This Week’s technology news – 29th November 2013

Are firms doing enough to secure their data?
Spearfishing, long-lining, phishing and waterholes add up to an idyllic image of a Caribbean beach. The reality however, as pointed out in this week’s Computing webinar is far darker, illustrating the lengths hackers will go to, to stalk their victims, sometimes over great lengths of time. With so much personal info freely available on social media websites, profiles enabling seemingly harmless, but highly informed communications will continue to penetrate systems – and are only a key stroke away. Whilst good CIOs will restrict website (and social media) access by staff, it requires an integrated approach with email. HR can help by integrating process, people and technology with regular staff awareness training to create a “neighbourhood watch” protection. If we think technology is changing fast, then the sophistication of attacks is progressing at an even faster pace.

Is it scarier to adopt something because it is virtual?
In a recent Cisco study, 77% of respondents confirmed they had some sort of virtualisation employed. However, security lay at the heart of 51% of business respondents’ concerns in SMBs. With the many types of solution (server virtualisation, virtual desktops infrastructure, storage virtualisation, network visualisation or remote desktop access), there is proven agility, efficiency and portability in the technology. This make it easier to back up data in the event of compromise – and thus as counter-argument for some, a more compelling reason for adoption. Change can create risk for larger businesses, however aversion (possibly through lack of understanding) might cause more damage down the line, if CIOs do not stay ahead of the game as virtualisation proliferates in industry.

US Army fined $50 million for running unlicenced Microsoft software
In January this year the U.S Defence Department signed a 3 year deal worth $617 million to fit out the U.S Army, Air Force and Defence Information Systems Agency with Microsoft Products, including Windows 8. This was the largest licencing agreement Microsoft had signed with the U.S Department of Defence. Despite this, the US Army has just been fined $50 million for copyright infringement after admitting the use of unlicenced Microsoft software on thousands of devices on both servers and devices. Whether this incident was highlighted because of the agreement is unknown. With corporate’s dependance on Microsoft software, making sure all your IT estate (irrespective of who is installing it), is fully compliant, is fundamental and will save you from similar prosecution and fines.

The HP turnaround
In 2011, former eBay chief Meg Whitman was named CEO of HP, with the difficult task of turning around the fortunes of the company, especially after the purchases of Autonomy ($11bn) and Palm ($1.2bn) – both since written off. Whitman vowed to turnaround the company by 2016 and has since cut 26,000 staff and changed the management structure. So how are things looking now? There are positive signs, beating Wall Street projections with the enterprise group growing for the first time in two years. PCs also fared better than expected, largely due to the upcoming XP expiry looming in April 2014. HP still has a long journey ahead, and Whitman seems to be headed in the right direction, whether she will be successful in turning around this computing behemoth is uncertain.

This Week’s technology news – 22nd November 2013

Slap on the risk
Interruptions caused by IT failures of major institutions like banks or 3rd party suppliers can have a substantial impact on a company’s ability to function. Eliminating software bugs and system weaknesses can be very expensive and is often a commercial balance between risk and reward. Banks and large institutions are predominantly old, with 20% of banks for instance, running on “out of life” technology. Cheap software can be prone to locking up or crashing, whilst a lack of thorough testing prior to rollout by people and process failure, often lies at the heart of problems. Strategic outsourcing of a project or pilot (though not washing hands of the responsibility), offers a chance for organisations to assess reliability and modernisation – and inform longer term decisions for their valuable IT estate.

When social media is infectious
A recent US survey has established the extent that employees are putting themselves and their companies at risk through the uninformed use of social media and a lack of understanding as to how information published on the internet gets used. Over 60% embraced the principle of individual responsibility to protect online privacy, but only 20% had ever having adjusted their own account settings. Companies meanwhile compounded matters with many activating the most open settings by default, leaving them vulnerable to attack. Firms should not make assumptions that employees understand how to be safe online personally, or when using company devices. Policies and firewalls should only be the first step to an educated and integrated HR approach to risk minimisation.

Musical chairs at Microsoft
Stephen Elop, former CEO of Nokia and shortlisted for the new Microsoft CEO position, has been considering killing off Bing and selling Xbox if he wins the big seat. The advantage would be a return to a business focus. This would be a high risk strategy, despite Bing not being profitable in itself, as it has now been deeply integrated into most of Microsoft’s products. Xbox on the other hand has become the entertainment brand, absorbing Zune music service as Xbox Music and Xbox Video, to compete with Apple offerings. Current CEO Steve Ballmer however, reiterated at a shareholder’s meeting this week that his vision includes Bing and Xbox! Will Elop’s ruthless attitude, which arguably saved Nokia, stop Elop getting the top job at Microsoft?

Apple buys PrimeSense, creators of the Kinect camera
Apple is reported to have acquired PrimeSense for $345 million. This is the company which created the 3D camera used by Microsoft’s Xbox console for ‘controller free’ motion control. The current technology is too bulky to go in an iPad or MacBook. Is Apple planning the next generation for Apple TV using virtual swiping gestures versus a traditional remote control? It would give Apple a new market in a new App Store for TV and offer developers the ability to create unique Apps powered by tracking people in 3D space. Mere speculation now, but it would not be the biggest surprise if it was announced in 2014.

This Week’s technology news – 15th November 2013

Bringing data to the heart of business
Traditional automated network monitoring is no longer sufficient for modern business. Instead the data itself needs to be the prime focus. IT operations analytics software can be used to track, interpret and identify potential problems. The 2012 RBS calamity, which cost £175m, when a fault froze 12 million customer accounts, highlighting the importance of monitoring, which could have saved time, money and trust. Gartner analyst Will Cappelli said the IT operations analytics market will be worth $800m in 2013, up from $300m in 2012. Gartner expects this growth rate to be repeated next year. With stricter regulations now in place to protect the public, understanding what is happening with your data, will become even more important as companies get to grips with big data.

Dropping the box?
Big brand consumer file synching and file sharing name, Dropbox, is seeking to simplify and align security for its 200 million personal customers, to merge logins with those customers’ 4 million business accounts. The current duality might be “silly” to Dropbox’s CEO, however, UK enterprise and MSPs are likely to be encouraged to say with more commercially secure options like Box, which uses storage encryption on its servers – and unlike Google Drive and Sky Drive – would not fall foul of safe harbour governance policies, by virtue of its ability to control the geographical location of its data.

Can Samsung Knox out the competition?
Samsung, which has managed to take the lion’s share (60%) of the Android market has recently been making big strides in tackling the platform’s Achilles heel; corporate security. Many corporations have gravitated towards iOS because of its high level of security, thanks to its walled-garden approach. With Samsung’s latest version of their security platform Knox, it is looking like they have closed the gap, adding an application layer where work content can exist securely. Currently Knox is only compatible with high-end Samsung devices, but this still gives corporate users a much wider range of devices than Apple. With Android recently breaking past 80% market share worldwide, Samsung is in a very strong position to start to dominate the corporate marketplace, leaving other Android OEMs and Apple behind.

Intelligent Energy fires Upp hope for alternative power source
Intelligent Energy, the UK’s 15th fastest growing technology company (according to Deloitte), have showcased a new power source called “Upp”, at AfricaCom in Capetown. Made with a compact fuel cell and fuel to charge mobile devices including mobile phones and tablets, the cartridge can be easily returned and replaced. Using world telecomms partners and their distribution channels, down to street level; the costs are anticipated to fall lower than the initial $199 quoted. IE view this as a transformative platform for the third world which has positive implications for the mobile workforce and consumers -and marks the welcome roll out of alternatives to an over-reliance on electricity as a power source.


This Week’s technology news – 8th November 2013

Motorola see a future in Modular smartphones
Motorola has announced that it’s developing a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. The idea is that you can build a phone like you can a PC. Priorities battery life? Then fit in an extra battery module, Camera enthusiast? Then pick out the best camera module available and snap it in. A company could even build their own company standard phones. The possibilities, especially with an open platform are potentially endless. Naturally as Motorola is owned by Google, it is of no surprise this project, titled Ara is exclusive to the Android platform however it is likely a necessity to turn this seemingly farfetched idea into reality.

Lenovo fights against fall PC decline in the UK
Gartner reports that PC sales in the UK continue to fall. Between July and September 2013 PC sales fell by more than a quarter. The reason for the decline should surprise no one. “The transition from PCs to tablets continued to reduce PC sales” said Meike Escerich of Gartner. In fact of the top 5 PC OEM’s including Apple’s unit shipments were down with one big exception; Lenovo, who managed to increase shipments by 26.4%. Gartner’s reasoning on Lenovo’s rise is their ability in successfully delivering mobile PCs to businesses whilst continuing to grow their consumer market.

EE set to launch the world’s fastest 4G network in London
UK mobile network EE which launched last year combining T-mobile and Orange is getting ready to launch what it claims as the world’s faster 4G network, starting in London. The LTE-Advanced network will be capable of speeds up to a scorching 300 Mbps. This takes advantage of spectrum EE acquired in the Ofcom auction earlier this year. EE announced the network is aimed at business users who wish to access cloud–based business systems such as SAP and other ERP solutions. In addition to business users the new super speed network will likely also attract mobile enthusiasts which will help EE secure itself as the go to name for 4G who so far have 1.2 million 4G users.

The Blackberry saga continues
In a move that will surely turn heads, BlackBerry has now decided against selling off the company and instead axing chief exec Thorsten Heins in the hopes of a billion dollar bond deal. Fairfax will arrange this billion dollar bond deal, investing $250m, Canso investment Counsel putting in $300m, Mackenzie Financil $200m, Market Corporation $100m, Qatar Holding, another $100m and Brookfield Asset Management $50m. There is also an option for Fairfax to arrange another $250m. This billion dollar deal is expected to be completed within two weeks. Blackberry has not revealed what their plans are next, but it seems we are unable to count them out yet.

This Week’s technology news – 1st November 2013

Adobe hack revealed to be 10 times worse than expected
Adobe joins the list of companies who have been successfully hacked with user data being the target. The original damage estimate was of 2.9 million accounts, but the reality turns out that the number is 38 million. Thankfully for users of Adobe’s cloud services, passwords and payment information is stored encrypted. Beyond user data there was another target, source code. Adobe has admitted that source code was accessed to their flagship product Photoshop. This attack is a sombre reminder that although user-data is incredibility important to protect you must not forget correct security around your own IP.

Does Nokia’s latest tablet change the future for Windows RT?
With last week’s Nokia World announcement of a Windows RT powered Nokia tablet, Nokia may be positioning itself to take the same slice of market share from Microsoft’s tablet OS that it successfully took from their phone OS. Nokia’s support of Windows Phone managed to bring Windows Phone into smart phone relevancy world wide. With other OEMs dropping support of Windows this gives Nokia the opportunity to grow its own ecosystem on a platform without challenging competition. This could of course have the same successful effect that Nokia did on Windows Phone, however this time giving Windows RT a chance in the spot light.

Apple delays innovation
March this year we reported Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that a new product line was set to be revealed this year, seemingly in an attempt to calm shareholders nervous from consistent falling of stock prices. Several media events later, we have seen moderate updates to their Macs, iPhone and iPads but nothing truly new. This week Tim Cook was reminded of his earlier statement by an industry analyst. The Apple CEO claimed they have already revealed “exciting new products” but suggested we would have to wait at least till 2014 to see what else Apple has been cooking.

Nexus 5 announced as Android market share now over 80%
Google has announced the latest in it’s affordable, vanilla line of Android phones, the Nexus 5. The Nexus 5 sports a 5-inch 1080p screen, 8MP optical image stabilising camera, speedy snapdragon 800 processor but most importantly is also the first phone to run the newest version of Android, KitKat. This announcement also benefits from the happy coincidence that the Android platform has smashed passed 80% of worldwide phone market share, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Will the market start to gain Android fatigue or are we looking at a Windows-like monopoly future for google and smartphones going forwards?