Empowering the Office with Apps

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The novelty of mobile apps has long since faded but their usefulness and functionality is ever increasing with more advance and creative apps being developed every day. Creative apps are not just limited to the big app stores but can also come directly from developers to businesses bypassing the app stores all together.

These apps can streamline processes and naturally enable mobility within an organisation. Some business apps have broader appeal for example providing mobile versions of larger desktop applications other apps have a much more niche appeal and will need to be custom built for its use.

Microsoft has announced a new tool called PowerApps for creating apps, not aimed at developers but anyone familiar with their hugely popular office suite.

The apps created will run on all mobile platforms including Android, iOS and of course Windows Phone.

The tool aimed at businesses, using an office-like interface including the ribbon to create apps to make office life easier. These can be published from the application and then access via an intranet link on other employee’s smartphones, tablets of PCs.

PowerApps has now launched on the Windows Store as a free download and requires a Office 365 account to login. Click here to download.

The new flexible and affordable British Smart Phones

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Smart phones have been a phenomenal success world-wide, with many manufacturers around the world fighting for a slice of the smart devices pie.

The newest participant is British-based WileyFox with the launch of 2 new smart phones. The first is the cheaper WileyFox Swift at £129 with a 5.0” display, 13MP camera and 2GB memory. The second is the WileyFox Storm priced at £199 with a bigger 5.5” display, better 20MP camera and larger 3GB memory.    Both of these phones also support dual SIM, expandable memory, 4G LTE and are powered by the open, Cyanogen OS, which is itself built on Google’s Android.

The WileyFox phones offer good value for money for those seeking to buy their phone outright instead of facing carrier subsidies or for UK buyers looking for a dual SIM phone as they rarely make it to our shores.
Of course good value for money doesn’t equal success, with many of the established smart phone giants failing to find profitability in the field including both Sony and LG who’s Q3 fiscal reports showed declining smartphone shipments.

WileyFox could find more success in the UK compared to markets with similarly position phones such as the US where consumers are tied to pricey monthly plans and do not have the flexibility to choose any network of their choosing, due to a lack of phone signal overlap between network providers.   In the UK not only can the average consumer choose from any network of their own preference, but many are becoming more savvy with their smart phone purchases, either buying phones outright and using either pay-as-you-go SIMs or cheap SIM-only plans.  All of which plays well into Wileyfox’s new affordable and flexible dual SIM options.

The true costs of cyber security breaches starts to emerge

Pharmacy2U

We have been covering cyber security breaches and their financial costs for several years. But beyond strict fines meted out to organisations whose customers’ details are forcibly taken – what about those who sell this information on willingly? There is the cost to company reputation, additional to any fines which also needs to be considered when calculating the real cost of any cyber security breach.

Pharmacy2U, the UK’s largest NHS-approved online pharmacy, was fined £130,000 this week for selling information collected about its own customers to 3rd party marketing companies.  The ruling was simple; the online drug seller had not obtained permission from customers that their data could be sold on in any form.  Pharmacy2U has apologised, calling the sales a “regrettable incident”,  However the impact to its reputation will be a lot larger than the penalty from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

This week also saw Sony agreeing to pay up to $8m in compensation to its employees over the loss of their personal data in the 2014 hacking scandal surrounding the release of the film The Interview.  The story which we covered back in December 2014, Sony Picture Entertainment found itself the victim of a large scale cyber-attack with unreleased films leaking, in addition to personal data of 47,000 people employed or associated with Sony.  The $8m settlement still needs approval but sees Sony paying to reimburse current and former employees for losses, preventative measures and legal fees relating to the incidents.

In a further twist, this week saw the disclosure of a Sydney-based professional service business which is seeking to remain anonymous after having been infected by ransomware.  The malicious software found its way onto their system after an infected zip file from a client was opened. The virus then worked its way through their organisation locking everyone’s documents and with users being directed to a website asking for a ransom to unlock the files.  The company decided that instead of paying the ransom, they would wipe the data and recover it from their backup server. The problem with this plan was that even though all their backups which were supplied by and assured by their outsourced IT supplier as being okay, when they attempted to recover from the backups it was discovered that these had in fact been failing for some time and more than seven months of company data was lost. The business has since undertaken the tedious and time consuming task of recreating this data from emails and attachment. This has cost the business A$10,000 in man hours alone for the rebuild, but the cost in terms of damage to reputation remains hard to quantify.  In reference to the original ransomware price (currently unknown), the MD stated, “I might just pay next time”.

With the increasing costs to business resulting from cyber-attacks and a growing appetite for protection, many companies will be investigating cyber insurance, but even this is an emerging market which has its limits and will not cover all ultimate costs. For example, it could be difficult to get a pay-out due to the often vague definition of business disruption  – and cyber insurance does not cover the all-important reputation costs.  Cyber insurance can give peace of mind on large pay out fees but it cannot protect reputation and is simply not a substitute to heightened network security, employee training and regularly tested backup strategy.

Lots to shout about at Microsoft’s Autumn NY Windows 10 event

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This week Microsoft held its Windows 10 device event showcasing their latest and greatest for both consumers and enterprise.

• The event kick started with their entertainment platform Xbox, with Windows 10 coming to Xbox One later this year. It brings improved user experience, performance and the ability to run their previous generation of software which has been their most requested feature since launch.

• Next was a new HoloLens demo: the presenter used a new hand held controller whilst wearing the device and battled augmented reality robots live on stage. Visually this was very impressive for an untethered device (ie. Not connected to a PC).  After this the development kit was announced for Q1 2016 with a price tag of $3000.

• The focus then was on fitness with the unveiling of Microsoft Band 2. The new band features a sleeker design with curved screen and new Barometer which measures elevation for more accurate “caloric burn” readings.

• Multiple Microsoft phone announcements followed with the Lumia 550, 950 and 950XL. The two 950’s were the real attention grabbers and feature high performance with liquid cooling and twin antenna for greater connectivity.  Continuum (connecting Windows 10 phone to keyboard and screen through a dock + mouse to use as a PC.  USB memory sticks and hard drives can also be used and in this mode the interface looks and feels like any other PC, at the same time the phone can still be used as a phone.

• From phones to tablets, Surface was next. The Surface Pro 4 us announced with a larger screen, without increasing the size of the device, thanks to smaller bezels. The new Surface is also thinner, more powerful and with better battery life.  Also included is a more advanced stylus with 1-year battery and a new improved, but still optional keyboard with bigger trackpad, separated keys and a fingerprint scanner. These new accessories can also be used with last year’s Surface Pro 3.

• Next Microsoft borrowed the Apple “one more thing..” to announced a new product entirely called the Surface Book. This device is a premium laptop, which you can also rip the screen off to use as a tablet. The base also contains additional computing and graphic processing adding up to 2x the performance of a Mac Book Pro.

All in all, Microsoft announced a lot this week in New York and won the attention and rare applause of their sceptical industry audience . Microsoft is now selling a very compelling ecosystem of not just software and services but also hardware tailored to both. It has a tremendous battle ahead with its rivals, but they have certainly put their best foot forwards to bring genuine intrigue and excitement which was arguably lacking from many recent tech events by Microsoft, Google and Apple.

Blackberry announces privacy focused Android phone

BlackBerry-Priv

Blackberry’s much rumoured android venture has finally become official with the announcement of the companies first Google powered smart phone called the Priv due to be released later this year.

Priv stands for privacy which has been the cornerstone of BlackBerry’s business over the last 20 years.

Both the phone and the strategy announcement of a non-BlackBerry OS phone came out from a simple press release from the company after many rumours and substantial leaks showing much of the device. The announcement also confirmed that BlackBerry is not yet cancelling development of its own BlackBerry OS but will be developing both Android and BlackBerry OS handsets in the future to give consumer the choice of which they prefer.

The dual development approach however may not be a long term strategy and it is very possible that this time next year BlackBerry, if their Android phones are more successful than their own developed counterparts, could announce plans to drop their own OS in favour of providing additional development resources into their Android security layer that will be their unique selling point going forwards.

Many have been calling doom and gloom for the Canadian company and its easy to see why with BlackBerry currently holding less than 1% of the smart phone market, however with the Priv and future business and security focused smart phones they could start to carve back a market from both corporate users and smart phone fans that still long for the days of durable, long lasting battery phones with a physical keyboard but don’t want to compromise with an unsupported OS that won’t run the many applications the modern mobile user would want to use.

BlackBerry going Android could actually provide a breath of fresh air from smartphone slabs that mostly all look and act the same today.

Microsoft gives founder of Acompli the reigns to Outlook

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In December 2014 Microsoft acquired mobile software developer Acompli for $200 million who had developed very popular and critically acclaimed email clients for iOS and Android. Shortly after the purchase Microsoft rebranded these to “Outlook” keeping the functionality and compatibility to other mail providers that critics originally praised.

The rebranded Outlook app has also seen critical success under Microsoft and Microsoft own Windows 10 mobile app currently in development shows signs of its inspiration.

Microsoft announced this week that Javier Soltero the founder of Acompli has been officially but in charge of Outlook on all platforms, including the web, smart phone, tablets and most importantly PCs.

Before Microsoft purchase Acompli Javier was used to a team of less than 75 so being put in charge of one of Microsoft most used applications must be a daunting task.

With the great critical praise and innovative design shown thus far, Javier lead versions of Outlook in the future is definitely one to watch. We are likely to see mobile only features such as the focused inbox make the jump to desktops and we are likely to see new innovations that only make sense with the larger screen real estate on the PC.

As interesting as this is for the future of Outlook, it is as interesting for Microsoft itself, Microsoft is showing they recognise great, unique talent, even if from outside the company until recently and letting them lead large and established products that may otherwise face complacency. Of course with any leadership shift this does introduce new risks but taking the opportunity to crucial to grow in a hugely competitive field.

Google’s “ne m’oublie pas” hit by Europe’s desist and delist world ruling as “right to be forgotten” issue rumbles on

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France’s privacy regulator, the CNIL, has rejected Google’s request that the “right to be forgotten” ruling on their websites should only remain restricted to Europe domain names, vs applying to all Google websites worldwide.

The decision requires Google to close a loophole that enabled searchers to defeat a judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) last year, whereupon they removed results from more localised sites such as google.fr, google.co.uk etc, but continued to display disputed links on google.com.   The French regulator stated Google’s various domain names were just “different paths to the same processing operation”, making it easy for users to circumvent the block.

As we widely reported in our blogs in May 2014, the CJEU recognised the right to be forgotten, thus allowing people to ask search engines not to display certain links if they requested, following a search on their name.

Based on the original Spanish ruling, the upshot from the Spanish court was not to erase the original searches, but make them far harder to find.  The desire and drive for data privacy was duly thrown into conflict with the arguments for freedom of speech and public interest.

It’s essentially one of the inevitabilities for society when citizens have access to such an incredibly powerful search tool at our fingertips, which today’s younger generation greedily take for granted.  It’s only a generation ago in pre Google days before 1998, when people would have had to resort to books and library articles to comb paper archives to get the information they wanted.  We move now at such lightning pace with technology that we must always be mindful about some of the downsides of this technology and fully maintain our corporate responsibilities surrounding data privacy, or pay the heavy penalties.

For a business a privacy breach might prompt a penalty of up to 5% of their global profits, however, in the EU regulation ring, there is a seemingly weak trust from the particular CNIL sword.  After four months, the French national threat is limited to “discussing appointing someone to report to its sanctions committee with a view of obtaining a ruling on this matter”.

With 500 million EU citizens, there is a mess of different legal regimes, making it hard for European businesses to work towards.  This is what the new EU Data Protection Regulations hopes to cure, if the EU stakeholders can agree the text.  It would certainly be a stimulant to Google if it knew it had one Euro privacy regulator to deal with and 5% of ITS turnover at stake if it broke the rules.  It seems a long way off, but organisations should consider data security and data protection as amongst their highest priorities looking ahead.