Brother UK gets new MD

Phil Jones with PrinterPhil Jones has been named as the managing director of Brother UK.

The announcement follows Mr Jones’ promotion in March 2012 to deputy MD, a role that saw him take responsibility for the company’s 180-strong workforce and £100 million of sales.

Jones has worked his way up through the company, originally joining as a fax machine salesman in 1995,  later becoming sales & marketing director.

Commenting on the appointment, Mr Jones said he was “thrilled” to be given the responsibility to lead Brother in the UK as MD.

“Having joined the business back in the early 1990s with little leadership or business management experience, my journey really underlines Brother’s commitment to investing in people and backing talent – a culture that I’m determined to continue building during my tenure,” he added.

Mr Jones, 45, lives in Warrington with his wife and two teenage children. He is a regular speaker and blogger on leadership, innovation and personal growth and a keen road cyclist, it is claimed.

Tesco profits flag

tescoTesco is facing the same fate as many other businesses, reporting the first annual profit loss in nearly 20 years.

The supermarket giant said pre-tax profits were down 51 percent to £1.96 billion, while post-tax profits including the cost of its £1.2 billion US exit were £120 million, marking a decrease of 95.7 percent.

The company confirmed that it would be backing out of the US after its investment in 190 Fresh and Easy stores failed to make it a profit.

In Blighty the company has also announced a property write down of £804 million. This was as a result of a review by the company, which uncovered more than 100 sites, scooped up five years ago for potential stores, now lying dormant.

In a blog post, head honcho Philip Clarke said: “Much of this property was bought more than five years ago, some more than 10 years ago.

“That is before the 2008 financial crisis, before the iPhone, social media, tablet computers, before we knew how profoundly technology would change both how we and our customers live and shop.

“Technology has changed much that we all took for granted and it is still changing. The last five years have shown that change in retail can be disruptive and come in sharp steps, not a steady trend. We must anticipate change and act decisively so we looked hard at the land we own and conclude that although we have a strong and attractive network of stores, we will never develop some of this land, mostly the very large mixed-use developments.”

The past three months have also not been favourable to the company, with Tesco claiming its sales, not including petrol, only rose by 0.5 percent. This was a decrease from the growth the company faced in six weeks to 5 January when the company marked a 1.8 percent rise as a result of Christmas shopping.

Measles hits distribution channel

fgwAs the measles crisis reaches dangerously high levels, a GP has spoken about under the table payments and the rush to get hold of single vaccines. Meanwhile, First Great Western is offering MMR injections to people under 25.

The now retired medical professional  also pointed out that research has both suffered and improved as a result as it is now far more regulated, while the “scare-mongering” has created a huge UK risk.

His comments come as Wales is currently experiencing an epidemic of measles. Last week the cases had risen by 73 to 693 in the Swansea area with professionals warning that the outbreak wouldn’t reach its peak for another four weeks.

The country is now furiously racing around trying to get as many teens vaccinated as possible.
First Great Western has also waded into the crisis, with reliable sources claiming the train company would be offering the vaccine to anyone under 25.

The government, which has been blamed for the outbreak, is now targeting schools and offering immunisations to 10 to 17 year olds – the age group likely to have missed out on being given the jab as a result of research released in the 1990s.

The study, carried out by now discredited Dr Andrew Wakefield’, linked the MMR jab to autism. However, after the initial hype died down, the Government, which initially backed these findings, and scientists, insisted that MMR was safe.

By this point the damage had already been done.

“The world went mad when the research about the vaccine came out all those years ago and the number of those choosing to get their children vaccinated fell rapidly,” the retired GP told ChannelEye.

“We went from packed waiting rooms to days when no one would show up, despite our reassurances that it was safe.

“Mums were running around trying to get the single inoculations, with some going as far as France to pick them up and paying GPs, maybe under the table, over here to administer them.
However, the children who didn’t have the jab are now suffering, as is a nation, which is now experiencing this outbreak.

The medical world, which has for so long backed research, is of course now more cautious about releasing research, which could have a knock on effect. Does it stifle innovation? Yes I suppose it does.

“On the flip side, it also shows research has to be carried out far more intensively before it potentially destroys communities.

“It was all scaremongering but people jumped on the bandwagon and that was that.”

However, one mum isn’t so sure, claiming her child “has never been the same” since the MMR jab.

“I don’t really talk about it because it upsets me, but he was never the same after that jab,” she said.

However, as many professionals have pointed out, the signs for autism do usually come out at around 12-18 months, the same time that the jab is traditionally given.

Telcos reap rewards in Latin America

nationalcongressWhile us Brits may shake our fists cursing at the telecom industry at large – swearing one day we’ll move to GiffGaff – in Latin America, telecoms is doing a world of good economically and socially, at least according to a report from industry analyst Ovum.

Ovum which has joined AHCIET to publish the AHCIET-Ovum Observatory of Telecoms Indicators in Latin America – or AOOTILA for short. As much of the world sank into economic doldrums in 2008, from then up to 2011 there has been overall growth in fixed and mobile internet connections by 72 and 41 percent respectively, according to the report.

Jobs, too, have enjoyed significant growth throughout the region. Workers employed by operators have increased by almost 60 percent – marking almost a quarter of a million jobs. Brazil and Nicaragua saw their telco workforce double, and Guetamala almost managed the same.

Telecom companies are increasing their capital investment – at roughly 28 percent overall- because they’re focusing on deploying access infrastructure. Without the correct infrastructure they are missing a trick on selling digital services, so it’s in their best interest.

In 2009, a year on from the onset of the global recession, Ovum noted that growing demand for fixed and mobile broadband has meant continuously strong investment – while capex grew by 28 percent on average to pass $22 trillion in 2011. Falling prices of entry level tariffs are helping to boost connectivity, too.

AHCIET secretary general Pablo Bello said that telcos are emerging in their influence and they do have a role to play in tackling poverty.

“It is time for countries to seriously consider how much faster we could close the digital divide and remove the regulatory moorings that are still hindering telecoms growth and equitable access to advanced services,” Bello said. “Our hard data shows that countries which have made the most progress are those where key players recognise the need for public-private cooperation with convergent public policies, regulations and taxation that encourage investment”.

“There are no magic spells to close the digital divide,” Bello said. “The key is to invest intensively in next-generation access networks and to educate on the sophisticated uses of digital connectivity, a challenge facing all participants”.

Sophos axes jobs

axeSophos is rumoured to be grinding the axe for another round of job cuts.

According to The Next Web around 150 people will be handed their pink slips as the company moves to restructure and focus on its highest growing and strategic business arms.

Although Sophos would not confirm the number, it hinted that the rumours were more than a whisper with a spokesman telling the Next Web that it was in discussion with those affected employees. It said some could also be given a lifeline and shifted into other roles.

“While it is difficult to make any reductions in our team, we are confident these actions will help to drive our long-term success, and allow us to drive greater value for our customers and partners,” Sophos said in an earlier statement.

It follows a similar round of job cuts in September last year, when 35 employees were expected to lose their jobs.

The axe grinding comes as Sophos announced job cuts earlier this year.

SMEs at centre of cyber attacks

SymantecheadquartersTargeted security attacks rose by 42 percent in 2012, with cybercriminals targeting SMEs, Symantec has found.

In its Internet Security Threat Report the company said these threats were designed to
steal intellectual property, and were increasingly hitting the manufacturing sector as well as small businesses, which were the target of 31 percent of these attacks.

Small businesses are apparently attractive targets themselves and a way in to ultimately reach larger companies via “watering hole” techniques, Symantec said, citing a threefold rise in the number of attacks on these size businesses compared to 2011.

It said that while small businesses  could feel they were immune to targeted attacks, cybercriminals were enticed by these organisations’ bank account information, customer data and intellectual property. Attackers hone in on small businesses that may often lack adequate security practices and infrastructure, the company said.

Web-based attacks increased by 30 percent in 2012, which Symantec said originated from the compromised websites of small businesses.

It pointed out that these websites were used in massive cyber-attacks as well as “watering hole” attacks. In a watering hole attack, the attacker compromises a website, such as a blog or small business website, which is known to be frequently visited by the victim of interest. When the victim later visits the compromised website, a targeted attack payload is silently installed on their computer.

Shifting from governments, manufacturing  moved to the top of the list of industries targeted for attacks in 2012. Symantec said this was because cybercriminals were attacking the supply chain as a result of finding contractors and subcontractors susceptible to attacks and often in possession of valuable intellectual property.

Often by going after manufacturing companies in the supply chain, attackers gain access to sensitive information of a larger company, the company pointed out.

On the consumer front mobiles seemed to be the worst hit, with malware increasing by 58 percent. Around a third of all mobile threats attempted to steal information, such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

Apple’s iOS had the most documented vulnerabilities, it only had one threat discovered during the same period and Android, by contrast, had fewer vulnerabilities but more threats than any other mobile operating system.

Webwise 61 percent of malicious websites were found to be legitimate websites that had been compromised and infected with malicious code. Business, technology and shopping websites were among the top five types of websites hosting infections.

A growing source of infections on websites was malvertisements – when criminals buy advertising space on legitimate websites and use it to hide their attack code.

Drug czar thinks coke loving bankers caused financial crash

scarfaceThe 2008 financial crash was caused by overleveraged banks, the collapse of the US housing market and a range of other factors. One of those factors might have been cocaine, which is rather popular in banking circles, or so we are told.

Professor David Nutt, the former government drugs czar who lost his job after he famously stated that taking an ecstasy tablet was as safe as riding a horse, believes cocaine contributed to the crash and also led to the 1995 collapse of Barings bank.

Nutt believes cocaine helped take bankers over the edge, as cocaine users tend to be overconfident and take more risks. It can also make people quite boring at parties.

“Bankers use cocaine and got us into this terrible mess. It is a “more” drug;” he told the Sunday Times. He added that cocaine is well suited for the culture of excitement and drive, which is prevalent in the banking world.

On the other hand, who would you rather leave in charge of your personal finances? An alcoholic, a pothead, or an overly confident coked-up loudmouth with a Scarface fetish?

Gartner consults crystal ball about cloud

crystalAround 10 percent of IT security enterprise products will be delivered through the cloud by 2015, Gartner has said.

Gazing into its crystal ball, the analyst house has also said that these services will also drive changes in the market landscape, particularly around a number of key security technology areas, such as secure email and secure Web gateways, remote vulnerability assessment, and Identity and Access Management (IAM).

It said as a result it expected the cloud-based security services market to reach $4.2 billion by 2016.

Eric Ahlm, research director at Gartner said demand remained high from buyers looking to cloud-based security services to address a lack of staff or skills, reduce costs, or comply with security regulations quickly.

He said the shift in buying behaviour from the more traditional on-premises equipment toward cloud-based delivery models offered “good opportunities for technology and service providers with cloud delivery capabilities.”

He warned that those without such capabilities needed to act quickly to adapt to this “competitive threat.”

Gartner referenced a security survey from January which  it said showed high demand from security buyers for cloud-based security service offerings. Security buyers from the US and Europe, representing a cross section of industries and company sizes, stated that they planned to increase the consumption of several common cloud services during the next 12 months.

The highest-consumed cloud-based security service is email security services, with 74 percent of respondents rating this as the top service.

Furthermore, 27 percent of the respondents indicated they were considering deploying tokenisation as a cloud service, while another area cited for growth was security information and event management (SIEM) as a service.

Gartner is now advising value-added resellers (VARs) to supplement product implementations with cloud-based alternatives that offer large customers reduced operational cost and thereby increase the likelihood of customer retention in this market segment. VARs that fail to offer cloud-based alternatives might experience a decline in implementation revenue from customers seeking cloud-based solutions in certain market segments.
Around 10 percent of IT security enterprise products will be delivered through the cloud by 2015, Gartner has said.

Rubbing its crystal ball the analyst house has also said that these services will also drive changes in the market landscape, particularly around a number of key security technology areas, such as secure email and secure Web gateways, remote vulnerability assessment, and Identity and Access Management (IAM).

It said as a result it expected the cloud-based security services market to reach $4.2 billion by 2016.

Eric Ahlm, research director at Gartner said demand remained high from buyers looking to cloud-based security services to address a lack of staff or skills, reduce costs, or comply with security regulations quickly.

He said the shift in buying behaviour from the more traditional on-premises equipment toward cloud-based delivery models offered “good opportunities for technology and service providers with cloud delivery capabilities.”

He warned that those without such capabilities needed to act quickly to adapt to this “competitive threat.”

Gartner referenced a security survey from January which  it said showed high demand from security buyers for cloud-based security service offerings. Security buyers from the US and Europe, representing a cross section of industries and company sizes, stated that they planned to increase the consumption of several common cloud services during the next 12 months.

The highest-consumed cloud-based security service is email security services, with 74 percent of respondents rating this as the top service.

Furthermore, 27 percent of the respondents indicated they were considering deploying tokenisation as a cloud service, while another area cited for growth was security information and event management (SIEM) as a service.

Gartner is now advising value-added resellers (VARs) to supplement product implementations with cloud-based alternatives that offer large customers reduced operational cost and thereby increase the likelihood of customer retention in this market segment. VARs that fail to offer cloud-based alternatives might experience a decline in implementation revenue from customers seeking cloud-based solutions in certain market segments.

4G auction probed by National Audit Office

ukflagA complaint from Labour MP Helen Goodman, shadow minister for media and communications, looks like it will lead to an investigation from the UK’s National Audit Office about the “value-for-money” of the 4G auction.

A letter seen by the Guardian from NAO’s auditor general Amyas Morse to Labour MP Helen Goodman confirmed that the Office intends to “conduct a value-for-money study of Ofcom’s recent auction of 4G spectrum”. The NAO is apparently getting the investigation ready, prompted by Goodman’s complaints, which raised Ofcom chief exec Ed Richards’ concerns that the Coalition hadn’t focused on maximising auction revenues.

Goodman told Morse that “by not making maximising the auction’s revenues an objective for Ofcom, the government has failed to get value for money on this project”.

The Treasury forecasted £3.5 billion from the auction, a small amount next to 200’s 3G auction which raised £22.5 billion.

Auction bidders themselves have stated the auction had been poorly designed – as Ofcom didn’t raise the amount the government was looking for, or make sure spectrum went to everybody who wanted it, an anonymous bidder told the Guardian.

The NAO will not be able to force another auction, however, a report will go to the Commons public accounts committee – which can grill chancellor George Osborne for a response.

However, Ofcom claimed the auction was a success which “will deliver the maximum benefit to UK citizens and consumers in line with Ofcom’s statutory duties”. The body insisted the auction will create satisfactory competition which will lead to further investment. “The auction was designed to promote competition and ensure coverage, rather than to raise money,” an Ofcom spokesperson said.

Hilco to cut another 400 jobs at HMV

hmv-administrationHilco, the new owner of HMV, is planning to cut 400 jobs at the troubled entertainment retailer. The Times reports that Hilco is looking to save as much as £7.8 million from its annual payroll and the latest round of cuts is just one in a series of cost cutting measures.

An internal memo to HMV staff listed the positions earmarked for layoffs. Although Hilco did not say exactly how many jobs will be cut, the memo states that three positions in most of HMV’s remaining 141 stores will go, which amounts to about 400.

Security guards will be among those dropped in nearly all stores, except those in “high risk” areas. Cashiers in more than 100 stores will also lose their jobs, along with supervisors. It seems that part-time staff will eventually account for about 50 percent of HMV’s total workforce.

Hilco scooped up HMV earlier this year and it apparently plans to focus its revival efforts on 141 stores, employing around 2,500 souls. However, the future of dozens of stores across the country has already been sealed.

Nissan turns over a new Leaf

nissanleaf2gNissan has revamped the Leaf for the UK market, and the updates aren’t just skin deep. The new Leaf boasts more than 100 improvements over the first generation, including spiced up trim levels, new battery warranty programme and perhaps most importantly, the option of leasing a battery.

The battery pack is the single most expensive component in any fully electric car, and concerns about battery life and the cost of a replacement battery have plagued electric cars since their inception. However, by simply leasing the battery for £70 to £109 per month, Nissan is practically eliminating the risk altogether.

Leafs with leased batteries will bear the “Flex” moniker and they will end up cheaper than previous models. The cheapest Flex model with the Visia trim level starts at £15,990, which is pretty competitive for an all-electric car. Then again, buyers will have to spend at least £840 per year on the battery lease.

Consumers who opt for the more traditional approach and buy their own battery stand to benefit from Nissan’s new warranty protection. Nissan is now covering capacity loss under its 5-year warranty. A battery that loses 25 percent of its capacity over the first five years of 60,000 miles will be eligible for repair or replacement, which should put some minds at ease. The cheapest Leaf with a battery starts at £20,990.

In addition to cosmetic improvements, ranging from new alloys to LED headlamps and a Bose audio system, the new Leaf also promises to deliver a bit more range. Nissan claims the car’s range has been extended from 109 miles to 124 miles and the battery is now capable of recharging in about half the time of the first-gen Leaf, provided a 32 amp charger is used.

Gartner thinks it knows everything

gartnerThe global energy and utility markets face significant challenges from ongoing environmental sensitivity, policy maker decisions and consumer demands, Gartner has said.

The research company has made the claims within its top ten technology trends within the industry for 2013.

Report author Kristian Steenstrup, vice president and Gartner Fellow said searching for successful business models that will address these issues and generate anticipated shareholder returns in uncertain regulatory settings was a top priority for this industry.

He added this was in addition to protecting the security of critical generation and delivery infrastructure, as well as maintaining system reliability with aging physical assets.

He said one of the top ten technology trends for this sector this year was social media and Web 2.0, which would give utility IT leaders the opportunities to use social media as a customer acquisition and retention medium for competitive energy retailers and as a consumer engagement channel to drive customer participation in energy efficiency programs.

Big data will also play a part this year with Gartner predicting that smart grid development would increase data quantity by several orders of magnitude, driven by a host of edge devices, as well as new IT and OT applications such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), synchrophasors, smart appliances and microgrids.

Mobile and Location-Aware Technology was also cited as a trend with Gartner claiming this could lower costs and improve accuracy and effectiveness of the field force, which were the main drivers for utilities to deploy mobile and wireless technologies.

Gartner also pointed out Cloud Computing and SaaS would help in the smart meter, big data analytics, and demand response coordination and GIS industries, while sensor technologies, which would be applied extensively throughout the entire supply, transmission and distribution domains of utilities.

Increasing use of in-memory computing (IMC) application infrastructure technologies as enablers inside multiple types of software and hardware products would, according to Gartner, result in rapid IMC adoption by mainstream, risk-averse IT organisations.

The company added the ability of IMC to support high-scale, high-throughput and low-latency use cases would also make it possible for IT organisations to implement innovative scenarios, such as those addressing processing of the smart-grid-generated metering and real-time sensor data.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure was also highlighted as a priority as it would provide communication backbones for low-latency data aimed at improving distribution asset utilisation failure detection, and facilitating consumer inclusion in energy markets.

Actian completes Pervasive Software deal

Hands across the waterActian has signed on the dotted line and completed its purchase of Pervasive Software.

The big data management company has said that having the cloud-based and on-premises data business on board means it will be able to deliver a portfolio of highly scalable, elastic and performant products that drive positive business outcomes in the Age of Data.

Steve Shine, chief executive officer of Actian said that big data could and would impact every industry as organisations struggled to take action on their data due to legacy technology too rigid or expensive to scale.

Robin Bloor, chief analyst and co-founder, The Bloor Group, described the merger as “powerful”. He said the combination of the technologies would provide Actian with a performance capability for BI and Data Analytics which no other company could “currently equal”.

Morrisons to replace 700 staff with robots

morrisonsMachines could take the jobs of nearly 700 Morrisons back office staff.

The supermarket, which employs around 131,000 staff and has 490 UK stores, has reportedly embarked in four week consultation talks with with  689 cash office managers after looking at the machines to cut costs.

It follows the company posting a loss of £879 million in 2012, which was a drop of seven percent.

Last month it also announced that it had seen a pretax profit drop to £901 million in February this year compared to the £935 million made in 2011.

Over the past few months the company has been making changes in a bid to compete with its supermarket rivals.

In March it announced it would be moving into the online grocery delivering space. It is also planning to build up its army of 12 convenience stores, and snapping up  62 sites from the  administrators of Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster.

The supermarket claimed that using the new robots would speed up the cash counting process. It said it would continue to support those potentially affected throughout this consultation process.”