Vodacom slashes out-of-bundle data costs

Network provider Vodacom has announced that it will “significantly reduce” out-of-bundle prices for all customers from mid-October.

“For pre-paid and customers on top-up packages, the out-of-bundle rate will drop by as much as 50% once the new 99c per megabyte tariff comes into effect on October 15.”The out-of-bundle rate for post-paid customers was reduced from R1 per megabyte to 89c on October 1,”  the company said in a statement.

Group CEO of Vodacom Shameel Joosub said the company needs to expand 4G coverage and keep pace with an increase of more than 45% in sustained data traffic demand.

“Both of these come at a cost, and we have invested some R32.7bn over the last four years. However, lack of access to spectrum is hampering our ability to drive down infrastructure costs and in turn, enable us to pass savings to the consumer,” said Joosub.

Vodacom previously told Fin24 that it is committed to the process of drafting new regulations, after regulator Icasa said it would hold an inquiry in an attempt to reduce the country’s high data costs.
Vodacom joins Cell C, which recently responded to Icasa’s regulation of data by dropping out-of-bundle rates and extending bundle expiry.

In August it was announced that Icasa wanted to amend the End-user and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations by introducing “out-of-bundle billing practices” and other “expiry of data practices”.

Previously, the regulator announced it would hold an inquiry in an attempt to reduce high data costs.The probe will be conducted over four phases and will be completed in March 2018.

Kyle Venktess for Fin24

New app makes insurance easy

StockBox is a new mobile app that allows a user to digitally store all the important information and documents related to their assets. It’s a quick and efficient way of itemising possessions and storing important information like receipts of purchase, guarantees, warranties and item images so they are easily accessible when they are actually needed.

App owner Gary Bannatyne says: “The app was created to solve a basic problem I had when we had a break in. Not only did I not know about everything that was stolen. but I also had to go through a painful process with my insurance company to prove that I owned these items – which, of course, I didn’t have on hand.”

Convenience at your fingertips
The app has a number of unique and useful features. With StockBox users can quickly capture the important details of anything they own, whether new or old. They can categorise their items and information to make it useful for record-keeping and insurance purposes. In the event of a break-in or theft, StockBox will be able to create a detailed report that the user can share with their insurance providers at the click of a button.
If the item has just been purchased, StockBox can create a report for the user to obtain quotes with insurers of their choice.

Another useful feature of the app is the groups. Two or more people can create a group with all co-owned items, which is ideal for families, newlyweds or small businesses to record all their assets.
“We all know what a mission that is when your business has more than just a few little things,” says Bannatyne. “This makes keeping track of assets simple and convenient.”

A host of benefits
Life happens. Possessions are lost, stolen or broken. With StockBox, users can capture valuable information about personal items for future use. They no longer need to file slips and warranties. They won’t need to turn the house upside down or dig through the File 13 drawer when the vacuum cleaner breaks or an item of jewellery is stolen.
All the information is digitally stored in the cloud and easily accessible from any device supporting the app.
“We see StockBox creating a substantial influence in the insurance space by supporting users with the ability to store all their assets without the pressures of insurance products. We aim to develop relationships with users to provide options for them to access a digital world of insurance, where they are able to have control of their choices in an easy and transparent manner,” says Bannatyne.
“We just want to give a user a product that works and a product that adds value to their lives. If we can create that experience for the user, the economic opportunities will definitely follow.”

Here’s a new mini-crisis for Uber’s new CEO: Transport for London, the taxi regulating service in London, has announced that it would not be renewing Uber’s license to operate because of concerns over the company’s “lack of corporate responsibility” in relation to public safety issues.

The ride-hail company, which launched in London in 2012, is appealing the TfL’s decision and will be allowed to continue to operate until a court makes a decision on that appeal. That process could take months.

London
London is a significant market for Uber: The company says there are 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million riders on its platform in London. And like New York City, it is one of the most regulated markets where Uber operates. Unlike most markets across the U.S., Uber drivers in London and New York City are required to participate in government-administered background checks.

In the meantime, the company has begun to employ an old trick of the trade and is circulating a petition to London Mayor Sadiq Khan asking him to reconsider the ban. It’s a tried-and-true method the ride-hail company has used when facing regulatory issues in the past. The company has often touted mobilizing its customer base to fight for its service as one of the key enablers of its legal status across the U.S.

Already, the petition has garnered more than 500 000 signatures.

In announcing its decision, the TfL cited its concerns over how Uber’s London arm handled reporting criminal offenses that occur during its rides as well as its use of its so-called “greyball” software tool designed to evade local authorities. But Uber London general manager Tom Elvidge said greyball was never used in London “for the purposes cited by the TfL”. (We’ve asked Uber if greyball was used in London in any capacity.)

“Drivers who use Uber are licensed by Transport for London and have been through the same enhanced DBS background checks as black cab drivers,” Elvidge said in a statement. “Our pioneering technology has gone further to enhance safety with every trip tracked and recorded by GPS. We have always followed TfL rules on reporting serious incidents and have a dedicated team who work closely with the Metropolitan Police. As we have already told TfL, an independent review has found that ‘greyball’ has never been used or considered in the U.K. for the purposes cited by TfL.”

While Uber has seen surprising growth in places like Mexico, which is now one of its biggest markets, the company has come up against regulatory issues and strong local competitors in places like Europe and Asia.

Most recently, the company merged its Russia business with local competitor Yandex Taxi in an effort to end the uphill battle for market share. Uber also pulled out of Denmark in March as a result of new taxi laws that required its drivers to put taxi meters in their cars.

“By wanting to ban our app from the capital, Transport for London and the Mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice,” Elvidge said. “If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport.”

Quebec, Canada
Uber has said it will cease operations in Quebec next month after the Canadian province passed new regulations that the company opposed. The decision to pull out of Canada’s second most populous province comes as Uber is battling a decision by London officials to revoke its license, dealing a blow to new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s effort to rebuild the company’s image.

South Africa
Uber has also experienced a fair number of troubles in South Africa – particularly Johannesburg, where cars have been set alight and drivers attacked.

Regards, Uber has shown growth in the region. Data released this week indicates that:

  • Johannesburg – Uber had 174,000 active riders from 57 nationalities. Of the trips undertaken, 87% had a wait time of under 10 minutes.
  • Cape Town – Uber had 112,000 active riders from 60 nationalities. Around 90% of trips had a wait time of under 10 minutes.
  • Durban – Uber had 31,000 active riders from 47 nationalities, and 88% of riders experienced wait times of under 10 minutes.
  • Port Elizabeth – There were riders from 21 nationalities, and 67% of trips had a wait time of under 10 minutes.

By Johana Bhuiyan for Recode; Jan Vermeulen for MyBroadband

Still don’t get Bitcoin? This will help

If you still can’t figure out what the heck a bitcoin is, this simple explanation may help you.

We’re sitting on a park bench. It’s a great day. I have one apple with me, I give it to you.

You now have one apple and I have zero. That was simple, right?

Let’s look closely at what happened:

My apple was physically put into your hand. You know it happened. I was there, you were there – you touched it.

We didn’t need a third person there to help us make the transfer. We didn’t need to pull in Uncle Tommy (who’s a famous judge) to sit with us on the bench and confirm that the apple went from me to you.

The apple’s yours! I can’t give you another apple because I don’t have any left. I can’t control it anymore. The apple left my possession completely. You have full control over that apple now. You can give it to your friend if you want, and then that friend can give it to his friend, and so on.

So that’s what an in-person exchange looks like. I guess it’s really the same, whether I’m giving you a banana, a book, a quarter, or a dollar bill …

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to apples

Now, let’s say I have one digital apple. Here, I’ll give you my digital apple. Ah! Now it gets interesting.

How do you know that digital apple which used to be mine, is now yours, and only yours? Think about it for a second. It’s more complicated, right? How do you know that I didn’t send that apple to Uncle Tommy as an email attachment first? Or your friend Joe? Or my friend Lisa too?

Maybe I made a couple of copies of that digital apple on my computer. Maybe I put it up on the internet and one million people downloaded it.

As you see, this digital exchange is a bit of a problem. Sending digital apples doesn’t look like sending physical apples.

Some brainy computer scientists actually have a name for this problem: it’s called the double-spending problem. But don’t worry about it. All you need to know is that it’s confused them for quite some time and they’ve never solved it. Until now.

But let’s try to think of a solution on our own.

Ledgers

Maybe these digital apples need to be tracked in a ledger. It’s basically a book where you track all transactions  –  an accounting book.

This ledger, since it’s digital, needs to live in its own world and have someone in charge of it.

Just like World of Warcraft, say. Blizzard, the guys who created the online game, have a “digital ledger” of all the rare flaming fire swords that exist in their system. So, cool, someone like them could keep track of our digital apples. Awesome  –  we solved it!

Problems

There’s a bit of a problem though:

1) What if some guy over at Blizzard created more? He could just add a couple of digital apples to his balance whenever he wants!

2) It’s not the same as when we were on the bench that day. It was just you and me then. Going through Blizzard is like pulling in Uncle Tommy (a third-party) out of court (did I mention he’s a famous judge?) for all our park bench transactions. How can I just hand over my digital apple to you in the usual way?

Is there any way to closely replicate our park bench transaction digitally? Seems kinda tough …

The solution

What if we gave this ledger  to everybody? Instead of the ledger living on a Blizzard computer, it’ll live in everybody’s computers. All the transactions that have ever happened, from all time, in digital apples, will be recorded in it.

You can’t cheat it. I can’t send you digital apples I don’t have, because then it wouldn’t sync up with everybody else in the system. It’d be a tough system to beat. Especially if it got really big.

Plus, it’s not controlled by one person, so I know there’s no one that can just decide to give himself more digital apples. The rules of the system were already defined at the beginning.

And the code and rules are open source – kinda like the software used in your mom’s Android phone. Or kinda like Wikipedia. It’s there for smart people to maintain, secure, improve, and check.

You could participate in this network too – updating the ledger and making sure it all checks out. For the trouble, you could get like 25 digital apples as a reward. In fact, that’s the only way to create more digital apples in the system.

This system exists. It’s called the Bitcoin protocol. And those digital apples are the bitcoins within the system. Fancy! So, did you see what happened?

What does the public ledger enable?

1) It’s open source, remember? The total number of apples was defined in the public ledger at the beginning. I know the exact amount that exists. Within the system, I know they are limited (scarce).

2) When I make an exchange I now know that digital apple certifiably left my possession and is now completely yours. I used to not be able to say that about digital things. It will be updated and verified by the public ledger.

3) Because it’s a public ledger, I didn’t need Uncle Tommy (third-party) to make sure I didn’t cheat, or make extra copies for myself, or send apples twice, or thrice…

Within the system, the exchange of a digital apple is now just like the exchange of a physical one. It’s now as good as seeing a physical apple leave my hand and drop into your pocket. Just like on the park bench, the exchange involved two people only. You and me , we didn’t need Uncle Tommy there to make it valid.

In other words, it behaves like a physical object.

But you know what’s cool? It’s still digital.

We can now deal with 1 000 apples, or 1 million apples, or even .0000001 apples. I can send it with a click of a button, and I can still drop it in your digital pocket if I was in Nicaragua and you were all the way in New York.

I can even make other digital things ride on top of these digital apples! It’s digital after all. Maybe I can attach some text on it – a digital note. Or maybe I can attach more important things; like say a contract, or a stock certificate, or an ID card.

So this is great! How should we treat or value these “digital apples”? They’re quite useful aren’t they?

Well, a lot of people are arguing over it now. There’s debate between this and that economic school, between politicians, between programmers. Don’t listen to all of them though.

Some people are smart; some are misinformed. Some say the system is worth a lot; some say it’s actually worth zero. Some guy actually put a hard number on it: $1,300 per apple. Some say it’s digital gold; some say it’s a currency. Others say they’re just like tulips. Some people say it’ll change the world; some say it’s just a fad.

Now you know more about Bitcoin than most!

By Nik Custodio for Coin Desk 

Microsoft Office 2019 will arrive next year

Over at Ignite, Microsoft has announced that Office 2019 will be released next year, the standalone non-subscription version of the productivity suite for those who don’t yet want to commit to the cloud (i.e. Office 365).

Office 2019 will include new (what Microsoft describes as ‘perpetual’) versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, along with Outlook, plus server versions of Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype for Business (although the latter is soon to be rolled into Microsoft Teams).

There’s not much detail on the new 2019 spins of these apps just yet, but Microsoft did say to expect better inking features – such as tilt effects and pressure sensitivity – along with new formulae and charts for Excel. PowerPoint will get nifty animation features such as Morph and Zoom.

You can also expect a raft of new features on the IT management front, as well as improvements in overall usability and security, and voice features.

Preview versions of these new Office apps are expected to become available in the middle of next year, with the full release of Office 2019 slated for the second half of 2018.

Outside the cloud

This is something of a surprise given Microsoft’s focus on the cloud (with the famous cloud-first mantra) and the fact that it’s pushing hard with Office 365, but it seems the company is still willing to take into account the needs of traditional Office customers who don’t want to move online.

In a blog post, Microsoft stated: “Office 2019 will be a valuable upgrade for customers who feel that they need to keep some or all of their apps and servers on-premises, and we look forward to sharing more details about the release in the coming months.”

By Darren Allan for Tech Radar 

Twitter testing 280-character limit

Twitter is testing doubling its message character limit – from 140 characters to 280 characters.

The company is rolling out the feature to certain users, and aims to combat the “cramming” of messages to fit the character limit.

Twitter said most languages are impacted by cramming, except Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.

In Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, you can convey around double the amount of information in one character as you can in other languages.

Twitter shared the following information about Tweet behaviour on its platform:

  • 0.4% of Tweets sent in Japanese have 140 characters
  • In English, 9% of Tweets have 140 characters
  • Most Japanese Tweets are 15 characters, while most English Tweets are 34

“Our research shows that the character limit is a major cause of frustration for people Tweeting in English,” said Twitter.

“Also, in all markets, when people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people Tweeting.”

Source: MyBroadband 

Dyson, best-known as a manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, hand driers and air filters, will build an electric car by 2020, founder James Dyson said Tuesday.

The company is investing one billion pounds ($1.34 billion) to develop the car, plus the same sum to create solid-state batteries to power it, Dyson said. These investments will dwarf money the company is spending on research and development for its vacuums and air filters.

Dyson is joining a crowded field, with manufacturers from Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG to Toyota Motor Corp. and Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. all competing to popularize electric vehicles. While most of these companies are using lithium-ion batteries in their current models, Dyson said its car would use solid-state batteries that are smaller, more efficient, easier to charge and potentially easier to recycle. Toyota is also working on solid-state batteries and said earlier this year it hopes to have them in electric vehicles by the early 2020s.

Dyson said his electric car would be “radically different” than those being designed by other car makers, including Tesla. “There’s no point doing something that looks like everyone else’s,” he said. “It is not a sports car and not a very cheap car.”

He said he hopes the vehicle will be just the first of a line of electric vehicles from Dyson and predicted that within a few years electric cars would be the largest source of revenue for the company, eclipsing its existing products.

Dyson has been investing in battery technology for several years. In October 2015, it bought a startup called Sakti3 for $90 million. The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based firm had claimed major breakthroughs in the design of solid-state batteries. But these were disputed by other battery researchers, and in April Dyson said it was abandoning its agreement to license Sakti3’s patented battery technology from the University of Michigan, which had spun out the company.

Dyson said Tuesday that his company now has two competing solid-state battery development groups: Sakti3 and a separate team working on a different approach. The U.K. government has given Dyson a 16 million-pound grant to help it do battery research.

Dyson said the company already has 400 engineers dedicated to its car project, which has been working in secret for the past two-and-a-half years. In the past year, the company has made a number of prominent hires from Aston Martin and Tesla. Dyson employs about 4,000 in the U.K.

The founder said Dyson was going public with its project now — even though it does not expect to be able to deliver a car to its first customers until 2020 or early 2021 — because secrecy around the project was constraining its ability to do deals with auto parts suppliers for the new car and also hampering recruiting.

One of the biggest impediments to electric car adoption has been the lack of charging infrastructure, and some manufacturers including Tesla are building station networks. But Dyson said his company did not have enough money to build its own charging network as well as the cars and the batteries.

“Tesla has $5 billion, I don’t have that kind of money,” he said. He said he hoped the U.K. government would provide money to help subsidize the installation of 21 kilowatt plug points in people’s homes, allowing them to rapidly charge an electric vehicle in their own garage. Today, only a handful of homes have these hook-ups.

While design work for Dyson’s car will be at Hullavington Airfield, a former training site for Britain’s Royal Air Force in Wiltshire, England, battery and car manufacturing facilities will likely be in Asia, the company said. Dyson currently makes products in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

“We will make it wherever it is best to make it,” Dyson said of the car. The largest market for the new electric cars will be in “the Far East” and this argues for putting the manufacturing facilities there too, he added.

Source: Bloomberg

FedEx cut its annual profit forecast, citing the $300m cost of a June cyberattack on its TNT Express unit.

The courier now expects to earn no more than $12.80 a share in the fiscal year ending in May after excluding certain items, FedEx said in a statement on Tuesday. That’s down from an original projection of as much as $14 and less than the $13.10 average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The global cyberattack in late June struck as the company was stepping up spending to handle more packages from the expansion of online shopping. FedEx also said results at its ground-shipment unit weighed on results, as did Hurricane Harvey, which caused flooding along the US Gulf Coast.

“The first quarter posed significant operational challenges due to the TNT Express cyberattack and Hurricane Harvey,” CEO Fred Smith said in the statement.

FedEx had no insurance to cover the attack, which forced TNT to manually process some transactions.

Shares drop

FedEx fell 2% to $211.61 after the close of regular trading in New York.

Global operations outside the TNT unit weren’t affected by the virus, which entered the unit’s systems through tax software used in the Ukraine. FedEx said it found no evidence of a data breach or information lost to third parties.

The shipper also was among companies hit by the WannaCry ransomware in May, although it said that attack didn’t cause a material disruption to its systems or raise operating costs. Companies around the world struggled to retake control of their networks after the intrusions, which cost them hundreds of millions in potential revenue.

FedEx acquired Dutch shipping company TNT Express for $4.8bn last year to gain an extensive parcel delivery system in Europe to compete with United Parcel Service and Deutsche Post’s DHL. The just-completed quarter was the first in which FedEx reported TNT results as part of its Express division. TNT primarily serves industrial, automotive, high-tech and health-care industries.

FedEx already had planned a 16% expansion in capital spending this year to $5.9bn, after delaying some projects at FedEx Ground to help it process more of the growing number of e-commerce shipments and to boost margins. Deliveries to homes generally have lower yields than to businesses because fewer items are delivered at each stop.

The shipper also said its first quarter profit fell to $2.51 a share, compared with analysts’ average expectation of $3. Sales in the period ended August 31 rose 4% to $15.3bn, compared with the average estimate of $15.35bn.

By Mary Schlangenstein for Fin24

Social media tightens its grip on SA

As data costs drop, social media use has intensified among South Africans in the past year, with Facebook now being used by 29% of the population.

This is a key finding of the SA Social Media Landscape 2018 study, conducted by brand intelligence organisation Ornico and high-tech market research consultancy World Wide Worx.

The study found that the number of South Africans using Facebook has increased by 14% since 2016, from 14 million to 16 million.

Of these, 14 million accessed the social network on mobile devices.

A big contributor to the increase was the growth in downloads of Facebook Lite, a low-intensity version of the Facebook app some mobile operators allow to be used without data charges on their networks.

The study showed that it was the fifth most downloaded app from the Google Play Store for Android phones in South Africa, with instant messaging apps WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger at numbers one and four respectively.

The Capitec app was a surprise entry into the list at number nine, making it the most downloaded banking app for Android.

“These are great examples of how tools geared towards the dynamics of a market can make a difference in uptake and penetration,” says Ornico CEO Oresti Patricios.

Mobile soon the default home of social media

“The staggering proportion of people accessing Facebook via mobile devices – no less than 87.5% – tells us that we can expect mobile to become the default home of social media.”

Twitter continues to grow at a slow rate in South Africa, in line with international trends, which have seen a small decline in the US balanced by a small increase in users outside the network’s home market.

It is now used by 8 million South Africans, up marginally from 7.7 million in 2016.

“Twitter remains the social platform of choice for engaging in public discourse,” said Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx.

“It is exactly half the size of Facebook, but its users get access to vastly more personalities, news sources, and opinions – and can become opinion-makers themselves.”

There were two surprise trends in the survey: the previously fastest growing app in South Africa, photo-sharing network Instagram, has seen its growth slow down dramatically, while professional network LinkedIn has maintained steady growth.

The former is now used by 3.8 million South Africans, up from 3.5 million, while LinkedIn usage has increased from 5.5 million to 6.1 million.

The study included a survey of social media use by South Africa’s biggest brands, with 118 participants providing insights into their social media practices, strategies and results.

The survey found significant shifts in each of the platforms used by brands, mostly upward. Facebook is now almost pervasive, in use by 97% of brands, from 91% the year before.

Twitter has increased marginally, from 88% to 90%, while LinkedIn and Instagram continued their relentless rises, now both standing at 72%.

YouTube has fallen slightly behind them, despite a marginal rise to 68%.

Declines were reported for Pinterest, Google+, WeChat, WhatsApp and SnapChat.

“The findings underline the lesson that widespread consumer takeup of a platform, as we have seen with WhatsApp in particular, does not lend itself readily to brands communicating with those consumers,” Patricios said.

A similar picture emerged when brands were asked whether they advertised on social media.

Facebook is by far the most popular for advertising at 86% of brands, with Twitter and Instagram in distant second and third place at 45% and 40%. LinkedIn comes in fourth, at 35%.

“It is noteworthy that most advertisers believe they see a return on investment when they advertise on social media,” Goldstuck said.

“By far the most common benefit they see is brand awareness, followed by customer insights and brands.”

Source: Fin24

The most popular operating systems

The latest figures from NetMarketShare show that Windows 7 is still the most popular desktop operating system globally.

The August 2017 statistics also reveal that iOS and Android 6.0 remain the most widely-used mobile operating systems, although an increasing number of devices are moving to Android 7.0.

Mobile OS numbers show that Android has a strong lead over iOS overall, with Windows Phone coming in third – sporting a total mobile market share of 0.81%.

NetMarketShare does not provide iOS version information, but figures from Apple’s Developer website show that 89% of iOS users were on iOS 10 and 9% were on iOS 9 as of 6 September.

The most popular operating systems on desktop and mobile platforms for August 2017 are detailed below:

Desktop operating systems

Mobile operating systems

Source: MyBroadband

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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