5 Tech Observations to Start Your Day 122314

Good mid-morning, I.T. entrepreneurs. Here are five technology news nuggets, rumors, gossip and actual news to start your day for Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2015.

Actually, today's update involves nine items.

9. Big Sony Brother: The movie studio has asked Twitter to suspend a user over released documents. As you may recall, Sony has been warning big media companies not to write about the content of documents that spilled onto the Web after a recent company hack. Generally speaking, I agree with Sony's position: I'm not writing about information that was essentially stolen from Sony. Still, it's hard for me to defend Sony amid the company's incompetence on so many fronts (IT security, biased emails, bowing to censorship demands, etc.).

8. Partial Payment Breakup: Starbucks and Square are winding down a mobile payment partnership that involved Square's Wallet app. The move comes as Apple Pay, Google Wallet and even a retail group pursue leadership in the mobile payment market. Roughly 16 percent of Starbucks U.S. store sales involve mobile device transactions, according to The Wall Street Journal. And the bigger opportunity for I.T. entrepreneurs may involve Big Data apps leveraging Beacons and mobile payments to see exactly how customers navigate and then purchase (or exit) the store.

7. The Big Switch: Microsoft's push to switch Apple MacBook users to Surface Pro 3 has a new component... A website that offers a step-by-step guide for those who want to jump from MacBooks to Surface Pro 3. I'm typing this blog on a MacBook Air and I've got no plans to make such a switch. But Surface has quietly become a multi-billion-dollar business for Microsoft. In its latest quarter, Surface sales were $908 million -- suggesting that continued growth will likely push Surface beyond a $4 billion annual run rate. Still, I suspect only a small portion of those sales will involve Mac users.

6.. Microsoft vs Amazon: As we've been stating in recent months, Microsoft's Azure cloud is starting to close the gap vs Amazon Web Services. That's rather incredible, considering Microsoft could have resisted the cloud and tried to defined its massive on-premises installed base of Windows Server, SQL Server, Exchange and more. Instead, former CEO Steve Ballmer (yes, Ballmer) deserves credit for an all-in cloud strategy that put Azure and Office 365 front and center roughly two or three years ago at the company. Current CEO Satya Nadella has accelerated and crystallized the strategy -- focusing everyone on a mobile first and cloud first mindset. Still, Amazon isn't resting on its laurels. Indeed, AWS keeps gaining more enterprise capabilities each week.

5. Bucking Conventional Wisdom: Some critics say Cisco Systems is an aging IT giant under attack on multiple fronts -- cloud computing, software defined networking (SDN), white box servers, etc. And yet, Cisco's stock (CSCO) just hit a 52-week high. Why's that? CEO John Chambers has carefully managed overall costs, pushed into converged data centers, and prepared the company for war against EMC's VMware business -- which is making a software defined data center (SDDN) push. Still, Chambers is expected to retire in the next couple of years or so, and updates on a potential successor have been MIA. 

4. Another Hadoop IPO?: MapR CEO John Schroeder is hinting that his company will pursue an Initial Public Offering in 2015. Rival Hortonworks went public this year, and pundits like Gartner and Forrester have suggested that Hadoop is emerging as a de facto building blog for Big Data platforms. Still, as we've previously warned: Today's Hadoop market is a lot like the Linux industry around 1999 -- lots of growth, lots of hype and lots of rival offerings. Not all Hadoop providers will thrive. PS: The other key play to watch is Cloudera.

3. Hot Stuff: SideChef has raised $1 million to build a global community of cooks. Not exactly your typical After Nines Inc story. But it involves lots of qualified people cooking food. Really good food. So save me a seat at the table. Oh, and one more thing on my menu to cover: I love the iconic version of SideChef's logo. Simple, entertaining and direct.

2. Join Us Tonight: How can businesses measure the financial value of social media marketing? Get the answer tonight (9:01 p.m. ET) during our next podcast. www.AfterNines.com/CEO.

1. Holiday Schedule: A quick reminder. After Nines Inc. is closed for the holiday, reopening on Monday, Jan. 5. Our blog will have minimal (if any) updates, based on my morning caffeine intake and family obligations. Our daily newsletter will only distribute if the blog has been updated. Have a great holiday and wonderful New Year.

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