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PressPatron

You may have spotted the PressPatron banner at the top of this page. It invites you to be a supporter. There’s also a button to the right of this text.

They are both part of my PressPatron campaign. It’s a new way of crowd-funding websites.

I’m one of the first journalist-bloggers in New Zealand to use PressPatron. That puts me in good company. Russell Brown at Public Address got there first. Brown’s campaign has been running for about a month.

PressPatron is new, so there may be bugs in the system. Please be patient.

Soon you’ll see PressPatron banners in a lot more places.

Newsroom and Scoop are onboard. So is Sciblogs, E-Tangeta and TheatreReview. We’re all small, independent New Zealand online publishers.

What is PressPatron?

PressPatron is a way for readers like you to support the media you use. It is voluntary and painless. You get to set the amount you contribute. You can make a one-off payment or commit to a series of payments over time.

Most of all, PressPatron is not a pay wall. The stories on this site will stay free. You don’t have to pay a cent. The idea is that you’re supporting a website, not buying anything. This is not a new idea. It is a new, better implementation.

For now PressPatron is a New Zealand service. The founder, Alex Clark in Wellington, plans to offer it to overseas publishers. I’ve been talking to Alex about the idea for some time now and feel like I’m on the ground floor of something important.

One of the things I like most is that PressPatron doesn’t get in the way. If you don’t like seeing the banner, you can click it off. The sidebar button will stay, but it’s not offensive or distracting.

What will I do with the PressPatron money?

This site was never designed to by a source of income. It’s not my job. But it does cost money to run and it costs money to cover New Zealand technology.

So my first goal is to collect enough money so this site pays for itself.

Running this site isn’t expensive. There are managed web host fees and a handful of licences and subscriptions for services.

I’m a strong believer in paying people for work. That means paying for things like WordPress plug-ins, even when contributions are voluntary.

Around $500 will cover all my costs.

More, better local technology reporting

Any money I collect over that amount will go towards my journalism expenses. Among other things that means covering conferences and getting to industry events that might not otherwise get the attention they deserve.

InternetNZ’s NetHui is one example.

Open Source Open Society is another candidate. It would be good to get to Multicore World, ITX and the Linux AU conference when it is in New Zealand.

Some Commerce Commission conferences could do with a reporter watching what goes on. I’d also like to get to some out-of-town press conferences.

Tuanz events are useful. In my experience other smaller, narrow focus trade events can be valuable. I learned much from going to ISPANZ a year or so ago.

I’ll use any money raised money to pay for travel, accommodation and meals. Nothing fancy. At this stage PressPatron is not going to provide my income. That will continue to come from paying journalism and writing jobs.

PressPatron goals

  • First I want to make $500 to cover site costs.
  • If I reach a total $1500 I’ll be able to attend two out-of-town conferences that I wouldn’t otherwise get to.
  • A further $1500 means I’ll be able to attend all the big local scheduled events without needing to pick favourites1.
  • Any money raised over $3500 will be spent traveling outside of Auckland to get a wider perspective on technology. It means driving or flying out-of-town to chat to more people, more often.
  • If PressPatron takes off I’d like to spend some money on better photography.

  1. Although that depends on my availability and the amount of paid work I’ve got at the time. Sometimes conferences clash with publishing projects. ↩︎

Apple Pay

Apple insists banks don’t pass on Apple Pay charges to customers. Banks accept this in most countries. But not in Australia and, by extension, New Zealand.1

Wrangling over the issue slowed Apple Pay’s progress in both countries.

Three of Australia’s four big banks asked that country’s regulator for permission to negotiate with Apple as a group.2

The fourth bank, ANZ, has its own agreement with Apple.

On Monday Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank took fees off the table. In return they want Apple to open up the NFC chip in iPhone. That will allow them to run their digital wallets in direct competition to Apple Pay.

The dispute is almost academic. Digital wallet take-up rates are miniscule. For now digital wallets are a rounding error in transaction statistics. Yet everyone involved thinks they will soon be huge.

The Australian reports ANZ completed 10 million Apple Pay transactions since launching nine months ago. This compares to seven billion credit and debit card transactions in a year.

Banks and phone makers expect digital wallets to take off when they add other features. Driver’s licences, loyalty cards and membership schemes are at the front of the list. So are public transport cards.

Replacing wallets with Apple Pay

Both Apple and the Australian banks hope people will one day no longer carry conventional wallets. Both want the game to play out their way.

The key to understanding the dispute is that both sides are big, powerful semi-monopolies. Both want control and both want to clip the ticket on every transaction. It can mean rivers of gold.

The Australian banks argue that opening up the iPhone NFC chip will allow innovation to flourish. Apple argues customers will get a better digital wallet experience if it retains control. Among other things it means customers can run cards issued by different banks from a single app.

Banks elsewhere might be as uneasy with Apple Pay, but few banking markets are as tight-held as Australia and New Zealand. This gives the local big banks a clout that, say, US banks don’t have.

Customers want them all to get on with it. A handful of geeks have swapped to ANZ to use Apple Pay. If that trickle was a flood, the other banks would soon change their tune.


  1. That’s because Australia’s dominant big four banks are also New Zealand’s largest banks. ↩︎
  2. Good question. I’m glad you asked. In normal times it is illegal for competitors to collude with each other. Regulators fear this can lead to bad things for customers. ↩︎

 

Abstract, Jackson Pollock

Gartner says NZ IT spending will reach NZ$11.4 billion in 2017. That’s up 2.3 percent on last year.

This is less than the expected 2.7 percent rise in global IT spending.

The reason for New Zealand’s underperformance is that nation’s biggest IT spending category is fixed and mobile communications services. It accounts for almost 40 percent of all NZ IT spending.

Gartner says growth in this sector is likely to be flat over the next two years.

In 2016 we spent NZ$4.36 billion on fixed and mobile communications services. Gartner’s projection puts 2017 spending at NZ$4.38 billion. That’s a rise of about 0.6 percent. The estimate for 2018 is NZ$4.43 billion.

Meanwhile spending on software will rise from NZ$1.4 billion last year to NZ$1.5 billion in 2017 and will reach almost NZ$1.7 billion in 2018.

Segment 2016 YR 2017 YR 2018 YR
Devices     1,541     1,572     1,556
Data Center Systems         400         402         398
Software     1,421     1,541     1,674
IT Services     3,442     3,518     3,599
Communications Services     4,355     4,383     4,432
Total   11,159   11,417   11,659
Gartner – all numbers in thousands of NZ dollars

Australia’s largest sector is IT services. Gartner says software will be the fastest growing sector in 2017 for both New Zealand and Australia.

Global spending is set to total US$3.5 trillion in 2017. Gartner says the year was set to see a rebound for the industry. It originally forecast 3 percent growth. However political uncertainty means the analyst company has dialled back its optimism.

Gartner research vice president John-David Lovelock says the uncertainty means there’s a wait-and-see mood with many enterprises forestalling IT investments.

Cloud, blockchain, AI all trending

He identifies the big trends as cloud, blockchain, digital business and artificial intelligence.

The analyst expects worldwide spending on devices, PCs, tablets and phones to stay flat at US$589 billion.

Gartner says a PC replacement cycle, strong pricing and functionality will help drive growth in 2018.

We’ve seen similar optimistic projections before now. Some from Gartner. It’s hard to know where that replacement cycle will come from. Technology sales have been falling for years now. Even if it does kick-in, the industry needs more than replacements to see a fresh wave of growth.

Things are strong in the IT services market. Gartner expects the global market to grow 4.2 percent in 2017. It says this will come from investments in digital business, intelligent automation and services optimisation. The report goes on to warn buyers remain cautious.

Apple PayXero says its Apple Pay partnership will help small businesses get paid faster.

The company says slow payments are a major source of grief for small businesses who often struggle with poor cash flow.

Xero says its customers around the world sent 15 million invoices in the last 30 days. Based on Xero’s data customers will pay more than 60 percent of those invoices late.

It says there is evidence that if you offer debtors a payment service your invoices get paid almost 80 percent faster.

Xero is using Stripe to add Apple’s Pay technology to its services. Strip operates in 25 countries, its service allows anyone to accept internet bill payments.

Apple Pay easy

Apple Pay streamlines the paying process. Online credit card payments involve a lot of fussing filling in forms and looking up security codes. It can be as simple as reaching for the Touch ID button on an iPhone, iPad or MacBook Pro. It is also fast.

If you’re a business taking Xero payments with Apple Pay and Stripe you get the extra level of security. Fraud is harder.

Connecting Xero users with Apple Pay means transactions are automatically entered and matched against invoices. The more automation the better.

Comment

With more and more online transactions taking place on phones, Apple Pay opens another channel to get money into a business faster.

One of the most interesting things here is how Xero is able to focus on the things that matter most to small businesses. Cashflow is essential. Small business owners and freelance contractors tend to live off the cashflow.

PC sales

HP New Zealand managing director Grant Hopkins says higher overheads and warranties are behind the premium we pay when buying Windows PCs.

While New Zealanders get the same hardware as US or UK customers, we get better warranties.

He says HP’s US customers get a one-year warranty. That’s it. In New Zealand the Consumer Guarantees Act applies when non-business people buy computers. [1]

Acceptable quality

According to the CGA, goods must be of acceptable quality. Cutting through the legal language, this means consumers can expect a PC to last more than just one year.

Exactly how long it should last isn’t specified in the Act. But most of us have a good idea of what is reasonable or acceptable.

In practice if a computer bought in New Zealand stops working two [2] years after you buy it, you have a right to a repair, replacement or refund. Retailers can’t argue about any of this. Australian consumer laws are similar. [3]

Retailers are responsible for the goods they sell. That’s where you go if there are problems.

Carrying the can

Yet computer brands like HP know they won’t get anywhere if they let their retailers carry the can for poor quality products. They end up running in-house or outsourced support operations to deal with returned products and looking after their retailers and distributors.

While a brand like HP only has to worry about computers for one year in the US, in New Zealand a computer stays on the books as a potential liability two years after a customer buys it.

PC support costs are not directly proportional to the number of computers sold. In the US HP’s support operation gets economies of scale that aren’t possible in New Zealand. There are other economies of scale in a big country.

A big margin

Whether these costs add up to the full 60 percent premium New Zealanders pay over the American price is debatable. Let us know what you think in the comments.

Windows PCs often sell for more in New Zealand than elsewhere. The price difference  dramatic. Apple doesn’t mark up its hardware as much as the Windows PC makers.

Mind the gap

It means the gap between Apple and Windows PC prices is lower in New Zealand than in the UK.

In the linked story The Guardian’s Jack Schofield advises a reader about buying a work-from-home PC.

He says the HP Stream 11 is a low-cost option. Although it’s not recommended as a work machine, the Stream 11 is there to show how low prices can go. In the UK the HP Stream 11 costs £130.

Exchange rates fluctuate. More so in the last few days. In round numbers the pound is worth two New Zealand dollars. So the Stream 11 UK price in New Zealand dollars is about $260.

Twice the UK price

The same model sells in stores here for $500. That’s almost double the UK price.

In December I compared the New Zealand price of the Spectre X2 to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. At the time HP’s computer cost 60 percent more in New Zealand than in the US. That’s after taking GST into account.

It’s not just HP. You can compare US or UK prices for other popular Windows PC brands with what you pay here. Most brands charge New Zealand customers a premium. Sometimes a hefty premium.

Anger management

Readers often get angry about higher New Zealand hardware prices. That’s understandable.

One idea that comes up often when discussing the subject is buying PCs direct from the USA. There’s nothing to stop you from doing so, but there are pitfalls:

  • You are not entitled to local support. While some online retailers are responsive, that’s not common.
  • You buy on US warranty terms: 12 months. If you buy a decent model from a good quality brand that won’t be a problem.
  • Customs adds GST when the computer lands in New Zealand. Remember that is an extra 15 percent on the US price. It may also slow delivery.
  • It’s rare these days, but in the past people buying direct from the US have had odd, frustrating incompatibilities.

Hopkins has a point. You get something back in return for higher local prices. You may see the longer warranty as worth the cost.

It’s still your choice what to do. A toss-up depending on your tastes, needs and your ability to be your own service department. You can pay the local premium for more consumer rights or bank the savings.


  1. This only applies to computers sold to consumers. PCs purchased for business are not covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act.  ↩
  2. Two years isn’t written down anywhere. Something that gets hammered out in the field might be of acceptable quality and still die after a year. You might have a strong case if other devices die months after their second birthday.  ↩
  3. Australia’s consumer laws are similar. In most other countries you’ll have a harder time getting satisfaction if something goes wrong after 12 months.  ↩