Latest industry insights

Facebook City/Sim City

So, you work for Facebook and you use Facebook out of working hours to communicate with your friends (who also happen to be your colleagues because you spend so much time with them at work). Where do you go from there? Well, why not live in a Facebook commune? Obvious isn’t it? Sound scary? Well, this is exactly what Mr Zuckerberg and some of his colleagues have firmly in their sights. The ‘Anton Menlo’ complex will, it is purported, feature 394 units, sports bar and canine crèche (my words that last one) as well as medical, various eating facilities and, of course, a bike repair shop. Given its likely to cost $120 million, pedal power will no doubt be a great means for employees and their families for getting round the anticipated large complex. But, this idea of housing employees close to their place of work is absolutely nothing new. For example, reading this news, I cast my mind back to my days as a social history scholar (well student) and the Victorian living quarters constructed by the likes of ‘benevolent’ entrepreneurs, such as Titus Salt. The aforementioned Mr Salt was a leading industrialist in the Yorkshire woollen industry, who founded the model village of ‘Saltaire’, near Bradford, a clever combination of his name with the nearby river Aire), to house his mill worker employees. So, it appears, whilst time and technology has moved on apace, some things, sometimes, go full circle in the process.

Amazon seeing the future in 3D?

It’s been rumoured for some time that Amazon have been beavering away on the development of 3D mobile device. Well like so many rumours this is part fact, part fiction. Let’s deal with the fiction bit first. It’s not actual 3D. Instead, it’s four cameras, front-mounted, to track user’s head and eye movements. Together, these come together to give the appearance of a 3D screen. In actual fact, Amazon is not just developing a 3D simulator phone (as I prefer to call it). They’re also engaged in developing a lower spec version running on Android. No news of launch dates as yet, other than original plans were to have a product out there by autumn this year. This is likely to have got pushed back following a recent spate of staff departures. Amazon will obviously be looking to leverage some of their existing software tech, where appropriate (e.g. Kindle Fire). More on this to follow, for sure.

Blackberry ripe for the picking

So, from one emergent device player to one whose star appears to be clearly on the wane, but not quite burnt out yet. After a few years of rapid decline, Blackberry appears to secured an in-principle agreement with a financial consortium headed up by Fairfax Financial. The price tag I hear you enquire? It’s alleged to be somewhere in the origin of £3 billion. Blackberry and Fairfax are currently working through the diligence process, as is the norm in this type of acquisition case. This is due to conclude early next month. If the deal does go ahead, long-suffering investors are going to be looking to unlocking immediate shareholder value. Blackberry has already clearly intimated that its future strategic focus lies in the business/enterprise sector, i.e. not trying to be all things to all people. Despite the big build up, Blackberry found that launching new physical products onto the market simply isn’t enough. The disappointing sales performance of the Z10 is a clear testimony to this. It’s also failed to make an impact into the tablet sector. Whilst sporting a high end tech and decent OS at its core, consumers baulked at its high price tag. Oh yes, and it didn’t have an input email client, hmmm… So what will the future ultimately hold for them? How much of this rests in their own hands remains a big question. Just take a look at the competition; Apple, Samsung, Nokia. They are going to have to come out of the blocks fighting. Only this time they’ll be joining a race which has already be running for some time and have a significant distance to make up in the process. If they do manage to pull this off, this surely will rank as one of the greatest comebacks in corporate history. Now that’s something which would be interesting to watch. Wouldn’t it?

Google purchases another tech start-up

No month seems to pass without an announcement that Google has purchased another tech start-up. And, this month is no exception. This time it’s ‘Flutter’, a gesture-recognition software development company. Not bad work for a company founded only three years ago in San Fran. Since then it has developed a range of software solutions enabling users to control apps such as iTunes and Netflix by a simple gesture of the hand. No further details regarding the deal are available at present. Gesture-recognition is, of course, nothing new. Just look at your average gaming console, for example, Wii or Xbox Kinect. It has also started to make an appearance in smart TVs, whilst Samsung recently introduced the concept into its Galaxy S4 smartphone. Elsewhere, Google’s been busy redesigning some of the aspects of the Google Chrome user experience. These have, reportedly, been in testing since last December. One of these changes is a u-turn on the rationalisation of most-visited websites; from 8 originally to 4 back up to 8 again. All with me on that one? Well, just to clarify, these appear as thumbnails on Chrome’s new tab page. Google has also experimented with an ‘Apps’ tab in the bookmarks bar, however this is replaced with ‘Apps’ button in the toolbar. The bottom menu’s also gone, so if you want to quickly access your most recently closed tabs, you’ll have to go searching for the top right ‘sandwich’ menu icon (that’s my term reflecting a slice of meat between two pieces of bread!). But, good to see one major player is acting on user feedback and running some degree of user testing to help inform their decision.

Talking about the digital generation

Finally, some interesting stats to round off this month’s industry update. This time it’s courtesy of Ofcom who report the number of children owning mobile phones has fallen for the first time. That’s a drop to 43% compared to 49% in 2012 for you stat-heads out there. Sound surprising? It did to me when I first heard it, but let’s just dig a little into the context surrounding this. Firstly, this doesn’t mean kids are turning their back on new technology, quite the converse. In fact phones are being swiftly replaced by tablets. According to the latest Ofcom figures, just over 1 in 4 12-15 year olds (26% to be exact) own a tablet device. That’s a three-fold increase over 2012, when ownership was stated at around 7%. As a family man myself, sounds like a may just have got my justification for an ipad5 purchase sorted. Stay tuned and I wish you all the very best for the next 4 weeks!