21 May 2013
Several large corporates have been making news headlines this year as it emerges they are getting away with paying just a miniscule amount of tax in the countries they operate in.
Google, Starbucks, Amazon and now Apple have all had their turn in the firing line recently - but it is happening everywhere in big business. Nowhere is immune.
And quite frankly it P****S me off.
Those of us stuck in PAYE schemes have no chance of saving a little bit of tax at all - we are bearing the brunt, yet these corporations - and I'm aiming this at all of them, not just the named above - get away with paying peanuts.
For example I would love to be able to offset my extortionate rail fare from my net salary - but sadly I cannot. It comes out of taxed income - which makes me want to cry. But I have to suck it up.
It is not as if these companies are paying their staff any higher amounts either, it is just a way of saving those at the top money, and funnelling funds into their shareholders' and directors' accounts.
These companies are quite happy to operate in lucrative countries, and take money off the citizens of that country, but when it comes to putting something back, and paying tax on the revenue earned through those citizens, they all seem to miraculously have some off-shore avoidance scheme on the go.
If loophole finding were an Olympic sport, these companies would all win a joint gold medal.
Finally the issue is getting political traction and instead of villifying benefit cheats all the time (and don't get me wrong, they make me sick too), attention is rightly turning to the serial corporate tax avoiders/shirkers.
They must pay their way and be punished for their actions. No excuses, no wriggle room and no more loopholes.
All I need now is someone to tackle the issue of ridiculous rail fares, and introduce a cap on how much a commuter has to pay, and life would be good.
17 May 2013
There are times when I feel pretty frustrated with people and situations. I'm pretty sure everyone feels the same.
We all know certain people that are crying out for help, but when it is offered to them they stubbornly refuse to take it and carry on with what they are doing.
Sometimes, for example, the answer to their problems is staring them in the face, but they just cannot see it.
Others know they need to do something, but they won't be advised by anyone else, instead preferring to make their own decisions, often embarking on a course that they know nothing about and heading for disaster.
And others are given help and advice on a plate, but instead choose to carry on regardless.
I'm probably not making much sense, but I'm trying to make a subtle point which a few people may well understand.
Sooner or later, those offering the help and advice will get fed up with being ignored and will not offer that help again.
Biting the hand that feeds you is not always the wisest idea.
Anyway - enough of being cryptic - CRN's recent Partner Connect was an interesting day out the office and I'd like to thank everyone that supported it, either by speaking, exhibiting or attending as delegates.
I'm hoping everyone there got something positive out of the day, there certainly seemed to be a lot of business and meetings taking place throughout the day and our speed networking feature went down a storm.
It was great to see that the art of networking and face-to-face interaction hasn't died a death in our industry and is in fact thriving. Without it, the business world would be a much sadder and uninteresting world.
16 May 2013
The whole CRN team is hitting Coventry today to mingle with the visitors and exhibitors at Partner Connect.
So just in case you are wondering why we are not answering our phones - that is where we are!
Hopefully lots of you will be coming along as well - after all we have some of the top vendors in the industry revealing their mobility strategies and how the channel fits in - not something seen that often under one roof.
As well as keynotes from Microsoft, HP, Samsung, BlackBerry and McAfee, there are a whole range of other exhibitors keen to do business and build new relationships, including Fujitsu and Acer.
If you cannot make it, do not fear - we will be keeping you up to date with all the goings on with our 'cover-it-live' story on Channelweb, which will amalgamate all the day's news, pictures and tweets in one handy place.
Either way, you cannot escape Partner Connect!
10 May 2013
CRN's website was down earlier today. And we were basically tearing our hair out because our website is at the heart of what we do.
Without it we cannot get on with our core job, which is to provide interesting and relevant industry content on a daily basis.
We have spent days analysing our website in the past and it is constantly evolving to provide the best user experience possible. Of course there is always room for improvement- as there is with almost every product out in the market today.
But after the CRN Sales and Marketing Awards judging yesterday the judges had a very interesting conversation about the state of many channel companies' websites.
A lot of people have invested serious poundage in their sites and while many of them will look fancy with lots of bells and whistles - how many of them have been designed with the customer in mind rather than to satisfy company vanity?
How many of you can honestly say that a potential customer will visit your website and know instantly that you are the provider they are looking for?
With our site, www.channelweb.co.uk, we have our simple strapline that explains what we do.
Do you even have a strapline?
A lot of sites just assume the visitor already knows all about the company they are visiting, when quite often, a simple description of what the company actually does would be a welcome addition to any homepage and it would cut out a lot of customer frustration when they are trying to find the best supplier for their IT needs.
Also the 'less is more' approach is often quite welcome - throwing too much information on one page and confusing visitors with where they should look first, really isn't the way to impress them.
Instead having a site that is easily navigable should be a priority.
If someone is looking for an infrastructure refresh or a particular cloud-based solution - and you are more than capable of delivering that - can they actually find that out by visiting your website? Some of the sites we checked out yesterday proved that definitely wasn't the case.
Of course I'm not professing to be a marketing or website expert, but as a potential customer I know what I wanted to see in many of these sites, and more often than not I certainly didn't get it.
We always ask for feedback on CRN - we don't always get it and sometimes we get too much on the wrong things - but at least we ask.
Maybe it is time for some channel firms out there to ask what their customers think of their website and what it says about their company?
After all, if someone is window shopping on the web for a new supplier, and the only thing they see is your homepage - how confident are you that they will take the next step and actually get in touch?
07 May 2013
You have to feel a little sorry for Microsoft.
It is trying very hard to regain leadership in the innovation field with its Windows 8 operating system as it tries to make up for ground lost to rivals such as Apple and Samsung, but the reaction so far has not been the stuff of dreams.
Add the Surface shenanigans to the mix and you can see why corks aren't exactly popping in Redmond right now.
Going way back to last year's World Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto, Microsoft hailed the dawn of a 'new era' as it set about reinventing itself for the modern mobile age.
But people have very long memories and all the years it spent at the top of the tree, perhaps oozing arrogance like a certain other vendor that will remain nameless, comes back to constantly bite it on the behind.
That and the fact that it kept missing a trick with the ever-changing mobility scene and missed out on the beginning of the Smartphone and tablet revolution.
It also doesn't help that nobody is any wiser in the channel about the sales strategy for the Surface - or indeed what format the next generation of the tablet will take.
Quite a few people are taking potshots at Microsoft at the moment and most people can only take so much goading before they blow!
So when the Financial Times wrote an article today - based on a pre-briefing granted with selected media - saying the software giant was "preparing a U-turn on Windows 8" - I was expecting fireworks.
The vendor is set to launch a new iteration of Windows 8 later this year - codenamed Windows Blue - to address some areas of concern based on customer and partner feedback - although Microsoft is remaining very tight-lipped as to what these updates will actually be.
And this is giving a few the chance to stick the boot in.
But at the time of writing this, Microsoft had yet to say anything in response. Some would say it is rising above it and will let the product speak for itself.
Microsoft is a different company to what it was a few years ago (a decade or so), and although it continues to make mistakes and irritate its partners - it always does its best to try and put things right. At least it appears to care what partners think about it (unlike some).
Some have said that Windows 8 is slightly too far ahead of the curve and will have its day when the rest of the technology catches up - I don't know if that is true either but it is plausible.
Despite reaching the milestone of 100 million Windows 8 licenses sold so far, the operating system is just not taking off as fast as Microsoft had hoped.
This could be because firms can't afford the upgrade at the moment and are biding their time, or just that they are not that into Windows 8.
As I am so fond of saying - Time will tell.
29 Apr 2013
Well, it has been a beautiful time in my life.They say you never forget your first love.
In my case, my first smartphone love was the iPhone - the 3G to be exact.
I facebooked, I tweeted and texeted along with the best of them on my shiny toy, I lovingly bought it new covers and screen protectors, but the relationship is well and truly soured now.
I've had enough.
When my contract finishes (which I hope is soon) I will not be getting another iPhone.
I have had my latest iPhone - the 4S - for about 14 months now and the service I get from it has been getting steadily worse, rather than better.
The battery barely lasts a day thanks to the new iOS I've been forced to install, and the life drains out of it quicker than a weed left out in the burning sun. Apps keep freezing and it just isn't playing ball any more.
Also I've been given a shiny Windows phone for work purposes which makes the iPhone look dated and blocky in comparison.
Of course for all the fanbois out there I know there is such a thing as the iPhone 5 etc etc, blah blah, but I can't stand it any more. I won't be a victim of the forced upgrade process any longer.
Our relationship is over. Kaputt. Finito.
I cannot take away the popularity of Apple, nor would I want to. But Samsung is definitely eating away at its biggest rival as the two vendor's reverse fortunes recently showed.
But more and more long-term iPhone users I speak to are seeking alternatives because they are getting fed up of having to tow the Apple line all the time.
I will always remember our time together fondly.
But this is how it must be.
17 Apr 2013
Today I received a press release from Acer informing me that it had launched its 'Three Peaks in Three Days' charity challenge.
Taking part in July, a group of 24 Acer peeps and UK journalists (gulp) will be scaling the highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales to raise money for Mountain Rescue services in each region.
For a split second I found myself thinking they must all be mad, until my brain kicked in and I remembered that I am actually one of the journalists taking part. God what have I done?
So in 72 hours, I (hopefully) will have climed Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Mount Snowden - equating to a total climb of 3,047 metres and travelling 470 miles between the different peaks.
I am currently visiting my local gym as often as I can (often at 6 in the morning) and going out jogging every Sunday - so far I'm up to four miles - I might push the boat out and go for six miles this weekend. So I am definitely in training.
We are being given Acer smartphones to record our misery (I mean, adventure) and encourage as many people to sponsor us as possible - Justgiving link to come later - and SIM cards have been provided by BT Business to keep us all connected.
I made the mistake of looking at each of the mountains the other day - maybe I shouldn't have done that!
Acer's Linda Hassall, marketing director at the vendor, said: "Acer and its products are all about performance and exploration which is why we have all teamed up to conquer the highest mountains on mainland UK – and raise valuable funds for the Mountain Rescue teams."
And to explain why funds are so vitally necessary, over to Mike France, national fundraising chairman of Mountain Rescue England and Wales: “We’re possibly the only national, truly voluntary organisation in the country," he said.
"We have 3,500 highly trained volunteers on call and able to respond immediately 24 hours a days, 365 days a year – whatever the weather. Mountain Rescue services are provided free of charge for both the ‘rescued’ and any organisation requesting our assistance. We do rely on charitable fundraising and donations and are delighted that Acer and its journalist team have selected us as the charity they are fundraising for. We hope everyone will support the team with donations.”
Wish me luck!
15 Apr 2013
I was always a fan of The Apprentice in the early years.
Maybe not entirely for the right reasons, but I enjoyed the concept of the show and could see why Alan Sugar initially launched it as he tried to attract talented individuals to showcase how exciting a career in business could actually be.
On a basic level it was an hour of entertainment filled with people who think they know it all, being made to look foolish and incompetent and being shown in their true light.
Admittedly a handful of people did stand out as having some business acumen, but the comments some of them made will entertain me for years to come.
However as the different series came and went, it became increasingly obvious that some people weren't really interested in a business career at all. After all, if they were destined for business greatness, surely they would have made it by now?
I began to wonder if it was for the perceived 'fame and fortune' that came with being on a reality TV series?
I certainly saw this in Series 10 when Stella English and her peers landed on our screens. Who can forget Stuart Baggs? (Where is he now?)
I blogged the whole of that series because I couldn't believe half of what I was seeing to be honest, and I included a warning about the choice of winner in my last blog on the subject, based on some remarks made in the final boardroom dust up which I thought were below the belt.
As we all know, English tried, unsuccessfully, to sue Lord Sugar and Viglen in a Tribunal case of constructive dismissal. But the case was thrown out last week, leaving English's reputation in tatters.
It didn't exactly do Viglen's any good either, as chief executive Bordan Tkachuk told me last week - in his words "when someone throws mud, sometimes it can stick unfairly" and it must have been an unsettling time for all Viglen staff and management as such a high profile case played out in public.
I wouldn't want to even begin to guess at English's motivations for taking Sugar and Viglen to tribunal - from interviews Sugar has done he is convinced it was to extract money from him and get that much wanted 15 minutes of fame.
This obsession with 'being famous' really is a scourge on society in my opinion - people just don't seem to want to work hard to get to their chosen career destination, instead some think that by appearing on some TV show, they will instantly get a glittering career in the media or 'be on TV'.
For those of us that have worked in the media for many years, worked our way up and learned our trade through bitter experience, to see some people breeze in and land well-paid magazine or newspaper columns or even poorly executed TV presenting jobs is galling to say the least. But that seems to be what everyone wants these days. Instant fame and fortune.
In the real world it just doesn't happen.
English, in pursuing this pointless case, has now damaged her future career considerably and I'm sure she regrets giving up her previous job in an investment bank now. Would you employ someone like that? I wouldn't if I had a business.
But ultimately what effect will this have on Lord Sugar and Viglen? It can't have done either of them any favours at the end of the day, and it makes me wonder if further series of The Apprentice would do more harm than good.
Personally I'd be happy to see all reality TV shows axed for good. The sooner the better.
Views - both channel related and everyday life observations - from CRN Editor Sara Yirrell. If you have any gossip that you would like to share with me please do get in touch and also we would love to see your comments at the end of the blog.