Internet Explorer 9 at a glance

Which browser has been your go-to these past few years? Google Chrome? Mozilla Firefox? We can’t imagine that, for many of the tech-savvy IT users out there, the quick answer would be Internet Explorer. But thanks to Internet Explorer 9 that might be set to shift.

Previous versions of Internet Explorer have felt decidedly rudimentary next to the aforementioned browsers of choice, but IE9 could blow them out of the water in one important area – speed.  Using their fun and visually explosive fish test to measure the speed of various browsers, it appears that IE9 is streets ahead of its competitors. Unsurprisingly, this will come at the cost of your battery life, but another nifty feature of running IE9 on a Windows machine is that it will be able to read the power settings of your machine and adjust its processing power accordingly. It also has a useful plug-in called Performance Advisor that analyses the usage of all the sites you have open and reports back which ones are affecting speed and performance the most.

But what about visuals? Old versions of IE didn’t measure up to the sleekness of Chrome, but the new version certainly takes steps to address this, including the popular tab feature of Chrome and the latest version of Firefox, as well as a popular sites grid on the start page – again, very Chrome. It also has the added feature of ‘pinning’ favourite websites to the start-up taskbar; more fiddly than it sounds in practise but a useful feature, and the pinned sites launch in their own window as opposed to a new tab. The address bar also doubles as a search box, searching your browser history as you type to display the most likely results.

IE9 also has a host of new features designed to dispel recent fears regarding browser security. A new feature called Application Reputation assesses the risk of unfamiliar sites based on previous ratings by other users, and only shows you a warning if it deems there to be one based on the ratings it has found. It also has an application to block third party tracking, and can detect malicious code in vulnerable existing website code. Its download manager is also designed to protect against phishing sites and protects you from harmful downloads.

 Reading this list of features you might think that IE9 has done plenty to catch up with Chrome, but not a lot to pass it. It’s true – Chrome still has the monolopy on usability, as well as the added advantage of add-ins to customise and improve individual user experiences, something IE9 is notably lacking. But for added speed and a positive step towards modernity and usability this is a giant step for Internet Explorer and paves the way for fresh innovation with the imminent launch of IE10, possibly to correspond with Windows 8.

Which browser do you use, and why?

Today’s apprentices – the entrepreneurs of tomorrow?

During National Apprenticeship Week earlier this month, Dragons Den personality and businessman Theo Paphitis spoke strongly in favour of the need to invest heavily in apprenticeship schemes in order to tackle the serious unemployment issue affecting the UK. Recent figures indicate that while one in four young people who leaves school with only GCSEs is out of work, the same split is true of graduates, highlighting just how badly the recession is affecting the next generation. But what impact might this figure have on the future of UK businesses? While the survival rate of existing businesses is already in jeopardy, the potential for new businesses to emerge is being affected by the absence of the next generation from the market.

Paphitis thinks that apprenticeships are the answer – training young people in real-world business skills as opposed to misleading them with academia. Pathitis’ most well-known business venture, Ryman Stationery, has a partnership with leading training provider Hawk Training, and many of its staff at all levels have been through apprenticeship programmes, giving a boost and a leg-up to school leavers and those who have taken time out of work.

And it’s not just UK businesses that are backing apprenticeship schemes. New York-based company start-up E[nstitute] has created a mentoring programme with 31 NYC entrepreneurs, open to 12-24 year olds with high school diplomas. The programme lasts for 2 years, and E[nstitute] is currently gathering funds to cover the housing, transport and food costs of the programme’s fellows. The programme, which will include a more general first year looking at the broader scope of entrepreneurship and a second year where fellows are encouraged to pursue their own focus, is designed to formally prepare young people for the world of work.

A survey was conducted on behalf of the National Apprenticeship Service, during National Apprenticeships Week, that revealed that 81% of SMBs planned on integrating apprenticeships in to their future recruitment strategies, and 75% believed that apprenticeships added value to businesses in the current economic crisis.  SMBs feel that employees gained through apprenticeships make contributions to their businesses more quickly and that they are more important to businesses than ever before.

Do you agree with Theo Paphitis – are apprenticeships the future for both Britain’s businesses and its next generation? Do you have, or would you implement an apprenticeship scheme? Let us know in the comments!

How ICT is transforming the world’s businesses

The World Economic Forum recently released its 10th anniversary edition of The Global Information Technology Report. Under the theme Transformations 2.0, the report looks at how modern businesses are harnessing the transformative power of Information and Communications Technology, or ICT, to drive their businesses forward, and in turn how this new emphasis on ICT is influencing individuals, industries and countries as a whole.  

The report revealed that, once again, the Nordics are the countries that best utilise ICT, with Sweden a non-mover at the top of the list, with Singapore similarly holding solid in second place. Finland and Norway also climbed further up the top ten, which was also populated by members of the Asian Tiger economies (Singapore, Taiwan and China) and the USA. By comparison, the UK sits in 15th position.

The ranking is decided by taking individual components that contribute to an ICT-ready environment and giving each a certain ranking, from a country’s attitude to ICT education, its usage by individuals and companies alike and, crucially, its government’s attitude to the education and use and control of ICT. Sweden is ranked highest in its laws relating to ICT; important because it eliminates the fear many companies have of working outside of these or incidents resulting from a lack of said laws. It also scores highly in the level of competition between internet and phone providers and companies, indicating that said providers see it as a key market. Its smartphone users are also keen data users; it scored the highest rank for cellular subscriptions with data, and the highest rank for individual business spending on research and development. Their education system ranks highly too, as does their government’s success rate in the promotion and use of ICT.

By contrast, the UK government’s prioritisation and promotion of ICT, use of ICT and education system achieves a lower ranking – numerous comment pieces have been circulated of late on how the next generation needs better ICT education. But while large bodies such as these aren’t prioritising ICT as highly as they could be, their businesses fair better, with a shorter average start-up time than their Swedish counterparts and good levels of R&D and company-university R&D collaboration, indicating a positive future. Its mobile phone tarrifs are often more reasonable than Sweden’s, and its mobile phone subscriptions are higher as a result with healthy data usage.

It is, of course, worth noting the massive population differences between Sweden and the UK, and subsequent difference in GDP.  But Sweden has, in recent years, become the hotspot for ICT innovation, with scouts from large companies like HP and Microsoft reportedly visiting the country to hunt for the ICT entrepreneurs of tomorrow. The recent press generated by fictional ICT whizz Lisbeth Salander (and the more negative press generated by hackers such as kinpin Julian Assange) will no doubt have helped pique peoples’ interests in the potential of the Nordic nation, along with it being the birthplace of Skype and Spotify.

So from an SMB perspective, what can the findings teach UK businesses? Part of Sweden’s success comes from its businesses’ investment in R&D and their staff training programmes, as well as their capacity for innovation and the extent to which their businesses use the internet, all of which provide a perfect environment for understanding the evolution of the digital landscape. Institutions that are slow to adopt and adapt their attitudes to new technologies will inevitably miss out on the next wave of digital innovation, which will have a knock-on effect on the global competitiveness of the country.

In 2012, despite troubling financial forecasts, it’s in the favour of both the governments and the business owners of countries wishing to assert their dominance on the world stage to invest in ICT.