Four Companies That Are Shaping Tech Right Now

On October 7, 2015, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Who’s really shaping tech? Is it Apple? Google? Kind of. What about Intel? They’re up there. But a new generation of tech giants (OK, and one or two of the usual suspects) are changing the whole way we interact with tech – and each other. In the process, they’re changing the face of major areas of industry, altering many people’s working lives and shaping the whole face of the tech landscape. Let’s meet them.


Airbnb’s proposition is pretty simple. You have a spare room, someone needs a room. Airbnb puts you together. As it does so, it creates opportunities for a new kind of hospitality industry to emerge – one that’s not just outside the control of the traditional, hotel-based industry but beyond its capacity to deliver. In facilitating one-off agreements between individuals Airbnb changes what we expect from hospitality; the traditional industry is already running to keep up.


Uber does what Airbnb does, but for cabbing. You need a ride? Uber puts you in touch with someone who has a car. It’s a uniquely disruptive model that’s got cab drivers honking their horns in frustration, and it’s equally feted and condemned. While it hasn’t had a bump-free ride, it has shocked the whole transport industry awake. Smart industry insiders now face the job of educating everyone else to understand: the smartphone tech that powers Uber is just the how. The why is about meeting previously unmet consumer needs.


Singapore-based bank DBS is using the available tech in a similar way to Uber, building customer-focussed individualized services that expand banking out of the branch and the ATM and into people’s everyday lives. There’s a smartphone payment app, pop-up ATMS, the beginnings of SMS banking and dozens of other provisions for consumers who never really wanted to stand in lines in a branch. DBS isn’t a startup: it’s one of Asia’s biggest banks. How will the rest of the financial sector respond? Probably by falling over themselves to emulate DBS at the risk of being left behind.


At last, an honest-to-goodness tech company. What’s staid, been-there-forever Facebook doing that’s so all-fired disruptive? Well, for one thing Facebook’s still less than a decade old. For another, it’s not tech it’s disrupting: it’s media. The traditional media model is to figure out that an audience exists for something (or hope it does), launch the paper or magazine and try to connect it with the audience. (Plenty of websites do this too.) Facebook’s approach is unique: they already have an audience, with 1.49 billion monthly active users (Source: Statista), and now they’re revolutionizing how that audience consumes media. Facebook’s future isn’t as a place for people to show off pictures of their cats, though sources indicate cats will be a permanent feature of the whole internet, not just Facebook: instead, it’s as a news aggregator, a kind of mutual magazine service.

None of these companies will destroy the older models of its industry. TV didn’t kill theater, the internet didn’t kill TV – arguably, it ushered in a golden age of great TV shows; where’s the ‘90s Breaking Bad, The Wire, or the almighty, globe-bestraddling Game of Thrones? Instead, we’ll see the old and new models living side by side and eventually settling down into a future where there’s room for hotels and Airbnb.


The 5 Best Chromebooks of 2015

On October 2, 2015, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Chromebooks are lightweight, fast laptops that use a minimal operating system – just enough to support the Chrome browser. You do everything else through that. While they usually don’t have the spec that a full-on laptop has, the days when they were tiny and couldn’t be used offline at all are past and modern Chromebooks come in sizes up to 13.3” as standard, with some even larger. Squint and you could mistake a Chromebook for a superslim laptop – until you see the price. Low cost, toughness, portability and long battery life make them a great choice for business, so if you’re considering one, here are five of the frontrunners.

1: Google Chromebook Pixel 2015

Price: $1, 144 – $1, 999
Size: 11”
Battery: Up to 12 Hours
The Good:
Superfast Intel i5 or i7 processor
Very long battery life
The Bad:
Ahem. The price?
3:2 screen not great for multitasking

The Lowdown: Yes, it’s one of the best Chromebooks you’ll see. But you could literally buy seven budget chromebooks or a brand new Macbook Air for that price tag. Which is what most people with pockets that deep are likely to do. It is a beauty, though, with crisp graphics and great keyboard feel.

2: Toshiba Chromebook 2

Price: $257 – $399
Size: 13”
Battery: Up to 9 hours
The Good:
Full HD screen
High RAM for a Chromebook
Trusted brand
The Bad:
Poor battery life for a Chromebook
Prone to screen glare

The Lowdown:
This is a great all-rounder at an affordable price. It’s also one of the few Chromebooks with really good speakers! Keyboard feel is good, graphics are crisp with a full HD 1080p screen and the machine itself looks and feels high-end. There’s enough RAM to use Google’s ever-expanding offline functionality, and enough battery life to get a full working day away from the socket.

3: Acer Chromebook 13

Price: $349
Size: 13”
Battery: Up to 13 hours
The Good:
Battery life is right up there
Very light and quiet
The Bad:
Flimsy keyboard feel
Oddly-placed ports

The Lowdown:

This Acer Chromebook is fanless and silent, and surprisingly light. It comes in any color you like, as long as you don’t mind it being white, and it’s faster than it needs to be thanks to a 2.3Ghz processor. The let-downs are the flimsy keyboard feel and the baffling port placement – they’re all in strange places. Even the charging port is on the right-hand side of the computer. Other than that it’s a good business choice at a good price.

4: Asus C300M

Price: $219
Size: 13”
Battery: Up to 9 hours
The Good:
Long battery life
Solid performance across the board
The Bad:
Lackluster graphics

The Lowdown:

The Asus C300M comes with the spec of a higher-end Chromebook and the price of a lower-end Chromebook. Its 9 hours of battery life will see you through a working day socketless if necessary and unlike the sober blacks, whites and grays we’re used to seeing on laptops Asus have kitted these out in orange and yellow, though there is a black model too.

5: HP Chromebook 11

Price: $199
Size: 11”
Battery: Up to 8 hours, 15 minutes
The Good:
Great build quality
Great quality screen
The Bad:
Poor trackpad
Small screen

The Lowdown: This is the lowest-cost Chromebook on our list and one of the best built. If you’re looking for a runabout rather than a true laptop replacement this could be it, and at under $200 brand new from the manufacturer, it’s hard to go wrong. Having said which, it’s hard to visualize just how small 11 inches is until you see it. The trackpad is jittery and the screen is… well, it’s good, but it’s 11 inches corner to corner. HP does bigger chromebooks with similar quality, though.