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Gadgets not big in 2018

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Africans should not be fooled that technology innovation in 2018 is just about connected cars and robots. The real revolution is happening in new forms of software engineering, writes PIETER BENSCH Executive Vice President, Africa & Middle East: Sage

Here are four software trends to watch out for this year.

1.    The Rise of the Application Cloud

Cloud computing has been a game-changer for businesses of all sizes over the past decade. This year, we will see the market for cloud platforms compete on customer benefits rather than technology capability. Few cloud platforms are pure technology platforms and could be more accurately described as application ecosystems delivering app-centric user experiences.

The Apple iPhone pioneered this concept of an application cloud with the App Store, and Salesforce adopted it for business with its Lightning com platform (aka Force.com) and AppExchange. Microsoft is taking Office 365 and elements of Azure in a similar direction, while Facebook and Google remain customer experience platform providers to watch.

The implication of this shift in 2018 is that enterprises in Africa should not only consider the technical merits of their cloud providers and applications – they should also evaluate how their platform choices will give them access to customers, markets and ecosystems of value-added apps and services.

2.    De-productisation through microservices and ‘API-fication’

Mass migration towards application programming interfaces (APIs) and microservices is shifting the software world to move away from the monolithic architectures of the past.

API-fication is an architectural approach that enables the creation of interfaces between two software products to allow users to access additional features or data. Microservices is an architectural approach that revolves around breaking an application down into a set of independent services that are developed, deployed, and maintained separately.

This is the vision and long-term strategy behind Sage Business Cloud, a business platform and service ecosystem for companies of all sizes, across a range of verticals. In the long-run, technology will abandon the notion of a product completely and switch to an architecture that is made up entirely of microservices, similar to how Amazon originally envisaged reassembling its Amazon.com e-commerce application with Amazon Web Services building blocks.

3.    Infrastructure shifts to ‘serverless’ event-driven programming models

Microservices require infrastructure to operate in a layer typically referred to as ‘platform as a service’ (PaaS). 2018 will see a shift in PaaS to ‘serverless’ environments, a technology in which the cloud provider dynamically manages the allocation of machine resources. These serverless, event-driven programming models are set to revolutionise software architecture.

Serverless applications do not require the provisioning, scaling, and management of any servers, and pricing is based on the processing consumed rather than on capacity provisioned. Amazon Lambda and Microsoft Azure Functions are two leading examples of this technology.

4.    Rules of software distribution being rewritten

In the past, computer distributors played a vital role in pushing discrete technology building blocks like operating systems and productivity software into the market. In the future, the seams between customer solution and platform will be less recognisable, and the independent software vendor will assume a greater share of the value chain. For example, Office 365 is now fully embedded in some Sage Business Cloud solutions.

Trends making life easier for businesses

These four trends are making technology smarter, more connected and of greater value to the end-user. At Sage, that helps us fulfil our mission to make life easier for our customers, whether you are a small business starting-out or you are going global and exporting across the world. And when we talk about invisible accounting, taking advantage of artificial intelligence, machine learning and neuro-linguistic programming – it is the innovation in software architecture and application programming that is making it all possible.

Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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Sports streaming takes off

Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.

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England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.

According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.

Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.

The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.

“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”

With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.

“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”

The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.

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