BlackBerry’s new qwerty Passport smartphone quickly sold out just hours after going on sale online last Wednesday, with another 200,000 back orders waiting in line, BlackBerry CEO John Chen proudly announced.
Chen didn’t indicate how many units were sold online, but said ShopBlackBerry.com sold out the Passport in six hours, with Amazon.com selling iout in 10 hours before customers began leaving online orders that had reached 200,000 as the day it debuted. The device has a price tag of $599 unlocked.
“That’s extremely good receptivity” for Passport, Chen said.
But that wasn’t Chen’s only good news in what he called a “very solid” second quarter that ended Aug. 30 with an earnings loss of $11 million, or 2 cents per share, compared to an 11-cent per share loss the previous quarter. Still, revenues were $916 million for the quarter, down from $966 million in the previous quarter, and well below the $1.5 billion reported for the same quarter a year ago.
Chen predicted profitability for BlackBerry by mid-year 2015, possibly in the first fiscal 2016 quarter that starts in March 2015. “You can see a progressively good trend going forward,” Chen said.
Chen said that large companies, especially in banking and government, are coming back to BlackBerry for its smartphones and BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 software for security and management. They are coming for “stability,” he said.
“The product is broader and deeper and has history with most customers,” Chen added. “I have spoken to many executives and people are very interested in working with us. Our technology works and works well. Governments use it and major banks use it. We’re winning them back — knock on wood, I don’t want to be overconfident — and we’re starting to see that with very big companies.”
He also predicted more interest in BlackBerry once it launches its next operating system, BlackBerry 12, on Nov. 13 at an event in San Francisco.
The company posted a number of successes, including what it called a “normalized” use of cash of $36 million in the recent quarter, compared to $255 million in the prior quarter.
Kuddle, a Norwegian photo-sharing app created for children, plans to roll out a child safe tablet with Microsoft on Dec 1, and expects to sign funding deals with several venture capital firms within weeks, its chief executive said on Monday.
The Oslo-based company said it was on track to reach its goal of one million users by year-end and plans to soon raise another $5 million of fresh funds on top of the nearly $6 million it has already raised.
“We are working with Microsoft on several child safe devices which will be sold on our online store,” Chief Executive Ole Vidar Hestaas said. “The first device will be an Ipad Mini sized tablet prized under $100 that will be ready ahead of the Kuddle Store launch.”
“This is a child friendly device and it is not possible to download games like GTA (Grand Theft Auto) or apps like Snapchat,” Hestaas said.
Kuddle, which bills itself as a rival to Instagram, lets parents monitor what their children publish and keeps access to content restricted, preventing strangers from seeing and sharing pictures. There are no hashtags or comments to prevent online bullying and “likes” are anonymous.
Hestaas said the company also is in talks with Samsung and Microsoft’s Nokia phones unit on similar cooperation, and that it was also working on deals with European telecoms operators Telenor and Vodafone for child safe Kuddle SIM cards to be sold separately or linked up to one of its devices.
The app, which has a target of 1 million users by the end of 2014, is now available in 7 languages. The most significant growth has recently come from Brazil and the US.
Hestaas said he expects to conclude funding deals with several major international venture capital funds within weeks.
The firm’s present investors include Norwegian golf ace Suzann Pettersen.
PS4 is going gangbusters, 3DS continues to impress, Steam and Kickstarter have between them overseen an extraordinary revitalisation of PC gaming, and mobile gaming goes from strength to strength; yet it’s absolutely clear where the eager eyes of most gamers are turned right now. Virtual reality headsets are, not for the first time, the single most exciting thing in interactive entertainment. At the Tokyo Game Show and its surrounding events, the strongest contrast to the huge number of mobile titles on display was the seemingly boundless enthusiasm for Sony’s Morpheus and Oculus’ Rift headsets; at Oculus’ own conference in California the same week, developers were entranced by the hardware and its promise.
VR is coming; this time, it’s for real. Decades of false starts, disappointments and dodgy Hollywood depictions will finally be left behind. The tech and the know-how have finally caught up with the dreams. Immersion and realism are almost within touching distance, a deep, involved experience that will fulfil the childhood wishes of just about every gamer and SF aficionado while also putting clear blue water between core games and more casual entertainment. The graphical fidelity of mobile devices may be rapidly catching up to consoles, but the sheer gulf between a VR experience and a mobile experience will be unmistakeable.
That’s the promise, anyway. There’s no question that it’s a promise which feels closer to fulfilment than ever before. Even in the absence of a final consumer product or even a release date, let alone a killer app, the prototypes and demos we’ve seen thus far are closer to “true” virtual reality than many of us had dared to hope. Some concerns remain; how mainstream can a product that relies on strapping on a headset to the exclusion of the real world actually become? (I wouldn’t care to guess on this front, but would note that we already use technology in countless ways that would have seemed alien, anti-social or downright weird to people only a generation ago.) Won’t an appreciable portion of people get motion sickness? (Perhaps; only widespread adoption will show us how widespread this problem really is.) There’s plenty to ponder even as the technology marches inexorably closer.
One thing I found myself pondering around TGS and Oculus Connect was the slightly worrying divergence in the strategies of Sony and Oculus. A year or even six months ago, it felt like these companies, although rivals, were broadly marching in lock step. Morpheus and Rift felt like very similar devices – Rift was more “hobbyist” yet a little more technically impressive, while Morpheus was more clearly the product of an experienced consumer products company, but in essence they shared much of the same DNA.
Now, however, there’s a clear divergence in strategy, and it’s something of a concern. Shuhei Yoshida says that Morpheus is 85% complete (although anyone who has worked in product development knows that the last 10% can take a hell of a lot more than 10% of the effort to get right); Sony is seemingly feeling reasonably confident about its device and has worked out various cunning approaches to make it cost effective, from using mobile phone components through to repurposing PlayStation Move as a surprisingly effective VR control mechanism.
By contrast, Oculus Connect showed off a new prototype of Rift which is still clearly in a process of evolution. The new hardware is lighter and more comfortable – closer to being a final product, in short – but it’s also still adding new features and functionality to the basic unit. Oculus, unlike Sony, still doesn’t feel like a company that’s anywhere close to having a consumer product ready to launch. It’s still hunting for the “right” level of hardware capabilities and functionality to make VR really work.
I could be wrong; Oculus could be within a year of shipping something to consumers, but if so, they’ve got a damned funny way of showing it. Based on the tone of Oculus Connect, the firm’s hugely impressive technology is still in a process of evolution and development. It barely feels any closer to being a consumer product this year than it did last year, and its increasingly complex functionality implies a product which, when it finally arrives, will command a premium price point. This is still a tech company in a process of iteration, discovering the product they actually want to launch; for Luckey, Carmack and the rest of the dream team assembled at Oculus, their VR just isn’t good enough yet, even though it’s moving in the right direction fast.
Sony, by contrast, now feels like it’s about to try something disruptive. It’s seemingly pretty happy with where Morpheus stands as a VR device; now the challenge is getting the design and software right, and pushing the price down to a consumer friendly level by doing market-disruptive things like repurposing components from its (actually pretty impressive) smartphones. Again, it’s possible that the mood music from both companies is misleading, but right now it feels like Sony is going to launch a reasonably cost-effective VR headset while Oculus is still in the prototyping phase.
These are two very different strategic approaches to the market. The worrying thing is that they can’t both be right. If Oculus is correct and VR still needs a lot of fine-tuning, prototyping and figuring out before it’s ready for the market, then Sony is rushing in too quickly and risks seriously damaging the market potential of VR as a whole with an underwhelming product. This risk can’t be overstated; if Morpheus launches first and it makes everyone seasick, or is uncomfortable to use for more than a short period of time, or simply doesn’t impress people with its fidelity and immersion, then it could see VR being written off for another decade in spite of Oculus’ best efforts. The public are fickle and VR has cried wolf too many times already.
If, on the other hand, Sony is correct and “good enough” VR tech is pretty much ready to go, then that’s great for VR and for PS4, but potentially very worrying for Oculus, who risk their careful, evolutionary, prototype after prototype approach being upended by an unusually nimble and disruptive challenge from Sony. If this is the case (and I’ve heard little but good things about Morpheus, which suggests Sony’s gamble may indeed pay off) then the Facebook deal could be either a blessing or a curse. A blessing, if it allows Oculus to continue to work on evolving and developing VR tech, shielding them from the impact of losing first-mover advantage to Sony; a curse, if that failure to score a clear win in the first round spooks Facebook’s management and investors and causes them to pull the plug. That’s one that could go either way; given the quality of the innovative work Oculus is doing, even if Sony’s approach proves victorious, everyone should hope that the Oculus team gets an opportunity to keep plugging away.
It’s exciting and interesting to see Sony taking this kind of risk. These gambles don’t always pay off, of course – the company placed bets on 3D TV in the PS3 era which never came to fruition, for example – but that’s the nature of innovation and we should never criticise a company for attempting something truly interesting, innovative and even disruptive, as long as it passes the most basic of Devil’s Advocate tests. Sony has desperately needed a Devil’s Advocate in the past – Rolly, anyone? UMD? – but Morpheus is a clear pass, an interesting and exciting product with the potential to truly turn around the company’s fortunes.
I just hope that in the company’s enthusiasm, it understands the absolute importance of getting this right, not just being first. This is a quality Sony was famed for in the past; rather than trying to be first to market in new sectors, it would ensure that it had by far the best product when it launched. This is one of the things which Steve Jobs, a huge fan of Sony, copied from the company when he created the philosophies which still guide Apple (a company that rarely innovates first, but almost always leapfrogs the competition in quality and usability when it does adopt new technology and features). For an experience as intimate as VR – complete immersion in a headset, screens mere centimetres from your eyes – that’s a philosophy which must be followed. When these headsets reach the market, what will be most important isn’t who is first; it isn’t even who is cheapest. The consumer’s first experience must be excellent – nothing less will do. Oculus seems to get that. Sony, in its enthusiasm to disrupt, must not lose sight of the same goal.
Big public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) players may be on the brink of a crisis and are slashing prices while spending billions on building out and staffing their operations.
Steve Brazier, CEO at Canalys has warned resellers to be careful about the financials of their cloud suppliers because he fears a melt-down. He said that millions of dollars has been spent on building out public cloud infrastructure and yet no one in the world is profitable.
Amazon Web Services lost $2bn in the last four quarters, and the parent is forecasting losses of between $410m and $810m this quarter. Talking to the Channels Forum 2014 he said that the economics of the market is “somewhat like” the classic “pyramid scheme”, with providers launching services, making promises around performance, winning more customers, building more data centres, adding technicians, and cutting prices to beat the competition.
Maintaining that approach was only possible if you are getting new customers to sign up faster than your prices are going down. Rackspace, one of the “early pioneers” of public IaaS is trying to exit the sector and beef up its managed services biz.
Oracle has released its version of Openstack for Oracle Linux, its distribution of the Openstack cloud framework integrated with Oracle Linux and Oracle VM Server virtualisation, providing customers with increased choice and interoperability for building cloud infrastructure.
Available as a free download from Oracle’s Public Yum Server and the Unbreakable Linux Network (ULN), Oracle’s Openstack build installs on top of Oracle Linux and allows users to run virtual machines using any guest operating system supported by Oracle VM Server, including Microsoft Windows, Oracle Solaris and other versions of Linux.
The platform was previewed as a beta release in May, but with the general availability of Oracle Openstack for Oracle Linux 1.0, the firm is now providing production Openstack support to Oracle Linux and Oracle VM customers, Oracle said.
While the beta was based on the Havana release of Openstack, the production release is based on the most up-to-date Icehouse release, along with many improvements such as a simplified install process and bug fixes.
Writing on Oracle’s Linux blog Ronen Kofman, director of Product Management for Oracle Virtualization and Openstack, said the firm’s goal is to help develop Openstack into an enterprise grade solution capable of operating an entire data centre running all types of enterprise workloads.
“We would like Openstack to become a first-class solution and the cloud operating system of choice for customers of any size,” he said.
To this end, Oracle’s Openstack build provides high-availability support for Openstack services through Oracle Clusterware, which is included with Oracle Linux Support subscriptions.
Oracle Openstack for Oracle Linux also includes the Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance Cinder plugin, which provides customers with an enterprise-grade storage option and integration with MySQL Enterprise Edition.
This release allows customers to build a highly scalable, multi-tenant infrastructure environment and integrate with the rich ecosystem of plugins and extensions available for Openstack, Oracle said.
Support for Oracle Openstack for Oracle Linux is available as part of the Oracle Linux and Oracle VM Premier Support at no additional cost.
RedHat has announced the Fedora 21 Alpha release for Fedora developers and any brave users that want to help test it.
Fedora is the leading edge – some might say bleeding edge – distribution of Linux that is sponsored by Red Hat. That’s where Red Hat and other developers do new development work that eventually appears in Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and other Red Hat based Linux distributions, including Centos, Scientific Linux and Mageia, among others. Therefore, what Fedora does might also appear elsewhere eventually.
The Fedora project said the release of Fedora 21 Alpha is meant for testing in order to help it identify and resolve bugs, adding, “Fedora prides itself on bringing cutting-edge technologies to users of open source software around the world, and this release continues that tradition.”
Specifically, Fedora 21 will produce three software products, all built on the same Fedora 21 base, and these will each be a subset of the entire release.
Fedora 21 Cloud will include images for use in private cloud environments like Openstack, as well as AMIs for use on Amazon, and a new image streamlined for running Docker containers called Fedora Atomic Host.
Fedora 21 Server will offer data centre users “a common base platform that is meant to run featured application stacks” for use as a web server, file server, database server, or as a base for offering infrastructure as a service, including advanced server management features.
Fedora 21 Workstation will be “a reliable, user-friendly, and powerful operating system for laptops and PC hardware” for use by developers and other desktop users, and will feature the latest Gnome 3.14 desktop environment.
Those interested in testing the Fedora 21 Alpha release can visit the Fedora project website.
Quick law enforcement access to the contents of smartphones could save lives in some kidnapping and terrorism cases, FBI Director James Comey said in a briefing with some reporters. Comey said he’s concerned that smartphone companies are marketing “something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law,” according to news reports.
An FBI spokesman confirmed the general direction of Comey’s remarks. The FBI has contacted Apple and Google about their encryption plans, Comey told a group of reporters who regularly cover his agency.
Just last week, Google announced it would be turning on data encryption by default in the next version of Android. Apple, with the release of iOS 8 earlier this month, allowed iPhone and iPad users to encrypt most personal data with a password.
Comey’s remarks, prompted by a reporter’s question, came just days after Ronald Hosko, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and former assistant director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division, decried mobile phone encryption in a column in the Washington Post.
Smartphone companies shouldn’t give criminals “one more tool,” he wrote. “Apple’s and Android’s new protections will protect many thousands of criminals who seek to do us great harm, physically or financially. They will protect those who desperately need to be stopped from lawful, authorized, and entirely necessary safety and security efforts. And they will make it impossible for police to access crucial information, even with a warrant.”
Representatives of Apple and Google didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments on Comey’s concerns.
BlackBerry Ltd reported a smaller quarterly loss on Friday and is showing encouraging signals about its endangered smartphone business as well as its software and services sales, spurring a more than 4 percent jump in its shares.
The Canadian company, a smartphone pioneer pushed to the margins by Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android software, is now focusing more on software and services than on hardware as it works through a long turnaround.
On the services front, the company reported a huge number of conversions in its second quarter to its heavily promoted new device management platform. But BlackBerry’s hardware unit also offered hopeful news, posting an adjusted profit for the first time in five quarters, helped by lower manufacturing costs and strong demand for its low-end Z3 handsets in emerging markets.
“This is the first time in a long time that we have actually made money on hardware,” Chief Executive John Chen told reporters, while hinting at plans to unveil new phones at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2015. “We think we can continue on that track, so hardware is no longer going to be a drag to the margin and the earnings.”
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company’s revenue in North America rose from the previous quarter, but sales slipped elsewhere. Its total revenue was down more than 40 percent from a year earlier.
“They’re taking all the right steps, which is great. It’s encouraging to see,” said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis. “Now we’ve got to see what Chen can do about the revenue decline.”
BlackBerry shares were up 5.2 percent at C$11.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange and up 4.6 percent at $10.26 on Nasdaq.
General Motors Co has named an engineer to serve as its first cybersecurity chief as the No. 1 U.S. automaker and its rivals are starting to focus on how to better secure their vehicles against hackers.
The No. 1 U.S. automaker promoted manager Jeff Massimilla to the post as part of an eight-month review of its product design and engineering, said GM Vice President of Global Product Development Mark Reuss.
“If you look at the technology…as we put semi-autonomous and autonomous systems into vehicles, we have to be able to look at this at a very very critical systems level and do it defect-free for the customer,” Reuss said. “So that’s the competitive advantage we’re trying to really put in place for General Motors.”
Vehicles rely on tiny computers to manage everything from engines and brakes to navigation, air conditioning and windshield wipers. Security experts say it is only a matter of time before malicious hackers are able to exploit software glitches and other vulnerabilities to try to harm drivers.
Security researchers in recent years have uncovered vulnerabilities in those systems that they say make cars susceptible to potentially dangerous attacks.
For example, at last year’s Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek exposed methods for attacking the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape. In August of this year they published a list of the world’s “most hackable” cars.
A group of well-known hackers and security professionals in August sent an open letter to GM and other automakers asking them to implement basic guidelines to defend cars from cyber attacks.
The non-profit group, known as “I am the Calvary” has suggested that carmakers adopt a five-part cyber-safety program to make their products less susceptible to attacks by hackers.
Egil Juliussen, an analyst with IHS Automotive, said that the move reflects the increasing importance of cybersecurity to the industry.
When Titan first came to light in 2007, most people assumed it would be Blizzard’s next big thing, ultimately taking the place of World of Warcraft which was likely to see further declines in the years ahead. Fast forward seven years, WoW clearly has been fading (down to 6.8 million subs as of June 30) but Blizzard has no MMO lined up to replace it, and that fact was really hammered home today with the surprise cancellation of Titan. In fact, the developer stressed that it didn’t want to be known as an MMO company and one may not be in its future. Cancelling the project this late in the game may have cost Blizzard several tens of millions of dollars, analysts told GamesIndustry.biz.
“Development costs for Titan may have amounted to tens of millions, perhaps $50 million or more. This is not an unusual event, however. Blizzard has cancelled several games in various stages of development in the past. Costs for unreleased games can be significant, but launching substandard games can harm the reputation of a successful publisher such as Blizzard. Expenses for development can be considered R&D, and benefits can include invaluable training, IP and technology that can be applied to other games,” explained independent analyst Billy Pidgeon.
Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter estimated an even higher amount lost: “My guess is 100 – 200 people at $100,000 per year, so $70 – 140 million sunk cost. It’s pretty sad that it took so long to figure out how bad the game was. I expect them to go back to the drawing board.”
Indeed, the market has changed considerably in the last seven years, and while MMOs like EA’s Star Wars: The Old Republic struggle to find a large audience, free-to-play games and tablet games like Blizzard’s own Hearthstone are finding success. Blizzard has no doubt been keenly aware of the market realities too.
“As far back as 2013, they had already stated Titan was not likely to be a subscription-based MMORPG. This is consistent with a market that is increasingly dominated by multiplayer games that are either free to play or are an expected feature included with triple-A games such as Call of Duty. Titanfall and Destiny sold as standalone games supplemented by paid downloadable add-ons. Blizzard maintains very high standards of quality, so expectations will be steep for new franchises as well as for sequels,” Pidgeon continued.
DFC Intelligence’s David Cole agreed, noting that after seven years of development in an industry where trends and technologies change at a rapid pace, Blizzard simply had to pull the plug on Titan.
“They realized that unless a big MMO is out-of-this-world unbelievable it won’t work in today’s market where it competes against a bunch of low cost options. If they felt that it just wasn’t getting to that point it makes sense to cut your losses,” he noted. “Also, you see games like League of Legends and their own Hearthstone which are doing very well on a much lower budget.”
“For Blizzard, I am expecting to see them continue to focus on high quality products but also focus on products with shorter development cycles and less cost. The market is just not in a place where you can have games with 7+ year development. It is changing too fast.”
For most developers, junking a seven-year long project would instantly spell turmoil, but thankfully for Blizzard, it’s part of the Activision Blizzard behemoth, which has a market cap of over $15 billion and, as of June 30, cash and cash equivalents of over $4 billion on hand. It’s a nice luxury to have.
Fiberlink, an IBM company, manages millions of mobile devices for businesses worldwide through the MaaS360 platform. The company said today that a study of data from 2013 revealed that, on average, businesses wipe 10% to 20% of their entire device population every year.
Everyone wipes. Fiberlink’s data showed businesses from every vertical and size are clearing data from mobile devices to address security concerns.
Remote mobile data wipe capability has become a controversial, if not de facto, standard among corporate privacy policies and is a key feature offered by mobile device management (MDM) platforms. Even cloud storage service providers are offering the capability today.
Corporate attitudes toward bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are often poorly formed and can, in general, fall into one of three categories: There’s no official BYOD policy, devices are banned or no one talks about it.
As more companies embrace BYOD and the lines continue to blur between personal and professional use, companies are finding new ways to balance security concerns with employee productivity. One method is to have employees agree to a remote wipe policy, which can sometimes mean personal data on the phone is lost as well.
One method of dealing with the sensitive personal data that employees don’t want deleted is “dual persona” mobile devices, or smartphones and tablets that run two separate mobile operating systems that allow disparate instances.
Dual-persona capability allows businesses to lock down corporate data on one OS, while allowing users to take advantage of whatever apps they want to run on the other “personal” OS.
According to Fiberlink’s study of its own clients, 63% of devices are partially wiped and 37% are fully wiped.
Additionally, 49% of wipes are done automatically and 51% are done by someone at the organization.
The most common reasons for automatic wipes are because devices have been jailbroken or because companies are enforcing enrollment and application compliance policies, Fiberlink’s data showed.
We attended the first ever Oculus Connect conference, the beats and chatter of a cocktail reception just next door, Max Cohen is being brutally honest about the company’s mobile-based virtual reality headset.
“I can spend ten minutes talking about the problems with this device. We’re not afraid of them,” the VP of mobile says with a smile.
“It overheats if you run it too long. It is 60 Hertz low persistence, which means some people will notice flicker. The graphical quality is obviously a lot less than the PC. Battery life is a concern. There’s no positional tracking.
“We could try to say this is the be-all end-all of VR. We’d be lying. That’s a bad thing. We would hurt where we can get to the be-all end-all of VR. Everyone, Samsung, Facebook, Oculus, we’re all aligned with making a damn good product that we put out in the market and then working on improving it. Really soon, maybe even sooner than you think, we’ll get to that amazing VR experience for everyone.”
“Samsung, Facebook, Oculus, we’re all aligned with making a damn good product”
Cohen’s talking about the Gear VR, the Samsung backed headset that offers a more portable and accessible entry into the virtual reality world for developers and users alike. It’s John Carmack’s passion project at the company and clearly it’s Cohen’s too.
“The first thing they did was to put me in the HD prototype with the Tuscany demo. I was floored, of course,” he remembers.
“Then I got to see the Valve room and then he showed me this mobile project. It was running on a Galaxy S4 at the time. It crashed a little bit. There were a lot of problems with it, but I just thought this was so amazing. I went back and was talking to a friend of mine who’s an entrepreneur. He said it’s rare that you have the opportunity to work on transformational hardware, and that’s really what this was.”
The story of the Gear VR is a simple one; Oculus went to the Korean company hoping to work with them on screens for the PC-based Rift and found Samsung had been working on a headset you could simply slide a Samsung Galaxy phone into to experience virtual reality. Now the companies are working together on both devices, with Samsung fielding calls from Carmack on a regular basis.
“It’s a collaboration. It’s not we tell them what to do or they tell us what to do,” Cohen continues. “We’re the software platform, so when you put that on, you’re in Oculus, but that wouldn’t be possible without maximizing the hardware. Carmack and our team works very closely with their engineering team. They make suggestions about UI as well. We’re working together to make the best possible experience. If it wasn’t collaborative, this thing just honestly wouldn’t function because this is really hard to do.”
The focus of Oculus Connect isn’t the media or sales or even recruitment, but developers. Supporting them, showing them the technology, offering them advice on the new territory that is virtual reality. Cohen, like everyone else I speak to at the weekend, believes developers and their content is absolutely key to the success of the hardware.
“At the end of the day, we want to make the developers’ lives as easy as possible so they can make cool content.”
“Facebook invested in the platform. They didn’t buy it. What they did is they’re also committing money to make sure it’s successful on an ongoing basis”
That content will be supported by an app store, and Cohen wants it to be a place where developers can make a living, rather than just a showcase of free demos. Jason Holtman, former director of business development at Valve, is overseeing its creation.
“We’re going to launch initially with a free store, but maybe a month later, follow along with commerce,” says Cohen.
“At the end of the day, as great as doing the art for free and sharing that is, we will have a hundred times more content when people can actually monetize it. This is a business. There’s nothing wrong with that. People need to be able to feed themselves. Our job is to make the platform as friendly for developers as we can so that it’s painless. You don’t have to worry about a bunch of overhead.”
There’s a sense that the Facebook money, that headline-grabbing $2 billion, has given the team the luxury of time and the chance to recruit the people they need to make sure this time virtual reality lives up to its promises. Other than that, Facebook seems to be letting Oculus just get on with it.
“That’s the thing… a lot of people, with the Facebook acquisition, asked how that would impact us and the answer is it hasn’t, in terms of our culture, and Facebook’s actually supportive of the way Oculus is because we know that content makes or breaks a platform,” says Cohen.
“They invested in the platform. They didn’t buy it. What they did is they’re also committing money to make sure it’s successful on an ongoing basis. We could have continued to raise a lot of venture capital. It would have been very expensive to do it right. Now we have replaced our board of directors with Facebook, but that’s completely fine. They are helping us. They are accelerating our efforts.”
No one at Oculus is talking about release dates for consumer units yet, and Cohen is no different. It’s clear that he and the team are hungry for progress as he talks about skipping minor updates and making major advances. He talks about “awesome” ideas that he’s desperate to get to, and pushing the envelope, but what matters most is getting it right.
“I think everyone understands that with a little bit more magic, VR can be ubiquitous. Everyone needs it. I think a lot of people understand what we need to do to get there, but it takes hard work to actually solve those things. Oculus and Facebook have lined up the right team to do it, but I want us to actually have time to do that,” says Cohen.
“We’re not trying to sell millions now. We’re trying to get people and early adopters, tech enthusiasts and all that interested in it.”
The one-time smartphone industry pioneer recently concluded a three-year long restructuring process and has largely halted the bleed, but it is now up to Chief Executive John Chen to prove that the company’s new devices and services are capable of generating sustainable new streams of revenue and returning it to profitability.
“BlackBerry is still fighting for survival. They still need to turn around and develop a viable ongoing business model,” said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello.
“Their products are certainly pointing toward that and the new strategy makes sense, but there is still a lot of execution risk at this point in a very competitive market.”
BlackBerry debuted the Passport on Wednesday in Toronto, with simultaneous events also held in London and Dubai.
The launch of the Passport, which boasts a big square screen and a unique touch-sensitive tactile keyboard, will kick off a frenzied spell for Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry. The company is set to report fiscal second-quarter results on Friday and within a couple of months it is also expected to launch the long-awaited BlackBerry Classic, which bears similarities to its once wildly popular Bold smartphone.
“BlackBerry just needs one hit phone for now,” Colello said. “It doesn’t quite matter whether it is the Passport, the Classic or anything else, but they do need one device to jump-start the hardware business again. The big question really is whether any of these devices will kick-start it.”
The company is hoping the Classic and the launch of its new mobile device management system – BlackBerry Enterprise Service 12 (BES12) – will help it claw back ground ceded to rivals in both the hardware and services market.
The BES 12 platform will allow IT managers at large firms and government agencies to not only manage and secure BlackBerry devices, but also all Android, iOS and Windows-based devices on one platform.
Chen, a well-regarded turnaround expert in the tech sector, intends to remain a competitor in the smartphone arena, but is focused on reshaping the company to build on its core strengths in areas like mobile data security and mobile device management.
The New York based company provides a software development kit (SDK) tool for mobile applications that offers developers a customisable photo editor that can be embedded into apps on iOS, Android, Windows and web applications using HTML5.
Aviary, which claims to have had more than 100 million downloads to date, announced the news on its website, saying that the deal will allow it to extend its technology and tools not only to Aviary app users but also to users of thousands of other creative mobile apps.
“Together we will build and connect the next generation of creative applications,” said Aviary CEO Tobias Peggs in a blog post.
The acquisition came about due to the rather convenient location of Aviary’s headquarters very close to the offices of Behance, which joined Adobe 18 months ago and is now a base for Adobe’s Creative Cloud offering. The two firms got to talking and realised they shared interests.
Peggs knew Behance co-founder Scott Belsky, who now serves as Adobe’s VP of products and community. Talks between the two lead to the deal, as it became obvious that the companies both “shared a strong vision for mobile creativity” and should join forces to “accelerate combined efforts and better serve even more app developers”.
Belsky said the Aviary team will play “a crucial role” helping build and connect the next generation of creative applications.
“This acquisition is both a complement and an accelerant to our vision for mobile creativity. As a company serving the creative world, Adobe has a responsibility to remove friction from the creative process and enable the creative world to create in new and remarkable ways,” he said.
Peggs said that the Aviary and Adobe teams have already begun brainstorming what they can do, hinting that they will continue to support and enhance Aviary’s SDK as part of Adobe’s broader Creative SDK portfolio.
“While ensuring no interruption to Aviary’s developer community, or their apps’ users, we plan to add additional components and services for developers to incorporate – such as the ability to save creations to Creative Cloud in Adobe file formats, access Photoshop technology, and connect creativity across devices using the Creative SDK,” he explained.
The deal is likely to see Adobe develop better mobile graphics editing software products like Photoshop.
Instead of using keys, authorisation algorithms take place at a cloud level doing away with the need for on-premises encryption systems that are prone to denial of service attacks.
Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, Cloudflare has not revealed its existing client list, but it said that Goldman Sachs has been among the companies piloting and trialling service.
The service has been in private beta for the past six months and the company claims that new users can be up and running with the service in a matter of hours, making an entire tier of on-premises hardware redundant at a stroke.
In a statement to Newsfactor, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said, “Keyless SSL is designed to allow companies that had previously needed to use on-premise hardware to now get the infinite scalability and infinite elasticity of a cloud service. The primary competitor to the technology is hardware you install yourself to perform firewall, load balancing, performance optimization, and other functionality. Unfortunately, that on-premise software suffers from limitations when organizations need it to scale.”
The advent of cloud-based keyless SSL could prove useful to a wide range of businesses from financial institutions to government departments.
The issue of SSL security was highlighted earlier this year with the discovery of the Heartbleed vulnerability, which affected an unprecedented proportion of online services causing a stampede to patch them before hackers could capitalise on the discovery.
The upshot of the Heartbleed incident was the creation of the Core Infrastructure Initiative, a consortium from the industry, which actively maintains the SSL standard at a level it had not seen previously.
Meanwhile some organisations have created their own forks of SSL, including the recently relaunched LibreSSL and Google’s in-house boring SSL.