Oracle Attempts At Another Reinvention

The technology industry is unkind to companies on the wrong side of middle age. But some veterans that once looked well past their primes have found fountains of youth. One of the best examples is Oracle Corp., the 40-year-old database software company founded by 73-year-old Larry Ellison. The company for decades was assured a big slice of corporations’ $2 trillion annual spending on technology. Many of the world’s biggest companies found Oracle’s products essential for tasks such as keeping tabs on inventory, balancing the books and analyzing retail sales trends. But when Ellison stepped down as chief executive three years ago, Oracle looked as if it was in crisis.

Crisis looks different at Oracle than it does, say, at MySpace. Companies that sell technology to businesses don’t tend to die quickly as internet companies do. Instead, they slowly wither and fade into irrelevancy. Business customers that rely on technology from Oracle, Microsoft or IBM can’t ditch it immediately. Instead, they might start dabbling with newer technologies for high-priority growth projects and resign the dinosaur technologies to less important parts of their budgets. Over years, those budgets might shrink or disappear. Oracle looked for a while as if it might be stuck in that camp.

oracle

And then a technology revival Ellison had been talking up for years seemed to take hold. He had been boasting about refashioning Oracle’s technology for the epoch of cloud computing, in which companies shift from pricey, hard-to-update software bought on long-term contracts to pay-on-demand technology that is refreshed frequently because information is stored and processed on remote computers, just like internet services such as Facebook.

Oracle’s cloud revolution seemed like Ellison bluster, but it turned out to be real. In Oracle’s quarter ended in August, revenue rose 6.9 percent from a year earlier, the company’s best growth rate since 2011, according to Bloomberg data. What Oracle defines as sales of cloud technology accounted for 16 percent of Oracle’s total revenue, up from 5.5 percent when Ellison gave up the CEO post but remained chief technology officer. The Oracle founder, who once mocked cloud computing as “complete gibberish,” now can’t stop talking about it. Oracle’s growing sales of cloud computing don’t guarantee the company relevance for the next 40 years. As it and other companies transition from selling upfront software contracts to pay-as-you-go cloud technology, revenue can nose-dive for a while, and the shift pinches profits. Some people in the technology industry are skeptical about whether what is sold as cloud software is truly being used by the customers.

Companies also have more technology options than ever, including free or low-cost alternatives, and it seems unlikely a handful of titanic empires such as Oracle can retain an iron grip on corporate technology spending. It will also be tough for Oracle to retain its market share in the $31 billion database market. When a company has a commanding position, there may not be anywhere to go but down. There’s also a poor track record of pioneers in one period of technology maintaining their dominance after seismic industry shifts. Just try to remember the last time you saw a Nokia mobile phone.

But it is possible for technology titans to find new life. Adobe took the remarkable step of changing its business model overnight from selling software such as Photoshop to essentially renting its most important products as Netflix-like subscriptions. It was painful, but Adobe and its stock price have thrived since the 2012 reboot. Like Oracle, Microsoft has found cloud-computing religion, although investors’ enthusiasm for that company’s cloud shift is ahead of reality.

The same is true at Oracle. Investors now believe the cloud transition has taken hold, but they could lose confidence if Oracle has a rocky quarter or two. Oracle did get a big vote on confidence in May when AT&T Inc. — one of the world’s biggest spenders on technology equipment and software — said it would move a significant portion of its databases to Oracle’s cloud. Oracle has said it thinks selling cloud software gives it a shot at landing many more customers, and at higher profit margins, than it ever could in the days when it sold only big-ticket software contracts to giant corporations. Oracle, Microsoft and Adobe are giving hope to all technology companies with more than a few wrinkles. Those software pioneers are showing that there’s a place in the tech industry for middle-aged reinvention.

  • Bloomberg

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How To Live off 35% of Your Income & Retire by 40

In the age of Silicon Valley, a lot of us dream of launching the next Warby Parker, Instagram, or Airbnb—a wildly successful business that will leave us financially set for life. But the game is kind of rigged. Research says that, on the whole, entrepreneurs aren’t the fearless, high-achieving heroes we imagine them to be. They’re just rich kids—people with inherited wealth and safety nets who can afford to take risks that would bankrupt the rest of us. A 1998 paper published in the Journal of Labor Economics concluded, “individuals who have received inheritances or gifts are more likely to run their own businesses.” And economist Ross Levine told Quartz last year that the chances of becoming an entrepreneur “drop quite a bit” when your family isn’t loaded.

But those of us born without trust funds need not cry into our IPAs. What if, instead of going into business to get rich, you got rich so you could go into business? Take Peter Adeney, better known as the blogger Mr. Money Mustache. Adeney initially won Internet fame because he “retired” at age 30. Working as software engineers, he and his wife, Simi, saved and invested their income until they’d amassed a nest egg of about $700,000. At that size, their small fortune could generate returns substantial enough to live on. So Adeney quit his job and set about doing, well, whatever the hell he wants. He’s since become the face of the early retirement movement—sometimes referred to as FIRE, for Financially Independent Retired Early—and inspired thousands of people to follow in his footsteps.

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I’m one of them. For the last five years, my husband and I have been using Adeney’s basic blueprint so that we can retire decades early, too. And we’re in good company. Mr. Money Mustache now racks up around 750,000 unique visitors and about seven million page views a month. Like Adeney, I don’t conceive of retirement as endless leisure. Forty years of golf and reruns would turn my brain into applesauce. To my mind, the most interesting thing about Adeney—and his relevance for would-be entrepreneurs—isn’t that he retired so young. It’s what he’s done with his retirement. Namely, as he explains on his blog, “the Mrs. and I started a cozy new two-person company that does whatever we want it to do.” So far, that’s included carpentry projects, building and selling a house or two, and the Mr. Money Mustache blog.

It’s almost as if Adeney built his own trust fund and turned himself into a rich-kid entrepreneur. Some of his achievements are directly attributable to the fact that he didn’t need that business to generate a profit in the short term, or even much of a profit in the long term. Adeney’s success as a blogger has been expressly built upon his financial independence. It gave him his subject, for starters, and allowed him to write in whatever tone he wanted, instead of catering to advertisers. Readers took to his irreverence—and no wonder, when most personal-finance writing is gratingly chipper and seems like filler in between credit-card ads.

Readers could also trust Adeney, knowing that his advice wasn’t contingent upon what would fatten his own bank account. While this kind of personal credibility probably should be de rigueur for a money guru, it’s still more the exception than the rule. It’s not a great big leap to say that Adeney ended up making around $400,000 a year from his blog in large part because he didn’t need to. The advantages don’t stop there. His self-built trust fund also insulated him from the brutal realities of the online media business, in which Google and Facebook scarf up around 90% of new ad dollars and many fledgling outfits crash and burn. He’s also been able to take breaks and work on the blog when he wants to, rather than adhering to the sort of ruthless schedule many entrepreneurs are stuck with.

I totally get that saving up your retirement nest egg decades early might seem like an even tougher dream to realize than just going ahead and starting your business. Judging by the “Mustachians” who post and comment on the site, the demographic appears to be reasonably high-earning folks with naturally frugal tendencies. Not everyone is in a position to save and invest, of course. A single person earning $70,000 in New York might not have much left over after taxes, rent, food, and the odd late-night Uber. A married couple in Cleveland earning $200,000 (nearly four times the median household income, let it be said) probably wouldn’t find this tactic very difficult at all. Such high-paying jobs are very much the exception, not the rule—and that’s to say nothing of those who can’t find jobs at all.

Personally, I’m not exactly frugal—I just prefer to live like a grad student because it keeps life simple. Right now, my husband and I live on about 35% of what we make, net. We earn more than we used to, but we’ve been able to avoid lifestyle creep because our tastes haven’t shifted much and certainly haven’t improved much. (We splurge on food and travel. But we still drink $6 wine, buy used books, and get t-shirts from Uniqlo, none of which I regard as any kind of sacrifice.) In business, you’d call this operating leverage. Market willing, we should be able to retire in five years, when we’re 39 years old. Then we’ll start a company that “does whatever we want it to do.”

So how much money are we talking? To size your nest egg, you calculate your yearly living expenses and multiply them by 25. Then you invest and use the magic of compound interest to help you reach that goal. (Adeney suggests index funds—simple, low-fee investment vehicles that typically track the returns of the stock market.) Once you’ve hit your number, you withdraw funds at a rate of 4% a year, known as the Safe Withdrawal Rate. A $1 million nest egg, for example, would yield $40,000 each year. A $2 million nest egg would yield $80,000. Simulations of model portfolios suggest this rate allows for lifelong withdrawals in nearly every market scenario. That means that you should still have money left at the time of your death, even 30 or 50 years hence.

I’m aware that the tone of this advice could seem money-obsessed or money-grubbing. But I don’t say it out of the conviction that the world’s already abundant supply of rich jerks needs adding to. (Parts of this article were written on January 20th, an auspicious day for rich jerks everywhere.) Rather, I think the dream of financial independence is worth chasing because I’m convinced that freedom is one of the worthiest goals around. If you’re a person with big-time creative dreams, it would be a tragedy straight out of Arthur Miller to spend your life working for someone else—or waiting around for the world to change. We seem to be decades away from instituting a universal basic income. So it might be time for you to try to DIY one.

Rich kids may dominate the entrepreneurial landscape. But over time, you could become one of them yourself—a person for whom many of the usual risks don’t apply.

  • QZ

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A Complete Beginner’s Guide To Blockchain

You may have heard the term ‘blockchain’ and dismissed it as a fad, a buzzword, or even technical jargon. But I believe blockchain is a technological advance that will have wide-reaching implications that will not just transform the financial services but many other businesses and industries. A blockchain is a distributed database, meaning that the storage devices for the database are not all connected to a common processor. It maintains a growing list of ordered records, called blocks. Each block has a timestamp and a link to a previous block. Cryptography ensures that users can only edit the parts of the blockchain that they “own” by possessing the private keys necessary to write to the file. It also ensures that everyone’s copy of the distributed blockchain is kept in synch. Imagine a digital medical record: each entry is a block. It has a timestamp, the date and time when the record was created. And by design, that entry cannot be changed retroactively, because we want the record of diagnosis, treatment, etc. to be clear and unmodified. Only the doctor, who has one private key, and the patient, who has the other, can access the information, and then information is only shared when one of those users shares his or her private key with a third party — say, a hospital or specialist. This describes a blockchain for that medical database.

blockchain

Blockchains are secure databases by design. The concept was introduced in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, and then implemented for the first time in 2009 as part of the digital bitcoin currency; the blockchain serves as the public ledger for all bitcoin transactions. By using a blockchain system, bitcoin was the first digital currency to solve the double spending problem (unlike physical coins or tokens, electronic files can be duplicated and spent twice) without the use of an authoritative body or central server. The security is built into a blockchain system through the distributed timestamping server and peer-to-peer network, and the result is a database that is managed autonomously in a decentralized way. This makes blockchains excellent for recording events — like medical records — transactions, identity management, and proving provenance. It is, essentially, offering the potential of mass disintermediation of trade and transaction processing.

How does blockchain really work?

Some people have called blockchain the “internet of value” which I think is a good metaphor. On the internet, anyone can publish information and then others can access it anywhere in the world. A blockchain allows anyone to send value anywhere in the world where the blockchain file can be accessed. But you must have a private, cryptographically created key to access only the blocks you “own.” By giving a private key which you own to someone else, you effectively transfer the value of whatever is stored in that section of the blockchain. So, to use the bitcoin example, keys are used to access addresses, which contain units of currency that have financial value. This fills the role of recording the transfer, which is traditionally carried out by banks.

It also fills a second role, establishing trust and identity, because no one can edit a blockchain without having the corresponding keys. Edits not verified by those keys are rejected. Of course, the keys — like a physical currency — could theoretically be stolen, but a few lines of computer code can generally be kept secure at very little expense. (Unlike, say, the expense of storing a cache of gold in a proverbial Fort Knox.) This means that the major functions carried out by banks — verifying identities to prevent fraud and then recording legitimate transactions — can be carried out by a blockchain more quickly and accurately.

Why is blockchain important?

We are all now used to sharing information through a decentralized online platform: the internet. But when it comes to transferring value – money – we are usually forced to fall back on old fashioned, centralized financial establishments like banks. Even online payment methods which have sprung into existence since the birth of the internet – PayPal being the most obvious example – generally require integration with a bank account or credit card to be useful. Blockchain technology offers the intriguing possibility of eliminating this “middle man”. It does this by filling three important roles – recording transactions, establishing identity and establishing contracts – traditionally carried out by the financial services sector. This has huge implications because, worldwide, the financial services market is the largest sector of industry by market capitalization. Replacing even a fraction of this with a blockchain system would result in a huge disruption of the financial services industry, but also a massive increase in efficiencies.

But it is the third role, establishing contracts, that extends its usefulness outside the financial services sector. Apart from a unit of value (like a bitcoin), blockchain can be used to store any kind of digital information, including computer code. That snippet of code could be programmed to execute whenever certain parties enter their keys, thereby agreeing to a contract. The same code could read from external data feeds — stock prices, weather reports, news headlines, or anything that can be parsed by a computer, really — to create contracts that are automatically filed when certain conditions are met. These are known as “smart contracts,” and the possibilities for their use are practically endless. For example, your smart thermostat might communicate energy usage to a smart grid; when a certain number of wattage hours has been reached, another blockchain automatically transfers value from your account to the electric company, effectively automating the meter reader and the billing process.

Or, let’s return to our medical records example; if a doctor or patient issues a private key to a medical device, say a blood glucose monitor, the device could automatically and securely record a patient’s blood glucose levels, and then, potentially, communicate with an insulin delivery device to maintain blood glucose at a healthy level. Or, it might be put to use in the regulation of intellectual property, controlling how many times a user can access, share, or copy something. It could be used to create fraud-proof voting systems, censorship-resistant information distribution, and much more. The point is that the potential uses for this technology are vast, and I predict that more and more industries will find ways to put it to good use in the very near future.

  • Forbes

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6 Ways to Help Grown Ups get their Finances in Order

Parents have started handing over thousands of pounds to their offspring in order to help them fly from the family nest; a process which is neither easy nor affordable in an era of post-Brexit inflation, high cost of housing, and university tuition fees.

According to research conducted by experts, around 85% of parents have stumped up their money for everything right from broadband to bookshelves, with an excess of half of the cash coming in from their savings.

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However, getting youngsters started at university is typically one of the biggest outlays. But mums and dads are also subsidising clothes, books, mobile phones, and “spending money”.

This initial hand holding could slowly turn into “failure to launch syndrome”, with kids beginning to rely on their parents financially, in their early 20s and 30s.

If you are a parent who wants to help their kids in getting their finances in order, then you have stumbled upon the right place. Here we have mentioned six ways through which you can help children survive financially in the big bad world.

  • Get to Grips with Property

You can offer a cash gift or an interest free loan to help your kids in order to get them on the property ladder. Ideally, this must be at least a quarter of the value of the property your kid is eyeing up, but even a 10% deposit could give them an access to a more competitive mortgage deal.

Always remember that inheritance tax may be applicable if you die within seven years of making the gift. In order to prevent this risk, you must consider a loan that comes with a monthly interest, under the market rate.

But do agree for a repayment scheme and formalise the contract by making use of a “promissory note”, which is drawn up by the property attorney. In this way, you ensure that the cash is registered as a loan and is paid back.

Alternatively, a guarantor mortgage can do the work. This includes you promising to meet the mortgage repayments on time, if your kids fail to do so. The contract remains in place until the borrower has decreased the mortgage to a certain level in comparison to the property’s worth.

Better-off, parents can also purchase a property outright, but they may incur capital gains tax, especially if it’s later sold, as it’ll technically be their second house. One way you could prevent this is by getting an attorney to place your property in a formal written trust. This way, you lend the trust a deposit and later take out mortgage that you require to guarantee.

The named beneficiaries of the trust, your kids, can then become “life tenants”, and live in that property rent-free. Yet, the named trustees would hold the title to the property.

If you’re turning the house into a student let, you’ll have to pay income tax on the rent, though the income can rather be paid directly to kids as they aren’t earning, then it could fall within the annual tax allowance.

Property experts say that, parents can invest for between 15 to 20 years, so as to assure a return on buy-to-let. You must see it as a long term investment in the first place, and support to the kid. You can even rent to students once your kids graduate, if the house is near the university.

If you’ve already taken out a loan (or thinking of taking one), then you must check for Payment Protection Insurance. If you find out that you’ve been mis-sold one, then you must soon make a claim, as the PPI Claims Deadline has been announced.

  • Drill them in Renting Rights

If any of your kid has to rent, then they’ll have to pay a deposit to the landlord. However, they’ll get it back by the end of their tenancy, provided the place is as clean as it was when they moved in, and there’s no damage, no unpaid rent, and no missing items.

The landlord should make use of an official tenancy deposit plan, unless they also stay in that house. If that is the case, your kid can reclaim the entire deposit along with three times its actual value. You must also check the Government’s “how to rent” guide.

  • Get Help if You Need It

Approximately, two fifths of parents depend upon unsecured debts in order to provide their kids a leg-up. Organisations and universities often offer student scholarships so as to assist students with their living costs.

Your kid might get qualified for this, provided that you’re earning less than £25,000 per year, working in a particular profession, or if your kid is studying a specific subject.

  • Drum in the Savings Habit

Nearly a quarter of parents bail out their adult children each month, but they must also encourage them to save money. The best way out is you training your kids in the virtue of saving, well before they leave the house, and maybe telling them to open a savings account.

If your child is 16 or above, then you ought to tell them to take out a Help to Buy Isa, that offers a 25% Government bonus to a maximum of £3,000, specifically when they’re about to purchase their first house.

Any kid who is 18 can take out a more generous Lifetime Isa, which has been launched recently. This account would pay them a bonus of 25% on contributions of around £4,000 per year. This means that they’ll receive a free maximum injection of £1,000 per year, from the Government.

  • School them to be Savvy

Spiralling education, fuel, and housing expenses mean that inflation is hitting youngsters harder, in comparison to any other age group. Several experts say that, the need for the Gen Y to cautiously handle their finances has become a huge deal than ever.

So, as a parent, discuss unrealistic ambitions and be careful that you aren’t handing down any expensive shopping preferences. You can even pay your kids for doing some of the household work, as this would teach them the value of working.

According to a financial advisor, when one has saved and worked for something, they tend to enjoy it ten times more. By the same token, one might discover whilst saving for it, that perhaps they don’t want it so much after all.

Bear in mind to include your kids in family budgeting, be it through the discussion over dinner, or through some app. All this would give your kids a financial autonomy whilst you supervise them remotely.

Help your child to become “micro-expense” aware. For example, you should tell them how the expense of their daily takeaway coffee can quickly add up. At the same time, you must also encourage them to shop around for affordable deals and to spend more time in reviewing their expenditure.

If you’re paying for any of their necessities, be it the electricity bill or food costs, simply show them how you sought out a much better deal.

  • Offer All-round Sensible Advice

Several studies reveal that on an average, people spend around £1,350 per year on takeaways. So, you should motivate your kids to properly plan their meals, do a weekly shop and learn all the basic recipes when they fly from their nest. In this manner, they could save around hundreds of pounds every year.

You must also help them to understand that when they’re taking out any insurance, it’s not any sort of alternative for locking doors and window, and taking proper care of property is also a very important aspect. 

Author Bio

Adam Martin is a working professional by day and a freelance writer by night. He specialises in writing about personal finance and insurance claims.

Microsoft and Google Trying to Catch Amazon in the Cloud

It’s hard to think of a business Amazon.com Inc. dominates as convincingly as the market for cloud computing services. Andy Jassy, chief executive officer of the company’s cloud division, Amazon Web Services Inc., likes to brag that his outfit has several times as much business as the next 14 providers combined. Amazon’s next-largest cloud competitor, Microsoft Corp., is less than one-fifth Amazon’s size in terms of sales of infrastructure services, which store and run data and applications in the cloud, according to research firm Gartner Inc. Google, the No. 3 U.S. cloud services provider and the second-largest company in the world by market value, makes one-fifteenth of Amazon’s cloud revenue.

“AWS effectively defined the notion of cloud computing,” says Gartner analyst Ed Anderson. “It’s perceived as the cloud leader and pacesetter.” AWS generated $4.6 billion in sales in the most recent quarter. Every year, it introduces dozens of features and products to retain its edge.

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But Amazon isn’t invincible, and the qualities that made the division so successful—the platform’s self-service nature and its deployment of software and services that Amazon had used for its enormous retail operation—can also be seen as vulnerabilities, at least as far as Microsoft and Google are concerned. Microsoft’s cloud unit, Azure, has managed to win over customers, including Bank of America Corp. and Chevron Corp. in recent weeks, by focusing on the sorts of salesmanship and relationship-building skills not always prized at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. “There’s not one default choice,” says Kurt DelBene, Microsoft’s executive vice president for corporate strategy and planning. “We’re not going to get to a place where any one vendor is that default choice.”

“Microsoft is at the leading edge of today’s game-changing cloud-based technologies,” CEO Satya Nadella wrote in his autobiography, published in late September. “But just a few years ago that outcome seemed very doubtful.” As part of Nadella’s catch-up strategy, Microsoft has transformed its sales force into a roving R&D lab and management consultancy. Startups get introductions to potential investors and prospective partners and customers. Big companies get access to a sales team that helps market the cloud apps they build on Azure to their own customers so they can make a buck on the software they use in-house.

The sales team includes 3,000 dedicated software engineers who can build applications for prospective clients during sales calls, demonstrating on the spot what they can do for them. “I can’t send people to a customer anymore to give a PowerPoint presentation,” says Judson Althoff, executive vice president for Microsoft’s worldwide commercial business. Once a customer signs on, Microsoft engineers can be deployed to the client the next day.

Bill Braun, Chevron’s chief information officer, says Microsoft impressed him by showing off machine learning software that will allow his company to analyze volumes of data from oil production equipment to detect tiny changes in temperature or vibration, early signs of faulty equipment, or other problems. “They understand the enterprise,” he says.

Microsoft’s sales team made the pitch with the help of HoloLens, the company’s new augmented-reality headset. When paired with Microsoft’s cloud software, the headset allows Chevron’s senior engineers to virtually oversee the work of software technicians around the globe as they install equipment.

For years, Microsoft representatives have sold the company’s signature Windows and Office software that clients install on their computer networks. More recently, they’ve moved some of those clients to Office apps in the cloud. Clients accustomed to those cloud applications may be more likely to go with Microsoft when they decide to replace their own data centers and servers with public cloud infrastructure, says Gartner’s Anderson.

An existing relationship was why candymaker Mars Inc. chose Microsoft instead of AWS last year. “Our philosophy is to drive deeper relationships with partners we already have,” says Paul L’Estrange, Mars’s chief technology officer. “We didn’t have that same sort of relationship with AWS.” Google is trying to set itself apart with TensorFlow, software that makes it easier to build artificial intelligence apps, and with Kubernetes, a software system which helps companies better manage their data in the cloud.

Even Google, a company that has been generally allergic to using people for anything a machine can do, has seen the value of having a human sales force. In late 2015 it hired corporate software veteran Diane Greene, a Google board member and co-founder of VMware Inc., Dell Computer’s cloud computing subsidiary, to run its cloud business. She’s been building a cloud sales force from scratch. Google recently announced a partnership with Salesforce.com Inc. to take advantage of the latter’s list of preferred cloud providers.

Both Google and Microsoft have sought to exploit another of Amazon’s perceived weaknesses: that other parts of its empire compete bitterly with prospective cloud customers. Amazon’s retail rivals, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Bangalore-based Flipkart Ltd., don’t want to see their Amazon cloud payments lining the coffers of the retailer that could ultimately put them out of business, says Gartner’s Anderson. Flipkart signed up with Microsoft in February. According to a June report in the Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart has been telling its tech suppliers not to use AWS. Wal-Mart didn’t respond to a request for comment. CEO Jassy says AWS treats all its cloud customers, including many Amazon retail rivals, equally.

After several years on AWS, Lush Ltd., the U.K.-based toiletries company, jumped to Google Cloud in November 2016. Lush has sued Amazon, claiming the company is using Lush’s trademarks to sell rival bath goods.

“We’re not particularly keen on Amazon as a company, so we’d prefer not to work with them,” says Jack Constantine, Lush’s chief digital officer. Amazon declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“It’s not a surprise to us that every large tech company in the world is interested in building a replica of what AWS has done,” says Jassy. Whether or not it’s feeling the pressure, the company is spending more time cultivating relationships with top executives and CIOs. It’s hosting dinners with prospective clients to address their concerns in more intimate settings and bringing more of a human touch to these relationships. “They’re making themselves accessible,” saysAdam Johnson, CEO of IOpipe, which provides monitoring and troubleshooting services to businesses running on AWS.

Its reputation as the market leader means those executives and chief technologists tend to lean toward AWS when all else is equal. Its early lead—AWS beat Microsoft to the market by four years—gives the company an automatic edge. And Amazon’s cloud services are seen as the safe bet, no small thing in an age of hacks and denial-of-service attacks. Sometimes even when a company thinks it can claim a win over AWS, it can’t broadcast the victory. In March, Google published a blog post announcing that Airbnb Inc., a longtime AWS client, had agreed to use a Google cloud service for AI. The following day, Airbnb’s name was scrubbed from the post. Airbnb and Google declined to comment.

So for the near future, at least, AWS looks like it will continue to rule a market that Gartner expects to generate $89 billion in sales by 2021, up from $35 billion today. “There’s a humongous amount of growth in front of us,” Jassy says. “This is the biggest technology shift of our lifetimes.”

  • Bloomberg

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AccorHotels to bring global brands to India

French hospitality major AccorHotels is exploring the possibility of bringing some of its international brands to India, besides strengthening existing brands, said a top executive. “Currently, we have 10 brands operating in India out of the 30 established brands,” said Jean-Michel Casse, chief operating officer — India and South Asia, AccorHotels. “Raffles and Banyan Tree will be coming to India soon.” In June 2017, AccorHotels entered into a management pact with Surya Palace Hotel owners in Vadodara and rebranded it as Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace. This will be followed by converting an existing property in South Goa to the Novotel brand.

As of now, AccorHotels has 53 properties with 9,700 ‘keys’ (rooms) operating in India. By year end, this will increase to 55. There are plans to add 30 more over the next five years to take the total number to 15,000 ‘keys’. Mr. Casse was in Chennai to inaugurate the first combo property in the city and second in the south (Novotel-ibis). The new property will start functioning from Sunday. The first combo property (Novotel-ibis) was opened in Bengaluru during 2011, followed by New Delhi (Novotel-Pullman).

accorhotels

“Following six years of successful run of Bengaluru hotels, we decided to start a combo property here. Chennai is already home to Novotel and ibis hotels along with Formule1. The next Novotel Hotel will be opened at Chamiers Road and Mercure in Oragadam, by April 2018,” he said. In Chennai OMR, Novotel has 153 ‘keys’ and ibis 189 ‘keys’. Novotel and ibis remain the most prominent brands with a network of 15 and 18 hotels respectively across the country, he said. “It is very difficult to measure the benefits of combo hotels. But it certainly saves around 15% of the capital expenditure with common infrastructure facilities such as air conditioners, laundry, kitchen and staff,” he said.

Daniel Chao, area general manager, ibis Chennai OMR, said, “Professionals, individuals and business travellers are the target audience. As part of a special inaugural offer, the hotels offer the scheme of ‘stay for three nights and pay for two nights’.”

  • The Hindu

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3 Career Tips for Millennial Women

millenial woman
Photo courtesy of Pixabay by Janeb13

It’s official: millennials have already surpassed the number of Gen Xers in the workplace. By 2025, millennials (those born during or after the 1980s) will account for roughly 75% of the workforce. More than half of that number will be millennial women.

Are you one of the millions of millennial women who will be starting your career this year? If so, here’s some advice for young women entering the workforce for the first time:

Tip #1 – How to ensure your career advancement

What are your long-term career goals? Whether you plan to climb the corporate ladder or run your own business, it can be helpful to find a mentor. Think of a mentor as a loyal, wise advisor who will offer advice, answer your questions, cheer you on, and steer you towards a path of long-term success. If you live in the United States, your local small business association can help recommend mentors for starting a business. If you work for someone else, you can probably find a trusted colleague or coworker who is willing to mentor you.

Remember to take advantage of available resources. If you can’t afford an opportunity, get creative. The Silver Spoon Foundation, for instance, is a nonprofit providing peer-funded scholarships to “young and driven” millennials looking to attend career advancement conferences and networking events throughout the United States. Some conferences, like Emerging Women, offer free attendance in exchange for volunteering your time to help with the annual event.

Tip #2 – How to navigate sexism in the workplace
If, at some point, you encounter the almost inevitable sexism in your career, there are ways to handle it like a (lady) boss. Remember that sexism is usually subtle. Even the most family-friendly and forward-thinking organizations might occasionally hire people who engage in sexist behaviors. And sometimes, even the most progressive and well-meaning co-workers might accidentally make an unintentionally insensitive statement.

Fighting sexist comments doesn’t always mean you have to boldly call someone out or report them to human resources. Sometimes, it can mean calmly educating them with the facts. According to Huffington Post writer, Emma Gray, “Statistics can be your verbal karate. Anytime somebody tries to argue against this stuff, I just try to hit them with data.”

If it would be helpful to have some support during this process, find a Feminist Fight Club or a group of trusted business women you can turn to in your local area. (Pro tip: if there isn’t a group like this in your area? Start one! If you can’t get people to meet in person, Facebook groups can work wonders!)

Tip #3 – How to crack the ever-present glass ceiling
There is a definite pay gap between men versus women working the same job. Luckily, millennial women face less of a wage gap than women of any previous generation. You can continue this positive trend by asking for more money, practicing assertiveness, and being open to negotiating pay. You can further work to crack the ever-present glass ceiling by climbing the corporate ladder to earn a leadership position in your company. Or better yet – you can branch out as an entrepreneur and start your own company.

It’s an exciting time to be a millennial woman. As you enter the workforce, you are starting your career during a time when your generation is redefining what it means to “have it all.” You can choose whether you want to work for the institution or work for yourself. You can choose what your work-life balance looks like. You can even redefine gender roles in the workplace and show the world what it really means to be a “lady boss” in 2017. What groundbreaking things will you accomplish in your career this year? Only time will tell, but if you’re reading this article, then you’re clearly motivated and are probably off to a good start.

  • Dean Burgess (Guest Post Contributor)

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Why Is Hong Kong One Of The Best Destinations To Visit?

Hong Kong is one of the most exotic tourist destinations in the planet: it is amassed with all sorts of beautiful sceneries, one of a kind monuments, fun-filled activities found nowhere else in the world. In a bid to showcase its magic, today we shall be taking a look at what the city dubbed the “Pearl of the Orient” has to offer:

Hong Kong is a shopper’s paradise
If you have a penchant for shopping, then Hong Kong is your equivalent of heaven on earth. The city has an abundance of major supermarkets with countless street markets and bazaars at the heart of all the buying and selling. Clothes, electronics, souvenirs, home furnishing, cosmetics you name it, anything you need you are sure to find it. Most popular shopping locations include the Temple Street and the kilometer-long market on Tung Choi Street.

Hong Kong SkylineUnrivalled sceneries
You’ll be spoilt for choice in terms of beautiful sceneries as the city has no shortage of them. First up is the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade that offers a breathtaking view of nature’s work at its finest. From there, the mesmerizing skyline of the Hong Kong Island is visible alongside many of the city’s glamorous architectural prowess.

Another that offers quite the vantage point of the city’s skyline in all its glory is The Peak in Mid-Levels. The anvil-shaped structure provides one of the best viewing platforms in the city from which to take in the amazing show put on by Hong Kong’s army of unbridled skyscrapers. The city truly comes into its own at night time with an array of all sorts of mesmerizing lights bringing it into life. It makes for a scene right out of the Cinderella movies.

Rich blend of culture
Hong Kong is a concussion of many cultures and as such the city is amassed with numerous fairs and festivals all year round; there’s never a dull moment. These include the Chinese New Year, sports, Halloween and general art celebrations which feature a display of ancient culture and tradition, eye-watering fireworks and the dance and routines to match. What’s more, these events feature a variety of delicious cuisines to keep your taste buds occupied.

hongkong buildingsHong Kong is the city of Stars 
Hong Kong’s is renowned for producing a great deal of talented martial art superstars who went on to cement their name not only in the sands of time but also in stone in the famous “Avenue of Stars.” Located in Tsim Sha Tsui, the avenue contains an assembly of legendary figures (Bruce Lee, McDull, Anita Mui among many others) of the country’s movies industry immortalized in artistic statues. The “Garden of Stars” also encompasses handprint plaques of the industry’s greats and classic movie scenes brought to life in a mural; all of which can be experienced from regular exhibition displays.

Unforgettable Disney Land
A marvel inspired ride, Star Wars theme experience and the ultimate Iron Man display all ensure that your night is as magical as it gets. The Hong Kong Disney Land is a captivating destination for children and adults alike puts on a light show second to none thanks to state of the art technology.

hongkong harbour

Timeless Monuments
The Clock Tower standing elegantly at a junction where the center of the former Canton Terminus used to be puts on dazzling display with the granite tower complimented beautifully by shades of red brick. The tower not only serves as eye candy but also harbours within its walls tales of a century-old past of the steam age.

Soothing massages
Well, if you’re wondering why you’d travel across borders just to get a massage, then you most certainly have not been at the receiving end of a naturist massage in Hong Kong. Naturist massages have featured in countless films about the city and that’s because they are simply heavenly. Executed by highly skilled professionals, the art has been honed over time to provide a mind-shattering unforgettable experience that’ll leave you begging for more. Hong Kong is flooded with parlors and spas providing naturist massages and offers a great way to bring the curtains down on a fun-filled day.

Final Verdict
Hong Kong is not called the “Pearl of The Orient” for no reason; it is a buzz of all sorts of marvels and unmatched festivals making it one of the best places to visit. If you haven’t quite put a finger on where to go on your next vacation, then think no further. Hong Kong is the place to be.

  • Alex Dragas (Guest Post Contributor)

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Bruce Berkowitz Liquidates Hedge Fund

Investor Bruce Berkowitz is shutting his hedge fund and distributing its holdings to investors, including a stake in Sears Holdings Corp. Berkowitz’s Fairholme Capital Management reported the fund’s unwinding, without naming it, in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Oct. 13. The fund is Fairholme Partnership, which Berkowitz created roughly five years ago, according to a person familiar with the situation. Berkowitz, a contrarian and the second-largest Sears investor, is known mostly for his mutual funds and has struggled this year as some of his biggest investments have declined. He made the move in his private fund before stepping down from the ailing retailer’s board Monday. When money managers shut down a hedge fund, they often distribute the securities in the fund rather than selling and parceling out the cash to investors to avoid flooding the market with shares. It’s also done for tax purposes.

bruce berkowitz

As part of the shut down, the fund distributed 3.14 million Sears shares and warrants. Berkowitz, a Partnership investor, personally received 727,816 Sears shares and warrants on 810,345 shares, according to the filing. The remaining holdings went to Fairholme clients who were previously investors in the hedge fund. Berkowitz joined the Sears board in February 2016 and has been bullish on the department store chain even as it has bled money. The Fairholme Partnership had $409.3 million of gross assets as of April, according to a regulatory filing. In statement released Monday, Fairholme said Berkowitz joined the Sears board to better communicate his views about the retailer. “Mr. Berkowitz believes that he has achieved that objective,” according to the statement. The investor’s $2.1 billion Fairholme Fund, a registered mutual fund, has lost 6.6 percent year-to-date. It has lagged 99 percent of rivals over five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In his 2017 semi-annual report to investors, Berkowitz reiterated his view that Sears has potential. “Investors may disagree on the exact path forward for Sears, but the company owns many valuable assets and there is huge value in optimizing all of them,” he wrote. Those assets include real estate that the company controls and its competitive position as an appliance seller, he said. The liquidation involves both the domestic and offshore versions of the hedge funds. Berkowitz’s Fairholme Fund holds stakes in mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

  • Bloomberg

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A Thesis on the US Airline Industry

The premise of our investment is simple: The next few quarters are uncertain at best, but I believe that industry demand and earnings will be far higher over the next several years. The question, then, is whether certain individual businesses have the resilience to reap the benefits of that growth, and whether the offered price gives us an attractive return with room to be wrong. In both cases I believe the answer is yes. Most domestic airline equities suffered sharp price declines this summer due to a confluence of factors, and I believe this creates an attractive opportunity over a multi-year horizon. As always, the test remains our willingness to own these securities – partial ownership stakes in businesses – for the next five or 10 years. On that basis, I’m comfortable having a material portion of our capital invested in these companies.

Before going further a brief comment on the industry is required. (There is more background information in the Appendix.) The domestic airline industry has undergone a dramatic restructuring in the past 5-10 years and I think it will support a bright future. I’d had an interest in the sector for years, but a combination of inertia and an ingrained bias against airline investments had kept me from doing any meaningful research. When I finally did, beginning in the summer of 2016, a few features stood out:

us airline industry

Industry structure and financial strength – Competition remains tough in many individual markets, but consolidation has changed the overall pricing dynamic and created a level of profitability and stability that is unprecedented in the industry. Current operating margins are generally in the 10-20% range – a level that generates ample free cash flow – and I estimate that most airlines will generate significant profits even in a downturn. Balance sheets and cost structures are also far healthier and they will be able to withstand future cyclical downturns and exogenous shocks.

Fares and fees – It is far cheaper to fly in the U.S. today than it was a few decades ago but pricing is also far more rational. This is still a high-fixed and low-variable cost business, but consolidation has enabled the airlines to compete without destroying each other in the process. As a partial offset to lower inflation-adjusted fares and the recent capital spending, the airlines now generate material revenues and high-margin profits from non-ticket fees and loyalty/mileage programs tied to credit cards. Cyclicality has not been eliminated but it has been muted to a large degree.

Ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs) – Customers want low prices, and that simple fact dictates the entire business model. An airline taking a passenger from point to point is offering something close to a commodity, and price is by far the most important factor in the purchase decision. There is some customer loyalty for certain companies, and mileage programs can help, but these are not true brands that affect behavior on a large scale. A customer with his own money is likely to pick an airline that will save him $50, and the business with the lowest cost will often win in these circumstances. Low costs that are “reinvested” in lower prices can also create an enormous advantage over time. Airlines like Southwest and Ryanair are good examples of these concepts, and when I pulled my head out of the sand to look at what made them two of the world’s most successful businesses what I saw would be familiar to any analyst looking at Costco, Amazon, Nucor, or IKEA. A cost advantage is hard to establish and easy to lose, but if maintained it makes life miserable for the competition. In the U.S. market the ULCCs have a material and growing cost advantage that will enable years of future growth at attractive margins and returns on capital.

  • Read the rest of the interesting article here

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