> GENERAL INTEREST

General

The successful launch of the large screen iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+ devices has propelled Apple into the number one spot in the global smartphone market. According to calculations by analyst Gartner, in the fourth quarter of last year, Apple sold 74.8 million handsets, up from 50 million units in the previous quarter. In contrast, Samsung, which had held the top spot in the analyst’s rankings since 2011, sold 73 million smartphones, down from 83 million in the previous quarter.

A TEKsystems survey of IT leaders suggests that 44% of IT leaders expect hiring for BIG DATA positions to increase, 52% expect it to stay the same and 4% expect it to decrease. 42% of IT leaders cite training/development and realignment of existing staff as their leading approach to address big data skills gaps. This was followed by hiring contingent staff at 35%, hiring full-time staff at 29% and outsourcing at 20%.

The Federal Aviation Administration cleared the way for drones to deliver goods under rules that are a mixed bag. According to the FAA, enterprises can obtain exemptions to speed up airspace restrictions. The FAA also noted that the policies were a stop-gap. Each commercial unmanned aircraft (UAS) operation was previously evaluated individually. The FAA will allow drones to fly if they: Move goods less than 55 pounds; Operate during day time conditions; Have a visual line of sight of pilots; and, avoid airports and heliports. Progress is slow, but at least it is progress.

The economy — Canada

Canadian real GDP rose 0.6% in the fourth quarter following a gain of 0.8% in the third quarter, Statistics Canada reported. Oil and gas extraction and the finance and insurance sector were the main contributors to growth in the fourth quarter. The public sector posted a notable increase, led by educational services. Gains also occurred in utilities, construction, wholesale and retail trade, professional services, accommodation and food services as well as transportation and warehousing services. Expressed at an annualized rate, real GDP expanded 2.4% in the fourth quarter. By comparison, real GDP in the US rose 2.2%.

Employment in Canada was little changed in February from January with the number of jobs decreasing by just under 1,000, according to seasonally adjusted numbers from Statistics Canada. The Canadian unemployment rate rose to 6.8% from January’s reading of 6.6%.

Due to skills mismatch, demand-supply imbalances, an aging workforce and other factors, Canada is headed for a major technology talent shortage in the next five years. Canada needs 182,000 people to fill positions for information systems analysts and consultants, computer and network operators, Web technicians, software engineers and others in by 2019, according to an IT labour market report. There are about 811,200 information communication and technology professionals currently employed in Canada, but provinces across the country will require an additional 182,000 ICT talent by 2019. The study was funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.

The collapse of oil prices in the second half of 2014 will take a bite out of the Canadian oil industry’s finances, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Industrial Outlook: Canada’s Oil Extraction Industry. Revenues are expected to fall by C$43 billion, or 37%, and the industry will post a pre-tax loss of more than C$3 billion and shed close to 8,000 jobs this year.

The Canadian staffing index, a measure of staffing activity in Canada, fell to a reading of 92 in February, a decrease of 6% from the reading of 98 in both last month and in February 2014.

The economy — US

US private sector employment rose by approximately 212,000 jobs in February when compared to January, according to ADP. Small businesses added 94,000 jobs in February, according to the report. Medium-sized businesses added 63,000 jobs, and large businesses added 56,000 jobs. At the current pace of growth, the economy will return to full employment by mid-2016."

The Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing managers’ index for US manufacturing decelerated to a reading of 52.9 in February from January’s reading of 53.5. February’s reading is the lowest in the last 12 months, but any reading above 50 typically indicates growth.

The number of IT jobs in the US rose 0.4% in February from January, according to the TechServe Alliance, the trade association of the IT and engineering staffing and solutions industry in the US. That compares to a 0.2% increase in total nonfarm jobs in the US. Year-over-year, IT jobs rose by 4.5% in February. There were a total almost 4.9 million IT jobs in February. Engineering jobs rose by 0.2% in February from the previous month and were up 1.5% year over year. There were approximately 2.5 million US engineering jobs in February.

The US Conference Board’s employment trends index increased in February to a reading of 127.76, up from January’s downwardly revised reading of 127.62. The February reading is up 6.7% from the same month a year ago.

US real GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.2% in the fourth quarter, according to the third estimate released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Real GDP rose by 5.0% in the third quarter.

The American Staffing Association’s index measuring employment in the US staffing industry rose 2.83% for the week of March 9 to March 15 compared with the same week last year. The index value rose to 96.21, the 10th consecutive week that the ASA Staffing Index has reached a record high.

Optimism among small business owners hit a one-year high in March, according to the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard survey for March, with 81% saying they are optimistic about the small business economy and 89% saying business is the same or better than last year.

The Conference Board’s US leading economic index rose 0.2% in February to a reading of 121.4 (2010 = 100), following a 0.2% increase in January and a 0.4% increase in December. "Widespread gains among the leading indicators continue to point to short-term growth," said The Conference Board.

The US Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rebounded in March to a reading of 101.3 (1985=100) from 98.8 in February. The index in January had been at its highest level since 2007.

The economy — Outside Canada & US

Mexico’s economic expansion faces increasing downside pressure in the coming months, according to The Conference Board. The leading economic index for Mexico fell again in January and December’s decline in the index was revised further downward. Much of the decline has been driven by falling oil prices, but the financial sector has also started to show signs of weakness in the past two months.

The jobs outlook in Australia for information and communications technology professionals is strengthening, month-on-month, as both government and private sector employers express confidence in the year ahead, according to the latest ICT Salary and Employment Index from recruitment firm Peoplebank.


> COMPANY NEWS

SAP is expected to cut 3% of its workforce, approximately 2,250 jobs, due to corporate restructuring. SAP employs over 75,000 members of staff in over 130 countries. The company predicts that while some staff will lose their positions, approximately 2,200 jobs will be created in other areas showing promise and growth

Swedish telecom giant Ericsson is set to cut 2,200 jobs in Sweden. Workers will be laid off at the company’s offices in Stockholm, Katrineholm, Borås, Kumla, Göteborg, Linköping and Karlskrona. Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, will be hit the worst, with 1,125 staff being let go.

Apple released details of its first smartwatch offering, one that is set to compete in the fledgeling wearables market. To be released April 24, the Watch is priced at between $349 for the lowest-end model up to $10,000 for the 18-karat gold edition. It’s set to compete with the likes of the Pebble and Fitbit as well as devices made by Sony, Lenovo and LG, who have all shipped several hundred thousand units apiece worldwide in 2014.  Leading the pack is Samsung, who sold 1.2 million units last year. Meanwhile, trailing in a distant second and third are Pebble and Fitbit, with 700,000 and 600,000 shipments respectively.

Japanese electronics maker Sharp Corp plans to cut around 6,000 jobs in a global restructuring that will cost over 200 billion yen ($1.7 billion), a source said on Thursday. The job cuts will include around 3,000 in Japan through early retirement and 3,000 overseas.


> MERGER & ACQUISITION ACTIVITY

IBM has acquired AlchemyAPI, a provider of natural-language processing and image-analysis services and technologies. AlchemyAPI provides application program interface (API) services that are used by more than 40,000 developers. Based in Denver and founded in 2005, AlchemyAPI says its platform supports smart apps that "deeply understand the world’s conversations, reports, and photos so you can align your business with customer preferences and intent."

HP is buying Aruba Networks for nearly $3 billion. The Wall Street Journal quotes Cantor Fitzgerald analysts as saying that the merger is a good thing for both partners, though the analysts also noted that they thought HP should be spending its money on cloud and big data technologies rather than wireless networking. HP CEO Meg Whitman said "Enterprises are facing a mobile-first world and are looking for solutions that help them transition legacy investments to the new style of IT. By combining Aruba’s world-class wireless mobility solutions with HP’s leading switching portfolio, HP will offer the simplest, most secure networking solutions to help enterprises easily deploy next-generation mobile networks."

Payments technology company Visa is looking to help its merchant customers connect with more consumers and drive greater loyalty with the acquisition of TrialPay. A privately held company based in Mountain View, Calif., TrialPay offers a monetization platform that connects merchants with consumers through targeted promotions. The technology will be integrated into Visa’s own product portfolio and offered to Visa’s merchant customers as a way to reach Visa cardholders with targeted offers in order to acquire customers, drive traffic and increase sales.

Berlin, WI.-based direct market reseller SoftwareOne will acquire the software licensing business of CompuCom. CompuCom is based in Dallas but has Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, Ont. SoftwareOne, a $2 billion licensing solution provider, entered the Canadian market nearly two years ago and is based in Mississauga.

Square Inc. is buying Toronto’s Kili Technologies. Specializing in mobile payment processing solutions, Square first launched its Square Reader five years ago. It plugs into to your smartphone and allows small businesses and entrepreneurs to accept credit card payments. Kili Technology is a Toronto-based developer of silicon, electronics, and software that helps to simplify and optimize payment processing. The Kili team will continue to operate in Toronto as Square’s second office in Canada.

LinkedIn bought Toronto-based Careerify, an online platform that allows firms to manage employee referrals, internal mobility and employer branding in one solution. The Careerify brand will remain and focus on its employee referral software for existing customers. Careerify’s software uses an employee’s social connections — LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook — to figure out who in an individual’s network might be suitable for a job opening in that employee’s place of business.

Google is considering shelling out $1 billion for start-up InMobi in order to boost the firm’s offerings in the mobile advertising industry. InMobi is a startup based in Bangalore, India. Founded in 2007, the company offers mobile customer engagement platforms which leverage mobile advertising to grow customer bases through consumer behavior and analytics. The firm recently launched Appographic Targeting, an app-interest based audience targeting service designed to help marketers promote apps based on user interests. InMobi says the service potentially delivers up to 72% higher app install rates, 26% lower cost-per-install and 30% higher value on the lifetime of app promotion campaigns. Investors include Soft Bank and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The startup has clients including Yamaha, Microsoft, Adidas and Macy.

Twitter has acquired Periscope in a quiet deal worth approximately $100 million. Startup Periscope is currently developing a mobile application for live video streaming. As Twitter is a live, real-time communications platform, exploring the live video industry makes sense. The company has been experimenting with allowing users to upload videos to its platform, launching a consumer-based video feature in January this year. Twitter now allows users to include 30 seconds of video within your tweet, cutting away the requirement of using Vine or YouTube to upload footage separately before linking to it.

Apple has bought a Virginia-based start-up FoundationDB that makes super quick database technology. The company created a way for databases to blast through staggering amounts of data at incredible speeds in a way that’s cost efficient. "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," said a company spokesperson. Earlier this month, CEO Tim Cook said Apple has purchased 23 companies in the last 15 months. The bulk of these acquisitions were of small start-ups.

Internet service provider TeraGo Networks Inc. has announced its purchase of Kelowna, B.C.-based cloud provider RackForce for $33 million. The acquisition will grow TeraGo’s data center and cloud services business by increasing its data centre footprint from 40,000 to 58,000 square feet. Rackforce’s data centre serves primarily the Canadian market, and offers cloud video editing in addition to Infrastructure and Platform-as-a-Service.

Cable television operator Charter Communications has agreed to acquire Bright House Networks in a $10.4 billion deal. Bright House has about 2.5 million cable subscribers, with its biggest market in Florida including a strong presence in Tampa and Orlando. The deal is contingent on Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable being approved by U.S. regulators.

Printer maker Lexmark International said it would buy customer management software maker Kofax for an enterprise value of about $1 billion. Lexmark said the deal will double the size of its enterprise software business.

Snapdeal has taken majority stake in RupeePower, a financial products distribution platform. RupeePower will be integrated into Snapdeal’s newly launched financial services marketplace. As a result, Snapdeal customers will now be able to apply for loans through the ecommerce site. RupeePower will use its credit comparison, matching, and processing tech and its network of banks and financial institutions to find the loans best suited for those customers. Snapdeal’s financial services market will include personal loans, educational loans, credit cards, auto loans, home loans, and extended warranties.

Ecommerce titan Rakuten is doubling down on its struggling Kobo e-readers by acquiring an ebook marketplace called OverDrive for US$410 million. OverDrive has over two million ebooks, audiobooks, and videos on its site. The company started out offline in 1986 selling print books and CD-ROMs, and then in 2000 it moved online to form an ebook and audiobook repository. The company retains substantial offline businesses, including its Digital Library Reserve, which allows people to download digital books at selected public libraries and schools in more than 40 countries. All that content will be used to boost Rakuten’s Kobo e-reader and ebook store, which is battling Amazon’s Kindle e-reader as well as tablet/phone-oriented content stores from Apple and Google.

Cheetah Mobile, the Beijing-based firm best known for the Android junk cleaning app Clean Master, is buying MobPartner, a Paris-based mobile ad network. The purchase will amount to US$58 million. MobPartner has branch offices in Shanghai, San Francisco and London. It claims to reach more than 200 million mobile users worldwide, and says it has worked with more than 10,000 publishers across 200 countries.

Converged infrastructure startup SimpliVity says a multimillion dollar investment announced today will help it double engineering and sales teams this year. The $175 million series D funding round, led by Waypoint Capital with previous investors Accel Partners, Charles River Ventures, DFJ Growth, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Growth, and Meritech Capital Partners, takes the total raised by the Westborough, Massachusetts-based company since its founding in 2009 and launch in 2012 to $276 million. The company currently sells in 50 countries, with staff in 18 of them, including about 100 field professionals. It sells through about 500 value-added resellers and has shipped approximately 1,500 products to businesses that include a top-five telecoms provider, and a top-five consumer goods company.

Cloud-based subscription management company Zuora announced a $115 million financing round involving a mix of Silicon Valley heavyweights and public market investors. The investor list includes Wellington Management Company, Blackrock, and Passport Capital joining existing investors Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, Redpoint Ventures, Index Ventures, Shasta Ventures, Vulcan Capital, Next World Capital, Dave Duffield, co-founder and chairman of the board of Workday; and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. The company’s funding total is now at $250 million. Since its founding in 2007, the Foster City, California-based startup has been a champion of the subscription-based business model, hinging its success on the idea that recurring revenue streams would become standard practice in modern day businesses, including customer acquisition, recurring billing and payments, revenue recognition, and subscription metrics. Zuora says that in the last year it experienced a 109 percent increase in annual invoice volume running through its systems. Zuora now counts companies such as Box, Dell, DocuSign, Zendesk, HubSpot and Marketo as customers.


> PRIMARY SOURCES:

IT World Canadahttp://www.itworldcanada.com
Ottawa Business Journalhttp://www.ottawabusinessjournal.com
ZDNethttp://www.zdnet.com
Canada IThttp://www.canadait.com