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HP workers picket firm's Discover event over job cuts

10 Dec 2013

BARCELONA: HP's annual European Discover event has plonked itself down in Barcelona this year and, like previous Discover events, it is being served with a side order of drama.

While in 2011 the firm was dealing with the aftermath of Leo Apotheker's short-lived reign and in 2012 it had to minimise the fallout from the Autonomy accounting scandal, in 2013 the issue is protesting employees who are angry at job cuts.

Journalists were bussed in around the back of the event, which had the side-effect of hiding the protesters from view, but social media channels showed the Spanish workers camped outside the main entrance to the event venue.

HP insisted that the route in for journalists was about providing quicker access to the event, rather than any attempt to hide the protestors from view. After a 20-minute wander to find the site where the protestors were, these claims appear to have some merit. What was disappointing, though, was the discovery that by 3.30pm (once we had a break in our schedule) all the protesters had gone. Come on hombres, make it 9-5 at least.

A noisy protest outside its annual event in Europe is not what HP would have wanted, but it did issue a statement acknowledging the issues being protested and stressed that many jobs were not being cut, but changed or reallocated.

"HP has a long track record of good social dialogue with its employees and social partners through its European Works Council. HP's workforce management plans in EMEA are part of [the] global multi-year productivity initiative that was announced on 23 May 2012," the firm noted.

"The restructuring plan is designed to deliver a more agile and responsive business model in the region, streamlining processes, advancing innovation and creating efficiencies for the benefit of customers, shareholders and employees. HP has a proud history of investing in Spain and continues to be committed to the success of the business here."

The protests in Spain will no doubt be welcomed in solidarity by UK employees that are being affected by job cuts and changes in several locations, with a total of 1,124 jobs said to be going in the cuts according to trade union Unite, although HP has disputed the accuracy of its reports.

Nevertheless, the protesters will hope that their rally raises the issue of job cuts, which is an especially painful topic in Spain at present and comes after HP posted $1.4bn in profits for the last quarter.

Still, it wouldn't be HP Discover without a bit of drama.

By V3's Dan Worth, who's never crossed a picket line

Twitter needs two-factor authentication

17 Apr 2013

Twitter Logo

Twitter hacking is a serious issue. Take for instance, the recent hack of National Public Radio's (NPR) Twitter account. NPR's account was hacked and erroneous tweets were sent out following the attack.

These types of attacks are now all too common. Last February, Twitter reported that approximately 250,000 accounts were compromised, including high profile incidents at Reuters and Burger King.

The slew of hacks makes it obvious that something needs to be done. Twitter called on its users to create stronger passwords in February, but that isn't enough. The company needs to take action and implement two-factor authentication for those that want to use it.

It's not a ground-breaking idea. Security experts have called on the firm to implement authentication for the last couple of years. Other companies like Microsoft even plan to use multi-factor authentication later this year.

Yet, Twitter has failed to get the memo (tweet?). At a time when more and more businesses begin to use Twitter for PR, something has got to be done. Enterprise can't have hackers getting a hold of their feeds and sullying their names. It's bad for business, both Twitters and the users.

It's becoming clear that something is wrong. Even the words "#IveBeenHacked" have become something of a meme on the micro-blogger site.

Luckily, something may be on the horizon. Earlier this year, a Twitter job posting popped-up calling for a software engineer to build multi-factor authentication.

The job posting looks to be leading to some sort of security update. Hopefully, it comes sooner rather than later.

Steve Jobs threatened Palm with patent suits to prevent poaching

24 Jan 2013

Former Palm chief executive Edward Colligan said in a sworn affidavit that Steve Jobs threatened to sue Palm over the firms poaching of Apple employees.

According to court documents, unearthed by Reuters, Jobs called Colligan to inform him that he would sue Palm for patent infringement if the company continued to actively recruit Apple employees. Colligan says he rejected the threats on the grounds that anti-poaching pacts are unethical and illegal.

"Steve, we don't want to hurt Apple. As I said on the phone, Palm is focused on building the best team in the industry, and we know there is a lot of quality talent outside of Apple," wrote Colligan in a recently unearthed email sent to the Apple chief executive.

"On the other hand, this is a small space and it's inevitable that we will bump into each. Threatening Palm with a patent lawsuit in response to a decision by one employee to leave Apple is just out of line."

Colligan's account comes from a sworn affidavit that came to light during an ongoing civil court case. The case's prosecution alleges that Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar created a pact that prevented the firms from hiring employees away from each other.

According to the court documents, Jobs telephoned Colligan to warn him that Apple would not stand for Palm poaching its employees. Jobs alleged that if Palm continued its hiring practices Apple would sue the firm using its extensive patent portfolio.

In his response email to Jobs, Colligan denied ever purposefully poaching Apple employees and dismissed his threats. He told Jobs that threats of a patent suit meant little as Palm had its own extensive patent portfolio.

"I want to be clear that we are not intimidated by your threat. Palm has a very robust portfolio of patents, having been in the handheld and smartphone business since the early 90s," continued Colligan in the email.

No-poaching pacts are something of an open secret in Silicon Valley. Many firms work together to keep good talent in-house and employee wages consistent. However, documents also underscore the willingness of some firms to use their patent portfolio as a weapon in all manner of disputes.

Foxconn rumoured to be bringing manufacturing plants to US

08 Nov 2012

Digitimes is reporting that tech manufacturer Foxconn is planning to bring factories stateside.

According to the report, Foxconn is looking into bringing manufacturing plants to either Detroit or Los Angeles. The predominantly China-based manufacturer would reportedly be building LCD displays in those US locations.

If rumours are true, the news would be a shocker. Manufacturing is mostly done in places like China because labour is so much cheaper there. Lax labour laws around the world mean Foxconn can pay workers in foreign territories pennies on the dollar.

Not to mention, US workers can only work a set amount of hours a day. Which may not necessarily jibe with Foxconn's current worker work load.

While it remains to be seen how a shift to US labour would help Foxconn, it would certainly help American workers. The US has been decimated by a lack of manufacturing jobs stateside.

Detroit specifically has struggled to regain some semblance of prosperity following the movement of automobile manufacturing oversees. However, a push towards tech manufacturing in the US could change all that.

The big question now is if there is any validity to the rumours. Digitimes points to a particularly curious anecdote which could give its allegations some weight.

The Digitimes article points out that Foxconn chairman Terry Gou recently told reporters that Foxconn plans to start a training programme for US engineers. According to the report, Foxconn will be sending American engineers to its plants in China in an effort to educate them about the companies manufacturing process.

Pixar honours Steve Jobs

07 Nov 2012

Pixar has named its headquarters' main building after technology luminary Steve Jobs.

Many know Jobs as the man behind the technology juggernaut Apple. However, Jobs also played a major role in building up the studio responsible for the Toy Story trilogy.

Pixar got started as its own company when Jobs invested in the studio in 1986. Before then the studio was just a division of LucasArts where it worked on special effect for such films as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Jobs' personal interest in the company was said to be a driving force in getting the company to make such films as Bug's Life. His work with Pixar employee John Lasseter was considered a major factor in turning the company into a successful movie studio.

Now in honour of his work, Jobs is getting a Pixar building named after him. According to the Pixar Times, Pixar headquarters' main building is now called "The Steve Jobs Building".

The new building name is a reminder of just how much of a business mastermind Jobs really was. No matter what you think of the man personally, its hard to argue that he wasn't a clever businessman.

Whether it was iPhones or Toy Story, Jobs was a genius when it came to finding products which were on the trail to success. The only question now is: Are Apple's current crop of executives able to guide Apple now that Jobs has passed?

Microsoft hints at Windows Phone project with tantalising job ad

19 Jul 2011

The mobile phone market is certainly not for the faint-hearted. There's a slew of legal tussles going on, firms battling it out for market share, and innovation and creativity leading the charge in the brave new world of mobile computing.

Microsoft is in the thick of it, the company's Windows Phone 7 platform still trying to gain traction as it touts new features in the Mango update and teams up with Nokia to boost market share.

However, there's clearly more to come from Microsoft, as a mysterious and tantalising job advert on the firm's site reveals.

"We are a team working on a top secret project inside the Windows Phone division. Our mission ... GO BIG! DISRUPT THE MARKET!" it reads.

Wow, capatilisation. It must be important. Perhaps it's for a tablet? Does 'GO BIG!' mean an increase in size, or an increased market share? What could disrupt the market, aside from another legal case? So many questions.

Details remain vague thereafter, but there's some wishy-washy stuff about what the role might entail, and then more outlandish claims on a scale that would make Microsoft's ebullient chief executive proud.

"In this role you would be on point to work with product planning, design, UX research and the feature team to glue pieces of feature together and build delighting user experiences," it adds.

"Come make our product sing to customers! It's a chance to see your work showcased by millions of customers for years to come!"

Those interested should get their applications in quick. A job ad this full of hyperbole is bound to be popular.

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