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IBM Unveils Verse, New Enterprise Email Product

November 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

IBM is going up against cloud-app juggernauts Google and Microsoft with its next generation e-mail client, called Verse, designed to enrich email with social media and analysis.

“We felt we could leverage analytics to build an experience that understands your priorities,” said Jeff Schick, general manager of IBM social solutions, of the app that launched as a private beta on Tuesday. “We had the opportunity to reduce clutter and create priority, and to help people be more efficient in how they master their inbox.”

The company plans to offer Verse in the first quarter of 2015 as a hosted service though the IBM Cloud Marketplace. IBM will also issue apps for both iOS and Android that can access all the same features as the desktop browser version.

“They are addressing known problems, inbox clutter, prioritization and the ability to access different modes of communication, from an integrated user experience,” Rob Koplowitz, research analyst at Forrester who covers collaboration software, wrote in an e-mail.

IBM first announced the new e-mail software in January, under the working name of Mail Next.

Like IBM’s Notes e-mail client, Verse relies on the IBM Domino e-mail server. Unlike Notes, which was built on a client-server architecture, Verse is entirely Web-based. Going forward, IBM will encourage customers to use Verse as an enterprise email client, except for those organizations that have built their own applications on Notes’ Eclipse-based development platform, Schick said.

The company did not reveal pricing of Verse, other than state it will offer a no-cost “freemium” version that would be available for individual users. A version of the software that can be run on-premise will be released later in 2015.

 

 

Snapchat To Offer Mobile Payments Service

November 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Mobile messaging company Snapchat is rolling out a new service that wil allow users to send money to each other, in a partnership with online payments company Square.

The service, dubbed Snapcash, allows Snapchat users to link their debit cards to their account and quickly send money to a contact by starting a chat on a smartphone, typing in a dollar sign and an amount and hitting a green button, Snapchat explained in a post on its official blog.

The move marks the latest sign of expansion plans for Los Angeles-based Snapchat, which lets users exchange photos that automatically disappear after a few seconds. The company has been valued at $10 billion in its most recent fundraising effort, according to media reports, and is considered a growing threat to Web companies including Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc.

“We set out to make payments faster and more fun, but we also know that security is essential when you’re dealing with money,” Snapchat said in the post.

The company said that debit card information will be stored by Square and that Square will process the payments, transferring money between bank accounts. Snapchat said that Snapcash is available in the United States for users aged 18 and above.

 

 

Intel Goes Upscale With New MICA Bracelets

November 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Soon to be released bracelets with technology from Intel Corp and design cues from fashion brand Opening Ceremony will connect the wearer with Facebook, Google and Yelp via an AT&Tdata plan,no smartphone necessary.

Called My Intelligent Communication Accessory, or MICA, the snakeskin bracelets are aimed at fashion-conscious women and are an attempt by the two companies to stand out in a growing field of often-clunky smartwatches and fitness brands that have yet to catch on widely with consumers.

“We really approached this first and foremost about why would a woman want to wear this everyday, and how can it be incorporated into her wardrobe,” Humberto Leon, creative director at Opening Ceremony, said in a phone interview last week.

As well as lapis stones, obsidian and an 18k gold coating, the devices include a sapphire curved screen on the inside of the wrist that displays text messages, calendar items and events from Google and Facebook, and recommendations of nearby restaurants and stores from Yelp.

After Intel was late to smartphones and tablets in recent years, Chief Executive Brian Krzanich has been determined to make sure the top chipmaker is at the forefront of future trends in mobile computing.

Krzanich gave the green light for the chipmaker to develop the bracelet with Opening Ceremony after his wife wore a prototype for several days and liked it, he recently said.

Incoming alerts discreetly vibrate the bracelet instead of making a noise. Its $495 price tag includes a two-year data plan with AT&T, which means it does not rely on a smartphone for connectivity, as do most smartwatches, the companies said in a press release.

As well as working with Opening Ceremony, Intel in March bought fitness bracelet maker Basis Science and it has teamed up with watch retailer Fossil Group to develop other wearable computing devices.

 

Has Google Glass Reached The End Of The Line?

November 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

After two years of showing up at high-profile events wearing Google Glass, the gadget that transforms eyeglasses into spy-movie worthy technology, Google co-founder Sergey Brin arrived recently to a Silicon Valley event noticeably bare-faced. He’d left his pair in the car, Brin told a reporter. The Googler, who heads up the top-secret lab which developed Glass, has hardly given up on the product — he recently wore his pair to the beach.

But Brin’s timing is not propitious, coming as many developers and early Glass users are losing interest in the much-hyped, $1,500 test version of the product: a camera, processor and stamp-sized computer screen mounted to the edge of eyeglass frames. Google Inc itself has pushed back the Glass roll out to the mass market.

While Glass may find some specialized, even lucrative, uses in the workplace, its prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers say.

Of 16 Glass app makers contacted by Reuters, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects.

Plenty of larger developers remain with Glass. The nearly 100 apps on the official web site include Facebook and OpenTable, although one major player recently defected: Twitter.

“If there was 200 million Google Glasses sold, it would be a different perspective. There’s no market at this point,” said Tom Frencel, the Chief Executive of Little Guy Games, which put development of a Glass game on hold this year and is looking at other platforms, including the Facebook Inc-owned virtual-reality goggles Oculus Rift.

Several key Google employees instrumental to developing Glass have left the company in the last six months, including lead developer Babak Parviz, electrical engineering chief Adrian Wong, and Ossama Alami, director of developer relations.

 

 

 

Microsoft Rolls Out Skype For Web

November 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft announced that it is launching a beta of Skype for the Web, allowing browser-based video chats that don’t require a separate app.

“We’ve made Skype available on computers, mobile phones, TVs and even games consoles,” wrote Jonathan Watson, Skype product marketing manager for Microsoft, in a blog post. “Expanding to different platforms has helped us grow to over 2 billion daily minutes (that’s over 33 million hours) of voice and video calls…. Now, not only can Skype be used on just about any screen you lay your hands on, but you can also enjoy Skype on a browser.”

Skype for Web, which is expected to roll out in the coming weeks, will be available via Internet Explorer, Chrome on Windows, Firefox or Safari.

“If you already use Skype, go to Skype.com and sign in to see all your contacts and latest conversation history,” wrote Watson. “We’re making Skype for Web available to small number of existing and new users to begin with, and gradually rolling out worldwide in the coming months — look out for an invite when you sign in to your Skype account on Skype.com.”

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said this is a good move for Microsoft because it opens Skype up to more users in more places.

“The requirement to have a client means one might not always be able to use Skype,” he said. “For example, if I’m on a shared computer, say in an airport, I can’t use Skype…. Maybe I can’t get on the airport Wi-Fi, but there’s a public Internet terminal or I might want to use a friend’s computer. But with Skype Web, now I can. So now Skype can be pervasive across all devices, not just ones that I happen to own.”

 

 

 

Yahoo Adds Another Purchase, Acquires BrightRoll

November 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo has agreed to purchase the video advertising platform BrightRoll for $640 million, in a move that could help to offset declines in its traditional display ad business.

The deal was announced on Tuesday and is one of Yahoo’s largest acquisitions since it bought Tumblr last year for just over $1 billion.

Yahoo already runs video ads on properties like Yahoo Screen, but BrightRoll’s system gives marketers a way to buy ads in real time across thousands of websites and mobile apps.

“Online video advertising is increasingly fragmented across thousands, if not millions, of sites and mobile apps,” the companies said. Advertisers want ways to buy video ads at scale and across many sites in fewer, simpler transactions.

The deal is expected to close by March and will make Yahoo’s video advertising platform the largest in the U.S., they said.

Yahoo has struggled to grow its ad business and compete better against Google and Facebook. It may have made some progress lately, reporting in its earnings call last month that its native ads are doing well on mobile.

It’s been struggling in the area of traditional display ads on the desktop, however. But it contended Tuesday that video ads are the new display advertising.

“Video is display 2.0,” CEO Marissa Mayer said in a post on Tumblr.

“Its what brand advertisers love. Its a format that elegantly and easily transitions from broadcast television to PC to mobile and even to wearables,” she said. “This is why video is a key part of our strategy.”

It can also replace the branded banner ad, according to Mayer.

Digital video advertising is increasing at “an eye-popping rate,” eMarketer said recently, although spending on TV ads still outpaces it.

BrightRoll’s revenues are expected to exceed $100 million this year, Yahoo said. The company expects to retain its team of roughly 400 employees.

 

 

 

Facebook Claims Half Billion People Now Using Its Messenger App

November 12, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook’s Messenger is now one of the most used mobile messaging apps around the world, with more than 500 million people signing in monthly, according to the social media giant.

“This is an exciting milestone,” said Peter Martinazzi, Facebook’s director of product management, announcing the stat. Facebook’s main app has around 1.35 billion users; Facebook-owned WhatsApp has at least 600 million users. WeChat, owned by China’s Tencent, has at around 438 million users, as of this past August.

Facebook reached its milestone, however, as it angered users along the way. The company began requiring people to download Messenger for mobile chat several months ago, drawing criticism from those who didn’t want to download a separate app for messages. Before that, Messenger had roughly 200 million monthly users, the company previously reported in April.

Facebook’s Messenger is now one of the most used mobile messaging apps in the world, with more than 500 million people logging in monthly, the company said Monday.

“This is an exciting milestone,” said Peter Martinazzi, Facebook’s director of product management, announcing the stat. Facebook’s main app has around 1.35 billion users; Facebook-owned WhatsApp has at least 600 million users. WeChat, owned by China’s Tencent, has at around 438 million users, as of this past August.

Facebook reached its milestone, however, as it angered users along the way. The company began requiring people to download Messenger for mobile chat several months ago, drawing criticism from those who didn’t want to download a separate app for messages. Before that, Messenger had roughly 200 million monthly users, the company previously reported in April.

 

 

 

Is Blackberry Messenger Trying to Emulate SnapChat?

November 4, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Blackberry has added a Snapchat-style self-destructing message feature to BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), which it boldly claims makes it “unlike any other chat app out there today”.

Despite having pulled the feature straight out of Snapchat, BlackBerry is claiming that BBM’s new Timed Messages feature, allowing people to choose when messages expire, makes the service like no other.

BlackBerry said in a blog post: “With today’s BBM update we’re incredibly excited to introduce a number of new features that will deliver the best BBM experience yet.

“At the centre of this release are new privacy features that allow customers to take control over the messages and content that they share, so they can communicate with more discretion and freedom than ever before.

“We have been testing these features with customers over the last few weeks and the feedback has been incredible.

“They’re telling us that Timed Messages and Message Retraction add a whole new dynamic to BBM unlike any other chat app out there today.”

Message Retraction allows BlackBerry users to yank messages that they feel they might later regret.

The updated app also brings a new Sticker Picker making it quicker to add stickers to messages, along with an HD Image Transfer feature, and Discover Music, which allows users to see what their BBM contacts are listening to.

BlackBerry failed to mention what operating systems the update will arrive on, but we have asked the firm to elaborate.

However, BlackBerry suggested that the update will come to iOS, Android and Windows Phone users, as well as BlackBerry.

“It may take 24 hours or more for the update to appear in your app store depending on your mobile platform and region,” the firm said.

Courtesy-TheInq

Facebook Comes To TOR, The Anonymity Network

November 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook has made its site directly available on Tor to prevent access problems for user on the anonymity network and to provide an alternative method of accessing the social network securely.

People who have a Tor-enabled browser will be able to access Facebook via https://facebookcorewwwi.onion/, Facebook software engineer Alec Muffett said in a post to the social network.

Tor, an acronym for The Onion Router, is software designed to offer users better privacy when browsing the Internet. It routes traffic through a network of worldwide servers in order to mask the user’s location. The system is widely used by people who don’t want to reveal their real IP address while browsing and it is also used by people to access services that are blocked by governments in some countries.

Facebook also allows access to the site via HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) and other technologies designed to give people more confidence that they are connected securely to the social network.

However, the way Tor works sometimes poses a problem for Facebook and its users, said Muffett.

“Tor challenges some assumptions of Facebook’s security mechanisms — for example its design means that from the perspective of our systems a person who appears to be connecting from Australia at one moment may the next appear to be in Sweden or Canada. In other contexts such behavior might suggest that a hacked account is being accessed through a ‘botnet,’ but for Tor this is normal,” he said.

The setup of Facebook’s security infrastructure has sometimes led to unnecessary hurdles for people who connect to Facebook using Tor. To make the user experience better for Tor users, the site has been made available with an “onion” address.

A quick glance around Facebook on Tor showed no obvious differences with the regular Facebook site, though it was a bit slower, probably due to traffic routed through a couple of relays. Facebook expects the service “to be of an evolutionary and slightly flaky nature.”

“Facebook’s onion address provides a way to access Facebook through Tor without losing the cryptographic protections provided by the Tor cloud,” Muffett said, adding that the idea is that the .onion address lets people connect to Facebook’s Core WWW Infrastructure. It provides a direct connection from the browser into a Facebook data center.

 

 

 

IBM, Twitter Teaming Up On Data Analytics

October 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

International Business Machines Corp (IBM) on Wednesday announced a collaboration with Twitter to aid in business decisions using data collected from tweets worldwide.

IBM will help businesses predict trends in the marketplace and consumer sentiment about products and brands and will train 10,000 employees to consult businesses on the best use of Twitter data.

IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty has been trying to shift the 100-year-old company’s focus away from commoditized hardware to higher-value cloud and data analytics products.

In July, IBM announced a partnership with Apple Inc to offer iPads and iPhones loaded with applications geared toward enterprise clients.

“Here we are seeing an alignment of old tech and new tech companies. It is the second such deal that IBM has announced in the last couple months. They realize they don’t have all the answers and a lot of other companies have asset offerings that can be matched well,” said Scott Kessler, analyst at S&P Capital IQ in New York.

In April, Twitter acquired social data provider Gnip to burrow into the 500 million tweets sent daily on its network.

Enterprise clients will now be able to filter the data based on geography, public biographical information and the emotion expressed in the tweet.

The company previously allowed third-party companies such as Gnip, Datasift and Dataminr to buy access to tweets and re-sell that data to corporate clients.

 

Facebook Debuts ‘Rooms’ App For Chats

October 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is going old school, with a stand-alone app for discussion boards geared towards allowin users to talk about shared interests without having to use their real names.

The company released Rooms on Thursday, its answer to the craze around posting and sharing anonymously. People can use any name they want and don’t need a Facebook account. The app contains rooms geared around various topics, all of which require an invite link to enter. Providing an email address is optional, for the purposes of having accessed rooms restored if the user deletes the app.

The app is only available on iOS. Plans for other platforms like Android or Windows Phone were not disclosed.

The app is not just about anonymity. With it, Facebook hopes to provide a discussion board-type platform where users can chat about shared interests outside of their usual social circles. It’s a concept that has been super popular since, oh, the web’s been around.

“One of the magical things about the early days of the web was connecting to people who you would never encounter otherwise in your daily life,” Facebook said in a statement Thursday.

“From unique obsessions and unconventional hobbies, to personal finance and health-related issues — you can celebrate the sides of yourself that you don’t always show to your friends,” the company said.

But the app’s ability to succeed likely depends on the number and diversity of rooms created by its users, and whether the app’s focus on visuals and photos appeals to them. There’s also no desktop version.

The app was developed as part of Facebook’s Creative Labs project, which has also released stand-alone apps like Slingshot and Paper.

Facebook stresses that Rooms will let users create a unique identity separate from their Facebook account. Your name can be “Wonder Woman” in the app, Facebook said.

I tried out the app, and was even able to use “Mark Zuckerberg” as my name. (A short “hello” post of mine then immediately generated several “high fives.”)

Facebook, however, may share information about Room users within the companies and services operated by Facebook, which would include Facebook itself and other apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, according to the Rooms terms of service.

 

 

Twitter Launches Fabric SDK

October 24, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Twitter has introduced Fabric, a modular mobile platform that the firm claims will make it easier for developers to build great apps.

Twitter is looking to embrace the developer community after having alienated it in 2012 when it tightened API rules governing third-party app developers.

The company said during its first developer conference that Fabric is a ‘modular mobile platform’, or developer toolkit, which brings together tools and services from a mixture of outfits already under the Twitter wing.

This will make it easier to build, integrate and monetise applications, according to the firm.

“Fabric was built with ease of use in mind. Installation takes just minutes, and most features only require a few lines of code – so you spend less time managing SDKs and more time building the best experience for your users,” Twitter said.

“It combines the services of Crashlytics, MoPub, Twitter and others to help you build more stable apps, generate revenue through the world’s largest mobile ad exchange, and tap into Twitter’s sign-in systems and rich streams of real-time content for greater distribution and simpler identity.”

The Introducing Fabric blog post leans heavily on the system’s ease of use, claiming that the modular kits can be installed and set up in minutes.

Developers can choose from a range of modular kits depending on how they want to use them. They do not need to have an obvious benefit to Twitter, it seems, and the MoPub kit offers tools for ad placement in apps.

The Crashlytics Kit is designed to help developers strip bugs out of applications and limit the number of times they crash. It should also help improve usability.

“In just the past 30 days, Crashlytics identified over 5.5 billion crashes. And beyond just identifying them, Crashlytics is able to isolate the root cause down to the exact line of code, reducing the time it takes for you to fix the bug and submit an update,” said Twitter.

“The Fabric Crashlytics Kit – Crashlytics, Beta and Answers – helps you ship high-quality, stable apps and gives you a 360-degree, always-on picture of the health of your app.”

The move is a real change for Twitter which traditionally had a hands-off relationship with third parties and would cut off their access to its APIs.

When Twitpic closed down in September the firm blamed Twitter for its demise.

“Twitter contacted our legal [department] demanding that we abandon our trademark application or risk losing access to their API,” said Twitpic founder Noah Everett at the time.

“This came as a shock to us since Twitpic has been around since early 2008, and our trademark application has been in the USPTO since 2009.

“Unfortunately we do not have the resources to fend off a large company like Twitter to maintain our mark which we believe whole heartedly is rightfully ours. Therefore, we have decided to shut down Twitpic.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Pandora’s Listeners Decline

October 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Pandora Media Inc, owners of the leading Internet radio service, reported a lower-than-expected increase in listeners in the third quarter, sending the company’s shares down 6 percent in extended trading on Thursday.

Pandora said it had 76.5 million active listeners as of Sept. 30, an increase of 5.2 percent from a year earlier.

Analysts, on average, had expected 76.7 million, according to market research firm StreetAccount.

Total listener hours rose to 4.99 billion from 3.99 billion, but again fell short of the average estimate of 5.02 billion.

Pandora’s profit and revenue both beat market expectations, however, as more people listened to streamed music on their mobile phones.

Mobile revenue increased 52 percent to $188 million, while local advertising revenue rose 118 percent to $41.8 million.

Despite its huge user base, Pandora faces stiff competition from Spotify, Apple Inc’s Beats online streaming service, Google Inc, and Amazon.com Inc in the fast-growing music streaming business.

 

 

Will Google’s Algorithm Change Stop Piracy?

October 22, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Nosey Google has updated its search engine algorithms in an attempt to restrict piracy web sites appearing high in its search rankings.

The update will mean piracy sites are less likely to appear when people search for music, films and other copyrighted content.

The decision to roll out the search changes was announced in a refreshed version of a How Google Fights Piracy report, which was originally published in September 2013.

However, this year’s updated report features a couple of developments, including changes to ad formats and an improved DMCA demotion search signal.

The move is likely to be a result of criticism received from the entertainment industry, which has argued that illegal sites should be “demoted” in search results because they enable people to find sites to download media illegally.

The biggest change in the Google search update will be new ad formats in search results on queries related to music and movies that help people find legitimate sources of media.

For example, for the relatively small number of queries for movies that include terms like ‘download’, ‘free’, or ‘watch’, Google has instead begun listing legal services such as Spotify and Netflix in a box at the top of the search results.

“We’re also testing other ways of pointing people to legitimate sources of music and movies, including in the right-hand panel on the results page,” Google added.

“These results show in the US only, but we plan to continue investing in this area and to expand it internationally.”

An improved DMCA demotion signal in Google search is also being rolled out as part of the refresh, which down-ranks sites for which Google has received a large number of valid DMCA notices.

“We’ve now refined the signal in ways we expect to visibly affect the rankings of some of the most notorious sites. This update will roll out globally starting next week,” Google said, adding that it will also be removing more terms from autocomplete, based on DMCA removal notices.

The new measures might be welcomed by the entertainment industry, but are likely to encourage more people to use legal alternatives such as Spotify and Netflix, rather than buying more physical media.

Courtesy-TheInq

Twitter To Allow Users To Stream Music

October 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc  will allow users to play podcasts, music and other audio clips direct from their timelines, or message feeds, by using a  new feature designed in partnership with Berlin-based audio-streaming service SoundCloud.

The online messaging service introduced what it dubbed “Audio Card,” through which users can listen to a variety of content whilst browsing their timelines.

For starters, Twitter has promised audio from SoundCloud’s partners, which include such diverse sources as NASA, the Washington Post, CNN, David Guetta, Coldplay and Warner Music.

But it’s trying to snag more content partners in future, Twitter said in a recent blog posting.

Twitter didn’t say how Audio Card might evolve, except to stress that it offers musicians a chance to post exclusive clips.

“Many more musical artists and creators will be able to share exclusive, in-the-moment audio to millions of listeners on Twitter,” the company added.

Twitter’s new feature comes after rivals from Apple Inc to Google Inc have jumped into the business of music-streaming, considered the fastest-growing segment of a music market dominated by iTunes.

Twitter had reportedly been in discussions to acquire audio-sharing website SoundCloud, which has been called the Youtube of music, as far back as June.