All posts by Bemi Idowu

What did we learn from Davos 2014?

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As far as major events go, the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos is as big as they come.

 

 

For a few days in January every year, business, political and academic leaders, as well as other leaders of society gather to shape global, regional and industry agendas. It is an opportunity for the movers and shakers of the world to gather to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world.Technology plays a big role at Davos, with many tech leaders using the platform to share concerns and ideas with the world.

 

Top of this year’s list of concerns was the ongoing controversy with the NSA, with the likes of Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Cisco’s John Chambers adding their thoughts on the debate. Most of the calls were for more openness from the US government on the extent of surveillance, setting new rules and rebuilding trust.

 
Apart from NSA, other tech companies used Davos to share some news and thoughts. In case you missed any of them, we’ve put together a short list of the most exciting tech stories to come out of this year’s event.

 
1. The Internet of Things will be worth $19 trillion by 2020

According to Cisco CEO John Chambers, the internet of everything will be worth a staggering $19 million by 2020. He claims this will be the result of people buying more connected possessions as well as the savings created when systems and infrastructures are more efficient.

 

 

2. Yahoo: We will have more mobile traffic than PC traffic by the end of 2014

According to Marissa Mayer, 2014 will be a tipping point in the evolution of the internet. Mayer said: “when you look at mobile, when you look at the bandwidth, when you look at the Internet of things, it’s going to change everyone’s daily routines really fundamentally.”

 
3. Total privacy is impossible

BT chief executive Gavin Patterson caused a bit of a stir when he suggested that telecoms customers cannot expect total privacy. Although he admitted that there needs to be an overhaul of what information national security agencies can access, he also said that people recognise that they have to give up some of their privacy to be protected.

 

4. Lenovo buys IBM’s low-end server business

Lenovo has said that its decision to buy IBM’s low-end server business for $2.3 billion instantly puts the company into the top ranks of the sector. Despite speculation that the deal indicates a move away from the PC business, Lenovo claims the agreement advances its so-called PC Plus strategy of becoming the biggest computer maker in the world, whether the device is a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet or a server.

 
5. Huawei to continue European push

After spending $3.4bn buying components, engineering and logistical services from Europe last year, Chinese IT giant Huawei has reported that it expects to continue increasing its spending in Europe. According to Huawei deputy chairman Ken Hu, “With full confidence in the future of Europe, we will continue to invest in this region, [and] co-operate with European industry players”.

 
In the words of Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff, “it is usually the Nobel laureates at the World Economic Forum doing the economic review and we took their spot this year because technology is really important.” The tech space has never been as exciting as it is now and it is good to see that this is being reflected beyond tech circles and onto the global space.

 

 

Is Google trying to build Iron Man?

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In the last three months alone, Google has acquired intelligent thermostat makers Nest Labs, military robot-maker Boston Dynamics and human gesture recognition start-up Flutter.

 

 

All of these, as well as the seven other robotics companies it acquired in the last 12 months and Motorola in 2011 have led to some  speculation about what Google is trying to do.

 

To the untrained eye, the logic behind the acquisitions might not be immediately obvious but a deeper look and consideration of ongoing trends in the tech space might shed more light.

 

One phrase that is doing the rounds this year is “Hardware is the new software”. Many commentators are predicting that 2014 will see a surge in demand for intelligent hardware in the same way 2012 and 2013 saw a surge in demand for intelligent software.

 

According to Joi Ito of MIT Media Lab (last year): “hardware start-ups are looking like the software start-ups of the previous digital age. The whole ecosystem around hardware has increased in viability”.

 

It is also worth bearing in mind that hardware can also be a great way to sell software. As the Apple App Store and Android Market have shown us, getting people to pay for software andapps can be quite difficult. But with hardware, as games consoles and mobile phone sales have shown, the mentality is different. Consumers are happy to pay for hardware and developers are perhaps seeing a move towards hardware development as an opportunity to shift software if they can include the cost as part of the overall sale.

 

In addition,  it’s important to consider the minds behind the acquired ventures and what they could potentially bring to Google. Nest Labs was founded by Tony Fadell, who was previously head of Apple’s music division until 2008. He is widely known as the ‘father of the iPod’ for his work on the first 18 generations of Apple’s music player. He was also involved in the hardware design of the original iPhone. Boston Dynamics was founded by a former MIT professor with the whole project overseen by Andy Rubin, the co-founder of Android.

 

With all this in mind,  one thing is for sure, Google can no longer be referred to as simply a ‘search engine company’. I believe the search engine and social media offering will always be there, (doing most of the same things it is doing at present) but in the same vein, I am sure that Google will continue to introduce new products and services – just look at contact lenses it showed to the world last week. There’s no doubt the company  has been very tight-lipped to date on what its plans are long term and why it is making all these acquisitions but one thing is for sure, this is just the beginning. With the money and brains available, maybe they might build Iron Man after all.

 

There’s a new iPhone. So what?

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Earlier this week, Apple held one of its famous keynote speeches to announce two new(ish) phones – iPhone 5C and 5S. The 5S is the more advanced of the two, with Touch ID, a 64-bit chip and the new iOS 7 operating system.

 

 

Elvis Costello apart, the keynote was met with the expected mixed feeling that comes with any Apple announcement – fans cheering and critics sneering. There is already a lot of discussion about how the new iPhones are no match for existing offerings from the likes of Samsung, HTC and even Nokia. From issues with price to “truly ground-breaking” features, there seems to be as many reasons for critics sneer as there are for the Apple faithful to rejoice

 

But, beyond the phone wars and the arguments about which phone maker is the most innovative, there is a bigger picture that is often missed – the genius of the innovation we are witnessing at this point in time.

 

We are so desensitised to the genius of innovation that when a technology has been introduced that allows you to unlock your phone using only your fingerprint,  most of us have barely batted an eyelid (security vendors aside of course!). Even less noise was made when Samsung introduced Face Unlock.

 

We are living in the second dispensation of the industrial revolution where man-made creations are changing the way the world works and its people interact. We have taken giant strides towards making our world a more comfortable place but unlike the first time around, the excitement levels seem to be a bit lower. Most of it is lost in the “phone maker vs phone maker” debates that are, in truth, no more than cheap attempts at filling column inches and driving website traffic. If we are being honest, even the biggest Apple fan will admit that Samsung has some cool innovation and vice versa.

 

We need to take a moment, regardless of which side of the phone maker divide we fall on to appreciate the technological revolution we are witnessing and are privileged to have front row seats to. Regardless of whether or not the technologies of the future will make the smartphones of today look like typewriters, we still need to enjoy these moments. They’ll never come back.

Will album apps change the way we listen to music?

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The cool kids among you will know that US rapper, Jay Z recently released his much anticipated new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail as an app available exclusively on Samsung Smartphones.

 

 

The app offered early access to the rapper’s new album to over a million fans three days before its official release date.

 

To the naked eye, the move looks like just a lucrative sponsorship deal for Jay Z and a chance for Samsung to improve their street credibility. But when you look beyond that, what you find is possibly the beginning of a revolution. Just like we had the Dropbox moment for storage and Lovefilm for streaming movies, we might look back at this moment as the beginning of the sea change in the way we consume music.

 

Ok, maybe it is a bit premature to be referring to album apps at the saviour of the music industry and album sales but it is at least safe to say it has brought about a buzz unlike any other since the transition from audio cassette to compact discs.

 

There is a long way to go before album apps become the norm but this new approach presents an opportunity for the music industry, disastrously slow with keeping up with the latest technology in recent years, to pioneer a new service before the pirates. Newspaper and book publishers have tapped into similar opportunities with great success so perhaps that presents a good template to follow.

 

In its short lifetime, the album app has already experienced more controversy than many other technologies experience in their many years of use. Despite being downloaded by 1.2 million users, the Magna Carta Holy Grail app was removed from the Google Play store, following complaints on the amount of personal data it was trying to access. With the dust not yet settled from the PRISM debacle, it’s no surprise that users are a bit sensitive on issues to do with data and personal information.

 

Privacy issues will need to be addressed but the power ultimately lies with users. If users feel they are getting a satisfactory amount of value from the album app, most will forego their privacy, or at least find a way round it, to have access to the favourite artists’ music. The true test of any new technology is how fans react to it and I guess the same will be the case for album apps. Artists have certainly not been deterred – Lady Gaga recently announced that she will also be releasing her album ARTPOP as an app.

 

It will be interesting to see what we’ll be saying about album apps in 10 year but it has certainly made a grand entrance.  The first episode has not had the happy ending Samsung would’ve hoped for but we have undoubtedly been introduced to a new way to access music.

Celebrating 40 years of the mobile phone: how an abstract idea became a global icon

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Celebrating 40 years of the mobile phone: how an abstract idea became a global icon

 

Hello! Can you hear me?

 

On the 3rd of April 1973 (40 years ago this week), Motorola announced its new DynaTAC system, a ‘portable radio telephone system’ that would make it possible to “make telephone calls while riding a taxi, walking down the city’s street, sitting in a restaurant or anywhere else a radio signal can reach”. Big things were predicted for the new technology and despite weighing more than a kilogram and a $3,000 price tag, Motorola was confident that the technology would be a huge hit.

 

 

On the same day, Motorola executive and researcher, Martin Cooper made the first ever mobile phone call with the DynaTAC 800X on the streets of New York; since then the world has not been the same. In a pre-cordless world, the sight of Cooper making a phone call whilst moving around left many New Yorkers as confused as they were amazed.

 

 

The DynaTAC ‘brick’ proved to be the ‘Adam’ of mobile phones and has evolved significantly over the years; at each stage taking on a new level of dynamism and becoming an increasingly indispensable component of everyday life.

 

 

Innovation is also booming, making the mobile and telecoms industry an increasingly dynamic, fast paced & lucrative one to be involved in.

 

 

The mobile phone has certainly come a long way from what now seems like rather primitive beginnings; from basic functionalities like two-way voice calls to gesture control, eye tracking and more in the latest smartphones. And with ideas like wearable technology increasingly gaining ground, the possibilities for the future are barely within the boundaries of our imagination.

 

 

It took a while to get going but since its first outing, the mobile phone has gone from an abstract idea to an essential element of everyday life for billions. What the next decade holds in store is anybody’s guess but if life begins at 40, it’ll certainly be worth watching.

Budget 2013 – what does it mean for UK tech sector?

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The UK technology sector is one of very few to have seen steady growth since the start of the economic downturn in 2008.  Reports claim that it now represents 12 per cent of UK GDP.

 

What does Budget 2013 mean for UK tech sector?

 

 

With this in mind, it is perhaps not without cause that some may have thought the 2013 budget announcement would have contained a bit more good news for UK tech sector.

 

On the surface – especially when compared the 2012 budget – the 2013 budget doesn’t seem to offer much cause for cheer amongst the UK tech sector.

 

The 2012 budget unveiled a series of incentives to support the UK’s technology industry, including funding for ultra-fast broadband rollouts in the UK’s 10 largest cities, ensuring protection of the £100 million science budget. The 2013 budget didn’t have anything specifically for the tech sector.

 

There are some incentives, like the new Employment Allowance that will knock the first £2,000 off the NI bill for every business and charity. There is also an extension to the Funding for Lending scheme and the announcement of £75 million of new funding for venture capital to support start-ups.

 

None of these are directly for the tech sector, but when you consider the growth of small and medium sized businesses in recent years, and the part technology start-ups and hubs like Tech City in London have played in this, it could be claimed that the 2013 budget has more for the tech industry than it might seem at first glance.

 

The 2013 budget builds on the last budget and will give tech start-ups and SMEs that sprang up as a result of the 2012 incentives more room to manoeuvre and grow. The Employment Allowance, for example, will hopefully help tech start-ups overcome the hurdle of bringing staff on board at their early stages.

 

Of course we would have loved to see a more specific technology focus in the Budget, and some more overt steps taken to future proof the UK’s position as a world leader in tech, but those steps that have been taken are definitely ones in the right direction.

 

Thanks to the recent developments of SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme), Corporation Tax, creative tax reliefs and additional funding, the UK now has one of the most supportive sets of public policy for SMEs & fast growing technology businesses – we’re not there yet, but Mr Osborne is leading us in the right direction.

Is Samsung’s brand stifling the creativity of Android?

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Android prides itself on being an open-source platform. This means manufacturers, developers and even users have more flexibility, in their ability to create the phone that best suits them. 

 

Brand or Ideology – what will win out?

 

Unlike iOS, the Android platform is also available on a range of phones, giving users a wealth of options to choose from.

 

This choice, and the allure of being able to customise has seen Android’s smartphone market share rise hugely in the last few years – Android’s market share rose 12.4% in 2012 alone. You would think this will mean good news for manufacturers on the platform but most are recording severe losses, with only one manufacturer, Samsung, turning over a profit.

 

 

At present, Samsung dominates the Android platform, accounting for 46% of the market share. For example, thirteen of the top twenty Android phones are Samsung phones, and the top seven are all Samsung phones.

 

 

As much as Samsung’s innovation is a shining light in the smartphone market, there is also a risk that its success could in turn lead to the demise of other manufacturers on the platform it has done so much to bring to the fore.

 

 

If the figures above are anything to go by, it seems like users are buying less into the open-source ideology originally championed by Android and more into the brand values of Samsung instead. There is a distinct possibility that users could be left with only two options; iOS or Samsung, rather than the wealth Android promised.

 

The current situation presents us with two possible scenarios: either Android manufacturers buck up their ideas and brings some competition to the market place or Samsung’s success will result in everyone else becoming mere supporting actors in the Samsung/Apple show.