Your Weekly Commercial Awareness Update – w/c 1st January 2018

Your Weekly Commercial Awareness Update – w/c 1st January 2018

Here are this week’s headlines:

'Serious’ computer chip flaws discovered

Reported by Andrew MacDonald 

‘Serious security flaws’ in chips made by Intel, AMD and ARM have been discovered by researchers at Google.

Tech firms are now rushing to provide a solution to the issue. The flaws could allow hackers to steal personal data from computer systems. It has been said that Microsoft, Linux and Apple will be required to provide large updates for operating systems for computers around the world.

The discovery has been labelled as a “significant security hole”.

One of those affected, Intel, provides chips to around 80% of desktop computers and 90% of laptops worldwide. The company has issued software updates for the coming days to minimise system vulnerabilities.

In an Intel statement issued on the 3rd January, the chip maker said it was working to “develop an industry-wide approach to resolve this issue promptly and constructively”.

In a move that may be unpopular with some of the technology community, implementing a fix is expected to “significantly” affect the performance of operating systems, making some actions up to around 30% slower, according to the Linux website Phoronix.

The fixes involve transferring the memory used by the core of the computer’s operating system, known as the kernel, away from frequently used programs. The aim is that normal programs will not be allowed to be manipulated to exploit the hole and gain access to the protected kernel memory. Programs that are vulnerable range from applications that use JavaScript to PC games.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it was aware of the issue and that patches were being produced. It further commented saying there was no evidence that the vulnerability had been exploited.

Tech companies and security agencies are still trying to evaluate how widespread the chip weaknesses are.

Read more in The Guardian and the BBC.

London house prices have fallen for the first time in eight years

Reported by Radhika Morally 

Nationwide’s latest house price index has revealed that house prices in the UK rose by only 2.6% in 2017, a fall from the 4.5% rise in 2016.

Surprisingly, London’s average house prices dropped by 0.5% in 2017 from the year before, making London the worst performing region for the first time in 13 years. This has been attributed to more buyers being unable to afford to the high house prices in the capital.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, has commented that “affordability is only becoming more and more challenging”. The average property price in London of £470,922 at the end of last year means that it would take a typical buyer almost ten years to save for a deposit to buy a London property.

Nationwide also revealed that a larger impact on house price growth in the past year was hindered by a combination of low mortgage rates, high employment rates and a shortage of properties on the market.

The fall in average house prices in London has not meant that other areas of the country have not flourished. The highest percentage rise in house prices, 13%, was recorded in the Gloucestershire town of Cheltenham where the average house price has risen to £313,150.

Still, the situation regarding the property market is not expected to improve; The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and Nationwide Building Society have forecasted a ‘broadly flat’ property market for the upcoming year.

For more information, see The Independent, The Telegraph and The Guardian.

The $1 trillion club

Reported by Spencer Yap

It seems technology companies will be the first to reach the $1trn market capitalisation. Apple currently leads the race with a $860.88 billion market capitalisation. Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook hold the other top spots, with market capitalisation of $729.29 Billion, $659.91 Billion, $563.54 Billion and $514.88 Billion respectively. Some say that if Apple continues its strong run, as we have seen in 2017, it would reach the trillion mark within 2018.

In it’s latest financial year, apple collected around 80% of gross profit across the smartphone industry and made $229 Billion worth of revenue, $48 Billion of which went to profits. This figure amounts to the combined profits of Microsoft and American investment bank, JPMorgan Chase and Co. Commenting on this financial phenomenon, David Rolfe in an interview said “you have to go back to the Rockefeller and Standard Oil to find a company so dominant in a business so large”.

However, some are more sceptical of Apple. Ian Forrest, investment research analyst, agrees that Apple attaining the trillion-dollar status is an inevitability. However, Forrest is doubtful that it would happen within this year, but is certain that it would attain trillion-dollar valuation within the next 5 years. With recent information coming to light, this scepticism may not be unfounded. Recently, Apple admitted to slowing down older IPhones. The company justified its actions, saying that it benefited customers as ageing batteries could cause the phone to shut down abruptly, damaging it.  Following this news, Apple faces multiple class action law suits. Although reports on the amount claimed varies, some saying that it be as much as $999 million. But it is not the damages itself which matter, rather it is the perception and reputation of Apple’s brand that is at stake, which might see it losing sales in the coming year.

Read more here and here.

A&E in crisis

Reported by Sarah Mullane

Both Prime Minister Theresa May and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt have been forced to apologise following growing problems in the NHS. Following a spike in winter illnesses, resulting in bed shortages, England’s A&E departments have been left in crisis. An A&E doctor from Birmingham has described how some patients are left on “hard, uncomfortable trolley[s]” having to wait up to 12 hours to be seen because there simply “isn’t the people there to see them.” The spike in hospital admissions has brought the NHS to its breaking point, with a consultant at the Royal Stoke University hospital even issuing his own public apology and comparing the overcrowding at the hospital as being similar to “third world conditions”. Families of patients at the Royal Stoke University hospital have described how their loved ones were forced to wait in the corridors for extended periods of time, with one elderly patient having to wait 36 hours to be treated.

The current target for treating patients within NHS hospital is four hours, which is counted from the time that the patient arrives in A&E up until the time that they are either admitted to hospital, discharged, or transferred to another provider. The pledge by the NHS mandate sets out that at least 95% of patients should fall within this four-hour period. However, the strain placed on the NHS over the last few years, and in particular this winter, has resulted in failure to meet targets. According to the King’s Fund, an independent charity, the NHS has not met the four-hour standard at national level since 2013/14. As a result of severe pressure faced by A&E departments this winter, NHS bosses have announced the cancellation of tens of thousands of non-urgent operations until at least February, in an attempt to ease the current pressure being experienced by hospitals. Theresa May has apologised for the delays, admitting that it is difficult, frustrating and disappointing for people, and hoping that procedures would be rescheduled “as soon as possible”.

Read more in The Telegraph and the BBC.

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