstone of Chen’s New York keynote.

Blackberry’s acquisition of the company is a logical move says the CEO of Secusmart, Dr Hans-Christoph Quelle, who points out the two organisations have been working closely together for several years.

“It fits perfectly,” says Quelle. “We are not strangers having worked together since 2009,” in describing how Secusmart technology has been increasingly incorporated into Blackberry’s devices.

Secusmart’s key selling point has been its adoption by NATO and European government agencies; the Snowden revelations on the US bugging of Angela Merkel coupled with the Russian FSB leaking intercepted US state department conversations along with the release of Ukrainian separatist conversations after the shooting down of MH17 has focused the European view on the security of voice communications.

Launching new services

Along with the acquisition of Secusmart, Blackberry will also be launching an new enterprise service in November, the new Passport handset in December along with a range of security applications including BlackBerry Guardian, a new service that will scan Android apps for malicious software.

Blackberry’s executives were at pains to emphasise their products aren’t focused on any single smartphone operating system and not dependent on customers buying their smartphones although to get the maximum security benefits.

“We will provide the best level of security possible to as many target devices out there as possible,” said Dan Dodge who heads Blackberry’s QNX embedded devices division.

Longer term plans

In the longer term, Blackberry sees QNX division as being one of the major drivers of future revenues as the Internet of Things is rolled out across industries.

QNX was acquired by Blackberry in 2010 to broadband the communication company’s product range, now it is one of the pillars of the organisation’s future as Chen and his team see that connected devices will need secure and reliable software.

Dodge says: “With the internet of things, you can have devices that can change your world.”

While QNX is best known for its smartcar operating system – it underpins Apple’s CarPlay system being rolled out for BMW as well as its own system deployed in Audis – the company’s products are used for industrial applications ranging from wind turbines to manufacturing plants.

Despite Blackberry’s announcements in New York, the company still facing challenges in the marketplace with the Ford Motor Company announcing earlier this week it will drop the Blackberry for its employees by the end of the year and replace them with iPhones.

Chen’s though is dismissive about Apple’s and IBM’s moves into Blackberry’s enterprise markets, “what we do and what they do is completely different.”

Focusing BlackBerry

The focus for Chen is to differentiate Blackberry and play on its strengths, particularly the four markets it calls ‘regulated industries’ – government, health care, financial and energy that the company claims makes up half of enterprise IT spending.

Whether this is enough to bring Blackberry back on track remains to be seen but Chen says this is where he sees the company’s future, “This is why we are so focused on enterprise and so focused on these pillars.”

For Blackberry, the emphasis on enterprise communications is a step back to the profitable past. It may well be successful as businesses become more security conscious in a post-Snowden world.

Paul travelled to the Blackberry Security Summit in New York as a guest of the company.

Jun 022014

One of the great changes to the telecommunications industry is the rise of video. As part of the Decoding the New Economy video series we had an opportunity to grab a quick chat with Torsten Sauer, Ericsson’s Vice President of Broadcast services.

Video is the great challenge for telecommunications company, broadcasters and consumers with Cisco Systems predicting by 2018 over 50% of internet traffic will be videos.

As designer Gadi Amit told this website a few weeks ago, the problem is compounded as the broadcast world evolves from a three or four screen environment to an almost infinite range of screen sizes and devices.

With most of that traffic being over mobile devices, Sweden’s Ericsson has been adapting to the the industry’s change to mobile video with a series of acquisitions in the broadcast production space. Sauer explained some of the motivations and strategies behind Ericsson’s moves in the industry.

Red Bee Media

Ericsson’s acquisition of British content house Red Bee Media earlier this year is one of the areas where the company is looking at growing its services.

“Consumer behaviour is changing and that represents a huge transformation for the industry,” Sauer says. “We want to be a catalyst for that transformation through providing the right services.”

Along with more traditional fields like basic production services, Sauer sees the company’s opportunity in building the metadata into videos making them more accessible over the very crowded internet.

A multitude of screens

The other key opportunity Sauer sees is that by creating richer content, it becomes easier for creators, broadcasters and advertisers to serve appropriate content to viewers depending upon both their interests and the devices they are using.

“It’s a great opportunity for broadcasters to address new opportunities and revenue streams on different devices and in different locations.”

Sauer’s view ties in with Gadi Amit’s in that the proliferation of ways to watch videos is going to create great opportunities for broadcasters to find different ways to show their work.

The innovation race

With the proliferation of channels, the field isn’t just left to the incumbents with Suaer seeing the entry of new broadcasters as one of the great opportunities.

“There will be a lot of opportunities for a lot of new players, that will create a healthy innovation base. It’s a very exciting time to be in this industry.”

With video marketing exploding, Sauer sees it’s important for non-broadcast businesses to experiment with video; “It’s now the time, business models are not all set and technology models are not all set.”

Just as businesses have to deal with a more mobile marketplace and workforce, we’re also seeing video becoming more important. It’s a great opportunity for businesses to develop new channels.


Apr 292014

“Not like everybody else” proclaims Microsoft’s first ad for its newly acquired Nokia phone division.

In what way the Microsoft-Nokia product isn’t like its Apple and Android competitors isn’t clear from the ad, but hopefully they’ll tell us.

The real concern with the Microsoft ad is that it again appears the business is being left behind in a marketplace shift as Google, Samsung, Apple and all the other smartphone leaders move to integrate their phones with smarthomes, fridges and even football stadiums.

Sadly it might turn out that, once again, Microsoft isn’t like everybody else.

Feb 242014

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a three or four way war in the technology industry, with most sectors settling down into a two way fight between alternatives.

Mozilla’s promised $25 smartphone project threatens to open the mobile industry into a three way battle just as it appeared the market had comfortably settled down into an Android and iOS duopoly.

Now we see a three way race and possibly four if Samsung can get traction with its Tizen operating system that it’s bundling into the latest version of the Gear smartwatch.

One positive aspect of the four way battle is that three of the participants – Firefox, Tizen and Android are relatively open so compatibility between them isn’t impossible.

For Google and Apple though, this four way tussle presents a problem to their business plans.

Apple’s iOS ambitions of putting the software in smarthomes, connected cars and, possibly most lucratively of all, into retailing with iBeacon are threatened by a fragmented market and a rapidly eroding market share.

For Google, both Firefox and Tizen threaten the dominant position of their Android operating system that forms a plank in the company’s ambition to control the planet’s data and become an ‘identity service’.

Worse still for Google’s information ambitions, Firefox is working with Deutsche Telekom on a security initiative that will lock away users’ data.

So the stakes are high in the smartphone operating systems wars.

It’s early days to forecast the demise of either Android or Apple iOS, which is unlikely in the short term, but if Firefox’s operating system does take hold it will mean the smartphone industry is about to become a lot more complex.

Feb 112014

HTC’s announcement that the company going to focus on lower margin, mid market smartphones illustrates the maturing of the phone marketplace.

Smartphones have been a huge, and immensely profitable, business for cellphone manufacturers however the devices are now becoming a commodity as the high end western markets become saturated and cheaper devices start to enter the marketplace.

Having been comprehensively defeated in the high end marketplace by Samsung and Apple, Taiwanese manufacturer HTC hopes to make money in the lower end of the market.

For HTC it’s questionable how profitable these cheaper markets will be; rebates to telcos and distributor markups tend to eat up most the margin while pushing up retail costs.

The biggest factor of all though is the entry of newer Chinese businesses into the market, it’s going to be a tough for the Taiwanese manufacturer to compete with these suppliers.

Even Apple and Samsung are being affected by the slowing demand for high end smartphones.

HTC’s dilemma would be familiar to most electronic manufacturers; the high end of the market is a narrow niche – the premium smartphone market, like PCs, is dominated by Apple – while the other suppliers fight not to find themselves locked into the commodity end of the market.

For HTC the trap is not to fall into the commodity trap; although it’s hard to see how they’ll do this in a smartphone market that’s increasingly becoming a low margin, high volume game where, like the PC market, there is no middle ground.