In 2011, PC and laptop sales are expected to reach at least 350m units and they are still growing. Smartphone sales at approximately 420m units will overtake PC sales and they are growing much faster. Tablet sales are expected to be 50m units in 2011 and from a low base are growing even faster still. According to the Economist there will be more than 10bn connected devices by 2020. That’s more than one per head of the current 7bn global population.
Continuing my theme of expected (low) growth for major western economies, Germany “the powerhouse of Europe” has reported Q2 growth of just 0.1%, less even than the UK at 0.2% and the 17 country Eurozone average of 0.2% and France at zero. This will not help Europe to reduce its debt burden. Now we know one of the key factors stock markets have been adjusting to over the last few weeks, (the other major one being the outlook for US growth). Forecast growth rates for many major economies including the UK will inevitably need downgrading over coming months. The GDP forecast for the UK for 2011 was 2 to 2.5% 12 months ago, since then forecasts have been cut to 1.5%+ and even that now looks optimistic. Major developed economies such as the UK may have to get used to lower growth rates (1 to 1.5%) for some years.
According to a July FT article, the UK Treasury is planning a new scheme to incentivise entrepeneurs to help small companies which builds on EIS. The plan called Business Angel Seed Investment Scheme (BASIS) goes wider than EIS and will target those who offer advice and support as well as capital. Apparently the plan proposes limiting the scheme to those who have invested in four or more seed companies
The consultation also addresses the issue of the security of the information stored in cloud services, and of who has responsibility for protecting data. Cloud computing refers to the use of computers and software on an internet-based network to do information processing rather than the use of local computing resources. It allows internet users to access or store information without owning the software to do it and many online companies, such as Google, operate huge servers that store the data and deliver it to users.
The commission appears to be considering measures to help standardise terms and conditions for using cloud services. The consultation asks if it would be “useful” to estabish “model Service Level Agreements or End User Agreements” within contractual agreements for cloud services, the consultation says. The consultation asks if the rights and responsibilities for data protection in existing cloud services are clear.
In the last budget in March, a new Research and Development Grant was introduced, to be administered by the Technology Strategy Board, providing up to £25,000 of funding for business in 3 areas:
- Proof of market grants of up to £25,000 for companies to assess commercial viability;
- Proof of concept grants up to £100,000 – to explore technical feasibility / prototyping / specialist testing; and
- Development of prototype grants of up to £250,000 – developmnent of a technological innovative product, service or industrial process, including IP protection, market testing and product design.
In 2010 the US Patent Office granted 244,358 patents and yet there are 700,000 yet to be reviewed. On average, according to The Economist, inventors wait for 2 years for the application to be reviewed and a further 10 months to find out whether they have been successful.
Gartner’s latest global forecast indicates that the Android operating system (OS) will be pre-installed on just under 50% of all smartphone devices by 2012. Apple’s OS 19%, RIM (Blackberry) 13%, Microsoft 11%, Symbian (Nokia) 5% and others 2%. Nokia’s fall from grace (37% of market share in 2010) highlights the pace of change.
After the surprise -0.5% Q4 2010 GDP numbers, Q1 2011 GDP came in at +0.5%. Underlying growth is therefore at best flat to small positive. 2011 full year consensus of 1.7/1.8% is by no means certain and the UK lags Germany and the US in terms of recovery since the peak in early 2008.
Ever doubted the value of professional business networking?
Last week Linked In past 100 million members and is now growing at the rate of 1 million new members per week. It is now in use in over 200 countries and over half of all members are based outside the US. The fastest growing membership is in Brazil.
The EU has proposed unitary patent protection for 12 member states (including the UK). The hope is that other states who are dragging their heels (Italy for example) will join in time. In the long term this will result in significantly reduced cost for early stage companies seeking to invest heavily in R&D and an associated patent.