Gartner’s forecast for New Zealand’s tech sector looks bright for everyone except communications services.  Gartner

NZ Comms sector left behind as IT spending surges

Gartner’s latest forecast says spending on New Zealand information technology will grow 6.7 percent next year. The forecast growth will be uneven. Gartner forecasts spending on enterprise software and devices will grow over 10 percent. Meanwhile spending on communications services will be flat; growing 1 percent. Next year Gartner forecasts the total IT spend to rise to $14.7 billion. That’s up from $13.8 billion in 2021.

Sideways

Spending on communications services will move sideways from $4.16 billion in 2021 to $4.2 billion. This is the largest segment. All the other segments will grow. Spending on data centre systems will climb 5.2 percent from $362 million to $381 million. Gartner says this reflects the shift from on premise computing to the cloud. IT services spending will grow 6 percent from $4.1 billion to $4.4 billion. This will take it past spending on communications services for the first time. This category includes managed services, consulting, and cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

Enterprise software

Enterprise software continues to see rapid progress. Last year it grew 13.1 percent from $2.7 billion to a shade under $3 billion. This year Gartner forecasts 10.8 percent growth to a little under $3.5 billion. In 2021 spending on devices, for the most part that’s PCs and tablets, was up 6.1 percent. Remote work and learning drive growth. Gartner sees that continuing over the next year. Enterprises will upgrade devices and spend on new hardware to help employees with remote or hybrid working. The total installed base of PCs in New Zealand grew by 30% in 2020 and a further 18% growth is forecast for this year.

Vodafone relaunches wholesale unit as VIP

Vodafone has relaunched its wholesale division. Now branded as Vodafone Infrastructure Partners or VIP the unit will sell fixed and mobile services along with a range of specialist products and services. This will include options for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and the Internet of Things (IoT)

Tony Baird, the company’s wholesale and infrastructure director says Vodafon.e already works with more than 100 partners including “international carriers, hyperscale operators, managed service providers (MSPs), greenfield property developers and iwi businesses”.

There’s a clear emphasis on iwi partnerships. Baird says: “As part of Whārikihia, our business-wide Māori development strategy, we want to partner with Māori business and iwi on customised infrastructure solutions and collaborate to create long-term value. Our approach is summed up in our tagline, Tūhono ki te Paerangi, which means connecting to the horizon.” 

He says the company sees a lot of opportunity for growth, 

Murray Osborne, a ten year Vodafone veteran, who in the past lead the public sector team will head VIP. 

Opensignal flags Vodafone as fastest 5G

While there’s little between them in five out six 5G experience categories, downloads are faster on Vodafone’s network. The 2021 5G Experience Report from Opensignal clocks downloads on Vodafone’s network at 275.6Mbps. Users on Spark’s 5G network see download speeds of 157Mbps. Upload speeds are the same, 18.9–21.3Mbps on both networks. These speeds put New Zealand in the top 15 countries around the world for 5G speed. We are one place behind Australia. Opensignal says there is “no significant difference in users’ experience” when playing videos, gaming or using voice applications. Likewise there is nothing between the two when it comes to network availability. The company’s researchers made measurements over 90 days from the start of July 2021.

Chorus: NZ in broadband top 10 next year

Chorus says its planned upgrade will propel New Zealand into the top ten countries for broadband speed by early next year. The wholesale fibre company is offering to upgrade 100Mbps consumer connections to 300Mbps. Upload speeds will climb from 20Mbps to 100Mbps. Some business fibre plans will move to 500Mbps up and down. Modelling shows the average download speed after the upgrade will be around 230Mbps. It’s up to broadband retailers how they handle the speed upgrades. Chorus says it hopes most customers will see the benefit before the end of the year.

Chorus goal: 1 million fibre connections in ’22

CEO JB Rousselot says Chorus aims to have a million fibre connections on its network by the end of 2022. In a presentation at the annual general meeting on Wednesday Rousselot says Chorus hit 900,000 connections earlier in the week. Uptake in fibre areas is 66 percent. The company added 23,000 connections in the recent quarter despite Covid restrictions. Since then fibre connection activity has returned to pre-lockdown levels.

Small business under attack as security breaches double in three years

Research carried out for HP says more than half (54 percent) of New Zealand small businesses saw online crime in 2021. Attacks are now at twice the level reported in the previous 2018 survey. HP says the average cost of an attack is $159,000. With a large number of employees working from home there are new vulnerabilities. Half (49 percent) of the respondents say outdated software is a significant security threat. Almost as many put the blame on their workers: 44 percent of respondents identified employee carelessness as a threat. HP doesn’t say so, but this suggests companies need more security training.

In other news…

Australia’s Telstra plans to buy Digicel Pacific for US$1.6 billion. The deal os backed by the Australian government. China Mobile was a potential buyer for the regional mobile operator. The move is as much political as commercial. At Reseller News, Rob O’Neill reports Spark-owned distributor Telegistics has a new brand. From today it is Entelar. CommsDay reports Sydney and Auckland are among the most expensive datacentre locations. Auckland is cheaper than Sydney but both are a long way behind cities like Singapore. At The Register Simon Sharwood writes: China Telecom booted out of USA as Feds worry it could disrupt or spy on local networks. He says: The FCC now believes – partly based on classified advice from national security agencies – that China Telecom can “access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications, which in turn allow them to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the United States.”


 

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PR and marketing people hate it when journalists describe products as ‘cheap’. We get phone calls asking us to change the word to ‘budget’ or ‘affordable’.

That’s because while ‘cheap’ means you can get something at a low price, it has a secondary meaning where the word can be used to mean ‘inferior’.

It’s not as though ‘budget’ doesn’t have a similar implication when the word is used as an adjective. No-one thinks a budget airline is going to deliver a good experience.

Oh yeah?

There’s a “says who?” problem with ‘affordable’.

That $3000 laptop might be affordable to a marketing manager, but a bus driver might not consider it affordable.

Journalists should not use words like that. There’s a risk of making readers feel bad about themselves.

We’re not perfect. I searched my site and found I have used the word 40 times over 13 years and 1500 posts.

In many cases the word is a quotation.

Guilty

Yet, your honour, at times I’m guilty as charged.

I’ve used ‘affordable’ at least a dozen times without stopping to think there could be readers who don’t agree with that word choice.

The same logic applies to the word ‘inexpensive’. My inexpensive might not be your inexpensive.

Much of the time words like ‘cheap’ or ‘affordable’ are used to contrast with ‘expensive’ or ‘unaffordable’.

Now there are two words that would get a marketing person annoyed if they appeared in a story about a product.

Although not always. The Samsung sales executives showing off the company’s folding phones a year ago were happy to position the product at the premium end of the range. A high price can be a marketing strategy.

As can ‘cheap’. Yet for some reason we are not supposed to mention that.

David Leacraft found his Canon Pixma MG6320 printer would refuse to scan or fax documents if there was no ink in the device’s cartridges.

So unhappy he filed a class action lawsuit against Canon claiming “deceptive marketing and unjust enrichment“.

The point here is that you don’t need ink to scan or fax documents. So there is no reason the device should not perform those tasks if it is out of ink.

Canon advertises the device as an All-in-One printer that does printing, scanning and faxing. At no point does it warn potential customers the features don’t work if there is no ink.

There are 20 Canon printers that behave similarly.

It’s yet another example of customer hostile practices from the companies that make consumer printers.

To refresh your memory printer makers charge ridiculously high prices for ink refills while scaring customers with dubious stories about what happens when you buy third party cartridges.

And they are so keen to watch what you do with your printer that some devices only work if you punch a hole in your cyber security.

Printers are a problem in other ways.

Leacraft and the 100 other Canon customers who have joined the class action are looking for at least $5 million in compensation. The action has yet to be approved by the New York Court.

Overpriced home printer ink is annoying. On its own it doesn’t pose a security risk.

We can’t say the same about the technology printer makers use to keep paying too much for their overpriced ink.

There are home office printer models that stop working if they are not connected to the printer maker.

Connection risk

That’s risky on two fronts.

First, it means you can’t print if you lose the connection.

There are many ways the link can fail. It could be your local wi-fi network, your internet connection or the submarine cable connecting your country to the printer maker’s servers.

All these need to work for you to print a page on your home printer.

To be fair, connections don’t fail often. But the failure rate is not zero.

Dependence

Another way you might lose the connection is if the printer maker’s servers stop working.

Given that the cloud giants all experience downtime, it’s possible your printer maker might be offline when you need to print something in a hurry.

The outages may not be long, but it is ridiculous that your ability to print at home depends on the conditions in a remote server on another continent.

To big to fail

In a similar vein, your printing days could be over if the printer manufacturer goes out of business.

Admittedly that’s not a huge risk, but, again, it is not a zero risk.

Add all the risks together and you realise you have to put a lot of faith in things you have little control over just to get a page out of your printer.

Security alert

A bigger, more worrying, risk is your security.

An internet connection going to your printer potentially punches another hole in your cyber defences.

Connecting printers to the internet isn’t new. It’s been possible to remote print on your home inkjet from anywhere in the world for years.

Modern devices can have embedded servers. They are, in effect, computers in their own right. Again, this is not new.

They perform tasks like installing new drivers and telling printer makers you are using third party ink.

Vulnerable all the time

The difference now is today’s printer servers have to be on all the time. If you block the connections you can’t print.

Chances are the server on your home printer is one of the weakest links in your security chain.

These servers are rarely protected with more than a password. Sometimes not even that.

Patching

You may be careful when it comes to updating your computer, phone and apps. Keeping a printer patched is harder work.

Apart from anything else, it can require manual intervention. Automatic software update options are rare.

The controls can have minimal, hard to understand interfaces. There are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong.

In the past there have been attacks where printers are used to remotely print messages. That’s not serious, but it illustrates the vulnerability.

Compromised

The main problem is that a compromised printer can open the door to everything on your home network. It can be taken over and used to snoop for data or mount external attacks elsewhere. Your printer could become part of a botnet.

Until now printer-to-internet connections have been, up to a point, optional. You could almost always print out pages without needing a live internet link.

Looking at the bigger picture, adding an extra connection back to an account with the printer maker is a small additional security risk. But we live at a time when the idea is to eliminate security risks, not add fresh ones where there is no benefit.

It’s yet another reason to keep the printer turned off and to work on weaning ourselves off printing.

Footnote: Matt East points out that turning the printer off isn’t a great idea. He is right, but that’s where the printer makers have taken us: to a point where you have to make tradeoffs that should not be necessary. 

After a couple of weeks using the beta and a week with the final version of Windows 11, I’ve yet to find a real reason to use it.

Steven Vaughan-Nichols nails the problem with Windows 11 in at Computerworld. 

For many people it is, he notes, “a pointless upgrade”.

That’s the conclusion I reached.

The main justification for moving to Windows 11 is that it will be more secure than Windows 10. To get those benefits you need to have the right hardware.

Windows 11 is picky about hardware. Most versions of Windows have been able to run on computers that are more than a couple of months old.

That’s not the case with Windows 11.

Are you ready to buy a new computer?

For many people reading this, that means buying a new computer.

And anyway, you can get the security updates if you stick with Windows 10.

Which, as the man says, makes the move to Windows 11 pointless.

At least for now. If you want to stay with Windows, you’ll get it with your next hardware upgrade.

You have to ask yourself why Microsoft is moving to Windows 11.

Last version of Windows

When Windows 10 came along the message was this could be the last ever version of Windows. From that point on the idea was that there would be regular incremental upgrades rather than big leaps.

“Last ever version” lasted six years.

In comparison, Windows XP lasted eight years.  Well, five years if you don’t count Windows Vista. Even Microsoft would prefer to see Vista written out of the history books.

Aside from the security benefits, Windows 11’s other selling point is a fresh new look. This is little more than cosmetics. A lick of paint and a brush-up. If anything it now looks more like MacOS.

Some of the changes appear to be change for change’s sake rather than researched improvements. There are background performance changes that users might experience without noticing them.

There is a promise that Windows 11 will run Android apps. That’s unlikely to happen for another year and, unless you have something important you do only on Android, is less interesting than it sounds.

Options

None of this is to say Windows 11 follows the tradition that says every second version of the operating system is embarrassing. It’s usable, popular and up to a point familiar to the majority of users.

On a personal note I was so disappointed with Windows 8 that I investigated, then moved from Windows to Mac. In hindsight it was a smart move, my productivity soared.

This time around Windows users have other options to tempt them away from the mainstream. Desktop Linux is mature and well worth investigating.

If that’s not for you, there are Chromebooks. An iPad Pro can do most things you buy a PC for. You may fancy a change without moving too far from Microsoft’s orbit. A Windows 365 Cloud PC is an option.

Yet I suspect most Windows users will choose to stick with 10 for now and see which way things go. There is no pressing reason to make a decision today. Most enterprise IT departments will wait at least 18 months before changing, you don’t need to take that long, nor do you need to hurry.