Apple Sells Over 10 million Apple TV’s in 2013

Apple’s TV accessory lets you stream music, movies, and podcasts from the iTunes store.

“It’s a little more difficult to call it a hobby these days,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in Friday’s shareholder’s meeting.

The Apple TV has always been seen as a precursor to Apple’s expansion into the actual television production business, although signs point to them creating a more powerful Apple TV rather than an actual television. Through sales of the device and content in the iTune store, the Apple TV racked up more than $1 billion in sales.

While Google snaps up big names in the technology field like Nest and Boston Dynamics, Apple has made 23 company acquisitions in the last 16 months according to Tim Cook, though investors are looking to the company to make use of its nearly $160 billion cash reserve.

When pressured to discuss new products in the pipeline, Cook was mum about the subject, and pointed to unnamed manufacturers who were copying Apple’s ideas. “You can see we’re getting ripped off left, right and sideways,” Cook said.

Geeksphone’s Blackphone Makes Security Simple

At over $600 the Blackphone is a little pricey, but comes bundled with various encryption and security services.

While the idea of making a phone “NSA-proof” is a nebulous concept, and while Spanish smartphone manufacturer Geeksphone isn’t making a go for the title, it certainly seems like it is with the Blackphone, a security-optimized smartphone running a custom version of Google’s Android operating system.

It isn’t doing this alone, however, and has paired up with the US encrypted communications firm Silent Circle and SpiderOak to provide secure channels for making phone calls, sending texts, and doing almost anything else you want, all in a speedy smartphone.

The only thing you’ll have to contend with is the price. The Blackphone is $629, the full cost of an average smartphone, but when bundled with Silent Circle and SpiderOak’s services, looks like a deal.

The phone’s got all the specs everyone is looking for in a modern smartphone: LTE, a 4.7-inch display, and Bluetooth 4.0. It also has both a front and rear-facing camera, 16GB of internal storage, and a quad-core processor.

Its secret sauce is in the “PrivatOS,” a custom version of Android. The phone is bundled with three years of encrypted calling, texting, and data storage services from Silent Circle and SpiderOak, along with anti-Wi-Fi sniffing service from Kizmet.

“Verizon and AT&T, for example, collect information about their customers’ Web-browsing and location which they ‘aggregate and anonymize’ to sell to marketers and others interested,” says Forbes. “The Blackphone would disrupt that, by, for example, allowing smartphone Web surfers to use a VPN, or virtual private network, for their browsing, which would encrypt their browsing activity so it couldn’t be used to reveal information about their interests.”

The phone’s expected to arrive in April, and buzz is already building. Dutch telecommunications company KPN has already committed to buy 500,000 Blackphones to sell across Europe according to Silent Circle CEO Mike Janke.

Top News: A Study Says 98 Percent of Mobile Malware Targets Android

reading a tablet

Small business owners need information to stay competitive. But following the latest updates even in your industry can be tough with everything else on your plate.

The Small Business Trends editorial team wraps it all up and puts it in one place for your benefit.

Mobile

Your Android phone could be a target. A report from Kaspersky Labs says 98 percent of mobile malware now targets the Android operating system. It’s not too surprising given Android’s popularity, but how safe is your mobile technology now?

Huawei launches five new devices. The China-based company is now targeting the U.S. market. And with their low price, they might appeal to budget conscious small business owners. Here’s an overview of the five latest devices and a look at when U.S. business owners might be able to  get a hold of some.

Welcome to the future of business cards. TouchBase Technologies imagines a business card with conductive ink. Tap the card on a contact’s smartphone and your information is instantly transferred.

Web

It’s crowdsourcing on your own domain. Sure, Indigogo and Kickstarter give you the ability to quickly and easily raise funds for your startup. But CrowdtiltOpen offers something more — a chance to add your own branding.

Grand St. could be a new place for tech hardware startups. If your new small business isn’t a website but instead a “leather organizer that can charge your smartphone” or an “iOS enabled guitar,” you may want to try this. You can sell consumer ready, beta test a new product or take preorders.

Microsoft OneDrive is finally here. And it turns out it’s much more than just a name change. The newly branded Microsoft cloud storage service has a few new surprises for users. Lets have a look at what you get with your OneDrive account.

This Chrome feature will warn you of malware. Too bad some feel it may already look a bit like a malware trick. A box appears on your screen when Chrome detects a change in your settings. But some users say this is exactly the kind of thing Google tells people to look out for.

Social Media

LinkedIn will soon open its publishing platform. Last week the social network for professionals announced a new publishing option had been opened to about 25,000 members. And many more will be given access soon, the company says. Posts you create will appear in your LinkedIn profile, but could eventually have much greater influence.

Social media customer care. Businesses of all sizes are taking social media more seriously. Nowhere is this more clear than in the expansion of companies like Brand Embassy. Social media monitoring comes in all shapes and sizes. But this is one of the latest.

This service is for social media management. Socialbakers has raised $26 million to further improve its offerings. But so far components include analytics, management of social channels, social media listening and more. There are also a number of resources and social media marketing reports for various countries.

This Pinterest marketing tool listens to your brand. Discover, from Pinterest analytics and social marketing company Tailwind, has some features that could give insight. They include monitoring the number of followers, repins, likes and comments.

This report says Facebook ads encourage “fake” clicks. The idea is that users paid to add “likes” to specific accounts with a fake profile also “like” other accounts too to disguise their activities. The easiest of these to find would be accounts that show up in Facebook ads.

Policy

U.S. House passes important smartphone bill. The proposed legislation would allow you to “unlock” your smartphone once your contract expires. The bill must still be passed in the Senate and could face further amendment. But some say the ban on “bulk unlocking” remains business unfriendly.

This program funds exporters. Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship believe the State Trade and Export Promotion Program is a necessity. The pilot program gave grants to small businesses seeking global markets and some want it renewed.

More funds for Score are possible. If U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) has his way, SCORE could receive $10.5 million by 2015. The organization offers free mentoring to small businesses from an estimated 11,000 volunteers.

Tech

3D Printshow gives glimpse of business uses. There seems to be a lot of excitement over 3D printing these days and the implications for small business and entrepreneurship seem clear. This event gives an even broader perspective of possible business uses for the technology.

Advice & Resources

Entrepreneurs are optimistic people. Now there’s data to back that up. Despite all the complaints about the economy, a recent survey shows entrepreneurs remain pretty positive. Small Business Trends Publisher Anita Campbell reports.

Plan for the worst. It could take you 1000 days to see your income rise again after starting a new business. It may not be the kind of uplifting talk you expect from entrepreneurs, but it is a realistic expectation. If you plan to quit your job to start a business, say goodbye to that steady paycheck for a while.

Services

How to automate the hiring of new staff. This article gives you a walk-through of software designed to automate the hiring process. You can maintain a career portal where perspective employees can apply. You can also keep track of those applications once received.

Reading Photo via Shutterstock

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Mt. Gox Goes Bankrupt, Losing Nearly 750,000 Bitcoins

The Japan-based cryptocurrency exchange filed for bankruptcy after losing $473 million in bitcoins.

The Bitcoin exchange company, Mt. Gox, has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo, Japan today.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mt. Gox and its CEO, Mark Karpelès, was handling more than 80% of all Bitcoin trades at its peak before ending all trades and taking down its website a week ago.

The exchange says it lost 750,000 of its customers bitcoins in addition to the 100,000 of its own to theft.

Mt. Gox had outstanding debt of about ¥6.5 billion ($63.6 million) with assets worth ¥3.84 billion.

“There was some weakness in the system, and the bitcoins have disappeared. I apologize for causing trouble,” Karpelès said during the news conference in Tokyo. Karpelès claimed the fraudulent withdrawals were the result of technical issues that allowed hackers to steal the bitcoins from the exchange.

This, along with improper registration as a money-services business in the US, has prompted a Federal investigation into the exchange company.

The Bitcoin community has been distancing itself from Karpelès and Mt. Gox, a former Magic: The Gathering card-trading site, since the incident began in early February, with a statement from various Bitcoin organizations declaring his actions a breach of trust given to him by the community.

Why It Doesn’t Pay to ‘Follow the Leader’

A report from Morningstar shows why having your own plan, and sticking to it, matters.

You know better than anyone that you only win by leading, not following.

Now there’s more proof that you should never just jump on the bandwagon, from investment research company Morningstar. On Thursday, Morningstar published a snapshot of investor returns for 2013, in an article by Russel Kinnel, Morningstar’s director of mutual fund research.

It turns out if you played follow-the-leader last year, putting money into sectors that were popular with other investors, it was a losing investment strategy. By contrast, if you took a risk and put money in less popular areas, you were likely to make out much better.

Morningstar measures investor success by examining the gap between the average investor’s returns and those of the average fund. The bigger the gap, the worse investors did. It turns out the 10-year gap between the average investor return and the average fund return jumped to 2.49 percent at the end of 2013, compared to 0.95 percent at the end of 2012.

Put another way, the typical investor gained an annualized 4.8 percent by year-end 2013, compared to 7.3 percent for the typical fund.

Another way to examine the gap is to look at investor outflows from funds, and compare them to fund performance. U.S. equity funds saw outflows of $94 billion in 2012, but notched a 35 percent gain in the 2013. By contrast, taxable bond funds saw inflows of $270 billion, but notched a measly 0.15 percent gain.

“We saw massive inflows to intermediate-bond funds in 2012 just before one of their worst years in the past 40 years,” Kinnel says.

The problem, Kinnel says, is that too many investors listened to messages that said the U.S. economy was doing poorly, while other parts of the globe–namely China–were doing well. And that simply wasn’t true.

So the best idea is to have a plan and carry on.

“Who cares if a talking head predicts gold will surge and stocks will tank,” Kinnel says. “Focus on your needs and goals.”


    



Women of Power: Risk, Re-brand & Reboot: The Art of Reinvention

Linda Johnson Rice, Chairman, Johnson Publishing Co.

At the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit, a common theme throughout the event is minority women continuing to strive for excellence no matter what position or phase of career. During the “Risk, Re-brand, Reboot” session, attendees got the chance to hear key insights on how to innovate and successfully transition into continued advancement.

Featured speakers Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing Co., and Desiree Rogers, CEO of the powerhouse media and beauty brand, talked about expanding the company’s legacy, repositioning Jet, Ebony and Fashion Fair cosmetics and their own experiences with reinventing their careers as well.

On continuing a legacy that empowers women: “My father [John H. Johnson, founder of Johnson Publishing Co.] was very forward thinking, said Johnson Rice. Forty years ago, the head of HR was a woman, general counsel was a woman… my mother [Eunice Johnson] was the one who spawned the name Ebony. He recognized right away the tremendous intellect and sensitivity that women brought to the table.

Today… we three [Desiree Rogers, COO Cheryl Mayberry McKissack, and I] work very hard together. There’s so much that’s been said about women not being able to work together and in-fighting, but we just don’t get that. We support each other.  We have the same goals, the same values and the same mission.”

On reinventing Fashion Fair and taking on today’s beauty industry: “[Fashion Fair] has never left the market. We have always been in the department stores, [and we remain] the one line [for women of color] that’s in prestige cosmetics in the stores, said Rogers.

Now certainly, over time, we’ve neglected the management of that, so over the past two years, all the packaging is new, all the combinations have been looked at…We’ve streamlined a little more.

We also just hired a new global creative director, Tia Dantzler… who [has worked with] everyone from Jennifer Hudson to Viola Davis… She is fantastic.

I think [consumers] will be pleasantly pleased and [they'll] be excited about [what we're offering with Fashion Fair.]

On facing the challenge of career and business transitions: “What I learned about myself is that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was,” said Johnson Rice. “I think a lot of us are afraid to do things and are unsure, but you just have to go for it. … When my father died and my mother died, [I thought] ‘What am I going to do?’ and my whole world fell apart. But I realized that the sun comes up every day, and you do have to go on. I found my own strength and that was incredible for me.

In business, you’ve got to be able to draw the line and make hard decisions. I had to toughen up and say, ‘Girl, get yourself some backbone because if you want this business to go on, you have to make those hard decisions and stick with them.”

“I push really hard, and I really believe we’re going to get this done and that this is going to be everything it should be,” Rogers said. “It’s been a tough three years. I think, entering into this year, we’ve had an incredible team. We’ve been able to recruit incredible talent … [many ]of them coming in this year.

What I’ve learned is patience. I’m not necessarily a patient person. I like to go the quick way and make decisions. If it’s not right, let’s adjust. I don’t wallow in a bad decision because I don’t think that’s a benefit as a leader to anyone … [But] there are different ways of doing things and different approaches.

21.3 Million Reasons You Need To Beef Up Your Cybersecurity

Data breaches have compromised more than 20 million Californians’ personal information in the past two years, with about a third of the breaches aimed at small businesses. Find out how to protect your customers.

Data breaches at large companies like Target and Nieman Marcus make headlines. But with comparatively small IT budgets–or no IT departments at all–smaller businesses are at a greater risk of cyberattacks.

In 2012, half of all attacks in California targeted businesses with fewer than 2,500 employees, according to a new report by the state’s attorney general, Kamala Harris. Businesses with fewer than 250 employees were the victims of 31 percent of all attacks.

Last year there were 170 data breaches reported in California, a 30 percent increase from 2012, the report found. In the past two years, the personal data of 21.3 million Californians has been compromised, according to USA Today.

In response to the growing threat, Harris is focusing considerable effort to fight hackers and educate business owners about how to protect themselves. Her report found that cybercrime is largely “opportunistic,” meaning that hackers are actively looking for “‘low-hanging fruit’–today’s equivalent of someone who forgets to lock her car door,” Harris says.

In the report, titled “Cybersecurity in the Golden State,” the attorney general outlines best practices for small businesses to shore up their defenses. Below, check out some of the most important tips. You can read the entire report here.

Bank securely.

When banking online, you need to first make sure you’re using a secure browser connection, indicated by “https” or a symbol of a lock in the address bar. After each session, erase your cache so no information stays in your browser’s history. Also make sure to utilize account notifications and two-factor authentication. Data breaches usually involve an insider, so do not allow a single individual to both initiate and approve financial transactions.

Use multiple lines of defense.

Your business needs to use “multiple, overlapping, and mutually supportive solutions,” the report says. Then if one defense fails, you will still be protected. “This should include the deployment of regularly updated firewalls, antivirus, and Web security solutions throughout the network. Also, anything connected to your network should be secured by more than signature-based antivirus technology,” the report says.

Map and encrypt your data.

As your business grows, you may have to move, archive, or store your data offsite or with third parties. Make sure you know where these archives are located. Next, you should encrypt all the data you have, which makes it unreadable without a special key. “Free and easy-to-use encryption technology is widely available. Encrypting your data can dramatically reduce your exposure to a data breach and the theft of proprietary information,” the report says. Another important action is to limit the access your employees have to sensitive accounts. No single employee should have access to everything, nor should employees have access to data that has nothing to do with their jobs.

Strong passwords and update software.

Although it may seems obvious to use strong passwords, most people don’t. As the CEO, you should create policies that require strong passwords, with more than eight characters made up of a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Change your passwords every three months and never use personal information like birthdays, names, or colleges you attended. Keep operating systems and software updated and uninstall products you are not using anymore. Employees should not have administrator accounts, which are easy doors for cyberattacks. Also make sure your employees undergo background checks if they have special privileges for dealing with sensitive information.


    



3 Leadership Lessons From Dallas Buyer’s Club

The Oscar-nominated film starring Matthew McConaughey includes Texas-sized levels of business savvy.

When Ron Woodroof, a good old boy from Texas, was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985, he decided to put up a fight. In Dallas Buyers Club, the biopic that will vie for Best Picture at the Academy Awards on Sunday, Woodroof does everything to counter his grave diagnosis from bribing a hospital worker to get him an antiviral drug to selling AIDS medications illegally on the streets.

Most entrepreneurs will never face such an ethical challenge, but there are plenty of business lessons to glean from the astonishing film, which stars Matthew McConaughey as Woodroof and Jared Leto as the sweet transvestite, Rayon. Here are a few of them:

Don’t Take No for an Answer

Time and again, leaders are told that what they’re doing isn’t realistic. But Woodroof refuses to accept his diagnosis–or the idea that helpful drugs have to be hard to acquire. Although the AZT he initially takes makes him ill, he still musters the energy to drive all the way to Mexico to visit a hospital. Once there, he encounters a Dr. Vass, whose American medical license has been revoked and who tells Woodroof that AZT “kills every cell it comes into contact with.” When Woodroof’s health significantly improves three months later thanks to the ddc and protein peptide T that Vass prescribes him, Woodroof decides to launch a business selling the drugs in the U.S.

Target Your Best Market

For a time, Woodroof ekes out a living selling ddC and protein peptide T to young Dallas hoodlums. But his prejudices prevent him from targeting the vast majority of people suffering from AIDS. Enter Rayon, a transvestite with a heart of gold, who has connections to homosexuals, other transvestites, and drug addicts in need of medication. When Woodroof realizes she’s the missing component of the enterprise, he agrees to give her a 25 percent cut, and the Dallas Buyers Club is born.

Pick the Right Partner

Rayon is integral for the clients she brings in, but also is an ideal partner for Woodroof. She keeps solid records, manages every DBC membership, and shoos away customers when they’re asking too much. Above all, she listens to Woodroof when he’s frustrated at being harassed by a Food and Drug Administration official. When the FDA changes its rules to make any unapproved drugs illegal, Rayon begs her father for money to keep the club running. With the money from her life insurance policy, Woodroof is able to drive back to Mexico and get more peptide T. It’s a heartbreaking move, but a lesson worth noting: You’re only as good as the people you work with.

Watch the trailer for Dallas Buyers Club below:


    



Sage Launches Subscription Invoicing Aimed At Small Business Customers

small business invoicing

One of the biggest challenges and frustrations of running a small business is getting paid. Now Sage has announced a new monthly subscription-based invoicing service. Called Sage One Invoicing and costing $9 a month, it is targeting small businesses as its core customers.

The reasons for this seem to be pretty clear. According to the company, 57% of small businesses struggle to get paid quickly. About 71% of these businesses use Word or Excel to generate invoices. And 47% send their invoices in the mail.

So a more organized, more productive system is required. The new invoicing service is being promoted as a simple alternative to other billing methods.

small business invoicing

What Makes Sage Simpler?

Well, consider this scenario which is probably very common to many small business owners. You make your own invoices in Word or Excel. Then, you either email them or mail them.

Afterwards it becomes extremely difficult to track the status of those invoices. Which ones have been paid? Which ones are still unpaid? Which ones are partially paid? Keeping on top of it all is a huge challenge. How do you remember to re-invoice late payers?

With Sage, those challenges are eased considerably, the company says. Once you send out your invoices from Sage, the customer can pay directly from the invoice into Sage’s credit card service or Paypal. If the payment is late, Sage One will tell you so you can send the invoice out again. Partial payments are also tracked, the company says.

Another plus is that, being online, Sage can be accessed from any computer with an online connection. Out of the office? No problem. Just sign into your account from another computer to see all of your invoices.

An official announcement from the company has more.  Sage One Product Manager Mike Savory said:

“There are many choices in the market today for online invoicing solutions, but some are too complicated for a small business’ needs and others don’t offer enough functionality. Sage One Invoicing is just right for business owners who want to look professional, get paid faster, and get back to doing what they love.”

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Women of Power: 3 Tips to Manage Your Online Reputation

On day three of the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit, attendees learned how to manage their Web brand and reputation at a seminar facilitated by Stacey Ferguson, founder of Justice Fergie Lifestyle Media.

(Image: Thinkstock)

For power women, knowing and controlling how they’re represented online is important, especially since social media is a vital component of everyday business. If reality doesn’t match what’s in the digital space, it can be detrimental for career advancement and business expansion.

Check out three tips for managing your online presence so that it reflects the best of the best:

1. Be sure the elements of your brand are consistent across the board. From your Website to your blog to your social media profiles, be sure all details of your brand, including your name and imagery, match in a way that won’t confuse those who seek to do business with you or the audience you seek to attract.

2. If you find that there is negative or incorrect information associated with your brand or name via search, find ways to correct it. Update information on your blog, Website and social media profiles. Also, find ways to bury unsavory associations that have nothing to do with your brand but might come up when your name is searched, such as consistently and frequently posting photos, insights and comments associated with your brand.

3. Be strategic when trying to balance multiple brands and offerings via the Web. It’s a good idea to have a personal portfolio page that sums up the variety of things you offer, so that the information isn’t too segmented. Find ways to summarize what you do in a central location and let that serve as the gateway to learning more.