Think of Facebook and in your mind's eye you will see a billion-strong social network full of posts about feelings, relationships, hangovers and lunch.
Unbeknown to many of its users, however, Facebook is evolving beyond its social network roots with a mobile app platform focus.
This became evident when V3 visited Facebook's London headquarters for a debrief about the announcements made at the firm's F8 developer conference.
The expansion of Facebook's Messenger service to enable developers to integrate it with mobile and web apps was a prominent indication of Facebook's intention to become more of a platform provider that a mere social network site.
Building apps on Facebook is nothing new, but the firm's push into the smartphone software market has accelerated its ambitions to become the platform of choice for mobile developers.
Julien Codorniou, director of platform partnerships at Facebook, said the company is looking to position itself as a platform provider that facilitates app development across multiple web and mobile platforms, rather than having to concentrate on one area or choose between Android and iOS.
"We want to fuel the growth of the next generation of apps," he said, explaining how Facebook has already helped many well-known apps, like Farmville and Shazam, to find success on smartphones and the web.
Providing platforms for app developers to tap into Facebook's users, and the 600 million people who uses its Messenger service, is an obvious move for the company.
Users get access to more apps and better targeted content, while Facebook benefits from more advertising revenue being funnelled through a healthy app ecosystem.
But perhaps less expected was Facebook's foray into the Internet of Things (IoT). So far, the IoT is a fragmented mess of startups, specialist software companies and technology giants like Microsoft, ARM and IBM with the resources and experience to pour into IoT development. It is not traditionally a field for social network firms.
Yet Facebook is making a play for a slice of the IoT market with its Parse developer, web and mobile platform.
By adding new software development kits to Parse, Facebook has tweaked the platform to be used for developing mobile apps that integrate data sucked from networked devices.
This will enable the development of multi-platform apps that can control internet-connected devices. For example, garage doors could be opened via a mobile app based on Parse.
Other technology companies offer such development platforms, but Facebook has targeted Parse as a tool to take care of the fiddly back-end integration of external data with an app's functions. This allows developers to concentrate on crafting an app's user interface and experience instead.
Facebook was keen to highlight that a good user experience is a crucial part of creating a successful app, 400,000 of which have been built with Parse. Facebook clearly learned this through the creation and development of its social network.
Much of Facebook's F8 announcements were logical evolutions of its services, but combined they represent a clear statement of its intention to grow into a major technology company and platform provider.
And if the number of apps and users on Facebook's platforms are to be believed, the company has a clear shot at achieving its ambitions.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to be big. According to Microsoft chief executive, Satya Nadella, IoT will generate 44 zettabytes of data in the future. That's a lot of 1s and 0s.
Nadella made the claim during his keynote speech at Convergence 2015 in Atlanta, as part of Microsoft's push around IoT on its Azure cloud platform. This is a collection of cloud-powered tools designed for companies looking to build software that exploits data collected from a myriad of sources.
It is data that is underpinning Microsoft's approach to IoT, with Nadella stating it will drive the direction of the company. "Devices will come and go," he said. "The most interesting thing is the data that's being collected."
Nadella said Microsoft has a prevailing objective to find ways that seek out the value in data harvested from IoT devices.
The majority of the products announced during Convergence 2015 all had data use at their core. Nadella explained how Microsoft wants to empower people and businesses to use the insightful information that can be gleaned from diverse datasets.
Nadella even went so far as to showcase his own use of data, revealing to thousands of onlookers his fitness and wellness data recorded by the Microsoft Band he wears.
V3 was interested to see that the chief executive of one of the largest companies in the world still manages to find time to exercise and get over seven hours sleep.
Nadella also introduced Seattle Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson on stage to discuss how data can be used to monitor players' performances and vital signs.
Given Microsoft's investment into what it calls a ‘hyper scale' multi-purpose cloud, it likely has the capability to handle 44 zettabytes of IoT data. But the Redmond company will be entering an area that is rapidly filling up with other technology giants, such as Intel, ARM and IBM.
Microsoft founder and general do-gooder Bill Gates has expressed concerns about artificial intelligence (AI), warning that dystopian futures portrayed in series like Battlestar Galactica and Terminator could become a reality.
Gates issued the warning during a Reddit question and answer session, arguing that artificially intelligent systems could become a threat to humanity if left unchecked.
"I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don't understand why some people are not concerned," Gates said in response to a question about the threat posed by AI.
"First, the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that, though, the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern."
Gates is one of many tech moguls to warn of the danger posed by AI. Professor Stephen Hawking expressed concerns about self-learning machines earlier this year, and Tesla founder Elon Musk argued that AI poses the biggest risk to humanity if it is not properly monitored and controlled.
Luckily for the tech-savvy members of society, Gates said that humans are likely to serve some purpose for our robot overlords in the immediate future.
"It is safe for now. It is also a lot of fun and helps shape your thinking on all issues to be more logical. There is a prospect for change in this area for the next generation, but that is true for most fields and understanding how to program will always be useful," he said.
Gates' comments follow the widespread release of Microsoft's Cortana digital voice assistant. Cortana debuted on Windows Phone 8 and allows web searches and the opening of apps using voice commands.
Cortana's answers are based on data stored in the user's Microsoft account and the public internet, and the service will be integrated into Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system.
Gates closed his doomsday report by promising that Cortana will not betray us and is simply a useful service designed to help, not rule over, humans.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
There has been little in the way of direct action from major companies to address the gender imbalance in the technology industry, despite calls from the government throughout 2014 and numerous diversity reports revealing that major firms have a serious workforce imbalance.
More women are entering the industry via corporations or their own digital start-ups, resulting in positive reactions from women already established in the field, but IT and the surrounding sectors remain male dominated and few women fill high-level positions.
However, Intel has now thrown its hat into the ring with a pledge to increase diversity across its entire workforce by 2020 by hiring and retaining more engineers and computer scientists who are women or from under-represented minorities.
Rather than backing a programme or supporting an external organisation, Intel has put its money where its mouth is and will invest $300m to increase the company's diversity, hoping that its example will encourage other tech players to do the same.
Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich revealed the Diversity in Technology initiative at CES 2015 in Las Vegas.
CES is an event known for courting tech enthusiasts with consumer products, and may not seem the likely place to launch a diversity strategy. But with the industry's eyes glued to Las Vegas for several days, it presented a powerful platform for Intel to get its message across.
And the message is that action is needed, not just from Intel but from the technology industry as a whole if diversity is to be achieved and not merely encouraged.
In a surprising move, Krzanich said that the pay of Intel's leaders will be linked to the performance of the initiative in their areas in a bid to galvanise change from within.
Krzanich's CES keynote is a refreshing change from the situation last year, which saw Microsoft's Satya Nadella offering negative advice for women in tech, and appears to present an answer to the gender imbalance as the technology industry enters a new year.
If 2014 was a year in which women and diversity in technology was discussed, Intel may have made 2015 the year in which action is taken.
LOS ANGELES: Tech leaders love to make digs at their rivals over perceived sluggishness, particularly in areas where they consider themselves to be ahead of the curve.
The cloud has been a hotbed of such activity for many years. One of the leading proponents of this unique form of cloud computing trash talk is Aaron Levie, CEO of Box. V3 has heard Levie mock rivals on many occasions for failing to embrace the cloud, something which no doubt helped his own company to grow.
However, as Levie noted at the Cisco Collaboration Summit 2014 attended by V3, most major IT vendors are now fully committed to the cloud. One upshot of this is that the chance to chide rivals in a jovial fashion has diminished.
"I don’t even know who. Maybe IBM. I don’t know who’s not in the cloud now. All the people I make fun of has reduced over time," he said.
Indeed. Even IBM, which Levie unfairly name checks, has been making notable strides to get into the cloud, spending big on its SoftLayer acquisition and moving numerous services onto the platform to meet customer demand for this delivery model.
However, while the move to the cloud being undertaken by most IT giants has deprived Levie of his punchline punch bags, other areas of the industry still give him plenty of material.
When asked what he’s hearing from customers at present, Levie used the question as a chance to trot out one of his standards: "What we hear from customers is, what if Lync and SharePoint just worked?"
Given that Microsoft is rebranding Lync as Skype for Business, Levie might need to rewrite that zinger, or get some new material.
25 Apr 2014
V3 is seeking a reporter to work on its fast-paced, industry leading website. V3 is a UK site covering business technology news, analysis, video and reviews for IT professionals, so a passion for IT and the tech scene are crucial for this role.
The role is full-time and based in our central London office, where you will get plenty of opportunity to gain experience and hone your skills across all areas of digital journalism.
The role will see you writing news, features and blogs, attending events in London, the UK and across the world, and interviewing senior executives at world-leading companies ranging from the likes of Google and Microsoft to hot startups. You’ll also be encouraged to break stories, take unique angles on industry topics and source off-diary stories.
An ability to write clean, accurate, crisp copy under pressure is a must, as well as a can-do attitude, a willingness to adapt and alter working practices at a moment’s notice, and understanding the job may require working, and socialising, after office hours.
There will be the opportunity to film and edit video, so video production skills, while not a pre-requisite for the role, will be a bonus. You will also help manage the V3 brand on numerous social media sites, so we’re looking for someone with an affinity for Twitter, Google+ and the next big thing in social.
This is a great opportunity for someone looking to take on their first full-time role in journalism or making their next step on the career ladder onto an online, well-established tech brand, with plenty of scope for growth, development, training and fun too. Ideally you will already have some practical experience of working as a technology journalist, either through your current role, work experience or freelance.
Deadline: 23 May 2014
To apply, please email a covering letter and CV to news editor Dan Worth.
It’s official: Microsoft’s new CEO is former cloud chief Satya Nadella. The news had been expected since last week and was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon. The appointment marks a new era at Microsoft as it prepares for life under the third CEO in its history.
But who is Nadella? It’s fair to say he’s not the most well-known name in the business, even if he clearly was a high flyer at the company.
But Microsoft has done its best to bring his personality to the fore in their announcement, and included some nice touchy-feely details in the release that could prove useful for sounding like you know who he is in any board meetings or pub chats.
1. He’s a poetry lover, of both American and Indian writers, claiming it’s like code. “You’re trying to take something that can be described in many, many sentences and pages of prose, but you can convert it into a couple lines of poetry and you still get the essence, so it’s that compression,” he said.
2. He loves test cricket, which is almost certainly a first among big US tech CEOs. “[It] is the longest form of any sport in the world,” he said. “I love it. There’s so many subplots in it, it’s like reading a Russian novel.”
3. He was born in Hyderabad, India, is 46 and has three children. He has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Mangalore University and a master's degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin.
4. His first job in the industry was at Sun Microsystems before he joined Microsoft in 1992. While working at Sun he was also studying for a master's degree in business when the role at Microsoft became available. He wanted to continue studying, though, so would fly from Seattle to Chicago for the weekend to complete his studies, underlining his determination.
5. Nadella already knows many of Microsoft's key product areas well, and before taking the CEO role he led the Cloud OS platform team. Cloud OS is used to power all of Microsoft’s internet cloud services such as Office 365, Bing, SkyDrive – now renamed OneDrive – Xbox Live, Skype and Dynamics.
For more from the man himself, Microsoft has put together a little video chat. It's probably not the toughest grilling he'll face as the new CEO but it gives some nice insight into his style – it's fair to say it is very different to Steve Ballmer's.
Can anyone make a decent operating system? That’s the question tech lovers around the world appear to be asking as the biggest vendors appear unable to just make a decent platform that's easy to use and nice to look at.
Microsoft – the daddy of the operating system world – has been flailing for a while now to try and entice people to Windows 8. But so far it is failing. While Windows 8.1 is improving some areas, it is unlikely to prove a panacea for all its ills.
In fact, Microsoft could be said to have peaked as far back as 2001 when its beloved XP platform hit the market. Even now, 12 years later, there are those who see no reason to upgrade, even if support is set to end in six months.
Meanwhile Apple, the darling of the tech world, is facing unprecedented levels of criticism for numerous issues that users of its new iOS 7 operating system have found with the platform.
These range from functionality to design and many V3 readers have implored others not to move to the new platform if they haven't done so already. Such criticism of Apple, especially on a design and functionality level, would have been unthinkable a year or so ago.
So what is going on? In some ways it appears firms are trying to be too clever, to be too innovative. At the end of a day an operating system should be the base layer for everything else. It should be easy to use, simple to understand and allow you to run other applications over the top.
With too much focus now given to all-singing systems that can do everything and out-innovate rivals it almost seems as if the firms are forgetting to do any user feedback to find out if stuff just works.
One good example was raised by a V3 reader who noticed this bizarre iOS 7 issue. The phone automatically dims its display brightness when you open the new control panel menu. This means, though, if you’re trying to adjust screen brightness, you can’t accurately gauge the brightness of the screen. It’s almost comic in its failure to work at the most basic level.
Similarly, while one can understand Microsoft may have thought the bold and radical change of Windows 8 may have made them seem, well, bold and radical, someone really should have stepped in and said it was too much.
People never like change, even when it's good for them, so for Microsoft to develop Windows 8 was always going to prove an incredibly disruptive situation. And while the tech world loves the term disrupt for conjuring up the feeling they're changing the world, for most people disruption is a negative that can be done without.
The firm was probably so blinded by the need to innovate and impress that it overlooked the basic notion of KISS: Keep it simple, stupid. A motto that works well in a surprisingly large number of instances. Let's hope Apple has taken it on board for its Mac OS X Mavericks update, due to be unveiled next week.
By V3's Dan Worth, who loves a good operating system