Google searches for a way to avoid Microsoft’s fate


Powered by article titled “Google searches for a way to avoid Microsoft’s fate” was written by John Naughton, for The Observer on Sunday 18th January 2015 07.00 UTC

The news that Google’s share of the web-search market in the US has suddenly dropped is interesting. According to an independent analytics firm, StatCounter, last month Google’s market share dropped to 75.2%, compared with 79.3% a year earlier. That is its lowest share since 2008, when StatCounter started tracking the data. Yahoo, by contrast, seems to be on the up: its December market share (10.4%) was the highest it has achieved since 2009.

This could be just a blip, of course, and it doesn’t change the fact that Google is still the dominant player in search or that its share of the European search market ranges between 90% and 96%, depending on which country you look at. So this is not the time to start selling your Google shares, but it does make one look at the company through a different lens. What if the dominance of its core business were beginning to wane?

Remember that Google is, despite the hoopla about self-driving cars, antisocial spectacles, YouTube, the “right to be forgotten”, stratospheric balloons and the other exotic stuff, primarily a company that makes its (colossal) revenues from search-driven advertising. (Advertising provided bn of the company’s bn revenues last year.) All the cool, PR-friendly stuff that the company does stems from two things: those vast revenues and the shareholding structure that enables the company’s co-founders to do as they damn well please rather than being hounded by quarterly earnings reports and Wall Street expectations.

Google’s existential challenge is therefore how to keep the search money-pump going. So far, the main strategy has been to do everything in its power to extend internet use. The more people who are connected to the net, the better it is for Google. (Which is why Project Loon, which aims to bring free internet connectivity to poor countries using balloons in the stratosphere, makes both philanthropic and commercial sense.) But since most new internet users in the next decade will access the network via mobile phones, that means Google has to be active in that space too. Hence its development of Android, the operating system that powers the overwhelming majority of smartphones.

So Google is doing all it can to keep its core product growing. But it’s also working on a Plan B just in case search declines or is displaced by some as-yet-unknown technology. Part of Plan B is trying to be spectacularly innovative (self-driving cars, say); another part is to acquire startup or young companies such as Deepmind or Boston Dynamics, just in case one of them has managed to find the secret of life, the universe and everything. This quest has probably turned the search giant into the largest and most active venture capitalist in the US. You could view this either as a quest for world domination or planning for life after search.

Bill Gates once said that the only technology company that reminded him of Microsoft in its early days was… Google. Thanks to one of those delicious ironies in which capitalism excels, guess which company Google now reminds people of? Answer: Microsoft in its current dotage. Gates’s creation was once even more dominant in the industry than Google is now. It had three core products – the Windows operating system, Office and Windows Server – which were licences to print money. Microsoft had huge revenues that just rolled in every quarter, just as Google’s advertising revenues do today, and on the back of them built a huge 128,000 employee company. But, cushioned by its money-pump, it failed to innovate and, in particular, failed to address the decline of the desktop PC and the rise of mobile computing.

Despite Google’s self-image of an ultra-agile, young company, in fact it’s become a 55,000-employee monster, which is what is leading some people to see parallels with Microsoft. The Bloomberg columnist Katie Benner is one. “Microsoft,” she writes, “was stymied by a huge headcount and, more importantly, legacy products that no one inside the company wanted to mess with for fear of killing the golden goose… Even when those commanding positions were eroded at the margins, it was hard to see a world in which Microsoft wouldn’t be the backbone of a PC-centric tech industry.”

By the same token, it has been impossible to envisage a networked world in which Google would no longer be a dominant player. But after last week’s revelations about market share, maybe it’s time to downgrade “impossible” to merely “difficult”. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Ángel Di María and the problem of Manchester United’s central midfield


Powered by article titled “Ángel di María and the problem of Manchester United’s central midfield” was written by Jamie Jackson, for The Guardian on Monday 25th August 2014 13.25 UTC

After another dismal Manchester United performance against Sunderland on Sunday came a Louis van Gaal revelation regarding his desperation to solve the dearth of central midfield talent at the club. “Kagawa – I have tried to play him in that position in the US and he could not fulfil my wishes and my philosophy,” the manager said of an experiment with the Japanese on the summer tour. “We have spoken about that and he is more of a No10. Mata was playing at No10 [at Sunderland] and I thought I had to change the other players, which is why I chose to bring on Januzaj.”

Van Gaal thereby signalled that Shinji Kagawa’s United career may be in critical condition and also illustrating why Ángel di María may be a £60m red herring. The Argentinian is a fine footballer, a member of the elite band below Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but he is no chief conductor of central areas.

To audition Kagawa for the role shows, in one stroke, Van Gaal’s assessment of Tom Cleverley, Marouane Fellaini, Darren Fletcher, Anderson and Ander Herrera as a squadron, and illustrates where the manager feels he really should strengthen.

To compound this Fellaini, Herrera and Anderson, plus Jesse Lingard, the forward Van Gaal is forced to deploy further back, are all unavailable. Michael Carrick, another central midfielder, is also injured. This caused the use of Adnan Januzaj – a No10 or wide man – in the engine room when the Belgian entered the fray in the 63rd minute of Sunday’s 1-1 draw.

“It is not usual that we have four injuries in midfield,” Van Gaal said. “Every club that has that has a problem. That is why I played Januzaj in midfield because as a coach I want to win. I have said that we need creative passing and I thought Januzaj could provide that. That is the reason.

“It is because of creation. Kagawa can also create, but I asked Adnan to play there because of the lack of midfielders. When he played in Belgium, he played in midfield so I asked if he could do it for us. I said to him: ‘You are on the bench as a midfielder,’ because I want him to focus. He played there and you could see it’s not so many times that he’s played there. But he did his utmost and I cannot demand more.”

The United midfield problem is not new. Doctorates could – and maybe should – be written about how and why it is yet to be resolved. Van Gaal joins Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes as managers who, since Roy Keane and Paul Scholes faded and Owen Hargreaves suffered a career-hobbling injury, have found the problem a puzzle.

The word is that Di María, a wide player by instinct, could be moved inside though into the No10 position at present given to Juan Mata by Van Gaal. Yet even here doubt hovers. “At this moment, we have five No9s and four No10s and don’t have wingers to give us attacking width,” the Dutchman said a couple of weeks ago, before describing Di María as a winger of the “highest level”.

This suggests Van Gaal is not paying a British record fee for Di María to be a fifth No10. So where will he play? As a wing-back in the 3-5-2? If not then in a 4-3-3, maybe?

The conundrums keep coming. Van Gaal switched United from a traditional four-sentry defence to a three centre-back system to accommodate the attacking trident of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Mata. To tear this plan up after a summer-long bedding-in period and the season’s opening matches may confuse a squad Van Gaal is adamant requires three months to adjust to his methods, as the 63-year-old retrains them to use “brains” rather than instinct.

A glance at United’s competitors shows how all harbour midfield gold. Manchester City boast the A-lister Yaya Touré, plus Brazil’s World Cup player Fernandinho, as well as Frank Lampard and Fernando. The latter was a £12m summer bargain from Porto and precisely the ilk of midfielder United should be acquiring.

At Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers has a Premier League great, Steven Gerrard, supported by Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva, Adam Lallana and Joe Allen, plus the potential of Emre Can. Chelsea have two gun midfielders in Cesc Fábregas and Nemanja Matic, who are complemented by Ramires and Mikel John Obi. And how Van Gaal might like to choose from Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Santi Carzola, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini. Or even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who Arsène Wenger believes will one day be a deep-lying maestro “very similar to Steven Gerrard”.

Against Sunderland Van Persie and Rooney were starved of chances. Even Phil Jones hinted at the lack of creation. “We were dominant in possession and created glimmers of chances, but never really carved them open like we would have liked,” he said. “We need to keep working on everything.”

The hope is that the closing week of the window will prove to be a particularly long time in the club’s transfer fortunes. Juventus’s Arturo Vidal, Milan’s Nigel de Jong and Ajax’s Daley Blind, who is also a defender, are on Van Gaal’s radar. Any of these trio’s signature would strengthen midfield and transform hopes.

United would arrive at 2 September having ended the summer by adding Luke Shaw, Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Di María (assuming that he arrives) plus AN Other midfielder.

The continual line of players offering post-match promises to improve next time could then end. “We dropped two points today,” Van Persie said post-Sunderland. “We were a bit too sloppy in possession, and in that sense we made it too hard for ourselves. We’ve played two games and only picked up one point. We would have loved to have got six points but it didn’t happen, so we have to bounce back.”

• This article was amended on 29 August 2014. Because of an editing error, the names of Frank Lampard and Fernando appeared in the wrong order, leading to the implication that it was Lampard who was a £12m signing from Porto. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Zimbabwe’s Econet Wireless and the making of Africa’s first cashless society


Powered by article titled “Zimbabwe’s Econet Wireless and the making of Africa’s first cashless society
” was written by Anna Leach, for on Monday 18th August 2014 16.11 UTC

Will Zimbabwe be Africa’s first cashless society? Telecommunications company, and now mobile banking service, Econet Wireless predicts that in less than 12 months notes and coins will be long-gone from this southern African country. “We do not expect anyone to still be using paper money in a year’s time,” the company’s CEO Douglas Mboweni recently said. “It will be just like Europe or America, where you no longer see people carrying bundles of cash.”

The collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy in 2002 paved the way for Econet Wireless’s mobile payment system. “Hyperinflation had destroyed people’s confidence in financial institutions,” said the Zimbabwe company’s founder, Strive Masiyiwa, at the Mastercard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion in July.

“The lowest denomination circulating was ,” Masiyiwa said. “If you want to buy a packet of sweets for your child, you can’t get change.” The company set up a mobile payment system that handles small amounts and allows people to save as little as . “Today 43% of the GDP moves through Econet Wireless,” he concludes.

Masiyiwa was born in Zimbabawe (then Rhodesia) in 1961. He and his parents fled the country in the turmoil after prime minister Ian Smith declared independence in 1965, settling in Zambia. His parents, who ran their own business, could afford to send Masiyiwa to school in Scotland when he was 12. After school he studied electronic engineering at the University of Wales and worked briefly for a computer company in Cambridge before returning to Zimbabwe in the early 1980s.

Econet Wireless was established in 1998, but not before a fight. Masiyiwa waged a five-year legal battle with the government for a licence to deliver telephone services. The company now operates in 17 countries including Botswana, Lesotho, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and New Zealand. In 2000, while the UN filed a civil suit against Mugabe, Masiyiwa moved his family and company headquarters to South Africa.

Econet Wireless first developed mobile payments to help NGOs transfer money to refugees after the war in Burundi ended in 2005. “Donor agencies were trying to find ways to make cash disbursements to refugees,” says Masiyiwa. “So we built the payment system initially not as a business but as a way to help humanitarians get money to people in rural areas who were trying to re-establish their lives.”

That model was extended and now mobile money transfers are central to Econet Wireless’s business. Like M-Pesa before it, the company blurs the lines between telecomms and banking. Masiyiwa is passionate about this latter part of his business. He believes that extending saving and credit services to the poorest people gives them “extraordinary dignity and a sense that they are in control of their own lives”.

His next challenge is to create a product that allows people who are informally employed, such as smallholder farmers and casual workers, to access credit. “In Africa 70% of people are informally employed,” he says. “The big frontier for us is to create platforms where those people can access credit.” He says there’s no risk that they will get into unmanageable debt because the banks won’t extend excessive credit, calling the system “self-regulating”.

But Masiyiwa says that offering people the ability to save is even more important than credit. “We’re trying to build up a savings culture where people are encouraged to save, even if they only have a dollar – for children’s school fees, for transport, for the doctor. A savings and credit infrastructure builds resilience.”

In his speech to microfinance experts at the symposium in Turin, Masiyiwa recounted a story about the judge in Zimbabwe who granted Econet Wireless’s licence in 1998, saying that 70% of people in the country had never heard a telephone ring. “Today, 75% of people [in Zimbabwe] have a cell phone,” he said “And I want 75% of the people in Africa to have a bank account … on a mobile phone.”

And Masiyiwa has even found a solution to the energy problem that could prevent him from realising his dream. “We have developed solar charging stations where people can go into a kiosk and plug in their phone for free. Because our money is not made from someone charging the phone. It’s made from someone using the phone.”

By way of lessons learnt, Masiyiwa says that in order to reach the unbanked, financial institutions – and telecommunications companies – must design services that are practical, simple and affordable. “I’ve got a customer who has a dollar in his pocket and has got to decide to have some lunch, call his cousin or go to the doctor. We have to develop services with sensitivity to the fact that in Africa our customers don’t have the same disposable income as in New Zealand, for example.”

But the billionaire businessman cautions that it’s a mistake assume the poorest behave differently to other customers. “Their behaviour and aspirations are no different from those who have higher incomes,” he says. “They want to use Facebook. They want to use WhatsApp. We have to find ways for them to access those things with their very low income.”

Read more stories like this:

Using mobile money to buy water and solar power in east Africa

Cashing in: why mobile banking is good for people and profit

The mobile money infrastructure and the role of donors – video

Join our community of development professionals and humanitarians. Follow @GuardianGDP on Twitter. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Interactive map: which country has the fewest ATMs?


Powered by article titled “Interactive map: which country has the fewest ATMs?” was written by Rachel Banning-Lover, for on Monday 18th August 2014 16.23 UTC

As with all inventions, with the possible exception of the mobile phone, global distribution of automated teller machines (ATMs) has been uneven.

This interactive uses the most recent World Bank data – from 2012 – and highlights just how little traditional banking infrastructure there is in parts of Africa, South America and the Middle East.

View the fullsize map here. Credit: Rachel banning-Lover

By providing access to cash at all times and on any day, ATMs have transformed traditional banking. The map highlights the vast global disparity in consumers’ access to cash, from South Korea where there are 282 ATMs per 100,000 adults to places like Burma where there is just one cash machine per 100,000 adults.

How does your country compare? Hover over the map or check out the rankings below.

Note: All data is rounded to 0 decimal points.

Can’t find your country on our map or chart? Data was unavailable for some countries. ATMs per 100,000 are also rounded to 0 decimal points.

Join our campaign for financial inclusion and use the hashtag #NOunbanked. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Thokozile Masipa: the world awaits her verdict on Oscar Pistorius


Powered by article titled “Thokozile Masipa: the world awaits her verdict on Oscar Pistorius” was written by Nastasya Tay, for The Observer on Saturday 9th August 2014 23.05 UTC

Once a tea girl, a nursing assistant and a journalist imprisoned for her beliefs, the woman who will pass judgment on Oscar Pistorius‘s fate has retired to consider her verdict. For 41 days, Judge Thokozile Masipa has presided over proceedings in Courtroom GD: the accused’s tears, verbal scraps between the two white Afrikaans attorneys trying to convince her of their arguments, calling everyone to quiet order. Everyone calls her “m’lady”.

Stern, but inscrutable, the 66-year-old has listened to reams of evidence, her head resting on an arthritic hand. Now she must decide if she believes the Paralympian shot and killed his girlfriend in a case of mistaken identity on Valentine’s morning last year of if, as the prosecution asserts, he’s guilty of premeditated murder. She will deliver her judgment on 11 September.

However, despite having become a recognisable figure in her red robe on the world’s television screens, Judge Masipa remains an intensely private woman. Suzette Naude, her soft-spoken court registrar, says the judge doesn’t even confide in her. “I don’t know what she thinks about the case. She hasn’t discussed any of her views with me at all,” she said. Asked about Masipa’s pronounced limp – she examined evidence in court on the supporting arm of an orderly – Naude shakes her head. “She once told me it was a broken femur, but others say it was childhood polio. No one really knows.”

The judge arrives in a Mercedes at Pretoria’s face-brick high court each morning as the winter sun is coming up, driven from her home in Midrand by her secretary because she doesn’t drive herself. By 6.30am, she is at her desk, poring over the day’s documents, more than two hours before any other judge.

Friends describe her as religious, health conscious and hard working. “Once you come in here and become a permanent judge, you begin to see that you spend most of your life here, instead of home,” Masipa once said.

Usually based in the Johannesburg high court, which has the highest case burden in the country, she jokes that even her four grandchildren need to make appointments to see her. Her husband, a tax consultant, does the cooking.

Susan Abro, a senior attorney who served with Masipa on South Africa’s electoral court for six years, says the judge is “very clever, very professional”, but, above all, warm and modest. “She comes from a human rights background, so that’s the point – you must allow people to feel like they’ve had their day in court, to feel as if they’ve been heard,” she told the Observer.

“She’s not one of the ones who makes a big splash about themselves, makes judgments so they’ll be reported,” she added. “And she has a wry sense of humour.”

Born on 16 October 1947, Masipa was the first of 10 children, and one of only three surviving – five died in childhood; another brother was stabbed to death in his 20s.

She grew up on a two-bedroom house in Orlando East, then a poor part of Soweto, sleeping in the dining room, or under the kitchen table if they had visitors. She’d keep a look out for the police while her grandmother brewed beer in the yard. Now, her childhood home is a creche for poor children, set up by her late mother. She helps pay the bills and also finances a nearby project that her sister runs for unemployed women.

Moving between schools in Soweto, the Alexandra township outside Johannesburg and Swaziland, she worked hard. “From a very young age, I wasn’t a great socialiser; I would be buried in my books,” she said in a 2008 interview for Courting Justice, a documentary about South African female judges. She became a social worker, inspired by her mother, who was a teacher.

Wanting to go to university, but lacking the money, Masipa spent years grappling with resentment, working as a clerk, then a messenger, then a tea girl, watching young white girls with high school diplomas doing the jobs she wanted. Eventually, she found her way to university, graduating with a BA in social work in 1974. The list of “funny” jobs continued, until she applied for a junior reporter’s position at the World newspaper, where she worked as a crime reporter until it was banned in 1977. Those were the days of growing unrest in Soweto: the death of 13-year-old Hector Pieterson in 1976; the assassination of activist Steve Biko in 1977; the riots.

As the women’s section editor at the Post where she moved, Masipa wrote about schools, education, the quality of textbooks, the conditions of labour for domestic workers. The promotion was a big step up. “No mean feat,” fellow journalist Pearl Luthuli recalled. “That position was for a white woman.”

“Sometimes the police would call up and say you are not supposed to write this and that. But Tilly [short for her European name Matilda] would stand her ground. She’s a really tough cookie,” former colleague Nomavenda Mathiane said of Masipa’s work.

Her strength found its way to Johannesburg’s streets when she was 29, when she marched with other female journalists to protest at the detention of several of their black male editors at the Post and demand press freedoms. She was arrested and thrown into a filthy jail cell with four of her colleagues; they used the newspapers they were carrying as bed linen and defied their white warden, who tried to force them to clean the excrement of previous prisoners.

It took Masipa 10 years to complete her law degree at the University of South Africa, while working as a full-time journalist, wife and mother. She graduated in 1990, after Nelson Mandela had just been released from prison. Even then, no one would take her on as an attorney, so she did her pupillage at the Johannesburg bar. Female lawyers were still few and far between. Masipa recalls answering her phone to rivals, who expected her to be a man.

The announcement of her appointment as the second black woman in South African history to the bench in 1998 was accompanied by a note of her hobbies: dancing, gardening, yoga. “It was part of a breakthrough. In a sense, she is a pioneer,” said Albie Sachs, a former constitutional court justice. Masipa herself jokes that she is probably the “youngest” ever appointed to the high court, after only seven years at the bar, a part of South Africa’s racial and political transformation.

But black female judges are still a rarity. Even though the population is 80% black, only 44% of superior court judges are. And out of the country’s 239 judges, only 76 are women.

On her journey to the bench, Masipa dropped Matilda in favour of Thokozile, which, in Zulu, means “happy.” Now, Masipa says, she feels the bench has more credibility in its diversity, but it also comes with specific challenges.

“Sometimes it’s not that easy; sometimes the woman comes before your court and she’s saying to herself, ‘Well, she’s black, she’s a woman, she must understand this.’ But you still have to look at what the law says,” she said.

She has admitted that her township background and disadvantaged childhood have an impact on her judgments, allowing her to identify with the people in the dock before her, especially young criminals, who she feels should be given an opportunity for rehabilitation.

On one occasion, hearing from an assessor of a young man moving with “the wrong crowd”, Masipa called him into her office and told him to go back to school. He did. Her most eminent judgments have followed a theme: protect the vulnerable. In May last year, Masipa sentenced a man who raped three women during the course of house robberies to 252 years in prison, condemning him for attacking and raping the victims “in the sanctity of their own homes where they thought they were safe”.

In 2009, Masipa handed down a life sentence to a policeman, who shot and killed his former wife after a row over their divorce settlement, telling him: “No one is above the law. You deserve to go to jail for life because you are not a protector. You are a killer.”

In 2009, she told the city of Johannesburg that it had failed to fulfil its constitutional obligations by not providing accommodation for squatters who were threatened with eviction.

The Department of Justice has been at pains to say Masipa’s assignment to Pistorius’s murder trial was a procedural one, but many South Africans also regard it is as a significant and welcome statement about the changing nature of the country’s justice system.

“It is a tough place to be, because for a long time it was only men who sat here,” Masipa once said. “And in our culture it’s even tougher, because some men are just not used to seeing women giving orders. But one gets used to it. It’s not you as a woman who’s there – it’s the position that you fill. So you just get on with it.”Comments will not be opened for legal reasons © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Tiger Woods’s future unknown after missed cut at US PGA Championship


Powered by article titled “What next for Tiger Woods after missed cut at US PGA Championship?” was written by Ewan Murray at Valhalla, for The Observer on Saturday 9th August 2014 14.51 UTC

Where next for Tiger Woods? Never mind in a broad sense, quite literally the answer to that question is unknown. “I don’t know,” was Woods’s blunt answer when asked when and where he will appear next. The 38-year-old’s early exit from the US PGA Championship cannot be classed in any way as a surprise. Nor can the suggestion – and it was only that – from Woods that he will shut down in a competitive sense for an extended length of time.

As Woods talked of hitting the gym in an attempt to restore the core strength he believes lost through back injury, he was unable– or unwilling – to put a timeframe on his competitive return to golf.

There may be little option. Woods has failed to qualify for the forthcoming FedEx playoff series. He has no confirmed playing appearances for the remainder of 2014. Speculation has pointed towards him featuring at the inaugural America’s Golf Cup in Argentina in late October; there would be four million dollar reasons for the 14-times major winner to do so.

The issue of Woods’s participation or otherwise in the Ryder Cup remains a vexing one for the United States captain, Tom Watson. Someone with a sense of ambition – or mischief – and spare money to spend in an overseeing role at the forthcoming Italian or Welsh Open might want to contact Woods’s management to establish whether he can be coaxed into a brief appearance on the European Tour, in a final effort to prove his Gleneagles ambitions to Watson.

The Ryder Cup scenario need not be complicated. Woods has given quite enough to golf to be worthy of selection, should he declare both his fitness and commitment. The theory that he cares little for the biennial contest between his country and Europe has been offset by regular, strong statements that he wants to play in Scotland late next month.

The notion that Watson will come under commercial and political pressure to name Woods as a wildcard pick cannot be ignored. Ted Bishop, the PGA of America’s president, claimed only this week: “If you had an opportunity to put Tiger on that team, if he is healthy I would take my chances every time. If I am going to win or lose, I am going to do it with a guy like Tiger Woods on my team.”

There is a major fitness “if” in there, of course. Officially the worst season in Woods’s decorated professional career has a strong mitigating circumstance in the form of a back injury. At Valhalla, winces and limps proved far more common than Woods birdies.

“I need to get my glutes strong again, my abs and my core back to where I used to have them. They are just not quite there yet,” Woods said. “Obviously by playing, you can’t burn the candle at both ends. I need to get stronger physically and be back to where I was.

“It is certainly very frustrating any time you have to sit out because of surgery and to deal with the things I’ve had to deal with this year. It’s no fun. 2008 wasn’t a whole lot of fun, even though I won four times that year. It still wasn’t a whole lot of fun trying to play through that. Consequently, I missed nine months.”

Given that Woods famously won a major championship with a broken leg, the odds on him listening to advice that he should seek a similar recuperation stint this time are long. The growing sense, though, is that Woods is realising as much himself.

Notah Begay, the Golf Channel analyst closest to Woods, has made comments that shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. “This [missed cut] could be a blessing in disguise for Tiger Woods because now there is a forced layoff. We might not see him until his event in December, which might be a good thing and allow him to give some time for that back to repair itself. It might be something that he needs, which is a forced layoff.”

Begay’s co-pundit Frank Nobilo looked a little deeper. “For the first time in his career, he has to take stock,” Nobilo said. “His career has gone through so fast for us, 18 years of brilliance, and finally he is at a stumbling block. For the first time in his career, he is going to have to re-evaluate.”

When asked if he felt old when competing nowadays, Woods replied: “I felt old a long time ago.” He added: “It’s hard because you want the bigger muscles controlling the golf swing. I have got to rely on my hands to do it. The club face is rotating so fast through impact because I’m just not able to get my arms and the body in the correct spot.

“It [the back problem] throws everything off. I can’t get anywhere near the positions that I’m accustomed to getting to. I can’t do it. I’ve got to rely on timing, hands and hopefully I can time it just right.”

Woods’s issue is not merely physical. It is mentally tough for someone so accustomed to success to struggle in front of the watching world. There may even be an inner realisation from Woods that he will never scale golf’s greatest heights again. For now, there is a clear excuse for that: Woods should use it in downing tools for the rest of this year. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Football transfer rumours: Daley Blind to Manchester United?


Powered by article titled “Football transfer rumours: Daley Blind to Manchester United?” was written by Michael Butler, for on Thursday 7th August 2014 08.17 UTC

Going Dutch is the in thing at the moment. Whether it’s paying for your own food and drink at some wildly overpriced summer pop-up restaurant, or paying for somebody else to give Wayne and co a kick up the arse and implement a fluid 3-5-2 system on a previously mojo-less set of Manchester-based footballers, everybody seems to be doing it. And Ryan Babel, Winston Bogarde and Marco Boogers aside, when the English go Dutch it seems to work out pretty well.

Having started the summer with not a single Dutchman in their squad (!!!), Tottenham soon rectified the situation with the acquisition of Michel Vorm from Swansea, but surprise, surprise, Mauricio Pochettino is on the hunt again for another Oranje-boomer. Having scored two in the World Cup, Memphis Depay fits the bill and Daniel Levy is said to be dangling £15m in front of his club PSV’s noses in an attempt to persuade the 20-year-old winger to come and show some of Spurs’s lacklustre Belgians what’s what. One of which, Nacer Chadli, could even be used by Levy to sweeten the deal. Watch this space.

With seemingly all of the rest of the domestic-based Dutch squad having secured lucrative moves abroad since their Brazil exploits, Daley Blind has suddenly realised he wouldn’t mind a bit more money as well, and is reportedly keen on joining Louis van Gaal at that there United. Ajax are demanding £17m as the Dutch Footballer of the Year 2014 is highly sought after, with Barcelona also sniffing about, and Van Gaal eager to use him as competition for Luke Shaw at left-back, or as a versatile defensive midfielder.

Copy-and-paste virtuoso Yevhen Konoplyanka is still on the hit-list of four Premier League clubs – Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham – after his move to Liverpool failed to get over the line at the end of January’s window. However, Roma seem to have skipped to the front of the queue and could pick up the Ukrainian for less than £10m, as he only has one more year to run on his contract at Dnipro.

Rafa Benítez is hopeful of popping back to Merseyside and returning to Naples with Lucas Leiva. Liverpool are open to the idea of selling the Brazilian outright, but Napoli want a season-long loan deal, on preferably better terms than the £4m-a-year they were quoted for Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini.

Elsewhere, Sam Allardyce wants Sunderland’s Connor Wickham as stand-in for the unable-to-stand Andy Carroll, while Nottingham Forest’s midfielder Henri Lansbury has caught the eye of the Premier League new boys Burnley. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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How apps could improve business performance for your SME


Powered by article titled “How apps could improve business performance for your SME” was written by Sabuhi Gard, for on Thursday 7th August 2014 08.26 UTC

Small businesses are increasingly turning to apps to improve business performance, generate sales leads, win new business, keep existing customers and promote their brand.

Rob Hodges, digital executive at, believes small businesses should rethink their strategy with mobile devices in mind. He believes with the rollout of 4G, small businesses can place greater reliance on smartphone and tablet applications to make decisions and streamline processes.

Hodges recommends Pocket, a productivity app which allows users to save media for later. He says: “One key benefit is the ability to store files offline, making it ideal for catching up on the work commute. As business leaders communicate across multiple devices during the day, the cloud-based nature of Pocket ensures content can be viewed at a more convenient time.”

Other small businesses are using social media apps to connect with customers and enhance sales. Mike Tomlinson, small business director at UK mobile network EE shares the example of street food seller Mark Gevaux using Twitter to share videos of his ribs being made in order to entice new customers to buy his product.

William Agush, founder and chief executive officer of app Shuttersong has been working with a number of small businesses to improve their social media campaigns. His app allows users to add 15 seconds of voice and sound or music to any digital photo. He recently worked with a fashion house, Leota Dresses in New York, to improve their publicity campaign. Agush says: “Leota used Shuttersong to promote their dresses – since using the app they have had several hundred plays for the images.”

Another example of a small business using an app to help their performance is Sailing Logic. The company was set up in 2003 by Allie Smith with the purpose of offering individuals without connections to the elite yachting industry the chance to experience yacht racing. After receiving feedback from its customers in 2012, Sailing Logic decided to look for an easier way for customers to book tickets for its events. The company has now teamed up with online ticketing platform web app Bookitbee. Currently, 25% of their Royal Yachting Association (RYA) course bookings are now received via Bookitbee, which has saved the company a huge amount of office administration and processing time – so by the end of 2014 they expect to roll this feature out to include their yacht racing events.

Barnaby Lashbrooke, founder of virtual workforce platform Time etc, uses a web app called SameWave – a tool that collects and reports data, like sales figures. He says: “Staff don’t have to sit through endless boring meetings [because of this app]. Instead everyone simply reports their performance via SameWave once a week.”

Lashbrooke also uses video conferencing: “We use it for everything: keeping in touch with clients, coordinating our remote workforce and staying in touch with each other in the office too. Its greatest appeal is that almost everyone knows it already and there is no training or learning required to use it.”

He adds: “We’ve also developed a Time etc mobile app, which helps business owners set tasks for their virtual workforce when they’re on the go. It means they can delegate all the jobs they don’t want to or can’t do to a team of trusted freelancers, who’ll get on the case straight away.”

These small business owners all use various apps to make their businesses more productive: from helping with administrative tasks, communicating quicker and more efficiently with staff globally and promoting themselves more directly via Twitter and Facebook.

Peter Chadha, founder of DrPete Inc, a strategic business and technology consultancy, says: “For a small business owner, apps also generally provide a richer and easier functionality than using web-based clients on a mobile handset or tablet. For instance, they can interact with mobile device functions such as the mic or camera, and they can control the user experience by touching and swiping, send data to and from the app provider, and they often work as well offline – as opposed to web-based solutions which are totally reliant on a reliable internet connection.”

Chadha adds: “There are a plethora of apps in the market to assist business owners and their staff. VOIP apps, for instance, can be used to dial in from local or even free phone numbers, which gives the perception to clients and prospects that the business is larger than it actually is. They can also use video conferencing and instant messaging to communicate remotely, use location apps to locate staff, and there are even apps for time recording or billing and project management.”

Although a lot of small businesses are using apps daily, only 22% of small businesses provide apps for their employees to use at work. Recent research (which questioned 1,083 small businesses) found that 37% of small business employees – equivalent to 5 million UK workers – believed they would be more productive if provided with apps tailored to their job role.

Read more …

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This content has been sponsored by E.ON, whose brand it displays. All content is editorially independent.

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