Excel’s old rival is back, ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ is on the rise, Google is starting to charge small businesses for apps that were previously free, and a half-dozen other developments in technology from this past month, and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.
1. IBM’s Lotus Software has been revived
The 40-year-old program Lotus 1–2–3 was reverse engineered to be 100% usable on Linux platforms. This program was popular in the 1980s for offering spreadsheet calculations, database functionality, and graphical charts. However, since Microsoft’s introduction of GUI-based products in the 1990s, the IBM program became inferior. Experts are hopeful that Lotus Software will run on screens larger or smaller than an 80×25 window. (Source: Techradar).
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Those of you born after 1980 probably don’t remember the old Lotus 1–2–3 but it used to be THE spreadsheet application … until Microsoft Excel clobbered it. But now it’s (mostly) back and I’m not sure what it will take to get me using it. Maybe it’ll have special appeal for Linux users. If anything, it’s good nostalgia.
2. Google now charging small biz for email and other apps
Google has just announced that their free apps like Google Docs and Calendars will now charge users $6 a month effective last June 27. The company previously promised that their apps would remain free as their first priority was to help businesses with organization and work collaboration. (Source: NY Times)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: This switch will affect all organizations, but unfortunately will disproportionately affect small businesses that have used Google apps to maintain their business strategies and collaborative work. Many organizations are considering moving to Microsoft, which still remains cheaper than Google’s predicted $200 a month in the next two years.
3. PayPal expands BNPL offering suite
PayPal recently launched anew Buy Now Pay Later offering called “Pay Monthly.” The new BNPL capability enables consumers in the U.S. to space out payments for up to two years after a purchase. Customers will be able to access Pay Monthly directly through PayPal for better flexibility and greater options to pay for items they need or want. (Source: ZDNet)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: With Apple now in the game (see below), many of the BNPL providers are looking to step up their offerings — and the variety of the financing they offer. Your firm and your business clients should consider offering BNPL options for customers that want a little credit, but don’t want to use a credit card.
4. Twitter partners with Shopify
This partnership follows Twitter’s new feature of a “Product Drop” page that includes mobile storefronts and livestream shopping. To use this combined feature, merchants are required to sync their Shopify account to their Twitter, which then transfers all their products onto the shopping page on Twitter. This combination aims to help businesses reach their target audience through social media and help consumers with more refined products catered to their liking. (Source: Techcrunch).
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Twitter is trying very hard to appeal to a wider range of small businesses, and its partnership with Shopify should help … a little. But most of the companies I know that sell online aren’t on Twitter as much as some other social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and even LinkedIn.
5. Amazon’s Proteus robot is now working in manufacturing warehouses
The robot — formerly owned by Kiva — was designed to move around Amazon’s manufacturing centers by itself while carrying products throughout the warehouses. The goal for Proteus is to reduce the need for workers to manually move products to help with labor shortages and increase productivity. However, Amazon promises that they intend to keep their human and technology resources intertwined, rather than replacing them all together. Currently, Amazon is working on artificial intelligence technology that scans packages instead of workers scanning packages manually. (Source: Engadget)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: It’s not just Amazon. Companies big and small are bringing robots, AI and other technologies that are not only increasing automation but eliminating employees at the same time. If you believe we’re facing an economic slowdown, it’s important that you consider technologies like these to keep your overhead under control and limit your headcount.
6. Should we all have the same charging cords?
The European Union is adopting a law that requires all handheld technology to use the same charging cord — USB Type-C — to reduce e-waste and help consumers save money. Democratic senators call on the United States to adopt this practice and to pressure major technology companies like Apple to make the switch. (Source: Techradar)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Now this is a bipartisan issue that should be pursued aggressively in Washington! A move like this would save small businesses significant costs and reduce our headaches.
7. Small-biz groups back a bill to rein in Big Tech
Small-business groups and companies across the country are rallying support for a U.S. bill aimed at reining in Big Tech giants such as Google and Amazon. Dozens of organizations sent a letter to members of Congress this past week in an effort to urge them to support the bill. Companies and organizations backing the initiative include Spotify, DuckDuckGo, Somos, Yelp, the American Booksellers Association, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the Chamber of Commerce, and more. (Source: Reuters)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: I am a less-government person, but even I have to admit that our biggest technology companies wield too much power over our personal and professional lives. More regulations are needed in order to ensure these companies are supervised and that they’re leaving a fair playing field for small businesses. In some cases, a breakup of some of the giants may be necessary. It’s happened to big oil and big telephone before in our history. It’s probably going to happen again with big tech.
8. Once-hot fintech sector faces IPO delays, consolidation
Fintech companies have started to pause plans for initial public offerings and slash expenses as concerns of a recession grow. These fears have begun to change the way investors are viewing the market, with heads of fintech organizations becoming uneasy about how the financial climate may impact valuations and fundraising. Many investors and executives shared that rising interest rates and inflation make raising money a challenge for fintech firms. (Source: CNBC)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: The fintech industry is running out of money as the cost of capital increases and financing dries up. If you or your clients rely on a fintech platform, you need to be careful that the company behind the platform remains in business — or you could be affected. Ask, research and have a backup plan.
9. Apple is turning iPhones into a fintech service
Apple announced this past month plans to add new features to the iPhone’s Wallet app. One of the biggest new features — called Apple Pay Later — is a “buy now, pay later” capability that will directly compete with other fintech companies such as PayPal and Affirm. Apple will also roll out a new payments system in a few weeks that lets users pay somebody by simply tapping iPhones together. (Source: CNBC)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: BNPL has exploded in popularity over the past year or so, thanks to younger consumers’ desire to purchase items and pay for them over time (three to six months, on average) without having to use their credit cards. Now Apple is looking to cash in on this trend. Many of my clients are now accepting BNPL services and you should consider doing the same.
10. The NSA and FBI list the biggest security flaws in VPNs and networks
The NSA, FBI and CISA recently listed 16 flaws most often used by hackers in China to manipulate networks in the U.S. The flaws exist in network device software from well-known brands such as Citrix, Pulse Secure, MikroTik, Netgear, Fortinet and Cisco. The warning highlights attacks that impact small-business routers, enterprise VPNs, and network attached storage devices. (Source: ZDNet)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Have your IT staff read the ZDNet piece and make sure your devices are updated and secure.