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Microsoft Office for iPad sets the gold standard for tablet productivity

March 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Summary: It took four years, but Microsoft has finally released full-featured Office apps for the iPad. As expected, the new Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps are free to install but require an Office 365 subscription to unlock the full set of features. Here’s what you can expect.

Microsoft today released native iPad apps for its flagship Office programs—Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The three new apps join the existing iOS apps from the Office family: OneNote, Lync, OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, and an OWA app for Exchange-based email.
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Gallery: A closer look at Microsoft Office for the iPad

After four years’ worth of speculation and anticipation, today’s releases are a welcome arrival for longtime Office users who’ve had to deal with incompatibilities and unsatisfying alternatives every time they picked up an iPad.

Make no mistake about it: These three apps are feature-rich, powerful tools for creating and editing Office documents. They look and act like their Office 2013 counterparts on Windows. And although these iPad apps obviously can’t replicate every feature of the full desktop programs, they deliver an impressive subset of those features. Anyone who was expecting Office Lite or a rehash of the underwhelming Office for iPhone will be pleasantly surprised.

Technically, there’s no such thing as Office for iPad. Each of the apps is a separate download from the App Store. They’re all designed for use on iPads running iOS 7 or later. (That restriction means owners of the original iPad are out of luck, because that device won’t run iOS 7.)

As I predicted a year ago, the apps themselves are free, but you’ll need an Office 365 subscription (Home, Personal, Small Business, or Enterprise) to unlock their full potential. Unless you activate the app by signing in with your Office 365 credentials, you’ll be limited to reading Word documents, working with Excel data, and presenting PowerPoint slide shows. Only Office 365 subscribers get to create new documents or use any of the rich editing tools.

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You can create and save files directly on an iPad, but these apps are expressly designed for cloud storage, using Microsoft’s OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint.

The apps themselves are fast and extremely responsive. They also walk the delicate tightrope between observing iPad interface conventions and building on the muscle memory of anyone who’s used the desktop apps included with an Office 365 subscription.

Tap the button in the upper left corner, for example, just as in Office 2013 apps, to display a File menu that lets you create a new document, reopen a recently used file, or browse through local and cloud storage to find a specific file. (Using the OneDrive for Business app, you can mark files or folders to be cached for offline use.)

Commands for each app are grouped on ribbons that are more compact than their desktop alternatives. (To save space, you can tap the commands on the ribbon to hide the options for that tab, then tap again to make them visible again.) The number of options available on each ribbon is, likewise, limited in comparison to the full desktop programs.

CNET Video: Microsoft Office for iPad in action

What’s most impressive about these apps is how faithfully they display Office documents. Virtually all of the Word documents, Excel workbooks, and PowerPoint presentations I opened displayed perfectly on the iPad’s screen. The only exceptions involved documents with fonts that weren’t available on the iPad and some features that aren’t supported in the iPad app, such as Excel PivotTables.

For Word documents, you can use the Home tab to assign styles, modify character formatting, adjust line spacing and indents, and apply bullets and numbers to lists. If you compare the iPad’s Home ribbon to its desktop counterpart, you can spot some significant differences. You can’t define custom bullets or numbering formats on a tablet, nor can you define styles. For that sort of work you need to go back to the desktop.

Likewise, Word’s Insert ribbon lets you add page breaks and section breaks, insert a table, add pictures and shapes and text boxes, and create or edit hyperlinks. You won’t be able to create a table of contents or index from iPad, but you can quickly insert a simple footnote. Here, too, the goal of the iPad app is to enable a broad, but not deep, set of reading and editing options.

The developers of Word for the iPad lavished special attention on features for reviewing and collaborating on documents, with full support for revision marks and comments, in a display that is identical to what you’ll see on the desktop.

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Excel for iPad offers similar fidelity with existing worksheets. One noteworthy innovation is a second custom keyboard that you can switch to in place of the standard iPad keyboard. Besides a numeric keypad, there’s also a full selection of operators and symbols that you can use to enter and edit formulas.

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From the Home tab, you can adjust fonts and basic character formatting, change number formats, insert and delete cells and rows and columns, and sort and filter as needed.

As with the other two apps, the Insert tab includes a subset of options. Pictures are the weakest link, allowing access only to the iPad’s Photos folder. But the charting capabilities in Excel on the iPad are first-rate, including the ability to select some data and then tap Recommended to insert just the right chart from a list of options that show previews using the live data.

Entering formulas is another pleasant surprise. The Formulas ribbon includes an extensive selection of functions, arranged by category just as in the desktop app. Even obscure statistical and financial functions are available.

Unlike its Office-mates, PowerPoint for iPad is less about creation and editing (although those tools are there) and much more about delivering the actual presentation. You can choose a theme when creating a new slide deck, for example, but you can’t change that theme from the iPad app. You can, however, add transitions between slides and rearrange slides in a deck.

If you can send the iPad display to a large screen or a projector, then you can drive the entire show from the iPad. As with PowerPoint on Windows tablets, you have options to display a virtual laser pointer, pen, or highlighter. Those annotations aren’t persistent; they disappear when you end the slide show.

What’s fascinating about Office for the iPad is how it leapfrogs Microsoft’s Windows tablets. On Windows 8 and Windows RT devices, Office is still a desktop app with some grudging interface tweaks designed to ease the pain of using an app without a mouse. Anyone who owns a Surface RT is likely to look enviously at these iPad apps, which for now are the gold standard for Office on a modern tablet.

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New U. of California President Plays Down Online Education

March 28, 2014 Leave a comment

 

 

March 28, 2014

Wired Campus

The latest on tech and education.

March 27, 2014 by 

The new president of the University of California, Janet Napolitano, does not think online education is the answer to the fundamental challenges facing her system.

Ms. Napolitano, who took office last fall after serving four years as U.S. secretary of homeland security, sat for an interview this week with Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California. Mr. Baldassare noted that online education did not figure in her stated initiatives. Here is how Ms. Napolitano responded:

I think there’s a developing consensus that online learning is a tool for the tool box, where higher education is concerned; that it is not a silver bullet the way it was originally portrayed to be. It’s a lot harder than it looks. And, by the way, if you do it right, it doesn’t save all that much money, because you still have to have an opportunity for students to interact with either a teaching assistant or an assistant professor or professor at some level. And preparing the courses, if they’re really going to be top-quality, is an investment as well.

Ms. Napolitano’s remarks contrasted with the attitude of Gov. Jerry Brown, who last yearpromoted a pilot partnership with the upstart online-education company Udacity as a possible way to increase the capacity of California’s public universities while lowering costs. That experiment didn’t pan out, however.

And while campuses in the University of California system do offer many online courses, the university’s centralized online initiative, UC Online, has not quite lived up to expectations.

The new president continued:

Early on, the notion was you could use online learning to help students who were getting started, for remedial English or math, to be up to speed. I think that’s false. I think those students need the teacher in the classroom working with them. I think where online learning will turn out to be the most useful is to complement the upper-division coursework that we have.

You can watch the whole interview on YouTube. The online-education part begins at 31:00.

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Pounding The Table in the EU Eliminates Greedy Womens Jeans Import Protectionism

March 28, 2014 Leave a comment


EU Drops Extra Tariff on U.S. Women’s Jeans

Nearly one year after slapping an additional 26 percent tariff on U.S.-made women’s jeans, the European Union has decided to reduce that tariff to 0.35 percent starting on May 1.

That 26 percent tariff was on top of an already 12 percent tariff in place for women’s denim pants made in the United States, making the total tariff a whopping 38 percent. With the new ruling, the tariff on U.S.-made women’s denim will be 12.35 percent.

The EU approved the tariff reduction on March 25, and it was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on March 26.

The reduction in the steep import tax is good news for the Los Angeles apparel industry, which manufactures about 75 percent of the premium jeans made in the United States. “It’s another example of the effect of ‘pounding the table’ when action is required to remind the powers-that-be of issues that affect our industry and the region’s employment,” said Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Association.

The extra tariff imposed by the EU last May 1 was part of a trade dispute that centered around the Byrd Amendment, with which the United States collected extra duties several years ago on EU-made items that were considered to be unfairly traded goods that affected U.S. manufacturers. Even though the Byrd Amendment was rescinded, the United States continued distributing the money collected under the Byrd Amendment, to which the EU objected.

Because of this, the World Trade Organization authorized the EU to increase tariffs on certain items for a one-year period, with the option to renew the tariff.

Because the United States last year reduced by nearly 50 percent the distribution of Byrd Amendment duties, the EU recently decided to reduce the denim tariff, which was costing some Los Angeles denim makers as much as $250,000 in the first six months of last year. The extra 26 percent tariff is rescinded on May 1, but it can be imposed again next year.

To combat the added tariff, several denim makers last year hired the international trade law firm of Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, based in Miami, to find a technical way to get around this new tax.

In October, attorney Elise Shibles, with the law firm’s San Francisco office, filed a legal challenge with the tax and customs department in the United Kingdom about how women’s denim pants were classified. In December, she won a ruling that said women’s denim pants could be classified as women’s cotton pants if their dye is not colorfast, which is considered a denim quality. Women’s cotton pants only carry a 12 percent tariff.

Because the U.K. is part of the European Union, other EU countries have been honoring the new classification while U.S. denim makers have been filing paperwork to reclassify their jeans and receive refunds on the added tariff.

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Gap integrates bloggers into shoppable mobile ads

March 27, 2014 Leave a comment

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The mobile ads showcase bloggers who are members of the Styld.by community, a group of bloggers who style Gap clothes with everything else in their wardrobes. According to Gap, a majority of visitors to Styld.by arrive via mobile devices and it was only natural for the company to ramp up mobile advertising for this campaign.

Gap’s mobile banner ads feature individual looks created by the various style bloggers alongside copy that prompts viewers to click to learn more about how the fashionistas put together the outfit. Once the banner ad is clicked, a new screen opens with a full-page ad that shows the outfit and the individual Gap items worn. A third click takes users to the Styld.by site where they can view various posts from the Gap style bloggers.

In this instance, Gap aims to help mobile users find inspiration on how to wear items and create a more versatile wardrobe, rather than push marketing messages about a limited-time sale or store promotion. Content-driven ads such as these by Gap are important for retailers who want to build community and generate sales.

 

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Sears launches Now + Here omnichannel, fast-fashion format

March 27, 2014 Leave a comment

logoLet’s All Hope it Works!!

Sears (NASDAQ: SHLD) today announced the launch of Now + Here, a fast-fashion shop-in-shop available in Sears stores and through Sears’ e-commerce site and Shop Your Way program.

The Now + Here initiative offers monthly deliveries of trendy clothing and accessories to keep up with the latest styles offered by other teen retailers such as H&M and Forever 21. The Now + Here retail experience extends online with an omnichannel focus that provides access to exclusive content, including behind the scenes videos and fashion tips.

With Now + Here, the goal is to bring new fashion trends from design studios to store shelves much more quickly and to increase the rate of cycling through new designs.

“Fast fashion for Sears means an accelerated timeline for trends at an affordable price. The new Now + Here shop provides an experience that transcends the store, leveraging our integrated retail capabilities to give our customers and Shop Your Way members a 360 degree fashion experience,” said Sheila Field, CMO for Sears apparel.

Apparel has been the rare bright spot for the chain, thanks in part to competitor J.C. Penney’s missteps, and in part to new celebrity-backed fashion lines by Adam Levine and Nicki Minaj. Sales driven by Shop Your Way rewards program members grew to 69 percent of total sales at Sears and Kmart for the full fiscal year 2013. That’s up from 59 percent last year. Online and multi-channel businesses grew 10 percent over the prior full year.

To celebrate the launch of Now + Here, Sears will host a virtual event, followed by a live online fashion chat with celebrity Brooke Burke-Charvet on April 14. Beginning March 27, users will be able to register online for the event, which will include a virtual runway show experience, behind-the scenes-video, a new product lookbook and live shopping of looks throughout the show. During the live chat, Burke-Charvet will share her best fashion tips, answer questions and offer style advice.

The new Now + Here program, comes on the heels of another omnichannel program that Sears is launching to capture the teen audience. Sears has partnered with Seventeen magazine to create a full line of clothing, shoes and accessories aimed at juniors. The companies are also working to create specially branded Seventeen boutiques inside 500 Sears stores, including 10 flagship locations. The shops will feature Seventeen signage, interactive elements, charging stations and image pieces.

For more:
-See this Sears press release

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State of Content Marketing: Retail

March 27, 2014 Leave a comment

State of Content Marketing: Retail

Welcome. You hold in your hands (or more likely on your monitor)
Contently’s overview of the state of content marketing in the retail
industry. This is the third ebook in our series that examines content
marketing efforts across different industries; so far we’ve tackled 
financial services and consumer packaged goods, and you can expect
overviews of the tech and real estate industries soon. We started this
series for a pretty simple reason: Content marketing is evolving at a
rapid pace, but it’s still kind of the Wild West out here. Until now, there
hasn’t been a central authority on who’s doing what and how.

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How America Loses a Job Every 43 Seconds

March 26, 2014 Leave a comment

This piece sounds like it is will be anti-immigration, but it is really in favor of not restricting immigration of highly skilled workers in fields where the US does not keep pace with the technology jobs being created here at home…..( the blog editor)

 

March 25, 2014 6:53 p.m. ET
For every immigrant hired at technology companies, an average of five additional employees are added as well.

The first of next month is a big day for the U.S., and not because it’s April Fools’ Day. April 1 is when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services begins accepting new H-1B visa petitions for 2015.

An H-1B visa allows a company to create a new job for a highly-educated foreigner in the U.S. for at least three years. The H-1B program, which accounts for nearly all ofAmerica’s skilled immigration, imposes an annual cap of 85,000 new visas: 65,000 with at least a bachelor’s degree and 20,000 with at least a master’s degree.

In many recent years, demand for H-1B visas has far exceeded supply. In 2013, the government received roughly 124,000 applications in just four days—and then stopped accepting petitions on April 5. The government has closed the visa window suddenly before, as recently as 2008. All current forecasts suggest strong visa demand again this year thanks to dynamism in high-innovation sectors and continued economic recovery.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building Phoenix. Associated Press

The U.S.’s skilled immigration policy hurts American workers, companies and the economy. As Gordon Hanson and I documented in our 2013 report for Compete America, a coalition of companies, universities and research institutions, immigrants have long been a key part of America’s talent pool, helping drive the innovation that creates jobs and higher standards of living. Their most significant contributions have been in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Foreign-born individuals make up about 20% of today’s U.S. STEM workers with bachelor’s degrees and 40% of those with advanced degrees. These shares have been rising for decades.

The effects of their contribution ripple through the economy. One quarter of U.S. high-technology firms established since 1995 have had at least one foreign-born founder. These new companies today employ 450,000 people and generate more than $50 billion in sales. Immigrants or their children founded 40% of today’s Fortune FT.T -4.73% 500 companies, including firms behind seven of the 10 most valuable global brands.

Talented immigrant STEM workers do not crowd out American-born STEM talent. Companies that cannot hire talented immigrants in America often don’t hire anyone at all. Or these companies may hire—but overseas. In 2007, Microsoft MSFT -0.05% opened a research center in Vancouver, in part to “allow the company to continue to recruit and retain highly skilled people affected by the immigration issues in the U.S.,” according to the company’s announcement. In May, the startup Blueseed announced it would skirtU.S. immigration restrictions by building a barge in international waters 12 nautical miles off the coast of San Francisco. There the company could accommodate international entrepreneurs.

There is a real, tangible cost to the U.S. economy of allocating far fewer skilled-immigrant visas than companies need. Most immediately, the cost is forgone jobs created in the companies and beyond. More broadly, the cost is forgone ideas, innovation and connections to the world.

The immediate job-loss cost is much larger than subtracting the 85,000 visas allowed from the number of H-1B petitions filed. First, more petitions would certainly be filed were it not for the limited window: Companies need new talent year-round. Then there are the lost jobs from the additional hiring of Americans that talented immigrants spur. Bill Gatestestified to Congress in 2008 that for every immigrant hired at technology companies, an average of five additional employees are added as well. Research last year by economist Theo Eicher estimated each new Microsoft job adds eight jobs in supplier companies.

Restrictive skilled-immigration policy costs U.S. jobs every single day. How many? Start with an estimated 100,000 jobs lost directly this year from H-1B visa applications that were either not filed or not approved beyond the current cap of 85,000. Then add 400,000, a ballpark estimate from research of additional jobs not created at immigrant-hiring companies and at these companies’ suppliers.

That’s 500,000 jobs lost thanks to too-restrictive U.S. immigration policy. Spread across 50 five-day workweeks, this translates into 2,000 U.S. jobs not created a day. That is a new job lost about every 43 seconds, around the clock, every single day that America is open for business.

In 2013, the U.S. economy created 2.37 million new payroll jobs. This tally could have been more than 21% higher had U.S. immigration restrictions not existed. Wise reform could bring a welcome end to the damage restrictive immigration policy inflicts on the country’s own economic vitality.

Mr. Slaughter, professor and associate dean at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, served as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers from 2005-07.

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