With somewhere around 85m users globally it would be easy to assume that Apple Pay has defined the future of payments, in store or online. Add in the anticipated 45m users who have adopted either Android Pay or Samsung Pay an you might think that NFC based tokenisation is the future for all payments.

That's a long way from being the truth.

In fact if you look at active users it may be two Chinese companies which are defining the future of payments – and there's no hint of Visa or Mastercard in either service.

With 450m users as of the end of 2016, Alibaba's code pay system Alipay is the biggest smartphone payment system world wide, based on usage in China alone. In a landmark deal at the end of last year Alipay arrived in Australia and it's likely that other countries with large Chinese migrant populations or significant numbers of Chinese tourist and student visitors will follow suit.

WeChatPay is Tencent's response to Alipay. Running on the WeChat platform, which is China's actual default mobile platform with close to one billion users, Tencent has built a peer to peer payment system which promises to further change the financial world and is already expanding into local ecommerce and retail payments.

With Chinese tourist numbers rocketing it's a good bet that both AliPay and WeChatPay will be coming to a payment terminal near you sometime soon. And if Alibaba and Tencent can cut the banks, Visa and Mastercard out of the payment loop you can guarantee Apple, Google and Samsung will be looking to do the same.

There's one other player to be considered here though: Amazon. It's the closest thing the West has to AliBaba and, in the US at least, has the scale and data to pull exactly this kind of thing off. It may not want to get into banking, but the financial benefits of doing away with credit card fees should be enough of a driver for it to look at ways of becoming a de facto banking service for its customers.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia is probably the most anticipated car in modern motor history.

An Alfa Romeo with all of the history and promise the badge implies, a modern road warrior with performance credentials to destroy the Germans and a Nurburgring lap time which almost defies belief.

The Giulia should mark the triumphant return of the marque to the US proper, after the hors d'euvre which was the 4C.

So why is every US motoring journal currently talking about how many problems they've experienced with road test cars?

I'm not talking about minor problems either. Magazines are reporting that Giulias have left them stranded at the side of interstate highways, been incapable of completing laps at race circuits and every possible red flag fail in-between.

Look, I understand that road test cars get a lifetime of abuse in a matter of hours but this shouldn't be news to FCA's US subsidiary. Spending extra time and care making sure test cars are right is the minimum effort required.

And if the cars aren't ready don't give them to journalists.

This failure has doomed Alfa Romeo in the US. There was little goodwill left before, now there is none.

An Alfa Romeo doomed in the US is an Alfa Romeo doomed globally, given the need to boost sales numbers to previously unheard of numbers. Unachievable without US sales.

This total and epic failure may well mark the beginning of the end for motoring's most storied and yet most flakey brand.

As an Alfa Romeo fan of more than thirty years standing that infuriates and saddens me greatly.

One of the things that struck me about travelling in the UK was how cheap data is now. I picked up a Three SIM card after arriving at Manchester Airport and signed up for the 12GB monthly prepaid plan.

For the three weeks I was in the UK this was going to more than serve my needs. And all for £20.

Except that it didn't because I found the quality of the signal across large parts of the North of England and Scotland to be non-existent in places. Without a signal its hard to actually chew through all of the fabulously cheap data.

By comparison NZ data is expensive and in a country with just a few major cities and large, dispersed rural populations it's no surprise to find areas with no signal. Yet NZ's networks seem to have done a much better job of filling the holes than their UK counterparts. Certainly I've never failed to get a signal in places where I'd expect to find one.

The same is emphatically not true of the UK. I'm not sure whether that's just a weakness of the Three network or also true for other UK networks, but it seems a pretty disappointing state of affairs. I even suspected my iPhone SE of being at fault - yet a switch to another phone gave no improvement.

If I were to return to the UK I'd certainly be looking at someone else to provide my mobile coverage, because ultimately the low price doesn't wash away the bitter taste of poor service.

Microsoft's end of year earnings call last week described Windows Mobile revenue as 'immaterial' - in effect the mobile platform no longer earns money for the company.

With the need to continue providing security updates for partners like HP and Alcatel, as well as for enterprise customers who went with Microsoft Lumia phones, it's probably fair to say that even after its death, Windows on phones is still losing money for Microsoft.

Interesting language coming from people in the important places in Microsoft's hardware and Windows platform world suggests that Microsoft isn't done with mobile however. Dona Sarkar, Joe Belfiore and Satya Nadella have between them described a different take on the mobile device from Microsoft.

And its not a smartphone.

In fact despite the rumours of a new Surface Phone device coming from Panos Panay's hardware team, I suspect that this device will not be called a phone and will be a very different device from what we consider a smartphone to be today.

In fact based on the language being used, renders used in Azure materials and recent patents I suspect what Microsoft will actually deliver will be much more akin to the Courier concept it revealed a number of years ago,

It will fold, but is unlikely to have a folding screen. It will support a Surface Pen and it will make calls, but what it actually promises to be is the next step forward from a phablet. An actual usable tablet which can fold down to a smartphone form factor when not in use.

It's interesting to see how many of the concepts in this seven year old Courier video are only now coming to market - that drag and drop between apps seems to have resurfaced elsewhere recently for example.

Would such a device sell? Is the concept any more likely to sell than the Continuum USP which failed to set the mobile world alight? I don't know. If the promises of the Courier video are kept this could actually turn out to be a viable offering.

But only if Microsoft have fixed the Store before it arrives.

One of the things that I'm always careful to measure when testing a new smartphone is the battery life. Being stranded with a flat battery or having to carry a external battery charger just won't fly and getting from one morning through to the follow evening is the minimum acceptable run time for me.

So when people tell me they don't get the same battery life out of their phone as I do, I always ask the same question - do you use Facebook?

Facebook is a resource hog on every mobile platform and in my view it is the main reason why others don't see the battery runtimes I get.

I don't install Facebook's app on my smartphones. On Android phones where it comes pre-installed I disable it. If I need to use Facebook I'll use the mobile site which is, fortunately, very good. Android users can even enable notifications from the mobile website in Chrome, if Facebook is an important part of your social life.

For iPhone users battery life gains are the biggest benefit of ditching Facebook's app, but if you're using an Android phone you'll find that there are performance gains too. Facebook eats RAM and, without the control iOS exercises on background apps, that can make your phone feel sluggish.

So drop the Facebook app and win back more of your smartphone.


Nissan's next version of the Leaf Electric Vehicle will launch with the option to drive with just a single pedal. It's a control system you may have come across before - at the fairground on the bumper cars.

Now I'm sure that Nissan has good evidence that this change will make EVs easier to control, and it is a user option to turn this on and off, but I have concerns about how drivers will behave in extremis - those situations outside of the norm which call for instinctive reactions.

The single pedal system is clearly designed to make the most of the regenerative braking systems in the new Leaf, pushing usable range ever higher. In normal day to day driving it's not likely to be a major piece of re-education for drivers who know they are getting something a bit different from the norm.

The day when those same drivers are required to make that emergency stop, that high intensity braking moment when life and limb are at stake, I can't help but wonder if the instinctive movement to slam down the brake pedal will lead to e-Pedal drivers accelerating into exactly the impact they are trying to avoid.

We've seen unintended acceleration incidents happening in automatic cars for many years now. Adding more change into the mix just adds additional risk.

I expect that even with the e-Pedal driving setup enabled the traditional brake pedal will still activate the braking system, so long as drivers remember that there is a second pedal to hit.
Remember when Yahoo cancelled its remote working policy? It was the final, definitive marker of a troubled company which had run out of ideas. Why kill a successful remote working policy? It's because it forces out remote workers who aren't able to work from a company office and must therefore leave the company. A form of constructive dismissal which allows a company to lay-off staff without having any of the costs associated with redundancies.

Of course aside from all of the ethical and moral issues which arise, there's the damage which it does to the company. It isn't able to choose who stays and who leaves, the impact on morale can only be negative and the reputation of the business is damaged in the eyes of its customers and potential partners.

IBM, currently on a downward trend that stretches back more than five years, has announced that it too will be cancelling its remote working policy.

The parallels and implications are obvious. IBM has reached the point where it is clutching at straws and taking desperate measures which have ben demonstrably unsuccessful elsewhere. 

At some point I expect IBM will need to separate its Watson business from the rump of its old services and consultancy business, like Yahoo attempting to offload the rump to some willing partner. HP perhaps, given its history of buying up turkeys.

Microsoft reported its Q4 earnings yesterday and outperformed even the most optimistic estimates offered by analysts. Revenue and profits were both way above expectations and performance year on year was massively improved too.

The reason was entirely down to the performance of the company's Cloud Computing unit, which is made up of Dynamics 365, Office 365 and Azure. It's the latter that is responsible for most of the growth this year, 

Azure and Amazon Web Services make up just about all of the Cloud services market. Amazon still has a big lead, but Microsoft has comfortably won second place and will look to leverage its strong enterprise position to close that gap.

Of course the picture wasn't completely rosy - Surface revenue was down 2% year on year, likely as a result of Surface Laptop and Surface Pro 2017 availability being too late in the quarter to materially impact numbers. And then there were Windows smartphone sales, which were down $381m to effectively zero. 

Microsoft may have missed the smartphone revolution, but its switch to a cloud first strategy has definitely paid off. 

Got an older Windows tablet running an Intel Atom Clover Trail processor? Looks like the end of the road for that particular machine then. Those early Windows 8 machines will upgrade no further than Windows 10 Anniversary Update, a consequence of Intel's decision to end support for the platform.

Intel's failure to build Atom into a platform to compete with ARM was the reason for the axe falling on the low-power system on a chip and with no new drivers available from Intel, Microsoft is no longer able to optimise Windows 10 updates to run on the hardware.

To appease those customers stuck in this position Microsoft will be extending security updates until 2023, however in terms of core feature updates, Anniversary is as far as they can go.

Given that Intel has killed off all of its Atom development it's safe to assume that both Bay Trail and Cherry Trail processors will fall off the support roadmap ahead of the next couple of Windows 10 releases, bringing tablets so powered to the end of the line.

Embarrassingly for Microsoft that will include the Surface 3, which should at least clear the Fall Creators Update and whatever the following Spring brings.

After a catastrophic test of the 'Shield' windscreen at Silverstone, F1's governing body has moved quickly to mandate the use of the Halo driver head protection device for the 2018 season.

The Halo itself is not without its critics, several drivers have been especially vocal about how obstructive it is, however with the Shield ruled out thanks to severe distortion problems the Halo became Hobson's Choice and will be used next year.

There's certainly no getting away from the fact that the Halo device looks horrific, both from a driver's viewpoint and a spectators. At the same time being able to deflect an F1 wheel and tyre fired at 150mph is a significant technical achievement.

With both Justin Wilson and Henry Surtees deaths we have seen how destructive a loose wheel can be. However the Halo would have been ineffective in Felipe Massa or Jules Bianchi's accidents.

Nevertheless, the number of times we see loose wheels flying around in accidents, tethers or not, shows exactly why something like this is required.

With the ridiculous nose / wing arrangements and now the Halo devices F1 cars may be the most technically advanced of any formula, but they will never again be the most beautiful.