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Twitter Pressed To Release Diversity Data

July 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is urging Twitter to release its employee diversity information, which its Silicon Valley peers such as Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Facebook have already done.

The Rainbow Push Coalition, founded by Jackson, has also asked Twitter to signal its commitment to inclusion by hosting a public community forum to address the company’s plan to recruit and retain more African American talent.

The coalition and black empowerment group, ColorOfChange.org, plans to launch a Twitter-based campaign to challenge the company, the coalition said in a statement late last week.

On Friday at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit, ColorofChange will lead a “Black Twitter” plenary session where activists will push out the petition campaign over Twitter and other social media.

Tech companies have been under pressure to release employee diversity data since Jackson took up the campaign to highlight the underrepresentation of African-Americans in Silicon Valley companies, starting with a delegation to Hewlett-Packard’s annual meeting of shareholders.

“….Twitter has remained silent, resisting and refusing to publicly disclose its EEO-1 workforce diversity/inclusion data,” according to the joint petition by the coalition and ColorOfChange.org.

The diversity reports are typically filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and companies are not required to make the information public.

Twitter has not commented on the matter.

 

 

Google’s Growth Will Be In A Shift To Mobile

July 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google Inc  is the more properly positioned than any company to benefit from the shift to mobile, increased local advertising and wearables, analysts said after the search giant posted its 18th straight quarter of 20 percent-plus revenue growth.

At least eight brokerages raised their price targets on the stock on Friday by as much as $75, to a high of $745.

The company, which is also set to benefit from the so-called “internet of things”, said that second-quarter revenue rose 22 percent to $15.96 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $15.61 billion.

Growth was driven by the company’s core search business, YouTube and product-listing ads, which combined to drive three times as much mobile traffic for merchants compared with last year, Jefferies analysts wrote in a note.

Brokerage Jefferies maintained its “buy” rating and $700 price target on the stock.

Of the 46 analysts covering Google, 36 have a “buy” or a higher rating on the stock and 10 have a “hold”. There are no “sell” ratings, according to StarMine data.

Google earns most of its revenue from advertising.

The number of “paid clicks” by consumers on ads serviced by Google increased 25 percent year-on-year in the quarter.

However, the average price of the ads declined 6 percent as ad rates on mobile phones are typically cheaper than traditional online ads because of their smaller screens.

“Google is successfully transitioning its business from PC to mobile, and is arguably in a more favorable position in mobile than it was in PC, which should eventually be reflected in a higher multiple,” Deutsche Bank analyst Ross Sandler wrote in a client note.

Google also owns Android, the world’s most-used mobile software, and YouTube, the most popular video-streaming service.

Other online companies such as Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc  are also revamping their advertising businesses to take advantage of the shift to mobile devices.

But Google has established unusually deep competitive “moats” around its business through scale, aggressive product innovation and substantial investment, RBC Capital Markets analysts wrote in a research note.

Google’s capital investment budget has topped $17 billion over the past five years, and the company has spent about $13 billion on research, according to analysts.

The company is also spending big to push into new markets with innovations such as wearable computers, ultra high-speed internet access and home automation – the “internet of things.”

 

 

Google Ends Real-name Requirement For Google+

July 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google+ may attract some new — and certainly anonymous — users after Google announced it was abolishing its real-names policy for the profiles in the service.

Since its introduction, Google’s social network has required that people use their real names in Google+ profiles, as part of an effort to help other people find them through the service.

“You need to provide both your first and last name for your Google+ profile,” the guidelines said. One could be an initial, but not both.

While that may have been a good idea for some, Google conceded Tuesday that it has also excluded people who don’t want to use their real name.

Google’s policy of trying to tie YouTube users’ accounts to their Google+ accounts has also sparked criticism among people who want to leave YouTube comments, or otherwise use the service, more anonymously.

For those reasons and others, Google said Tuesday that on Google+ there were no longer restrictions on the names people could use.

“We know you’ve been calling for this change for a while,” the company said in a blog post. The names policy has led to “unnecessarily difficult experiences” for some users, Google said, adding, “for this we apologize.”

In online comments on the Google+ page, people applauded the change. Others said it was too little, too late, or questioned whether it would lead to more spamming or cyberbullying behind the cloak of a fake name.

“Translation: It’s safe to come out and play again comment trolls,” one person wrote.

To clean up YouTube comments, Google overhauled the commenting system last year, to push “better quality” comments higher up. But shortly after making the changes, Google reported an increase in spam.

 

Get Ready For More Ads On Twitter

July 2, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Get ready to see  see more ads on your Twitter feed that link to mobile apps in the Apple and Google stores.

After a test period, Twitter said that it was globally deploying its “mobile app installs” program, which allows companies to promote their mobile apps in users’ feeds.

Twitter began testing the program with a limited number of advertisers in the U.S. in April — tests that the company says went well. Participants in that program included mobile ride-hailing service Lyft and games publisher Electronic Arts.

The program lets companies publish links to download mobile apps. These ads are meant to appear like regular posts in users’ feeds.

Mobile app ads have become very successful for Facebook, helping to drive the download of roughly 60 percent of the top-grossing apps in Apple’s App Store, according to Facebook.

Twitter, for its part, is looking to better monetize its service amid sagging user growth. The company has yet to turn a profit.

Twitter already lets advertisers target their ads by users’ interests, keywords, favorite TV programs, language and other criteria.

Advertisers promoting their mobile apps will be able to leverage those capabilities too, Twitter said.

 

 

Aereo’s Future Uncertain After Supreme Court Defeat

July 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Following last Wednesday’s adverse Supreme Court decision, Aereo will halt its online service, which lets its subscribers watch “over the air” broadcast television via the Web.

“We have decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps. All of our users will be refunded their last paid month,” wrote CEO Chet Kanojia in a letter to customers posted on Aereo’s home page.

Kanojia, who advised customers with questions to contact the company via email at support@aereo.com or via its @AereoSupport Twitter account, also encouraged them to stay involved with the company’s legal fight on the website ProtectMyAntenna.org. “Our journey is far from done,” he wrote.

Aereo rebroadcasts over-the-air television through antenna farms, but the Supreme Court ruled that the web-based video streaming service violates the copyrights of TV networks and sent the case back to the lower courts.

Aereo infringes on the performance right section of copyright law because it sells subscribers a service that lets them watch TV programs over the Internet at “about the same time” they’re broadcast over the air, wrote Justice Stephen Breyer for the 6-3 majority.

Aereo, which was sued for copyright infringement by ABC, CBS and other broadcast TV networks, argued that it rents each subscriber an antenna and a DVR service, and that they individually choose which programs to watch. Unlike cable and satellite TV services, which pay royalties to some networks, Aereo does not give thousands of people access to the same TV show at the same time, Aereo had argued.

The Supreme Court reversed an April 2013 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which had determined that the Aereo service was legal because the company uses several legal technologies, including mini TV antennas, DVRs and a Slingbox-like streaming service.

In his letter, Kanojia called the Supreme Court’s decision “a massive setback for consumers.”

“The spectrum that the broadcasters use to transmit over the air programming belongs to the American public and we believe you should have a right to access that live programming whether your antenna sits on the roof of your home, on top of your television or in the cloud,” he wrote.

 

Dominos Pizza Customers Data Stolen, Threatened With Exposure

June 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Cybercriminals have stolen data on more than 600,000 Dominos Pizza Inc customers in Belgium and France, the pizza delivery company said, and an anonymous Twitter user threatened to make the data public unless the company pays a cash ransom.

Customer names, delivery addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and passwords were taken from a server used in an online ordering system that the company is in the process of replacing, Dominos spokesman Chris Brandon said.

He said he did not know if the stolen passwords had been encrypted.

A Tweet directed at Domino’s customers through an account of somebody listed as “Rex Mundi” said hackers would publish the customer data on the Internet unless the company pays 30,000 euros ($40,800), according to an article in The Telegraph.

The Rex Mundi account was later suspended.

Brandon said he was not familiar with the ransom demands, but that the company would not be making any such payment.

Domino’s Vice President of Communications Tim McIntyre said the hacking was “isolated” to independent franchise markets of Belgium and France, where the company’s online ordering system did not collect credit card orders, so no financial data had been taken.

“This does not affect any market outside of France and Belgium,” he said via email. “The site has been secured.”

Domino’s has some 11,000 stores worldwide, including 229 in France, 24 in Belgium and about 5,000 in the United States.

 

Twitter User Base To Grow By 24% This Year

May 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter users are expected to increase by 24.4% this year to over 227 million with double-digit growth expected to continue through 2018 when the number of users will be nearly 400 million, according to a report.

The US will continue to be the country with the largest number of individual Twitter users through 2018, according to an eMarketer report . But its share of users, currently at 20%, will drop over the years and give Twitter the opportunity to grow its advertising revenue from outside the U.S.

The Asia-Pacific region increased its share of the number of Twitter users to 30.5% in 2013 in comparison to 26% for second-place North America. High growth countries in Asia-Pacific were Indonesia and India with 76.3% and 68.8% growth, respectively.

The research firm said its estimates are based on how many individual users log in or access Twitter each month within the calendar year. It said its figure differs from Twitter’s reported figure for users because it uses consumer survey data to remove business accounts, multiple accounts for individual users and other sources of potential double-counting.

Twitter reported average monthly active users (MAUs) were 241 million as of Dec. 31, which increased to 255 million at the end of the first quarter.

The figure for Asia-Pacific does not include China which blocks Twitter, although users still access the social networking site using virtual private networks.

By 2018, the share of the Asia-Pacific region is forecast to reach 40.1%, eMarketer said.

India and Indonesia are forecast to have the third and fourth-largest base of Twitter users in the world in 2014, with about 18 million and 15 million users, respectively.

The popularity of Twitter and other social media in India was reflected in the extensive use of these tools during the recently concluded federal elections in the country. The new prime minister Narendra Modi uses Twitter and Facebook frequently to communicate to literate users and has over 4.4 million followers on Twitter.

 

Is Far Cry Playing With Fire?

May 23, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

In the Far Cry games, fire is a wonderful tool. It spreads dynamically, opening up a wealth of creative and strategic possibilities for players to achieve their goals. However, it also gets out of control in a hurry, potentially coming back to hurt the player in sometimes unpredictable ways.

It’s an appropriate metaphor for the series’ approach to controversial subject matter. Last week, Ubisoft announced the development of Far Cry 4, showing off some key art in the process. The picture depicts a blonde light-skinned man in a shiny pink suit against the backdrop of the Himalayas, smirking as he uses a defaced statue as a throne. His right hand rests on the head of a darker skinned man who is kneeling before him, clutching a grenade with the pin pulled. Though we know very little about the characters depicted, their backgrounds, or their motivations, the art got people talking (and tweeting). Some were concerned about racism. Others were worried about homophobia. Many saw neither. At the same time, details about the game are so scant that it’s entirely possible the problematic elements here are properly addressed within the context of the game itself.

But at the moment, we don’t have that context. It’s promotional art, so to a certain extent, it’s designed to exist out of context, to catch the eye of someone on a store shelf, even if they’ve never heard of the series before. And while we lack the context the actual game would provide, there’s no such thing as “without context.” Here, the context we have is that this is a Far Cry game, the latest entry in a series that has been earning a reputation for boldly storming into narrative territory where other games fear to tread (often with good reason).

Like the fire propagation mechanic, this narrative ambition was introduced to the series with Far Cry 2. What had previously been just another shooter (albeit one in a tropical setting more attractive than most) became a series that embedded its stories within thorny issues. Far Cry 2 cast players as a mercenary in a fictitious African country’s prolonged civil unrest, using blood diamonds, malaria, and Western imperialism as texture in a story emphasizing the moral vacuum of war. Far Cry 3 took things a step further, with players controlling a spoiled rich white kid on a tropical island vacation who suddenly must deal with nefariously swarthy pirates and intentionally stereotypical natives. And just in case that didn’t stir up any controversy, the story also weaves in rape, sex, drugs, and torture. In both cases, some critics and players felt the games offensively trivialized important or tragic subjects.

Given this history, it’s not surprising that Far Cry 4 would not universally receive the benefit of the doubt. Much more surprising (to me, at least) is that Ubisoft is continuing down this path with the franchise. Far Cry 3 sold a staggering 9 million units, putting it in the same class of blockbuster as Assassin’s Creed (last year’s version of which sold 11 million units). However, the publisher’s narrative approach to the two games could not be more different.

Assassin’s Creed is a fascinating case study for dealing with touchy subjects in AAA video games. It wasn’t long after the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq that work on the first Assassin’s Creed started. You know, the one set in the middle of a holy war between Christians and Muslims. Assassin’s Creed II had players attempt to assassinate the pope. Assassin’s Creed III put players in control of a Native American protagonist during the Revolutionary War. Assassin’s Creed IV: Freedom Cry saw the gamification of emancipation.

The Assassin’s Creed franchise draws some criticism from time to time for its handling of these subjects, but the series has rarely found itself at the flashpoint of controversy. Part of the reason for that is the Assassin’s Creed developers research their subjects thoroughly. They understand what the concerns surrounding the sensitive topics are, and by virtue of the games’ historical settings, they can point to factual evidence of certain people’s actions, or common situations of each era.

When it comes to dealing with controversy, Assassin’s Creed is much like its stealthy protagonists are imagined to be: quiet, cautious, and efficient. Far Cry, on the other hand, deals with these topics more like the way Assassin’s Creed protagonists behave when I play them: recklessly uncoordinated and endlessly destructive. Even when it’s clear Far Cry’s developers have put plenty of thought into what they’re saying, it’s not always clear they’ve put much thought into what people will hear them saying through their games.

It speaks volumes about how Ubisoft perceives the long-term value of the two series. Assassin’s Creed is the company’s biggest and most adaptable blockbuster, an annual gaming event based on a premise that can be mined and iterated on endlessly in almost any medium, a recurring revenue stream to be nurtured over time. Far Cry, this key art release suggests, is just another first-person shooter, a brand defined primarily by how hard it works to shock people, perhaps because the company doesn’t have faith that it can sell on its other merits. One of them is the kind of project you make a Michael Fassbender film around. The other might be more of an Uwe Boll joint.

I’m not saying that Far Cry should avoid these subjects. I actually love to see games of all sizes attempting to tackle topics and themes often ignored by the industry. But the right to explore those subjects should come with a responsibility to do so with care. These are legitimately painful subjects for many people. If developers want to force players to confront them, they should have a good reason for it that goes beyond pushing people’s buttons, exploiting tragedy for shock value and an early preorder campaign. In video games, we don’t push buttons for the sake of pushing buttons. We push them to do things.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Social Media Titan Twitter Still Unprofitable

May 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter has reported impressive sales figures for the first quarter, but its net loss grew substantially compared to last year.

Total revenue for the period ended March 31 was roughly $250 million, Twitter stated, more than double the $114 million recorded for the same period in 2013. Twitter’s sales topped analysts’ consensus estimate of $241 million, as polled by Thomson Reuters.

“We had a very strong first quarter,” said Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in the company’s announcement. “Revenue growth accelerated on a year over year basis fueled by increased engagement and user growth.”

However, Twitter hasn’t managed to turn a profit since it became a public company. The company reported a net loss of more than $132 million for the quarter, nearly quintupling the loss of roughly $27 million reported for the year-ago period.

The company’s earnings per share loss was $0.23, a tad worse than a loss of $0.21 reported last year. On a pro forma basis, excluding share-based compensation and other adjustments, Twitter broke even, beating analysts’ expectations of a loss of $0.03 per share.

Twitter’s stock was down to $38.30 in after hours trading, down considerably from its $42.62 Tuesday close.

Twitter, like Google and Facebook, makes the bulk of its money from advertising — $226 million for the quarter, up 125 percent. The lion’s share of its advertising — 80 percent in the first quarter — comes from mobile.

To continue growing its ad revenue, Twitter needs to attract more users and increase the time they spend using the service. As a public company, Twitter is under pressure to make its service more accessible to a mainstream audience.

The company in recent months has tried to address this, partly through cosmetic changes like redesigning user profile pages and making photos more prominent in people’s streams.

Twitter is making progress in this area, but not very rapidly. Compared to the same period last year, Twitter grew its monthly active users by 25 percent, to 255 million. But compared to the fourth quarter of 2013, Twitter grew its monthly active users sequentially by less than 6 percent.

On mobile, Twitter now has 198 million monthly active users — a 31 percent increase, the company said.

 

 

Mobile Payments Square In Trouble, Seeks Buyer

April 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Square Inc has been having discussions with several rivals for a possible sale as the mobile payments startup hopes to stem widening losses and dwindling cash, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The company spoke to Google Inc earlier this year about a possible sale, the Journal reported, adding that it wasn’t clear whether the talks are continuing.

Square, founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey, co-creator of Twitter Inc, will likely fetch billions of dollars in a sale. Square insiders sold shares earlier this year on the secondary market, valuing the company at roughly $5.2 billion, the Journal said.

The company recorded a loss of about $100 million in 2013, the Journal said, adding that the startup has consumed more than half of the roughly $340 million it raised from at least four rounds of equity financing since 2009.

Square makes credit card readers that slot into smartphones such as Apple Inc’s iPhone.

Square also had informal discussions about a deal with Apple

and eBay Inc’s PayPal in the past, but those conversations never developed into serious talks, the Journal said.

A spokesman for Square told the Journal that the company never had acquisition talks with Google. The report also quoted a PayPal spokesman as saying that the company did not have acquisition talks with Square.

Square, Google, Apple and eBay were not immediately available for comment.

 

 

Reddit Going After More Users, Advertisers With New Feature

April 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Reddit, a website with a retro-’90s look and space-alien mascot that tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As, is trying to attract even more followers, and advertising, by allowing members of its passionate community to post their own news more quickly and easily.

Reddit, majority owned by Conde Nast parent Advanced Publications, last month unveiled a new feature that lets users of the nine-year-old site post live updates, allowing them to report in real time.

The live updates allow selected users, dubbed “reporters” by Reddit, to instantly stream unlimited posts during the course of an event such as the conflict in the Ukraine, an earthquake in Los Angeles, or a game played in real time, without having to refresh the page.

The capability is still in testing mode. So far only users selected on a case-by-case basis can create a live thread. The feature has attracted attention. For example, live threads linked to “Twitch plays Pokemon,” in which users of the Twitch website played an old Nintendo game, garnered 2 million page views in 30 days.

“Reddit members are doing amazing things with very minimal tools and were hitting some barriers,” said Erik Martin, general manager.

Martin, who said the site is not yet profitable and declined to give specific revenue figures, added: “We want to give people a more powerful way to make updates.”

Reddit’s move toward enabling users to fluidly update is the latest move in a battle between social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to use news to engage users, and attract more ad dollars.

Before, Reddit users could not update in real time. The new feature is similar to how people instantly send tweets but keeps the updates together through one thread or “subreddit.”

Reddit, which also gets revenue through e-commerce, has ramped up efforts of late to attract more advertisers. Next week, it plans to unveil city and country targeting capabilities that allow advertisers to address users by geographic market.

One recent ad, specific to Reddit, featured the actors Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray, stars of the movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” as individual threads.

Some 62 percent of Reddit users get their news through the platform while about half of all Facebook and Twitter users do the same, according to a recent report on the State of the News Media from the Pew Research Center.

“Reddit is all about the community, that is the value they brought to the site as they created it,” said Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, who has been following Reddit since it was founded.

“News has always been really important to Reddit,” she said.

Reddit has more than 114 million unique visitors worldwide and has doubled its traffic in 12 months, said Martin. Facebook has more than 1 billion users and Twitter has more than 240 million.

 

Twitter Unveils Redesign Of User Profile Pages

April 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc has revealed a redesign of its user profile pages, the latest in a series of steps promised by the company to bring new users to the seven-year-old service.

In response to an all-time low in user growth figures during the recent quarter, Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo informed worried Wall Street analysts that the company would make a number of changes to freshen up the service.

The redesign, while mostly cosmetic, hinted at what Costolo described in February as a willingness to experiment with new ways to organize content. Users can now “pin” a tweet to stay at the top of their feed, a rare instance of Twitter departing from the continuously rolling format that has defined the service.

Tweets that have received more re-tweets or replies will also appear slightly larger to spur more user engagement.

The new layout, which will be available to a small group of users initially, will be widely deployed to Twitter’s 241 million users in the coming weeks, the company said.

Twitter reported higher-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue on February 6, but investors focused on user growth of just 3.8 percent, the lowest rate of quarter-on-quarter growth since Twitter began disclosing user figures. The San Francisco-based company went public in November.

In recent weeks, Twitter has also reportedly been testing a number of new advertising units, such as ads that include download links for mobile apps.

As part of Tuesday’s refresh, Twitter said users will also be allowed to select a large banner picture to display across the top of their profile page, as well as a much larger profile picture, two features that resemble another social network familiar to most of the world’s Internet users: Facebook.

 

Chicago Sun-Times To Accept Bitcoins For Subscription Payments

April 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The Chicago Sun-Times has agreed to accept bitcoins as payment for subscription, becoming the first major U.S. newspaper to take the digital currency.

The paper’s goal is to keep evolving with changing technology, and accepting bitcoin payments is one way it is trying to stay digitally focused, Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk said in a release.

The Sun-Times has a “digital-first” strategy that led it to experiment with a bitcoin paywall for a one-day period in February.

It had partnered with San Francisco-based micropayments startup Bitwall so readers could donate bitcoin or tweets on Twitter to benefit an organization called the Taproot Foundation, which pairs professionals with nonprofit groups for pro bono work.

“We were encouraged by our paywall experiment in February,” Kirk said in an interview over Twitter. “We believe there is an opportunity here to expand our readership with Bitcoin.”

The Chicago Sun-Times claims 6 million unique monthly online readers. It was the eighth-largest U.S. newspaper by total average circulation in March 2013, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, an advertising and content provider industry group.

For its print and digital subscriptions, the newspaper is working with Coinbase, a bitcoin wallet service also based in San Francisco. In a blog post, Coinbase said that content providers such as the Sun-Times are one of the early leaders in getting merchants to adopt the cryptocurrency.

In January, Bitcoin-related news sites reported that Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad was planning to accept bitcoin as a payment method for individual articles. A Reddit poster, claiming to be a webmaster for the paper, said the new payment method was being implemented step by step.

Although Bitcoin has been overshadowed by allegations of fraud and hacker attacks such as in the collapse of Japan-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, content providers and bloggers are turning to the digital currency in part because it’s a cheaper means of moving payments around, with transaction fees which can be lower than 1 percent.

 

Americans Concerned About Personal Privacy Erosion, Says Survey

April 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The personal data gathering abilities of Google,Facebook and other technology giants has sparked growing unease among Americans, with a majority worried that Internet companies are encroaching too much upon their lives, a new poll showed.

Google and Facebook generally topped lists of Americans’ concerns about the ability to track physical locations and monitor spending habits and personal communications, according to a poll conducted by Reuters/Ipsos from March 11 to March 26.

The survey highlights a growing ambivalence towards Internet companies whose popular online services, such as social networking, e-commerce and search, have blossomed into some of the world’s largest businesses.

Now, as the boundaries between Web products and real world services begin to blur, many of the top Internet companies are racing to put their stamp on everything from homeappliances to drones and automobiles.

With billions of dollars in cash, high stock prices, and an appetite for more user data, Google, Facebook, Amazon and others are acquiring a diverse set of companies and launching ambitious technology projects.

But their grand ambitions are inciting concern, according to the poll of nearly 5,000 Americans. Of 4,781 respondents, 51 percent replied “yes” when asked if those three companies, plus Apple, Microsoft and Twitter, were pushing too far and expanding into too many areas of people’s lives.

This poll measures accuracy using a credibility interval and is accurate to plus or minus 1.6 percentage points.

“It’s very accurate to say that many people have love-hate relationships with some of their technology providers,” said Nuala O’Connor, the President of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet public policy group which has received funding from companies including Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

“As technology moves forward, as new technologies are in use and in people’s lives, they should question ‘Is this a fair deal between me and the device?’”

Fears about the expanding abilities of tech companies crystallized when Google acknowledged in 2010 that its fleet of StreetView cars, which criss-cross the globe taking panoramic photos for Google’s online mapping service, had inadvertently collected emails and other personal information transmitted over unencrypted home wireless networks.

Yet many Americans remain ignorant of the extent to which Internet companies are trying to extend their reach.

Google is one of the most aggressively ambitious, investing in the connected home through its $3.2 billion acquisition of smart thermostat maker Nest. Google is also investing in self-driving cars, augmented-reality glasses, robots and drones.

Almost a third of Americans say they know nothing about plans by Google and its rivals to get into real-world products such as phones, cars and appliances. Still, roughly two thirds of respondents are already worried about what Internet companies will do with the personal information they collect, or how securely they store the data.

 

GameStop Boots Spawn Labs

April 1, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

In April of 2011, GameStop acquired streaming tech firm Spawn Labs because cloud gaming was the future. Today, the retailer announced it had closed Spawn Labs because cloud gaming is still the future.

Speaking with GameSpot today, the retailer’s vice president of investor relations Matt Hodges said cloud gaming isn’t a good fit for today’s consumers.

“While cloud-based delivery of video games is innovative and potentially revolutionary, the gaming consumer has not yet demonstrated that it is ready to adopt this type of service to the level that a sustainable business can be created around it,” Hodges said.

For the time being, GameStop’s cloud gaming business will be focused on selling subscription cards for programs like PlayStation Now through its retail locations.

Beyond the closure, the specialty retailer also reported its fourth quarter and full-year financial results this morning. The launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 reinvigorated the console market, helping to drive sales and profits growth.

For the year ended February 1, total revenues were up nearly 2 percent to $9.04 billion. At the same time, the company returned to the black, turning the previous year’s $269.7 million net loss into a $354.2 million net profit. The company also underlined the growth of its digital and mobile business, which brought in more than $1 billion for the year.

The fourth quarter saw sales rise more than 3 percent to $3.68 billion, with net income slipping nearly 16 percent to $220.5 million. Those figures include goodwill and asset impairment charges of $28.7 million, “primarily due to the closure of Spawn Labs and store asset impairments.”

GameStop also released its first outlook for the current fiscal year and its first quarter. For the full year, the retailer is expecting total sales to be up 8 to 14 percent, with a net income between $398 million and $433 million. For the current quarter, it has projected year-over-year sales growth between 7 and 10 percent, with profits between $64 million and $70 million.

Courtesy-GI.biz