BT in line for BDUK

ukflagWith Fujitsu pulling out of the Broadband Delivery UK Framework there is just one ISP most think could win the contract – BT.

Despite this, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is not too fussed. A spokesperson told V3 that although it wants as much competition in place for the contracts, the department accepts some projects are “not as commercially competitive” because of the required scale and infrastructure.

BT has that infrastructure.

Fujitsu for its part said that it was pulling out of the process after conversations with the Department. Ultimately, the company decided there wasn’t enough value. It did not detail the “various conditions surrounding the BDUK process” that ruled it out of the competition.

BT promised it would make good on its investments of up to £1 billion. So far, BT has won Wales, Rutland, North Yorkshire, Surrey, Suffolk and Lancashire, V3 reports.

 

Salesforce.com integrates Chatter

Salesforce_Logo_2009Salesforce has made some changes to its Chatter service.

The company has  announced that it has integrated the activity stream service, launched in 2010, into its CRM software. This now means that customers will be able to access and edit records as well as  take action on an account, all from a mobile device.

This includes the iPad, as well as Android phones and tablets with the updated app already available in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Chatter is a work based social networking site that lets employees create professional profiles, set up an activity stream, join groups, participate in discussion forums and monitor trending topics. Bosses can also use the network to award their employees for specific work and projects they have done.

Chatter users can use the “publisher” tool to create and edit information and notifications on their mobile devices. They can expand their abilities to create a task, edit a contract, post poll questions and configuring custom processes.

Salesforce said there were around 195,000 Chatter customers and  that providing them with access to the CRM via a mobile device was “crucial”.

It said that the new features showed the company was moving into the “huge shift to mobile” and the “new way of working” that mobile devices had dictated.

SMBs don’t care about Windows 8

msSmall and medium sized businesses don’t tend to be tech trendsetters, but there is one trend they are not missing out on. They hate Windows 8.

A recent survey conducted by software vendor Sage North America has revealed that Windows 8 is getting a lukewarm reception from most SMBs. Just 20 percent are using Windows 8 machines at the moment, or plan to upgrade over the next six months.

Small businesses spend peanuts on web ads

coffee-deskSmall businesses don’t appear to be too interested in cheap web ads offered by Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other outfits. Although the ads are very cheap indeed, small businesses in the US are simply not going for them.

The Boston Consulting Group recently worked out that small businesses spend a mere 3 percent of their tiny ad budgets online.

BCG’s survey covered 550 outfits and found that only Groupon and similar daily deal companies are bucking the trend.

In contrast, bigger outfits spend up to 15 percent of their ad budgets online, hence they dominate the online ad space. Small businesses are simply not keeping up and they prefer to spend their ad money on traditional marketing vehicles, like coupons and Sunday circulars.

“Most small businesses operate the old-fashioned way, with little recognition of the internet as a channel or a source of leads,” said Sebastian DiGrande, senior BCG partner and co-author of the article. “Many small-business owners are not even aware that they have an online profile that they could be actively managing on many popular sites.”

DiGrande also pointed out that few small business owners were even aware of the perks of online advertising, such as low prices and free availability of certain services. Other co-authors said they were surprised by the lack of interest, especially in light of the social media boom, which gave everyone a voice on the cheap. The report found that small businesses continue to prefer very traditional ad channels, which might put them at a disadvantage in the long run.

The authors also found that providers or local advertising and marketing services need to learn a few lessons if they want to attract more small businesses. They need to tailor their offers and pricing to better suit their needs and they have to show small business owners some tangible benefits of online advertising.

”Companies that can redirect the billions of dollars of small-business-advertising spending toward digital marketing will unlock enormous value,” the report concludes. “The opportunity benefits everyone: successful campaigns will simultaneously fuel the growth of small businesses and media and marketing companies – if both players can learn to leverage local advertising.”

Booze boffins recreate 150 year old beer

beerA beer spanning back from 170 years ago will be reproduced using modern techniques.

Booze boffins at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have set their sights on reproducing a beer that was found preserved in five bottles at the bottom of a Baltic Sea shipwreck.

They have now cracked open these bottles, which were rescued in 2010 from a shipwreck that is believed to have sunk in the Åland archipelago southwest of Finland in the 1840s, and are analysing the contents in a bid to recreate the original recipe for modern industrial production methods.

The beer,  we doubt it was drinkable, was preserved as a result of the wreck’s darkness and low seabed temperatures. The salt water was kept at bay as a result of the pressure inside the corks.

Once the boffins have deciphered the formula and made a recipe, they will hand it over to the  Stallhagen brewery of Åland for reproduction and sales.

It is thought that drinkers will be able to get their hands on the brew from June 2014 with all profits given to charities focusing on the sea and environment.

European Commission cracks down on e-commerce scams

european-commissionThe European Commission is planning to crack down on aggressive e-commerce practices which are apparently discouraging consumers from shopping across union borders online.

The commission has announced plans to promote coordinated enforcement efforts and help member states share best practices in light of a review of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.

The directive introduced standardised rules across the EU five years ago, including bans on unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices, bans on misleading consumers, fake free offers, consumer baiting, hidden advertising and direct marketing to children. However, the European Commission found that consumers and businesses are still uncertain about how the new rules need to be applied by national authorities., reports Out-Law.com.

“Consumer spending accounts for 56% of EU GDP, but a lack of consumer confidence in shopping across EU borders means we are still not tapping into the full potential of the Single Market,” said EU Justice Commissioner Vivienne Reding. “We have good rules in place to protect consumers, but we need to make sure they are better enforced, especially in cross-border cases.”

Reding stressed that rogue traders should not be tolerated and that consumers have to know exactly what they are buying. Consumers must be sure they are not getting ripped off in the process, especially when they are spending across the border. The EC found that only 40 percent of EU consumers shop across EU borders online. British retailers are leading the cross-border e-commerce charge, so this should be good news for them, provided the EC doesn’t botch it.

The commission said that consumers are a lot more interested in making cross-border purchases now than they were in 2006, before the Directive came into force. However, plenty of other factors contributed to growth and the Directive was just a small piece of the puzzle.

IT services market was poor last year

rubbish-tip1Beancounters at Ovum have officially ruled 2012 as bad for the IT services market.

Ed Thomas, Senior Analyst in the Ovum IT Services team said that 2012 was the worst for IT services contract activity since 2002.

He wrote that performance in the three months to the end of December 2012 fell well below the levels seen in the same period of 2011. This makes IT services contract activity the lowest than it has been for more than a decade.

In Ovum’s latest analysis, deals in the IT services market was only $20.8 billion, down 34 per cent on the same period of the previous year.

The number of deals fell 17 per cent in the same period and there was a notable lack of big deals. While the fourth quarter was slightly better than the beginning of the year, that really does not make things better across the year.

Thomas blamed the ongoing economic uncertainty afflicting key markets for IT services such as the US and Europe as a major factor behind the weak performance of the industry in 2012.

His research suggests that many enterprises remain wary of committing to major projects, with issues such as the Eurozone crisis having a particularly significant impact.

In addition, public sector activity has reduced as many governments come under pressure to cut public spending in the face of high debt levels, Thomas said.

Enterprises were just as bad, where the number of deals announced fell by 50 per cent. In healthcare contract volumes were down 39 percent and in the financial services market they fell 18 percent. The only industries in which contract activity was up on the previous year were telecommunications and technology sectors.

Europe was the leading market for private sector contract activity in 2012 but the number of contracts generated by European enterprises actually declined sharply during the year, falling 31 percent to $16.7 billion.

Private sector contracts in America slumped dramatically in 2011, rebounded in 2012, finishing the year up 48 percent at $10.5 billion.

This was mostly boosted by a couple of big contracts from Procter & Gamble and it is too early to tell whether or not this represents a significant shift in approach by enterprises in the region, Thomas said.

Budget will have knock on effect on disties

ossyThe dreaded UK Budget could have a negative impact on margins in the industry, distributors have said.

With the UK teetering on the brink of a triple-dip recession and the country’s once-cherished AAA credit rating lost, the Budget, set to be announced on Wednesday is expected to bring bad news to businesses.

Chancellor George Osborne has already said the Budget will contain measures to “help those who aspire to work hard and get on” but would also set out the scale of further curbs on public spending from 2015.

Distributors have also suggested Osborne will once again announce rises in fuel as well as on metals, both factors that could cause ripples in the channel.

One told ChannelEye: “The budget is always a time everyone dreads. If we’re talking from a business perspective then there’s a lot that we can look forward to. Firstly is probably a rise in fuel costs, which of course will have a detrimental impact on our business, meaning we’ll have to raise costs for our customers.

“Components, especially those with certain metals will also rise, meaning suppliers will either have to raise their costs or, in an unlikely case, keep costs the same and risk smaller margins. Either way it’s not good,” he added.

Another distie also shared the same views, embellishing on the components that could be affected, telling ChannelEye: “Every year the budget has some impact on us and our clients. Some metals, be it iron or copper could be taxed at a higher price meaning suppliers will have to raise their costs having both a knock on effect on the channel and the consumer, who I imagine will also be facing more financial issues due to other parts of the budget.

“However, this may also drive more competition with suppliers trying to keep costs low. This means it’ll drive down lower prices which will affect our margins.”

Others were however, more concerned about fuel costs, claiming that this would be the
“biggest problem for [the industry],” as they just kept “rising and rising”.

“Possibly component prices but I don’t think this will have as much impact as petrol costs,” he told ChannelEye.

“Either way it’ll mean we, and clients will be putting prices up to ensure we keep to our profit margins.”

However, others were less concerned taking a more “Ce la vie” approach.
“It’s not all bad,” one said.

“Yes, there will be price hikes in fuel and components. But, this is all relative to the way inflation works. Everything is going up, it’s the way of the climate. I think people are almost expecting to having to pay more, whether that has a knock on effect on what they buy remains to be seen.”

Intel UK country manager off to pastures new

Graham Palmer, IntelA long standing senior executive at Intel UK is being promoted soon.

Graham Palmer, country manager of Intel UK, will become the country manager of Intel Canada, according to reliable sources.

Palmer has risen in the ranks at Intel over the 24 years or so he has worked at the chip giant. Known to practically everybody in the UK IT industry, he has held the post of country manager here for several years now.

At press time, Intel could not be contacted. A new UK country manager is expected to be appointed in the next week or two.

 

 

HMRC customer service is “abysmal” says report

hmrchqHM Revenue and Customs needs to “sharpen up” its act when it comes to the way it handles calls, a parliament committee has said.

In its report, the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) said the organisation’s treatment of call handling and responses to letters was “abysmal” and “disgraceful”.

It pointed out that in 2011-12, 20 million phone calls were not answered racking up a total of  £136 million wasted by callers who were waiting to speak to an adviser.

Against its target of responding to 80 percent of letters within 15 days, the department managed to reply to just 66 percent, PAC said, adding this was an “abysmal record.”

The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said:  “HMRC’s ‘customers’ have no choice over whether or not they deal with the department. It is therefore disgraceful to subject them to unacceptable levels of service when they try to contact the department by phone or letter.”

However, she pointed out the organisation was aiming to change its attitude with officials “beginning to realise that “good customer service lies at the heart of any strategy.”

She added that it was also good news for those trying to phone the department as they would no longer be forced to use the more expensive 0845 numbers.

Other planned changes include the resolution of more queries first time and a call-back service where this is not possible.

Last week the department announced it would  cut a third of its customer-facing staff as well as closing all of its 281 enquiry centres in 2014. It said at the time, that instead of visiting these customers had to contact the phone line or go online to get their tax query answered.

Advisers may then decide that the issue should be discussed face-to-face at the caller’s home or elsewhere. The HMRC said that this could shave  £13 million a year off its bills.

However, PAC pointed out that the HMRC now faced more calls but had fewer staff.

It said that as a result of these changes the HMRC’s new target of answering 80 percent of calls within five minutes was “woefully inadequate and unambitious.”

Hodge said the department should instead set a more demanding target in the short term and a long-term target that is much closer to the industry standard of answering 80 percent of calls within 20 seconds.

“Just how the department is going to improve standards of customer service, given the prospect of its having fewer staff and receiving a higher volume of calls, is open to question. HMRC plans to cut the number of customer-facing staff by a third by 2015. At the same time, the stresses associated with introducing the Real Time Information System, Universal Credit and changes to child benefit are likely to drive up the number of phone calls to the department,” Hodge pointed out.

“Since our hearing it has also been announced that HMRC is to close all of its 281 enquiry centres which give face-to-face advice to customers. This will undoubtedly put even more pressure on phonelines.

HMRC spent approximately £900 million on customer service in 2011-12, around a quarter of its £3.7 billion total expenditure. It received 79 million phone calls and 25 million items of post in the year.

People contact HMRC because they want to get their tax right and HMRC is obliged to make sure they get a good service.

However, in recent years the standard of HMRC’s customer service has been described by PAC as “unacceptable.”

HSBC staff face more cold steel

axeHSBC is once again grinding its axe ready to chop yet more jobs.

According to the Financial Times, the bank will push ahead with a second round of cuts in a bid to keep to its strategic overhaul plans, expected to be outlined to investors in a few months.

The new job cuts come after Stuart Gulliver, HSBC’s chief executive, to promise that he “fixate on costs” over the coming year. Within this he said he would find a further $1 billion of annual savings in 2013, which it seems is coming from the job front.

Although there is no set amount of jobs that are on the line, it is predicted that around 5,000 staff could be issued with P45s.

This is on top of slashes over the past two years, which have seen staff headcounts drop from 302,000 to 260,000.

And there’s bad news on the horizon for HSBC’s IT workforce with rumours that Gulliver could go ahead with plans to replace the bank’s in-house software and development.

The number of staff working in that area is already estimated to have been dropped from 27,000 to about 21,000. However, there may be more cuts here if outsourcing IT is decided.

Apple selling refurbished iPads in online store

refurb-ipadConsumers want cheaper tablets and even Apple has given in to the trend, with the introduction of the iPad mini last year. Now it is going a step further, by selling refurbished iPads online.

Appleinsider reports that Apple is already listing a number of refurbs in the US. For example, a black 32GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi and cellular is up for grabs for $429, while a Wi-Fi only 32GB white unit goes for $389. Fourth generation 9.7-inchers are also there. A Wi-Fi only 16GB Retina pad will set you back $449, while a black one with Verizon cellular is priced at $579.

Although they are refurbished, they are hardly bargains. Going for a refurbished iPad mini should save consumers $30 to $40 depending on the SKU, or $50 on Retina 9.7-inch models. They are still a lot pricier than brand new Android tablets, but there is a very good reason for that.

Apple still enjoys a comfortable lead in the tablet space, courtesy of its app ecosystem, which is second to none. Demand for Android tablets is going up, but consumers are going after cheaper models, not high-end gear with HD screens.

Ultra HD TV panel shipments to hit 2.6 million units this year

lg-ultra-hdThe first Ultra HD devices are hitting the market and analysts now estimate 2.6 million Ultra HD TV panels could be shipped by the end of the year.

Since Ultra HD, or 4Kx2K is a relatively new standard, shipments last year were negligible, just 63,000 units. This year we should see the first generation of commercially viable Ultra HD televisions, but it will take years before they go mainstream.

Ultra HD sets are extremely expensive and they are pretty pointless for the time being. There is practically no 4K content out there and spending thousands on “future proof” TVs just isn’t an option for most consumers. NPD Display Search reckons panel makers are looking to speed up 4Kx2K adoption by strengthening their relationships with TV brands and stepping up their manufacturing and sales efforts.

DisplaySearch Vice President, Greater China Market, said Innolux Corp is the most aggressive Ultra HD panel maker at this point, as it is developing a full line-up of panels in the 35- to 85-inch range.

“Despite this, 4K×2K panel manufacturers’ shipments are primarily focused on 50″, 55″/58”, and 65″ sizes, which are expected to have the highest volume shipments, especially in China,” said Hsieh. “4K×2K LCD TV is the newest TV technology available, and in order for it to be successful, it will be critical for the supply chain to avoid falling behind when making their purchases, even if content is still scarce. Some panel makers are also working with design houses to develop circuits built into the panel, to enable up-scaling of HD to 4K×2K content. This will help to drive the 4K×2K LCD TV market and encourage panel makers, especially those that have already started design-in work with TV brands in 2013.”

It all sounds a tad optimistic. New chips and upscaling are no substitute for 4K content, which is simply not around and it won’t be readily available for years to come.

Raxton Data rebrands after stonking year

spamCloud based email security outfit Raxton Data, has rebranded itself after what it calls “an exceptional year”.

The company is now calling itself EveryCloud Technologies, we guess Raxton Data was a bit too formal as the name did not seem to have much to do with the company any more,

The company said that it now has more than 100 resellers and 50,000 end users with customers, ranging from small SMEs all the way up to global organisations.

Graham O’Reilly, EveryCloud CEO and Co-Founder claims that EveryCloud Technologies, is among the UK’s fastest growing cloud service providers.

He said that it is now scanning millions of emails every day thanks to having some good antispam software, O’Reilly said.

The name needed to change to reflect where the company is now and where it is going, he claimed.

David Thornton, Technical Manager from Triumph Technologies said that he used EveryCloud’s anti-spam system for around 50 of its customers and have been extremely pleased with its flexibility and accuracy at which it blocks spam.

EveryCloud Technologies was founded in 2009 by Matt Baker and Graham O’Reilly, who describe themselves as two British chaps tired of bad customer service in technology.

It provides cloud based services which allows businesses to security share files and protect against spam and virus attacks.

 

Target gobbles up two e-commerce culinary chains

tagtet-ecommerceDiscount retail chain Target is expanding its e-commerce operation with a couple of tender and juicy acquisitions. 

Reuters reports that the company has agreed to buy Chefs Catalog and Cooking.com.

The acquisitions should boost Target’s ability to sell cooking products and kitchenware online and fancy ceramic knives will only be a click away.

Target did not disclose the financial terms, but both deals should be closed in 30 days and they will not affect the chain’s financial results.

Chefs Catalog sells kitchen utensils and tools directly to customers through its website, while Cooking.com sells more than 30,000 various products, including recipes and other member-submitted cooking content.

Thanks to Jamie Oliver and other celebrity chefs, an increasing number of people are turning to home cooking as a healthier and cheaper alternative to eating out. The fact that quite a few people are broke and can’t afford to dine out also helps.