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Posts Tagged ‘BBC NEWS’

Facebook ramps up Google rivalry with messaging service

Posted Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Facebook has ramped up competition with AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google with a product to rival their e-mail services.

Facebook Messages aims to tie users more closely to the social networking site at a time when everyone is battling for their attention.

The product will merge texts, online chats, and e-mails into one central hub.

Facebook says traditional e-mail is too slow and cumbersome and needs to step into the modern world of messaging.

“This is not an e-mail killer,” Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg told reporters and analysts at an event in San Francisco.

“Maybe we can help push the way people do messaging more towards this simple, real-time, immediate personal experience. E-mail is still really important to a lot of people. We think this simple messaging is how people will shift their communication.”

‘Killer app’

In a case of bad timing, reports surfaced hours after the Facebook launch that Gmail suffered an outage.

The new service is seen as offering an alternative to Gmail, the fastest growing web service in the past year with over 193 million users according to data tracker ComScore.

The irony was that ahead of the announcement, speculation was rife that Facebook’s new product would be most crippling for Gmail. Mr Zuckerberg said he did not see it that way.

“In reality they have a great product.

“We don’t expect anyone to wake up tomorrow and say, ‘I’m going to shut down my Yahoo Mail or Gmail account’.

“Maybe one day, six months, a year, two years out people will start to say this is how the future should work,” said Mr Zuckerberg.

AOL, which at the weekend previewed changes to its once popular web mail service, disagreed that e-mail was doomed.

“E-mail remains one of the killer apps on the internet,” said Brad Garlinghouse, AOL’s senior vice president of consumer products.

Industry analyst Augie Ray of Forrester agreed.

“Research we have done shows we know that in the US 90% of adults check their mail at least once a month and 59% of adults say they maintain a profile on a social networking site.

“There is a big gap between the reach social media has and the reach e-mail has.”

Ease of use

At the heart of Facebook Messages is an effort to ensure users “see the messages that matter”.

The new feature will simplify how people communicate whether it be via text, instant messages, online chat or e-mail. All these messages will come into one feed known as a social inbox allowing users to reply in any way they want.

Facebook said around 70% of users regularly used it to send messages to friends and that a total of four billion messages passed across the site every day.

“We really want to enable people to have conversations with the people they care about,” Facebook’s director of engineering Andrew Bosworth told BBC News.

“It sounds so simple. We have all this technology that should be enabling that but it’s not. It’s fragmenting that. So I have one conversation on e-mail with my grandfather and another with my cousin on SMS and all these things don’t work the same way.

“I shouldn’t have to worry about the technology. I should just have to worry about the person and the message. Everything else is just getting in the way,” added Mr Bosworth.

The new system will be modelled more on chat than traditional e-mail which means there will be no subject lines, cc or bcc fields.

Liz Gannes of technology blog AllThingsD said she believed users would have a bit of a learning curve on their hands.

“I think the product is just different enough from what people are used to that it will feel really weird to users for a while.

“The lack of subject lines will get people upset at first and then of course they will probably realise they never wanted them anyway.”

‘Game over?’

Other features include being able to store conversations so users can have a complete archive of communications with friends and family. Mr Bosworth likened this to a modern-day treasure trove of letters stored in a box.

Incoming message will be placed in one of three folders – one for friends, another for things like bank statements and a junk folder for messages people do not want to see.

The product will also represent a challenge to Yahoo, with over 273 million users, and Microsoft, which has nearly 362 million.

“For me today represents the day when Facebook truly becomes a portal on the level of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL,” Charlene Li, social media analyst with the Altimeter Group, told BBC News.

“They now have to start making their inboxes more social. Friends are the new priority as opposed to the conversation. This makes Facebook so much more functional.”

Robert Scoble, technology writer and founder of Scobleizer.com, said this product gave everyone something to aim for.

“This is a new kind of communications system but it’s not game over for Yahoo and Gmail and all the others because it will take decades to get people to stop doing traditional e-mails.

“However this is something new and very powerful because Facebook can tap into my social graph and ensure that only my friends are there and I won’t get spammed.”

Facebook said this product was the biggest the social networking giant had worked on to date.

The company will also offer an @facebook.com e-mail address to every one of its more than 500 million users.


Model of Bloodhound supersonic car unveiled

Posted Friday, July 23rd, 2010

The British team hoping to drive a car faster than 1,000mph has unveiled a full-scale model of the vehicle.

The model is a star turn at this year’s Farnborough International Air Show.The team has announced that aerospace manufacturer Hampson Industries will begin building the rear of the real vehicle in the first quarter of 2011.

Another deal to construct the front end with a second company is very close.”We now have a route to manufacture for the whole car,” said chief engineer Mark Chapman.”We would hope to be able to shake down the vehicle on a runway in the UK either at the end of 2011 or at the beginning of 2012,” he told BBC News.

Assuming no major issues arise from those runway tests, Bloodhound will be shipped straight to a dried up lakebed known as Hakskeen Pan, in the Northern Cape of South Africa, to begin its assault on the world land speed record.

To claim the record, the vehicle will have to better the mark of 763mph (1,228km/h) set by the Thrust SuperSonic Car in 1997. But the team believes Bloodhound’s superior aerodynamic shape, allied to the immense power of its Falcon hybrid rocket and Eurofighter-Typhoon jet engine, will take the blue and orange car beyond 1,000mph (1,610km/h).

Three people who worked on Thrust are also engaged in the Bloodhound project. They are driver Wing Cdr Andy Green, project director Richard Noble and chief aerodynamicist Ron Ayres. The trio envisaged Bloodhound not just as another record bid but as a project that could inspire children to engage in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects. And the Bloodhound Education Programme has announced here at Farnborough that some 1.5 million school children are now using curriculum resource materials based on the supersonic car.

Key modifications
 
The model car is on display at the Farnborough air show this week. The real vehicle will weigh about six tonnes, but even the polystyrene and fibre-glass replica weighs 950kg.

Visitors will be able to see in the model the key aerodynamic advances made by the design team at the turn of the year which turned Bloodhound into a driveable car.

Before this point, the car was producing dangerous amounts of lift at high speed in the modelling. But by playing with the position and shape of key elements of the car’s rear end, the design team found a solution that will manage the shockwave passing around and under the vehicle when it goes supersonic.

The effort was assisted greatly by project sponsor Intel. It was able to bring colossal computing power to bear on the lift problem.

“It’s called configuration 10,” said Mr Chapman. “It’s very angular at the back; it’s got a very narrow rear-track.

Between November and March, we reduced 11 tonnes of lift to zero lift at Mach 1.3. At that point, we had the aerodynamic shape which you see in the show car. It’s very stable.”

Ron Ayres added: “We’re now working on things like the air brakes and engine-bay cooling – detail inside the car. There’s a lot of engineering to do. But as far as the outside of the car is concerned, we’re pretty much done. Some work still needs to be done on the wheel fairings, the fin, the shape and size of the winglets.”


Businesses ‘profit from investing in nature’

Posted Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Businesses can and should take a key role in stemming biodiversity loss around the world, a report concludes.

BBC.co.uk, 13th July 2010

The latest report from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) project argues that many sectors have a stake in protecting nature.

A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) finds that in some nations, more than half of CEOs see nature loss as a challenge to business growth.

The UN-backed Teeb project presents its latest results in London on Tuesday.

The first Global Business of Biodiversity symposium, held at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands, will hear that about half of European and US consumers say they would stop buying products from companies that disregard biodiversity concerns.

“Better accounting of business impacts on biodiversity, both positive and negative, is essential to spur change in business investment and operations,” said Joshua Bishop, chief economist of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and co-ordinator of the Teeb for Business report.

“Smart business leaders realise that integrating biodiversity and ecosystem services in their value chains can generate substantial cost savings and new revenues, as well as improved business reputation and license to operate.”

Mining for positives
 
Among the “smart companies” to be discussed at the symposium is Rio Tinto, a mining conglomerate whose reputation (like others in the field) has been criticised on environmental and human rights grounds.

In 2004, the company adopted a “Net Positive Impact” (NPI) commitment on biodiversity.

This sees it working with environment organisations to protect important areas from direct mining impacts and putting funds into conservation to “offset” damage caused.

Another is the agribusiness giant Syngenta, which recently launched Operation Pollinator, a scheme to restore important bee habitat.

The scheme is seen as a potential contribution to curbing the ongoing bee decline in Europe and North America.

One recent study put the global value of insect pollinators at $189bn per year – a classical example of the kind of “ecosystem service” that nature provides for free, and that humans would have to pay to replace if the natural system broke down.

Items in the credit column including protection from storms, habitat for young fish, and carbon storage.

Teeb has calculated the annual value of forest loss around the world at $2-5 trillion.

Plants and machinery
 
Teeb, and the UN Environment Programme to which it is affiliated, argue that this kind of analysis makes nature protection a good investment for businesses.

Consumer opinion could be another factor.

A recent Ipsos survey found that in countries possessing high levels of biodiversity, awareness of biodiversity decline was correspondingly high, rising to 90% in Brazil.

Among business leaders, the PwC survey found that more than half of CEOs in Latin America see declines in biodiversity as a challenge to growth.

But the figure drops to 20% in Western Europe, and just 15% in the UK.

And only two of the world’s largest 100 companies see biodiversity and ecosystem loss as a strategic issue.

“Businesses need to start thinking about ecosystems as an extension of their asset base, part of their plant and machinery, and appreciating the value they deliver,” said Jon Williams, PwC‘s partner for sustainability and climate change.

Teeb’s leader, Deutsche Bank economist Pavan Sukhdev, believes companies will find it easier to invest in biodiversity protection once a mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (Redd) becomes established through the UN climate convention.

Many countries favour a variant called Redd-Plus where issues such as biodiversity and forest peoples’ rights would be protected.

“We can move to a stage where big companies and countries are able to say ‘we’re meeting 20% of our emissions targets’ or whatever it might be through investing in green carbon,” he told BBC News.

“Then we can look at other issues, such as the forest’s water storage function for local people, for example.

“So it won’t be a market in the classical sense but it will be a mechanism, and companies investing would be able to see whether their investments bring about things such as an improvement in water availability or an increase in the tiger population or whatever it might be.”

Teeb will produce its final report for October’s meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Japan, which will see governments examining the reasons why they have failed to live up to their 2002 pledge to curb nature loss by 2010.


Selling your business successfully

Posted Friday, August 14th, 2009

It is estimated that at around 10-15% of Britain’s three million businesses are looking to sell or change ownership at any given time.

BBC NEWS, 21st May 2008

The last few months have seen many business owners rush to take advantage of the beneficial Capital Tax Gain regime before it changed in April this year.

Alongside the credit squeeze, falling house prices, rising business liquidations and possible recession, you might think now is not a great time to be selling a business.

The truth though is that quality businesses will always sell for good prices, regardless of the state of economy.

However, it is estimated that only one in 10 businesses that go to market end in a sale.

Expectations

Getting your price wrong, and not talking to enough of the right people, are the two main reasons why most business sales fail.

Out of these, an unrealistic price expectation is the most significant.

Many business owners mistakenly believe that a sale will generate enough money to help them retire to a life of luxury for the rest of their lives.

Whilst multi-million pound deals make good headlines, the reality is that most business sales rarely deliver a life-changing financial future.

A business is only worth what a willing buyer will pay.

For small businesses, a beer mat calculation done over the phone by a business transfer agent, accountant or knowledgeable friend down the pub, is unlikely to hold any weight opposite a banker or investor when it comes to providing the cash for a purchase.

Wanting £3m because you have always wanted to be a millionaire is not going to get you a result if you cannot make a credible explanation of your business’ value.

Value

A good understanding of what makes a business valuable and realising who might want to buy, is essential.

An owner has to substantiate and prove why the business has value; otherwise a buyer will simply walk away.

This is particularly true, now more than ever, with a seriously diminished appetite for lending among the banks.

A seller must place himself in the buyer’s shoes.

They will ask themselves what they are buying, and why.

What makes the business truly unique? Will the return justify the expense? Will their money be better spent elsewhere? What are the comparative investments?

Turning over the stones

The second reason for sales failure is not talking to enough buyers in order to find the right one.

This is where using the right business broker can really make a difference.

If an owner relies on their accountant to write to the nearest competitors or place an advert in the Sunday papers, they are unlikely to get the best deal, or any deal.

A business sale will involve accounting and legal steps.

But do not lose sight that, ultimately, selling a business is a sales exercise and this is the skill which will really matter and make the difference.

The more buyers you can get in front of, the better chance you have of getting the best deal.

An experienced broker should research a business and industry inside out and produce credible and professional documentation.

This will cover a full valuation, as well as a full marketing plan, designed to identify and reach every possible potential purchaser for the business.

This plan should include exposure to a database of known prospects and broker contacts, and direct liaison with businesses identified through research, as well as advertising on the web and in other relevant media.

Leave one of these stones unturned and vital opportunities might be missed.

Don’t leave it too late

The first step in selling a business should be to seek out specialist help early on.

A business should be properly appraised and valued.

This will set the right level of expectation as well as highlight any issues which should be addressed prior to going to market.

For example, would a change in Government legislation suddenly alter the business landscape? Is now the right time to be selling? What makes a business valuable? Can a business be improved? Why would a buyer would be interested? What other businesses in the sector have sold and for how much?

This process alone can dramatically affect not only the amount of money changing hands but also if a deal can be done at all, which will save you time, money and unnecessary worry.

Experience

An appraisal or valuation should be done by a credible source.

This should be an experienced business broker or an accountant who specialises in business sales, ideally a year or two ahead of when looking to exit.

As with most things in life, there are good and bad.

Do research, look for recommendations and do not be afraid to check that a broker has the necessary experience and proven track record.

A specialist in selling fish and chip shops or pubs is unlikely to help sell a recruitment agency or precision engineers.

A seller should not let poor planning, unrealistic expectations and weak marketing prevent the achievement of the ultimate holy grail of the entrepreneur – a successful exit.


 
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