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All posts by Hilton Tarrant: Columnist

Hilton Tarrant: Columnist
Hilton Tarrant is production editor at Moneyweb. His main focus is project management for the listed company’s local and international websites, and contributes to their strategic direction. From time-to-time, he also fills in for Alec Hogg on the SAfm Market Update with Moneyweb radio programme. In between, he covers the ICT sector, with a particular focus on mobile and telecoms.
  • Twitter’s diversity report lays bare Silicon Valley’s pale male problem

    The lack of gender and racial (or ‘ethnic’ in US-parlance) diversity in the technology sector is amplified in Silicon Valley. Obviously it’s more noticeable at the new breed of US tech giants, especially as they disclose more and more detail after going public. But, having overwhelmingly white, male engineers is a problem in the US, the UK, most of Europe, even in some emerging markets like South Africa. It's particularly acute in the US given how the overall US population demographics have shifted (dramatically) over the past three decades. White Americans were 80% of the population in 1980. By...

  • Forget Lumia, Nokia’s non-smartphone business has collapsed

    In the first nine-odd weeks that Microsoft has owned Nokia, it contributed US$1.99-billion in revenue and a US$692-million net loss. It's big enough to be material, given that Microsoft reported total revenue of US$19.9-billion and operating profit of US$6-billion in the quarter. Nokia is 10% of sales, and a significant drag on profits. Between April 25 and June 30, the Nokia devices business sold 5.8-million Lumia smartphones and 30.3-million other devices (what it terms “non-Lumia phones”). That 30.3-million figure includes its short-lived flirtation with smartphones running Android (Nokia X), as well as its sort-of-but-not-quite smartphones Asha, and feature phone...

  • Google is targeting the next billion (and Microsoft) with Android One

    At Google’s I/O conference last month, the internet giant unveiled Android One – an initiative that will help connect (at least) the next billion people. This is not a charitable move. Rather, as the number of smartphones globally head to 2-billion in the next 12 months, everyone competing in the space faces the real risk of running out of growth. For Google, this risk is even more acute. Beyond the close on 2-billion people already using smartphones, the next billion or two are not likely to be using the ‘desktop’ internet in any meaningful way. That makes owning the...

  • How does Apple fix a broken App Store?

    The App Store isn't broken. At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) earlier this month, it announced that there are now 1.2-million apps in the store and that users visit it 300-million times every week. To date (since July 2008), 75 billion apps have been downloaded by iOS users. That makes it the most successful (by far) software market in history. Except, the App Store is broken. Benedict Evans, now partner at venture capital outfit A16Z, repeats this mantra often: mobile discovery is in (what he terms) the ‘pre-pagerank’ phase. I argued back in October on this site that app...

  • Where to for Dropbox after the iCloud bombshell?

    It's no surprise that Dropbox has been frantically working to ship products that aren’t a commodity cloud syncing service… Carousel, its app that strings together and orders all your photos and videos in easily-searchable galleries is, perhaps, the first example. Its acquisition of Mailbox needs to be seen in this light too. Expect more. Why? Because the price (and value) of bog-standard cloud storage is going to zero. It's already a commodity. (And the irony is Dropbox helped turn it into one.) Dropbox retains a monopoly on cloud storage simply because, until now, the (mobile) platform owners have been so bad...

  • Apple is breaking down silos and focusing on how customers use tech

    Its easy to get caught up in feature-hype. After all, Apple probably announced over 1000 new features for its OSX and iOS operating systems at Monday’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote. Features that gave the uppercut to Google, Dropbox, Hightail, Skitch, Docusign, PDF pen, Everpix (which shut last year), Dragon dictation, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and more. But look through the hype. Over the past year (perhaps longer), Apple’s spent a lot of time actually thinking about and understanding how its customers use its hardware and software. (They spent a lot of time developing an entirely new programming language, Swift, too, but...

  • Fake Twitter accounts show just how ‘well’ SA government understands communication

    Perhaps the announcement that the (former) Department of Communications, responsible for the broadcasting and telecoms sectors in South Africa, would be renamed to the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services tells us all we need to know? With the flashback to the 1990s, it's almost as if ICT never converged. Both Nigeria (which overtook South Africa as the continent’s bigger economy earlier this year) and Kenya have ministries focused on ICT; the former, the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology, the latter, the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology. (Nigeria has a propaganda ministry too, called simply the Federal Ministry of...

  • With the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft seems more confused about the future than ever

    This time, Microsoft means business. At the original Surface tablet launch in 2012, it told us it meant business. Again, at the far more muted Surface 2 launch in September last year. Perhaps it didn’t really, really mean business those first two times. This time, it's different. Promise. The euphoria around new chief executive Satya Nadella’s first 100 days in charge has tapered off, mostly completely. In fact, it died down after the company’s Build event in early April. It's fair to say that the Surface Pro 3 (why does it need the ‘Pro’ moniker in there?!) is not a Nadella...

  • Apple’s Beats deal: more questions than (obvious) answers

    There’s a lot about Apple’s purchase of Beats Electronics -- a headphone maker and streaming music provider -- for somewhere north of US$3-billion that doesn't add up. That is, if there’s a deal at all (it remains one of those deals “according to people familiar with the matter”). Mobile analyst (now partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz) Benedict Evans suggests that an Apple/Beats tie-up is “something of a Rorschach Blot - people who think Apple has lost its way see this as proof, while people who don't assume there must be some other piece to the puzzle (TV? wearables?)...

  • We vote in public… South Africa’s first real-time, tweeted election

    It’s different this time. In South Africa’s last general election in 2009, 99% of people had never even heard of Twitter (only a handful of people in the county had accounts back then, and they hardly used them). This time round, millions are on Twitter. Over 5.5-million, in fact (according to the most recent study by World Wide Worx). By this stage, that number’s probably closer to 6-million… All tweeting, retweeting and consuming in real-time. Of course the US Presidential Election in 2012 gave the world a taste of all of this. Then, though, the combination of Twitter and TV...

  • Think the iPhone is still just for developed markets? The BRICs would beg to differ

    There’s a great deal of focus on iPhone sales trends in North America and Europe, particularly from the tech blogger echo-chamber. That’s understandable, given that most of these writers and websites are based in the US, but increasingly the Apple iPhone is becoming an emerging market story. In the most recent (second) quarter, Apple reported a “new all-time record for total iPhone sales in the BRIC countries”. Bloomberg suggests that in the overall smartphone market, the four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) account for more sales than all other emerging markets combined. Or, in fact, developed markets. That’s...

  • The big lesson from Nike abandoning the FuelBand? Smartphones are the only wearable we need

    In the end, Nike used the classic non-denial-denial to respond to a CNET scoop that the sportwear giant had fired most of the team working on its FuelBand fitness tracker. CNET reports that 70-80% of the dedicated 70-person strong hardware team were “let go” after being informed of the decision on Thursday. As the site points out, the roughly 55-affected were part of the company's larger Digital Sport division, which totals around 200 staff. In an e-mail to Bloomberg Businessweek on Saturday, Nike acknowledged “a small number of layoffs”. It added that “Nike is committed to Nike+, to NikeFuel,...

  • Just how vital is Gareth Cliff to making WeChat relevant in South Africa?

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the basics of Gareth Cliff’s next independent venture, CliffCentral. Cliff -- arguably the most well-known broadcast personality in South Africa -- is promising ‘unradio’, and while that may have more to do with giving the heavy-handed regulation of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission a wide berth, the format will probably be very different to what we’ve come to expect from commercial FM radio. The link with WeChat, where Cliff has an official account, is obvious. Programming will stream live within his channel, along with (the already active) soundbite updates and other...

  • Apple and Google have already won the smartphone wars, now what?

    Last year, Android and iOS devices accounted for 93.8% of global smartphone shipments. That’s 94 out of every 100 shipped to operators and retailers. And the trend is accelerating… in 2012, the number was 87.7% (according to the IDC). By the fourth quarter of last year, it was 95.7%. During 2013, shipments of smartphones hit one-billion for the first time, and also surpassed shipments of feature phones. The line between the two categories is blurring - Nokia’s Asha range of devices is perhaps the best example of this (and it doesn’t seem to be included in IDC’s smartphone numbers). Now,...

  • With Satya Nadella in charge, can (and will) Microsoft be relevant again?

    It’s widely accepted that Microsoft has lost its mojo. Sure, the company is more profitable than ever (and on that score former CEO Steve Ballmer excelled). But, there’ve been far too many missteps in the past two/three years and far too few successes. (In fact, critics would argue that the problems started more than five years ago). Microsoft is nowhere in mobile. Xbox One might be the last mass-market console it ever ships (given that sales numbers are a fraction of previous generations at this point in their life cycles). Windows 8 has been a disaster (that also shows in...