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Low inflation may complicate Budget maths

Posted on by David Murphy

Prices have remained largely static - which could put pressure on the Budget arithmetic

Prices have remained largely static – which could put pressure on the Budget arithmetic

Business Editor David Murphy

There is growing sense that the recovery is taking hold – and it is easy to forget that Ireland has pencilled in another austerity Budget for October.

That is due to take a substantial €2 billion out of the economy.

Ideally, Finance Minister Michael Noonan would like to ease up on belt tightening. But his problem is inflation – or the lack of it.
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10 things we noticed at Mobile World Congress 2014

Posted on by Will Goodbody

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By Will Goodbody, Science & Technology Correspondent in Barcelona

@willgoodbody

After three brain frying, feet swelling, mind boggling days in Barcelona, our coverage of Mobile World Congress is coming to an end. We’ve reported extensively on the big announcements and the Irish angles. But here’s 10 less talked about devices, trends and issues that we noticed during our marathon trek around the vast complex of booths and stands:

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Answering Ireland’s call at Mobile World Congress

Posted on by Will Goodbody

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By Will Goodbody, Science & Technology Correspondent in Barcelona

@willgoodbody

Your product or service may be new. It may be clever. It may even be unique.

But when you are a company competing on the global stage, in a massive market which changes second by second, getting people to take notice of you is not easy.

That’s the challenge facing the 50 or so Irish and Northern Irish companies taking part in Mobile World Congress this week.

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Mobile World Congress Day One – First Impressions

Posted on by Will Goodbody

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By Will Goodbody, Science & Technology Correspondent in Barcelona

@willgoodbody

As a first time visitor to Mobile World Congress, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew it would be big, though not quite as enormous as it is. Set across eight massive halls, each equivalent in size or bigger than the RDS Simmonscourt, even getting around is a challenge.

The other thing you notice is the international nature of the delegates. Telecoms and the internet are global, and so too is the reach of Mobile World Congress.

The day was of course punctuated by a series of glitzy, overblown tech launches by the biggest manufacturers, which invariably hogged the limelight. But what was most obvious was the absence of a ground breaking genuinely new device or technology. Sure, we got Sony’s new 4k video recording smartphone, the Z2. And Samsung unveiled its new curved screen Gear Fit health monitoring wrist band. But again nothing massively new here. It’s an overly used word in the techosphere, but all we really got were iterations or new versions of existing products.

Another observation was the number of cars on display in the main halls. Most of the world’s biggest manufacturers are here showing off their mobile connected vehicles. Cars that can sense danger on the road, can automatically summon help in the event of an accident, and that one day will drive themselves. Mobile tech is set to be a big deal for the auto industry “going forward” (forgive me, it’s late!).

What else? Well device manufacturers are clearly now seeing the limitations of the deluxe high-end of the market. Growth for many established electronics and telecom companies over the coming years will come from the massive untapped potential of emerging markets, not from selling shiny top end handsets at €500 a pop to middle class consumers in the west. It’s clearly what Nokia is thinking, as it launches the X range of smartphones running the Android OS. And many others are also following suit.

Finally, the venue at MWC is festooned with Near Field Communication (NFC) points. NFC is a wireless technology that allows the transfer of information between devices at close range, and is being used for marketing, payment and other functions. But while the promoters were pushing it hard, it was notable that despite being a “trend” at previous MWCs and similar trade shows, NFC has yet to really take off. Part of that may be due to the slow proliferation of NFC enabled devices. But I also wonder whether proponents of it have done enough to convince users of its merit.

So Day 1 is over. Tomorrow is another day.

Mobile World Congress 2014 – what to expect

Posted on by Will Goodbody

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By Will Goodbody, Science & Technology Correspondent

@willgoodbody

It’s that time of the year again. When the world’s mobile moguls congregate in Barcelona, for one of (if not) the biggest mobile phone extravaganza – Mobile World Congress (MWC). For five days hardware manufacturers, telecoms operators, app and software developers, journalists and other interested onlookers, will discuss and showcase the latest developments in mobile, and the trends for the future.

So what can we expect from this year’s show?

First of all it is fair to assume there will be much noise about new smartphone devices. All eyes will be on Samsung, which is expected to announce the Galaxy S5, a successor to its flagship handset, the S4, which it’s rumoured will have an overhauled user interface, a curved screen and may follow Apple down the road of introducing a finger print scanner. It’s also expected that there will be new smartphones from LG and from Sony, which is rumoured to be preparing to unveil a successor to its Xperia Z1, that may feature a 4k video camera, according to reports. And don’t forget Nokia, which may announce a new phone running the….wait for it…. Android operating system.

We can also expect a plethora of new wearable devices. Samsung got the ball rolling today, unveiling two new smart watches to replace the Galaxy Gear. Rumours abound that Sony may have a fresh version of its smart watches in the pipeline. While other manufacturers like Huawei, for example, are rumoured to be on the cusp of entering the wearable fray.

But some, like analysts Gartner, reckon that while last year’s MWC was dominated by wearables, this year it will be more about enhancements to the mobile ecosystem, like apps, software and services. And the connection between wearable devices and the smartphone as a hub. They also predict that like at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month, there will be much focus on mobile connectivity in cars and in the home.

This year could also be notable for the keynotes, particularly the speech on Monday night by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook. It will be one of the first times he will be out speaking in a public forum since closing the $19bn deal to buy WhatsApp. Many will be interested to hear what he has to say about that. Also speaking on Wednesday is IBM Chairperson, CEO and President, Ginni Rometty.

People travel to MWC from all over the world. So it is perhaps no surprise that more than 50 companies from Ireland will be showcasing their wares there this year. 18 of those will be on the Enterprise Ireland stand, which once again will be trying to help match them with potential customers and partners visiting the show.

This year RTÉ will be bringing you the very latest from the show, on TV, radio, web and social media. We’ll bring you news of the latest product announcements, analysis of the new trends, quick peaks at the quirkier side of MWC and of course we’ll be talking to Irish exhibitors as they try to woo other visitors to the show.

So keep a close eye on our special page on the RTÉ website over the course of the week to stay up to date with the news, views, images and video coming from MWC 2014 and keep an eye on my Twitter account @willgoodbody, and @RTEScienceTech for quick updates on the very latest news.

Valuing WhatsApp

Posted on by Will Goodbody

It's not clear how Facebook intends to get value from WhatsApp

It’s not clear how Facebook intends to get value from WhatsApp

By Will Goodbody, Science & Technology Correspondent

@willgoodbody

Because it’s free.

The straight answer given to me by a number of young people this morning, when I asked them why they use WhatsApp.

But while their attraction to the messaging service is clear, the question of why Facebook would shell out a mesmerising $19bn for the four year old company remains something of a mystery. A deal which puts its $1bn purchase of Instagram in the ha’penny place.

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Borrowers cut adrift in great mortgage sell-off

Posted on by David Murphy

Should the country prioritise private debt over what the State owes?

Should the country prioritise private debt over what the State owes?

By Business Editor David Murphy

The escalating row about the State’s sale of 13,000 IBRC mortgages is far bigger than it seems at first glance.

Evidence suggests the Government has left these borrowers unfairly exposed. Also, the Minister for Finance’s policy clears the way for other banks to sell mortgages to unregulated companies if they wish.
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More tax dodger news

Posted on by Sean Whelan

The OECD wants to see countries automatically share information on money held in bank accounts

The OECD wants to see countries automatically share information on money held in local bank accounts

By Economics Editor Sean Whelan

Once upon a time tax dodging was relatively easy; you just got your cash to the Isle of Man or Jersey and slipped it into a bank account owned by a nominee holding company.

And there the trail would end.

Over time it has become harder and harder to get away with this old trick, and today the OECD published a plan to make simple tax dodging by off-shoring really difficult to pull off.
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Electric cars only a spark of genius away from acceptance

Posted on by Will Goodbody

Charging an electric vehicle typically takes between 20 minutes and 3 hours

Charging an electric vehicle typically takes between 20 minutes and 3 hours

By Will Goodbody, Science & Technology Correspondent

@willgoodbody

For many years I’ve been fascinated by the concept of electric cars. Full of questions about what they are like to drive, how quiet they are, what it’s like to charge them, is ‘range anxiety’ overblown and do you need to be a bit of tree hugger to want one?

Not so fascinated, I should add, that I was tempted to buy one last year, when I was forced to change my car. While I’m excited by new technology, I wouldn’t consider myself an early adopter when it comes to expensive, important purchases. And despite what manufacturers and backers might say electric vehicles (EVs), and the infrastructure that must accompany them, are in their infancy.

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Banking as a profession?

Posted on by Sean Whelan

If British bankers establish a professional organisation, it is likely that their Irish counterparts will look to follow suit

If British bankers establish a professional organisation, it is likely that their Irish counterparts will look to follow suit

Here is another of my very lazy “blogs”, this one courtesy of a consultation document on the possible development of a bankers professional body in Britain.

The consultation is being carried out by Sir Richard Lambert, former editor of the Financial Times and former boss of the Confederation of British Industry.

He was asked to look at setting up a standards-raising body by the chairmen of Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander, Standard Chartered and Nationwide (the British building society).

Given our shared history, our integrated labour market and our small size, it is unsurprising to find that many Irish professional organisations are offshoots of their British counterparts, while some just “reverse engineer” the structures and rules of the British original.
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