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Lumia 435 Now Available In SA

Delivering smartphone essentials, apps and the best of Microsoft services at an incredible price.

Microsoft today announced the availability of the Lumia 435 in SA retailing from R1 149. The Lumia 435 is the first 400 series Lumia, and the most affordable Lumia yet. With core smartphone features, the best Windows Phone experiences and access to the latest apps, it opens up the Lumia to even more people.

“It is clear by the unprecedented adoption of smartphones across South Africa that people want a phone that is capable of performing more than just basic tasks, at an affordable price. The advantage of Lumia remains its ability to provide an almost consistent level of usability, even with entry level devices. This performance is supplemented with great integrated offerings like Office, OneDrive and Skype,” says Shaun Durandt, General Manager of Microsoft Mobile Devices, SA.

For the month of March, the Microsoft Lumia 435 will be available exclusively at Ackermans, on Vodacom prepaid.

“Whether you’re a first time smartphone owner, or just want more bang for your buck, the Lumia 435 provides everyday smart essentials at a price that Ackermans shoppers will love,” says Corne van der Merwe, Cellular General Manager, Ackermans.

Tuluntulu app continues to grow

By Gugu Lourie

“One of the top activities for smartphone owners is watching video content, and one of the fastest growing video streaming apps aimed at Africans is Tuluntulu,” says van der Hoven.

Tuluntulu – a mobile streaming platform app that enables its users to watch TV anywhere and anytime – continues to grow despite mobile operators and media firms with big pockets launching video-on-demand (VOD) services across the African continent.

Tuluntulu is enjoying positive traction with significant milestones being reached since marketing commenced in August 2014.

The Tuluntulu app has now been downloaded over 110,000 times in 154 countries, says Pierre van der Hoven, Tuluntulu’s CEO. “The most popular being SA, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Mozambique, Morocco, Ethiopia and Algeria.”

The cumulative usage numbers of the app since launch has reached over 2,5 million screen views, more than 500,000 sessions, with 100,000 active users and over 79% returning users.

Van der Hoven added that the company was planning to introduce two new categories in the platform, which include streaming radio and free downloads or podcasts are currently being tested.

Tuluntulu has seen this growth despite the rise of VOD in the continent as bigger players invest more money to capture customers. Its achievement was despite the growth of Nigeria’s iROKOtv, a leading video streaming platform and other platforms such as AfriNolly, DoBox, 9fix, IbakaTV

In SA, Tuluntulu is facing competition from Vidi, an online streaming service owned by Times Media Group, which is providing subscription-based VOD services at R149 a month without extra costs for data. Africa’s biggest pay-TV operator MultiChoice also provides the same services to its premium clients through DStv BoxOffice. MTN, Africa’s biggest-mobile phone operator, has entered the fray and is providing MTN FrontRow subscription-based VOD service, designed to target a niche market rather than the masses.

Africa is a continent with more 350 million smartphones and tablets. “One of the top activities for smartphone owners is watching video content, and one of the fastest growing video streaming apps aimed at Africans is Tuluntulu,” says van der Hoven.

Tuluntulu is a mobile content and advertising, and messaging platform targeting audiences across Africa with African focused content. The app can be used to reach people globally via their smart phones or tablets.

Tuluntulu, a free app from Android stores and iOS, offers users an affordable, uninterrupted viewing experience. For the end user usage is free; free to watch “TV” (no subscriptions), 100% free on Wi-Fi, with data costs only if connected via a mobile network. The business model, mainly advertising, is designed to maximize audience reach and engagement.

The platform currently has 15 x 24/7 streaming “TV” channels; News (Al Jazeera, ANN7, Deutsche Welle, Voice of America), Education (Mindset, Spark4U), Documentaries (Afridocs), Movies (Nolly4U), Sport (Mobile Outdoor), Fashion (Fleur), Lifestyle (Africa4U), Comedy (Good4U) and music (GUAP, Mafrik) and Religion (eLev8).

Tuluntulu was founded by van der Hoven, a serial media entrepreneur who was involved in starting numerous media companies including eTV, and YFM.

Ends

MTN moves ahead with its plans for e-commerce

By Gugu Lourie

MTN has a bold plan to tap into the digital space in Africa and Middle East by diversifying revenue streams away from voice to suit its customers’ modern digital lifestyles.

However, MTN – Africa and Middle-East’s biggest mobile phone operator – is not likely to challenge Naspers – the multinational group of e-commerce platforms that owns stakes in China’s Tencent, India’s Flipkart and Russia’s Mail.ru.

But MTN might encroach on Naspers’ territory and pose a threat to other smaller players in the e-commerce and e-tailing industry.

That said, MTN obviously sees opportunities to tap into the digital space.

Like its rivals Vodacom, Millicom, Airtel Africa and Vodafone, MTN is seeking to redefine its role in the digital era as voice telephony revenues continue to dwindle.

It is focusing on providing digital lifestyle services such digital banks (mobile money), digital entertainment (video-on-demand), and my web: delivering services such as online shopping and locate services.
MTN is investing heavily in developing online ventures so that it can take advantage of opportunities in the digital space.

In that regard, MTN and Rocket Internet (Rocket) have formed a joint venture, Middle East Internet Holdings (MEIH), to develop internet businesses in the Middle East. MTN and Rocket are equal partners with a 50% shareholding each. MTN invested €120m in the joint venture.

MTN also has bought 33,3% stake of Africa Internet Holding (AIH) – a joint venture between Rocket Internet and Millicom International Cellular – for €168m. The aim is to develop online ventures across the fast-growing internet markets of Africa.

MTN Group CEO Sifiso Dabengwa says the rollout of digital services supported by Rocket partnership continues to be important.

Dabengwa says the mobile operator aims to leverage its brand, customer base, distribution network and payment solutions (mobile money) in the markets where both AIH and MTN are present to deliver a range of internet services including e-commerce retailing, as well as market place, taxi, travel, classified and food delivery services.
During its results presentation, MTN said the continued rollout of its mobile money and broader financial services remains a priority with the widening of its distribution platform.

The introduction of new products and services including micro lending, international remittances, retail payments and insurance will also be a priority.

“We continue to develop our digital offering through focusing on local content and working with other suppliers. Through our partnership with Rocket we now have a platform that facilitates easier rollout,” says Dabengwa.

MTN’s partnership with Rocket provides it with a strong base for future growth. In 2014 AIH launched 44 new operations across 23 markets in Africa while MEIH has 11 operations in various countries in the Middle East.
Furthermore, MTN’s strategy may benefit from how the mobile phone is transforming all the sectors of the economy in Africa and the Middle East.

This development may assist MTN in diversifying its revenue stream and create new customer base.

MTN, which is valued at more than R410bn, has enough cash to make e-commerce a new playground that has possibilities of creating shareholder value in the absence of big ticket acquisitions.

Vidi adds voice to call for uncapped mobile broadband

By Staff writer

Video-on-demand (VOD) service VIDI has weighed into the current uncapped mobile broadband debate saying that the dearth of wholesale mobile broadband offerings is holding back the country’s entertainment industry.

The conversation around true uncapped mobile broadband has again been brought to the fore following a statement last week by the Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA). The Association called for SA telcos to take bold action to bring down the costs of mobile broadband by introducing wholesale mobile data products. ISPA reasons that the absence of a wholesale mobile data offering is an obstacle to deepening broadband penetration as South Africans primarily access the web via mobile devices.

“While South Africans have rapidly-adopted certain basic Internet applications such as Internet banking and social media, this is because they are light on data and easily-accessible via mobile devices,” says Taryn Uhlmann, GM: Marketing at VIDI.

“The country is lagging when it comes to the uptake of data-intensive streaming entertainment because consumers are yet to be offered a fast, reliable and affordable mobile data experience,” she adds.

Uhlmann says local studios, production houses, actors and the like would all benefit from being able to showcase their considerable creative talent to even greater numbers of South Africans via Internet TV platforms like VIDI.

“Streaming web-based TV has the potential to democratise viewing in South Africa. Platforms such as VIDI require no specialised hardware and are offered on a subscription or pay-per-view basis. In addition, unlike traditional TV, there is no scheduling, allowing users to select what they prefer,” Uhlmann explained.

VIDI takes traditional television’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and completely replaces it with an experience that places the viewer at the centre of customised entertainment.

“VIDI is playing its part to bolster the local web-based VOD industry by paying for viewers’ data as long as their video streaming experience is being delivered via fixed line broadband. What South Africa needs now is for the local telecoms industry to start developing the kind of uncapped mobile broadband offerings that resonate with consumers who are currently reluctant to access streaming video over mobile networks,” concluded Uhlmann.

MTN Zakhele seeks listing on the JSE

By Ujuh

MTN Zakhele shares seem to be destined to list on the black economic empowerment (BEE) platform of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) alongside the Sasol Inzalo shares.

This emerges from a statement released early on Tuesday by MTN Zakhele chairperson Thulani Gcabashe.

The statement said MTN Zakhele has applied for a listing on the BEE platform of the JSE.

MTN is engaging with the JSE to enable its shareholders to continue to securely trade their shares, said the statement.

The statement comes after the Financial Services Board (FSB) ordered all over the counter (OTC) trading platforms to apply for trade exchange licence. The order came last year but has been postponed to accommodate initiatives like the MTN Zakhele OTC trading platform to get their houses in order.

MTN Zakhele has since been granted a number of temporary exemptions to sort out its situation.

MTN Zakhele sort to secure an exemption that will expire on the 25th of November 2016. This is the date on which trading restrictions on MTN Zakhele shares will be lifted.

The FSB rejected this plea and instead kept on giving MTN Zakhele temporary extensions. The previous extension was to 31st March 2015.

MTN Zakhwele announced yesterday that it has another extension to 30 June 2015. It will use this extension to engage the JSE.

Gcabasshe said “The JSE has initiated the process of making amendments to the BEE board in order to better serve the needs of issuers of restricted shares, such as MTN Zakhele.”

He added that “MTN Zakhele will endeavour to list on the BEE board as soon as is practicable, once suitable amendments have been made to the BEE board.”

He said following an application by MTN Zakhele for the current exemption to be extended to 25 November 2016, being the date on which trading restrictions on MTN Zakhele shares will be lifted in terms of the scheme, the FSB has now approved a further temporary exemption to 30 June 2015.

“The temporary exemption is subject to particular terms and conditions which relate to maintaining good corporate governance, recording and surveillance of transactions, having effective security and back-up procedures in place, and compliance to trading and disclosure rules,” said Gcabashe.

This piece was first published in ujuh.co.za whose publishers can be reached at news@ujuh.co.za

Email: editor@techfinancials.co.za

Benefitting from Big Data, analytics

By Anthony Rodriguez

Data is all around us. Some might even argue that there is too much of it which is simply adding to the information overload many people are experiencing. However, when used in conjunction with analytics, data has the potential to unlock more effective and accurate decision-making.

In recent years, using the phrase big data has been a way of illustrating the amount and complexity of the data that consumers and businesses have at their disposal. Throw in terms such as structured versus unstructured data, then it is easy to understand why people tend to lose interest in discussions around this topic.

But what is Big Data?

Big Data is the ability to access all data, whether it comes from a company or from public sources, at its most basic point in as close to real-time as possible. This means giving users the ability to get sight of the raw data and put them in a position to analyse that according to their specific requirements.

The decimating fires in the Western Cape provides a perfect example of this. The Advanced Fire Information System is freely accessible to anybody with an Internet connection and provides the latest data on fires throughout South Africa. Coupled with a mobile app, this resource empowers people to make quick decisions that could mean the difference between life and death.

While this might be an extreme example of Big Data at work, it does illustrate how important having access to accurate information as quickly as possible is. But data on its own does not mean anything. You need to couple this data with an analytical model that is able to create a visual representation that decisions can be based on.

This is no longer something that could be considered a nice-to-have. The reality is that all companies must implement data-driven and decision-making through an analytical model in order to be competitive today. Big Data allows for results to be more accurate.

Entrepreneur recently published an infographic that demonstrate how using data can result in smarter business decisions and more revenue for companies. While there are many nuances and subtleties around this, it boils down to companies understanding their customers better. Knowing what motivates customers to buy the products and services of a company means the decision-maker can refine strategy more organically than before. From a consumer perspective, it also means engaging with companies on a number of channels that suit the specific needs of a client.

Social networking has changed the dynamic significantly when it comes to the customer/company relationship. Today, people are better equipped with information on a number of products and services that include not only your company but the competitors as well. This means brand loyalty is becoming increasing fluid with consumers likely to make quicker short-term moves between companies than previously.

Based on this, combining data with analytics will remain integral in assisting executives to make better decisions. While the likes of share traders, investment bankers, and asset managers have been using this kind of methodology for many years, this will extend into other industries. In fact, the role of the dedicated data scientist in organisations will grow in importance.

These individuals will have the technical skills coupled with the business know-how to extract useful information from corporate data. This, in turn, will drive skills development to meet the demand for such roles in South Africa.

Once executives and consumers realise the potential that Big Data has on their respective lives, they will be able to move faster to draw benefit from it. Using an effective analytical model will even further enhance this with both sectors able to respond quicker to what is happening on an almost hourly basis.

Rodriguez is a solutions manager for BI-Blue Consulting
Image source: startup50.com

Soon smartwatches will listen to your body to work out how you’re feeling

By Andrew McStay

Final details of Apple’s new smartwatch have finally arrived at the firm’s glitzy Spring Forward event. But while the hype machine steps up another notch, there are other issues regarding health and self-tracking and, possibly even more important, over wearable tech companies’ interest in our emotional lives.

Apple’s Watch records exercise, tracks our movements throughout the day, assesses the amount of time we are stood up and reminds us to get up and move around if we have been sat for too long – let’s not forget Tim Cook’s “sitting is the new cancer” line. It achieves this by means of an accelerometer, a heart rate sensor, WiFi and GPS. There are already many smartwatches on the market such as the Pebble and offerings from LG, Sony, Samsung and Motorola, among others. Of course, these haven’t had the Apple marketing Midas touch.

Whether the Watch will be a flop or success, Apple’s entry is a significant contribution to industry-wide attempts to get us using wearable devices. The market is predicted to grow from 9.7m units in 2013 to 135m in 2018, according to CCS Insight, while a report from UK retailer John Lewis also records steady growth in wearables for health and well-being: sales were up 395% from 2013. This is notable because John Lewis is not aimed at the tech-savvy, and therefore presents a reasonable indicator of mass-market take-up of wearables.
Information is power

To understand the significance of Watch and other self-tracking wearables, we should look to Silicon Valley and the Quantified Self movement. This began in San Francisco around 2007 as the editors of Wired magazine, Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly, initiated a group of like-minded people interested in “self-knowledge through numbers”, a motto and philosophy of sorts for the Quantified Self movement. It entails a deeply libertarian outlook of de-centralisation, a shrunken state, autonomy and self-reliance, and pre-emptive and preventative measures based on the use of data.

Apple’s move into wearables is inevitable as the market grows, but the broader interest in health is also notable. It reflects an interest from corporations and national health providers alike in promoting preventative and anticipatory technologies. The promise wearable technology offers is information: about consumers’ and patients’ behaviour, their health, and whether they stick to prescribed treatments.

This has ushered in an age of medical self-interrogation, in real time and real life contexts, whether this be from office pressure, in relationships, or the impact of disease or physical stresses on the body. Wearables are only part of the health story, as advocates of digital health care foresee how the doctor-patient approach would be radically altered by means of wearable monitors and sensors in the home. Technology behemoths such as Apple and Google alongside many startups would clearly be interested in the possibilities offered by reorganising health provision along these lines.

Think and act

Beyond health, Apple’s interest in emotion is key to understanding the significance of its watch. Apple’s website promises that we will reach out and connect in ways we never have. Watch will allow us to draw doodle pictures and observe others as they create theirs, give loved ones a “tap” on the wrist to show we are thinking of them, send real-time heartbeats to others, and so on.

Apple-Watch

The message is to use connectivity to be intimate even at a distance, with the language Apple uses an attempt to claim intimacy and sociability from afar, and to humanise and make palatable what are essentially tracking technologies.

There is however a more literal emotional dimension to biometric technologies: the Watch is an example of what I term empathic media – machines able to assess, collect and make use of data about our emotions. This can be achieved through interpretation of speech patterns and tone, gesture, gaze direction, facial cues, heart rates, and respiration patterns. While Apple’s product does not offer all this (although earlier iterations of Watch made similar promises), it still sits within a wider context of technologies that quite literally feel our bodily reactions.

Until now the online world has understood our preferences through the search term keywords we use and what we click; empathic media will quite literally feel our reactions. This is important because if companies can understand moods, emotions or states of arousal, they have access to information that may sway the decisions we make.

We have yet to see Apple’s privacy policy for the watch. While I’m sure it will state that no personally identifiable information will be disclosed to third-parties, what remains to be seen is what can be drawn from aggregated biometric and emotional data, and where that data ends up. This is a key revenue stream for other empathic media and wearable companies. Will Apple be doing the same?

Andrew McStay is a Senior Lecturer in Media Culture at Bangor Universit
This article was originally published on The Conversation

E-channels boost FNB’s performance

By Gugu Lourie

First National Bank (FNB) on Tuesday reported a 17% rise in pre-tax profit to R8.5bn in the six months to end-December 2014, boosted by strong growth in both non-interest revenue (NIR) and net interest income (NII) and a decrease in local bad debts, particularly in residential mortgages and personal loans.

The bank said NIR rose 10% year-on-year with continued strong growth of 12% in overall transactional volumes with electronic transactional volumes up 14%.

It added that its customers continue to migrate to electronic channels with ADT deposits increasing 11%, whilst branch-based deposits decreased 18%.

“The success of FNB’s electronic migration strategy is also reflected in exceptionally strong growth in online transactions (up 15%), banking app (up 67%) and mobile (up 27%). FNB’s strategy to drive card as a transactional product also resulted in 17% growth in turnover, underpinned by good growth in new active credit card accounts of 8%,” the banking group said on Tuesday.

FNB represents FirstRand’s activities in the retail and commercial segments in South Africa and the broader African continent. It is growing its franchise strongly in both existing and new markets on the back of innovative products and delivery channels, particularly focusing on electronic and digital platforms.

FNB’s African subsidiaries performed well, growing pre-tax profits 25%. The company said the Namibia and Swaziland operations in particular generated significantly higher profits on the back of balance sheet growth, improved margins and increased transactional volumes. Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania continued to invest in footprint and product rollout.

FNB said it produced a return on equity of 40.7%, which remains well above hurdle rates, despite ongoing investment in platforms and new territories.

SAP unveils second South African empowerment deal

By Gugu Lourie

In a move signaling its commitment to South Africa, SAP SA, a unit of German-based enterprise software firm SAP, is strengthening its Broad-Based-Black-Economic-Empowerment (BBBEE) credentials by concluding another empowerment transaction.

SAP South Africa will issue 19.5% shares to The SAP South Africa Empowerment Trust, the beneficiaries of which are previously disadvantaged black students. These beneficiaries will use the dividends received from SAP South Africa to pay for studies facilitated by the Maharishi Institute.

This move will enable SAP to achieve a 30% ownership target in the BBBEE codes applicable to all South African IT companies. Currently, SAP has a 10.5% ownership through BLITEC, a broad-based black IT firm.

BBBEE is designed to widen ownership of the South African economy, which is still mainly in white hands 21 years after the end of apartheid.

SAP rival Microsoft has opted to invest in local businesses because, as with other U.S firms, it cannot sell a stake in its South Africa unit for regulatory and other reasons.

Some BBBEE deals have been criticized by unions and opposition politicians who say they benefit a small group of politically connected black businessmen to the exclusion of the vast majority of poor black South Africans.

The move by SAP is a first of its kind for a multinational firm in the technology industry in SA.

“SAP is passionately driving the Africa innovation technology agenda by focusing on skills developments initiatives that result in sustainable and meaningful empowerment of previously disadvantaged persons. Strategic skills development translates into job creation,” said Pfungwa Serima, CEO, SAP Africa.

“We identified the Maharishi Institute because of its long term track record of success in facilitating the development of skills so that graduates get more than a piece of paper post-training and acquire the life-skills and attitudes essential for the fast changing technology arena in the 21st century.

The beneficiaries of The SAP South Africa Empowerment Trust will obtain access to business degrees, exposure to SAP, one of the leading business software companies in the world, in a way that unpacks their business education in a real-world context and brings it to life.

“We feel the profound choice the company has made in its BEE ownership is an investment into previously disadvantaged beneficiaries and through them, into the future of South Africa for all time,” said Dr. Taddy Blecher, CEO, Maharishi Institute, SA.

Apple reinvents the notebook with the new Macbook

Apple today unveiled the all-new MacBook, a new line of notebooks reinvented in every way to deliver the thinnest and lightest Macs ever.

Every component of the new MacBook has been meticulously redesigned to create a Mac that weighs just two pounds and is 13.1 mm thin.

The new MacBook features a stunning 12-inch Retina display that is the thinnest ever on a Mac, an Apple-designed full-size keyboard which is dramatically thinner and highly responsive, the all-new Force Touch trackpad that brings a new dimension of interactivity to the Mac, an incredibly compact USB-C port for data transfer, video out and charging in a single connector, and a new battery design that maximizes every millimeter of space to deliver all-day battery life.

And, for the first time, MacBook is available in three gorgeous aluminum finishes—gold, silver and space gray.

“Apple has reinvented the notebook with the new MacBook, and at just two pounds and 13.1 mm, it’s the thinnest and lightest Mac ever,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Every component of the MacBook reveals a new innovation. From its fanless design, ultra-thin Retina display and full-size keyboard that’s 34 percent thinner, to its all-new Force Touch trackpad, versatile USB-C port and breakthrough terraced battery design, the new MacBook is the future of the notebook.”

MacBook1Measuring just 13.1 mm at its thickest point, the new MacBook design is an amazing 24 percent thinner than the 11-inch MacBook Air.

MacBook also features the all-new Force Touch trackpad that brings a new dimension of interactivity to the Mac. The new trackpad features built-in force sensors that allow you to click anywhere and haptic feedback that provides a responsive and uniform feel. The Force Touch trackpad also enables a new gesture called Force Click, a click followed by a deeper press, for tasks like pulling up the definition of a word, quickly seeing a map or glancing at a preview of a file.

Applying miniaturization techniques used in iPhone and iPad, MacBook features the most compact logic board ever in a Mac, measuring an amazing 67 percent smaller than the logic board of the 11-inch MacBook Air. With no moving parts or vents, the new MacBook was designed from the ground up to be the first fanless Mac notebook for silent, efficient performance.

The new MacBook features a breakthrough terraced battery design that is layered in individual sheets that are precisely contoured to fit the MacBook’s sleek, curved enclosure. As a result, the new MacBook has 35 percent more battery capacity than would be possible with traditional battery cells and delivers all-day battery life with up to 9 hours of wireless web browsing and up to 10 hours of iTunes® movie playback.**

Designed for the wireless world, MacBook is perfect for tasks like streaming content from your MacBook to your HDTV using AirPlay, exchanging files quickly using AirDrop®, or using wireless headphones. MacBook is equipped with the latest wireless technologies, including built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 for fast wireless connectivity.