5 Technology Observations: 19 March 2015

Good morning, I.T. entrepreneurs. Here are five technology insights, observations, chatter, and news developments to start your day for Thursday, March 19, 2015.

Actually, today's update involves 14 items.

14. There Is No Free Lunch: As Microsoft prepares to release Windows 10 for free, pundits keep suggesting that Microsoft will stop charging for its operating systems across the board. Careful with the celebration. Somehow, someway, Microsoft is going to reach into your pocket -- or PC maker pockets -- to get that money. Not that I'm complaining.

13. Browse This: Internet Explorer is dead, but new developments continue to emerge in the browser market. The latest: Opera, a browser used by roughly 350 million consumers, has acquired VPN (virtual private network) specialist SurfEasy.

12. Me And Super Mario: Nintendo has finally decided to offer games on smartphones. I'm depressed. Not about Nintendo's late entry. Instead, I'm kicking myself for not buying Nintendo stock in 2014 when the world was dismissing the fallen entertainment company. Nintendo's stock has skyrocketed since announcing the very belated mobile move... 

11. Salesforce & Microsoft: Yesterday, I downplayed Microsoft's relationship with Salesforce.com. Perhaps I spoke too soon. A new Salesforce App for Outlook allows users to work with the customer relationship management platform right from their inbox.

10. Data Pros Wanted: Jay McBain is looking for data scientists, programmers and sales engineers to work in New York's capital region.

9. Skype for Business: The effort will include enterprise voice services. But this is a tricky move for Microsoft, which is essentially dumping its corporate Lync brand for the consumer-known Skype brand. The good news: Everyone knows Skype. The bad news: Everyone knows that Skype isn't exactly the most reliable app these days. Hopefully, the enterprise code is far more robust...

8. Apple Pay Reality Check: Roughly 85 percent of iPhone 6 owners in the US haven't tried Apple Pay, the mobile payment service, according to InfoScout and PYNTS research. Another 9 percent have tried Apple Pay but haven't really used it regularly. That means just 6 percent of iPhone 6 owners are regular Apple Pay users. Meanwhile, Samsung is gearing up its Apple Pay alternative...

7. Healthcare Hacks: The massive Premera Blue Cross and Anthem hacks have raised an obvious question... Why are hackers targeting healthcare providers? Still, I'd like to reframe the conversation. If you've got a massive customer database in your business, assume that somebody wants to access it. Illegally.

6. Hack Financial Impact: So what is the cost of cleaning up a hack? Target's 2013 hack cost the company $148 million. Plus, the retailer has just agreed to pay $10 million in damages to its data breach victims. 

5. Hadoop Tools and Talent: Trying to deploy a big data platform in record time? Perhaps the new Avnet Enabled Hadoop Solution is the answer. Assuming it works as advertised, I'm intrigued. Tim Fitzgerald, did you have a hand in this? Meanwhile, Hadoop training has reached a tipping point -- which may help to close the big data talent gap by later this year. 

4. Too Much Time?: Intel and Tag Heuer are expected to unveil a luxury smartwatch today. For uncultured folks like me, Tag Heuer is a luxury Swiss watch brand. And the Swiss watch market has been especially nervous about Apple Watch's anticipated launch in April. Still, I wonder if we've got too many aspiring smartwatch makers chasing too few customers at this point.

3. Worth Wearing: While smartwatch makers race to the high-end of the market, Microsoft Band has quietly become a hit in the health-tracking device market. Amid strong sales and product shortages, Microsoft is ramping up production and preparing to offer the device via Amazon, Best Buy and Target.

2. Games Now, Business Later?: Playr is an app that lets anyone make their own games on a smartphone. Ya almost have to wonder: Will similar tools for building business apps emerge soon? 

1. Small Business Lending: Let's step away from the VC and angel investment conversation for a moment. Back in the traditional small business lending market, banks are approving small business loans at a record pace. If you've taken out a loan to build your IT business and want to share the story, give me a shout (Joe@AfterNines.com). 

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