Archive for August, 2011
August 31st, 2011
The Office for National Statistics has released its Internet Access – Households and
Individuals, 2011 report today, which is based on a monthly survey of 1,800 randomly selected adults from across the UK. You can get the overview here.
The key points include:
â€¢ 45% of Internet users used a mobile phone to connect to the Internet (up from 31% in 2010)
â€¢ 6 million people accessed the Internet over their mobile phone for the first time in the previous 12 months
â€¢ The use of wireless hotspots almost doubled in the last 12 months to 4.9 million users
â€¢ 21% of Internet users did not believe their skills were sufficient to protect their personal data
â€¢ 77% of households had Internet access
Some of the coverage around the report has concentrated on the security angle, as evidenced by The Guardian’s piece, titled â€˜One in five Britons do not feel safe online‘ focusing on results that show respondents do not feel adequately protected online, fearing computer viruses and other attempts to steal their personal information.
Others such as the BBC chose to focus on mobile internet use, which is now nearing 50%. The most rapid growth was among younger people, where 71% of 16 to 24-year-olds used mobiles, as shown below.
Furthermore, one in two 45- to 64-year-olds accessed the internet via mobile this year, compared to just over a third in 2010. However, only 8% of internet users aged 65+ has embraced mobile internet use, this lower usage rate is probably a reflection of their choice of device rather than a lack of knowledge.
One could argue that the increased use of the mobile internet and the ongoing fear around security are closely linked, as is the surge in using often unsecured wifi hotspots, which has increased seven-fold.
Security is not a new concern, but the now often archaic approach to security software or unreliable connection points leave many rightly concerned about the security of their data and devices. However, many still choose to â€˜risk it’ opting for convenience over secure options of connecting and managing data. Alternatively, this could be an education issue, as 21% of Internet users did not believe their skills were sufficient to protect their personal data.
Although connection via mobile and Wifi has risen, domestic internet use is also continuing to build, if at a slower rate. According to the ONS, 77% of households now have access to a net connection, which is up 4% from the previous year, representing the slowest rate of growth since the ONS survey began in 2006.
Interestingly, Among the 23% of the population who remain offline (5.7m households did not have internet access), half said they “didn’t need the internet.” As more and more services go online, rural broadband improves and the move to digital evolves, I would assume this figure will continue to decrease.
August 31st, 2011
A few weeks ago i wrote a post entitled Google TV @ $99 which confirmed that the price of the Logitech Revue has come down in price from $299 to $99.00. At that price I went ahead and purchased one from the US.
First impressions were good and the only obvious drawback to UK customers is that it is only really set up for U.S. consumption so far. This could all change very shortly now that Google has confirmed that it will bring Google TV to the U.K. later this year. This purchase could be an even bigger bargain than i imagined!
Google has also confirmed that that Android Market is coming to Google TV, with this announcement -Preview of Google TV add-on for the Android SDK
“We are excited to announce a preview of the Google TV add-on for the Android SDK. With the upcoming OS update to Honeycomb, Google TV devices will be Android compatible. That means developers can build great new Android apps for TV, optimize existing mobile or tablet apps for TV, and distribute those apps through Android Market.”
Google TV has had a relatively slow start, but if Google can replicate its mobile success on the big screen who knows where Google TV will be in the next few years, it’s a space worth watching!
August 30th, 2011
If you have ever been hacked, you will know the sense of powerlessness that this assault brings. And with it, a desire to avoid that feeling again at all costs. On the personal level, it is destructive enough, but at the corporate level, the outcomes are usually disastrous, both financially and in terms of reputation.
The war with professional hackers is escalating and it is truth that the terrain has shifted from the sociopathic individual or small groups to well-organised, commercially-focused criminal units that employ a rapidly-evolving arsenal to breach corporate network defences.
Image:Â A1 Enterprise
The latest in this armoury was highlighted by TechTargetâ€™s security wing â€“ the Ramnit worm variant. Robert Westervelt wrote an incisive article, published last Thursday that exposed the threat to banks across the world.
The Ramnit worm was, until recently, seen as a low-level malware threat but Robert identified how cyber gangs behind theÂ worm have transformed it into financial-focused malware capable of draining bank accounts, using what may be bits and pieces of the publicly-available Zeus malcode to make it more effective.
Ramnit has been around for just over a year and was used to infect Microsoft Windows executable files. After infection, the malware stole saved FTP credentials and browser cookies.
But researchers at Trusteer, a Boston desktop security vendor have identified a new attack method built into the Ramnit worm.
This new strand of malicious code may well emanate from the Zeus Trojan family and it supports â€˜man-in-the-browserâ€™ attacks, allowing criminals to bypass two-factor authentication, modify Web pages and covertly insert banking transactions.
We know that the Zeus Trojan family can have serious consequences. A little more than a year ago, an unnamed UK financial institution was the victim of a Zeus Trojan. The gang leading the attack stole Â£675,000.
We donâ€™t know yet whether the Ramnit variant has been used to attack corporates in the wild but the seriousness of the threat is clear â€“ the malware can syphon off bank accounts but stay invisible to users and host applications.
What is also very clear is that this variant and others like it, can be evolved rapidly, which should give corporates serious pause for thought in their network security operations.
August 25th, 2011
Tim Cook stepped up last night as the new CEO of Apple Computer, as Steve Jobs stood down, and if you were to find a better man to step into the shadow of the best company leader in the world, then you would be a genius.
Tim Cook has been joined at the hip with Steve Jobs since 1998 and probably mind-melded with the leader around 2003, when the retiring Apple CEO first found out that he had pancreatic cancer.
Tim is the son of an Alabama shipyard worker and at-home Mom. In the last financial year, he earned $59.1million (Â£36.3 million), including a $5 million cash bonus and $52.3 million in stock options. He has sold also more than $100 million of his stock options since joining Apple. He still rents his house in Palo Alto, California.
Tim Cook, Apple CEO: joined at the hip with Steve Jobs
To me, that means Tim is an Apple man body and soul, not an automobile salesman wannabe. He is the difference between Apple tanking and the company continuing to dominate and innovate. He comes from a different mould to the Apple CEOs who almost drove the company out of existence in the 1990s. He is a man I would trust with my last dollar.
The stock markets currently feel differently (bless!). They have given their totally rational, master-of-the-universe take on the news by selling Apple stock big-time. As an aside, if you were to search the ends of the earth for a CEO of the worldâ€™s biggest company by market value (Apple), you really would want to steer well clear of this highly-educated and terminally stupid class of people in your candidate selection.
The new Apple CEO comes into the job that effectively he has been co-owning for the past five years at least, with a clear understanding that the yo-yoâ€™s in the trading houses (a.k.a The Future) have marked him down.
I doubt whether he, or the Apple board, will lose too much sleep. In the time he has been shadowing Steve Jobs, Apple stock has gone from $6.56 to $403. Currently (Thursday afternoon BST), itâ€™s trading at $371.41. Time to buy!
That said, Steve Jobs does cast a long shadow. He rescued Apple from extinction and his rare genius in marketing has been a large part of the reason why the company has become the most powerful, influential and successful technology company of all time. Even â€˜The Really Stupidsâ€™ in the stock exchange houses could see, finally, that Steve Jobs = Money.
Now, while they flail around like non-swimmers (always out of their depth), Apple is simply moving on. The Succession Plan has been written and rehearsed, and is now being acted out. Apple, with the retreat by HP from the Tablet space (which it championed for three years), now owns the Tablet/Slate market and I cannot see a single effective competitor.
The Tablet Economy is so new, and with so much potential, that we can only guess and discuss, and help its development. I believe the iPad will fundamentally reshape the business and consumer device sectors globally over the next five years because it fulfils the needs and desires of people who live in these sectors â€“ indeed, they are the same people.
iPad in five years will be recognisable on the outside â€“ the same beautiful design but unrecognisable in the way it connects to, engages with, and learns from the people using the device.
With the Tablet space sewn up for the next 18 months at least, Apple has a bigger battle on its hands with the Smartphone market. Android handsets continue to eat into the iPhone market share and only the recourse to law has put some temporary obstacles in their way.
While the Tablet market can be further ring-fenced through innovation that might include closer tie-in with broadcast TV â€“ iPad link scanning of TV adverts, for example â€“ the iPhone challenge is much more complex but it is a battle that Apple can win.
Rumours of a budget-range of iPhones abound and the idea makes good commercial sense. The biggest mobile handset players have seriously lost the plot, yet continue to own the budget handset space globally. The move into this market, with a handset that delivers the classic usability of the iPhone, the cachet of the brand, and at a reasonable price point, should prove exceptionally profitable.
In the applications space, Apple still holds sway in terms of business and entertainment apps that users love, for the right reasons. This also gives Apple an opportunity to move from the consumer space into the new, more fluid environment that it has helped to shape â€“ where the lines between consumer and business device are being blurred.
Remember, Tim Cook was central to this movement and will be the leader of the brightest and best technology team in the world. The iPad and the iPhone resonate with our needs and untrammelled desires. The design and education sectors also respond, if not on price, certainly with desire to the unrivalled hardware and software that Apple continues to produce: Final Cut Pro, iTunes, MacBook, iMac, Mac Pro, iPod and iCloud.
There was a time, pre-Jobsâ€™ return, when Apple aficionados spent their time waiting for the next big Fail. Weâ€™ve got out of the habit over the past decade and, do you know, there is no chance of us joining that Loser queue again.
Best of luck to Tim Cook â€“ but I somehow think heâ€™s not going to need it, even with the long and generous shadow of Steve Jobs.
We will have time to reflect and understand more about this Quiet Man of Apple over the coming year but for now watch a rare video of Tim Cook here:
August 19th, 2011
Weâ€™ve seen the figures that show how consumer mobile devices, like the iPad and Smartphones, are ubiquitous in the developed economies. Like many savvy, perhaps sad, shoppers, I waited for iPhone 4.0 and still await iPad3.
As consumers, we know their value but as business professionals, we are still relatively unaware of their costs. As business networks have expanded into the wild through laptop and notebooks, the complexities of network management have increased exponentially.
The IT network security officers and their teams are working overtime to ensure that every business mobile device in their companies is safe and secure. They have a handle on the laptops and the notebooks, using a range of protective measures, but the security terrain continues to shift, and the legacy security solutions they work with struggle to provide the regulations-compliant and truly effective levels of protection.
Enter the tablets and Smartphones. These are currently as welcome to security managers as Jeremy Clarkson at a climate-change rally. These devices, wonderful and useful as they are in the individual context, offer only pain in the business world.
While these devices have embedded hardware and software processes that ensure secure authentication and protection of data within the confines set by the device manufacturers and network providers, linking them to the corporate network is fraught with challenges.
It would not be unreasonable for a business professional to request corporate network access through their Smartphone and Tablet. Indeed, many are doing so. Rob Bamforth, from Quocirca, has a good view on this in his blog post. Worth a read.
Security managers are responding to the pressure from staff who want to connect to the business network through their mobile devices by finding new layers of software protection that can enable secure connectivity.
Whether this is a stop-gap and not entirely safe process is uncertain. We can be certain that if it is not, there will be security breaches, with all the financial costs involved, together with the much more important erosion of trust.
IT security professionals struggle daily with legacy systems that they know are susceptible to breach.
With the advent of Tablets and new-generation Smartphones, the pressure on these legacy systems has become more intense.
The good news is that the network security companies have not been sleeping. Far from it. The best-in-class solutions that can embrace and fully protect the new range of corporate mobile devices are being fully tested now.
Whether these are pure-play software layered security network solutions or those based on embedded hardware, activated, authenticated. enabled and controlled from the business networkÂ securityÂ centres, we will see these in the market and being rapidly adopted over the next year. The best will win – and so will we all.
August 19th, 2011
It seems the desire for a job in PR is as strong as ever amongst graduates. For example, according to a survey carried out by Give a Grad a Go (a graduate recruiter) 29% of Graduates want to work in PR.
In terms of pay, the survey confirmed that the average graduate salary has risen to Â£25,500, but this is not the case in PR, where remuneration for entry-level roles sits at around Â£18,000.
To be honest, I’ve always been surprised by the popularity of PR as a career choice. That’s not to say I don’t think it’s a good career, I’ve been in the sector for many years and the range of opportunities, skills and experiences it has given me are far too numerous to list in this post. However, I’m still struggling to see the enduring appeal and consistently high level of interest, especially when considering the lower pay at entry level.
In reality, The work of a PR is tough and so very far away from the stereo-typical view of the glamorous PR swanning in and out of meetings and parties while sipping Champagne.
The job is highly pressured, demanding in terms of time and skills and leaves many by the wayside. It doesn’t always reward the best, due to internal politics, although they do generally rise to the top eventually.
It’s certainly not a forgiving environment at entry level. At least it wasn’t when I started, perhaps it has changed, but the number of agencies that still recruit unpaid â€˜interns’ suggest it hasn’t changed that much.
Of course there are good schemes for Graduates, Taylor Bennett Foundation being one featured in PR WeekÂ recently, but the difference between the imagined life of a PR and the reality seem to be very different.
As part of my role at Liberate, i’m often approached by students and Graduates looking for advice to get into PR, or information for their dissertations. In fact I did an interview on the subject just the other day.
I try to be as honest as possible, as I want them to be fully armed for the reality of the industry if they decide to pursue it. However, my fears are usually exacerbated when speaking to them as I find their understanding of the basics to be pretty poor. Or to be precise, pretty outdated. Some speak a different language, consisting of acronyms I’ve never heard of, or resonate from a dim-dark past, and certainly aren’t common place in the sector.
I’ve spoken before on this blog about the disparity between the academic teachings of PR and the reality, and this only seems to be getting worse with the continuing development of digital, social and integrated marketing techniques that we in the industry take for granted, or at least should.
So, does academia have its role to play in this myth of the PR industry, or am I just lucky to have been brought up in a career that is apparently so in demand and I simply can’t see beyond my own internal blinkers?
August 15th, 2011
I could waffle on as usual but this demands a short post. Some very bright people in Brisbane, Australia have developed a different way of working in 3D online creation.
Around a year ago the Euclideon team (not a client) made a big announcement suggesting they had made a huge breakthrough in the production of 3D environments and then went silent.
But they have just come back on the radar and what they propose is astonishing. It has impressed the Australian government, which has given the team Aus$2 million (Â£1.3 million approx.) to develop the technology.
100,000x current 3D game/world detail
Bruce Dell, Euclideon CEO, has release a video that clearly shows that his company’s Unlimited Detail method for displaying point cloud data in real time will allow designers to abandon polygons and create graphics using 3D atoms that can be run in unlimited quantities, potentially creating photo-realistic 3D worlds.
The company has scaled back its initial 2010 boast of complete transformation of the 3D world/game environment but it still is mightily impressive. â€˜Unlimitedâ€™ means for now, around 100,000 times increase in level of detail over traditional polygon 3D environments. Read more here.
And watch the video. It is amazing:
August 12th, 2011
McKinsey has just published a fulsome research document â€“ â€œMeasuring the Value of Searchâ€ â€“ and in its 52 pages, the study seeks to move towards a measured understanding of the economic value of Search.
The fact that the company has assigned seven associates within the McKinsey Global Institute to research, develop and deliver this detailed report speaks volumes â€“ perhaps a final step in the migration of Search from voodoo tech periphery to central board-level acceptance.
The C-level executives want to know whatâ€™s going on with Search because they have one eye on the bottom line and McKinsey is precise, delivering the descriptive value answers for a full range of sectors, enough to convince while leaving space for further queries.
The value descriptions and supporting evidence are truly impressive and please donâ€™t stop reading just because the UK didnâ€™t make the final country list (Brazil, France, Germany, India, and the United States). Thereâ€™s a wealth of information that we can learn from these economies. Iâ€™ll use dollars as currency mark for this post.
Youâ€™d need to register to get the full report â€“ worth it. The team has contributed in great detail to our understanding of the economic value of search.
The McKinsey team (Jacques Bughin, Laura Corb, James Manyika, Olivia Nottebohm, Michael Chui, Borja de Muller Barbat and Remi Said) use country-level analysis as a base. The team estimates that the total gross value of Internet search across the global economy was $780 billion in 2009, equivalent to the GDP of the Netherlands or Turkey.
They suggest that, using this this estimate, each search is worth about $0.50.
The team report that $540 billion (69 per cent), around 25 times the annual value added (profits) of search companies, flowed directly to global GDP through e-commerce, advertising revenues and higher corporate productivity.
The McKinsey team puts out a peach of a statistic for the remaining $240 billion (31 per cent), which does not show up in GDP statistics; rather it is captured by individuals through consumer surplus, from unmeasured benefits, such as lower prices, convenience and the time saved by swift access to information.
The team believes that these economic benefits are valued at around $20 a month for consumers in France, Germany, and the United States and at $2 to $5 a month for their counterparts in Brazil and India.
In retail sectors, the McKinsey team estimate that the value of search in 2009 equalled 2 per cent of total annual revenues in developed nations and 1 per cent in the developing countries researched. This value flowed directly from online shopping and online research that led to an in-store sale. US retailers saw as much as $67 billion in search-related revenues, Brazilâ€™s retailers as much as $2.4 billion.
Another top statistic: knowledge workers in the countries researched experienced search-related productivity gains of up to $117 billion, flowing from faster and more accurate access to information.
The team identified emerging sources of search-related value, including the rise of new niche (or â€œlong tailâ€) retailing, as search techniques help consumers access ever-narrower product segments and new business models respond to consumers who search through their mobile devices.
The predictive element of the study is brief and understandable, given the educative nature of the document and its intended audience. I often forget, working the febrile world of social media and PR, that time is relative. With that in mind, the report cautions us that Search is â€œat an early stage of its evolutionâ€, just 20 years in age. Thereâ€™s much more to do.
And I respect the teamâ€™s view on the future because, well, it just seems coolly analysed and right for the audience it wants to address. The report advises: â€œSearch technology will need to develop to keep pace with what it has helped unleash, namely, a fast-growing volume of online content: one study estimated that the amount of digital information will grow a factor of 44 from 2009 to 2020.â€
That’s a wake-up call for corporates. To survive, they will need to have Search in their bones and understand every element, from SEO value and measurement through to mobile dominance, social web and search, curation and beyond. Slow is not an option.
Meanwhile, we live and die, relatively, by the rule of measurement and the McKinsey team has given us a wealth of useful data for free, which is a damn fine thing.
So please donâ€™t think Iâ€™m being churlish but Iâ€™d really like to know how McKinsey sets up its SEO. I ran a range of terms on Google and this important data was invisible apart from the direct request â€œMeasuring the Value of Searchâ€. Maybe the company does not want to share its knowledge globally, content to share in a strange close garden.
But if it believes in the data from its research team, surely it would want to at least dance with Search â€“ and measure the benefits; talking and walking.
August 11th, 2011
Two opposing pieces focused on social media understanding within the marketing sector caught my attention earlier this month.
Allow me to set the scene, the following piece was published on the Telegraph’s site on August 1st: â€˜Businesses still don’t ‘get’ social media – and it’s 40-year-old marketing directors that are to blame.‘ By Alexis Dormandy, of LoveThis.com
Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite:
“Our 40-year-old marketing director probably spent four years at an agency, before going to work on the client side. They spent the 1990s pulling together billboard campaigns, debating what they could say with the Advertising Standards Authority, agreeing joint promotions with other big businesses, and sponsoring celebrity sportsman. Life was still a lot of fun.
“They turned 30, the dot-com bubble came, and a small number of the more enterprising ones became entrepreneurs. Most kept rising up their businesses, learning to take eighteen months to launch a consumer product, and working with retailers to plan their Christmas sales nine months in advance. The really good ones rose to the top and had teams to look after all this stuff for them.”
Although obviously designed to be controversial, the article sparked some good debate, well in the main (see the comments on the Telegraph piece, some of which were not really about debate). However, one of the best reaction pieces was by Gordon MacMillan at Brand Republic: Are Generation X’s class of marketing directors to blame for businesses failing to get social media?
In his piece, Gordon opened up the requirements for a marketing director, confirming: “While he (Alexis) makes some interesting points, I’m sure he’s wrong. Marketing isn’t about analytics, maths and measurement. It is about ideas. Sure you have to understand all of the above, but being brilliant at understanding analytics is not going to help produce great marketing.”
I tend to agree with Gordon here, Alexis’ piece makes some strong points, and to be fair his piece starts off by focusing on social commerce, and in that case, analytics is crucial to deliver sales. However, marketing, or social media for that matter, is not just about, or mainly about, maths. Nor is it focused purely on data and analytical dissection of your audience.
Yes, I completely agree measurement and analytics is a hugely important part of the mix, and researching and understanding the brand’s community is the foundation for any campaign, combined with constant monitoring, measurement and evolution based on the numbers. However, although the importance of analytics and audience research has increased, it’s certainly not a new tactic, which is where I think the argument fails, are we really saying marketing campaigns did not employ market research and analytical measurement strategies 20 years ago?
I’m the first to agree the marketing landscape has changed, but the main point for me is not that we’ve just changed from long term campaigns to listening and engaging immediately, although that is true. It’s not that we just need great ideas, although again that’s part of it, and it’s not about the maths. The main issue is that we can’t live in our previously disparate and comfortable marketing specialisms, because the barriers have been blurring for so long that they are practically non-existent.
In-house marketers need to have a good understanding of the full range of marketing strategies, and to some degree, the possible tactics as well. As Gordon says, yes you can hire agencies to help with specific knowledge, and of course I support that, but the agencies are having to be more generalist as well.
The simple economic reason for this is: why would a client pay for three or four agencies to cover a range of specialisms (e.g. search, social, PR and web dev) when one can do them all – and do them better and more coherently without the painful time management required to bring agencies together?
That’s without even getting into the complementary nature of these services.
At Liberate Media, we experience a full range of enquires in terms of their understanding of social and how it should be utilised as part of any campaign. We have social-savvy clients that are fully immersed personally, through to RFPs from those that just want â€˜some social media‘ because their boss or competitor mentioned it. This situation has improved dramatically over the last five years and today we are getting smarter briefs and better questions, and I expect that to continue developing.
I agree that the world of marketing has changed, and I think it’s a great change, and honestly believe marketing of the past was really advertising in disguise, as we were telling people what they need, not asking them what they want. Today we are truly grasping the meaning of marketing and evolving that role. Today we are able to call in specific and useful tools to assist in practically every element of our jobs, but the understanding across the board, the knowledge of what our customers want and how we can help them by being useful is the key for me. The maths, ideas and other elements are pieces of that puzzle, and to be successful we must solve it all.
I do however agree with the Telegraph piece that the social media managers of today will inherit the earth, or at least have the understanding, cross-discipline skills and versatility to have a bright future!
August 10th, 2011
We could all do with some decent PR distraction during the UK riots. Tony Blair and Alasdair Campbell were masters of this tactic. But I look around and canâ€™t easily see the objects that would take peopleâ€™s minds off the awfulness of our situation in the UK.
So, instead, I looked to the United States, a strange and terrifying place that refined the culture of Debt and made it Good. But at the same time it bursts with ideas and energy that always suggest hope, belief and progress.
Give you an example. Iâ€™ve been following the development of new battery technologies at MIT, from the announcement in 2009 of a liquid battery that could provide the solution to storing energy captured by solar panel farms.
The MIT all-liquid battery: discharged (left), charging (middle), and charged (right). Molten magnesium (blue) is the top electrode, in the middle is the electrolyte (green), and molten antimony (yellow) is the bottom electrode. Image credit: Arthur Mount.
Unlike conventional batteries, the prototype was made of all-liquid active materials. Donald Sadoway, a materials chemistry professor at MIT, and his team built first versions of the liquid battery, and showed that the materials could quickly absorb large amounts of electricity, as required for solar energy storage.
It could be an answer to the biggest challenge facing large-scale solar-power energy – finding an effective way to store the energy,Â essential for using the electricity at night or on cloudy days, from large-scale solar farms.
The researchers hope to bring the liquid battery to market over the next five years. Connecting the batteries into a giant pack to supply electricity for a big city would require nearly 60,000 square metres of land. Such a pack could store energy from enormous solar farms, which would replace current power plants and transmission lines as they become obsolescent.
MIT is also racing ahead with nearer-term battery solutions such as fast-charging battery technology for cars, and amazing progress in the development of lithium-air (lithium-oxygen) batteries that should replace current rechargeable units (think tablets, mobile handsets) because they can hold much more energy.
These are examples of brilliance that will help to change the way we live, developed by teams of committed academics in an environment that supports, rewards and pushes for success at every level.
They are Big Ideas, not only because they are brilliant but also because they are socially focused and make you very glad to be alive.
Could Camo PR come up with positive distractions like this in the UK? I do hope so.