Apple reportedly expanding Japanese iBookstore in January after finally striking deals


This post is by Dieter Bohn from The Verge - All Posts


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ipad ibookstore

According to a report at Nikkei, Apple will finally begin selling Japanese ebooks in the iBookstore soon. Although it launched iBooks in Japan alongside the iPad in 2010, it hadn’t secured agreements to actually sell ebooks, which meant that the iBookstore shelves have been relatively bare. Now, having reached “agreement in principle” with at least three of Japan’s major publishers, the company reportedly will offer some 80,000 titles in the country. Apple is a latecomer in Japan, having watched Sony, Rakuten’s Kobo, Amazon, and even Google successfully navigate Japan’s fragmented publishing market and offer content from local publishers in their bookstores.

Apple apparently has around 60 percent of the tablet marketshare in Japan, so…

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The Top 25 TechCrunch Posts From 2012


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2012

Twenty twelve was a big year for tech news. Facebook went public, Instagram was purchased for $1B, and Apple released rehashes of previous products. But that’s just a small sampling.

The list that follows is which stories you, our fantastic readers, read the most throughout the last year in order of their popularity. Some stories are predictably at the top, but others are surprising. A story about Bruce Willis and iTunes ranks higher than the most read post concerning the Apple/Samsung patent trial.

TechCrunch’s top 25 posts ranked in order of pageviews.

  1. Update: Facebook Confirms No Private Messages Appearing On Timeline. They’re Old Wall Posts.
  2. Why Pundits And Politicians Hate NYT Election Forecaster Nate Silver
  3. Day After IPO, Mark Zuckerberg Marries Longtime Girlfriend Priscilla Chan
  4. Journalists’ Addresses Posted In Revenge For Newspaper’s Google Map Of Gun Permit Owners
  5. Facebook Buys Instagram For $1 Billion, Turns Budding Rival Into Its Standalone Photo App
  6. Apple Officially Reveals The iPhone 5: LTE, 4-Inch Retina Display, New A6 Chip, Lighter Than iPhone 4S
  7. OS X Mountain Lion: Quick, Familiar, Cheap, And Drenched In iOS Goodness
  8. GoDaddy Outage Takes Down Millions Of Sites, Anonymous Member Claims Responsibility
  9. Facebook Targets May 17th For IPO Date
  10. How To Enable Facebook Timeline Right This Second
  11. Putting An End To The Biggest Lie On The Internet
  12. Teenage Sexting Is Becoming The Norm
  13. #ScratchGate: iPhone 5 Owners Are Discovering Aluminum Is Softer Than Glass
  14. Bruce Willis Isn’t Suing Apple Over iTunes Music Ownership Rights
  15. Zynga Just Shut Down Boston Office, Laid Off 100+ Employees From The Ville And Bingo Teams In Austin
  16. Apple Awarded $1.049 Billion In Damages As Jury Finds Samsung Infringed On Design And Software Patents
  17. Court Rules Software Not Protected By Fed Crime Laws, Overturns Conviction of Goldman Engineer
  18. Watch Voting Machine Change Obama Votes To Romney Votes
  19. Lit Motors Will Shake Up The Electric Vehicle Market With Its Two-Wheeled, Untippable C-1
  20. The 20 Best iOS And Android Apps Of 2012 (So Far)
  21. Just In Time For A Facebook IPO Tax Break, Eduardo Saverin Renounces U.S. Citizenship
  22. The Top 30 Android Apps And Games Of 2011
  23. Tim Cook Apologizes For Apple Maps, Points To Competitive Alternatives
  24. Facebook Files For $5 Billion IPO
  25. Samsung Galaxy S III Review: This Is The Phone You’ve Been Waiting For

But enough with 2012. Raise your glasses. Here’s to 2013. May startups avoid the Series A crunch, Randi Zuckerberg figure out Facebook’s photo sharing and something fucking entertains Arrington.

Apple Partners With Local Publishers To Launch EBook Service In Japan


This post is by Catherine Shu from TechCrunch


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silver-apple-logo

Apple will launch an ebook service in Japan fueled with content from top local publishers, according to Japanese financial publication Nikkei (via The Digital Reader).

Apple will begin selling Japanese language ebooks later this month for reading on iPhones and iPads. iPads currently hold about a 60% share of that country’s tablet market in terms of units shipped in April to September. The Cupertino-based company reportedly has already prepared a selection of 80,000 titles from Japanese publishers, including Kodansha, Shogakukan and Kadokawa.

The popularity of iPads in Japan will give Apple’s ebook business an advantage when it launches this month, but this is not the first time that Apple has tried to enter Japan’s ebook market. When the iPad was released in 2010, Apple opened a Japanese ebook store for the launch, but the plan hit a wall when negotiations with Japanese publishers stalled.

According to Nikkei, Apple’s upcoming entry is expected to boost Japan’s ebook market, which some analysts predict will grow from about 70 billion yen to 200 billion yen in fiscal 2016.

Though the Japanese publishing industry generated $22.5 billion in revenue in 2011, bookworms there have had to wait a long time for ereaders to finally arrive. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Japanese consumers rejected devices from Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba, but at the same time foreign manufacturers also shied away from the Japanese market, in large part because of the difficulties involved in adapting software to handle Japanese characters and vertical text.

It wasn’t until October that Amazon finally opened pre-orders for its first Japanese-language Kindle, the Paperwhite, and extended its Kindle Store into Japan with 50,000 titles. But both Amazon and Apple face stiff competition from Rakuten, Amazon’s local rival. Introduced in July, the Kobo eReader is priced inexpensively at about $100 USD and offers 2.5 million titles, including novels, essays, comics and exclusive content.

Legimi Wants To Be The ‘Spotify For Ebooks’ With A Business Model That Relies On You Reading Less


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main-promo-ipad

Legimi is definitely a startup I’ll be watching closely in 2013. Put simply, it aims to be the ‘Spotify for ebooks,’ in which for a monthly subscription, users get access to a potentially infinite library of reading material, all accessible via the cloud. But more than that, this Polish startup, whether it succeeds or not, epitomises the collision of old media business models with new technology and new consumer habits.

After years of being told that one day consumers will access all of their media from the cloud, anytime and anywhere, thanks to the likes of Spotify, Deezer and Rdio (music), or Netflix, LOVEFiLM and Hulu (film and television), that day has finally arrived. The subscription, cloud-based model, combined with new consumption devices — tablets, smartphones, and Internet-connected TVs and set-top boxes — and near-ubiquitous broadband, has ushered in an era where consumers no longer feel the need or desire to own the media they consume. So, why not apply that same consumption model to ebooks?

Well, as it turns out, there are a number of companies who already are, but in many ways it’s still very early days. Niche offerings, such as Safari Books Online, which specialises in professional and developer-related content, have been around for a while, where a subscription model is viewed by publishers as less-risky because the audience is already somewhat ring-fenced, and content becomes outdated quickly. More mass-market is Amazon’s Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, but this is still very limited and can hardly make the claim to be anything close to a ‘Spotify for ebooks.’ Then there’s the much-hyped and Founders Fund-backed Oyster, which is yet to launch but plans to offer an all-you-can-eat subscription model with an emphasis on mainstream content.

However, the New York-based startup is remaining tight-lipped about which publishers are signed up, and it’s here where many commentators predict that any subscription-based ebook service will fall down at the last hurdle: They simply won’t be able to strike the content licensing deals required, with the number of publishers needed to make the all-you-can-eat proposition a reality. That’s because the new consumption model requires a new licensing model where publishers are given a share of subscription revenue based on the number of books accessed.

Or does it?

This is where we return to Poland. Legimi thinks it’s found a way to change the consumer offering without having to tear up the legal or commercial framework that already exists for ebooks on a pay-per-download basis.

“Our approach is different; we pay the whole price of an ebook once an end-user exceeds its free sample (approximately 10 percent of the book),” Legimi co-founder and CEO Mikolaj Malaczynski tells me in an email. The premise being that most readers never make it past the free excerpt, but if they do, the company pays the full wholesale price to publishers. “We have statistically calculated the average consumption for tablet users and smartphone users, which is lower than one book per month,” he says.

Or maybe another way of looking at it is that the business model relies on a tl;dr generation (my words, not Malaczynski’s) where multiple content and services are constantly vying for a user’s attention, and that this is especially true when content is consumed on an always-connected tablet or smartphone. Whether or not consumers are reading less long-form content or not, however, perhaps misses the point. As long as the number of books read past the free sample remains inline with the overall economics of a monthly subscription, then the model could work, or at least act as a bridge until such time when publishers are more willing to embrace the idea of a subscription model.

To that end, Legimi has already launched an MVP in the form of an iPad app in the startup’s native Poland, while an iPhone version should follow in January, with Android and Windows Phone also in the pipeline. I’m told that major publishers locally are playing ball, too, such as W.A.B., Insignis, Muza, and Buchmann, enabling Legimi to offer a range of popular international and domestic titles.

Moving forward, Malaczynski says that the priority is to keep expanding the available catalogue and to optimise the business model, presumably to find the sweet spot in terms of what to charge. But much more ambitiously, Legimi is planning to launch in two additional European markets next, likely Germany and the UK. It’s at this point when the licensing ‘loop hole’ and assumptions about consumption will really be tested.

“If you ask about the average consumption of one book per month, I am not sure if it’s a universal figure,” concedes Malaczynski. “We will need to test it market by market, but we have an algorithm to verify it.”

On the upside, Malaczynski says that the rights infrastructure for publishing doesn’t differ too much between countries, meaning that Legimi can hopefully avoid spending “years negotiating new agreements with publishers, which don’t really understand the subscription model.”

And that’s where we come full circle. In the end, a ‘Spotify for ebooks’ seems inevitable, as consumer habits find themselves ahead of the market once again. It’s probably more a case of when not if. Perhaps Legimi, or another startup willing to take its model and run with it, can help to make it happen sooner rather than later. Here’s to 2013.

Top 10 Gear Live Videos of 2012


This post is by Andru Edwards from Gear Live


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




2012 is set to come to a close in just a few hours, and we are just in time with our annual top 10 list of the most-watched Gear Live video episodes. Over the past year, as expected, there was a bunch of gear that made the list, and it's dominated by smartphones and tablets, with the exception of two Monster headphones, a look at the Boeing 787, and a USB 3.0 hard drive.

Oh, and if you wanna be sure to get our new video episodes as they come out in 2013, be sure to subscribe to us in iTunes, on YouTube, or in your RSS reader!

Also, you can check out the top ten videos from 201120102009, 2008, and 2007 – and when you're done, be sure to check out the top 10 most popular Gear Live stories of 2012 as well!


Continue reading Top 10 Gear Live Videos of 2012

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Top 10 Gear Live Videos of 2012 originally appeared on Gear Live on Mon, December 31, 2012 – 5:10:35

2012: The Year Crowdfunding Was Kickstarted Into The Mainstream


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3437967475_7d80cbfa8f_z

There we were, circled around a bachelor party campfire and drunk on keg beer, discussing the viability of using Kickstarter to fund a sex toy startup. My buddy Derk (he goes by Dangerous D at karaoke) had designed and handmade a compact speed controller for small vibrators (pic below). He was selling them at $75 a pop and apparently – I have yet to see or try one – they were getting rave reviews. Dangerous D’s Magic Box, he called it. Another friend and I were passionately trying to convince him to quit his job as a store manager and start a sex toy startup. We were positive, and a bit drunk, that all he needed was a successful Kickstarter campaign. The video would obviously be key.

It was then I knew that 2012 was the year of crowdfunding. It’s a household term now. This year saw the birth of the Pebble Smartwatch, iPhone-powered gTar, OUYA gaming system, and literally tens of thousands of arts, media, and design projects. And those were just on Kickstarter. Other projects turned to Indiegogo, RockThePost, and Quirky. Some startups like Lockitron even went at it alone, conducting their own crowdfunding campaign themselves.

It has never been easier to realize a dream.

No longer do starving artists and hustling entrepreneurs have to trudge through early stages without any cash. Crowdfunding makes it possible to find funds with very few strings attached. Services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo simply allow for pre-orders or goodwill investments; no need to sell equity to fund a startup. Others like Quirkly offer an active community and innovative investment strategy.

Kickstarter is the dominant force in this field now. The company’s name is nearly a verb for crowdsourcing now. “Just Kickstart it, Derk,” I pleaded with my homemade sex toy-designing buddy. It’s as easy as that, I assured one warm summer night on the shore of Houghton Lake in northern Michigan. Another buddy chimed in, “Hell, if that dumb smartwatch can get millions, you should be able to get a few thousand without an issue”

But it’s not easy. To Kickstart, or rather, crowdfund, is not a guarantee for success, although it is one of the best ways to fund a project nowadays.

On Kickstarter, unsuccessful projects outnumber ones that met their goals. Eleven-percent of projects never received any funding and 34% garnered less than 20%. But 17 projects out of over 81,000 earned more than a million. Those superstar projects give hope to fledgling startups that they too could catch the eye of the community and skyrocket to popularity.

Kickstarter’s growth has been explosive but the success rate has held steady at around 42%. In May of 2011, when Kickstarter was two years old, the company had only seen 20,000 projects with 9,700 failing to meet their funding goal. Now, in the last days of 2012, the company is at over 81,000 projects with 43,000 failing to find success. But 34,000 were successful.

Right now Internet crowdfunding makes it relatively easy to fund a project or startup. Instead of bootstrapping with close friends and family, Internet crowdfunding is bootstrapping with anonymous people. In exchange for a bit of cash these people often just want a memento for their donation. Gadget startups are using crowdfunding a bit differently and are turning to sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo for pre-orders.

But the Jobs Act is set to transform crowdfunding. Soon startups will be able to offer equity in the company in exchange for cash. As the NYT reported, the Securities and Exchange Commission is likely to miss a deadline imposed by the U.S. Congress, most likely delaying this pivotal part of the Jobs Act from being available until 2014 instead of next month.

Title 3 of JOBS Act, which President Obama signed on April 5, 2012, allows the general public to get in on early stage investing. In theory, a random person could help fund, and become part owner, of the next Airbnb, Facebook, or Apple. Of course there is expected to be a lot of red tape, exemptions and general rules once the SEC finalizes its regulations. Congress previously gave the SEC 270 days to write its rules, but the departure of the SEC chairwoman Mary L. Schapiro and three top deputies put a hamper on the efforts. It’s a huge blow to the crowdfunding effort, but even the ineptitude of the U.S. Government will not slow down crowdfunding in 2013.

Crowdfunding, in particular Internet crowdfunding, is extremely popular because it breaks down barriers for entrepreneurs. No longer do co-founders have to make their way to Sand Hill Road for funding. A person stuck in Kalkaska, Mich. can find enough cash to fund his novel iOS game or make a video about The National Trout Festival — with money from people he has never met in real life. Want to launch a satellite into space and need $350 million dollars? Forget about government grants; turn to Indiegogo.

There is a tightening of funds in Silicon Valley right now. VCs are being more picky about who they continue to fund. More and more startups are going to turn to alternative resources and crowdfunding should be at the top of the list.

2012 was the year crowdfunding become a viable means of funding. It was the year a couple of projects made it big. It’s just logical that 2013 will see even more projects, even bigger funding numbers, and more out of the box thinking. That’s the trick with crowdfunding, it allows founders to explore new avenues outside the traditional confines of investing. And once the SEC gets serious about its job, crowdfunding will take a dramatic turn towards awesomeness. The act of funding a company is on the cusp of being completely disrupted.

As of this post’s writing, Dangerous D’s Magic Box has not hit Kickstarter yet and that makes me sad. With a bit of encouragement, however, I’m sure he could oblige us all with a crowdfunded version.

[image via Flickr/comedy_nose]

Top 10 most read Gear Live stories of 2012


This post is by Andru Edwards from Gear Live


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




ColorWare Beats by Dr. Dre

Sure, we've given you a list of our top 10 most popular stories of 2012, but we figured we'd go a bit more broad than that. We also thought it would be interesting to give you a look at the top ten most read stories on this site this year, period, regardless of what year they were posted. We must say, we're just as surprised as you are at what did (and didn't) make the list! For example, you guys seem to really like Monster's Beats by Dr. Dre audio line. Here we go:

  1. ColorWare now offering custom-painted Beats by Dr. Dre Studio headphones
  2. White iPhone 4 vs. black iPhone 4 comparison
  3. iPhone 3G vs iPod touch 2G in pictures: Odd that an image gallery featuring the iPhone and iPod touch from two years ago made our top ten list, but there it is!
  4. Exclusive: Pink Beats by Dr. Dre Charles Hamilton customs
  5. Limited Edition white Beats by Dr. Dre headphones hands-on: You can't deny that Monster has a hit on their hands with the Beats by Dr. Dre line of headphones.
  6. iPhone 5 vs. iPhone 4S vs. Original iPhone in pictures
  7. iPhone 5: White & SIlver or Black & Slate? (gallery)
  8. iPhone 5 White & Silver unboxing gallery
  9. Bleeding Edge TV 190: How to Replace Your iPhone Battery
  10. iPod touch picks up 4-inch display, better cameras, new colors, and Siri

Any surprises? We've also compiled a list of the stories that have dropped out of the top ten between 2010 and 2011, which you can check out after the jump, and don't miss the ten most popular Gear Live videos of 2012 either!


Continue reading Top 10 most read Gear Live stories of 2012

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Top 10 most read Gear Live stories of 2012 originally appeared on Gear Live on Mon, December 31, 2012 – 4:55:39

TechCrunch Makers: Bossa Nova Robotics & Mobi


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TCMakers_Bossa_Nova

When I first saw Bossa Nova Robotics Mobi I was amazed. It was a robot that stood on a single, large ball and could roll through tight spaces and between people. It seemed like a ludicrously cool circus trick. The folks at BNR were kind enough to give us a quick tour of their facility in Pittsburgh, Penn. where they’re commercializing the product and hope to bring it to market next year. The Mobi moves effortlessly across almost any smooth surface and, in an odd way, looks like Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons.

The founder, Sarjoun Skaff, brought Mobi to fruition after working on earlier prototypes at the Field Robotics Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. He and his team have built a prototype and research platform so academics can use Mobi as a base for their projects. The technology itself came from the famed Ralph Hollis, a researcher at CMU who invented Mobi’s form of locomotion. In the video below, we were given the rare opportunity to see the future of Mobi and other ballbots and to really understand how these devices will help us in the future.

Mobi gave us a peek at what robots could look like a few short years from now and I, for one, welcome our ball-bottomed overlords.

Amazon blames human error for Xmas Eve outage; Netflix vows better resiliency


This post is by from GigaOM


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Amazon Web Services has issued a a postmortem of its Christmas Eve cloud computing outage that took many services — most notably Netflix — offline for a portion of the night. The cause, according to AWS: A developer accidentally deleted Elastic Load Balancer state data in Amazon’s US-East region that the service’s control plane needs in order to manage load balancers in that region.

All told, the outage (which began at 12:24 p.m. PT) lasted 23 hours and 41 minutes and, at its peak, crippled 6.8 percent of load balancers in the region while leaving others running — albeit unable to scale or be modified by users. The Elastic Load Balancer team didn’t realize the root cause of the problem for several hours, at which point it began the challenging process of attempting to restore the state data to a point in time just before its accidental deletion. At 12:05 p.m. PT on Dec. 25, AWS announced that all affected load balancers had been restored to working order.

AWS says it has taken multiple steps to ensure this situation doesn’t repeat itself, or at least can be resolved faster should something similar occur. The first — and likely easiest — fix was to incorporate stricter access control to production data of the type that had been deleted. According to the AWS report, that’s typically the case, but the company “had authorized additional [Elastic Load Balancer] access for a small number of developers to allow them to execute operational processes that are currently being automated.”

On the technological side, the company had the following to say:

We have also modified our data recovery process to reflect the learning we went through in this event. We are confident that we could recover ELB state data in a similar event significantly faster (if necessary) for any future operational event. We will also incorporate our learning from this event into our service architecture. We believe that we can reprogram our ELB control plane workflows to more thoughtfully reconcile the central service data with the current load balancer state. This would allow the service to recover automatically from logical data loss or corruption without needing manual data restoration.

More shocking than the AWS outage, though — they’ve happened before and will almost certainly happen again — is that the Christmas Eve outage actually took down Netflix, which is often cited as the most-advanced AWS user around. It has a host of homegrown tools built specifically for the purpose of monitoring, managing and adding reliability to its AWS-based infrastructure. There’s a reason even President Obama’s tech team relied on the company’s best practices in order to keep its campaign applications up and running during election crunchtime.

Cockroft (center) at Structure 2012c)2012 Pinar Ozger pinar@pinarozger.com

Adrian Cockroft (center) at Structure 2012
(c)2012 Pinar Ozger pinar@pinarozger.com

In a blog post on Monday, Netflix cloud guru Adrian Cockroft acknowledged the effects on company’s streaming service and explained how it affected different devices in different ways. Cockroft also provided a mea culpa of sorts, explaining that while Netflix has an impressive track record when AWS outages are confined within Availability Zones, challenges still remain when outages affect significant portions of AWS regions as this one did.

Indeed: Netflix recently survived an outage in October, but was hit by a July outage in which a cascading bug spread across Availability Zones in the US-East region. “We are working on ways of extending our resiliency to handle partial or complete regional outages,” Cockroft wrote.

However, he cautioned, figuring out how to do it correctly will take some work given the complexity of cloud computing infrastructure:

We have plans to work on this in 2013. It is an interesting and hard problem to solve, since there is a lot more data that will need to be replicated over a wide area and the systems involved in switching traffic between regions must be extremely reliable and capable of avoiding cascading overload failures. Naive approaches could have the downside of being more expensive, more complex and cause new problems that might make the service less reliable.

At this point, though, if anyone can figure out build reliable cross-region services on Amazon’s cloud platform, it’s probably Netflix. Although, AWS and other cloud providers will certainly undertake their own work to improve reliability across global data centers, thus making themselves all the more appealing to potential customers.

We’ll have to wait to see how the lastest in a string of 2012 outages for AWS affects CIO sentiment toward the cloud or if, like Cockroft, they’ll take the mindset that’s “it is still early days for cloud innovation” and there’s plenty of time to fix these difficult problems.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user Zastolskiy Victor.

From a party of 1 to a million: 20 tech tips to celebrate New Year’s Eve


This post is by Rebecca Grant from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




new years eveMy New Year’s Eves have spanned the full spectrum of celebration. I have danced until dawn at underground warehouse parties, toasted with friends at intimate home gatherings, swung solo in a hammock watching the stars, and one memorable year, ran into the ocean wearing all my clothes to watch fireworks. Regardless of your partying preferences, an array of technological tools are out there to help you with every step and style of New Year’s Eve.

At home

The afternoon of Dec. 31 varies greatly depending on your game plan. If it involves snuggling on the couch with takeout and television, I won’t stick my nose in and complicate the matter. But if after two hours of Kathy Griffin and chicken chow main you’re feeling restless, I suggest a round of dance video games. This way, you can stay entertained, get in your token dance moves, and remain as much of a hermit as your heart desires. Dance Dance Revolution, Just Dance, and Dance Central are all good options.

For those looking to use their evening productively, DIY community Instructables offers fun projects to occupy the hours and make them more festive. My favorite is BaR2D2. This mobile robotic bar includes a motorized beer elevator, ice mixer drawer, six-bottle shot dispenser, and computerized drink mixer. For those feeling less ambitious, check out this how-to guide for LED throwies. It is a fun, at-home, and inexpensive way to jazz up your space without the frustration of confetti. All you need are diffused LEDs, lithium batteries, and tape. The Huffington Post also published a great guide to NYE crafts to add a little sparkle and flair to any gathering, large or small.

Party preparations

For those of you planning to be around other people, chances are you will need some sort of a party ensemble. My preferences lean toward excessive amount of shimmer, sparkle, sequins. If you are looking for style inspiration, online lifestyle publication DailyCandy offers a dazzling array of fashion and beauty tips to keep you looking glamorous all night long. I also like the outfits on the Asos Fashion Finder (for both men and women) and, of course, Pinterest. Before the festivities begin, get feedback on your outfit on Fashism. Users post a photo of what they are wearing, ask a question, and people in their social network can “love it,” “leave it,” or offer a comment.

If you are throwing the one throwing a party, a bevy of apps can help with the planning process. Simple Soiree makes it easy to plan a party from your iPhone, with tools to manage guest and shopping lists, menus, decor, and entertainment and any other To-Dos. Pocket Cocktails apps include a thorough mixology guide complete with images, recipes, and tips. Home bartenders can search by category and collect favorite drinks for easy reference. Looking for guidance on holiday party fare? Check out the Epicurious guide to New Year’s Eve. It has articles for everything from a family-friendly feast to dishes to pair with sparkling wine.

Heading out on the town

If you are an energetic soul braving the New Year’s crowds, you will probably want to have an intended destination. I am all for going with the flow, but on New Year’s, that attitude can often result in standing outside a club trying to convince the bouncer to let you in at midnight and giving him a hug at midnight. This is not fun. Trust me. If you haven’t made your plans in advance and are looking for an event at the last minute, Eventful offers a comprehensive events guide to local nightlife, entertainment, concerts, and venues. If you are simply looking for a cool bar or restaurant nearby, Facebook’s new “Nearby” feature is a quick and easy way to discover businesses with your friends’ seal of approval, as is Foursquare.

Nothing can ruin New Year’s Eve like making bad choices, so it is important that while out cheering and toasting, you make sure the good times stay good. It is easy at house parties and open bars to lose track of how many drinks you have had. DrinkTracker is an iPhone app that lets you keep a record of what you have been drinking, and it uses personal information from your profile to estimate your blood alcohol content. DrinkTracker automatically compares your alcohol intake and metabolic removal rate to keep your BAC current and will let you know when you have reached your “target.”

Oftentimes, the things one does whilse inebriated can have longer lasting effects than a headache. Thus apps like Drunk Blocker and Textalyzer are useful, because they prevent communication under-the-influence. Revelers create their black list of contacts and the app won’t let you drink and text.

Midnight

New Year’s just wouldn’t be New Year’s without the festivities in Times Square. The Times Square Official New Year’s Eve Ball app for iPhone and Android lets people join in the fun at a comfortable distance. The app features live video streaming of the activities, including the official show’s opening ceremonies, musical performances, celebrity appearances, the countdown, and the midnight Ball Drop. Users can also access content about the history of the celebration, send e-cards, and share photos. Once the ball has dropped and it is time to party like its 2013, revelers can celebrate with this Champagne Popper app from Maxim. Before the chaos ensues, you can preload a message and choose contacts, who will receive a greeting from you at midnight. It lets you spend more time drinking actual champagne and kissing, and less time texting everyone you know at 12:01 a.m.

Getting home

At the end of the night, once you have downed a few flutes of champagne, sung “Auld Lang Syne,” and hopefully received some sort of New Year’s Eve love whether it be real or digital, it is important to get home safe. Check out VentureBeat writer Christina Farr’s guide to technology that gets you home safely.

Happy 2013 everyone!

Filed under: Lifestyle, Mobile, OffBeat

Putting 2012 To Bed


This post is by from A VC


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I’m typing this on my phone as our plane is starting to descend into the NY metro area. We will land at JFK within the hour.

I’ve wanted to write a year end post for days. I actually wrote one and stored it as a draft. But it comes across as a whiny complaint about the shitty year that 2012 was. And it was in many ways a shitty year for me. But the reason I couldn’t publish that post is it didn’t capture the greater picture that 2012 represents for me.

I moved every year as a kid. Throw away the old. Start with the new. That is etched indelibly in my psyche.

My venture investing career has three phases all roughly 6-8 years long. The first, at Euclid, was software to internet. The second, at Flatiron was internet to bubble. And the third, at USV, has been web 2 to mobile. I have always used a new firm to denote a new investment phase for me. Throw away the old. Start with the new.

And I feel that 2012 is the next demarcation year for me but this time I have to do it in an existing firm with an existing portfolio. That is new for me and I don’t have a model for how to do it.

It was reported a few weeks ago that I had not made a single new investment in 2012. That is true. In fact, I have not made a single new investment since the summer of 2011. Fortunately my partners have picked up the slack and we have made a dozen or so terrific new investments at USV during that period.

I have been working on a new investment and I hope it will close in early 2013. So it is likely my 18 month dry spell will end soon. And I am going to treat that dry spell like a new start. I don’t want to invest in the same stuff today that I invested in five years ago. I want to do new things, learn new lessons, and share them with you.

The funny thing about 2012 is that our firm made more money in 2012 than ever, with some huge carry producing events. And yet I think of it as a wasted year professionally. I don’t like harvesting, I like planting the seeds, and helping them grow into fully flowered plants. That’s where I get joy from my job.

So as I put 2012 to bed and think about 2013, I am happy to see this past year enter the history books. I didn’t get much joy from it. And I am looking forward to doing new stuff in 2013, learning new things, and working with new people.

Happy new year everyone.

How green tech got a second wind in 2012


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green tech

As we round the corner into 2013, we’re more excited than ever about green tech — and so are Silicon Valley investors and entrepreneurs.

Years and months past saw some dimming of the enthusiasm around green tech and clean tech — think Solyndra’s devastating 2011 shutdown, A123′s recalls, or the numerous horror stories of consumers accidentally “bricking” spendy electric cars like Tesla’s Roadster or the Fisker Karma.

But with smart business ideas, ample venture capital, important partnerships, and better predictions about the future, 2012′s crop of innovations seem better suited to wear well over the next few years. Here are 10 of our favorite green tech stories from 2012 in ascending order. We hope to bring you more and better eco-forward tech news in 2013.

Greener packaging

It bothers all of us every time we unbox a new tech toy: Why all the plastic and Styrofoam for one slender little phone or laptop? At least one company, logistics giant PCH International, is focusing on fixing that problem, starting with Silicon Valley’s gadget packaging.

The story: “The company’s Sustainable Packaging Design Centre of Excellence will include a material library and a structural design engineering and quality test lab, and it’ll be based in Shenzhen, China. The company will also open a showroom and material library in San Francisco early in 2013, placing its services in closer reach of Silicon Valley companies — those that still make hardware products, that is, rather than Facebook games or iPhone apps.”

Greener gatherings

With conscientious young folks more concerned about their own impact on the environment, more large-scale music festivals and similar-in-scope gatherings, such as Coachella and Burning Man and far beyond, are focusing on their ecological footprint.

The story: “For three days in August, 60,000-plus hipsters each day pour into a handful of meadows, as thick and viscous as the fog itself. … The air surges with amplified guitar fuzz and obscenities from the mouths of performers, and you can almost feel the ground shake from the trampling feet of a herd of humanity. Then, when the three-day rock orgy is over, Golden Gate Park is miraculously returned to its original state. Pristine. Clean. … As though nothing had ever happened.”

LED revolution

LED lights are getting on our nerves as they’re being hastily incorporated into holiday decorations, but as everyday substitutes for incandescent bulbs, they’re doing great things for the planet.

The story: “Just in time for Earth Day, Dutch electronics company Philips is unveiling a new super energy-efficient light bulb today with a shelf life that should last about 25 years. The catch? It costs about $60, but Philips is said to have forged deals with some stores to bring that cost down to about $20.”

Record-breaking car battery

Electric cars have long been the domain of short-range enthusiasts, but a new battery developer brought fresh hope to an exciting industry.

The story: “‘We have built 400 watt-per-kilogram batteries, which have been considered the holy grail of electric cars,’ said Envia’s chief executive Atul Kapadia said in an interview with VentureBeat, ‘This is a milestone that many car companies have wanted to reach.”‘

Tata Nano

The Smart Car and its ilk — tiny, highly efficient autos — are starting to pop up in urban areas in the U.S., and this super-cheap model from overseas finally announced its American debut in 2012.

The story: “Tata Nano’s top speed of 65 mph and its cramped interior definitely will not appeal to all in spite of the success of the Austin Mini, Smart Cars, and the Fiat 500. Nano is two feet shorter than the Mini and decidedly bare-bones inside. Currently, the heater is optional in the base model, and it has no options for A/C or heated seats.”

The war for data-center efficiency

The companies that control the Internet are in a sort of arms face for efficiency — not only so they can toot their horns to consumers about how green they are, but also so they can cut their own costs and increase their bottom line profits. But this is one case where corporate money-chasing is actually a win-win for the companies and the planet.

The story: “It’s a bit naïve, a bit ‘kumbaya,’ to expect two titans viciously warring for revenue to come to a round table and collaborate on issues like innovative mobile tech and greener data centers. But somehow, without striking a blow, Facebook has managed to give Google a black eye. Perhaps, if only for PR purposes, it’s time for Google to get its ‘kumbaya’ back.”

Research makes the world go ’round

Some of the most exciting advances in green tech this year happened on the formative research front, where scientists explored turning algae into gasoline, making batteries from garbage, producing fuel from seaweed and E. coli, or even making cheap solar panels out of rusted metal.

The story: “For example, cuprous oxide (Cu2O) is a highly abundant but hard-to-dope semiconductor. ‘It’s time we put bad materials to good use,’ said physicist Alex Zettl. ‘Our technology allows us to sidestep the difficulty in chemically tailoring many earth abundant, non-toxic semiconductors and instead tailor these materials simply by applying an electric field.’”

SolarCity’s IPO

In the wake of several high-profile, taxpayer-subsidized failures, SolarCity’s initial public offering was a welcome balm to a bruised industry.

The story: “Trading started at $9.25 and by midday surpassed $12. … The stock took off. This is partly attributable to SolarCity chairman Elon Musk, along with fellow board member Draper Fisher Jurveston, indicating their intent to buy a significant portion of the shares.”

Greener homes with Nest

One of the year’s best green tech stories didn’t take place in the chilly halls of a massive data center or the production lines of a hybrid car manufacturer. Nest is the greening gadget for consumers’ homes, and in spite of significant obstacles, it came through 2012 with flying colors.

The story: “The new Nest thermostat is 20 percent thinner. Under the hood, the Nest now has 10 wires to support more systems — the new unit adds support for two-stage cooling, three-stage heating, heat pump emergency heating, and whole home humidifier and dehumidifiers. As you can see in the images below, Nest Labs has also tweaked the wire orientation to be circular, which the company says will make it easier to install.”

Tesla’s turning point

The famous Silicon Valley electric car maker finally hit a crucial turning point in 2012. Not only did its Model S win some critical acclaim from Motor Trend, but the company made perhaps its most significant announcement to date when it told us last month it would be ready for mass production in 2013.

The story: “Tesla is confident it can reach a production rate of 400 cars per week next month. In other words, in 30 days it will be producing more cars in one week than it did in all of the last quarter. That rapid ramp-up is key to the company’s success. In three more months, Tesla will deliver another quarterly report, and then we’ll learn whether its optimism is justified or just an empty promise.”

Image credits: BONNINSTUDIO/Shutterstock, calonda/Flickr, Jolie O’Dell/VentureBeat, Jolie O’Dell/Flickr, Zettl Research Group, jurvetson/Flickr

Filed under: Green, VentureBeat

Reasons to be excited


This post is by Joshua Topolsky from The Verge - All Posts


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via blogs.cofc.edu

The fiscal cliff looms. Wars rage around the globe. Apple Maps wasn’t everything they promised.

Yes, there are reasons to despair. To doubt. There are reasons to worry and wonder, and if you’re unconvinced or unsure that there are troubles in the world, you can always fall back on familiar, modern malaise or good old boredom. It’s so easy to worry, and it’s so easy to get bored. It’s easy to go dark.

But you shouldn’t do that. You should be excited. You should be ecstatic, overjoyed, energized, invigorated. You should be hopeful, because there are also reasons to feel hope, and if you’re down in the dumps about some pressing problem that’s threatening humanity — well, that should be a good reminder of how much work it takes to make…

Continue reading…

Innovate Or Die: Nokia’s Long-Drawn-Out Decline


This post is by Natasha Lomas from TechCrunch


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Image (6) logo-nokia.gif for post 13859

Ask a European about Nokia and a faraway look will come into their eye, a wistful tone creep into their voice. During the late 1990s and early 2000s the 147-year-old Finnish company became a global technology star: the world’s No. 1 mobile maker and the first brand of phone everyone owned. In some emerging markets, so the story goes, the word ‘Nokia’ became a generic term for ‘mobile phone.’ But becoming synonymous with phones is where it all went wrong.

There can be little doubt that Nokia’s mobile glory days are behind it. Korean electronics giant Samsung now occupies the once Mighty Finn’s former throne at the top of the global mobile tree, while Google’s Android OS is the dominant smartphone platform (Android overtook Nokia’s legacy smartphone OS Symbian at the end of 2010, according to Canalys). In Q3 this year, Android was on an average of three out of every four smartphones sold worldwide (IDC’s figure). In October, IDC also noted Nokia’s exit from its top five global smartphone vendors – the first time the Finnish company had dropped out of the top five since IDC started tracking vendors in 2004.

Even if Nokia’s strategy of switching from its legacy smartphone platform, Symbian, to Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS — a strategy it outed in February 2011 — ends up being relatively successful, in terms of profitability and device shipments, the company will never hold sway over the industry as it once did. Now it’s just a passenger on Microsoft’s train. However many fancy apps Nokia adds to Windows Phone, the underlying platform is directed in Redmond, not Espoo.

From Hero To Zero

The Nokia of today is a very different, much diminished company compared to the giant of the mid 2000s. If not a spent force, then certainly a much reduced one: smaller, less profitable, with fewer assets, and resources at its command — and dwindling cash reserves (net cash fell to €3.6 billion by the end of Nokia’s Q3 2012, down from €4.2 billion in its Q2). It doesn’t even own its own headquarters any more: earlier this month it agreed to sell and lease back the building to raise €170 million. Rumours of Nokia being an acquisition target continue to swirl — helped by the company’s historically low share price (currently around $3-$4, it has dropped as low as $1.33 this year) — with Microsoft and even Apple named as potential buyers.

Since Nokia’s first non-Finnish CEO, Stephen Elop, was appointed in 2010, job cuts have been a regular headline story for the company. Nokia now has 44,630 employees in its mobile and location division — down from 60,995 in Q3 last year. The company’s changing shape is the result of Elop ‘realigning’ the business to fit the new strategy of using Microsoft’s OS, rather than developing smartphone platforms in house — leading to various in-house software efforts to be discontinued from Qt, to Meltemi, to Maemo/MeeGo. But Nokia’s CEO has also had to slash costs as profitability plunged.

If you look at any of the handset manufacturers that have had really hard times and they come back — they come back half the company they were.

Nokia swung to an operating loss of €1.073 billion 2011 and has reported a string of quarterly operating losses this year: €1.34 billion in its Q1; €826 million in its Q2; and €576 million in its Q3 – with a “challenging” Q4 expected. A full-year 2012 loss of more than €3 billion looks likely. Combine those losses with dwindling cash reserves — and Nokia’s apparent failure to ignite significant consumer interest in its Windows Phone-based Lumia line of smartphones and the company’s very survival looks to be at stake. Nokia hasn’t broken out sales of its new Windows Phone 8 devices yet, but sales of WP 7.x devices have been unimpressive to date: Nokia reported 2.9 million Lumia sales in its Q3; 4 million in its Q2; and more than 2 million in its Q1. (For context, worldwide sales of smartphones rose to 169.2 million units in Q3 alone this year, according to Gartner.)

Yet wind the clock back five years and Nokia was riding high as master of its own mobile hardware and software, and a hugely profitable business (its 2007 operating profit was €7.985 billion). Today it’s neither profitable  nor in control of its own destiny. Its smartphone business depends on Microsoft’s fortunes. And, in a market dominated by Android and iOS, even a company as typically bullish as Microsoft can only talk about trying to become the “third ecosystem” (in the event, Windows Phone still trails Symbian’s global marketshare: 2.4 percent vs. 2.6 percent, according to Gartner’s Q3 figures). In short: Nokia had it all, and now it’s gone.

“Overall if you look at the dominant market position that Nokia had – 40 percent marketshare, if you go back a couple of years — there is no way even with a successful Windows Phone 8 story, and even with the strategy they laid out, that they’re ever going to return to that kind of marketshare, that kind of dominance,” says Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum.

Leach is better placed than most to comment on Nokia’s decline, having previously worked at Symbian – including on projects such as the Nokia Communicator: arguably the world’s first commercial smartphone (a device that included the ability to download apps — some 10 years before Apple ‘invented’ the iPhone App Store).

“Even if they achieve their plans and achieve them well, it’s unrealistic to think Nokia is going to come back anywhere near like the company they were. If you look at any of the handset manufacturers that have had really hard times and they come back — they come back half the company they were,” he adds, name-checking the likes of Motorola and Sony Ericsson.

Nokia’s Big Misstep

So where did it all go wrong for Nokia? The cause of the company’s decline looks very simple with hindsight: Nokia should have moved off its smartphone platform Symbian and onto its next-generation platform, MeeGo, much sooner than it did. Years sooner.

By the time Nokia released its first MeeGo-powered smartphone – the N9, in 2011 — it was far too late to compete with Android and iOS. In any case, by that point Nokia had already publically committed to Microsoft and in starting down the Windows Phone path, Elop made the decision to abandon in-house alternatives such as MeeGo – meaning the N9 was effectively DOA.

“Nokia needed to have MeeGo ready to go into the market two years or even now perhaps three years ago,” says Leach. “They needed to be on their new platform probably round about 2008, 2009. If you think 2008 was just when Android entered the market, it was just a year after iPhone was finding its feet. Nokia really needed to be there at that point with its platform for growth — offering some kind of computing experience on the device.”

Leach describes the mindset he encountered when working at Symbian, between 1999 and 2004. “Symbian was always very phone-centric,” he tells TechCrunch. “In my own experience of being at Symbian working with Nokia there was always a frustration of [Nokia saying] ‘it’s got to be a phone first, it’s a phone, phones sell.’ And we’d be saying ‘there is different stuff you can do, you can adopt more of these kind of computing paradigms’ — and they really didn’t want to hear that.”

The core problem that brought Nokia low is not unusual for successful public companies that have worked their way into a position of marketplace dominance over a period of years (see also: BlackBerry maker RIM, for instance). Nokia’s business was cooking on gas in the mid 2000s, with massive profits and phone shipments keeping their shareholders happy and clamouring for more of the same. But this success evidently made it  harder for them to change their business to react to the looming threats from internet-focused companies. You could also argue their view of the landscape ahead was clouded by their “blinkered, phone first” view, as Leach puts it.

Point to the CEO — apart from Steve Jobs – who relishes telling the shareholders it’s time to retire the gravy train, and start out afresh on a hand-cranked cart. But that, in effect, is what Nokia needed to have begun doing in the mid 2000s to survive disruption by a new generation of web companies who understood the future was data, not voice.

“What Nokia was looking at was their feature phones, which were still selling healthily then,” says Leach. “That mid-range feature phone market was the sweet spot and [their view was that] Symbian had to, in some way, be a feature phone with a little bit extra. That thinking really stifled them. And the problem then, when they realised they needed to do more, was that Symbian was a bit too old and wasn’t extendable enough to do the things they really needed to do.”

IHS Screen Digest analyst Daniel Gleeson makes a similar point: Nokia wasn’t thinking big enough when it really counted – and without a grand plan they weren’t able to act decisively to fix the strategic weaknesses that were being exploited by others. “Their emphasis was on incremental innovation of existing products rather than aggressively pushing a disruptive innovation,” he says.

“Their smartphone strategy was muddled at the time to put it politely,” he adds. “Symbian was the principal OS, but with Maemo/MeeGo also in development; Nokia was far from clear in its long-term commitment to either platform. Even if it could execute well, overly risk-averse management prevented Nokia making this decision. By attempting to juggle both, Nokia showed another fundamental problem, it did not understand the importance of ecosystems.”

The Significance Of Software

Dig a little deeper, and Nokia’s problems with its smartphone OS strategy are evidently problems with software more generally. The company fundamentally didn’t get software, says Gleeson — so they didn’t understand the crucial significance of apps and building an ecosystem around apps. “Nokia has almost always produced high quality hardware; but it was its software that was the weakness,” he says. “Nokia vastly underestimated the importance of third-party applications to the smartphone proposition. Each Symbian UI required its own custom build of the OS which limited the addressable market of any third-party apps.”

“Furthermore, Nokia had a blasé attitude towards compatibility of apps; breaking backwards compatibility on OS upgrades on multiple occasions e.g. S60 third edition, Windows Phone 8; and developing phones incapable of using some games available for earlier devices (e.g. Nokia 500, Lumia 610),” he adds. “Consumers are attracted to smartphones for their ability to be more than just communication tools, and so the lack of apps hinders adoption. One can simply look at the lack of some key apps such as Spotify from Nokia’s latest flagship as a continuation of this problem (Spotify is available on the Lumia 800 and 900 however).”

Nokia has almost always produced high quality hardware; but it was its software that was the weakness.

Gleeson argues that Nokia still hasn’t fixed its attitude to software — evident in the recent issues with the schism between WP 7.5 and 8. “This is an issue that Nokia has not fully addressed yet,” he says. “While this may seem to be Microsoft’s problem now, Nokia were well aware that there was going to be a break from WinPho 7.5 to 8.”

It’s not too surprising that a company that started life as a paper mill, way back in the 1800s, might be more comfortable with physical, tangible things, than digital stuff. But the problem for Nokia wasn’t just that it was slow on the update where software was concerned, it was also now competing with companies born and bred in the digital era – with bits and bytes in their blood.

Nokia’s decision to open source Symbian in 2008 to try to compete with Android was of course too little too late. The platform itself was not competitive with next-gen rivals in the ways that counted: It still put the phone function first, rather than Internet-connected services. Regardless of how technically powerful Symbian was – something die-hard Symbian fans will always point out (yes it could have apps and ‘true’ multitasking) – there was no getting away from the problem that it was legacy technology, built in and for an earlier mobile era when phones were phones first, not pocket computers.

As Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi puts it, Nokia was guilty of “trying to fix Symbian for too long.” It was also too busy worrying about not upsetting the apple cart of its current customers to start making the disruptive changes needed to win future ones, she says. Or to put it another way, Nokia was fiddling while its platform burned.

Foresight without leadership

Despite clinging on far too long to Symbian — and not having the quicksilver thinking of a native web company — you can’t accuse Nokia of lacking ideas. Nokia has a history of coming up with new stuff. The company started life as a paper mill in 1865 but it didn’t stick with pulp forever, turning its hand to cranking out rubber boots, tyres and cables, among other things, before moving on to electronics and finally mobile phones.

In mobile too Nokia has not been short of new ideas. The company pioneered various key mobile concepts that are now absolutely mainstream — from cameraphones and music mobiles to apps and tablets. But despite getting its futuregazing right in one sense – by coming up with the ideas in the first place, often years before others got there — Nokia the company was still stuck in the past, mired in its phone-first mindset, which meant it failed to recognise and deliver on the true potential of its creations.

Nokia’s R&D held the key to unlocking the future success of its business – but the corporate culture of the company failed to turn futuregazing into an agile strategy to advance its business by breaking with the lucrative present. Without visionary leadership and exceptional execution good ideas are just a series of disconnected dreams. There’s no doubt Nokia had plenty of dreamers within its walls but it desperately needed a visionary CEO capable of turning its ideas into the future of the business. Nokia had done it with paper and boots and even mobile phones, but the leap to mobile data proved a leap too far.

“The ‘phone first’ mindset ran through everything they did,” says Leach. “And although the R&D guys came up with some great innovative things they were slow to get those to market. So they were very good at coming up with concepts – ‘this is what the future’s going to look like; in the meantime what’s selling in the market is these feature phones with additional Internet capabilities,’ and they were kind of caught between the two. And I think they never really got that leap right to R&D working to breed products to market as opposed to just being all the blue sky activity.”

“It’s difficult to comment on Nokia’s internal management structures, as all I have to go on is speculative and the complaints of disgruntled ex-employees but it is likely that issues [such as underestimating the importance of apps and ecosystems] would be symptoms of a management with no clear long-term vision and the resulting in-fighting between product teams,” adds Gleeson.

Leach points to the example of the Nokia Communicator – a pioneering forerunner of today’s smartphones, which launched way back in 1996 — as an example of how Nokia failed to deliver on its own great potential. While the device included the ability to download apps, Nokia missed the opportunity to capitalise on them long before anyone else could have.  “Nokia felt that downloading apps and all of that was only something a minority of people would do,” he says. “It wasn’t really the main point, no one would get that concept. And then a couple of years later you have Apple doing a mainstream TV commercial about downloading apps to your phone.

“Now the tragedy really is that Nokia had that capability. If they had been a bit more confident with it – confident that this is where the future was, they could have had that market, they could have been there. But looking at that TV ad of downloading apps to your phone there’s no way anyone in Nokia would have ever believed that it was mainstream enough to get to do that sort of advertising around it.”

Nokia had the scale, the connections with manufacturers, the relationships with operators and the brand strength to ‘out iPhone the iPhone’ — if it had reacted fast enough.

“Nokia’s cardinal sin was not as many would suspect lack of foresight about the development of the market such as touchscreens, large displays and tablets,” adds Gleeson. “Nokia had the scale, the connections with manufacturers, the relationships with operators and the brand strength to ‘out iPhone the iPhone’ — if it had reacted fast enough. Samsung’s success has shown that being a ‘fast follower’ is a viable strategy for a market leader to avoid being usurped by early movers.”

The key line there is if it had reacted fast enough. Nokia was simply not capable of matching the speed of innovation of a Google or an Apple – hardware was in its blood, not software. So, as Gartner’s Milanesi points out, Nokia got bogged down in the alien detail of the task facing it — platform transition and building a sustainable software ecosystem — and therefore wasted time. Time that could have been spent on developing MeeGo from, in her words, a “good platform (N9 demonstrated that),” to a competitive ecosystem.

IHS screen digest analyst Ian Fogg describes Nokia’s fatal flaw as a failure of execution. “Historically Nokia repeatedly saw the future and adopted a strategy to seize the opportunity but failed to execute,” he says. “For example: they saw the importance of smartphones and secured a smartphone OS when they invested in Psion’s software division to create Symbian way back in 1998. But their Symbian smartphones were a pale shadow of what they had bought: they took a touch screen UI and converted it to a keyboard-only OS.”

As another example of forward thinking but flawed delivery, Fogg points to Nokia’s prescience around mobile gaming. “Nokia realised mobile games was a massive opportunity. Twice they tried to become the dominant mobile games player with Ngage and twice their execution let them down,” he notes. And when Nokia began pouring even more effort into mobile services – with the Ovi app store and initiatives such as Comes with Music – its plans were still “full of holes in execution.”

Windows Phone vs. Android

Fogg believes Nokia’s current set of problems with Windows Phones are not explained by a failure of execution; now it’s their strategy that’s the problem. While Elop “rightly saw” that mobile was becoming a “war of ecosystems,” choosing Windows Phone to fight the dominant players of Android and iOS has simply dragged Nokia down, he argues. “Now it’s Windows Phone that is holding Nokia back. Windows Phone is proving a hard sell because of the success of Android and iOS.”

Adopting Windows Phone also means Nokia is now reliant on Microsoft’s execution — and Redmond continues to lag behind the pace of development on the dominant smartphone platforms. “Microsoft has been slow to innovate with Windows Phone, which has held Nokia back,” says Fogg. “The current version, Windows Phone 8, is little different in consumer features to Windows Phone 7 of two years ago. In the meantime, Apple and Google have piled on numerous more features to iOS and Android.”

“Elop chose Windows Phone also because he could reduce costs by lowering the number of Nokia staff working on content and services. Ironically, Nokia is having to stimulate the Windows Phone ecosystem by content deals to attempt to get the platform moving,” Fogg adds.

Choosing Windows Phone was of course not the only option open to Nokia: There is one more lost opportunity to add to Nokia’s case file. With the benefit of hindsight, Leach believes it’s possible to say that Nokia should have adopted Android — and that by not doing so it missed the opportunity to be the company Samsung is now. Ironically that is also the company Nokia used to be: the dominant force in the mobile industry.

Also ironic: Google’s Android could have saved Nokia, instead of helping to bleed the company of its blue blood. Nokia was mobile royalty – now it’s just Microsoft’s foot soldier.

“Samsung has been the victor over Nokia more than Apple has,” Leach argues. “Success for Nokia now would be being Samsung – if, at that key point in 2008, 2009, they’d made that step to adopt Android. It wasn’t really clear at the time that was the right thing for them to do — at that time they really needed to be on their next-gen platform; that was clear. They needed to have MeeGo ready and in the market. But, if we put on our hindsight vision, we could say that rather than MeeGo, probably the best thing to have done would have been Android… With hindsight it’s a lot clearer.”

Fogg hammers this point home by arguing that differentiating its smartphones on Windows Phone has actually been harder for Nokia than it has been for its rivals to make a success of adopting Android. “Elop argued that Windows Phone would make it easier for Nokia to innovate and differentiate its phones than if Nokia had adopted Android. Ironically, Microsoft’s UI rules have made it hard for Nokia to do this while Sony, Samsung and HTC have successfully built custom user interfaces and applications on top of Android.”

Success for Nokia now would be being Samsung – if, at that key point in 2008, 2009, they’d made that step to adopt Android.

It’s hard to beat Nokia up for not predicting how successful Android was going to be; few would have predicted how swiftly Google would take over the smartphone space. But it’s easy to accuse Nokia of complacency at a time when there were plenty of warning signs the winds of technology change were whipping up a storm. Nokia even saw what was coming — what smartphones were becoming — sooner than most, but they failed to realise how quickly they needed to change, or that the time they had to prepare for their next business leap was shrinking exponentially.

And, finally, when they did realise they needed to turn their business upside down, choosing Windows Phone over Android was a flawed strategy that kicked the company into the long grass. No matter how well they executed, Windows Phone could not turn their business around because the race for smartphone dominance was being run by Android OEMs and Nokia wasn’t even in the running (leaving the field clear for Samsung to rise and rise).

What’s even worse for Nokia is that the story of its long-drawn-out decline is not a new tale. And the lesson it teaches is not original. Put simply it’s this: Innovate or die.

Most Popular Long Form Features of 2012


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We thrive on bringing you small tips, tricks, and downloads to enhance your daily life, but sometimes we like to dig our heels into a project and go a little deeper, too. Here are our best longform features—whether how-to guides, explainers, or otherwise—of the year 2012.

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In 2013, here’s why we’ll seriously consider alternatives to higher ed


This post is by Dale Stephens from VentureBeat


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edtech

This is a guest post by Dale Stephens, founder of the “UnCollege” movement 

When I look back at my education, I am struck by how little I was taught. This is the opposite experience of Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, who dismissed the idea of self-directed education, in the article, “Education is the work of teachers, not hackers.

My experience is fairly unique — I left school at the age of twelve — but I’m not the only 20-something to forgo traditional higher-education. One need only look at the rise of massive open online courses (MOOC) over the course of the past year. Stanford’s experiment in the Fall of 2011 gave birth to two companies: Udacity and Coursera. Not be outdone, Harvard and MIT created Edx, a partnership to bring online learning to millions of people. Other universities across the country and around the world are following suit.

Wieseltier argues that this is merely “information”, meaning that the course isn’t accredited and there’s no physical forum for discussion and debate. This is true, but once the Ivy League relinquishes its hold on information, anything is possible. And people are already doing amazing things after completing free, online courses — this African teen built his own DJ set using knowledge he learned online.

This is just one example of what can happen once you set content free. The impact will be even more powerful once we unbundle the other parts of school that are currently packed together — namely the community and accreditation.

Learning communities outside school are already being created. Around the world, there are more than 1,200 “Hackerspaces” that have created in the last four years, places where people come together to work on projects and share knowledge. Companies like General Assembly and TechShop are creating real-world spaces for people to learn in formal environments outside school.

The prestige of a college degree — that guarantee of a job if you spend four years in lectures — is a fallacy. Wieseltier would point out that the BLS statistics show that college graduates are less likely to be unemployed than those without degree. That is true, for those over twenty-five.

For those under twenty-five with college degree, 22.5 precent are unemployed and another 22 percent are working jobs that don’t require their degree. In other words, even if you go to college, odds are that only 50 percent of the time your degree will yield you a job. Even if you get employed, you’ll likely be saddled with $27,000 in debt.

The picture of youth in America is not pretty. We need to make some changes when it comes to education. Wieseltier critiques my book, Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will as a “campaign against allegedly useless study”. I believe I am on a crusade for honest, rational thinking.

The problem is not that people are reading useless books, but rather that they are doing so without thinking, and doing so while spending exorbitant amounts of money. If you think about education as an investment, which I feel we must do in this economy, then how can you justify spending four years and $100,000 to end up right where you started?

If you’re looking for a return on investment (and to learn skills that are required in today’s job market), some startups may have the answer. DevBootCamp, for example, offers a 10-week apprenticeship-like training program for people who want to be professional software developers. 88 percent of their graduates have job offers starting at an average of $79,000 a year after their program. The program costs $12,200. That is a much better investment than college.

The ways that I describe technology impacting education are not far-flung hypothetical scenarios. They are happening right now. Hundreds of thousands of people are taking university courses on the internet. Those people are using sites like Meetup.com to form real-world study ground and exchanging knowledge. They are finding mentors. They are building online portfolios to showcase their work. They are using sites like StackExchange to connect that work to the needs of employers.

I don’t wish universities to disappear, but if academics like Wieseltier don’t take note of the rapid changes in education, they will soon be out of jobs. And that, I think we can all agree, would be a tragedy.

dalestephensDale Stephens is the founder of UnCollege.org, author of Hacking Your Education to be published on March 5th from Penguin, and 2011 Thiel Fellow. 

Image credit: jocic // Shutterstock 

Filed under: Entrepreneur

Kolab Systems spearheads an open-source solution for the third pillar of productivity: groupware


This post is by John Koetsier from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




large_2327138220Why is the founder and former president of the Free Software Foundation of Europe currently leading a for-profit software company in the groupware space?

I asked Georg Greve, a former physicist and nanotechnologist, exactly that question.

“There are three pillars of productivity for modern knowledge workers,” Greve replied. “One is the browser, the second is office applications, and the third is groupware. Free software has tackled the first two very well … but on the groupware side, almost nothing has happened.”

Greve is the CEO of Kolab Systems, which produces Kolab groupware, an enterprise-scale email, calendaring, contact management, and task management suite that is fully open-source, freely available, and interoperable with multiple web, desktop, and tablet clients. The company’s clients include Fortune 500 companies — which Greve cannot contractually name — who have 60,000 employees using Kolab, as well as the entire school system of Bazel, Switzerland, and the German Federal Office for Information Security.

In fact, that’s where the solution originated: an open source German government software project initiated in 2001.

Kolab works on Windows, Mac, or Linux.

Source: Kolab

Kolab works on Windows, Mac, or Linux.

“They needed a fully audit able, fully open-source solution that was designed around security awareness,” Greve said from Switzerland, where he lives and works. “But they couldn’t find anything.”

So they built one — or at least the foundations of what would become a full groupware solution. Most solutions, Greve says, come to the enterprise with “freedom stripped.” Kolab comes free not just in the standard beer sense — free to use — but also in the speech sense: free to alter, modify, and adapt.

Greve joined as CEO in 2010 when it became clear that the companies who had contracted with the German government to provide the solution needed focused attention on Kolab. Version 3, with an almost entirely refactored codebase, a completely new storage layer, and 100 percent open standards, is being released in January.

220px-GeorgCFGreve2009“We’re using IMAP as the database, which means we get insane scalability,” Georg said, adding that the company had partnered with Opera to get the project completed. “We’ve also built in full mobile connectivity … all the cloudy stuff … and added support for a whole range of native platforms: Mozilla Thunderbird, Lightning, Outlook … on Windows, Mac, and Linux.”

The data format is xCal and xCard, and enterprise clients can interact with the data via an open API, integrating their groupware solution into any other solution or even creating their own administration clients.

Kolab is bootstrapped with a little cash from Greve, other executives, and others and has a subscription revenue model similar to RedHat: training, certification, service level agreements, prioritized updates and fixes, and support.

It was to provide that third pillar of productivity that Georg joined Kolab from the Free Software Foundation of Europe. OpenOffice and Firefox area available for the other two; The Gimp, WordPress, and of course Linux itself, plus many other open source projects, provide options in other areas. But groupware was a bit of a green field.

Of course, it was also to fulfill an unusual long-time dream for the open-source believer:

“I had always wanted to go into business.”

photo credit: AGoK via photopin cc

Filed under: Business, Enterprise, Entrepreneur, VentureBeat

Amazon apologizes for Christmas Eve outage that knocked Netflix streaming offline (update)


This post is by Chris Welch from The Verge - All Posts


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Netflix Remote

Some Netflix customers were unable to stream movies and TV shows on Christmas Eve thanks to an Amazon Web Services outage. Now Amazon has issued a public apology for the downtime, readily admitting that the disruptions came at “an inopportune time” for its many clients. Though it stops short of mentioning Netflix by name, the company says it recognizes “how critical our services are to our customers’ businesses.” Amazon has posted a detailed account of what caused the malfunction, which began at 12:24 PM PST December 24th at one of its eastern US facilities and ultimately wasn’t resolved until Christmas Day.

After assessing the situation, Amazon has taken immediate steps to prevent the issue from repeating in the future. “We will do…

Continue reading…

Top 10 Gear Live stories of 2012


This post is by Andru Edwards from Gear Live


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




iPhone 5 vs iPhone 4S vs iPhone original

We've come to the end of another year, and as we wave goodbye to 2011, we figured it was only fitting that we share the most popular stories published on Gear Live this year, as determined by our readers (we've also got the top ten most read stories regardless of publish date, as well as the ten most popular Gear Live videos of 2012!) These are the ten stories that were read the most, and when you consider that fact, it's pretty surprising to see what made the list. Let's kick it off with our most read story of the year:

iPhone 5 vs. iPhone 4S vs. iPhone original:
iPhone 5 certainly got a lot of attention this year, and our image gallery comparing it to previous iPhone designs served as our most popular post in all of 2012.


Continue reading Top 10 Gear Live stories of 2012

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Top 10 Gear Live stories of 2012 originally appeared on Gear Live on Mon, December 31, 2012 – 2:11:21

Top Web Series of 2012 Set New Bar For Quality


This post is by Fruzsina Eordogh from ReadWrite


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




2012 saw a lot of great new web series from surprising new sources. For what seemed like the first time, tech companies invested big money – and pulled big names –  into original online video programming.

In this digital programming horse race there was one clear, seemingly from left field, winner:  Yahoo. Specifically Yahoo! Screen, the company’s version of Google’s original programming initiative.

Yahoo! Screen’s web series had high production values, famous names and compelling, relevant writing. In an interview with USA Today back in July, Vice President and Head of Video for Yahoo Erin McPherson called the digital projects “online digital blockbusters.”

The “online digital blockbusters” however, failed to get the same marketing push most Hollywood blockbuster movies receive, so chances are you’ve probably never heard of them. This is not a problem unique to Yahoo; YouTube, Hulu and Crackle have also all failed to get the word out on their great web shows. (It is also possible one factor limiting the spread of Yahoo’s original programming is the inability to embed their videos anywhere.) Regardless, this list is the best of the best, the true hidden gems of Internet content.  

Electric City (Yahoo Screen)

Created by Tom Hanks, who also stars as the leading man (and deadly assassin), this animated post-apocalyptic sci-fi series is thoroughly entertaining and ambitious.  Like most web series these days, there was also an interactive component, and like modern society, everyone is obsessed with electricity – except in this world, it is scarce. Also, the series is not really for little kids: Hank’s character snaps a criminal’s neck in the first episode, after said criminal beat his wife.  Nominated for a 2012 Streamy Award as “Best Animated Series.”  

Cybergeddon (Yahoo Screen)

Anthony E. Zuiker, the same guy who created the hit TV show CSI, has tried his hand at a web series, and it’s good. Cybergeddon is a pertinent, fast and fun cyber-terrorism thriller the New York Times called “better than your average TV-movie.”  (I’d say it is way better.) The series is again not for children, and is a sly advert for Norton Internet Security. Nominated for four 2012 Streamy Awards; Best Male and Female Performance in a Drama, Best Ensemble Cast and Best Branded Entertainment series. 

Burning Love (Yahoo Screen)

Ken Marino stars in this “Bachelor” parody, meaning he lives in a house with a bunch of women and tries to narrow down who his contractually obligated bride will be based on superficial – sometimes absurd- criteria. The series was just signed for a second and third season, so you know it found an audience, despite Yahoo’s marketing shortcomings. Not for kids. Nominated for five Streamy Awards, including Best Male and Female Performance, Best Ensemble Cast and Best Comedy.

Battleground (Hulu)

Hulu’s first foray into scripted television is a mockumentary, in the style of The Office, about a dark horse political campaign for a Democrat in Wisconsin with a corrupt past. The comparisons to The Office stop there, however, and the film crew actually plays a pivotal role in the series by driving a major plot point. Not for kids, either. Nominated for two Streamy Awards, for Best Male and Female Performance in a Drama

Video Game High School (YouTube)

Created by Freddie Wong and Co (Rocket Jump), this web series was actually not part of Google’s original programming initiative – with Wong raising funds successfully through Kickstarter. The series is a first for the seemingly self-taught film-maker, and comes close to being a romantic comedy. The action-packed series takes place in an alternative reality where video games are treated as a mainstream sport complete with TV commentators, and students are recruited to top schools based off their gaming skills. (So yes, this series is for a younger crowd.) Nominated for two Streamy Awards; Best Ensemble Cast and Best Production Design. 

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (YouTube)

This re-adaption of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has gotten favorable reviews from outlets like Wired, Gigaom and USA Today and the cast was a hit at last year’s VidCon, but the series has struggled to break more than a million views on its first episode. (The series is rather niche in its appeal, after all.) Cast members also behave like real Internet citizens, with their own Tumblr, Lookbook and Twitter accounts, giving the audience that transmedia interactive experience that is so hot right now.  Created by Hank Green and Bernie Su, the duo hasn’t ruled out adapting other classics for YouTube in the future. Nominated for five Streamy Awards including Best Writing; Comedy and Best Interactive Program.

Seven Minutes in Heaven (Yahoo Screen)/Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (Crackle)

Both series are interview shows; SNL writer Mike O’Brien interviews various celebrities in a small closet and then tries to kiss them leading to a hilariously awkward exchange, and Jerry Seinfeld drives around in classic or unusual cars interviewing various comedians on a coffee run.  

Geek and Sundry/Nerdist (YouTube)

Both Felicia Day (Geek and Sundry) and Chris Hardwick (Nerdist) were funding recipients in  Google’s original content investment, and the King and Queen of geek culture have diversified their channels offerings to include something for well, every nerd. Both Geek and Sundry and Nerdist offer a variety of shows for every day of the week: Geek and Sundry has Day vlogging on Monday and Space Janitors on Tuesday for example, while Hardwick has shows like All Star Celebrity Bowling, Neil Patrick Harris’ Puppet Dreams and Star Talk with Neil Degrasse Tyson.   

MyMusic (YouTube)

This quirky mockumentary about the music industry was created by YouTube community favorites the Fine Brothers, and features a heavy set of Internet celebrities as well as pop culture and Internet references  – one character is based off 4chan phenom Boxxy, for instance – and has a bit of a Portlandia feel. The show also has various components including a regular music news component, and all characters have associated online Twitter profiles much in the way of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Nominated for nine Streamy Awards, including Best Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Comedy Series.

Lead image courtesy of YouTube.