Objective Corporation under investigation in NZ over MBS buy – Training & Development- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Australian document and records management stalwart Objective Corporation is facing a investigation by New Zealand’s regulatory over the company’s acquisition of Feilding-based Master Business Systems.
New Zealand’s Commerce Commission on Tuesday said it will probe whether or not he acquisition has hurt competition between the two companies, resulting in increased prices or lowering of quality of products and services supplied by the two.
Objective did not apply for prior regulatory clearance to buy MBS for NZ$5.4 million in November last year, a relatively small transaction in dollar terms, but the potential for the firm to corner a small but specialised market has clearly triggered a second pass.   
Objective is being investigated under section 47 of the New Zealand Commerce Act, which prohibits acquisitions that are likely to substantially lessen competition.
A company found to have breached section 47 could be fined up to NZ$5 million.
Both Objective and MBS supply software to local councils for lodging and managing building consent applications with applications such as MBS/GoGet and Alpha One.
MBS is understood to have more than half of New Zealand local customers on its customer list.
In February Objective used its half yearly results to tell investors the company’s merger and acquisitions activity had delivered results in the local government sector, with chief executive Tony Walls citing a “footprint of over 500 local government customers” as providing a “significant further growth opportunity”.
Objective’s moves to bolster its presence in councils both in Australia and New Zealand would also attract a “greater proportion” of research and development efforts Walls said in February.  
Councils have been a rich seam for Australian tech companies, not least ASX compatriot Technology One, which like Objective has provided rock-solid returns to investors.    
On its part, ASX-listed Objective acknowledged the Commission’s investigation.
“Objective has been pro-actively assisting NZCC with their enquiries over recent months and will continue to engage constructively with NZCC to address the concerns which have been raised,”  Walls said on Tuesday.
Walls added that Objective has established a new Building Solutions Centre of Excellence in Palmerston North, with 75 employees, and is committed to its investment in world-class New Zealand innovation.

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Buy, sell, hold: how M&A activity in marketing industry is shaping up in 2020- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Covid-19’s impact on merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the first quarter will be minor compared to what’s to come in the next few months. But, with economic upheaval will come opportunity for buyers and sellers alike as the year progresses.
Entering 2020, the M&A market was already facing a slowdown. After years of a “bull market”, where acquisition targets had been fiercely contended and prices consequently pushed, there was a “subtle softening” of global activity at the end of Q4 2019 according to Jonathan Davis, a partner at Clarity – the M&A advisor that in last year alone advised on transactions including digital agency Dept’s sale to The Carlyle Group, Livingbridge’s equity injection to Brainlabs and Accenture’s purchase of Hjaltelin Stahl.
“There was a concern among some investors, more than strategic buyers, that we were coming to the end of a bull market and entering a recession. We did see a subtle softening of what the banks were prepared to lend and what investors were willing to invest. The businesses we were representing that are exposed to advertising cycles had concerns over how resilient they would be. But no one anticipated the end of that bull run being triggered by this.”
In the UK, Brexit negotiations had already stunted the market, but the year “started briskly” for SI Partners – an M&A firm based in London, New York and Singapore – immediately after the general election, with a particular interest from private equity buyers, consultancies, holding groups like Publicis and WPP, and mid-market and independent firms like You & Mr Jones and Dept.
“There was a huge upswing in activity in January and February,” says the group’s European partner Tristan Rice. “We were expecting 2020 to be a bumpy year. It was all looking positive and then things dropped off a cliff from middle of March.”
According to research from Dealogic, the first quarter of 2020 recorded $690.1bn in M&A deal volume and $5.7bn in revenue, a decrease of 35.5% and 16.3% year-on-year respectively, and the lowest Q1 volume since 2013. Americas-targeted M&A volume saw the deepest year on year decline of 50.2%.
Greg Paul, principal at consultancy R3, said his firm brokered 102 acquisitions through the first quarter in 2019 and has seen less than 30 in 2020. Clarity’s Davis estimates that as many as 80% of the transactions it was overseeing have been paused or cancelled altogether since March. Rice said of the 10 deals it was managing in March, four have been put on hold as sellers opted to focus on getting through the current situation rather than an acquisition strategy.
“From what I have heard from lawyers in the marketing world, those transactions that were in the legal process in the middle of March have stopped,” he adds. “Two lawyers told me they’ve had all transactions paused or pulled. Those in the final furlong of legal contracts and due diligence have been paused or stopped.”
It seems the worst is yet to come and all M&A experts Tempemail spoke to admitted that while Q1 has been affected, they are braced for a tougher Q2.
The reasons for the slowdown are two-fold. Firstly, there’s the simple challenge of pushing forward with M&A discussions over Zoom calls. During these delicate processes, the importance of face-to-face contact can’t be underestimated as buyers and sellers alike suss each other out. This can be managed to some extent and when lockdown restrictions do lift, getting back to business as usual will be quick. But by far the more challenging problem is the long-term economic uncertainty that all businesses are now facing.
On the sell side, shareholders looking to raise capital or sell have been questioning if it’s the right time to go to market and explore a sale option when the numbers will be unstable in 2020. Conversely, on the demand side, buyers have found themselves with less access to finance as banks lockdown on major lending, which has had a sudden impact on pricing and the ability for certain acquirers to be in the market.
Pockets of activity
Despite the dismal assessment of the first quarter of the year, there have been small pockets of activity that are beginning to swell in regions that haven’t been as hard hit by the virus. Julie Langley, partner at Results International, says her firm has seen deal volume slow compared to last year, but that it hasn’t come to a standstill. Indeed, Huntsworth announced last week that it had completed a $500m deal to be taken private by a US private equity firm, while Accenture announced in early April that it would buy a 400-person agency called Yesler.
Davis says Clarity too is beginning discussions with a social media influencer agency on the west coast of America, while in Sweden, where social distancing rules are more relaxed, it is helping an acquirer progress on a deal. “Australia is a bit like Sweden, so things are easing up. I can see that while everyone is looking around to see the long-term impact, just the practicalities of being able to get out and meet people will start to open up M&A.”
In Asia, which is beginning to emerge from the coronavirus chaos, Rice reveals SI Partners is seeing much less of an impact. “There were a couple of deals that got paused by four to six weeks, but actually we barely have seen a dent in business out there – across Greater China, South East Asia and Australia, all mandates have continued, albeit slower than before if they were involved with Europe or US buyers. We expect them to come out the other side much faster.”
There is, therefore, a mixed bag of predictions for what activity will look like for the remainder of the year. Results International’s Langley reveals that of the buyers she’s spoken to, the feedback is that they will be looking to deploy capital in H2 for acquisitions. “So I think we will see deal volumes start to pick up in Q3,” she adds, positively.
Overall, Davis says he anticipates volumes for the year will be down 50% across the board in this sector. “Maybe even more,” he laments. “Q4 will be when deal flow comes back in a meaningful way, but I don’t expect it to return to pre-Covid levels until mid-way through 2021 when businesses can prove that Covid-19 is behind them and a stronger year is in front of them. That’s when good businesses and shareholders will start to take a look at going out to market.”
But there will be other reasons that businesses will trade before that. In the short term – June, July, August – deal volume may come back when government support for businesses is taken away. “I imagine we’ll see a few very good businesses in there that have liquidity issues that will see strategic or private equity investors come in to take a stake in a slow recovery but potentially high return acquisition,” Davis adds.
The buyers and sellers likely to emerge
While the level of activity we can expect is uncertain, many of the advisory firm experts agree that the buyers and sellers that emerge will look every different to previous years. According to data from Hampleton Partners last year, Accenture was the biggest buyer in last 30 months, followed by Dentsu. But that looks set to change as holding companies focus on mitigating the risk they are exposed to by the coronavirus downturn, rather than M&A activity. Instead, those most likely to be in the market to acquire or invest will be businesses that have a much broader service offering that extends beyond marketing.
Even the consultancies with deep pockets and less exposure to a downturn in client advertising spend – like Accenture – will likely focus on the integration of what they’ve bought in lieu of brining any new marketing agencies into the mix.
Langly says the buyers emerging quickly and strongly will be the private equity backed marketing services businesses – such as the Stagwell Group, which is backed by USPE, Dept, which was recently bought by a PE firm, and Kantar, which has been backed by Bain Capital.
“Those are the buyers that we will see leading the deal activity in H2 as private equity has a lot of capital to deploy – they are sitting on ’dry powder’ as they call it. I would expect they would be looking to bolster those businesses.”
Davis cites groups like Tenuity, Hero and S1 Capital-owned Mediamonks as buyers likely to be “opportunistic” in the current market. “They have a clear strategy to build around creativity, tech and media, and now would be a good time to do it,” he adds.
S1 Capital founder Sir Martin Sorrell told Tempemail in an interview last week that he is already eyeballing smaller acquisitions of firms with data and analytics capabilities in what he expects will be a “bloodbath” market.
Private equity firms leading the charge are also out for a bargain, says Rice. “There’s pricing pressure when there’s not a sense of as much money in the market. So private equity will see this as an opportunity to dilute multiples across the market. There has been an enormous amount of multiple inflation [in the past] and what we’ll see if them trying to rebalance their portfolios from what they’ve overpaid for in the past couple of years.
“We’ll see price pressure from strategic and private equity looking for better deals and testing whether entrepreneurs’ expectations shift by what has happened. We will see a rationalisation.”
So what’s likely to be an appealing target? Covid-19 has exposed how much traditional companies have to change in order to adapt to customers in a non-physical world, and this will have a chain reaction on the companies in the eye line of buyers.
Agencies and platforms specialising in digital transformation and consumer experience will be the first to benefit over the mid and long-term. “We’ve seen a huge amount of interest in that space [from buyers],” says Davis.
Social media and influencer agencies that have held up during Covid will also be in demand as client spend further drifts into that space. As will other specialist agencies that help with implementation for key platforms such as Adobe, Magento and Sitecore. Acquisition targets will also be made of those businesses that have flexible models, such as agencies with remote working, or which have built a service around the scaling up or down of freelancers.
Langly summs up the most appealing marcomms prospects as those that “help the CMO do more with less“.
“Any agencies that help clients measure and track spend and put it to the best use will be in demand. In the same vein as doing more with less, dynamic content creation will be interesting. There’s a lot of channels marketers need to put their content through and any services that help them do that will be in demand. I see independent media buying coming out of this strongly – we’ll see CMOs want to do buying that’s more agile, real-time and transparent, and those firms can respond to that.”

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Intel in discussions to buy Israel’s Transit app Moovit for $1 billion: Report- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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Chipmaker Intel is in advanced talks to acquire Israeli public transit app developer Moovit for $1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,500 crores), financial news website Calcalist reported on Sunday. Moovit has raised $133 million (roughly Rs. 1,007 crores) from investors including Intel, BMW iVentures and Sequoia Capital. Officials at Intel Israel and Moovit declined to comment on the report.
Calcalist reported that people with knowledge of the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the deal is very close to being signed.
Moovit’s free mobile navigation app provides transit information to more than 75 crore users in 100 countries.
Last month it launched an emergency mobilisation service, which was created for transit agencies and enterprises during the COVID-19 pandemic. The technology transforms vehicle fleets into an on-demand service to get essential employees safely to work and has been implemented in a number of cities by large corporations.
Intel has made significant investments already in Israel, having acquired autonomous vehicle technology provider Mobileye for $15.3 billion (roughly Rs. 1.15 lakh crores) in 2017. In December it bought Israeli artificial intelligence firm Habana Labs for $2 billion (roughly Rs. 15,100 crores).

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Intel in talks to buy Israel’s Moovit public transit app for US$1bn – Security- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Chipmaker Intel Corp is in advanced talks to acquire Israeli public transit app developer Moovit for US$1 billion, financial news website Calcalist reported on Sunday.
Moovit has raised US$133 million from investors including Intel, BMW iVentures and Sequoia Capital.
Officials at Intel Israel and Moovit declined to comment on the report.
Calcalist reported that people with knowledge of the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the deal is very close to being signed.
Moovit’s free mobile navigation app provides transit information to more than 750 million users in 100 countries.
Last month it launched an emergency mobilization service, which was created for transit agencies and enterprises during the COVID-19 pandemic. The technology transforms vehicle fleets into an on-demand service to get essential employees safely to work and has been implemented in a number of cities by large corporations.
Intel has made significant investments already in Israel, having acquired autonomous vehicle technology provider Mobileye for US$15.3 billion in 2017. In December it bought Israeli artificial intelligence firm Habana Labs for US$2 billion.

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SA Express Employees Started a Crowdfunding Campaign to Buy Food | Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Sourced from Event Africa

Employees of South African state-owned airlines SA Express, who have not been paid since February, have started crowdfunding among one another and family members to feed their colleagues.
All SA Express flights have been grounded since 18 March, before the beginning of the national lockdown. The struggling company was placed on business rescue in February.
At the end of March, in a letter to employees, the business rescue practitioners said they are moving to liquidate the state-owned airline after they were unable to secure additional funding to keep it afloat.
Since then, the airline’s employees started raising funds to support colleagues who are going hungry, says a senior SA Express employee, speaking to Business Insider, under the condition of anonymity.

He says a WhatsApp group with most of the airline’s 600 employees was started in April. The group has been distributing Shoprite vouchers since then.
To date, over 81 vouchers amounting to over R40,000, have been offered amongst those in the group in an effort to aid each other.
“A colleague phoned on a Sunday crying, saying he was unable to feed his children, and we knew we had to do something,” the SA Express employee says.
“We have colleagues who just had babies who have no nappies or milk. People WhatsApp every day saying their electricity has been put off. It’s all heartbreaking and completely unfair.”
He says that the unemployment insurance fund (UIF) payout expected at the end of April will not be nearly enough to feed colleagues and pay for expenses such as schooling.
On top of this, the employee says SA Express workers have also lost their medical aid coverage after it emerged that the airline failed to pay contributions. “We have people on chronic medication who can no longer get the medicine they need – what must they do now?”
Business Insider reports that a letter from the airline dated 20 April, shows that SA Express also failed to pay its pension contributions for the past two months and that contributions for accident and funeral insurance have also halted.
SA Express has, however, reached an interim agreement with Discovery and Betmed to restore medical coverage at the end of April during the coronavirus outbreak period.
Edited by Luis Monzon
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Zomato Probably To Buy Grofers, Valuing The Latter At $750 Mn- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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The largest shareholders in Grofers, SoftBank Vision Fund, that may look forward to investing around $100-200 million in the merged entity.
The consumer internet market could see a probable big consolidation move, as Zomato is likely in talks to acquire online grocery retailing startup Grofers, in an all-stock deal, as per a national publication.
In the past few weeks, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Grofers has seen a heightened demand, and is expected to be valued at $750 million. SoftBank Vision Fund, the largest shareholders in Grofers, may be looking forward to investing in around $100-200 million in the merged entity. Uber is also an investee of SoftBank, where Uber had sold its India food delivery business to Zomato. 
Also Read:
Uber Eats Bought By Zomato At A Valuation Of $350 Mn
This discussion seems to be bullish enough and comes at a time when if the transaction goes through, it would be the second big buyout made by Zomato that acquired the Indian operations of UberEats earlier this year. Backed by Ant Financial, Zomato is currently valued at $3.2 billion, on the other hand, Grofers was valued at $650 million, according to its last round of funding that was led by SoftBank Vision Fund in December last year. 
It’s noted that Zomato wants to leverage its last-mile expertise in delivery, while also taking advantage of a wide range of private labels that is being manufactured by Grofers. Also, the margins in the grocery business are low, thus an added capital infusion from SoftBank would ve giving both companies ammunition to fight BigBasket that is backed by Alibaba, Swiggy, and likes of Amazon and Flipkart in the near future. 
Additionally, the Indian e-grocery market has seen a bunch of these merger talks that are being held before as well, however, no deal has come through so far. Also, it was seen in 2017, that BigBasket and Grofers had also explored a potential merger while Amazon also had talks to acquire BigBasket, however, the discussion didn’t fructify to a deal. 

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Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, many are turning to digital payments to buy essentials- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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Amid the coronavirus pandemic, consumers are increasingly using digital payments to buy essentials like food, groceries, medical supplies, telecom recharges and utility bills, during the 21-day nationwide lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Digital payments companies have seen a transactional surge at a time when sectors like aviation, hospitality, fuel, and e-commerce have been causing overall volumes to plunge. A total of around 50 percent of all debit and credit card transactions, during the last two weeks, were of the shutdown were for food and grocery related purchases. This went up from 12 percent prior to the announcement. 
Industry leaders have said that the surge in payment volumes is pretty much in line with the demand experienced by aggregators and also a push from their side to avoid accepting cash. Mention may be made of firms like Amazon, BigBasket, Swiggy, 1MG, Zomato, Grofers and FristCry that have stopped accepting cash on delivery. Dunzo even is asking for pre-payments delivery. 
Also, Grofers has seen a surge in transactions. BigBasket’s orders have also spiked to 325,000 daily, which as thrice as normal. Even pharma delivery startups like that of 1MG have stopped accepting cash as mentioned in their app. Contactless cards and Unified Payments Interface (UPI) are being promoted by banks, sector regulators, and the Tempemail Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
At the same time, companies that are processing payments for leading merchants have said that bills paid digitally have recorded a sharp increase. There are payment gateways like CC Avenues, Billdesk and PayU that have witnessed monthly mobile recharge volumes that have surged upwards under a bracket of 20-25 percent in the lockdown period.
Also, talking about online payments, especially through NPCI’s Bharat Bill Payments Systems  (BBPS), has also surged around 22 percent. Also, new payment trends have emerged on offline spending platforms that are recorded on swipe machines and offline UPI modes through QR stickers. 
Various industry leaders have stated that the average digital ticket sizes in the first week of the lockdown were as high as 20 percent. This is due to the fact that a consumers’ tendency to hoard supplies, but, since the supply chain pressures eased, there has been a slight moderation in the per ticket spends.
It’s also noted that commercial activities have been at a near standstill and there has been an aggressive push by banks and regulators to promote ‘non-contract digital’ payments. Another industry expert has stated that food and grocery purchases could make for over 75 percent of the card-volumes by the second week of April. 

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Microsoft Surface Pro 7 review: the best Windows 10 tablet PC you can buy | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

The Surface Pro 7 is an update of the excellent Surface Pro 6 with new processors and, finally, a USB-C port.
That means the design of the new Surface Pro 7 hasn’t changed since the 2017 Surface Pro 5, with Microsoft taking an “if it ain’t broke” approach. It’s competitively priced at £699 and up – but you have to pay at least £125 for the keyboard if you want one – which annoyingly is not included in the standard price.
Microsoft’s unique design language continues to stand out. Well-made computers with sharp-looking lines, lightly textured magnesium bodies with rounded corners and the company’s unrivalled kickstand on the back.

Microsoft’s kickstand design is the best on the market, giving you a large range of angles from working as a laptop all the way down to working as a drawing canvas. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The 12.3in screen is still crisp and beautiful, but the large bezels around the sides now look a little dated compared to the Surface Pro X, traditional laptops and mobile tablets. All versions are available in Microsoft’s platinum grey colour, while some are also available in black, which is definitely nicer.
At 775g without the keyboard, the Surface Pro 7 is just shy of 150g heavier than the 12.9in Apple iPad Pro with similar dimensions. With Microsoft’s excellent 310g Signature Type Cover attached that brings the tablet to 1.085kg, which is lighter than most laptops including the 1.25kg MacBook Air and 1.265kg Surface Laptop 3.
The keyboard is the same as last year too, making it one of the best on any laptop, let alone a tablet, with excellent key feel, travel and stability, while the trackpad is small, but smooth and responsive. It is disappointingly still not included in the price, costing £125 in black or £150 in red, platinum or blue Alcantara.
The £99 Surface Pen is the same, again making it one of the best styluses available – precise, with low-latency, tilt and plenty of pressure levels. It magnetically attaches to the left side of the Surface Pro 7, which is good, but not on the same level as clever the new Slim Pen tray in the keyboard for the Surface Pro X.

The keyboard is excellent, with good feel and a responsive trackpad, it’s just a shame it’s not included in the price. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
Specifications

Screen: 12.3in LCD 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI)

Processor: Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 (10th generation)

RAM: 4, 8 or 16GB

Storage: 128, 256, 512GB or 1TB

Graphics: Intel UHD (i3) or Intel Iris Plus (i5/i7)

Operating system: Windows 10 Home

Camera: 8MP rear, 5MP front-facing, Windows Hello

Connectivity: Wifi 6, Bluetooth 5, USB 3.0, USB-C, headphones, TPM, microSD

Dimensions: 292 x 201 x 8.5 mm

Weight: 775 or 790g (i7 version)

Processing and battery life

The Surface Connect port takes care of power, while the microSD card slot hidden under the kickstand is extremely useful for photographers. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The Surface Pro 7 comes with either Intel’s 10th-generation i3, i5 or i7 processors. While the i3 will be fine for light usage, most will want the Core i5 or i7 versions, which are considerably more capable.
The version tested had a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage and performed as you would expect from a high-end tablet PC or laptop. It handled general computing with no slowdown at all, even with 10 applications open with lots of tabs in Chrome and several large images open and being worked on in Affinity Photo, comparing favourably to Apple’s 13in MacBook Pro and Dell’s XPS 13.
But the fans were considerably more noticeable than the same Core i7 version of last year’s Surface Pro 6, meaning that the Surface Pro 7 likely runs hotter. With light computing they were not audible, but when connected to a 4K monitor or when running slightly more intensive applications they were noticeable in quiet rooms. The tablet never became overly hot to the touch.
Battery life was slightly disappointing, with the Core i7 version lasting around seven hours between charges, which wasn’t quite long enough to complete some work days without reaching for the charger. The Core i5 version should have longer battery life.
Charging the Surface Pro 7 wasn’t quite as quick as the Surface Pro X, but it will reach 80% from dead in about 60 minutes and fully charge in just under two hours using the included Surface Connect power adapter. Charging via a 45W USB-C charger happened at a similar rate, so you have two good options for charging the tablet.
Unlike the recent Surface Pro X and Surface Laptop 3, the Surface Pro 7 is difficult to fix and was only awarded a score of one out of 10 by repair specialists iFixit.
None of the components, including the battery are user replaceable, except for the detachable keyboard, and repairs must be performed by authorised service providers.
The company operates both trade-in and recycling schemes for old machines, however.
Ports

The USB-C port is small but mighty, allowing you to connect practically any accessory with the right cable, from displays and drives to docks and ethernet adapters. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The big new change for the Surface Pro 7 is the introduction of USB-C, finally. The modern, industry-standard port is a jack of all trades and replaces the miniDisplay Port of older Surfaces devices. USB-C allows you to charge the Surface, connect any number of accessories including displays, drives, ethernet adapters and so on. You can also connect it to a USB-C dock for power, displays and accessories all from one cable.
It is not Thunderbolt 3-compatible, but most will be fine with the standard bandwidth and functions of USB-C, it’s just a shame there’s only one of them.
A standard USB-A port takes care of older accessories, while the Surface Connect takes the included power adapter but can also be used to connect to a Surface Dock and other Microsoft accessories. A microSD card slot is also very welcome, particularly for photographers.
Observations

Microsoft’s Windows Hello face recognition continues to be the best biometric implementation on any laptop or tablet. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Price
The Surface Pro 7 comes with various different specifications starting at £669 for a Core i3 with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
The Core i5 with 8GB of RAM costs £789 with 128GB of storage or £1,035 with 256GB of storage, the Core i5 with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage costs £1,259.
The Core i7 versions all have 16GB of RAM and cost £1,299 with 256GB (as tested), £1,649 with 512GB and £2,024 with 1TB of storage.
All versions are available in platinum with some available in black.
Verdict
The Surface Pro 7 is arguably the best windows tablet money can buy, it’s just not that big a leap over the Surface Pro 6.
The form, design, microSD card slot, kickstand, Windows Hello and simply the way it works are still winners in 2020. The screen is still great, however the bezels around it are functional but look a little dated compared to the Surface Pro X.
The big new thing is the addition of a USB-C port, which is well overdue. It’s a shame it’s not a full Thunderbolt 3 port, but I suspect most won’t care. The battery life on the Core i7 version is not class-leading, so buy the Core i5 version if you want more like a day’s work without the charger.
The biggest downside is that the essential keyboard is not included with the tablet, which pushes the price up by at least £125.
The Surface Pro 7 is what last year’s Surface Pro 6 should have been. It’s not cheap, but the Surface Pro 7 is best Windows tablet you can buy.

Pros: great screen, good battery life, brilliant keyboard (essential additional purchase), microSD card reader, excellent kickstand, Windows Hello, solid build, easy to carry, USB-A and USB-C
Cons: no Thunderbolt 3, fairly expensive, keyboard should be included, Core i7 version fans are more audible

The Surface Pro 7 works pretty well as a touchscreen-only tablet, but it’s once you attach the keyboard that things get really good. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
Other reviews
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Best Buy is also shifting to curbside pick-up – Blog – 10 minute

In a nutshell: Best Buy over the weekend said it, too, would be shifting to curbside pick-up service only, allowing employees to continue to serve shoppers through what they deem is a safer method.
Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said they are “seeing a surge in demand across the country for products that people need to work or learn from home, as well as those products that allow people to refrigerate or freeze foods.”
The shift to enhanced curbside service on an interim basis starts on March 22 (today). This works for orders purchased through BestBuy.com or through the Best Buy app and requested to pick up locally. What’s more, if a customer couldn’t place an order online and the product is in stock at the store, an employee can go in, claim the item and sell it to them curbside.
Optionally, customers can still order online or through the app and have their products shipped directly to their house. Large items like appliances will be delivered where permitted and under strict safety guidelines (meaning everything must be left by the customer’s door). Best Buy’s in-home installation and repair services have been temporarily suspended, as you’d expect. All in-home consultations are being conducted virtually, we’re told.
As for employees, sick time and pay, the company had the following to say:

All Best Buy employees have been told they do not have to work if they do not feel comfortable. They have also been told to stay home if they are feeling sick, knowing they will be paid. All field employees whose hours have been eliminated will be paid for two weeks at their normal wage rate based on their average hours worked over the last 10 weeks.

Best Buy also withdrew all fiscal 2021 financial guidance previously issued on February 27, 2020, for both the first quarter and full year.
GameStop on Sunday also shifted to a curbside pick-up strategy.
Masthead Credit: Best Buy store by Barry Blackburn

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Which streaming stick should I buy for Disney+? | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

My smart TV is old (Samsung, 2014) so I watch BBC iPlayer on my Now TV box (also old and discontinued). What is the best device for all the popular streaming services including the upcoming Disney+? To my knowledge, it is not yet confirmed if it will be available on my Roku-powered Now TV box. Adnan

You may be in luck, because Disney has just signed a deal with Sky. As a result, Disney+ will be available via Sky from its UK launch on 24 March, to be followed by Now TV in the coming months, says Sky. It’s not clear how many months that means. Perhaps Sky does not know. However, I’d assume it means some time this year, not next.
For those who have not caught up with Disney+, the service was promised in 2017 and launched in the US late last year. The company knows it is a decade late to the film-streaming market pioneered by Netflix in 2010. It can make up for that by making its service available across a wide range of geographies and technologies.
Disney+ will be available via web browsers on PCs, on Android and Apple iOS smartphones and tablets, on Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets, on Roku streamers, on Apple TV, the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One, and via Google Chromecast.
It will also cover almost all the big smart TV platforms: Roku TV, Android TV, LG’s WebOS and Samsung’s Tizen. In the UK, BT and Virgin Media still appear to be missing, but pretty much every Ask Jack reader should be able to get Disney+ on a device they already own.
Disney is also pricing the service to attract annual signups, with a pre-launch offer of £49.99 (£10 off) if you subscribe on or before 23 March. This includes HD and 4K videos, for which other services may charge extra. It will also let you download movies to watch later.
Disney+ will not initially have the volume of content you can get from Netflix or Amazon Prime. However, Disney’s string of takeovers of Pixar (2006), Marvel (2009), Lucasfilm (2012) and 21st Century Fox (2017) means it makes up in box office appeal what it lacks in depth.
It’s got Star Wars plus The Mandalorian, the Toy Story series and the rest of Pixar’s back catalogue, the Marvel movies and Disney’s studio productions, including a vast library covering everything from the original 1928 Steamboat Willie (Mickey Mouse’s first short film) to several versions of Beauty and the Beast. It’s also going to spend something like $1bn a year on new productions.
There’s no guarantee that Disney+ will be available on every major platform in every country, so you should check before you subscribe. Nonetheless, I expect it will appeal to families with children of all ages. In the long term, it should give Netflix some real competition.
Now TV

The Now TV smart stick is a popular choice because it’s cheap, but may not support all the services you want. Photograph: Sky
Now TV boxes are based on Roku technology but don’t provide all of Roku’s services. Instead, they are customised for Sky TV viewers, who want to watch Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, and so on. The platform’s attractions are that the boxes are generally quite cheap, and discount coupons let you buy services for a short time rather than paying for annual subscriptions. Sky Sports sells expensive passes that last for a day, a week or a month.
If you use Sky’s streaming services, Now TV is a good choice. You can watch BBC iPlayer and other British catch-up services, plus Netflix and other video services, though not Amazon Prime. If you don’t watch Sky, you’d be better off with a Roku streamer or something similar.
It really depends on how keen you are to get Disney+, how keen you are to buy a new gadget and which other services you need. For example, someone who mainly watches Amazon Prime may lean towards a Fire TV, while the odd bod who subscribes to Apple TV+ may prefer an Apple TV box.
The joy of Roku

The Roku platform is now built into TVs including Hisense and others. Photograph: Hisense
Roku got started when Netflix decided not to make its own streaming device but gave Roku’s founder – Anthony Wood, a former Netflix vice-president – a $6m investment to create one. Since then, Roku has positioned itself as an independent supplier in a somewhat balkanised market.
It did deals to provide “channels” (apps) for Amazon videos and, more recently, Apple TV+. It also provides a free software development kit that enables anyone to create a channel in a Visual Basic-style scripting language called BrightScript.
In 2014, Roku launched Roku TV, which enabled TV manufacturers to build its system into smart TV sets. These can be updated in much the same way as Roku streaming sticks, and seem to have become popular in the US. Hisense, a Chinese TV manufacturer, launched the first Roku TV in the UK and Europe in November.
Roku hardware is usually cheap because the company makes almost two-thirds of its revenues from CTV (connected TV advertising), not sales of devices. It should also get a cut when Roku owners use their device to subscribe to paid-for channels. More users means more money.
Some Roku devices had voice search and control, and last year Roku launched a skill for Alexa. (Note: needs Roku OS 8.1 or later.) I have not tried it, but if you own an Amazon Echo, Dot or Show etc, your Roku should work with it. However, given that voice commands don’t seem to work all that well on Amazon’s Fire TV, don’t set your expectations too high.
As mentioned, many people will choose a device because it’s connected to or promoted with a service from Amazon, Apple, Google, Sky or whatever. For those who want Netflix and a decent range of services, Roku provides a good baseline at an affordable price. An Amazon Fire TV Stick is a reasonable alternative. Amazon’s Fire OS is a fork of Android and has plenty of apps.
More power?

Nvidia’s new Shield TV is the top Android TV box, but there are many cheaper alternatives. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
Streaming sticks are tiny computers complete with a processor, memory and an operating system. If you are willing to pay a bit more, you can get one with a faster processor and more memory, which should deliver better performance. Some can also play quite good games. The leading examples include Nvidia’s Shield TV, based on the Android TV platform, and Apple TV.
The basic idea of Android TV – successor to the failed Google TV – is to use Android for streaming. It can be supplied in a set-top box or built into a TV set. Of course, Android apps are designed to work with touch on a smartphone, not with a remote control on a big TV screen, so they must be adapted. Check which apps are available in the Google Play Store for Android TV.
The saving grace is that all Android TV devices support Google Cast, so you can set up streaming from another device and use your smartphone as the controller. Once installed, streams are downloaded directly, just as with a Roku. They are not sent from the originating smartphone, tablet or PC. Some devices also support Google Assistant, which can be handy.
Asus developed the first Android TV in 2014, but the platform has been swamped by dozens of devices from obscure Chinese brands. It’s impossible to say which one might be best. However, you can check for Android 9 (Pie) plus ethernet, HDMI 2 and USB 3 ports, dual-band wifi, 4K video support with H.265 decoding in hardware, more storage, more memory and other familiar computer features. Most of them cost from about £25 to £55 so it’s not a huge risk.
The standout Android TV box is the Nvidia Shield TV, which comes in standard and Pro versions at £149.99 and £199 respectively. Samuel Gibbs, the Guardian’s consumer technology editor, reviewed one a couple of weeks ago and gave it five stars. As he says, the Shield TV is built to last – but it is priced accordingly.
The alternative is to buy cheap streamers for £20-£50 and treat them as disposables. That works for me.
Have you got a question? Tempemail it to [email protected]
This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our journalism is independent and is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative. By clicking on an affiliate link, you accept that third-party cookies will be set. More information.

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