Bill Bennett

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Bumper year ahead for NZ IT sector

Gartner says New Zealand spending on technology products and services will grow 7.4 percent this year. The company’s latest forecast says the market will total NZ$15.3 billion in 2022.

New Zealand’s forecast spending growth is ahead of growth in world spending. Gartner says the international market will climb 5.1 percent this year.

The fastest growth in New Zealand will be in data centre systems which Gartner says will grow 16.6 percent in 2021.

Data centre building boom

New Zealand is seeing a burst of investment in local data centres. Earlier this week DCI Data Centres announced plans to further develop its 5 hectare site in North Auckland.

The company says it designed its AKL01 and AKL02 sites for the New Zealand market and local data sovereignty.

Meanwhile, Hawaiki Cable founder Remi Galasso’s Datagrid product is going ahead near Invercargill in the South Island.

Enterprise software

Enterprise software is surging with spending expected to grow 14 percent. It services are forecast to grow seven percent. Devices will be up 6.7 percent.

Communications services is the laggard, as has been the case in recent years. Gartner expects spending to grow one percent. That’s well behind New Zealand’s rate of inflation and can be seen as, in effect, a market contraction.

In recent years Communications Services was the largest sector in New Zealand, but it’s slow growth saw it eclipsed last year by IT Services.

New Zealand IT spending forecast

 2021 Spending2021 Growth (%)2022 Spending2022 Growth (%)2023 Spending2023 Growth (%)
Data Centre Systems66716.67004.97639.0
Enterprise Software3,11114.03,53613.73,98212.6
Devices2,1146.72,3059.02,092-9.3
IT Services4,1767.04,5308.55,01110.6
Communications Services4,1611.34,2031.04,2451.0
Overall IT14,230
7.015,2757.416,0935.4
Gartner figures, January 2022.
All numbers are NZ$ millions

IT services on a roll

Gartner expects IT services to grow 8.5 percent in the coming year to reach NZ$4.5 billion. In 2023 it expects the segment to grow a further 10.6 percent taking it past NZ$5 billion.

IT services includes consulting and managed services. Gartner says consulting will grow eight percent in 2022.

“…staff skills gaps, wage inflation and the war for talent will push CIOs to rely more on consultancies and managed service firms to pursue their digital strategies.”

Gartner forecast total IT spending will grow a further 5.4 percent in 2023 taking the spend past NZ$16 billion.

Google ends free legacy G Suite accounts

Google says customers with legacy free edition G Suite accounts will soon need to pay for Workspace apps. That is bad news for many people.

For the past 16 years G Suite has been free for those customers who signed up in its early days.

G Suite, which includes Gmail, Google Drive and Google Docs, was free from 2006 to 2012 when the company began charging.

Existing ‘legacy’ customers were able to hang on to their free accounts until now.

Gmail with your own domain name

One feature of the early deal was that customers could use Gmail services with an email address containing their own domain name. Other Gmail customers have to use gmail.com addresses.

This was useful for small business owners. Having a generic gmail.com address signals to email recipients they are not dealing with a well-resourced business. A company domain name gives the appearance of a substantial business and in the online world, appearances can matter.

The deal lived on when G Suite was wrapped into the rebranded and reorganised Google Workspace two years ago.

End of free

Now that’s over. Subscriptions for Google Workspace start at US$6 a month. That’s around NZ$100 a year.

It is not expensive, but for many people that is not the point.

The new arrangement starts on May 1. Customers who don’t sign up to pay will have their accounts suspended on July 1.

On one level it is hard to be upset by Google’s move.

After all, Google is a business, not a public service.

And it would be hard to accuse Google of ‘bait and switch’ when the time lag between stages is a decade.

Yet, it is another warning of the dangers of being dependent on a Google service. Many will feel locked-in to Gmail.

That doesn’t have to be the case, there are alternatives.

Alternatives to G Suite

Microsoft has Office 365 options at different price points. The cheapest comes in below Google’s basic offer at US$5 a month for an inbox with 50GB of storage. That is NZ$7.60 a month, still a fraction cheaper than Google.

It includes Microsoft’s web apps. To get the desktop apps, storage and web mail with a custom domain works out at close to twice Google’s price.

A mail-only service from Zoho can cost as little as US$15 a year. There is a limited free version.

For now people with a free version of Google won’t see any change. YouTube and Google Photos will stay. The free, 15GB version of Google Drive remains.

No G Suite migration path

Switching to a free account is an option, but you lose the custom domain name.

There’s no guarantee these accounts will stay free long term.

Where Google’s strategy gets nasty is for people who have Play store purchases or You Tube subscriptions using one of these accounts. It appears the licences don’t transfer. There is no official migration path.

The change may not affect everyone with an older, free, Google account. To find out if it affects you, log into to Google and visit https://admin.google.com/ac/billing/subscriptions

If it says “Legacy Account”, you will get a mail from the company soon telling you about the change.

Phone sales peaked five years ago

In 2016 the industry shipped a shade under 1.5 billion phones. By 2020 that had slipped to under 1.3 billion.

Statista graph showing IDC phone shipments 2008 to 2020Last year’s numbers are not in yet. The early indications are the 2021 tally will be a shade below 2020.

Gartner explains that the fall is down to delayed product launches, longer delivery times and inventory problems.

This sounds plausible. Yet the underlying five year trend remains down regardless of short term considerations.

Gentle decline

Phone sales numbers have not dropped off a cliff. They show a gentle year-on-year decline with the occasional quarterly uptick.

There are people in the industry who think the shift to 5G will rekindle consumer interest.

It’s possible, but not likely. There’s little new and practical that 5G networks have to offer to phone buyers. You won’t get to do anything new with a 5G phone that you can’t do with a 4G phone other than access a previously unavailable part of the frequency spectrum.

That lack of new capability gets to the heart of the problem.

Saturated market

The phone market is saturated. There are few new buyers entering the market.

At the same time, there has been less innovation in phone technology. There are no compelling reasons to bring forward an upgrade. That means people hang on to existing models for longer.

You upgrade when your existing phone dies or degrades.

IDC suggests sales will grow between now and 2025. At that point, total shipments will reach a new high of a fraction over 1.5 billion.

Flat, or, at least, flattish

Even if this is correct. It can’t been seen as anything other than a flat market. In effect, IDC says total shipments will climb less than two percent over a decade.

Apple kicked off the modern touchscreen smartphone era in 2007 when it released the first iPhone.

Over the years since then, the company’s share of total unit sales dropped away. At one point more than seven Android phones sold for every iPhone.

When it comes to revenue, Apple’s share has always been far higher. And higher again if we look at profits made from selling phones. Many of the company’s Android rivals were, in effect, buying market share by selling at cost or even at a loss.

Today Apple’s unit market share is climbing again as Android rivals exit the market or otherwise fade.

Apple the winner from Huawei’s woes

Apple has benefited from Huawei’s troubles. Sales of that company’s phones have plummeted since the US applied sanctions two years ago.

The most recent phone market snapshot from Canalys says:

“Apple accounted for 22 percent of worldwide smartphone shipments in Q4 2021, thanks to strong demand for the iPhone 13.”

Canalys Analyst Sanyam Chaurasia says: ““Apple saw unprecedented iPhone performance in Mainland China, with aggressive pricing for its flagship devices keeping the value proposition strong.

“Apple’s supply chain is starting to recover, but it was still forced to cut production in Q4 amid shortages of key components and could not make enough iPhones to meet demand. In prioritized markets, it maintained adequate delivery times, but in some markets its customers had to wait to get their hands on the latest iPhones.”

Worldwide smartphone shipments and growth
Canalys Preliminary Smartphone Market Pulse: Q4 2021

Vendor

Q4 2020 market share

Q4 2021 market share

Apple

23%

22%

Samsung

17%

20%

Xiaomi

12%

12%

Oppo

10%

9%

vivo

9%

8%

Preliminary estimates are subject to change upon final release
Note: percentages may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding
Note: OnePlus is included in Oppo shipments from Q4 2021
Source: Canalys estimates (sell-in shipments), Smartphone Analysis, January 2022

Typora markdown editor review

Typora is a great Markdown editor that brings distraction-free writing to Windows and Linux.

There’s a smorgasbord full of Markdown editors for Apple users. Windows and Linux users who want to simplify writing have fewer options. Typora changes that.

It’s possible to run Typora on a Chromebook. While there are no versions for Android or iOS, that may change.

Markdown editors are stripped-back distraction-free writing apps. If you want to focus on getting your words onto the virtual page and nothing else, they are your best option.

Many writers swear Markdown improves productivity.

Typora offers a different Markdown take

Markdown editors have a limited range of type and formatting options compared to traditional word processors like Microsoft Word. Even Google Docs offers a wider range of choices.

That’s deliberate, it keeps things simple.

With Markdown editors you can enter formatting codes directly into your text. A pair of * symbols tells Markdown the next few characters are in bold type and so on.

Keep it out of sight

Other Markdown editors tend to keep these codes in sight. You type onto a blank pages and can see your markup codes. You can then switch to a second screen to see how they look after formatting.

Typora doesn’t do that. In normal use, it styles the text as you type. This takes us back to an acronym that we don’t hear much these days: wysiwyg – what you see is what you get.

There is an option to choose a view with pure Markdown codes. Yet, for the most part, Typora keeps this out of sight.

I’m not convinced this is an improvement, but you may feel otherwise.

Themes

The other departure from standard Markdown editors is that Typora offers a series of themes. Many allow you to switch from dark text on a light background to light on dark, or perhaps, format the output in different ways.

Typora takes themes further than that. There is a theme gallery, you can download more themes If you are handy with CSS, you can create your own custom themes.

While this is neat, it is a form of distraction. Instead of procrastinating over font choices and layout options when using Microsoft Word, you can now waste valuable writing time looking at these themes.

Document format

There are Markdown editors that store files in a proprietary format. Thankfully, Typora does not do this. Proprietary formats are a backward step.

The files store as .md documents that you can open with other Markdown editors and applications or services that accept Markdown input. This can be handy if, say, you have a WordPress blog.

You can save direct to Word format if you need to stay compatible with colleagues. Typora has HTML and PDF output too.

Typora verdict

If you already use a Markdown editor, Typora can make sense if being able to see formatted text as you type appeals. I find it doesn’t help, but it doesn’t do any harm.

Typora is the best Markdown editor I’ve seen for Windows and Linux systems. If you want to simplify your writing and you use one of these, it is the smartest option.

If you are a Mac user, take advantage of the free trial period to see if Typora suits better than the other Markdown options.

Typora costs a one-off US$15. There is no cheeky annual subscription to worry about. I couldn’t find it in app stores, you can buy direct from the Typora site.

Ten years of Markdown and iA Writer

It may not work for everyone, but switching from Microsoft Word to a Markdown or text editor boosted my productivity.

Almost every post written on this site over the last 13 years was written using Markdown.

If we want to be technical about it, Markdown is a simple, lightweight markup language.

At a pinch you can write Markdown using a plain text editor. It is better when you use an app. My favourite Markdown app is iA Writer.

Swiss Army knife

Microsoft Word is the writing equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. It aims to cater for every possible need.

In comparison, Markdown and iA Writer are like one of those extra sharp Japanese cooking knives.

They do far less, but what they do, is done better with greater efficiency.

If you don’t know what life will bring you, the Swiss Army knife makes sense. But a chef would choose the latter to prepare a meal.

Simple, minimal, that is the whole point

The beauty of Markdown is there are a mere handful of commands to remember. There are few features.

That is a good thing. It means you can focus on writing words. Nothing else.

In this sense it is the closest thing to using a typewriter.

A few good commands

You can type out the commands for, say, bold text. That would be a couple of * symbols before and after the words you want in bold.

In a Markdown app you could also use Command-B (on a Mac) and the symbols are inserted for you. That’s the same code used in word processors like Microsoft Word.

This means there is almost nothing new to learn. You can be up and running with Markdown immediately.

Zero distraction

The advantage of this simple, minimal approach is you are not distracted by things that don’t matter.

There is no dithering over font choices or layout options.

Trust me, you can spend hours wondering if that editor waiting for your latest story prefers to get copy in Arial or Times Roman.

Faster

Simple means fast. A moment ago I fired up Microsoft Word on my state-of-the-art Apple M1 MacBook Air.

The app took three minutes to check for and download upgrades. Then it did something in the background before opening.

There are times when I have waited much longer to get started.

A Markdown editor is there immediately with a blank page ready to go.

Sure, there are times when I use Word. I have clients who expect to receive Word files or Google Docs. It can be easier to go there from the outset.

That said, converting Markdown to Word or Google Docs is no more than a mouse click away.

Comfortable

Markdown has another advantage. It is all about text.

If, like me, you can touch type, it means you can spend more time with your hands on the keyboard and less time mousing.

I find that over time Microsoft Word needs extra mouse activity – or touch screen action. That can give me overuse pains in my hands and arms. The more time you stay with the keyboard, the less discomfort.

It’s easy to miss this point, but if you find yourself cutting text from PDFs or web pages, pasting them into iA Writer is a cinch. Compare that with the fussiness that can happen when you past text into a word processor.

Markdown apps

Many of the posts on this site were written with iA Writer. A handful were written using Byword.

Byword is a Markdown Editor for Apple users. There is a Mac version and an iOS version that will also run on iPadOS.

iA Writer started life in the Apple camp. There’s a reason for that1.

Today there are Windows and Android versions of iA Writer.

iA Writer and Byline

For me two apps run on iOS, iPadOS, which for a long time was, in effect, the same as iOS, and they run on MacOS.

My first iOS version of iA Writer cost NZ$2.59 at the end of 2011.

It was, and remains, a bargain. That was the best $2.59 I ever spent on software. In 2016 iA charged a further NZ$5.99 for an upgraded app.

I’m not complaining. Even after buying MacOS apps, iA Writer works out at a fraction over one New Zealand dollar a year.

Phone, tablet, laptop, desktop

Because both apps store files in Apple’s iCloud, you can switch between Apple devices without missing a beat.

I can, and have, started writing on a phone, edited on a desktop, polished on a tablet and send from a laptop.

iA Writer and Byword are both solid apps. I recommend iA Writer over Byword because it has had more consistent attention from the developer over the years.

Although there is not a lot in it.

At the time of writing the most recent update of iA Writer was three months old. The most recent Byword was six months ago.

In my longer review of the latest version of iA Writer I explain why it can be better than a word processor.

Ten years on

After a decade with iA Writer, it remains my main writing app on iPhone, computer and iPad.

There are a few minor niggles. iA Writer works best for my journalism and blog posts.

Once a story needs to go longer than a few thousand words it can be unwieldy. Last year I wrote around 4000 words for a book chapter using iA writer.

If that happens, I find it best to break the text into smaller chunks.

There is no question I’m more productive with Markdown than with any alternative. I get more done with less mental and physical strain.

That has to a killer feature by any standard.


  1. Markdown has a strong Apple lineage. One of the authors is John Gruber who runs Daring Fireball, a blog about Apple products and services. ↩︎

Traditional PC sales boom as market resets

After a decade of falling sales, the Covid pandemic has seen traditional PC sales reach the highest level in that time.

IDC reports total PC shipments reached 349 million in 2021. That’s up almost 15 percent on shipments in 2020. Reports from rival analyst companies Gartner and Canalys confirm double digit sales growth for the year.

It is the highest demand for traditional PCs since 2012.

The Wall Street Journal reports that even the desktop computer is making a comeback.

People who work from home want bigger screens and more powerful systems.

Apple silicon project pays off

Apple had a strong year thanks to pent-up demand for new M1 MacBooks. Both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models flew out the door.

In the quarter the updated iMac went on sale, orders jumped 23 percent.

The company’s market share hit 8.2 percent, the highest in a long time.

Dell and Asus both had strong years relative to the broader market. Dell saw shipments grow almost 9 percent while Asus was up 12.5 percent. Market leaders Lenovo and HP slipped a fraction as rivals caught up.

Return to form for traditional PC

Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC’s Mobile and Consumer Device Trackers says: “2021 has truly been a return to form for the PC. Consumer need for PCs in emerging markets and global commercial demand remained strong during the quarter with supply being a gating factor.

“While consumer and educational demand has tapered in some developed markets, we continue to believe the overall PC market has reset at a much higher level than before the pandemic.”

This reset has brought a fresh set of problems for the industry: dealing with the logistic challenge of meeting demand while there are bottlenecks and supply shortages. Gartner saw this as a hiccup in the third quarter.

Could have been better

IDC’s Tom Mainelli says the market could have been even larger in 2021 without those issues.

He says: “We closed the year with many buyers still waiting for their PC orders to ship. As we move through the first half of the year, we expect supply to remain constrained, especially … the commercial segment where demand is the most robust.”

IDC – Growth Streak for Traditional PCs Continues During Holiday Quarter of 2021