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IT Leads the Way in IPOs

The information technology sector led the way in venture-backed initial public offerings and mergers. IPO activity grew in the fourth quarter, with 11 companies going public, up 120 percent from the third quarter 2011 but down 67 percent from the fourth quarter of last year, according to the Exit Poll report by Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA).

By dollars, the quarter marked an increase of nearly five times the third quarter and a 34 percent decrease from the fourth quarter last year. For the full year, 52 venture-backed companies went public representing a value of $9.9 billion, a 31 percent decline in volume but a 41 percent increase in dollar value from 2010.

For the fourth quarter, 92 venture-backed M&A deals were reported, 26 of which had an
aggregate deal value of $3.9 billion, down 34 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010. For
all of 2011, 429 transactions were reported, down just two percent from a record year in
2010. Annual M&A aggregate value, driven by the first nine months of 2011 reached $23.0
billion, a 23 percent increase from 2010 and the highest levels seen since 2007.

Seven of the quater's 11 IPOs were in the IT sector, including three Internet companies, two semiconductor firms, and two compamies in the computer software and services sector. Sixty-one of the quarter's 92 venture-backed mergers involved companies in the IT sector.

Heightened Demand for New Technology Projects

IT budgets are up, and so is demand for new technology projects, according to the 2012 edition of InformationWeek's annual Outlook survey. Fifty-six percent of respondents say their companies plan to increase tech spending in the coming year, up from 46 percent two years ago. Three-quarters of respondents see heightened demand for new IT projects, up from about half in our Outlook 2010 survey. This budget growth builds on last year's momentum, while strong demand for tech projects is a positive sign for overall business expansion and investment.

Two years ago, just 14 percent of companies were expanding compared with 18 percent making cuts. Today, 25 percent are expanding vs. just 9 percent cutting back. Nearly one-quarter say IT is viewed as a business driver and is therefore asked to cut spending less than other departments.

Nearly half of respondents say their companies will increase spending on data center software next year compared with just 9 percent cutting that spending; 42 percent say they will increase spending on data center hardware, while 12 percent will cut.

"Since 83 percent of respondents to our 2012 Outlook poll are management, either IT (70 percent) or corporate (13 percent), this survey gives a very clear picture of plans," says Lorna Garey, content director of InformationWeek Reports. "Areas covered in the report include what to expect in emerging tablet, enterprise social networking, data center, and big data technologies."

GigaMedia Acquires Games Development Team

GigaMedia Ltd.'s China online games platform Jidi Joy has acquired a specialized Web-based social games development team in Shanghai and expects to roll out the first of its new proprietary social network games in March.

"We are making rapid progress in China, positioning ourselves to benefit from two powerful market forces in online games: the ongoing shift into Web and mobile platforms and the continued strong popularity and growth of social games," stated Jidi Joy CEO John Huen. "Web-based and social games are projected by industry analysts to grow at up to triple-digit rates in China – faster than traditional client-based or PC games."

"This SNS-focused R&D team is a crucial extension of our business in China," stated Jidi Joy CEO John Huen. "Beta testing is now scheduled for late March 2012; we expect to launch multiple new games in China this year on our platform as well as on high-traffic social networking portals and are excited about the opportunities this creates for us."

The cornerstone of GigaMedia's growth initiatives in China, Jidi Joy is a developer and operator of online games in Shanghai. The company is led by a team of industry veterans and is a fully-licensed, full-service online game platform with ISO 9001 certified customer service and technical support.

Tech Leaders Focus on Improving Productivity

Improving productivity was the highest business priority among technology decision-makers in Dataquest's annual survey of tech priorities. Sixty percent of respondents said improving productivity was a top priority, followed by 54 percent intent on reducing operational costs, and 48 percent focusing on improving customer service.

Dataquest noted that business priorities are focused toward internal improvements instead of more aggressive and outward-facing business priorities like rapid growth in business volumes and setting up new business units.

Forty-two percent of respondents forecast a slight increase in IT spending this year, while 22 percent expect a significant increase or status quo. Only 6 percent see IT spending declining this year.


University of Utah Tops List for Starting New Companies

The University of Utah is No. 1 in the nation at starting companies based on university research for the second year in a row, according to the latest Association of University Technology Managers survey, which ranks US universities and institutions on their commercialization success in 2010.

The U of Utah had 18 startups from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, one more than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other top schools included Brigham Young University with 13, Columbia and Cornell with 12, Johns Hopkins and Purdue at 11 each, and Caltech, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Michigan with 10 each.

The U of Utah created the Technology Venture Development office in 2005 to coordinate all commercialization efforts across campus. Since the U of Utah launched its first startup, TerraTek, in 1970, it has followed up with more than 200 other startups based on research. 125 of these were founded in the past six years after the university restructured its commercialization efforts.

According to the university’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research 2010 economic impact study, U of Utah startups directly or indirectly accounted for 15,767 jobs, $754.5 million in personal income and US $76.6 million in tax revenue in 2009.

The University of Utah reported 287 active technology licenses, 208 invention disclosures, and 41 US parents in 2010.

The 2010 AUTM survey collected information from 183 institutions across the U.S. — 155 universities, 27 hospitals and research institutions, and one third-party management company. Those institutions created 651 startup companies, or an average of four startups per institution. The 10-campus University of California system had 75 startups in the latest AUTM survey, and the nine campuses of the University of Texas system had 33. However, those figures were not broken down to show startups per school, and the average per campus is far below Utah’s 18 startups.

High Demand for PHP Developers in NY

Technology professionals with PHP skills are in high demand in the New York area, according to Cybercoders' Top 10 Technology Jobs list. PHP developers, who specialize in building websites that integrate with sites like WordPress and osCommerce, earn average annual salaries of more than $96,000.

The second-most-sought-after technology professionals are sales engineers, who earn average annual salaries of $106,500. They were followed by Java developers ($104,500), network engineers ($103,750), sales managers ($86,250), project managers ($78,333), Ruby developers ($106,667), Python developers ($103,333), mobile/Web engineers ($85,000), and product managers ($97,500).

“New York City is one of the fastest growing technology markets in the country,” says Matt Miller, CTO of CyberCoders. “Existing companies are continuing to grow their technology staff while others, like Google and Twitter, are launching large new office spaces in the city.”

According to CyberCoders, there has been a threefold increase in technology jobs in the tri-state area since 2010. Currently, CyberCoders has more than 1,400 jobs available in the New York area.

CyberCoders uses data from thousands of postings, input from their clients hiring technical candidates, and salary ranges from their database of over 11 million candidates to rank the Top Ten Technology Jobs in New York for 2012.

Last Gadget Standing Finalists Announced

Finalists for the 11th annual Last Gadget Standing competition at the 2012 International CES have been announced. There are:

Lytro – a simple box-like camera that takes photo first and then lets you bring it into focus;
PlayStation Vita – a new pinnacle in portable gaming systems;
Autom Robot – a weight-loss robot that engages you in a dialog about your goals;
Cotton Candy – Android on a stick; plugs into any screen via USB or HDMI;
WIMM One Dev Preview – it looks like a wristwatch but can be transformed into a mobile communicator for just about anything, weather, a phone, etc.;
Origami – a high tech baby stroller with electronic dashboard, pedometer, iPod holder, etc.;
Swivl – an iPhone dock that swivels to track your movements for hands free recording;
Basis – body monitoring device with sensors for just about everything.

The eight finalists will present live on stage at Last Gadget Standing, which is produced by Living in Digital Times, on Thursday, 12 January at 10:30 a.m. in room N255-257, North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Each presenter will have four minutes to showcase their product. Winners of both the live vote and the ongoing online vote will be announced at the event's conclusion.

Judges include: Harry McCracken, editor, Technologizer; David Berlind, chief content officer, TechWeb; Michael Miller, SVP, Ziff Brothers Investments; Avram Piltch, editorial director, LAPTOP Magazine; Melissa Peterson, PC World; Ross Rubin, principal analyst, NPD Connected Intelligence; Joanna Stern, The Verge; David Berlind, editor, TechWeb; and Robin Raskin, founder, Living in Digital Times. 

China Leads World in Number of Patent Filings

China now leads the world in the number of patent and trademark filings, but still faces challenges as a global player, Thomson Reuters research indicates.

Published patent applications in China increased by 16.7 percent between 2006 and 2010; and Thomson Reuters projects that China will publish 493,000 patent applications annually by 2015.
Since 2000, the number of trademarks registered in China has increased by more than 450 percent, far outpacing other nations, despite widespread counterfeiting and infringement.

Over the last five years, there has been an 80 percent increase in Chinese scientific literature annual output, making China second in the world in published scientific papers. The United States, which currently has the highest overall output, grew by 5 percent.

Chinese organizations, however, are not protecting their inventions by filing patents globally at the same level as other innovation-minded countries, the research organization found. Currently, only 5.6 percent of China's inventions are protected with global patent filings abroad, far less than the United States (48.8 percent) and Japan (38.7 percent).

According to the Thomson Reuters Top 100 Global Innovators analysis, the most innovative companies in the world are based in the United States (40 percent), Europe (29 percent), and Japan (27 percent).

What Are the Most In-Demand Linux Skills?

The Linux Foundation just came out with its most recent analysis of Linux job openings. Going over openings on its Linux jobs board, the organization found that Java proficiency was most in demand, followed by Android, C++, J2EE, and MySQL.

Three-quarters of the available Linux jobs were in the United States, followed by Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands. Some 53 percent of the openings were for Linux developers, and 47 percent for Linux system admins.

Most Sought After in 2012: Software Engineers and Web Developers

Software engineering and Web development positions will be among the hardest to fill in 2012, according to Inc. magazine.

In virtually every market--especially in San Francisco, New York, and Boston--the demand for top-tier engineering talent will outweigh the supply, according to startup headhunter Keith Cline, founder of Dissero. 

High-quality creative design and user-experience personnel will also be highly sought after, Cline writes, since creating compelling user experiences is at the top of most companies' priority lists.

Product-development personnel--especially in the consumer web, e-commerce, mobile, software as a service, and cloud computing arenas--will also be hard to find. A particular challenge will be finding product developers with experience in the company's industry.

Online marketers who can can create a buzz through the web, social media, and content discovery and those with strong analytics and business intelligence skills are also expected to be highly sought after, according to Inc.

Irwin Jacobs Retiring from Qualcomm

Irwin Mark Jacobs will retire from Qualcomm after his current term on Qualcomm's Board of Directors ends next year. Jacobs founded the wireless chipmaker in 1985 and oversaw its growth into a 22,000-employee company based in San Diego.

He served as CEO from the company's founding until 2005 and as chairman from its founding until March 2009. After Jacobs' term ends, his title will be founding chairman and CEO emeritus.

Jacobs and his six co-founders established Qualcomm with the goal of creating a company that could innovate rapidly and develop commercial solutions to some of the communication industry's most challenging problems. As CEO, Jacobs oversaw Qualcomm's innovations in Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), a technology fundamental to today's 3G mobile wireless standards.

"As a father, university professor and business leader, Irwin inspired generations of engineers, including me, to think beyond what is possible today and pursue the technology breakthroughs of tomorrow," said Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm.

Job Growth for Egypt's Outsourcing Industry

Egypt's outsourcing industry netted $1.1 billion in export revenue in 2011, and expects to hit $10 billion by 2020, according to Egypt's Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA).

The sector recorded a 12 percent increase in the number of ICT companies in Egypt, and a nearly 10 percent increase in the number of people employed in the sector.

Motorola expanded its presence in the region in 2011 with a new office and Regional Engineering Center in Cairo, designed to be a key office for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Stream International, Orange Business Services, HSBC, and Sutherland have also expanded in Egypt, with Sutherland increasing its staff this year by 146 per cent to 460 people.

Valeo, the French automotive supplier, has increased the number of newly graduated Egyptian engineers this year – from 278 in December 2010 to 420 in December 2011. The company plans for continued growth, with headcount in Egypt predicted to increase to 540 in the next two years. Valeo's Egyptian premises will be the company's main branch for R&D and innovation in automotive software.

The Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) is a governmental entity affiliated with Egypt's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Located in the 600-acre Smart Village outside Cairo, ITIDA is dedicated to driving the IT industry in Egypt.

Technology Investment Needed for Job Creation

Investing in education--particularly in math, science, engineering and technology--and investing in technology innovation--are important in helping the US retain its leadership as a technology innovator, according to a nationwide Citibank survey about consumer optimism.

The survey also showed a 7 point increase in optimism about the economic future since August, with nearly half of American consumers (48 percent) expecting local business conditions to improve over the next year.

Assessments of local economic conditions remains negative. Just 26 percent of consumers believe that the economic downturn has reached its bottom while nearly seven in 10 Americans believe the economy hasn't yet hit bottom.

Hiring Outlook Softens in Asia and Europe

US chief financial officers foresee increased hiring and spending this quarter, however they remain cautious and worry about a recession in mid-2012, according to the Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey. The situation in Europe is much worse than last quarter, with no growth expected in spending or hiring. The outlook in Asia has also softened.

The quarterly survey asked 1,050 CFOs from a broad range of global public and private companies about their expectations for the economy.

US finance chiefs plan to expand their workforces by 1.5 percent on average over the
next 12 months, a staffing increase that would yield an unemployment rate of
about 8 percent, down from today’s 9 percent rate. The largest employment increases are expected in the transportation and energy sectors and in services/consulting. Finance and media firms expect modest workforce reductions.

With the European debt crisis unfolding, very little to no growth is expected in hiring, business spending, or earnings. Asian CFOs are the most optimistic about 2012, but the outlook has dimmed as CFOs’ optimism rating declined to 57 from last quarter’s 60.

The 54 percent of CFOs who have a contingency plan said they would cut employment by 8 percent and investment spending by 30 percent in the event of another recession. The
survey shows 69 percent would cut discretionary spending, such as research and development.

Opportunities Available in Healthcare IT

The healthcare field continues to be a leader in job availability, bringing in workers from a variety of fields in order to meet its demands, according to MedZilla's December employment report. Industry experts say that with the US Electronic Health and Medical Records compliance deadlines approaching, there's a significant demand for IT professionals with healthcare experience.

The number of available healthcare and related industry positions rose significantly in November, with 17,000 new jobs produced in the medical field alone. These developments have resulted in an average of 27,000 new jobs being added every month, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"What we're seeing, and what we hope we'll continue to see, are new employment markets opening up where these new industries are being formed. Health IT is a perfect example of this. Here you have two, previously separate industries that are rapidly growing into one another. Where the two meet you have an opportunity to explore a completely new labor pool,"  says Del Johnston, manager of client relations at MedZilla.com, a healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biotech employment information provider.

More than 50,000 healthcare IT-related jobs have been created since the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) went into effect. BLS reports indicate that the number of health IT jobs is expected to rise by 20 percent between 2008 and 2018.

Many large companies that previously held no close affiliations with the medical field have begun expanding their business models to include HIT-specific devices and software packages. For example, Accenture and AT&T just announced collaboration on a new medical imaging solution which officials from both companies say will assist health facilities in accessing and sharing medical images in order for physicians to collaborate more efficiently.

The Obama Administration has announced several workforce development and educational incentive programs in order to meet the increasing demand for skilled workers in these areas. Training programs are now available in nine universities and 82 community colleges across the nation. The programs already boast almost 6,000 graduates as of October, and over 10,000 more students are currently enrolled in programs from the associate level through post-graduate and Master's level degrees, according to HHS.

US Women Best Prepared for STEM Studies

American women entering college are the best prepared academically to successfully graduate with a STEM degree (82 percent), according to a survey of faculty from the nation’s top 200 research universities who chair STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) departments. The survey, conducted by Bayer Corp., is the fifth to examine the underrepresentation of women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians in many US STEM fields.

The chairs say being discouraged from a STEM career is still an issue for both female and underrepresented minority STEM undergraduate students (59 percent) and that traditional rigorous introductory instructional approaches that “weed out” students early on from STEM studies are generally harmful and more so to URM (56 percent) and female (27 percent) students compared to majority students (i.e. Caucasian and Asian males). Yet, a majority (57 percent) of the chairs do not see a need to significantly change their introductory instructional methods in order to retain more STEM students, including women and URMs.

The Bayer Facts of Science Education XV survey asked the chairs, who are largely male (87 percent) and Caucasian (88 percent), to shed light on the undergraduate environment in which today’s female and minority STEM students make their career decisions.

“One of the greatest challenges most universities face is changing the culture of teaching and learning in STEM courses,” said Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Hrabowski chaired the National Academies committee that produced the 2010 report, “Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science & Technology Talent at the Crossroads.”

“Too often, we in higher education believe high quality is related to how many students are weeded out of STEM courses,” Hrabowski continued. “Instead, the emphasis should be on rigorous course work coupled with support, together leading to larger numbers of students succeeding academically. We should also be giving faculty support, including professional development opportunities, enabling them to redesign courses, make the best use of technology, and encourage group collaboration.”

The Bayer survey also found that most institutions don’t have a STEM diversity plan and that more student academic support is needed.

“The major story that emerges from this survey is the failure of universities, STEM departments, and professors to recognize and understand the role they play in undermining or promoting women and underrepresented minority students’ success in seeking and completing STEM degrees,” said Mae C. Jemison, astronaut, medical doctor, chemical engineer and Bayer’s longtime Making Science Make Sense spokesperson.

CIOs Reveal First-Quarter Hiring Plans

Technology executives expressed increased optimism about 2012 hiring in the latest Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report. Twenty percent of CIOs said they plan to expand their IT departments, and 10 percent expect cutbacks, for a net 10 percent projected increase in hiring activity. This is up four points from the previous quarter's projections.

Almost three quarters (73 percent) of CIOs said it's challenging to find skilled professionals today, up seven points from the previous quarter.

"The employment market for IT professionals has become more active, with many professionals looking for new opportunities," said John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology. "The new year, especially, can be a time of transition as companies staff up and IT professionals take stock of their careers."

Eighty-eight percent of CIOs reported being at least somewhat confident in their companies' prospects for growth in the first quarter of 2012; 42 percent rated the probability of investing in IT projects a 4 or higher on a 5-point scale, with 5 being the most confident.

Executives say have the greatest challenge in finding skilled IT professionals in networking (20 percent) and IT security (19 percent). Applications development, data/database management and help desk/technical support followed, cited by 15 percent, 11 percent and 10 percent of survey respondents, respectively.

Executives in the retail industry expect the most IT hiring in the first quarter. A net 17 percent of CIOs in this sector plan to expand their IT departments. This was followed by the business services industry with a net 16 percent of technology leaders anticipating hiring increases. Manufacturing was next, with a net 11 percent of executives in these industries planning to add staff.

The IT Hiring Index and Skills Report is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs from companies across the United States with 100 or more employees.

Europeans Target Technology Skills Shortage

European business leaders and education policy makers have launched an initiative to inspire students to study science at university.

Founded by the European Round Table of Industrialists and European Schoolnet, InGenious will serve as the new European coordinating body for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. The European Commission, 30 ministries of education involved in European Schoolnet, and companies such as Volvo, Shell, Philips, BASF, Nokia, Microsoft, and Intel will be involved.

InGenious will demonstrate how science and technology skills can help young people get jobs and enhance the relevance of school science by showing how cutting-edge science and technology contributes to students' lives. The initiative is also intended to fight stereotypes by giving a more realistic view of scientific jobs, and encouraging women and minorities to consider scientific careers.

Asian countries currently train twice as many scientists as European countries, and three times as many engineers. The training gap is seen as a threat to Europe's economic recovery due to the lack of qualified scientific and technical human resources.

Unless this gap is addressed, backers of the initiative say, companies operating in Europe will need to recruit scientific and engineering talent from other regions, or close facilities in Europe inopen them in other regions.

Fewer Organizations Cutting IT Budgets

Fewer organizations reduced their IT budgets in 2011, and spending increased by 2 percent, according to a Computer Economics survey of more than 200 IT executives.

Last year, 42 percent of organizations were cutting their IT operational budgets. This year that figure dropped nearly in half, to 22 percent.

Insurance, wholesale distribution, manufacturing, and healthcare providers are growing their IT operational budgets at a rate greater than the composite sample, according to the survey. However, a majority of government organizations are still cutting budgets.

Want to Sell Your Mobile App? Consider China

Total mobile application downloads for both smartphones and feature phones will reach 5.5 billion next year in China, which has the world's largest subscriber base. Expansion of China’s 3G subscriptions, which are expected to jump from 102 million in 2011 to 540 million in 2016, are driving app download growth.

“Feature phones are an important market for app developers, maintaining a large share of the app store user base over the next few years,” said ABI Research analyst Fei-Feng Seet. “Regardless of device type, successful apps in the Chinese market are those with a local look and feel and incorporate local content.”

Examples are game apps like PopCap’s “Plants vs. Zombies” and Electronic Arts’ “Need for Speed,” which has instructions in Chinese so users could easily understand the game. Halfbrick Studios launched a tailored version of “Fruit Ninja for China” that includes peaches as a new fruit and has a background image with the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. The localized app was updated five times ahead of the main English app, which was pirated.

App localization can also mean working with local partners such as Renren and Weibo, two Chinese social networking sites. Today, more than 90 percent of apps offered by China-based app stores are in Chinese and include local content.

“Pricing and payment options are critical to success in the Chinese app market,” adds vice president Jake Saunders. “Chinese consumers are very price sensitive and less willing to pay the same fees as US consumers for the same content.” To help alleviate such issues, local app stores Mobile Market, WoStore, and eStore allow developers to price apps much lower than other stores, such as Apple. They also offer mobile carrier billing or support for local online payment accounts.

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