5 Technology Observations to Start Your Day, Oct 30

Good morning, I.T. entrepreneurs. After focusing on a family commitment most of yesterday, I'm back. So here are five technology news nuggets, insights, rumors, gossip and chatter to start your day for Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014.

Actually, today's update includes nine entries:

9. Apple Pay Rival Hacked: That's right. CurrentC, the Apple Pay alternative backed by Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, CVS and Right Aid, got hacked during its customer trial phase. Apparently, hackers may have stolen the email addresses of CurrentC testers. So what's the difference between CurrentC and Apple Pay (besides the hack news?). The simple answer involves money flow and margin. In the Apple Pay model, transactions still include the credit card companies. In the CurrentC model, retailers bypass the credit cards (eliminating those transaction fees) and the system connects directly to your bank account. 

8. Deadly Title?: Radio Shack has hired turnaround specialist Harry Wilson as "Chief Revitalization Officer." That's about the goofiest title I've seen this year -- oh, other than Content Czar.

7. Sabbaticals on the Rise: The Wall Street Journal suggests that more and more companies are offering employees "mini sabbaticals" within six months of hiring dates. The paid mini sabbaticals range from one to three weeks. (Um, don't Europeans call that a "vacation"?) Kidding aside, I used to frown upon sabbatical talk. Isn't that for slackers and employees who wanted to go look for jobs elsewhere? Then somewhere around 2013, my views changed. My kids were getting older. My life and business priorities evolved. So I took my own sabbatical and went for a really long jog earier this year. Will I ever take another jog like that again? Perhaps not. But I'm keeping my (really) long-term options open.

6. Smart Deal?: Lenovo has completed its $2.91 billion buyout of Motorola Mobility from Google. In the US, watch for Lenovo to lead with the Motorola brand on smartphones. (Lenovo sells its own Lenovo-branded phones elsewhere.) I'm locked into the iPhone 6 Plus for the next two years, but I'll be watching to see if Lenovo's Motorola/Android devices grab some US market share...

5. Small Business Health Exchange: A heads up to I.T. entrepreneurs running businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Keep an eye on a new piece of the Obamacare rollout. It's called Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). The full system debuts Nov. 15. In the meantime, five states (Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey and Ohio) are testing SHOP as part of an Early Access preview. According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, "SHOP offers businesses with 1 to 50 employees a choice of health and dental plans, and tools to help employers make informed decisions about health insurance coverage." 

4. Private Equity Returns Under Review?: The SEC is examining how private equity firms report a key metric of their past performance when they market new funds to investors, according to Reuters. Even if you don't think you've made private equity investments... perhaps you have. No longer reserved for wealthy individuals, private equity funds often attract money from pension funds, insurance companies and more.

3. Isn't it Ironic: Gartner, which pumps out more Magic Quadrant reports than I can track, is rated a "hold" by most financial analysts tracking the company, according to Analyst Ratings Network. In this case, "strong buy" would have been the ideal Magic Quadrant target. Kidding aside, I rarely track buy, sell and hold ratings on Wall Street, because most of the key alerts are made after a major market move ("Acme misses earnings, expert cuts stock to "sell") rather than before a major market move.

2. Late Arrival: IBM and Twitter are partnering up on Big Data integration tools. The move seems reactionary to me. To the best of my knowledge, just about all of the major Big Data players and startups cull information out of Twitter, Facebook and other social networks these days.

1. Getting Back on the Road?: Quite a few readers have asked me "when" I'll get back on the road for IT conferences. Frankly, I don't have a clear answer. My only confirmed travel at the moment involves a Nov. 4-5 business meeting with Amy Katz in New England.

I certainly know all the dates and locations for IT shows in 2015... But my old "be everywhere" strategy has evolved to "be focused." And right now, the After Nines Inc. focus involves a new service reveal on Nov. 4... then perhaps another focused reveal in Q1, 2015. (Oh, did I just write that?)

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