5 Stories of Innovation and 5 Stories of Dis-integration

It’s a widely covered topic, but innovation truly is the lifeblood of any business. Stagnation can lead to disaster: while a company could appear strong on the surface, as a dominant force within a particular sector, it might crumble in a few years if they are unable to adapt to changing markets, let alone lead the market in innovation.

To put this in perspective, we’ve identified some of the greatest innovators of recent times and given a brief analysis of what has allowed them to be so successful. As a comparison, there also some companies that were once market leaders, but their failure to adapt and innovate has led to significant drops in value and status.

Domination through Innovation

It’s no coincidence that some of the biggest companies in the world are also the biggest innovators. Below are some companies that not only adapted to changing markets, but have in fact led the charge in innovating and transforming our lives.


We’ve discussed previously how innovative Google can be, but it’s worth another look at this famously dynamic company. The search engine and its fantastically adaptive algorithms have helped define the way the vast majority of the world uses the internet. However, the true innovations for Google often happen behind closed doors, as the company constantly refines and optimises processes many users take for granted. This innovation is frequently in the form of developing and adapting machine learning programs, encapsulated under the name “Google Brain”. For example, in the past the process of transcribing addresses captured by Google’s street cameras to be usable in Google Maps was done by human engineers, who would spend hours pouring over countless images and deciding whether what was captured was an address or not. A team of google engineers were able to train their machines to handle this duty. The process has been streamlined to an almost ridiculous degree: all of the addresses captured in France could be transcribed in about one hour. Google Brain and machine learning has become the lynchpin for many of the company’s innovations beyond the realm of search engines: autonomous cars, advertising, voice recognition (in fact Google reports that machine learning reduced the error rate of their voice recognition software by 25% in only a year), and Google Translate, to name but a few. All of it is built around discovering innovative applications for their machine learning software. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Google are taking their seemingly simple tools and applying them in exciting new ways. By freeing up their staff from menial tasks, Google is allowing employees more freedom to develop exciting and innovative ideas.


It would be almost impossible to discuss innovative companies without discussing Tesla and its founder, Elon Musk.  Tesla and Musk have become bywords for innovation in recent years due to their revolutionary and innovative contributions to a broad range of fields. The results speak for themselves: the Tesla Model S car is widely considered one of the best cars currently available and has been for 2 years in a row according to Consumer Reports. Tesla currently operates at a loss (although they are poised to instantly become market leaders as the auto-industry shifts towards electric), and yet investors continue to sink increasingly large sums into the business, which is a testament to the faith that people have in the innovative capability and vision of both Tesla and Musk. As we’ve discussed previously, focussing purely on profits can be one of the biggest counters to innovation in a company, and it’s amazing to see Musk and Tesla defy this philosophy.

So what makes Tesla successful?  Innovation is built into the DNA of Tesla. Hiring policies are based on prospective employees’ ability to adapt and problem solve, rather than experience in relevant fields. Promotions and bonuses are innovation driven, with top-end category bonuses only available as a result of employee innovation at every level. Musk’s vision extends beyond cars. With his SpaceX project and developments into efficient public transport, Musk, and by extension Tesla, are poised to become some of the defining innovators of the 21st century.


Apple is known for being an innovator, and yet oddly enough the company has rarely been a true pioneer. The MacBook wasn’t the first laptop, the iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player, the iPhone wasn’t the first smart phone.  And yet their products have become market leaders and dominated their respective industries.

Their key innovations come from the features of their products. Take, for example, the Apple iPod. When it launched in 2001, it faced stiff competition from established brands, such as the Sony Walkman. But the innovative features the iPod offered gave it the boost it needed to become the symbol of the digital revolution: the ability to create playlists, shuffle songs and the integrated iTunes software were all revolutionary at the time and have now become staples of any kind of MP3 compatible device. The successes of the innovative services offered by Apple are key to the “halo effect” (a good product makes consumers more likely to trust other products from the same company) that has pushed customers to utilize Apple products across a broad range of devices: it’s not uncommon for a customer to utilize Apple devices for every electronic device they use.

You can pretty much create a timeline for this halo effect business model the progression:

Apple’s iMac created consumer trust for Apple devices > iPod created consumer trust for Apple’s portable devices > iPhone created the trust for Apple’s hand held computer and communication devices > the iPad launches and pretty much kick-starts the tablet market.

Once again, for most of these products, Apple was by no means the pioneering force. However through innovative solutions and applications, Apple continues to be a market leader and a force to be reckoned with.


IBM has been a giant in tech and computing since the industry’s infancy.  A key factor in IBM’s longevity has been its ability to adapt and evolve over time, a process that embraces innovation and abhors stagnation. Its current focus is Watson, its famous quiz show winning adaptive intelligence program. We’ve covered some of the innovative applications for Watson in the past, but the applications for the program are limited only by imagination. IBM shows how the development of an innovative and adaptive product can kick-start innovation for other companies, across a broad range of sectors.


Once a humble online bookseller, Amazon has grown to become a dominant force in the tech industry, offering services that are revolutionizing almost every aspect of our lives. This can be seemingly little things: 1-Click and next-day delivery have transformed consumer expectations for online retail. It can be big things: getting in on the ground floor for commercially available cloud services has allowed Amazon to become one of the market leaders in the cloud industry. In a similar way to Apple, Amazon frequently relies on the halo effect to expand its influence across various sectors. The trust built up by the efficiency of its online retail platform has granted its licence to be adventurous and ground-breaking in its projects. Any other company that promised drone-deliverywould likely get laughed out of the building, but Amazon’s status and reputation as a cutting edge innovator grant it a unique position to drive and transform entire industries.


Honorary Mentions

  • Netflix
  • Facebook
  • Uber


The mighty have fallen 

It’s a fact of business that just as there are victors, there must be losers. Below are some of the largest falls-from-grace as a result of a lack adaptation and innovation.


Although we didn’t go into detail on Netflix’s innovations, the implications of the company are quite clear:  from humble origins as a DVD-by-mail subscription service to the most popular TV network in America. But this rise has left many of its competitors in the dust, most notably Blockbuster. Once a byword for video-rental and a standard part of an average family’s routine, Blockbuster’s failure to change its business model, relying solely on its established brand name, led to its downfall. Customers expect ease of access from the comfort of their own home, something that Netflix quite famously offers, without the peril of Blockbuster’s infamous late fees. To add insult to injury, Blockbuster passed on the opportunity to acquire Netflix for a mere $50 million in 2000.


Once the device of choice for professionals, Blackberry failed to adapt to a changing market and customer demands. Actively rejecting the touch-screen popularized by smartphones such as the iPhone, Blackberry was left behind. As consumers enjoyed the freedom and ease-of-use offered by touch-screen in their personal lives, a shift in workplace policy arose and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) became standard. In a similar manner to Blockbuster, Blackberry failed to address shifts in consumer demands which allowed them to be overtaken by their rivals and left playing catch-up.

Polaroid & Kodak

Both companies were once giants of the photography industry. Kodak dominated the affordable camera industry, while Polaroid was a household name for its near-instant available photographs. However, the rise of digital photography in the 90s left them reeling. The initial cost of the technology meant that Kodak was unwilling to invest (also, much of their profits came from the photograph film, rather than the camera devices), meaning that by the time digital cameras became more ubiquitous as cheaper models appeared, there were already established and trusted digital camera brands in the market which Kodak simply couldn’t compete with. Polaroid’s unique selling point of quickly viewable photographs was eclipsed by digital’s even faster ability, a feature enhanced by producing higher quality images than Polaroid could.  As the 2000s rolled around, both companies were in dire straits with Polaroid filing for bankruptcy in 2001, while Kodak kept going until 2012.

To add more salt to their wounds, it was actually Kodak researchers who developed the technology for digital cameras back in the 1970s, but the board decided against moving forward with a commercial model. Kodak did make billions from the technology patent, but that ran out in 2007 (which perhaps explains why they were able to hold on so much longer than Polaroid).


Yahoo’s glory days have long faded. In the early 00s, they were the kings of the internet, commanding roughly 20% of online advertising. Now they struggle to keep up with the top competitors such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. The reasons for this are quite extensive, but the most obvious one was their inability to rapidly invest in innovation. A quick glance at some of their missed opportunities can create an almost audible groan of frustration:

  • In 2002, Yahoo had the opportunity to acquire Google for $5 billion. Yahoo’s board balked at the sum (which in retrospect is an absolute steal) and rejected them. As of 2016, Google is worth over $500 billion.
  • In the late 90s and early 00s Doubleclick were the dominant force in internet display ads. In 2007 they were acquired by Google for $3.1 billion, an acquisition that has supported Google’s ascension to the undisputed champions of internet advertising. Yahoo missed its chance to acquire Doubleclick, and as such it has fallen well behind Google in terms of advertising.
  • In 2006, Mark Zuckerburg turned down a $1 billion acquisition offer for Facebook from Yahoo. Rumour has that if they’d offered slightly more, Zuckerburg would have been forced to acquiesce, and Yahoo would now own a company that, as of 2016, is valued at $328 billion.

It’s not to bold a claim to state that if these deals had gone through, Yahoo could be a very different beast entirely. Perhaps I would have been yahooing examples for this article.

(Dis)Honourable Mentions

  • Borders Group
  • Nokia


What we can learn

The examples I’ve given above are all from big companies, but we can draw some advice from them that can be integrated into any level of business.

DO let your imagination off the reins. Both IBM and Google have shown that creative applications of simple tools can lead to enormous success and innovation.

DON’T be overconfident in your current strengths. All of the examples of failing businesses we gave can be traced back to one root cause: overconfidence that their services or products will always be in demand.

DO branch out. In contrast to the above, all of the successful businesses have used their strong core business as a platform to expand into a large variety of different fields.

DON’T ignore the competition. Failing to pay attention to competitors and how consumers are responding to their products can lead to disaster. If a competitor is offering something that you do not, and there is a positive response to it, it might be worth investigating adapting something similar into your own business. As Apple shows, it’s not necessarily about being a pioneer, it’s about doing it better than anyone else.

DO encourage innovation in the workplace. Tesla and Google both invest resources directly into encouraging their employees’ innovation. Remember, just because you can’t see a way to improve something, doesn’t mean other people can’t.

DON’T be overly cautious over costs. When it comes right down to it, innovation can be risky, and an expensive risk at that. However being too timid can lead to massive missed opportunities, as with Kodak and Yahoo, while being willing to take the plunge has left Tesla poised to dominate the auto-industry in forthcoming years.

Image attribution

Image provided courtesy of Boegh

Further Reading

eWeek: 10 ways Amazon keeps pushing the innovation envelope

Fast Company: The Most Innovative Companies of 2016

Forbes: The World’s Most Innovative Companies

Investopedia: Companies that went bankrupt from innovation lag

Telegraph: Apple’s greatest innovations in pictures

Vocoli: 10 Companies that failed to innovate and what happened to them.


Blurring the digital and physical

You may have seen a post I put up a while ago about Angela Ahrendts and her move from Burberry to Apple. There was a video I posted with it called ‘Burberry’s Social Story’. In this video, Angela discusses ‘blurring the digital and physical worlds’. The first time I saw it, I thought it would be a while before we saw this more prominently in the retail industry, but since then I have seen much evidence to the contrary.

Have you been in Topshop recently? They are currently engaging in a brilliant digital-physical campaign. You all know of my love of Pinterest and Topshop has created a Pinterest campaign that works online and offline. Online, Topshop is encouraging Pinners to create a Christmas board with the tag #DearTopshop with the chance of winning some amazing prizes. This feeds into the Dear Topshop gift generator that I discussed in another previous post. So Pinners generate a gift and pin it onto their #DearTopshop Christmas board. Topshop can then see which items are pinned the most and they are highlighting these items in store. In the stores, the most pinned items have tags around them, letting shoppers know whats popular. They also have boards within the store promoting the #DearTopshop competition. So online, they are encouraging Pinners to shop Topshop online or in stores, and offline they are encouraging purchasing almost through a ‘Pinterest Seal of Approval’ as well as encouraging shoppers back online to Pinterest. It all comes full circle. One feeds into the other and in turn helps the other. Its a brilliant end to end campaign.



Topshop isn’t the only store engaging in this ‘Pinterest Seal of Approval’ idea.Nordstrom have a similar tactic of showing customers in stores what is popular on Pinterest. As well as this, they are offering free shipping for the most popular Pinterest items with a separate page dedicated to these items online. Target are also engaging in their own Pinterest campaign with an online store called ‘The Awesome Shop’ which is filled exclusively with their most popular items on Pinterest, while in store they also have the ‘Most Pinned’ tags.

These are just Pinterest examples, but there are many, many more examples using different digital platforms. Personally, I think its a very exciting time for retailers. Its time for shops to embrace digital and integrate it with their physical space and hopefully enrich the customer experience. Saul Berman of IBM recently wrote an article for Gigaom discussing how companies that embrace the digital-physical innovation, have more of an opportunity for success. Its time for retailers to use their imagination and to create ways of making digital-physical work for them.

Thanks to http://okaybee.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/blurring-the-digital-and-the-physical/


Big Data Promotes a Culture of Data-Informed Decision Making and Adaptive Marketing – Antony Young-Mindshare

Big Data is quickly being catapulted to the top of Marketing’s agenda, but it remains a challenge for many companies in preparing for this shift. According to a survey conducted by IBM, less than half of CMO’s feel prepared to cope with this increasing amount of marketing data over the next 5 years, with the data explosion cited as their #1 headache. The problem isn’t obtaining data, it’s figuring out how to turn it into marketing magic. I’m seeing a growing list of exceptional cases of marketer’s shifting their organizations to adopt a higher level of data-informed decision making, often with astonishing results.

It’s not so much big data, but smart data used at scale

Last week, I had dinner with Joe Rospars, founding partner at Blue State Digital, who served as Obama’s Chief Digital Strategist for his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and asked him about big data. He responded, their approach “wasn’t so much big data, but smart data used at scale.” To win this election, they needed to get very granular in their targeting. By extracting voter files and collecting information via the tens of thousands of polling calls made to homes every night, they were able to identify by household individual voter likelihood, and then determine the communications they needed to deliver.

The Obama campaign expertly targeted via online advertising, email, door to door and phone canvassing very personalized messaging. They cleverly extended this strategy via social media. Nearly a million supporters that ‘liked’ the Obama 2012 page also allowed access to their profile data via Facebook Connect. This enabled Obama’s people to identify their Facebook friends in battleground States, cross tabulate with their own databases, which they then asked supporters to email or even personally call their friends that fit likely Obama voter profiles, to remind them to register or vote early.

Data is the engine for Adaptive Marketing

Data is allowing brands to move quicker and more decisively to gain a market advantage by dynamically informing their messaging and media.

Samsung a big investor in data, worked with insights firm Networked Insights, to use real-time social listening to help them keep a finger on the pulse of consumer sentiment and adjust their communications to capitalize on the web discussion about brands.

Within a couple of hours of Apple’s Tim Cook revealing their iPhone 5, Samsung reading the reaction in social channels, drafted new print, digital, and TV ads. The following week as the iPhone hit the stores, they aired TV ads mocking Apple customers queuing up for the new phone and some of its less flattering features. The commercial was a hit, and received more than 70 million views online.

They also used social listening as a real time guide to evaluate how effective their ads were with consumers by measuring what people are saying about them and what effect they’ve having on competitors’ brands. Stressing the importance of data in informing their marketing, Brian Wallace, the former VP of Marketing at Samsung, (who recently moved to Motorola to a global marketing role) said, “The data guys lead these conversations. Not the creative guys. Not the sale guys. And it’s not just analytics — it’s analysis.” He added, “[data] does not crush the art of advertising. It simply informs it — and ultimately improves it.” Samsung’s shift to a strategy of employing social data at the center was one of the key factors that assisted them to move from the number 4 mobile device manufacturer to pass the mighty Apple.

Creating a more personalized customer experience

I’m seeing a focus on data enabling marketers to create smarter, more engaged customer experiences.

I recently chaired a panel which included Sandra Zoratti, co-author of the book Precision MarketingShe cited Caesar’s Entertainment as a marketer that centralized data to better formulate its approach to marketing. They identified 0.15% of their customers that contributed to 12% of their casino revenues. This led to them employing Good Luck Ambassadors to monitor these customers. If they weren’t having a good night on the tables, they offered complimentary tickets to a show or dinner based on their known preferences to ensure they left their casinos with a positive experience.

Building a fluid organization that can capitalize on the data

Shifting to a fast moving data marketing organization isn’t just about software and strategy. It requires a shift in how the agency and clients teams work.

The Obama campaign quadrupled their data team from the previous election campaign, adding data technologists, behavioral scientists and mathematicians to crunch the data and help interpret them into actionable marketing insights.

According to Rospars, to improve speed of activation, they established a persona playbook on how the brand should speak, to allow them to delegate decision making down.

Personally, I love this shift to data-informed decision making. It is creating more adaptive, more relevant and more commercial marketing programs. We are barely scratching the surface, but it’s clear that going forward, data will be an enabler of more potent marketing.

Thanks to Brand Media Strategy

Comscore study on mobile retail shopping

Key findings –

– 4 in every 5 smartphone users – 85.9 million in total – accessed retail content on their device in July.
– Amazon Sites led as the top retailer with an audience of 49.6 million visitors, while multi-channel retailers including Apple (17.7 million visitors), Wal-Mart (16.3 million visitors), Target (10 million visitors) and Best Buy (7.2 million visitors) also attracted significant mobile audiences.
– Among both iPhone and Android users, Amazon ranked as the top retailer attaining a reach of 43 percent among iPhone users and 55 percent among Android users, with visitation to the Amazon Appstore largely accounting for the higher reach among Android users.
– Apple commanded a much stronger and expected 33.5 percent reach among iPhone owners compared to 7.3 percent among Android users.
– Females accounted for a higher share of time spent on retail destinations at 53.4 percent of minutes on desktop computers and an even greater share of retail minutes on smartphones at 56.1 percent
– 70.7 percent of smartphone retail visitors under the age of 45 compared to 61.1 percent of desktop users
– Among smartphone audiences accessing retail destinations, nearly 1 in every 3 had a household income of $100k or greater, with this income segment driving a comparable 31.2 percent of minutes spent on retail sites and apps.

What retail is hired to do: Apple Inc. vs. IKEA

Had to post this article the information is amazing, you can check it out at:


This is one of those “Wow!” articles that has all the stats and figures that you could ever dream of wanting!  Sooooo Good! – http://f4il.co/JJuTix

“Within five years after discount retailing pioneer Korvette’s opened its first store in 1957, over a dozen copycat discounters had emerged. In contrast, the giant discount furniture retailer IKEA has never been copied. The company has been slowly rolling its stores out across the world for [close to 50] years; and yet nobody has copied IKEA.

Why would this be? It’s not trade secrets or patents. Any competitor can walk through its stores, reverse engineer its products and copy its catalog. It can’t be that there is no money to be made: its owner Ingvar Kamprad is the third richest person in the world. And yet nobody has copied IKEA.

Our sense is that the other furniture retailers have followed the positioning paradigm and defined their business in terms of product and customer categories, which are readily copied. Levitz Furniture, for example, sells low-cost furniture to low income people. Ethan Allen sells colonial furniture to wealthy people.

IKEA, in contrast, has organized its business around a job to be done: “I need to furnish my apartment (or this room) today.”  When this realization occurs to people anywhere in the developed world, the word IKEA pops into their minds. IKEA is organized and integrated in a completely different way than any other furniture retailer in order to do this job as well as possible.”

Integrating Around the Job to Be Done

IKEA is the world’s leading furnishing retailer and an amazing success story. As Christensen points out the success is all the more perplexing because it seems perfectly defensible. Nobody has tried to duplicate or undermine IKEA.

Positioned around a clear job-to-be-done it integrated design, manufacturing and distribution (including warehousing) as well as “big box” retailing as an experience.

This may sound familiar.

Apple’s entry into retail depended on a clear job-to-be-done, design, carefully selected merchandise and retailing as an experience. Similar to IKEA, Apple also became a dominant player in its segment and even achieved seventeen times better performance than the average US retailer in terms of sales per square foot (http://f4il.co/JJvLUa)

At first glance they seem to be similar businesses in terms of strategy or “architecture” but how do the actual businesses stack up? Can we find data to support any claim of similarity.

Let’s first have a look at the geographic focus of both companies. The graphic below shows that Apple’s retail operations are focused on North America with 74% of its 365 stores in the USA and Canada. By contrast, and maybe as much based on its origin, 73% of IKEA’s 325 stores are located in Europe[2].

Unlike Apple however, IKEA has grown much more slowly. IKEA’s first store was opened in 1958 and had 6,700 sqm (72,110 sqf). The first two Apple stores opened in May 2001. Since then the number of Apple stores grew significantly faster (CAGR: 46%) and surpassed the number of IKEA stores in 2010.

The other difference is in sales growth. In 1954 IKEA’s revenue amounted to approximately $1 million but has grown steadily (note in chart below that first five bars represent decades). In contrast, Apple has grown more rapidly and is also more profitable in terms of margin.

Part of the difference in growth is that Apple was able to subsidize its entry: Apple’s retail operations were loss making for the first three years while IKEA had to rely on financing from its own cash flows.
Eventually, Apple retail became self sufficient and is now more profitable than IKEA. The following charts provides an overview of the economics of Apple’s retail operations and IKEA side-by-side:

While Apple’s revenue per store is still growing, IKEA’s business seems more mature and stable. This makes sense because furniture prices are stable and the number of products (SKUs) depends on available area per store which cannot grow. Apple on the other hand is limited only by traffic issues. Its products take little space and can even be stored off-site.

Speaking of traffic, with 655 million visitors in 2011, IKEA had more than twice as many visitors in its stores compared to Apple. However, each visitor spent about $27, while Apple’s store visitors purchased for almost twice as much.
The same story applies in employee productivity. IKEA has three times the number of retail employees, but Apple’s revenue per employee are 1.5x bigger than IKEA’s.

The largest difference is in the efficiency of real estate. In terms of total sales area IKEA’s operations have more than 30 times the sales floor of Apple.

As much as these numbers tell a story, they don’t help us understand the cause of success. The two companies have completely different operations and their metrics seem at odds to one another. What works for one could never be applied to the other.

The fact is that there is no magic economic formula for disruptive retail. For example, by measure of sales per square foot, IKEA would not even make the top 20 list of US retailers.

However, there is one major thing they have in common: a clear formula for positioning your retail operations. Both operations are positioned around a job-to-be-done that has a high priority in people’s life. As mentioned in the opening quote, In IKEA’s case it is “I need to furnish my apartment (or this room) today” and in Apple’s case Tim Cook said it best:

“Our retail stores provide the best buying experience and the best customer service anywhere. And while that’s important for a buyer of a Macintosh, in some ways it’s even more important for a buyer of an iPad or an iPhone or another post-PC device because these devices are new to many people. There needs to be a place to discover them, to learn about them before they are purchased, and learn how to get the most out of them after they’re purchased.” Tim Cook, March 2012

Apple offers a place where people can discover and get answers about technology without the pressure of making a purchase. The job is to simplify that which is complex for a price premium.
IKEA offers a place where people can get exactly what they need exactly when they need it. The only downside is that “some assembly is required”. In a way, their job is to introduce some complexity in exchange for convenience and a discount.
In the end, they both get the job done and are amply rewarded for it.


  1. Including 13 in Russia.
  2. The acquisition of UK-based furniture retailer Habitat in 1992 is the only exception.

Hacks at Twitter, New York Times, WSJ and Washington Post highlight need for better security hygiene

Earlier tonight, I received an email I would just as soon not have gotten from Twitter, along with 250,000 Twitter users who had their password reset. Twitter security director Bob Lord explained why I’d received the email on the company blog:

“This week, we detected unusual access patterns that led to us identifying unauthorized access attempts to Twitter user data. We discovered one live attack and were able to shut it down in process moments later. However, our investigation has thus far indicated that the attackers may have had access to limited user information – usernames, email addresses, session tokens and encrypted/salted versions of passwords – for approximately 250,000 users.”

Mike Isaac has been following the story the hack at Twitter at AllThingsD, if you want the latest news tonight.

After the password reset, I went through revoked Twitter authorization access to a number of unused apps, something I’ve been doing periodically for years now. That habit is among Twitter’s security recommendations.

I’m thinking about other social media accounts now, too. Shortly after Nicole Perloth began covering IT security for the New York Times, she shifted her practices:

“Within weeks, I set up unique, complex passwords for every Web site, enabled two-step authentication for my e-mail accounts, and even covered up my computer’s Web camera with a piece of masking tape — a precaution that invited ridicule from friends and co-workers who suggested it was time to get my head checked.”

She talked to two top-notch security experts and wrote up a useful list of good digital security practices. Unfortunately, it may be that it takes getting hacked and embarrassed (as I was on Twitter, on Christmas Eve a couple years ago) to change what how people approach securing their digital lives.

I don’t recommend that sort of experience to anyone. I was lucky, was tipped nearly right away and was able to quickly get help from the remarkable DelHarvey, head of the Twitter Safety team.

It could have been much, much worse. I’m thinking of Mat Honan, a Wired journalist who experienced an epic hacking that came about through a chain of  compromised accounts at Amazon, iTunes, Gmail and Twitter. After a lot of work, Honan managed to recover his data, including some precious pictures of his child. In the wake of the hack, he turned on 2-factor authentication on Google and Facebook, turned off “Find my” Apple device, and set up dedicated, secret accounts for password management. Honan isn’t alone in the tech journalist ranks: he just happens to have a bigger platform than most and was willing to make his own painful experience the subject of an extensive story.

A jarring reality is that even people who are practicing reasonably good security hygiene can and do get p0wned. Unfortunately, the weakest point in many networks are the humans — that’s reportedly how Google ran into trouble, when key employees were “spear phished” during “Operation Aurora,” targeted with social engineering attacks that enabled hackers to access the networks.

The last paragraph of Lord’s post suggests that a similar expertise was at work at Twitter, although he does not specify a source.

“This attack was not the work of amateurs, and we do not believe it was an isolated incident. The attackers were extremely sophisticated, and we believe other companies and organizations have also been recently similarly attacked. For that reason we felt that it was important to publicize this attack while we still gather information, and we are helping government and federal law enforcement in their effort to find and prosecute these attackers to make the Internet safer for all users.”

It’s been true for a decade but it’s even clearer in the second month of 2013: practicing basic information security hygiene is now a baseline for anyone else online, particularly those entrusted with handling confidential sources or sensitive information.

Chris Soghoian was clear about the importance of journalists and media companies getting smarter about keeping sources and information safe in 2011. Tonight, I am not sanguine about how much has changed since in the news industry and beyond.

Two days ago, the New York Times disclosed that hackers had infiltrated …the New York Times. The next day, The Wall Street Journal has disclosed similar intrusions. Earlier today, Brian Krebs reported that the Washington Post was broadly infiltrated by Chinese hackers in 2012. The Post confirmed the broad outlines of an attack on its computers.

If you’re a journalist & you’re not using a password manager+unique, long random passwords per website: stop, install and configure one now.

— Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) February 2, 2013

If you have a moment this weekend, think through how you’re securing your devices, networks and information. If you use Twitter, visit Twitter.com and update your password. If you haven’t turned on 2-factor authentication for Facebook and Gmail, do so. Update your Web browser and use HTTPS to connect to websites. disable Java in your Web browser. Think through what would happen if you were hacked, in terms of what numbers you would call and where and how your data is backed up. Come up with tough passwords that aren’t easily subject to automated cracking software.

And then hope that researchers figure out a better way to handle authentication for all of the places that require a string of characters we struggle to remember and protect.

Thanks to digiphile


Mobile Apps Rankings

Wondering why Apple (AAPL) is sinking so much effort into building its own Maps application? Because it doesn’t want Google (GOOG) to gobble up all the revenue from big-name mobile applications. ComScore has published its most recent monthly review of the top iOS and Android apps in the United States ranked by unique visitors and has found that Google captured 5 of the top 6 spots with Google Maps, Google Play, Google Search, Gmail and YouTube. In fact, Facebook (FB) was the only non-Google app to crack the top 6, although it also had the benefit of being the most-visited app in the entire country by a margin of more than 10 million unique visitors. iTunes was the only Apple app to crack the top 10, meanwhile, as it ranked eighth with roughly 46 million unique visitors last month.

An Enterprise VP Engineering’s Thoughts on Developing Software for the Mac

Varonis’ VP of Engineering David Bass shared his thoughts and opinions on the Mac development ecosystem and how it compares to Windows and .NET.  David and his team recently developed a Mac client for the company’s popular new DatAnywhere product – a secure, private cloud file syncalternative to Dropbox.

Q: Why did Varonis decide to develop a Mac client for DatAnywhere?

DatAnywhere is an application for business users, and as we’ve all seen, there’s been a big shift within enterprises – employees want secure access to data from any place, from any device.  We want to give our customers what they need and we heard them loud and clear about the importance of Mac, iOS, Windows and Android support, so we’re committed to building on each of these platforms.

Q: What was your overall experience like in developing on the Mac platform?

Since Mac OS X is based on the NeXTStep operating system which is a UNIX-like operating system based on the Mach Kernel and BSD, you might expect that the development environment would be very barebones.  The opposite is true – we have been extremely pleased with the maturity and robustness of OS X, Xcode, Objective C and Cocoa.  The developer community is really active and passionate, too. We have everything we need to build the kind of applications our customers have come to expect from us.

Q: What should someone coming from .NET development expect from Cocoa?

Cocoa is at least as powerful as .NET, if not more powerful in some aspects.  As in .NET, support for common things like UI, file management, localization and multi-threading are built into the framework and are very easy to make use of. However, with Objective-C, should you wish, you have greater control on the underlying framework – you can manage your own memory and easily change existing interfaces’ (Objective-C terminology for C++/.NET classes) functionality using categories. Additionally, the dynamic nature of Objective-C—everything you do is essentially sending a message between objects—makes it a very powerful language and certain programming tasks are easier than with .NET.

For instance, with Cocoa’s method swizzling you can easily replace the function of an existing method with a new implementation. This technique is particularly useful in cases where you don’t own the interface or don’t have the source code of the interface method for which you would like to change implementation.

Q: What are some of the resources your team used when developing DatAnywhere for Mac? 

Our development team is multi-disciplinary and can adjust quickly to any language.  In the end, writing code is writing code—regardless of the language.

A great resource we found very useful is the Objective-C Guide for C++ programmers by Pierre Chatelier (PDF here).

Q: How would you rate the API documentation?

The docs were very good for the most part (CoreData could use a little more documentation, though).

Q: How would you rate Xcode as an IDE?

Xcode is very good. I’d consider it to be on par with Microsoft Visual Studio.  It’s very full-featured and has everything a developer needs.

 Q: Apple has a reputation for not wanting to let software developers compromise or change the Apple experience (e.g., no flash on the iPhone).  Did you run into any road blocks or annoyances because of this?

Since DatAnywhere does drag-and-drop file synchronization between your Mac and your organization’s file servers, we had to integrate with the Finder app.

Our goal was to provide the user everything they need without having to leave the Finder or open an external app. For that we needed to add icon-badging (similar to MS shell icon overlay functionality in Explorer) and context menu options, which required a few workarounds.

Q: What does your Mac developer setup look like?  What hardware do you use?

We use Mac Minis for development with the latest OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.2 and Xcode 4.5.2.

In our QA environment we use OSX VM’s on VMWare ESX infrastructure.

Q: How can someone check out DatAnywhere?  Is there a free trial?

Just visit http://www.datanywhere.com and click on the big “Join the Beta” button.  Our engineers will help you or your IT department install the server component (it takes about 15 minutes) and then you can download any of our clients and start syncing data across Mac, iOS, Windows, or Android.

Thanks David!

Here’s how BYOD turns into a monster – Sykes’ Board

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Here’s just some of the havoc this monster has caused:

71% of businesses surveyed said mobile devices caused an increase in security incidents 51% of organizations experienced data loss from employee use of unsecured mobile devices 67% of Apple iOS devices are running outdated firmware
infographic from Rapid7

Presentation for the Apple iPad how they are used in a Schools Network

The following video presentation was presented to the Apple Qld Schools Network on the 26/11/2012. The presentation gives a general report on Redlands College’s progress in relation to iPad implementation within the college, reflecting on 2012 and looking forward to 2013. A large section of this presentation covers how staff and students have used the iPads in 2012 within the SAMR model.