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Tech stories that caught our eye in February

Posted by Joe McNamara on 1st March 2013

HMV: ‘can we shut Twitter down?’

HMV caused the digital marketing and social media world to stand still during the closing hours of January when, having heard that their positions would be made redundant, the company’s Twitter team sent out a series of extremely damaging tweets.

I say the world stood still – for about 30 seconds perhaps – it didn’t take long before Twitter gurus were telling brands how to avoid such a calamity in future. We’ve even written a guide of our own actually. If nothing else, it hammered home the power of Twitter for brands, for better or worse.

The 4G auction: the winners and losers

Vodafone arguably gained the most out of this particular round while the loser was clearly the seller, the Treasury, who made a whopping £1.2 billion less revenue than anticipated.

Vodafone, the biggest spender, filled its boots with a hefty chunk of both the long-range 800MHz spectrum and the 2.6GHz stuff that goes through walls. Three and EE added significantly to their own slices of the pie, having both acquired spectrum in both bands. O2 focused its efforts on the long-range spectrum while BT aimed only for the 2.6GHz band.

So, what are the most interesting things to watch out for now? How will the operators ensure both short and long-range areas are covered effectively? Could it be Wi-Fi, small cells, the power of prayer? Also, one hopes that the Treasury’s loss is the consumers’ gain. It certainly will be interesting to see pricing plans get competitive.

Nike: the world’s most innovative company?

The Fast Company is a great place to go for a different perspective on technology and innovation. I’ve publicly admired Nike’s fresh approach to retail for a long time and, due to its integration of technology and sportswear, it took the title of most innovative company in 2013.

There were some surprises – Apple and Samsung sit 13th and 17th respectively while Facebook and Twitter didn’t even make the cut. When I say surprises, I mean surprises that actually make me quite happy. ‘Innovation’ is an overused term, to the point that alternatives such as ‘improved’ and ‘changed’ must be wondering what on earth they did wrong. Making a smartphone slimmer or less expensive isn’t an innovation. A sophisticated integration of touch, motion and gesture technology into one would be an innovation.

Interestingly, Amazon and Square followed Nike in 2nd and 3rd; two companies that are revolutionising the retail and payments industry to the point that high-street retailers not keeping up with the times are going under left, right and centre. They, my friends, are true tales of innovation done well.

An asteroid could have destroyed Earth, but how much is it worth?

Asteroid 2012 DA14 passed Earth with only a heart-stopping 17,200 miles to spare. That’s less distance than there was between the ball and the goal line after Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany in World Cup 2010.

As usual, some of you are thinking ‘what has this got to do with tech?’ Well, a company called Deep Space Industries has made it all about engineering and technology. The asteroid that could have blown us to smithereens, give or take 25,000 km or so, may contain around $195 billion worth of minerals and water. And, well, there’s a recession on, so we really need those.

Thankfully, DSI plans to go and get them, by launching an asteroid prospecting FireFly spacecraft in 2015. Basically, the craft will be capable of landing on an asteroid and mining for minerals – they’re doing no good out there just flying around space threatening to take out unsuspecting planets. Apparently, 15 medium-sized asteroids, like DA14, would match the global metals and mining industry in terms of revenue.

Nokia launches some cheap smartphones: Lumia 520 and 720

I’ve always had a soft spot for Nokia (nothing to do with our new newsletter editor being Finnish) and the mobile device manufacturer got in there first at MWC with a couple of flagship smartphone launches at the show.

The 520 and 720 both have some outstanding features but the real talking point is the price. The 520 absolutely breaks the rules with a potential price of £120 when it hits UK shelves. That’s staggering for what looks to be a pretty decent smartphone.

Thankfully, pricing strategies such as this pile pressure onto the high-end smartphone manufacturers. If I can get a smartphone for £120, I want to be able to instruct one that costs £400 to make calls through the medium of interpretive dance. We have the Samsung Galaxy S4 to look forward to in March, and HTC has set itself new standards with the HTC One. Still, thanks Nokia, for moving the goal posts just a little bit more.

Joe McNamara