5 Tech Observations: 15 January 2015

Good morning, I.T. entrepreneurs. Here are five technology news updates, insights, rumors, gossip and conspiracy theories (well, maybe not that one) to start your day for Thursday, January 15, 2015.

Actually, today's update involves 11 items.

11. Facebook At Work: The corporate version of Facebook's social media platform launches on Wednesday. But only a handful of test companies will be able to download the Facebook At Work app. The platform will likely compete in some ways with Microsoft Yammer and Salesforce Chatter. But most eyes are instead tracking Slack -- a team communication platform that has become an overnight hit within thousands of corporations.

10. Got a Good Foundation?: Opening an online store atop Amazon's e-commerce platform can become a "deal with the devil." That's hardly surprising, considering Amazon can change its terms of service or financial model with online partners at any time. And therein resides a critical lesson for I.T. entrepreneurs moving workloads into Amazon Web Services. I concede: AWS is always on my shortlist of cloud options as we launch our own services. But I also wonder if Amazon will ever shift the ground below me -- essentially shaking our business's foundation?

9. Dead Rumor Spin: The web has been buzzing with rumors about Samsung possibly buying BlackBerry. Instead of offering the typical "no comment," both Samsung and BlackBerry have flatly denied the rumors -- insisting there are no M&A discussions between the companies. And what if a deal did emerge? I'm always wary when a company with falling profits (Samsung) in multiple commodity markets (smartphones, TVs, etc.) buys a decimated company (BlackBerry) for some great technology (mobile security, management). 

8. Good Times Roll?: Small business optimism has reached an eight-year high, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. I've always been a bit of a contrarian. When people are in the mood to party, I'm typically getting very serious about navigating a nuclear winter. That doesn't mean I'm predicting doom and gloom. Rather, just stay focused on your core business regardless of the media noise around you.

7. Love Connection: CIOs who work closely with chief marketing officers will boost ROI by 25 percent, according to Gartner. While I don't necessarily believe the math, I do believe the premise. Internally, IT and business leaders are huddling to navigate shadow IT, cloud applications and more. Externally, startups and established IT businesses are trying to sell to the "new" buyer -- CMOs, HR leaders, etc. Actually, those aren't "new" IT buyers -- considering the cloud wave has been building for more than a decade. In reality, many IT companies simply are late in their efforts to reach those buyers...

6. Best Buddies: Apple Watch will have a companion app that provides integration with the iPhone. Pundits expect the watch and third-party apps to debut in March. My question: How can iPhone app developers extend their push alerts out to the watch? Wink, wink.

5. Fresh Money: Digg Founder Kevin Rose has raised $5 million in seed money for North Technologies -- which has two apps so far. Tiiny is a file sharing service for small photos and videos. Watchville allows users to aggregate news. Both apps prove once again: You can move into saturated, highly competitive markets if you know how to view the market from slightly different angles than entrenched rivals have overlooked. Just sayin'.

4. Surface Meets SMB: Anecdotal evidence suggests Microsoft Surface is gaining momentum within small businesses -- particularly as a mobile point of sale system that integrates with PayPal. Plus, Surface could have a leg up vs. Apple iPads for retail business use -- especially since Surface is a multi-tasking operating system. At least that's my portion of the spin. 

3. Big Data Dollars: MongoDB, the NoSQL startup focused on Big Data opportunities, is now valued at $1.6 billion. Hey, I'm bullish on Big Data. And I understand NoSQL's momentum. But $1.6 billion sounds far too lofty. The Wall Street Journal is now tracking a Billion Dollar Startup Club, which certainly includes MongoDB. One to three years from now, I wonder how many of those club members will have suffered from sort of bubble pop.

2. Online Training: Investors have pumped another $186 million into Lynda, the online training and education platform. The war chest may allow Lynda to acquire at least three different acquisition targets, according to CEO Eric Robison. BTW: Lynda is part of the $1 billion startup club mentioned in item 3 above. 

1. Gaining Clarity: How do I want to spend the next five-plus years of my life? I revealed some clues back in December. But I hope to gain far more clarity during a call today... 

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