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Traders buy up dying ‘TWTRQ’ stock, mistaking it for Twitter

Vlad Savov, The Verge:

Twitter shares aren’t yet available for public purchase, but that didn’t halt millions of transactions in the moribund Tweeter stock, which trades under the initialism TWTRQ, close but not the same as Twitter’s upcoming TWTR ticker.

This is hilarious. Go home, stock traders. Some of you must be drunk. (I will also repeat that I think Twitter should have chosen ‘RLRT’ as their stock symbol. Missed opportunity.)

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Twitter Files For IPO

Joshua Brustein and Nicholas Summers, Businessweek

Twitter’s IPO will be a smaller affair than the social network’s was. Facebook’s valuation was around $100 billion when it went public, while one of Twitter’s investors valued the microblogging site at about $10.5 billion last month. The company brought in $245 million in revenue last year, with an operating income of $3.1 million, according to Privco, a research firm that studies private companies. EMarketer says Twitter’s ad revenue will be well over $1 billion by 2015.

Taking note of the debacle that was Facebook’s IPO in 2012, Twitter is taking a somewhat conservative approach with its public offering. It remains to be seen how the influx of investors will affect Twitter’s future dealings with third-party applications, and how the social network plans to further its monetization strategy.

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Apple Q1: $54.5B Revenue, 47.8M iPhones sold, 22.9M iPads sold

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In what may be the most anticipated earnings release in recent memory, Apple has unveiled their first quarter numbers, and they are huge. Apple posted its largest quarter ever, with $54.5B in revenue, and $13.1B in net profits, compared to revenues of $46.3 billion and a net profit of $13.1 billion year over year.

The world’s largest company sold a record 47.8M iPhones in the quarter, up 10M from 37M in the year-ago quarter, although they came up short when compared to the Streets’ expectations of 50M iPhones sold. 22.9M iPads were sold, meeting the Streets’ expectations, and up from 15.4M in the year-ago quarter.

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The Decrescendo of CES

CES Decrescendo

CES is changing.

CES 2013 is undoubtedly a success, with a record number of exhibitors, attendees, and press attending the conference. Companies have shown off their newest gadgets, announced milestones, and spoken of their futures, as the mountain of press pore over every detail, while  writing furiously to meet their deadlines, as is usual during the early weeks of January. But for a tech conference like CES, there is a worrisome trend in the industry. The current two-part shift that is occurring in the tech industry — and what could ultimately lead to the decline of the super tech conference brand in general — is the downturn of significant hardware innovation, and the rise of major software and service companies over the last few years.

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iOS SVP Scott Forstall and Retail Head John Browitt out at Apple, Employees are ‘Pleased’ With Browitt’s Departure

iOS VP Scott Forstall and retail head John Browitt are leaving Apple at the end of the year. Forstall leaving isn’t too unexpected — there have been rumors of Forstall clashing with other members of Apple senior leadership.

According to my sources, Apple employees are ‘pleased’ with the news that John Browitt is leaving, stating that ‘the changes he implemented in retail have not been the best choices.’

Eddy Cue has been tasked with bringing Siri — which is still in beta — and Apple Maps up to par with the rest of Apple’s services. Cue has been running iTunes, the App Store, iBookstore, and iCloud with great success.

Craig Federighi will run both OS X and iOS, bringing Apple’s two operating systems closer together, and Bob Mansfield will stay on as head of ‘Technologies,’ which “combines all of Apple’s wireless teams across the company in one organization.” Mansfield’s group includes Apple’s semiconducter teams, who, according to Apple, “have ambitious plans for the future.”

The best news in this whole situation is the promotion of Jony Ive taking over leadership of Human Interface for the entire company. He is the backbone of the Industrial Design that Apple has employed over the past few years, and his touch on the interface level will only increase the quality of all the interfaces Apple customers see on a daily basis.

Press Release:

CUPERTINO, Calif.—(BUSINESS WIRE)—Apple® today announced executive management changes that will encourage even more collaboration between the Company’s world-class hardware, software and services teams. As part of these changes, Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi will add more responsibilities to their roles. Apple also announced that Scott Forstall will be leaving Apple next year and will serve as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook in the interim.

“We are in one of the most prolific periods of innovation and new products in Apple’s history,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The amazing products that we’ve introduced in September and October, iPhone 5, iOS 6, iPad mini, iPad, iMac, MacBook Pro, iPod touch, iPod nano and many of our applications, could only have been created at Apple and are the direct result of our relentless focus on tightly integrating world-class hardware, software and services.”

Jony Ive will provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company in addition to his role as the leader of Industrial Design. His incredible design aesthetic has been the driving force behind the look and feel of Apple’s products for more than a decade.

Eddy Cue will take on the additional responsibility of Siri® and Maps, placing all of our online services in one group. This organization has overseen major successes such as the iTunes Store®, the App Store℠, the iBookstore℠ and iCloud®. This group has an excellent track record of building and strengthening Apple’s online services to meet and exceed the high expectations of our customers.

Craig Federighi will lead both iOS and OS X®. Apple has the most advanced mobile and desktop operating systems, and this move brings together the OS teams to make it even easier to deliver the best technology and user experience innovations to both platforms.

Bob Mansfield will lead a new group, Technologies, which combines all of Apple’s wireless teams across the company in one organization, fostering innovation in this area at an even higher level. This organization will also include the semiconductor teams, who have ambitious plans for the future.

Additionally, John Browett is leaving Apple. A search for a new head of Retail is underway and in the interim, the Retail team will report directly to Tim Cook. Apple’s Retail organization has an incredibly strong network of leaders at the store and regional level who will continue the excellent work that has been done over the past decade to revolutionize retailing with unique, innovative services for customers.

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Apple Q4: $36B in revenue, 26.9M iPhones, 14M iPads, 5.3M iPods sold

Apple announced their fourth quarter earnings, and as expected, the numbers improved once again. Apple sold 25.9M iPhones, up 58 percent year-over-year, 14M iPads, up 26 percent year over year, 4.9M Macs, up 1 percent year-over-year, and 5.2M iPods, down 19 percent year-over-year.

Apple made $36B in revenue during the quarter, compared to $35B in Q3, and $28B year-over-year. Apple pulled in profits of $8.2B, compared to $8.8B in Q3, and $6.62B year-over year. Apple now has $121.3B in cash on hand.

“We’re very proud to end a fantastic fiscal year with record September quarter results,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We’re entering this holiday season with the best iPhone, iPad, Mac and iPod products ever, and we remain very confident in our new product pipeline.”

“We’re pleased to have generated over $41B in net income and over $50B in operating cash flow in fiscal 2012,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2013, we expect revenue of about $52B and diluted earnings per share of about $11.75.”

Apple also sold 1.3M Apple TV’s during the quarter, bringing the total to 5.3M Apple TV’s sold during their fiscal 2012. Speaking during Apple’s earnings call, Tim Cook said of the Apple TV, “it still has the hobby label, however, it’s a beloved hobby.” Apple also released numbers for its iCloud service, stating that it now has 190M users,up from the 150M users Apple announced in July and the 125M users Apple announced in April.

Apple’s retail stores have been no slouch, pulling in $4.2B in revenue during the quarter, up $200M from Q3. With 390 Apple Stores around the world, average revenue per store is now $11.2M.

Press Release

CUPERTINO, California—October 25, 2012—Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2012 fourth quarter ended September 29, 2012. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $36.0 billion and quarterly net profit of $8.2 billion, or $8.67 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $28.3 billion and net profit of $6.6 billion, or $7.05 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 40.0 percent compared to 40.3 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

The Company sold 26.9 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 58 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 14.0 million iPads during the quarter, a 26 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 4.9 million Macs during the quarter, a 1 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 5.3 million iPods, a 19 percent unit decline from the year-ago quarter.

Apple’s Board of Directors has declared a cash dividend of $2.65 per share of the Company’s common stock. The dividend is payable on November 15, 2012, to shareholders of record as of the close of business on November 12, 2012.

“We’re very proud to end a fantastic fiscal year with record September quarter results,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We’re entering this holiday season with the best iPhone, iPad, Mac and iPod products ever, and we remain very confident in our new product pipeline.”

“We’re pleased to have generated over $41 billion in net income and over $50 billion in operating cash flow in fiscal 2012,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2013, we expect revenue of about $52 billion and diluted earnings per share of about $11.75.”

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Leveraging Mobile Apps to Increase Brand Awareness, Customer Loyalty, and Revenue

In todays society with everything being on demand, we are infatuated with the use of mobile for convenience and accessibility. There has been a significant change in the online landscape where mobile devices are the vehicle for more than half of all internet access. Consumers use their mobile devices to find information they want immediately, often depending on the instant accessibility of mobile apps to quickly provide them with what they need to know. Businesses are having to adapt to this evolution in consumer lifestyle. People are constantly on the move making today’s consumer a moving target. These consumers are also savvy shoppers leveraging technology to access market research as well as assist with purchasing decisions. They communicate via social media to source information from their trusted network about brands and products. This weighs heavy with their purchase decisions and                                                                                  brand preferences.

Businesses are challenged with engaging these consumers, and having a mobile app can be a great way to keep your brand in front of them as they are on the move. The mobile app has become the tool of choice for consumers, and businesses that have adapted to using this technology are seeing significant returns on their investment. There are a multitude of different apps in the marketplace. Some of these are classified as informative, others meant for convenience, and some are purely for entertainment. This medium of engagement isn’t for every business and finding the right solution to meet your business needs requires a great amount of knowledge about your customer base. It is critical to understand their demographic information, lifestyle choices, purchase preferences, and overall experience with your brand.  It is even important to understand how specifically they are using mobile devices in their daily lives.

A recent study conducted by mobile carrier AT&T found that the predominate reason for using mobile applications was in order to save time, according to 62 percent of respondents. Twenty-nine percent stated that cost-saving was their primary reason for using a mobile app. This same study polled more than 2,200 small business owners (with less than 50 employees) and found 72 percent were utilizing mobile apps in their businesses. A quarter of these companies were using apps for social media marketing and location based services, while 20 percent had bought in to mobile credit card payments. The most dominant use of mobile applications on the list was GPS and mapping, which is being used by nearly half of those surveyed.

Many businesses are leveraging mobile apps to not only assist with their operations, but to increase brand awareness, customer loyalty, and more importantly revenue. IBM’s Retail Online Index reported that retailers experienced a 15 percent growth in sales from mobile devices. There are many different ways to go about achieving these goals and it starts with understanding different ways a mobile app can be leveraged to connect with your consumers. Apps are used to appeal to people in primarily three basic ways.

The first is to make their lives easier by simplifying a task or streamlining a regular process. Second, is to save them money or provide additional value in some way. Finally, the third is to make things more fun and provide a source of entertainment for the user. If your app can provide one or more of these things to users then you’re well on your way to having a successful mobile app.

Here are 10 things you can do with a customized mobile app for your business in order to build customer loyalty, increase traffic, and ultimately boost your revenues.

  1. Build customer loyalty and make them feel special by offering discounts, coupons, and promotions just for using your app.  Create or integrate your customer loyalty program within your mobile app.  With Apple’s release of iOS 6 many companies are leveraging the new Passbook app for loyalty programs.
  2. Utilize push notifications to promote events, offer special deals, and provide relevant information about your brand to users.  Push allows you to deliver instant messages to your customers’ mobile phones whenever you wish.  While only 4% to 10% of email marketing messages get opened, push notifications get read 97% of the time.
  3. Create a viral buzz by leveraging your biggest asset, your army of existing customers. Let them quickly tell all of their friends about you using the built-in sharing capabilities of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.  Ask users for their opinions and engage in contesting through these social media channels. Integrating with these networks allows your business to tap into users trusted groups of friends and acquaintances for cross selling opportunities.
  4. Grow your list by gathering names and email addresses directly inside your app. Request an Opt-In or Sign-up and give them a reward for providing you with that valuable information.  You can then easily export that data into your favorite email marketing campaign service.
  5. Promote special events by providing up-to-date information about where your brand will be or that your hosting something at your locations.  Use an in-app event calendar to outline monthly shows, dinners, open houses, guest appearances, product launches, etc.  Take it a step further and direct users to your website to pre-book, pre-pay, or even pre-order.
  6. Use location based marketing to engage users with customized marketing messages based on their specific location and preferences.  This can be done with a blend of technologies including location based services, GPS, geo-fencing, bluetooth, MMS, and near-field communications.
  7. Keep your customers informed about new developments, product launches, guest appearances, and other unique things your doing that would interest them.  Fill your app with information about your business, service offerings, menus, and more.
  8. Connect with ease making it simple for customers to reach you using one touch calling, email, link to your website, and GPS directions all from inside your app.
  9. Get instant feedback and use it to improve customer service or to further product research.  Create a survey or run a poll then show them that your listening by taking action on their feedback.
  10. Track your success through app analytics and results from different marketing campaigns.

These 10 things are all effective tactics a business can use to get the most out of having a mobile app. No approach will guarantee success, but a blend of these along with a unified marketing message throughout your communication channels will certainly put you ahead of the competition. By recognizing this evolution in online access and consumer behavior you’ll be able to address the business challenge of engaging these mobile consumers. Leveraging mobile apps will be a necessary piece of your long term business strategy. Big chains and brands already get it and have aggressively launched into the mobile application space. They are willing to pay the cost necessary to be in there customers hands and realize if they are not that someone else will be there.

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Companies are Better Served by Using Custom Software

As we emerge from the recent recession and continued economic turmoil, companies are surveying their operations to determine where they are going to invest in to ensure efficiency and stability for their future. Many are adding back workers to labor forces that were slimmed down to get them through the economic uncertainty of the last few years. Some are looking to make large capital expenditures, now that rates are low and money is cheaper to borrow than it has been in years. Others are looking internally at their operations to see where optimizations can be made to position them for growth.

Companies looking internally to make improvements are looking at every aspect of their business to find where they can leverage technology to create increased capacity, as well as realize operational efficiencies. Information technology is a hot button for many key decision makers — and whether they will admit it or not — they prefer IT to be out of sight and out of mind. At the same time, they expect it to just work, and well as so much of their business depends on it.

The flow of information through a business can be like a supply chain, one that is critical to an organization’s ability to scale. Several business executives I’ve spoken with have told me they are looking to ensure that their employees have the best tools available to be highly productive in their roles. All of them agree their workforces need to have the correct information, at the right time, in order to execute effectively and make daily progress towards achieving their long-term business objectives. To these executives, being successful in business depends upon the performance of those individuals, and those individuals rely on the technology they’ve been given in order to execute.

What many executives are now realizing is that the intelligent use of software can lead to increases in both their team’s productivity, and performance. An abundance of business software has been introduced into the market, but very few products have been able to accomplish two primary objectives for companies to get a solid return on their investment. The first is that it provides a straight-forward workflow — providing a simple interface for the end-user to operate. The second is that it meets all of the business needs it was initially purchased to fulfill in the organization.

The majority of commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) products have the ability to meet forty to sixty percent of the business needs it was initially purchased to fulfill. The reason being is that these software packages were designed not for a specific business, but to work for the broadest market possible. These software packages are constructed with the lowest common denominator of a target market in mind, and rarely take into account the nuances of individual businesses. Unless your business fits nicely into the box these software providers determined when creating their product, you’re likely to be left with gaps in what these solutions can do for your company.

When it is determined — usually after a gap analysis — what needs the COTS solution can’t fulfill, key decision makers are left trying to creatively piece something together that will work. I’ve come across many of these types of solutions, and none of them are sustainable once the business begins to scale. It actually will end up costing a business more by relying on a solution that was realized this way, then it would to have paid a third-party to do it right initially. The cost of building a custom software solution is in today’s market is very competitive with COTS options, especially when you take into account all the additional licensing costs.

It is important for businesses to address the total cost of ownership (TCO) when exploring a software solution, and there are some distinct benefits to building custom, in relation to purchasing a commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) package. Let’s look at some of the important factors in understanding the difference between these two solutions, and what the best fit will be for your organization.

COTS software is licensed and not owned. With custom software, you own the source code, and there are no recurring license fees. This has a huge impact on a businesses budget when committing to this type of solution, when an organization is locked into an increase in annual operating expenses. Annual support and maintenance fees are normally not locked in forever. Many companies will give a 1 -3 year period in which the fees cannot be increased. After that period, they can increase the fees.

COTS software cost is typically not limited to the initial up-front licensing fees. Most companies charge around 20 percent of the initial license fee in recurring annual support and maintenance costs. Over a five-year period, that basically doubles the investment they’ve made. For example, if they purchase a $50K license, they will pay $10K per year for an additional $50K over five years and a total cost of $100K over five years. When you look at it that way, the comparison of a $25K custom software project vs. a $50K COTS application looks a lot better when the customer’s investment in actuality is $25K for custom vs. $100K for COTS.

With COTS software, the customer has little or no ability to customize or modify the way the application works. With custom developed software, they own the source code and are in control of what features and functionality they have built into the software. Obviously this comes at a cost for the development work, but offers the customer more cost controls, given the custom development process. It allows for the feature sets to be turned up or down, given the selections that provide the most impact to the organization. These can be rolled out in sequential versions of an application, as a businesses budget allows that cost to be incurred.

Many vendors of COTS software packages only support a limited number of versions. For example, current version and the version prior to the current version. This can force a customer into doing upgrades more frequently than they want to when they have no compelling reason to upgrade, other than the requirement to do so in order to have a supported version. Certain providers have even released a newer version that requires upgrades in the businesses hardware and technology infrastructure.

Ultimately, it makes more sense for businesses to explore building a customized software solution that is tailored to the specific needs of the organization than settling for something that almost fits. If you begin with the end in mind — identifying what business problems a software will solve — it can be built to meet those specific demands. Utilizing a phased approach becomes more cost-effective for the organization over time, and better serves the end-users, as it doesn’t restrict them to working in a contrived way. It will allow an organization to get something up and running within budget, and build onto it based on input sourced internally. Most of the valuable information that will be required when building out future versions of the application will be sourced from end-user feedback after an initial release.

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