Revolutionary Measures

Taxing times for tech companies

English: Paying the Tax (The Tax Collector) oi...

Very few of us like paying tax, but there’s a fine line between legitimately reducing your tax bill and actively avoiding paying the tax that is due. And at a time of austerity where everyone is tightening their belts, there’s obviously a push by governments to close loopholes and maximise the revenues they receive.

Given their high profile and obvious success Starbucks and Amazon have both been the subject of widespread condemnation of their tax avoidance methods, and I’ve covered Starbucks inept PR response in a previous blog. Google was up before a House of Commons Select Committee last week (for the second time), backing up its claims that, despite revenue of £3 billion in the UK, all its advertising sales actually take place in the lower tax environment of Ireland. Google boss Eric Schmidt has countered that the company invests heavily in the UK with its profits, including spending £1 billion on a new HQ that he estimates will raise £80m per year in employment taxes and £50m in stamp duty.

Apple is the next company caught in the public spotlight, with CEO Tim Cook appearing before a US Senate committee that had accused it of ‘being among America’s largest tax avoiders’. Meanwhile, the loophole that sees Amazon and other big US ecommerce companies avoid paying local sales taxes is being challenged by a new law passing through Congress, with estimates of between $12 and $23 billion extra being collected.

Given the close links between Google and UK politicians (Ed Miliband is appearing at a Google event this week and Schmidt is expected to meet David Cameron on his current UK trip), the cynical view is that this is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. But it does create an image problem for the companies involved, particularly at a time when we’re all meant to be in it together.

Obviously the most popular thing for companies to do would be to re-organise their tax affairs so that they meet the spirit as well as the letter of the law. But that’s not likely to happen given the enormous sums at stake. Instead expect increased calls for global tax reform (so that the organisations involved don’t have to operate the way they are currently ‘forced’ to) and a slew of feel good announcements that demonstrate the level of investment and support for the UK economy by the companies concerned. Being ultra cynical perhaps the whole tax situation explains the huge support by big tech companies for Tech City – it is simply an elaborate way of diverting attention from their financial affairs…………..

May 22, 2013 Posted by | Marketing, PR, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Having your Pi and eating it

Raspberry Pi: è davvero una rivoluzione?

Image by paz.ca via Flickr

I grew up with a ZX Spectrum, and while my programming efforts may never have been up to much (a flickering horse racing game where you could bet and a pretty much mythical hotel booking system for a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award project) it got me interested in IT, and probably has a lot to do with my becoming a technology PR person. More successful programmers went on to essentially create the billion pound UK games industry and provide a generation of tech-savvy workers for the sector.

Now I’ve got kids of my own I can see the same curiosity about technology but the opportunities for casual programming seem so much more limited. They happily use computers but don’t necessarily know how they work or even that you can program them and make them do what you want.

So I’ve been following with interest the progress of Raspberry Pi, the Cambridge-based project that aims to create a cheap ($25/£15) stripped down computer that is affordable for all and aims to develop a new generation of programmers. Based around an ARM processor and Linux, what I like most about it is the deliberate focus on keeping it simple. The idea is to create an ecosystem of partners around the computer itself, adding additional hardware or software to fit specific needs. Add together the cheapness of the computer and its openness and the potential uses are pretty much endless – from education to embedded projects. In a stroke of marketing genius the first 10 beta boards are being auctioned on eBay, to raise funds for the charitable Raspberry Pi Foundation – and they are selling for thousands of pounds.

Both OFSTED and the likes of Eric Schmidt of Google have complained recently about how ICT and programming is taught in UK schools. The advent of Raspberry Pi provides the start point to address these issues – providing the tools to interest and teach a whole new generation of kids. Obviously making it central to the ICT curriculum will take work (and a case), but given the government’s oft-repeated desire to provide young people with the skills a 21st century economy needs, it’s time for David Cameron to put some investment into putting them into every school before we fall further behind.

 

 


Enhanced by Zemanta

January 9, 2012 Posted by | Cambridge, Creative, Startup | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Google killed the TV star?

Image representing Eric Schmidt as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

Last week Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt gave the prestigious MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival, making him the first person from outside the broadcasting industry to do so.

As well as some crowd-pleasing attacks on Alan Sugar and a call for greater UK focus on technology innovation he used the platform to talk about the forthcoming launch of Google TV. Already out in the US, this allows viewers to access the internet while watching TV programmes and search content across both.

Google TV is a logical move for the search giant, and the desire to be the gateway between the TV and the internet is a major reason for the recent purchase of Motorola, which has a big business in set top boxes. Google exists as it is able to collect and analyse vast amounts of data and use the outputs to deliver up targeted content and adverts, and, given that bugging people is illegal, the TV is the one untapped area of our lives that they don’t currently have access to.

But I don’t think Google TV is going to have as easy a ride as some may think, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the TV experience is still about content and this is something produced by broadcasters first and foremost, whether it is live, accessed through catch-up services like iPlayer or streamed, rented content from the likes of LoveFilm or Hulu. So Google needs to take the industry with it, hence the partnership tone of Schmidt’s Edinburgh speech.

Secondly, the TV market is still conservative and slow moving. In my experience people buy PCs/tablets more often than they change TV and, even then, normally buy from trusted brands. The aim for Google is therefore to become part of the ecosystem, such as through Motorola set top boxes and inclusion in new TVs. However this will take time, particularly to reach a critical mass of mainstream consumers.

Thirdly, there is a lot of competition. At a basic level you can have your laptop on your knee to access programme information while you are watching or hook your PC to your TV to see downloaded or streamed programmes. The advent of the iPad has given you the chance to add a second screen to find out more information and share it with your family and friends quickly and easily. And a whole range of other manufacturers, both technology players such as Apple and Microsoft and existing electronics brands are bidding to be the portal linking your TV to the internet. Winning the trust of consumers and getting on as many platforms as possible will dictate who wins this war.

Finally, there are a number of differences between how people watch TV and surf the net. One is public and the other is (we like to think) very personal. If Google combines your online search history with your TV viewing habits to serve up personalised ads, it may not work make for harmonious family viewing. Just imagine your partner’s reaction if Coronation Street is interrupted by adverts for dubious sites that you’ve ‘accidentally’ surfed to, while on your own………….

Overall, this is shaping up to be an intriguing struggle to control the TV, but Google will need to think smart if it wants to win its place in our living rooms…………

Enhanced by Zemanta

September 2, 2011 Posted by | Creative | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment