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R&D moves to software

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By 2020, companies will have shifted the majority of their R&D spending away from product-based offerings to software and service offerings, according to the 2016 Global Innovation 1000 Study from Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting business.

The need to stay competitive is the top reason why companies cited a shift in their R&D budgets towards software and services, and for good reason – according to the study, companies who reported faster revenue growth relative to key competitors allocated 25 percent more of their R&D budgets to software offerings than companies who reported slower revenue growth.

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  • The average allocation of R&D spending for software and services increased from 54% to 59% between 2010 and 2015 and is expected to grow to 63% by 2020.
  •  Meanwhile, the average allocation of R&D spending dedicated to product-based offerings fell to 41 percent (from 46% in 2010), and is expected to fall to 37% by 2020 (an overall decrease of 19% this decade)
  •  Average allocation of R&D spending on software offerings alone will increase by 43% by the end of this decade and R&D spending on services will gradually overtake investment in product-based innovation (39% vs. 37% by 2020).
  • Global R&D spending on software offerings has increased by 65% between 2010-2015, from US $86 billion to $142 billion.

“In this year’s Global Innovation 1000 study we focused on the transformation that R & D is undergoing as companies strengthen their software and service offerings. The shift is increasingly being driven by the significant improvement in what software can do and the growing use of embedded software and sensors in products, customers, and suppliers via the Internet of Things and the availability of cloud-based data storage. Most of all, it is being driven by increasing customer expectations,” says Liesbeth Botha, Strategic Digital Transformation Leader, PwC Africa.

Only one South African company –chemical and energy giant, Sasol (No. 714) – was listed on the 1000 Companies List for R&D spend and R&D intensity.

According to PwC’s Africa Business Agenda, 2015 report almost 90% of CEOs saw digital technologies and innovations as vital to their success and that will transform their businesses over the next five years. In addition, new advancements and breakthroughs in frontiers of R&D are opening up more opportunities for businesses across the African continent. Adds Botha: “African corporates together with the Government have the opportunity to drive more domestic R&D investment into innovation and digital transformation to build an economy that is recognised for its talent, skills and knowledge.”

For the seventh year running, Apple and Alphabet (formerly Google) continue to lead the most innovative list. Google continues to make waves with initiatives such as its self-driving project, while Apple focuses on its capabilities in gaining customer insights to improve popular products such as the iPhone.

PwC’s strategic partnership with Google is illustrative of its own investment in, and commitment to innovation, comments Botha.

Companies will recruit less mechanical engineers and more data and software engineers to build their capabilities

To support the development of software and services offerings, fewer companies will focus their R&D spending on the electrical and mechanical field. By 2020, the number of companies reporting that electrical engineers are their top employed engineering specialty will fall by 35 percent and the proportion of companies who expect that data engineers will represent their largest group of employed engineers will double from 8% to 16%.

Regionally, companies in North America are making the strongest shift to software offerings—from 15 percent of total R&D spending in 2010 to 24 percent in 2020. While Asia remains the most product-centric region, with 44 percent of R&D allocated to product offerings in 2010, only falling to 40 percent in 2020. The automotive and industrial sectors are making the most aggressive push towards developing new software offerings.

Among companies that made an acquisition during the past five years, the vast majority – 71 percent – were made to enhance capabilities in software (33%) or services (38%)

Strategy&’s annual analysis of the world’s 1000 largest R&D spenders also found the following:

By 2018, the healthcare sector will surpass computing and electronics to become the largest R&D spending industry globally (US$165 billion v. US$159 billion), and the software and internet industry will leap ahead of the automotive sector.

·         (US$129 billion v. US$105 billion); Industrials rounds out the Top 5 R&D industries by spend.

·         For the first time in the study’s history, the number of Global Innovation 1000 companies headquartered in the US grew, up 9.5% year over year.

·         Volkswagen, Samsung, Amazon, Alphabet (Google) and Intel round out the Top 5 R&D Spenders, with Amazon and Google making bold moves up the list (+4 and +2 positions, respectively).

·         Global innovation professionals responding to a 2016 survey have ranked Apple, Alphabet (Google), and 3M as the three Most Innovative Companies in the world.

·         The 10 Most Innovative Companies continue to outperform the Top 10 R&D Spenders on key performance metrics, as has been the case for each of the past seven years.

2016 Ranking: The 10 Most Innovative Companies vs. Top 10 R&D spenders

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Personal computing devices sales still decline in MEA

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The Middle East and Africa (MEA) personal computing devices (PCD) market, which is made up of desktops, notebooks, workstations, and tablets, suffered a decline of -7.3% year on year in Q2 2017, according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation (IDC).

The global technology research and consulting firm’s Quarterly PCD Tracker for Q2 2017 shows that PCD shipments fell to around 6 million units for the quarter.

“As forecast, the market followed a similar pattern to recent quarters, with the downturn primarily stemming from a decline in shipments of slate tablets and desktops,” says Fouad Charakla, IDC’s senior research manager for client devices in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa. “This was the result of desktop users increasingly switching to mobile devices such as notebooks or even refurbished notebooks, while users of slate tablets shifted to smartphones. These trends translated into year-on-year declines of -21.9% for desktops and -15.7% for slate tablets in Q2 2017, while shipments of notebooks and detachable tablets increased 11.0% and 63.3%, respectively over the same period.”

“Market sentiment in the region remained low overall, although an aggressive push from some slate tablet vendors meant the market declined much slower than expected,” continues Charakla. “At the same time, heightened competition has also made it harder for certain players to sustain their slate tablet businesses and generate profits, causing them to lose interest in the slate tablet market altogether. Despite this, slate tablets are still the most popular computing device among home users in the region.”

Looking at the region’s key markets, IDC’s research shows that when compared to Q2 2016 overall PCD shipments were down -11.4% in the UAE, -8.9% in Turkey, and -6.7% in the ‘Rest of Middle East’ sub-region (comprising Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, and Afghanistan). South Africa and Saudi Arabia bucked this trend, recording year-on-year increases of 3.5% and 9.6%, respectively.

A massive education delivery in Pakistan acted as a key driver for notebook shipments in the region overall. Similarly, the education sector was the biggest driver of detachable tablet shipments, triggered by a huge delivery in Kenya, as well as two other deliveries in Pakistan and Turkey, which enabled this category to achieve the fastest growth of all the PCD categories.

“While a component shortage prevented market players from reducing their prices too much, the average price of consumer notebooks experienced a considerable year-on-year decline in Q2 2017,” says Charakla. “This played a key role in driving demand from the consumer segment, and was reflected in the growing popularity of lower-priced notebook models.”

Looking at the PC market’s vendor rankings, each of the top five vendors maintained their respective positions compared to the previous quarter, with the top four all gaining share.

Middle East & Africa PC Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017

Brand Q2 2016 Q2 2017
HP Inc. 23.7% 27.6%
Lenovo 19.8% 21.5%
Dell 16.3% 16.7%
ASUS 8.7% 9.4%
Acer Group 5.9% 4.1%
Others 25.7% 20.7%

Although Samsung continued to lead the tablet market, the vendor rankings in the space saw quite a few changes, with Huawei catapulting itself to second place. Lenovo also climbed up a position compared to the previous quarter, causing Apple to drop to fourth place.

Middle East & Africa Tablet Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017

Brand Q2 2016 Q2 2017
Samsung 20.5% 18.9%
Huawei 11.2% 15.8%
Lenovo 12.7% 9.8%
Apple 9.1% 8.8%
Alcatel 2.9% 5.0%
Others 43.5% 41.7%

“Looking to the future, the MEA PCD market is expected to decline at a faster rate than previously forecast for 2017 as a whole,” says Charakla. “Technological shifts are playing a pivotal role in deciding the future of this market, with demand for certain products shifting to other PCD products and beyond (i.e., smartphones). Accordingly, shipments of slate tablets are expected to continue declining over the coming years as demand is cannibalized by smartphones. Meanwhile, the ongoing shift to mobile computing will see growth in the desktop market remain close to flat throughout IDC’s forecast period ending 2021. Notebook shipments will experience very slow growth beyond 2018, while detachable tablets will remain the fastest growing PCD category, eating away share from other computing devices.”

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Gazer cyber-spies exposed

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ESET has released new research into the activities of the Turla cyberespionage group, and specifically a previously undocumented backdoor that has been used to spy on consulates and embassies worldwide.

ESET’s research team are the first in the world to document the advanced backdoor malware, which they have named “Gazer”, despite evidence that it has been actively deployed in targeted attacks against governments and diplomats since at least 2016.

Gazer’s success can be explained by the advanced methods it uses to spy on its intended targets, and its ability to remain persistent on infected devices, embedding itself out of sight on victim’s computers in an attempt to steal information for a long period of time.

ESET researchers have discovered that Gazer has managed to infect a number of computers around the world, with the most victims being located in Europe. Curiously, ESET’s examination of a variety of different espionage campaigns which used Gazer has identified that the main target appears to have been Southeastern Europe as well as countries in the former Soviet Union Republic.

The attacks show all the hallmarks of past campaigns launched by the Turla hacking group, namely:

  • Targeted organisations are embassies and ministries;
  • Spearphishing delivers a first-stage backdoor such as Skipper;
  • A second stealthier backdoor (Gazer in this instance, but past examples have included Carbon and Kazuar) is put in place;
  • The second-stage backdoor receives encrypted instructions from the gang via C&C servers, using compromised, kegitimate websites as a proxy.

Another notable similarity between Gazer and past creations of the Turla cyberespionage group become obvious when the malware is analysed. Gazer makes extra efforts to evade detection by changing strings within its code, randomizing markers, and wiping files securely.

In the most recent example of the Gazer backdoor malware found by ESET’s research team, clear evidence was seen that someone had modified most of its strings, and inserted phrases related to video games throughout its code.

Don’t be fooled by the sense of humour that the Turla hacking group are showing here, falling foul of computer criminals is no laughing manner.

All organisations, whether governmental, diplomatic, law enforcement, or in traditional business, need to take today’s sophisticated threats serious and adopt a layered defence to reduce the chances of a security breach.

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