Delivering positive ROI from mobile-enabled projects

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Enterprises can achieve much by focusing on a business-driven, ROI-focused approach to BYOD strategies. Every mobility project varies in the amount of ROI delivered and how each organization (whether enterprise or government) measures the net savings, new opportunities, or operational efficiencies. This report looks at seven real examples from enterprises that are benefiting from a positive ROI.

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Build A Company That Attracts The Next Steve Jobs

This post is by Derek Andersen from TechCrunch

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Editor’s note: Derek Andersen is the founder of Startup Grind, a 45-city community in 20-countries, uniting the global startup world together through educating, inspiring, and connecting entrepreneurs.

On Steve Jobs’ first day at Atari in 1973, he walked into the founder/CEO Nolan Bushnell’s office unannounced. “I think you have a really awesome company. I think that everything is pretty good, but I’ve seen your soldering connections and they’re really crappy.” Nolan Bushnell replied, “Well, let’s fix them.” Jobs replied, “I will.” So what did Atari do as a company and culture to become so attractive that Steve Jobs’ literally walked in off the street and demanded a job? Recently Bushnell wrote a book called, Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Keep and Nurture Creative Talent. In it he outlines how the culture that he helped create at Atari was critical to hiring and keeping creative talent like Steve Jobs. While Steve Jobs eventually started his own companies, it wasn’t before he made significant contributions to Atari’s success which included building the circuit boards for Breakout (with the help of Steve Wozniak). Let’s also not forget that people like Jack Dorsey and Kevin Systrom also started out as employees.

After moving to the Valley for his first job following college, Bushnell quickly realized that working for someone else wasn’t in his DNA. “One of the reasons that Silicon Valley exists is that we have all worked next to somebody who has gone off and been successful,” Bushnell recently told me at Startup Grind. “We know firsthand that the guy next to us, that went off and was very successful, was an idiot.” Bushnell went on to pioneer the video game industry with Atari, and after leaving Atari he founded a dozen companies, among other things the popular family restaurant chain Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Atari was critical in changing Valley company culture and startups themselves. “Every engineer in the valley in 1970 wore a white shirt and tie to work – that was professional. But we decided we wanted to create a new kind of company that was a total meritocracy. Don’t care about process. Treat everybody like an adult. Let them wear what they want, come to work when they want, work hard or work easy. Where you minimize process, you maximize outcomes.”

In this book he outlines dozens of ways that startups can create the type of culture to attract the next great creators. I had a chance to ask him about a couple of these and an except of that conversation is included below.

Why are secrets important?

Bushnell: It’s a marketing ploy. Secrets amplify the press at the time you want it. That is, advertising a product before you can buy it is a waste of money. People are very in the present. So what you really want to do is really push on things when there’s stuff on the shelf, when people can actually act and buy and what have you. So secrets amplify that a great deal.

Why hire the obnoxious and the crazies?

Bushnell: You don’t seek crazies and you don’t seek obnoxious, but you put up with it if they’ve got certain aspects. There are certain people in the world that are the smartest people in the room. It’s obnoxious for them to keep telling you that. Yet, when the chips are down, you kind of want them on your team. So when you have an obnoxious, capable person, figure out how to deal with it. Every company should have an ecosystem that can keep really talented people around. Even if they’re obnoxious, even if they smell bad.

Beware of posers.

Bushnell: When you’re hiring people, there are a lot of people who are able to fake being capable. Certain businesses are more prone to that than others. For example, in the early days of chip design, it took almost a year to get the first prototype of a custom chip. There were some engineer around who posed as one of the great chip designers. Never ever got a chip going. They would be employed until the company had given up on getting a custom chip, then go somewhere else and say, “I was working on custom chips for this company.” Ultimate posers. So you really want to make sure the person has the capability stated and the ability to execute.

Skunk it up.

Bushnell: I love skunkworks. The nice thing about skunkworks is you can try things cheaply. Bureaucracies creep into companies because you have different rules if you have a thousand employees than if you have three. And you can – when you have 1000 employees, the paperwork to buy a pencil will often exceed the pencil, and going down to Radio Shack to buy a part rather than going through purchasing can be the difference between a week’s delay and no delay at all. Those are the sort of things you can open up in a skunkworks that really accelerate projects, get rid of the impediments and go straight through. There are also certain people that just work really well in skunkworks environment that, when in the main body, don’t do as well. Some people like to hide in plain sight, you can’t hide in a skunkworks.

Why make something for the rich?

Bushnell: Every innovation that has ever happened started out with the rich, because the rich, in some ways pay for the tooling to get it down to consumer prices. Airplanes, automobiles, these were all toys for the rich – telephone. So it clears your mind. If you say, “I want to build this for everyone,” you’re talking about a price that’s probably unrealistic at that point in time. But with experience and with mass production techniques and that, you’ll get there. But maybe not for a couple years. 

You tell people to change every day, every hour.

Bushnell: It turns out that our brains are either stuck and ossified, or they’re flexible. And change is what really drives that. What I’m focusing on a lot right now – I’ve got anti-aging games in Brain Rush – is how do we keep our brains flexible? Change is really a key. Creativity is going to be the next big wave. My son right now has a Kickstarter. It’s called the Steam Carnival, and it’s about, how do you turn on people – or kids, primarily, that technology is a big giggle? You don’t have to build pacemakers and the next tank. You can build games and carnival rides, all kinds of things. What that does is it opens up new kinds of horizons. I’ve found the more I change, the more happy I am.

How do you reward turkeys?

Bushnell: I went to a flea market, and there was a tin turkey that was about this tall, and it was ungodly ugly. I mean, it was just really bad. And I thought, “Hm.” What I wanted to do was to let people know it was okay to try something and fail at it. So we had a management dinner every quarter, where we would talk about what was happening at the company. One of the core values was, if you try something for all the right reasons, but it still fails, that’s okay. I didn’t want my employees to start feeling guilty about something. We all wanted to be on the same time, and all wanted a good confession. You want to get it cathartically removed.

Apple applies for ‘iWatch’ trademark in Japan

This post is by Jeff Blagdon from The Verge - All Posts

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Following months of reports about Apple’s upcoming foray into wearable electronics, the company is now seeking to trademark “iWatch” in Japan, reports Bloomberg. Many are convinced that Apple is working on a smartwatch product, but so far Cupertino has kept more or less quiet — save for Tim Cook’s statement about the “profound” opportunity in wearables at the D11 conference in May. Apple has also filed for the “iWatch” mark in Russia, Izvestia reported last month.

Of course, merely applying for a trademark doesn’t cement either Apple’s plans or the name of any forthcoming products. The company has been known to trademark plausible names for future products, like 2009’s iSlate application, as well as ideas it’s more loosely…

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Editorially curated site Upworthy sees explosive growth

This post is by Tom Cheredar from VentureBeat

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MobileBeat 2013

July 9-10, 2013
San Francisco, CA

Tickets On Sale Now


Finding good content on the Internet can be tedious at times, so it’s not difficult to see why a site like Upworthy is currently experiencing impressive growth.

The site, cofounded by Peter Koechley (formerly of The Onion) and former organizer Eli Pariser, was built to unearth articles, videos, and photos that “matter.” Over the last month, Upworthy has hit a few traffic milestones, including a total 30 million unique visitors to the site, an average of six minutes spent on the site per user per visit, and over 3 million subscribers (via social networks, email, etc.).

The site employs a team of editors (six full-time and about 20 contributors) to curate the most important news of the day. Those curators not only find the most compelling content, they also rewrite the headlines, craft summaries of the content, and find an appropriate piece of art. It reminds me a lot of the old Digg — or lesser-known site Mixx — except this one is powered entirely by the people who are just really good at finding news (like my good friend MrBabyman, aka Andy Sorcini, did during Digg’s heyday.) Upworthy’s platform also helps share all that content across social networks and tracks what’s getting attention.

“We put as much effort into our distribution efforts as we do in finding good content,” Koechley toldVentureBeat. “Having good content doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t actively trying to get people to see it.”

News curation is nothing new. Many news publications (VentureBeat included) have done it directly or indirectly for years, as have sites like Digg, Reddit, and a growing number of news reader services (Zite, Pulse, News360, etc.). Occasionally it’s responsible for surfacing viral content, but there’s a considerable amount of time and energy involved. But Koechley told me Upworthy wants to stay conscious of making the process of surfacing viral content using its close-knit team of curators, and letting its distribution and tracking platform guide them.

Megaphone image via Shutterstock

Filed under: Media, Social


NSA spies on Germany as much as it does China and Saudi Arabia: Der Spiegel

This post is by Jeff Blagdon from The Verge - All Posts

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Since details of the NSA’s massive phone and internet spying programs first came to light, America’s allies in the EU have been demanding for Washington to explain what it’s doing with Europeans’ data. Now, a new report from German news weekly Der Spiegel provides some more insight into the size of Washington’s telecommunications dragnet, claiming that US intelligence compiles metadata on half a billion German data connections (including phone calls, emails, and text messages) every day. The report points out that the NSA’s interest in Germany is much higher than that of other EU countries like France, whose communications the NSA only logs a tenth as often.

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Will Apple Sideline Siri Before She Kills Google?

This post is by Dan Kaplan from TechCrunch

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Editor’s note: Dan Kaplan is a freelance Content Strategist and armchair futurist. He has worked in marketing for Asana, Twilio and Salesforce. Follow him on Twitter @dankaplan.

In the wake of Apple’s big iOS 7 reveal, there has been much hoopla and quibbling. The bulk about it has centered around the design choices made by Jony Ive, his team and (apparently) some icon designers in marketing.

Left out of the commentary has been what can only reasonably be described as a lackluster update to Siri.

In Siri’s incarnation in iOS 7, I can ask her to pull up a quick list of someone’s latest tweets or find me an entry on Wikipedia. I can change the sex of her voice. And if she comes up blank on something, I can now have her Google it on Bing, instead of Googling it on Google. At some point in the near future, I will also be able to do all of this in a car.

But what I still can’t do is anything new that actually harnesses Siri’s real potential as a task-completion engine. This is too bad, because that potential is dazzling.

A Short Refresher On Siri’s Dazzling Potential

Fully realized, Siri would change the way humans interact with the Internet. Instead of typing in a bunch of keywords and getting back links, 156-character snippets and ads, you would speak your request and Siri would connect directly to the Internet service best equipped to deliver on it.

The video embedded below demonstrates a piece of this: In it, the protagonist tells Siri to order a pizza: “Siri, tell Pizza Hut to deliver a small cheese pizza, two large pizzas with pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon, and mushrooms, and a medium pizza with only mushrooms.”

While the guy who made this video staged the scenario with a Twilio hack, the central point is that Siri is a search engine that doesn’t just go out onto the Internet and fetch a bunch of links and ads, but actually takes your “query” and executes your intended task.

If you don’t see how that paradigm would be disruptive to Google Search, you might be a redneck.

The Story Of The Siri Assistant

When Siri was just a wee standalone app in the App Store (in that small window between when she launched when Apple snapped her up), she was already more powerful than Apple’s version is today.

Back in those days, she was known as the Siri Assistant, and she could not only buy you movie tickets and make reservations to restaurants, she could order you a cab. You could ask her about local concerts happening in the next two weeks and she’d go out and find out what bands were playing at any given venue nearby.

These things were going to be just the beginning. Siri’s founders planned to add more services over time, blend them with the predictive awareness that you get a taste of in Google Now, and combine both with Siri’s task-completion capabilities:

  • “Hey Dan, your flight to NYC has just been canceled! Would you like me to book the next one?”
  • “Hey Dan, you weren’t at home when your package got delivered. Would you like me to redirect it to your office?”
  • “Hey Dan, you’ve got a coffee meeting downtown in 25 minutes. How about I summon a Lyft?”

Unfortunately for Siri in her days as standalone iPhone app, the Siri Assistant presented too much friction to be useful. The process of going to your home screen, tapping on the app, waiting for it to open, giving it a voice command and getting something back presented too many steps. Siri may have been stacked with some of the best artificial intelligence around, but she was just too damn slow.

Her acquisition by Apple promised to change all that.

Siri + iOS: The Google Slayer?

Indeed, when I last wrote about Siri — around the time of her rebirth as a feature of the iPhone 4S — I wrote that the integration of Siri’s technology and iOS meant that Google’s glory days were numbered. I wrote this for two reasons.

First, it was clear to me (and still is) that, should Apple develop Siri’s task-completion engine, she represented a deadly threat to the heart of Google’s search-revenue machine. And second, given the combination of Apple’s decade-long penchant for innovation and Steve Jobs’ burning desire to injure Google, I believed that Apple would do whatever it took to follow through on Siri’s promise and on Jobs’ desire for revenge.

But now that Siri’s latest update is a snooze and Jobs’ hatred for Google seems to have been laid to rest with Jobs himself, my initial expectations look to me like a burst of premature excitement.

The signs haven’t been good.

  • Apple took more than two years to integrate Siri. Maybe this had to do with hardware limitations, the technical and business challenges of deploying Nuance’s voice recognition, or whatever. But more than two years is a long time in technology.
  • Two-thirds of Siri’s founders left the company shortly after the iOS integration was announced. When founders leave an acquiring company quickly, it tends not to bode well for the execution of their vision.
  • Improvements have been coming in at a trickle, and have been timid, at best. Compared to the disruptive goals of Siri’s founders, her core features (getting sports scores, asking for directions, checking the weather, and setting reminders and alarms) are relative weak sauce.
  • The Apple Maps fiasco. Apple has cash reserves on par with some national governments and at least as much technical competence, but the launch of Apple Maps was a dud. To be fair, doing maps right is very hard and very expensive in people and treasure. But it is nothing compared to nurturing an artificially intelligent personal assistant.
  • For all of Apple’s prowess at building operating systems and shipping the devices that run them, the company has not proven nearly as adept at navigating the landscape of the Internet.

That last point may be the most important one: Woven into the fabric of the Internet, Siri becomes a juggernaut. But outside of it — without seamless connections to the Internet’s wide-ranging ecosystem of apps, databases and services — she remains a fancy toy.

An Uncertain Road Ahead

For Apple, the road to making Siri as remarkable in practice as she is in concept is fraught with technical obstacles, business challenges, and legal risks of every size and kind. But the rewards of surmounting them would be extraordinary — disruptive in the fullest sense of the word: a revolutionary technology that changes the way we interact with machines, shakes up industries, and brings Google to its knees.

Siri’s potential may be game-changing, but more than four years after Apple spent hundreds of millions of dollars on her acquisition, we’re still just trying to get her to understand our words.

Nokia to buy Siemens stake in joint telecom equipment venture

This post is by Jeff Blagdon from The Verge - All Posts

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Nokia is poised to buy out German partner Siemens for its 50 percent share of their joint Nokia Siemens Networks telecom equipment business, report Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. According to the reports, the Finnish cellphone maker will pay less than €2 billion (€1.7 billion, or $2.21 billion, says the WSJ), using short-term debt to finance the deal. Formed in 2007, Nokia Siemens Networks had been unprofitable until last year, when cost cutting finally pushed it into the black for the first time.

Despite Nokia’s lackluster handset sales and a $196 million loss last quarter, the company is arguably in a better place than it was a year ago, when it posted an operating loss of €1.3 billion, owing in large part to…

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Mark Zuckerberg ‘Likes’ SF LGBT Pride As Tech Companies Publicly Celebrate Equal Rights

This post is by Billy Gallagher from TechCrunch

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Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook employees celebrated the San Francisco LGBT pride parade from a decorated trolley today, as tech companies across the country very visibly supported equal rights. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook had over 700 employees at pride, and Google had over 1,400, around 40% more than last year.

This year’s Pride was particularly joyous, as it came just days after the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional; the act denied federal benefits to gay couples who were legally married in states that allowed it.

This support is a big deal, but what’s most encouraging to me is that most of the posts I saw today, especially from college friends, didn’t talk about these companies’ support as a big deal at all; it seemed more like the fulfillment of an expectation.

Now, just having fair employment practices isn’t enough. Tech companies, and others, are showing their public support at celebrations like Pride with big team outings that build team cohesiveness and celebrate the company. Those who don’t could be seen as not supporting LGBT employees and could be hurt in recruiting talent.

Like last year, tech companies celebrated across the country:

The Xbox team marched with a neat float in Seattle:

And some Uber folks rolled in style, also at Seattle Pride:

Featured image courtesy of Marina Zhao.

Looking For A Show? Builds A Music Video Playlist Of Bands Playing Nearby

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Oh, my. I think someone has actually done it.

Someone has built a system that promises to help me find fun things to do near me that… actually makes me want to do fun things near me.

Like many a concept before it, is so simple, yet so clever, that it drives me crazy that I didn’t think of it first. finds a bunch of artists playing shows in venues near you, then builds an old-school MTV-esque video playlist with one video for each band in hopes that you’ll like one enough to go see the show.

Simple, right? But it works so well.

Maybe I’m lame. Maybe I’m just not very good at this whole concert-going thing. Whatever the case, I tend to not go see shows unless I hear that a band I already love is coming to town. Of the half dozen-or-so concerts I go to each year, almost all of them are bands I’ve already been listening to for the better part of a decade. Most of them are bands I’ve seen a bunch of times already. If variety is the spice of life, my concert hopping life is… pretty friggin’ bland.

In the first thirty minutes or so of playing with, I’ve already found 3 new bands I want to go see.

Here’s how works: You pick your city, and it starts playing videos from bands playing soon. That’s it. You can skip to the next band, bring up a big list of all the shows they’ve found happening over the next two weeks, or just sit back and let’em roll. In the bottom left of each video is a “Get Tickets” button that pushes you to the venue’s purchasing system.

And therein lies their business model: they’ll collect a commission on tickets, whenever a venue allows it. If they can get you to buy a ticket, they might make a few bucks off the sale. Meanwhile, all of the videos — the heaviest part of the site, traffic wise — are being piped in from Youtube, so’s hosting costs are presumably pretty dang low. The users finds new bands, the bands get more fans and exposure, the venues make more sales, and Preamp makes money for bringing them all together. Everyone wins! Hurray!

Alas, isn’t a nationwide thing yet. In fact, it only works in four major cities right now: Los Angeles, New York City, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. Every city has different venues, and every venue shares their upcoming shows differently, so building its coverage out quickly might prove to be something of a challenge. is hoping to find a “global crew of local music experts” to help them curate things.

Is it perfect? Nah — of course not — but remember, it just launched, built by a small, bootstrapped team. It’s not going to have every venue right off the bat, even in the cities that it supports. It also doesn’t seem to tell you when a show is already sold out — something which might get a bit annoying, if you’re consistently finding bands you like only to be unable to get tickets. But this concept is excellent, and the execution so far is quite solid; if they can figure out how to scale it up, I see myself using it regularly. was built by Charles Worthington, a freelance developer/product designer out of Washington, DC. You can check out here.

Paul Graham’s Prescription For VCs: Move Fast, Take Less Equity

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paul graham

At the 500 Startups’ PreMoney Conference last week, Y Combinator’s Paul Graham gave a presentation in which he suggested a new way for Series A investments to get done. Graham provided a few suggestions for innovative early stage investors to differentiate themselves. It basically comes down to: move fast, and don’t over-invest in startups just to get a certain percentage of equity.

“One of the biggest things investors do not get about the fund raising process is what an immense cost talking to them imposes on the startups that are raising money, especially when a startup consists just of the founders. Everything completely grinds to a halt during fundraising,” Graham said at the conference.

Graham suggested that as a result, there’s room for an investor to undercut the competition by moving more quickly with early stage investments. If there existed a reputable investor who would invest $100,000 on market terms within 24 hours, they would be able to corner the market on the best startups, he said. That firm would be approached by all the worst startups as well, Graham said, but at least they’d see everything. In contrast, firms which have a reputation for taking a long time to make their investments would be approached last.

Another way that venture firms could differentiate themselves is by breaking from the typical 20 percent in equity that they ask for during Series A investments. VCs are investing too much and startups are raising too much during that fund raising period, but that could change if someone were willing to break ranks and actually invest less, but for less equity.

“I think the biggest danger for VCs, and also the biggest opportunity is in the Series A stage,” Graham said. “Right now, VCs knowingly invest too much in the Series A stage.”

When there’s a lot of competition for deals, the number that moves isn’t the amount of equity that VCs take, but the amount that they invest and thus the valuation of the company, Graham said. In the case of the most promising startups, Series A investors force companies to take more money than they want to raise.

“Some VCs lie and say that the company needs that much,” he said. “Others are more candid and admit that their business models require them to own a certain percentage of the company, but we all know that the amounts being invested are not determined by the amount that the companies need.”

It used to be that startups needed to give up that much of their company to raise money, but those days are over. With that in mind, Graham thinks that the first VC who breaks ranks and starts doing Series A investments for the amount of equity that the founder is willing to sell stands to reap huge benefits.

“If there were a reputable top tier firm that was willing to do a Series A round for as much stock as the founders wanted to sell, they would instantly get almost all the best startups,” Graham said. “And the best startups are where the money is.”

I talked to him about that theory and about how Y Combinator has scaled in the video above. (Skip ahead to about 5:30 to hear his thoughts on changing equity structures.)

‘Pocket Spacecraft’ Kickstarter gives backers control over a tiny space-bound flying machine

This post is by Adi Robertson from The Verge - All Posts

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Commercial space travel has become increasingly mainstream in the past decade, from “space tourism” flights to NASA’s public-private partnerships with SpaceX and others. But the latest push isn’t just to take space into the private sector — it’s to get citizens involved in the process. Copenhagen Suborbitals and other grass-roots efforts are trying to essentially crowdfund space, raising tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to put small craft into orbit. And one of the latest, called Pocket Spacecraft, hopes to do so with a “personalized spacecraft” for each of its backers.

The Pocket Spacecraft isn’t quite as exciting as it sounds, but it’s still pretty unique. If you put more than £19 (about $30) into the project, you’ll get…

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Developers Are Lifting The Cloud, Not The Other WayAround

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enterprise apps

For all the attention this week about the cloud, it’s evident that it is pretty much a distraction when considering what
is really happening. Developers are lifting the cloud, not the other way around.

The big guns of tech are aligning because they have to. It’s a defensive move to serve their existing customer base. It’s not like the old kings are showing substantial revenue increases for new software licenses. But consolidating power to offer legacy technology does show that the cloud is anything you want to call it.

In their new definition of the cloud, the IT-heavy enterprise gets a new version of that old-school database to run the software installed 10 or 15 years ago. An operating system built for the desktop and client/server age can be recast as a cloud service. Older SaaS companies can work with former on-premise foes and happily proclaim that what worked for the past 14 years will be just fine for another two generations or more. Just like cowbell, there is never enough.

But these moves to align CRM and operating systems with legacy databases are not about innovation. They are simply meant to keep the status quo and offer the bread and butter business that have earned them billions in revenue. The real innovation is in the new genre of databases, developer frameworks, social coding services and the APIs enriched with context through data analysis. It’s not to say the cloud lacks value. It has plenty of that. The cloud is really all about value. Prices continue to drop for compute and storage. On Joyent, a developer can now pay by the second.

But look deep into the infrastructure and there are signs even there of the developer’s work. Hearing more about this idea of the software-defined data center? It’s this concept that software, not metal switches, do the work with APIs connecting it all together. The APIs connect networks, data stores, all forms of clients and databases, etc. It’s the act of the network going to the app instead of the other way around.

So all the big machines and the pipes are getting abstracted, and the developer, arguably, is driving that change. That tiny smartphone is a server. As again illustrated by Joyent with Project Manta, the big storage and network machines are now becoming part of the operating system. Compute and storage are coming together and in-memory databases make for split-second analytics. Founder Keith Teare (who is also one of the original TechCrunch founders), said on The Gillmor Gang this week that the cloud is a constant, but it does not constantly do the same things. The change is evident when looking at how the cloud is used. The real shift is in how the cloud is consumed. Some of it is apps, some of it is devices while some data is pushed and some of it is pulled. The cloud is a data integrator (Message Bus) and a data store but not necessarily meant to be consumed just through a browser.

Andreessen Horowitz Partner Peter Levine said in an interview this past week that 15 to 20 years ago it was all Microsoft with the WinAPI. Every program and every API call was done to Windows. Now we see the entire disaggregation of the API. Companies now expect APIs. All of that has helped accelerate development.

It is the year of the developer, and that is evident with GitHub, which now has about 10,000 subscribers signing up every day, Levine said that for the past few years, the developer crescendo has lifted the cloud. The cloud players see that value and  cater to developer interests so they will build more apps. More apps means the need for more cloud services.  Smartphone makers and the carriers all have their own interests in fostering deeper developer ecosystems as it means more customers buying the time and the data to fill those devices. As Levine said, it all flows downstream. 

And so take another look when the news hits about more big legacy players happily talking about the greatness of the cloud. Sure it’s awesome, but it would be meaningless if it were not for all those developers using it to make all the cool things we use everyday on those supercomputers we have ready in our pockets to connect us to the world.

The Plasticky BlackBerry Q5 Is Not The Mid-Tier Hero Handset BB10 Needs To Save It

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In some ways the Qwerty-packing Q5, with its throwback BlackBerry looks, is a far more important device for BlackBerry than its current flagship, the all-touch Z10. Or the premium-priced Qwerty-clad Q10. The mid-tier Q5 should be priced to shift — because that’s what BlackBerry needs to happen to start regaining the ground it lost when it was forced to pause and reboot its OS to play catch-up with rivals. That’s what the Q5 should do, but will it?

The problem for BlackBerry is it may already be too late to turn things around. BlackBerry’s latest results, out late last week, made grim reading as the company missed analyst expectations, and its share price took a battering. It shipped just 2.7 million BlackBerry 10 handsets in its Q1. But it has only had two BB10 devices to sell, one of which (the Q10) only made it to market in the U.S. earlier this month. Which makes the Q5 even more important: BlackBerry needs more handsets in its portfolio attacking different price points to have a chance of ramping up sales.

The problem is the Q5 doesn’t feel like a saviour. It feels closer to a kludge. Likely it isn’t going to be cheap enough to really hit Android where it hurts (it’s mid-tier, not budget after all). Nor does it feel like enough of a leap forward to convert a new generation of users to BlackBerry. BB10 is still Blackberry playing catch-up with competitors, rather than streaking ahead in the innovation stakes.

Of course many Blackberry loyalists and long-time users aren’t going to be unhappy with the Q5′s old school Qwerty form factor. But that staid staple means it necessarily offers a crimped OS experience versus the full-touch Z10. On the Q5 — as with the Q10 — the touchscreen has had to be squashed into a square to accommodate yesteryear’s physical Qwerty keys. Which is a problem because BlackBerry’s new platform needs room for the user to manoeuvre.

BB10 is built around gestures and layering content — and that whole “peek and flow” dynamic comes into its own on a full touchscreen. But on the Q5′s small square it’s inevitably constrained. Yet, despite this squeezed screen, the Q5 is surprisingly big for a Qwerty BlackBerry. Certainly compared to past generations of RIM hardware — those ever-so-popular Curves and Bolds it apparently succeeds.

As well as being constrained by having to make room for the keyboard, space has to be found to accommodate the bevels where BB10′s gestures have to start. This makes the overall front footprint a bit, well, hefty. It looks like an oversized, top-heavy BlackBerry, which will feel like a step backwards to those accustomed to BlackBerry’s traditionally highly pocketable handsets. And who else is this Qwerty-packer really trying to woo?

Android users have so much choice when it comes to keyboard software that even if they don’t get on with the stock Android virtual keyboard they can switch to Swype, or Swiftkey or any one of the growing number of Qwerty alternatives cooking up interesting new ways to type. The Q5′s immutable plastic keys feel terribly dumb phone in comparison.

Even the BlackBerry exec demoing the Q5 at the press event I attended to pick up a review device described the physical keyboard as “infamous”  (Freudian slip?). And said he found typing on it “a bit strange” because “I’m used to typing on the [full touchscreen] Z10.” That says it all really.

The Q5 is a deeply conservative device. It continues to look backwards to BlackBerry’s legacy keyboard-chained past — a compromise between old technology and new software. And like most compromises, it’s unlikely to entirely please anybody. It’s not that it’s terrible, it just doesn’t feel good enough to make an impact — and that means it’s not good enough because BlackBerry needs something remarkable to stand out in this crowded mid-tier segment.

Yet you can see exactly how and why BlackBerry has arrived here. In its current shrunken state, as its user base and revenues have diminished, the company has had to retrench. It can’t afford to lose any more users, yet it can’t afford to ramp up the number of devices in its portfolio quickly enough — making it super important that it retains its one remaining heartland: corporate users. Those are the last really sticky BlackBerry users, even as fickle consumers have wandered off elsewhere.

So BlackBerry can’t cut its ties with the past as it’s now even more dependent on its most conservative demographic. Its focus has to be on servicing that existing corporate user-base — because their loyalty is locked up far more than the average consumer. Some 90 percent of the Fortune 500 are BlackBerry customers, according to the company. And some 60 percent are apparently trialling BB10. BlackBerry needs those bulk-buyers to migrate to BB10 and continue pumping money into its coffers. If they abandon ship BlackBerry really will be an adrift ghost ship.

Selling mobile email to corporates is how BlackBerry built its original mobile empire. And selling to corporates is where BlackBerry has had to retrench to now. An army of cheap Androids is sweeping away its other former stronghold: teens. While free, over-the-top messaging apps like WhatsApp have eroded the appeal of BBM (BlackBerry’s licensing of BBM to Android and iOS this summer also feels like too little, too late). Now, with the mid-tier-priced Q5, BlackBerry is apparently hoping to woo those kids back. But the Q5 compromises on target demographic, too.

On the one hand BlackBerry says it’s aiming the Q5 at younger users. But it also cites SMEs and corporates as targets — flagging up the Balance feature that allows segmentation of work and personal content on the device. Little wonder then that, design-wise, the Q5 looks like it’s trying not to be too much of anything, so no one feels like disowning it. If I had to use one word to describe it, it would be generic. Or plasticky. It’s as if it’s been deliberately left as blank as possible to be as inoffensive as possible — to try to appeal to as wide a group as possible. In other words: another compromise.

The other problem BlackBerry has is that corporates are famously conservative about technology upgrades, which explains why it has no plans to sunset BB 7 any time soon. Corporate investments in BES 7 “have to be protected,” as one BlackBerry spokesman put it. Which means the company has to keep supporting BB 7 and producing devices running that last-gen OS for the foreseeable future. Which stymies change, and hampers BB10′s progress as a portion of resources have to go on the old platform.

Plus, if BB 7 devices are still on offer, why should corporates risk the upheaval of upgrading to a device like the Q5? They’ll stick with what they know, and leave this compromise on the shelf. So while BlackBerry youth users are going — or have already gone — elsewhere to check out shinier hardware, its business users are foot-dragging and in no hurry to move on. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. No wonder turning this tanker is so hard.

Pricing will of course play a key role in whether the Q5 sits on shelves or not. The mid-tier is where the largest Android army roams. But carrier tariffs for the Q5 are going to need to be a lot lower than the early EE pricing of £26 a month to be competitive enough to win over consumers. That price is pitting the Q5 against iPhone 4S or Galaxy S3 tariff prices. Which makes BlackBerry’s mid-tier offering a tough sell, whichever tech camp you prefer to sit in.

Regardless of whether this middling handset ends up selling well or not, it may make little material difference to BlackBerry’s prospects. The perception that the mobile maker is now locked in a death spiral will only increase shareholder pressure on the management team, and make acquisition a more likely end. BlackBerry would need to sell an awful lot of Q5s to calm that spin.

Velis Auto Brightness Offers Total Control of Your Screen Brightness

This post is by from Lifehacker

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Velis Auto Brightness Offers Total Control of Your Screen Brightness

Android: We all know that screen brightness has a huge effect on your phone’s battery life, but Android’s built in auto-brightness setting isn’t always accurate, and doesn’t offer anything in the way of customization. Velis Auto Brightness on the other hand oozes customizability, and gives you more control than you could ever need over your screen’s brightness.

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Microsoft’s SkyDrive name at risk in Europe after losing trademark case against broadcaster

This post is by Jacob Kastrenakes from The Verge - All Posts

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A UK court has ruled that Microsoft’s SkyDrive product infringes on a trademark owned by the British Sky Broadcasting Group, which operates under the name Sky. The ruling is valid across the entire European Union and could force Microsoft to pay for use of the SkyDrive name, or in a worst-case scenario, to rebrand the service throughout most of Europe. In part, the ease of confusion between SkyDrive’s cloud services and Sky’s broadband services led the England and Wales High Court to rule in favor of Sky, which holds the the “Sky” trademark for matters of software and digital communications within the EU.

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What Games Are: The Ludophile Mindset

This post is by Tadhg Kelly from TechCrunch

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post


Editor’s note: Tadhg Kelly is a veteran game designer, creator of leading game design blog What Games Are and creative director of Jawfish Games. You can follow him on Twitter here.

There are regular people who like music on their phones and maybe listen to the radio or Spotify. For them, music is just a back track of daily life. Then there are interested people, who like good headphones, pay for a Spotify subscription or attend the occasional concert. Beyond these two groups lie the passionate 5%, the audiophiles. They follow bands, hunt down vinyl records, read blogs or magazines about music and spend serious coin on their habit.

In the games market the picture is surprisingly similar. You have the mildly interested who play free games on their phones and social networks and the moderately interested who buy one gaming machine and a couple of games over a few years. Then you have the self-described gamers, the ludophiles (ludo- as a general term means play). They follow franchises, hunt down retro cartridges, read blogs or magazines about games and spend serious coin on their habit.

What sets them apart is just as interesting. Music fans have no issue with the status of their medium. Music is art, music is cool, music is culture. Gaming fans, on the other hand, have lots of inferiority issues. A key dynamic that recycles is the idea of the game that proves that games are as good as movies. Last year that was The Walking Dead, so far this year it’s The Last of Us.

Another difference is the relationship with technology itself. Audiophiles are very much into both the sound and experience with their music. Formats like vinyl endure because audiophiles believe they sound better (whether they actually do is a question for the ages, but the point is that they believe it). Album art, memorabilia and visibility of collection are also important. History matters. So does the ability to pull out a greatest hit from 40 years and play it. Interoperability is key.

Gaming fans, on the other hand, tend to spend their money on the latest technology and forget interoperability. Backwards compatibility is generally not a strong motivator, with the most-dedicated preferring instead to own dozens of gaming machines and play the games of a certain year on the machines for which they were intended. A bit like if Universal Music Group didn’t just develop talent and publish music, but also made devices that could only play UMG music. Ludophiles are relatively comfortable doing this.

The really interesting thing about the ludophile mindset is the ways in which it doesn’t want games to change. Ludophiles do not like mobile games. They feel pretty ambivalent about tablet games. They regard that kind of future somewhat askance and prefer to cheer for stasis than progress. This is because they buy into the story of the medium itself. Games as a hobby are as much about participating in the story of the medium itself as having fun and playing games. To the true believer games are on an evolutionary path toward somewhere, a final destination of infinite perfection, and this is to be promoted and defended at all costs.

One of my favorite teaser trailers is the one for Halo 3 from 2006. It shows the Master Chief emerging onto a desert scene. He looks to his left and the shot pans out to reveal huge starships moving over to a basin. There is an ominous rumble, cracks appear in the landscape and megalithic doors rise up to reveal a bright light. The light reaches upwards in an awe-inspiring sight before the scene blanks out and we hear the line “This is the way the world ends.”

If you wanted to find a metaphor for how the ludophile views the threat against games, it’s a bit like this. It’s high dudgeon and drama and shouts of glee when changes are averted. The ludophile wants the amazing, the epic and the awesome. The Citizen Kane of gaming. But he also wants a console to be a console, a device with a type of controller that feels like it’s heading toward perfection. He’s not enamored of divergences from the path.

While the world loved the Nintendo Wii, plenty of console gamers always got hung up on its lack of HD. The news that OUYA sold out, that Towerfall is actually rather good, that Google may be working on a microconsole and that GamePop has released a free machine tend to fall on deaf ears. Where many observers like myself think that this interoperable Android-driven approach will yield big returns for the game console in the long run, today’s console gamer is a bit nonplussed. He gets hung up on the fact that Android is for phones, and phone games are “weak” for some reason. The microconsole doesn’t fit the ideal of aiming for perfection. Like the netbook or the tablet, it seems like a big step backward.

And that would all be fine if it seemed that the console sector was a viable market. But I don’t believe it is in the long term. I think it’s merely in a new-hardware exuberant phase, but its overall prognosis is starting to look awfully like the market for record players. There will always be loyalists, but the question becomes whether there are enough of them to really shift the needle.

Ludophiles are a fixed audience with fixed ideas of what the future should be. The perfection they aspire toward feels just out of reach, but it always seems to get closer. The Last of Us, for example, really is breathtaking. But that kind of game is also enormously expensive to develop, and is now at the point where it needs to sell 4 or 5 million copies to prove its viability. The technology required to power these advances is also incredibly expensive, so much so that neither Microsoft or Sony make any money from being in the games business. Nintendo does (well, bar lately) but Nintendo makes all its own content too, so there’s greater scope for margin there.

With the next generation bringing yet more increases on the development spending side (historically, this is what tends to happen), the risks inevitably go up. So do closures, high profile failures and a reduction in diversity. There are not enough ludophiles out there to satisfy that kind of price tag indefinitely, and so decline is inevitable. However decline will not happen dramatically, all at once.

“This is the way the world ends” is taken from TS Eliot’s The Hollow Men. The line that follows it is “Not with a bang, but with a whimper.” Not with the big supernova-esque explosion of ultimate victory and defeat, but with a slow decay. The death by a thousand cuts from phones, tablets, microconsoles, PCs, social networks and wearables. And what’s fuelling that is an end to the power advantage and a large leap forward in convenience.

The other 95%, the regular and the interested, always tend to gravitate toward good-enough rather than perfection, convenience over fidelity. They bought into DVD because it seemed much better than video, but not Blu-ray. They plumbed for digital streaming instead. They bought into HDTV, but not 3DTV, and likely have very little interest in 4KTV. They bought into iPads because they’re much simpler to use than PCs, and don’t care about some of the lost potential that they’ve given up. They prefer to subscribe to Spotify because who has the room to devote acres of wall space to albums. Or books.

And the same is true for games. Tablet gaming may not adhere to the lofty goals of the quest for perfection, but it’s cheap and super convenient. Microconsoles may be powered by relatively underpowered processors but this is only really their first year. 2-3 years down the road they’ll pack enough punch and get their messaging right that they’ll start to sound irresistible to everyone bar ludophiles. What happens when the world realizes that it can play good quality games, complete with game controllers, on its tablets? What happens when we can play games, either casual, deep or anything in between, from our phones and simply stream them to our TVs?

Not with a bang…

What’s a good drink that I can order at just about any bar?

This post is by from Lifehacker

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

What's a good drink that I can order at just about any bar?

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Google Reader goes away tomorrow. Here’s what you need to do now

This post is by Dylan Tweney from VentureBeat

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MobileBeat 2013

July 9-10, 2013
San Francisco, CA

Tickets On Sale Now

You can’t say you haven’t been warned: Google announced in March that it would be shutting down Google Reader, its popular RSS newsfeed reader, on July 1.

That’s tomorrrow, and you won’t be able to access the site after that.

If you’re a Google Reader user, here’s what you need to do.

First, make a backup of your RSS subscriptions. Go to Reader Settings (the gear icon in the upper right of the Reader screen), then click on the Import/Export tab.  Click on the option to export your subscriptions via Google Takeout. You’ll need to re-authenticate with Google. Then choose the services you want to export, select Reader, and click the “Create Archive” button to download a .zip file containing everything.

The most important file in that archive is a file called subscriptions.xml, which is an OPML file you can import into other news readers to recreate your subscriptions list.

Second, find a good RSS newsreader alternative. Feedly has proven to be one of the most popular of the pre-post-Google Reader era, and it’s likely to stick around for awhile, especially since Reader’s demise helped Feedly triple its user base in just three months. It offers a “one-click Google Reader import” button that will import your Google Reader subscriptions without even requiring the archive file you created above.

Other free, web-based newsreaders you might consider are NetVibes and NewsBlur. I’ve also found Skimr useful, although it’s pretty bare-bones, and works better if you’ve got just a handful of subscriptions than it does for massive collections of RSS feeds like the 600+ I have in my files.

Check out some other Google Reader alternatives in our March post.

Third, consider setting up email notifications for your most important RSS feeds. One of the things Google Reader was good at was keeping track of what you’ve read and what you haven’t. That’s not so important for most of the sources in a “river of news,” since you just need to dip in every once in a while to see what’s happening.

But what about RSS feeds where you want to make sure you see every single post, like a competitor’s blog? For these, an automated service like can be indispensable, because it can direct those items into your inbox. You could also use Yahoo’s nearly-forgotten Yahoo Alerts to deliver RSS feeds via email (just click on the Feed/Blog link). Or, check out Feed2Mail, which also mails RSS feeds to you simply and easily.

As an added bonus, emailing an RSS feed into your inbox will make its stories available to you offline, via your mail client’s offline capabilities. That’s something many feed readers don’t offer.

Filed under: Dev, Media


Data Journalism is improving — fast

This post is by Frédéric Filloux from Monday Note

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post


by Frederic Filloux 

The last Data Journalism Awards announced last week at the Global Editors Network News Summit in Paris established one important fact: The genre is getting better, wider in scope and gaining many creative players.

Data Journalism is thriving. This the most salient conclusion from the second edition of the DJ Awards organized by the Global Editors Network and sponsored by Google. I was part of a 20 persons jury, chaired by Paul Steiger, founder of Pro Publica. We had to choose among a short list of 72 projects divided into seven categories: data-driven storytelling, investigation, applications (all three for large and small media), and data-journalism section or website.

Here are some quick personal findings.

#1: Data-journalism is a powerful storytelling tool. The Guardian won the Storytelling Big Media category, with this compelling graphic showing the situation of gay rights for each state of the US. It did so by analyzing a range of stats and administrative rules or laws such as hospital visits, adoption, schools or housing. (In half of US states, gays have no clearly stated rights). On that matter, no story could have spoken more loudly.


In a different way, Thomson Reuters collected another prize for its amazing Connecting China project that looks like a visual LinkedIn for the PRC elite. It’s a huge, 18 months endeavor, built on more than 30,000 connections between Chinese power players.


#2: Data-journalism extends well beyond the usual economical/social topics. One DJA 2013 laureate displayed the explanatory power of good data-journalism. The French site Quoi? explored aspects of the art market. In its Art Market for Dummies (available both in French and in English), Quoi? explains who are the most bankable artists (since 2008, it’s Picasso, Warhol, Zhang Da Qian); it also shows why it is a terribly dead-male-dominated business; and it illustrates the rise of Chinese artists. It’s both entertaining and information-rich.


Another French company, WeDoData collected an award for a great app showing the (terrible) state of female/male parity in France, in a smart, user-friendly package commissioned by France Television.


Another great example of clever data journalism expanding to society issues is the Great British Class Calculator presented by the BBC (it won the Data-driven apps category). The project started with a survey of 161,000 persons, conducted with several universities. This helped define seven social classes ranging from the Elite, to Precarious Proleteriat, or more imaginative New Affluent workers or Technical Middle Class.


#3: Tools can be surprisingly simple. In many instances, data-collection and analysis are performed using relatively simple tools such as large Excel or Google Docs spreadsheets (the latter being excellent at scraping data repositories — just google the terms to find tons of resources on how to use those. The Argentina newspaper La Nación, winner of the Data-driven Investigations Big Media category, explained in its DJA filings how it retrieved 33,000 records showing the expenses of senate members by using sets of Excel macro commands.


For its Art Market for Dummies project, the French multimedia journalist Jean Abbiateci explained how he scraped the ArtPrice database (links are mine):

For scraping data, I used Outwit, a amazing Firefox Add-on. This is very useful to convert a pdf file to an Excel file. I used Google to refine, to clean and merge my dataset. I used the Google API Currency Converter for my uniform monetary values. Finally, I used D3.js and Hichcharts.js. I also reused open source code shared by Minnpost and a software developer called Jim Vallandingham.

The projects mentioned above are just examples. A visit to the GEN Data Journalism section is well worth your time. For once, the digital news sector has fostered a healthy, creative segment, one that relies a lot on small agile companies. I find that quite encouraging.