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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.

 

Twitter To Allow Money Transfer Via Tweets

October 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

One of France’s largest banks is partnering with social network Twitter Inc. to allow its customers to transfer money via tweets.

The move by Groupe BPCE, France’s second largest bank by customers, coincides with Twitter’s own foray into the world of online payments as the social network seeks new sources of revenue beyond advertising.

Twitter is racing other tech giants Apple  and Facebook to get a foothold in new payment services for mobile phones or apps. They are collaborating and, in some cases, competing with banks and credit card issuers that have run the business for decades.

The bank said last month it was prepared to offer simple person-to-person money transfers via Twitter to French consumers, regardless of what bank they use, and without requiring the sender know the recipient’s banking details.

“(S-Money) offers Twitter users in France a new way to send each other money, irrespective of their bank and without having to enter the beneficiary’s bank details, with a simple tweet,” Nicolas Chatillon, chief executive of S-Money,  BPCE’s mobile payments unit, said in the statement.

Payment by tweets will be managed via the bank’s S-Money service, which allows money transfers via text message and relies on the credit-card industry’s data security standards.

BPCE and Twitter declined to provide further details ahead of a news conference in Paris later today to unveil the service.

Last month, Twitter started trials of its own new service, dubbed “Twitter Buy”,  to allow consumers to find and buy products on its social network.

The service embeds a “Twitter Buy” button inside tweets posted by more than two dozen stores, music artists and non-profits. Burberry, Home Depot, and musicians such as Pharrell and Megadeth are among the early vendors.

Twitter’s role to date has been to connect customers rather than processing payments or checking their identities.

 

 

There’s a Glass App For The Hearing Impaired

October 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Georgia Tech scientists have developed an app that creates captions on Google Glass for users who suffer from hearing loss.

A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology developed speech-to-text software for Google’s wearable technology. Using Glass and an Android-based smartphone, the app converts speech to text and displays it on the Glass heads-up display.

“This system allows wearers like me to focus on the speaker’s lips and facial gestures,” said Jim Foley, a professor at Georgia Tech, in a statement. “If hard-of-hearing people understand the speech, the conversation can continue immediately without waiting for the caption. However, if I miss a word, I can glance at the transcription, get the word or two I need and get back into the conversation.”

According to Georgia Tech, the system works by having a hard-of-hearing person wear Glass while the person he’s trying to converse with speaks directly into the smartphone. The speech is converted to text, sent to Glass and displayed on its heads-up display.

“Glass has its own microphone, but it’s designed for the wearer,” said Thad Starner, a Georgia Tech professor and a technical lead for Glass. “The mobile phone puts a microphone directly next to the speaker’s mouth, reducing background noise and helping to eliminate errors.”

The app, called Captioning on Glass, is free and is available at MyGlass.

Google has been focused on expanding its app ecosystem for Glass, adding apps for Facebook, Twitter and CNN.

Google is still working to move Glass from prototype to an official product.

Google offered the eyewear for general sale in May, although Glass still is in beta testing. The company is looking for early adopters, also known as Explorers, while engineers continue to work on the hardware and software, and third parties add to the selection of apps.

Earlier this year, Google executives said they expected Glass to be released later in 2014. However, during the company’s annual developer conference, they stopped estimating release dates and said Glass will be released when it’s ready.

 

 

 

Twitter Files Lawsuit Against Justice Department

October 9, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice, ramping up its battle with federal agencies as the Internet industry’s self-described champion of free speech seeks the right to reveal the extent of U.S. government surveillance.

The lawsuit, which Twitter said follows months of fruitless negotiations with the government, marks an escalation in the Internet industry’s battle over government gag orders on the nature and number of requests for private user information.

In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for Northern California, Twitter said that current rules prevent it from even stating that it has not received any national security requests for user information.

The messaging service said such restrictions violate the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

“This is an important issue for anyone who believes in a strong First Amendment, and we hope to be able to share our complete transparency report,” Twitter said in a blogpost.

Tech companies have sought to clarify their relationships with U.S. law enforcement and spying agencies in the wake of revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that outlined the depth of U.S. spying capabilities.

Twitter’s lawsuit follows an agreement between Internet companies like Google Inc  and Microsoft Corp  with the government about court orders they receive related to surveillance.

The agreement freed the companies to disclose the number of orders they received, but only in broad ranges. A company that offers email services, for example, would be able to say it received between zero and 999 orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court during a six-month period for email content belonging to someone outside the United States.

 

 

Will Facebook Go After PayPal?

October 7, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook could be planning to bake a peer-to-peer payments service into Facebook Messenger, according to some code one user has dug out.

The code was found by Stanford University computer science student Audrew Aude, who tweeted that he had found – and played with – a payment feature in Facebook Messenger, using the iOS and Mac OS X hacking tool Cycript.

If legitimate, Facebook’s mooted Messenger payments service will allow users to send money between friends as easily as it would be to share a photo.

Aude reported on Twitter that “with FB messenger, you attach money just like you attach a photo or a location. You don’t even have to link a bank account.”

Instead, you will put in your debit card number – with Aude noting that there is no option to add a credit card or bank account, nor is there an option to use PayPal – suggesting that Facebook is looking to rival the online payments firm.

It remains to be seen how many of the social network’s users will feel comfortable handing over their debit card information to Facebook.

Aude added that the service allows only person-to-person transactions, despite previous speculation claiming that Facebook’s payments service would allow social networkers to purchase and pay for online goods, adding that there is also the option to send payments to multiple participants.

According to Aude’s findings, the service is likely to be free to use.

He said: “Based on my understanding of the debit interchange rates, each transaction will cost Facebook roughly $0.40 to $0.50 (Durbin swipe fee + ACH fee).

“The app didn’t mention a fee to send, so it’s probably free, at least initially. Over time they might add a $1 fee.”

Speculation about a Facebook payments service has been whirling around the online rumour mill for some time. This escalated in June when Facebook hired ex-president of PayPal David Marcus to take the reins of Facebook Messenger.

Facebook has yet to comment on the speculation.

Courtesy-TheInq

Kuddle, Microsoft To Launch Child Safe Tablet

September 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

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.

 

 

Twitter Wading Into Online Shopping Market With ‘Buy’ Button

September 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter is trying out a new way for its users to purchase digital music and other products through the social networking application, with the goal of making mobile shopping easier, the company said in a blog post.

A “small percentage” of U.S. Twitter users will soon begin to see tweets that will include a “buy” button from some of the company’s partners, group product manager Tarun Jain wrote in the blog post published Monday. The percentage of Twitter users seeing the marketing tweets will grow over time, Jain wrote.

“This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile phones convenient and easy, hopefully even fun,” Jain wrote.

Twitter’s partners in the e-commerce effort include digital marketing companies Musictoday, Gumroad, Fancy and Stripe, Jain said.

The e-commerce test will include products from several musicians, including Brad Paisley, Eminem, Keith Urban, Megadeth, Pharrell Williams and Soundgarden. Other organizations featured will including Burberry, the Home Depot, the Nature Conservancy and DonorsChoose.

 

 

Microsoft Unveils A Re-designed MSN

September 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has unveiled its complete makeover of the MSN portal that now combines easy access to personal productivity tools and content from a large number of providers.

As the company tries to revive MSN, the focus this time is also on top content from the Web instead of offering original content. For the relaunch, the company has signed up with over 1,300 publishers worldwide including The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalYomiuri, CNN and The Guardian.

A “Services Stripe” at the top of the MSN homepage gives users easy access to personal services including Outlook.com email, OneDrive, Office 365 and Skype, as well as popular third-party sites like Twitter and Facebook, according to an online preview launched by Microsoft on Sunday.

The new MSN also provides “actionable information” and content and personal productivity tools such as shopping lists, a savings calculator, a symptom checker, and a 3D body explorer. Readers will have access to content from 11 sections including sports, news, health and fitness, money, travel and video, wrote Frank Holland, corporate vice president of Microsoft Advertising, in a blog post.

The company said it has rebuilt MSN from the ground up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world. The new MSN helps people complete their key digital tasks across all of their devices, wrote Brian MacDonald, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for information and content experiences, in a blog post.

“Information and personalized settings are roamed through the cloud to keep users in the know wherever they are,” MacDonald added. Users worldwide can try out the new MSN preview.

In the coming months, Microsoft plans to release MSN apps across iOS and Android to complement its corresponding Windows and Windows Phone apps. “You only need to set your favorites once, and your preferences will be connected across MSN, Cortana, Bing and other Microsoft experiences,” MacDonald wrote.

Microsoft claims an audience of more than 437 million people across 50 countries for MSN.

MSN.com ranks number 26 among the top sites in the U.S., behind Microsoft’s own Bing site, Google’s search site, YouTube, Facebook and Yahoo’s portal, according to traffic estimates by Alexa.

 

 

Amazon Slashes Fire Phone Price To Less Than $1

September 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon drastically reduced the price of its three-month-old Fire Phone to 99 cents, an obvious attempt to boost slow sales.

The Fire Phone, which originally sold for $649 minus a contract commitment and for $199 with a two-year deal with AT&T, was marked down to $449 without a contract and 99 cents with one.

Amazon spun the dramatic price cut in the best possible light. “Fire is another example of the value Amazon delivers to customers,” said Ian Freed, vice president of Amazon Devices, in a statement Monday.

In fact, by all accounts, the Fire has done poorly. According to data mining done a month ago by ad network Chitika, Fire Phone usage grew only “incrementally” in the device’s first two months. By Aug. 14, Amazon’s phone accounted for just 0.02% of all smartphone-based ad impressions.

Chitika’s number was not a measurement of the number of devices in use, but of the online activity of Fire Phone users: The calculation was best described as “usage share.”

StatCounter, another metrics vendor that also tracks usage share, did not even list Fire Phone in its operating system data for the month of August.

In June, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the Fire Phone, most analysts slammed the pricing, saying that the online retailer needed to do more than simply mimic the competition.

“If the $199 on 2yr contract is all there is to Fire Phone pricing it will be a tough sell,” Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, said on Twitter that day.

“Does the 99-cent price matter? Sure it does. But in the scheme of things, does it help? No, because you still have to have a contract,” Milanesi said in an interview today.

She pointed out that Apple, for example, gives away the iPhone 4S to customers who sign up for a two-year contract with a mobile carrier. The Fire Phone’s “unlocked” price of $449 is also identical to that of an off-contract iPhone 4S.

Amazon missed its chance to make a splash months ago, Milanesi argued. “This price then would have sent a different message,” she said. “It would have made a difference because at the time [mid-June] there was not a lot going on. But to do this the day before Apple announces its new iPhones, and right after Samsung showed off its Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge?”

 

 

Microsoft Updates Bing To Make Search Phrasing Easier

August 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has included some new updates to its Bing search engine that lets you phrase queries in a way that feels more natural.

The company said the new functionality makes using Bing more like “having a conversation.”

It lets you ask questions sequentially that build off each other, so you don’t have to keep repeating the topic you’re asking about.

For instance, if you ask Bing, ”Who wrote Dracula”? “Bram Stoker” pops up at the top of the screen. You can then ask, “Where was he born,” and it gives the answer “Dublin, Ireland.”

Microsoft said it answers the questions by combining “conversational understanding” with its database of knowledge about people, places and things.

It comes as Bing’s largest competitor, Google, is working to make its own search engine better at understanding queries in natural language.

Google also has a conversational search mode that works in a similar way, though currently it only works when doing voice searches in Chrome and in Google’s mobile search app.

Bing’s new feature works well, and you can take the questions far. After asking about Bram Stoker “Where was he born,” you can also ask, “When did he die?” Answer: April 20, 1912. Or, “How did he die?” Syphilis. (But, asking simply “how?” did not work as well.)

In Bing, the feature works on the desktop as well as on mobile devices.

Microsoft has worked to make Bing more useful over the years, partly by integrating a wider range of information from outside sources into results. Data from social sites like Twitter and Facebook plays a part in this, as well as data from services like IMDB and Netflix.

Earlier this year Bing expanded its index of the Web to include more information about professionals like doctors, lawyers and real estate.

With nearly 70 percent market share in the U.S., Google is still by far the dominant player in search, according to comScore. Microsoft’s Bing has just under 20 percent share.

But Bing’s new feature could give it a leg up against Google when it comes to search, at least for now.

 

Chrysler, Nissan Investigating Claims That Cars Are ‘Most Hackable’

August 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Chrysler and Nissan said they are investigating claims  by well-known cyber security experts that lists their vehicles among the three “most hackable” cars on the market, along with a General Motors model.

Computer security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek concluded in the report due to be released later this week that the most hackable models out of 20 reviewed were Chrysler Group’s 2014 Jeep Cherokee, Nissan Motor Co Ltd’s 2014 Infiniti Q50 and General Motors Co 2015 Cadillac Escalade.

The researchers discussed their findings at the Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas, where thousands are gathering to learn about emerging security threats. Safety of vehicles, medical devices and other equipment with embedded computers is a hot topic this year.

“Chrysler Group will endeavor to verify these claims and, if warranted, we will remediate them,” said company spokesman Eric Mayne.

Nissan said in a statement to Reuters that it was reviewing the findings, adding there is “no indication” that the authors tried to exploit any cyber vulnerabilities in the Q50.

General Motors did not respond to requests for comment.

Miller, a security engineer with Twitter, and Valasek, director of vehicle security research at the consulting firm IOActive, said they assessed car safety based on the potential for remote attacks.

They did not test the vehicles themselves but reviewed key criteria, including the number of remote access technologies such as WiFi and Bluetooth that could allow hackers to gain control of systems to manipulate and cause physical damage to the car, the researchers said.

One model from Fiat SpA’s Chrysler Group made the list of the three “least hackable” cars: the 2014 Dodge Viper. It shared that distinction with Volkswagen AG’s 2014 Audi A8 and Honda Motor Corp’s 2014 Accord.

Miller and Valasek cautioned that since they had not actually attempted to hack the cars, the ones designated “most hackable” might actually be quite secure.

They released their assessments of “hackability” to create what they say they believe is the first general benchmarks that consumers could use to compare the cybersecurity of vehicles.

 

 

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.