Category: Business

South Korea wants to abandon coins

coinTo encourage people to move to a cashless society and buy everything electronically, South Korea is to abandon coins.

The authorities see stage one as getting rid of the metal money by 2020. The Bank of Korea on Thursday announced it will step up its efforts to reduce the circulation of coins, the highest denomination of which is worth less than $0.50.

Instead it wants consumers to deposit loose change on to Korea’s ubiquitous “T Money” cards — electronic travel passes that can be used to pay for metro fares, taxi rides and purchases.

South Korea is technically savvy with mobile payments and online shopping pretty much being the norm. It is already one of the world’s least cash-dependent nations and has the highest rates of credit card ownership.  Only 20 percent of Korean payments are made using paper money.

Coins are expensive. Korea spends $40 million annually minting them. Banks spend a fortune collecting, managing and circulating them.

The government also hopes that the shift towards electronic payments will help shrink the informal economy, boost the state’s coffers and boost overall growth.

Globally, Scandinavian countries are leading the charge towards cashless societies. More than half of Sweden’s 1,600 bank branches neither hold cash nor take cash deposits. Norway’s biggest bank, meanwhile, this year also called for a cashless society.

Apple drones on

orvillecopter-bart-jansen-cat-droneThe fruity tax-dodging cargo-cult Apple is considering drones as a possible money spinner to help it improve its rather disappointing maps product.

Apple is putting together a team of robotics and data-collection experts who will use drones, and “new indoor navigation features”. The big idea is to try catch up with Google, the long-time leader in the mapping field.

The drones can capture and update Apple Maps at a far quicker rate than Apple’s collection of GPS data-collecting minivans, which began appearing in the United States in early 2015. That is, of course, if they are not bought down by US citizens demonstrating their right to arm bears to protect their property. [Are you sure you have got that right? Ed]

Apple wants to bring in a new feature which will let users view the insides of buildings, thanks to its Indoor.io and WifiSLAM acquisitions, and overall improvements will be made to navigation within the app.

Apple wants to fly drones around to do things like examine street signs, track changes to roads and monitor if areas are under construction, the person said. The data collected would be sent to Apple teams that rapidly update the Maps app to provide fresh information to users, the person added.

Apple already filed for an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration to be able to fly drones for commercial purposes, and was granted approval to “operate an unmanned aircraft system to conduct data collection, photography, and videography”.

Under current rules, Apple’s drone fleet would be restricted from flying over people and buildings, would be designated to operate only in daytime, and could only be flown by licensed pilots.

Whitman claims IoT will be a new world order

Meg WhitmanHPE supreme dalek Meg Whitman claims that the technology industry is witnessing the start of a new world led by the Internet of Things.

Speaking at HPE Discover 2016 in London, Whitman said we are heading to a world where  “everything computes” and that HPE’s vision is to be the leader in this hybrid IT market.

“We are living through the birth of a whole new world, where everything computes… From cars to stadiums, train tracks to windmills and solar panels, to much, much more. We are seeing a whole new world come into being, and it will change everything.”

Quoting Gartner, Whitman said that the number of intercommunicated devices will more than triple from 6.4 billion this year to nearly 21 billion in 2020. By 2021 there will be one billion new intercommunicated devices sold every hour.

“Harnessing this new world is what HPE is all about. Our vision is to be the leader of hybrid IT, built on secure next-generation software-defined infrastructure that will run datacentres today and bridge to multi-cloud platforms tomorrow.”

Whitman also added that HPE was not “getting out of software”.

“Earlier this year we made the decision to spin off and merge our non-core software assets with Micro Focus. We are not getting out of the software business. In fact, we are doubling down on software and infrastructure that is critical for businesses systems,” she said.

Microsoft shareholders give Nadella a Chinese burn

nadellaMicrosoft shareholders are getting rather rattled that Vole does not appear to be paying enough attention to its mobile phones.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was grilled by shareholders over the matter of Windows phones.

Microsoft shareholder Dana Vance, owner of a Windows Phone and a Microsoft Band, was furious that he received an email about the Microsoft Pix app but was surprised to learn that it was available for iPhone and Android but not Windows Phone.

Microsoft Outlook has the same problems. Already he was cross that Vole had put the Band on the back burner. It seems that Microsoft has given up on consumer devices.

As part of his response, Nadella said Microsoft’s Windows camera and mail apps will include the same features as in Microsoft’s apps for other platforms.

“When we control things silicon-up, that’s how we will integrate those experiences. We will “build devices that are unique and differentiated with our software capability on top of it — whether it’s Surface or Surface Studio or HoloLens or the phone — and also make our software applications available on Android and iOS and other platforms. That’s what I think is needed for Microsoft to help you as a user get the most out of our innovation.”

Another shareholder said that he uses his Windows Phone “18 hours a day” and yet Vole is stepping away from mobile. “Can you calm me down … and tell me what your vision is for mobile?”

Nadella fudged: “We think about mobility broadly. In other words, we think about the mobility of the human being across all the devices, not just the mobility of a single device.”

However he did say that Vole was not stepping away or back from its focus on mobile devices.

“What we are going to do is focus that effort on places where we have differentiation. If you take Windows Phone, where we are differentiated on Windows Phone is on manageability. It’s security, it’s Continuum capability — that is, the ability to have a phone that can act like a PC. So we’re going to double-down on those points of differentiation.”

He cited the HP Elite x3 device as an example of a Windows 10 phone that follows this strategy.

“We will keep looking at different forms and different functions that we can bring to mobile devices, while also supporting our software across a variety of devices. So that’s the approach you will see us take. We are not stepping away from supporting our Windows Phone users. But at the same time we are recognizing that there are other platforms in mobile that have higher share, and we want to make sure that our software is available to them.”

Sage doing rather well

bunch-of-sage-leavesThe number crunching software outfit named after something which ends up in a turkey at Christmas is doing rather well and announced that it has posted strong annual numbers.

Sage announced it had achieved its fastest rate of recurring revenue growth for a decade in its financial year ending 30 September 2016. Total revenues rose 9.3 percent to £1.57 billion, with growth of 6.1 percent. The UK and Ireland more than pulled their weight, with seven percent organic growth.

Recurring revenue growth hit 10.4 percent. Organic operating profit, meanwhile, rose 9.2 percent to £427 million.

Sage talked up its Sage Marketplace, a distribution platform that allows ISVs to showcase add-ons for its products, including Sage One and Sage Live, which it launched in February. More than 215 ISV apps have signed to Sage Marketplace during the year.

Sage Live, a cloud accounting solution based on Salesforce hardware was launched in the USA and UK in February, now has 600 customers, with over 400 added in the past 90 days, Sage boasted.

Pegg, which Sage bills as “the world’s first accounting chatbot”, has amassed 9,000 users for Sage in 125 countries since its launch in July, the LSE-listed vendor added.

Phase one of a transformation programme saw Sage cut general and administrative expenses as a proportion of revenue from 18.7 to 16.5 percent year on year and renew its senior management team, and is now complete, the vendor said.

Sage CEO Stephen Kelly said: “FY16 saw Sage continue to deliver on the commitment made at our June 2015 Capital Markets Day to perform and transform. The organic revenue growth of six per cent is driven by higher-quality recurring revenue, which grew at the fastest rate in a decade. The strategy is working – with customers embracing closer relationships with Sage, evidenced by a 46 percent increase in the number of subscription contracts and a contract retention rate of 86 percent.

Phase two of the transformation effort will focus on “driving more technology innovation and increasing focus on new customer acquisition”.

Samsung Electronics considers split

Ned's_executionSouth Korea’s Samsung Electronics is considering doing an HP and splitting itself into two.

The plan was originally mooted by US activist hedge fund Elliott Management.

According to the Seoul Economic Daily the split give the heirs of the founding Lee family a much stronger hold on the global smartphone outfit. Elliott suggested the split in October to boost shareholder value.

Samsung’s board of directors will meet on Tuesday and respond to Elliott’s proposals. Samsung Electronics is not saying anything.

If it follows the House of Elliott plan, Samsung Electronics is to divide into a holding vehicle for ownership purposes and an operating company. It will pay a $26 billion special dividend, pledge to return at least 75 percent of free cash flow to investors and agree to appoint some independent directors.

The conglomerate’s reorganisation efforts have accelerated since Jay Lee took over the reins after his father and Samsung patriarch Lee Kun-hee was incapacitated following a May 2014 heart attack.

It has flogged off non-core assets and merged two affiliates in 2015 to consolidate stakes in key affiliates under a company controlled by Jay Lee and his two sisters.

“Even if Samsung Electronics does not comment on specifics such as the timing of a split … the firm will at least say it will implement ownership structure changes in a reasonable manner,” HI Investment said in a report.

Intel puts in new planning application for Irish plant

juteworks_tcm4-572826Intel Ireland is lodging a fresh planning application with Kildare County Council for an estimated $4 billion new chip manufacturing facility at its headquarters in Leixlip.

It is not clear if the project will go ahead as Ireland is competing with other locations, most notably Israel, to land the investment. It received a 10-year permission for the plant in 2013, which its local management said “sits ready to be used when the corporation needs it”.

Since then the standard design of Intel’s “fabs” has changed and new planning approval would be needed.

The latest application is for a smaller facility than the one for which it got permission in 2013, which at the time was estimated could create more than 3,000 jobs during construction and fit out, and would cost $4 billion.

Intel said the new application, as well as reducing the footprint, would also site the proposed manufacturing plant further back from the N4 road. It would also be lower in height than the 2013 version.

The latest application also seeks permission for a car park to hold 2,200 cars, indicating that, if the project proceeded, it would likely provide a significant permanent employment boost to the area.

Apparently Chipzilla Ireland is still waiting on Intel HQ to give the project the nod.

American families stay at home and spend like crazy

Online spending by bargain hunters in the US has climbed to more than $1 billion as Americans stay home and binge spend.

The Adobe Digital Index saw internet sales surging almost 14 percent from a year ago as Americans could not be bothered queuing for the brick-and-mortar shopping sales.

At the start of the first holiday shopping season since the election of Donald Trump as president on November 8, US consumers spent like there was no tomorrow, which is probably a safe bet. More than $1.15 billion online between midnight and 5 pm ET on Thursday, splashed the cash,  according to Adobe.

Traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, has started the holiday shopping season in the United States with retailers offering steep discounts and turning a profit. But its popularity has been on the wane given the emergence of online shopping and cheap deals throughout the year.

US stores are now opening on Thanksgiving to try and boost in-store sales, while retailers have been offering online deals weeks in advance to cope with lower demand and stiff pricing competition.

The holiday season spanning November and December is crucial for retailers because it can account for as much as 40 percent of annual sales. Retailers try to attract shoppers with deep discounts, sometimes as much as 85 percent.

The National Retail Federation, which has been optimistic with projections in the past, expects holiday sales to grow 3.6 percent this year to $655.8 billion.

“Online discounts are earlier and a lot bigger than last year,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal research analyst at Adobe Digital Index.

US Far Right guns for Musk

elon-musk-tesla-109Far-right trolls have switched their focus from smearing Hillary Clinton and is now gunning for tech wiz Elon Musk – fearing that he might try a political career.

Bloomberg claims that hard-right groups are lining up to back misleading websites and fake journalists who attack Musk’s business empire.

The focus of the attacks is partly true. His businesses were built, legally, with the help of billions in government contracts and incentives for renewable energy and space transport.

But the stories are going on to accuse Musk of fraud and wasting taxpayer dollars. Three conservative sites have run negative pieces about Musk—by a nonexistent writer named “Shepard Stewart”. These stories include “Elon Musk Continues to Blow Up Taxpayer Money With Falcon 9” and “Elon Musk: Faux Free Marketeer and National Disgrace”. Two later retracted the stories.

Sam Jaffe, managing director of Cairn Energy Research Advisors said that whoever is behind the attacks is aiming at Musk personally because they fear he could go into politics. The pattern is the same which were levelled at Hillary Clinton when it became clear she would be running.

There were allegations of fraud and negligence levied at Clinton during the presidential campaign which successfully cemented the public’s perception of her as shady.

“It’s the exact same thing as Musk. There’s a portion of the political spectrum that is scared to death of Musk as politician. They see him as a threat. They’re starting that process.”

One anti-Musk website, Stop Elon From Failing Again launched earlier this year with the mission of becoming a “one-stop database on stopping Elon Musk.” The site combines news aggregated from mainstream sources with pickups from conservative think tanks, plus some of its own posts.

The site is backed by the Citizens for the Republic political action committee, which is led by Laura Ingraham, a right-wing radio host currently under consideration for White House press secretary.

One of the site’s most recent pieces, produced by the conservative Heritage Foundation, compared Musk to “Enron and Bernie Madoff.”

Musk’s SpaceX, which competes with the Boeing- and Lockheed Martin-backed United Launch Alliance, was also targeted this year. The website “Who Is Elon Musk?” produced a stream of stories critical of SpaceX and Musk, just as the former was being considered for government contracts.

Trump to scrap NASA’s climate change funding

Donald-Trump-funnyDonald “Prince of Orange” Trump is going to scrap NASA’s funding for climate change and is telling it to focus on space research instead.

According to his senior adviser it is all part of a crack-down on “politicised science”.

Trump wants to have explored the entire solar system by the end of the century.

However, this cunning plan would mean the end of Nasa’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. NASA’s network of satellites provides a wealth of information on climate change.

Bob Walker, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said there was no need for Nasa to do what he has previously described as “politically correct environmental monitoring. We see Nasa in an exploration role, in deep space research. Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission”.

Trump’s decisions will be based upon solid science, not politicised science, Walker claimed. Walker is a retired US politician who will be dead in a few years, before politicised climate change starts killing his children and grandchildren.  Of course, he might have figured out that sticking them on a Mars colony is the only safe way to avoid the end of the world.

Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University, said NASA has a “critical and unique role” in observing Earth and climate change.

“Without the support of Nasa, not only the US but the entire world would be taking a hard hit when it comes to understanding the behavior of our climate and the threats posed by human-caused climate change,” he said.

“It would be a blatantly political move, and would indicate the president-elect’s willingness to pander to the very same lobbyists and corporate interest groups he derided throughout the campaign.”

Nasa has appointed two officials, Tom Cremins and Jolene Meidinger, to lead the transition to the new Trump administration. However, the president-elect’s team has yet to formally review the space agency. A NASA spokesman said:

“The Nasa community is committed to doing whatever we can to assist in making the executive branch transition a smooth one. The agency remains focused on the future, a future that will improve our understanding of our changing home planet from Nasa’s unique platforms in space.”