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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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.

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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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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.

amazon

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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Bitcoin Can Now Buy You Citizenship in Vanuatu

Got some bitcoin burning a hole in your digital wallet? And paradise on the mind? You could use it to buy a second passport. Vanuatu, a South Pacific archipelago of some 80 islands, will now let outsiders use the volatile cryptocurrency to apply for so-called investment citizenship. Fork over the equivalent of about $280,000, and your family of up to four can receive passports from what the New Economics Foundation, a U.K.-based think tank, calls the fourth-happiest country in the world. (It ranked No. 1 when the list was first published in 2006, but like the vagaries of the market, happiness can be a fleeting thing.

With bitcoin reaching a record price of $5,209 on Thursday, more than five times its value at the start of the year, passports for the whole clan cost about 53.8 bitcoin. Vanuatu isn’t the only island that offers citizenship for a price—the list includes Antigua, Grenada, Malta, and St. Kitts and Nevis—but it’s the first to allow payments via bitcoin. The development was announced in a press release on Investment Migration Insider, a website focused on investment citizenry. Tourists watch eruptions in the crater of the active Mt. Yasur on Tanna, an island in Tafea, Vanuatu. The volcano is continually active at a low to moderate level. Visitors may approach the rim to view the crater eruptions when the activity level is not dangerously high.

vanuatu

Vanuatu citizenship offers several advantages. The country has the 34th-most-“powerful” passport in the world, providing visa-free visits to 116 other countries, according to the Passport Index, a list of rankings maintained by Arton Capital, a company that facilitates foreign residence and citizenship applications. Vanuatu falls right below Panama and Paraguay (tied) and above Dominica; the U.K. is in a tie at third place, the U.S. at fourth, and Russia at 40th. The country also has no income, inheritance, or corporate tax. It’s not even customary to tip there, according to the Vanuatu Tourism Office. The archipelago is relatively accessible: about a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Sydney to Port Vila, the capital. And scuba aficionados will appreciate that it’s home to the world’s largest diveable wreck—the SS President Coolidge, a luxury liner-turned-troop ship that sank during World War II.

Should you really want a place to escape, Vanuatu’s abundance of islands and relatively small population (about 290,000) mean that your own private island may be within reach. The least expensive one currently on the market, according to real estate website Private Islands Online, is Lenur, priced at about $645,000. For that you get 84 acres including three sandy beaches, a handful of sleeping bungalows, and an open-plan kitchen. Most of the property is covered in coconut, fruit, and nut trees. Still, like investing in cryptocurrency in the first place, tropical life doesn’t come without risks. Earlier this month, residents had to be evacuated from the northern island of Ambae because its volcano, Manaro Voui, had rumbled to life and was spewing steam and rocks.

– Bloomberg

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All You Need to Know About Bitcoin

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin‘s inventor, Satoshi Nakamoto, described Bitcoin as “A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” in the original 2009 Bitcoin whitepaper – the document which created the roadmap for Bitcoin. To date, this is still the most simple and accurate description. Bitcoin is a consensus network that enables a new payment system and a completely digital money. It is the first decentralized peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users with no central authority or middlemen. From a user perspective, Bitcoin is perhaps best described as ‘cash for the Internet’, but Bitcoin can also be seen as the most prominent triple entry bookkeeping system in existence. It is also known as digital cash, cryptocurrency, an international payment network, the internet of money – but whatever you call it, Bitcoin is a revolution that is changing the way everyone sees and uses money.

The beauty of Bitcoin is that it requires no central servers or third-party clearing houses to settle transactions – all payments are peer-to-peer (P2P) and are settled in about 10 minutes – unlike credit card payments, which can take weeks or months before they’re finally settled. All Bitcoin transactions are recorded permanently on a distributed ledger called the “blockchain” – this ledger is shared between all full Bitcoin “miners” and “nodes” around the world, and is publicly-viewable. These miners and nodes verify transactions and keep the network secure. For the electricity they use to do this, miners are rewarded with new bitcoins with each 10-minute block (the reward is currently 12.5 BTC per block).

bitcoin

The Bitcoin protocol is also hard-limited to 21 million bitcoins, meaning that no more than that can ever be created. This means that no central bank, individual or government can come along and simply ‘print’ more bitcoins when it suits them. In this sense Bitcoin is a deflationary currency, and as such is likely to grow in value based on this property alone. Bitcoin is still a cutting-edge experiment in technology and economics, and like the worldwide web in 1995, its myriad potential, purposes and applications are yet to be decided. Is it just electronic money? A foundation for smart contracts and electronic shares? Is it underground and subversive, challenging the power of governments, or will it integrate into mainstream finance and go unnoticed? If you know the answers to any of these questions, or if you can figure out how to capitalize on them there may be many lucrative opportunities for you in the Bitcoin space.

The Bitcoin universe is changing fast and often – to stay ahead of the game it’s necessary to follow the news almost-hourly and discuss the latest events with other members of the community. Bitcoin.com exists to be a reliable information hub for beginners and industry insiders alike. That being said, ‘staying ahead of the game’ is not a necessity if you simply wish to use Bitcoin as a currency to purchase goods and services, or wish to accept Bitcoin for transactions – something thousands of people around the world do every single day.

No Central Command

Bitcoin isn’t owned by anyone. Think of it like email. Anyone can use it, but there isn’t a single company that is in charge of it. Bitcoin transactions are irreversible. This means that no one, including banks, or governments can block you from sending or receiving bitcoins with anyone else, anywhere in the world. With this freedom comes the great responsibility of not having any central authority to complain to if something goes wrong. Just like physical cash, don’t let strangers hold your bitcoins for you, and don’t send them to untrustworthy people on the internet.

Secure Your Wallet

There are several different types of Bitcoin wallets, but the most important distinction is in relation to who is in control of the private keys required to spend the bitcoins. Some Bitcoin “wallets” actually act more like banks because they are holding the user’s private keys on behalf. If you choose to use one of these services, be aware that you are completely at their mercy regarding the security of your bitcoins. Most wallets, however, allow the user to be in charge of their own private keys. This means that no one in the entire world can access your account without your permission. It also means that no one can help you if you forget your password or otherwise lose access to your private keys. If you decide you want to own a lot of Bitcoin it would be a good idea to divide them among several different wallets. As they saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Bitcoin Price

Like everything, Bitcoin’s price is determined by the laws of supply and demand. Because the supply is limited to 21 million bitcoins, as more people use Bitcoin the increased demand, combined with the fixed supply, will force the price to go up. Because the number of people using Bitcoin in the world is still relatively small, the price of Bitcoin in terms of traditional currency can fluctuate significantly on a daily basis, but will continue to increase as more people start to use it. For example, in early 2011 one Bitcoin was worth less than one USD, but in 2015 one Bitcoin is worth hundreds of USD. In the future, if Bitcoin becomes truly popular, each single Bitcoin will have to be worth at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to accommodate this additional demand.

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Bitcoin Exchanges

There are several ways to buy Bitcoin, but trusted exchanges are a great way to acquire Bitcoin. Because there are inefficiencies in the traditional banking system, exchanges will sometimes have slightly different prices. If the difference is too great, traders will buy low on one an exchange and sell high on another and close the gap. If an exchange constantly has substantially different prices than others, it is a sign of trouble and that exchange should be avoided. As with everything else, do your research and find an exchange you can trust. It’s also a good idea not to use an exchange as a wallet. Move your Bitcoin to your personal wallet so that you have control over your funds at all times. You can view a list of Bitcoin exchanges here.

Bitcoin Isn’t Completely Anonymous

Because all Bitcoin transactions are stored on a public ledger known as the blockchain, people might be able to link your identity to a transaction over time. Some companies offer various tools such as Bitcoin mixers to help achieve greater privacy, but it takes a huge amount of effort to use Bitcoin anonymously. You may want to follow your country’s tax regulations regarding Bitcoin in order to avoid trouble with the law, but you have the power not to should you choose to take that risk. To improve privacy, most newer Bitcoin wallets will use a new Bitcoin address each time someone sends bitcoins to you.

Unconfirmed Transactions

Bitcoin transactions are seen by the entire network within a few seconds and are usually recorded into Bitcoin’s world wide ledger called the blockchain, in the next block. While it’s possible that a transaction won’t be confirmed in the next block, in the vast majority of circumstances it is fine to accept a transaction as soon as it has been seen by the network. Unlike traditional payment systems, Bitcoin transactions are lightning fast and can be sent globally. Bitcoin is still relatively new, but with each passing day the technology becomes more reliable. It is more and more unlikely that a major bug will emerge in the system as time goes by, and people can trust the technology more with the passing of time. Each month people transact hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin.

To know more about Bitcoin, visit this link

  • www.bitcoin.com

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The Coming End of Big Oil

It’s 2025, and 800,000 tons of used high strength steel is coming up for auction.

The steel made up the Keystone XL pipeline, finally completed in 2019, two years after the project launched with great fanfare after approval by the Trump administration. The pipeline was built at a cost of about $7 billion, bringing oil from the Canadian tar sands to the US, with a pit stop in the town of Baker, Montana, to pick up US crude from the Bakken formation. At its peak, it carried over 500,000 barrels a day for processing at refineries in Texas and Louisiana.

big oil

But in 2025, no one wants the oil.

The Keystone XL will go down as the world’s last great fossil fuels infrastructure project. TransCanada, the pipeline’s operator, charged about $10 per barrel for the transportation services, which means the pipeline extension earned about $5 million per day, or $1.8 billion per year. But after shutting down less than four years into its expected 40 year operational life, it never paid back its costs.

The Keystone XL closed thanks to a confluence of technologies that came together faster than anyone in the oil and gas industry had ever seen. It’s hard to blame them — the transformation of the transportation sector over the last several years has been the biggest, fastest change in the history of human civilization, causing the bankruptcy of blue chip companies like Exxon Mobil and General Motors, and directly impacting over $10 trillion in economic output.

And blame for it can be traced to a beguilingly simple, yet fatal problem: the internal combustion engine has too many moving parts.

Let’s bring this back to today: Big Oil is perhaps the most feared and respected industry in history. Oil is warming the planet — cars and trucks contribute about 15% of global fossil fuels emissions — yet this fact barely dents its use. Oil fuels the most politically volatile regions in the world, yet we’ve decided to send military aid to unstable and untrustworthy dictators, because their oil is critical to our own security. For the last century, oil has dominated our economics and our politics. Oil is power.

Yet I argue here that technology is about to undo a century of political and economic dominance by oil. Big Oil will be cut down in the next decade by a combination of smartphone apps, long-life batteries, and simpler gearing. And as is always the case with new technology, the undoing will occur far faster than anyone thought possible.

To understand why Big Oil is in far weaker a position than anyone realizes, let’s take a closer look at the lynchpin of oil’s grip on our lives: the internal combustion engine, and the modern vehicle drivetrain.

Read the full article here

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Nokia Looks to Sell Head Quarters to Raise Cash

What a fall for the once mighty Nokia.  From literally lording over the whole mobile phone market worldwide to now having to sell its HQ in Finland to raise cash, its been a culmination of a series of missteps and huge mistakes on the part of the Helsinki based company.

Unable to compete with competitors like Samsung, Apple, HTC, LG, Sony Ericsson in smartphones, it was already on the death spiral.  The final nail in the coffin was its tying up with the buggy Windows platform for its future smartphones. Lets be fair. Microsoft hasnt been able to master making a bug free desktop Operating System even after being in the industry for more than 3 decades, a mobile Operating System was not up its alley.

And Nokia fell into the Microsoft trap by allying with them on their Windows platforms.  It should have stuck to its Symbian platform for the keypad based phones and diversified itself into using Android for its smartphones and at the same time invested in the Meego platform that it intended for smartphones.  Such diversifying would have kept Nokia afloat.  Now, by tying up with Microsoft, the end of Nokia is here, soon.

Pic source: Wikipedia

Nokia has started a process to sell off its headquarters outside Helsinki as the stricken Finnish mobile phone maker urgently looks for ways to conserve cash. The lossmaking company is looking to sell and lease back the building that employs 1,800 people in a move that could raise €200m-€300m, according to estimates. The move comes amid intense scrutiny of Nokia’s cash position after it burned through liquidity at a very fast pace around the turn of the year. In the second quarter of this year, its net cash position fell 14 per cent to €4.2bn due entirely to a dividend payment to investors.

“We have ample cash resources to do what we need. But to cut costs and conserve cash we are looking at all possible options with no stones being left unturned. One of those is the possibility of selling our headquarters,” Nokia said.

Nokia moved out of central Helsinki in 1996 to a striking glass and steel building on the edge of the sea in the neighbouring town of Espoo that it expanded in 2001 to its current size. It pointed to other Finnish companies that had sold and leased back their headquarters in recent years, including Kone, Stora Enso and UPM-Kymmene.

Nokia has sent documents out to interested parties but a sale is not imminent. It had earlier said, when it announced its second-quarter results, that it was looking to sell its property holdings around the world. “We are not a real estate company and we would rather invest in our core operations,” it said.

But analysts remain concerned about the level of cash burn as the company fights for survival following a series of disappointing product launches in an attempt to compete with Apple’s iPhone and companies using Google’s Android platform. Credit analysts stress that technology companies can go bust with positive cash balances, pointing to Nortel, which had several billions of dollars in cash on its balance sheet when it went bankrupt in 2009. Standard & Poor’s, the credit rating agency, said in August when it downgraded Nokia again that it expected the group to end this year with less than €3bn in net cash.

Nokia in return has touted its ability to squeeze cash out of its business, using advanced royalty payments on some of its patents to avoid a worse cash burn in the second quarter. It also has an undrawn credit line of €1.5bn, which is available until March 2016. Analysts have speculated that Nokia will soon have to cut its dividend to protect its remaining cash. Its first debt repayment is for €1.25bn in early 2014.

News source: FT

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Lotus Notes is 21

Happy 21st birthday Lotus Notes.  The best ever email, collaboration, IM, workflow application (all bundled in one) has completed 2 decades. No matter what Microsoft tries to rubbish the product, the truth is that Lotus Notes rules.

Its the only product that doesnt need a rip and replace every time a new version hits the market and is an application that supports true backward compatibility.

I run a Lotus Domino 8.5 test server on my 5 years old Windows XP PC with 1.5 GB RAM along with the rest of the applications.  And still my system doesn’t complain.  If it was Microsoft Exchange 2010, heck i cant even install it as my hardware / Operating System is not 64 bit.  I rest my case.

Lotus Notes @ 20

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