Apple expected to close iTunes after 18 years.

After 18 years, Apple are expected to announce the shutdown of their long-standing music download service, iTunes.  

Instead, tech giants Apple look set to replace this service with three separate apps; one each for music, TV and podcasts.

It is thought that Tim Cook will announce these plans at some point during the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference which began on Monday.  In so doing, Apple are looking to reposition themselves as an entertainment service rather than a product powered hardware company.   

iTunes was launched back in 2001, and at the time was a revolutionary platform for music storage. Since then though, the digital age has evolved at such a rapid rate, the system has quickly become outdated.  Platforms such as Spotify have disrupted the music industry to such an extent that it is these who have come to represent “music’s most democratic era” .  Such successful streaming models allow anyone with internet access to listen to and “own” music.  A monthly subscription to Spotify, for example, has turned music ownership from a luxury purchase into an accessible pleasure.  

Over the past decade, Spotify has superseded iTunes.  Comparatively, there is no real comparison!! Spotify claim to have 217 million users worldwide with numbers to its paid service standing in the region of 100 million.  In contrast, paid subscribers to Apple Music stand in numbers of 56 million across the globe.

iTunes have attempted to counter attack a couple of times over the past ten years, but with limited success.  In 2013, Beyonce used iTunes to release her surprise fifth album. She sold 828,773 copies across the platform in the first few days of release.  At the time, this approach was revolutionary. It allowed artists to take advantage of a USP. They were able to market their music in a far more contemporary way to fans.  However, this thinking was short lived. Beyonce and others like her soon abandoned this method of music release. Just two years later many artists floated over to help launch competitor, Tidal.   Owned by industry entrepreneur and frontman, JayZ, this streaming platform too has since floundered.

There have been long-standing rumours about the fated demise of iTunes since 2015 when the tech company launched Apple Music.  At this point it was believed that iTunes would not survive beyond 2020…it now seems these rumours were not without foundation!

Could Spotify become Europe’s first $50bn tech titan?

If the aforementioned break up of iTunes suggested Spotify’s dominance of music technology, this next story underlines it!

For the first time ever, a report by investment banking firm GP Bullhound suggests that it will be a European company, and not a Silicon Valley big hitter who will top the valuation lists by 2021. The report has also indicated that it will be a closely fought 2 horse race, with the battle for the gold being slugged out between Swedish music app, Spotify and Dutch payment systems company, Adyen.

Although European firms still have some ground to make up before they can rub shoulders with those in the Californian trillion dollar club, the future looks certain.  It is also reported that the European tech ecosystem is growing at a faster rate than that of the US. In evidence of this, the value of Europe’s billion-dollar rated companies has increased by 28% in the past year, compared to only 20% in the States.

Breaking down the research in a little more detail, it is exciting to note that it is the UK who are leading the European Revolt!  We have 27 $1bn rated ‘unicorns’; the most across Europe. Monzo, BenevolentAI and Darktrace are emerging names to the field and form three of the five ‘unicorns’ who have stormed into space this year alone.  Germany follows behind us with 11. In the third spot is Sweden with 8.

Looking forward, things look just as peachy.  A fifth of all companies tipped to become billion-dollar firms in the next two years have their HQs here in the UK or Ireland.  These include GoCardless, Tessian and Ebury.

Managing Partner at GP Bullhound, Manish Madhvani remarks upon the dominance of the UK;

“The UK has continued to prove itself as the leading European tech hub…London in particular benefits from fantastic access to funding and capital and a deep and broad talent pool, that allow companies to go from start-up to unicorn successfully and quickly”.

He credits London’s long-standing heritage with finance and banking to be a major advantage.  Fintech is an arena that has enjoyed massive investor attention and as such, companies with this focus have emerged as some of Europe’s most valuable.

The good news just got great! Further research which has tracked investment in tech start-ups across the country has named Bristol alongside Cambridge and London as the country’s top tech hubs, 2019.

London is of course out in front, with $3.7bn worth of investment; 17 of the 27 UK ‘unicorns’ cited in Bullhound’s research are said to hail from the capital.  Bristol meanwhile has enjoyed record levels of growth. Investment in Silicon Gorge companies has meant Bristol has leapt up the rankings after receiving $281m so far this year alone. Amazing when you consider that this figure totals almost as much as the entirety of 2018!

The research was based on Bullhound’s analysis of public data.  They studied $1bn rated tech companies who were founded beyond the year 2000 and who had their headquarters in Europe.

It is the sixth year the firm has released the research.  Looking across all the available data, 2018 can be highlighted as the highest year of tech investment on record for European billion-dollar companies. The firm’s research suggests that $28bn was raised during the period; almost ten times the $3bn raised five years ago. The cumulative value of billion-dollar tech companies in Europe has more than tripled from $89bn in 2014 to $302bn more recently.

Madhvani concludes that “Europe has made incredible progress over the past year, and is seriously rivalling US and Asian tech”, and that “We have every reason to be optimistic about the strength of European tech” even in the face of Brexit uncertainty.

Access to capital has clearly grown massively over recent years.  Investors are continuing to recognising that the UK tech scene has all the ingredients required to dominate…innovation, ambition and a willingness to embrace risk.

“The Spotifys, Farfetchs and Adyens of Europe will soon rival the Ubers and Facebooks of Silicon Valley” says Madhvani.  

Here, here!! We couldn’t agree more!

Google face fresh Antitrust Investigation following billions in EU fines.

After being handed three antitrust fines from Europe under European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, Google are now under scrutiny from US watchdogs.  

Google are facing fresh lines of investigation from the US Department of Justice surrounding their use of anti-competitive business practices in its online searches.

Over the last three years alone, Google have been fined a huge $9.3bn for past misdemeanours.  

Perhaps the most damaging knuckle wrap came to Google’s bottom line last year. Google were hit with a record fine of £3.9 billion for abusing the dominance of its Android operating system.  The investigation found them guilty of forcing smartphone companies to install Google-made Apps on their devices. Again, earlier this year, the search giant was accused of abusing its dominance of the mobile phone market and forcing customers of its AdSense business to promise they wouldn’t allow advertising from rivals on their websites.  The significant reprimand has since remedied this particular situation; the tech giant has made updates to its services.

This new investigation from across the Atlantic is said to be focussed upon whether or not Google gives preference to its own business during online searches.  It has been reported that the antitrust division has been preparing to launch this investigation for some time. Until now though, it was still being determined whether it would be headed up by the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  The FTC formerly had begun an antitrust probe in 2013, but closed the action down without further consequence.

Big tech regulation certainly seems to be “on the radar” of late, both in the US and here in the UK.  Indeed, forming a significant strand of her White House ambitions, US Democrat hopeful, Elizabeth Warren has highlighted her mistrust of big tech.  She has used her significant soap-box to push for further regulation of big technology companies and the potential they hold for commercial monopoly.   She has even gone so far as to suggest she would use the position to break up Google’s businesses.

Although fines of these proportions would cripple and bury the majority of tech companies,  they seem to be doing little to discourage Google and its use of influence. Time will tell whether or not a US Judicial investigation will encourage a more ethical approach to their conduct, or if it will simply warrant another “small change” response.

Ori Living partner with Ikea to launch Robotic Furniture by 2020.

Although Ikea are always pushing boundaries, this week, the Swedish homewares firm have announced a particularly futuristic team up.  Ikea have announced they will couple with Ori Living to bring their Asian customers robotic furniture by 2020.

This innovative product really goes to new lengths.   It is able to convert from a storage and seating unit into a bed and closet — and back again.  Designed to use space inside the home more efficiently, the furniture system is indicative of the need to use space more wisely as housing units become smaller to accommodate the 1.5 million people who migrate to a city somewhere in the world every week.

Discussions between Ori Living and IKEA have been underway for the past two years.  This 2020 launch in Hong Kong is only the first step in the pairs’ collaboration. Ori Living chief executive Hasier Larrea remarks;

“People across the US have been living large in a small footprint with Ori’s robotic interiors since we introduced our first commercial product two years ago. At about the same time, we began working with IKEA to bring robotic furniture to the world,”

Ori launched in 2015 as a way to reduce the footprint of living spaces in urban environments.  It was designed to meet the needs of customers who were trying to do make the most of increasingly cramped inner-city spaces.  High levels of urban migration meant that living units were being built up rather than out. These bed, storage & workspace units have been designed to reflect and accommodate that pattern.

Incredibly, Ori’s first system consists of a retractable bed; one that can slide in or out at the push of a button from a wall-mounted controller.  Homeowners can also use an app on a smartphone. The company has even managed to go one step further. They have succeeded in aligning their product into Alexa.

Partnering with IKEA, Ori Systems has licensed their tech and will leave the manufacture and distribution to IKEA’s incredibly sophisticated supply chain.  Seana Strawn is the product developer for new innovations at IKEA of Sweden. She is excited about the new team-up.

She says that with these developments “small space living customers will no longer have to compromise their needs, dreams or comfort in order to achieve a multi-functional living environment….the customer gets eight extra square meters of living space, using robotics to transform the solution from bedroom to walk-in closet, to workspace, to living room. An all-in-one solution activated through a simple interface touchpad”.

Definitely innovative and ticks all the (flat pack) boxes….now all we need is a robot to put up the flat pack!  

Now that really would be a global product that families worldwide would pay for! Family harmony comes without cost!  

 

About the author: I work hard to find the best opportunities for my candidates and the best talent for my clients. My honest and pragmatic approach helps me to build lasting relationships and deliver real value.  I have extensive experience helping organisations overcome their critical challenges in the digital environment, and have worked with everything from start-ups to major global brands.

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