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Will EA Mimic Mobile Developers?

July 9, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Late last year, Frank Gibeau switched roles at Electronic Arts, moving from president of the PC and console-focused EA Labels to be the executive vice president of EA Mobile. Speaking with GamesIndustry International at E3 last month, Gibeau said he was enticed by the vast opportunity for growth in the mobile world, and the chance to shape the publisher’s efforts in the space.

“One of the things I enjoy doing is building new groups, new teams and taking on cool missions,” Gibeau said. “The idea was that EA is known as a console company, and for our PC business. We’re not particularly well known for our mobile efforts, and I thought it would be an awesome challenge to go in and marshal all the talent and assets of EA and, frankly, build a mobile game company.”

It might sound a little odd to hear Gibeau speaking of building a mobile game company at EA. After all, he described EA as “the king of the premium business model” in the mobile world not too long ago, when the company was topping charts with $7 apps like The Sims 3 or raking it in with paid offerings like Tetris, Monopoly, or Scrabble.

“Two years ago, we were number one on feature phones with the premium business model,” Gibeau said. “Smart devices come in, freemium comes in, and we’re rebuilding our business. I think we’ve successfully gotten back into position and we see a lot of opportunity to grow the business going forward, but if you had talked to me about two years ago and tried to speculate there would be a company called Supercell with that much share and that many games, we wouldn’t even have come close.”

Gibeau expects that pace of upheaval to continue in the mobile market, but some things seem set in stone. For example, Gibeau is so convinced that the days of premium apps are done, he has EA Mobile working exclusively on freemium these days.

“If you look at how Asia operates, premium just doesn’t exist as a business model for interactive games, whether it’s on PC or mobile devices. If you look at the opportunity set, if you’re thinking globally, you want to go freemium so you can capture the widest possible audience in Japan, Korea, China, and so on… With premium games, you just don’t get the downloads you do with a free game. It’s better to get as many people into your experience and trying it. If they connect with it, that’s great, then you can carry them for very long periods of time. With premium, given that there are so many free offerings out there, it’s very difficult to break through.”

Unfortunately for EA, its prior expertise is only so relevant in the new mobile marketplace. Its decades of work on PCs and consoles translated well to premium apps that didn’t require constant updating, but Gibeau said running live services is a very different task – one EA needs to get better at.

“Our challenge frankly is just mastering the freemium live service component of what’s happening in mobile,” Gibeau said. “That’s where we’re spending a lot of our time right now. We think we have the right IP. We have the right talent. We’ve got great production values. Our scores from users are pretty high. It’s really about being able to be as good as Supercell, King, Gungho, or some of these other companies at sustained live services for long periods of time. We have a couple games that are doing really well on that front, like The Simpsons, Sims Freeplay, and Real Racing, but in general I think that’s where we need to spend most of our time.”

As Gibeau mentioned, EA has already had some successes on that front, but its record isn’t exactly unblemished. The company launched a freemium reboot of Dungeon Keeper earlier this year and the game was heavily criticized for its aggressive monetization approach. In May, EA shuttered original developer Mythic.

“Dungeon Keeper suffered from a few things,” Gibeau said. “I don’t think we did a particularly good job marketing it or talking to fans about their expectations for what Dungeon Keeper was going to be or ultimately should be. Brands ultimately have a certain amount of permission that you can make changes to, and I think we might have innovated too much or tried some different things that people just weren’t ready for. Or, frankly, were not in tune with what the brand would have allowed us to do. We like the idea that you can bring back a brand at EA and express it in a new way. We’ve had some successes on that front, but in the case of Dungeon Keeper, that just didn’t connect with an audience for a variety of reasons.”

The Dungeon Keeper reboot wasn’t successful, but EA continues to keep the game up and running, having passed the live service responsibilities to another studio. It’s not because the company is hoping for a turnaround story so much as it’s just one more adaptation to running games with a live service model.

“If you watch some of the things we’ve been doing over the last eight or nine months, we’ve made a commitment to players,” Gibeau said. “We’re sincere and committed to that. So when you bring in a group of people to Dungeon Keeper and you serve them, create a live service, a relationship and a connection, you just can’t pull the rug out from under them. That’s just not fair. We can sustain the Dungeon Keeper business at its level for a very long time. We have a committed group of people who are playing the game and enjoying it. So our view is going to be that we’ll keep Dungeon Keeper going as long as there’s a committed and connected audience to that game. Are we going to sequel it? Probably not. [Laughs] But we don’t want to just shut stuff off and walk away. You can’t do that in a live service environment.”

Much like EA’s institutional experience, there’s only so much of Gibeau’s past in the console and PC core gaming world that is directly relevant to today’s mobile space. But as the segment grows out of what he calls the “two guys in a garage” stage, EA’s organizational expertise will be increasingly beneficial.

“These teams are starting to become fairly sizeable,” Gibeau said, “and the teams and investment going into these games is starting to become much greater. Now they’re much, much less than you see on the console side, but there’s a certain rigor and discipline in approach from a technology and talent standpoint that’s very applicable… If you look at these devices, they will refresh their hardware and their computing power multiple times before you see a PlayStation 5. And as you see that hardware get increasing power and capability on GPU and CPU levels, our technology that we set up for gen 4 will be very applicable there. We’re going to be building technologies like Frostbite that operate on mobile devices so we can create richer, more immersive experiences on mobile.”

Even if mobile blockbusters like Candy Crush Saga aren’t exactly pushing the hardware, Gibeau said there’s still a need for all that extra horsepower. With the increased capabilities of multitasking on phones, he sees plenty of room for improvement before the industry runs up against diminishing returns on the CPU and GPU front. He likens today’s mobile titles to late-generation PS2 games, with PS3 and Xbox 360-level games just around the corner.

“As it relates to games, this is like black and white movies with no sound at this point, in terms of the type of games we’ve created,” Gibeau said. “We’re just starting to break through on the really big ideas is my personal view. If you look at games like Clash of Clans, Real Racing, even Candy Crush, they’re breaking through in new ways and spawning all types of new products that are opening up creativity and opportunities here. So I think computing power is just something we’ll continue to leverage.”

The best part for Gibeau is that the hard work of convincing people to buy these more powerful devices isn’t falling solely on the shoulders of game developers.

“The beauty of it is it’s not a single-use device,” Gibeau said, “so people will be upgrading them for a better camera, better video capability, different form factor, different user inputs, as a wearable… I think there’s so much pressure from an innovation standpoint between Samsung, Apple, Google, and Windows coming in, that they’ll continue to one up each other and there will be a very vibrant refresh cycle for a very long period of time. The screens get better, the computing power gets better, and I don’t have to worry about just games doing it like we were in the console business. Those were pretty much just games consoles; these are multi-use devices. And the beauty of it is there will be lots of different types of applications coming in and pushing that upgrade path.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

The Company Behind Siri May Be For Sale Soon

June 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Software maker Nuance Communications Inc has conducted discussions with potential buyers for its sale, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The company, whose software powers the Siri feature on Apple Inc’s iPhones, recently spoke to Samsung Electronics Co and some private equity firms for a possible deal, the Journal said.

Shares of Nuance, which has been struggling to hold on to its pricing in the handsets business, rose as much as 11 percent earlier in the week on the Nasdaq.

Carl Icahn reported a 15.9 percent increase in his stake in the company to 60.8 million shares for the quarter ended Dec. 31.

The activist investor, Nuance’s largest shareholder, held about 19.08 percent stake in the company as of March 31, 2014.

The company’s current market capitalization is about $5.45 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data.

It wasn’t clear where the talks, some of which happened earlier this year, currently stand and whether they would result in a deal, the Journal said.

 

 

Google To Invest In Low-Orbit Satellites

June 4, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

After experimenting with high altitude balloons, Google has now turned its focus towards a fleet of low-earth-orbit satellites capable of delivering Internet access to remote regions of the world.

The company plans to spend between $1 billion and $3 billion to initially bring 180 high-capacity satellites in orbit at lower altitudes than traditional satellites, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The number of satellites used could double during the project.

The project is said to be led by Greg Wyler, the founder of satellite company O3b networks, who recently joined Google with O3b’s former CTO, according to the Wall Street Journal. The project aims to overcome financial and technical problems that hindered earlier efforts, the newspaper said.

Google-backed O3b Networks launched its first satellites that aim to provide low-cost and high-speed connectivity to remote parts of the world in June 2013.

O3b’s satellites weigh about 680 kilograms but Google plans to use satellites that weigh about 110 kg, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Big tech companies are interested in bringing Internet access, and with it their services, to less connected parts of the globe. Google is already working to deliver Internet access with Project Loon, a fleet of balloons floating in the stratosphere to avoid planes and nasty weather conditions. Its plan is that devices could connect to the balloons using a special antenna.

 

 

Google Has Plans To Deliver Ads To Your Smart Appliances

May 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Targeted advertisements will soon show up on smart refrigerators, smart thermostats and other Internet-connected devices, potentially raising new privacy concerns for people who use those products.

A financial report filed by Google in December and picked up by the Wall Street Journal describes the Internet company’s intent to deliver ads on almost any IP-enabled device that it has access to in the future.

“We expect the definition of mobile to continue to evolve as more and more ‘smart’ devices gain traction in the market,” Google said in a letter addressed to the accounting branch chief at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That statement was part of an explanation of why Google doesn’t disclose its mobile revenues separately.

“For example, a few years from now, we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities,” the company said.

In the letter, Google said it expects users of its services to view ads on an “increasingly wide diversity of devices” in the future. “Thus,” the letter went on to say, “our advertising systems are becoming increasingly device-agnostic.”

Rather than developing separate ad campaigns for desktops, mobile and other device categories, the company said it plans to develop device-agnostic campaigns capable of dynamically delivering targeted ads “to the right user at the right time on whatever device that makes the most sense.”

Many people may not be concerned about the prospect of a future in which a smart fridge could serve up an ad for, say, toaster strudels, or a thermostat could deliver a pitch for a brand of furnaces. But privacy advocates see things differently.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and other groups have raised concerns about the potential for privacy intrusions in a world where many things that people use on a daily basis are connected to the Internet.

The Federal Trade Commission has acknowledged the need for a closer inspection of the potential security and privacy implications of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).

 

 

 

Vevo Sees Dramatic Growth, Monthly Viewership Up Nearly 50 Percent

April 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Vevo, the online music video hub that is a joint venture of two of the world’s biggest music labels, has enjoyed a nearly 50 percent spike in the number of music videos streamed each month from its platform, according to the company’s top executives.

The company, which is controlled by Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, hit a monthly average of nearly 6 billion views in December, a 46 percent rise from a year earlier, said Rio Caraeff, the chief executive officer.

About 65 percent of the videos are being watched on mobile phones, according to the company.

“On a global stage, it’s really all about mobile,” Caraeff said in Miami, where he was participating in the Billboard Latin Music Conference. “Mobile and tablet and television are where the majority of the views are happening.”

A growing number of people watch music videos from the platform on smartphones, tablets or web-connected TVs using Apple TV, Roku and XBox devices.

Google Inc is a minority stakeholder in New York-based Vevo, which was founded in 2009. Universal Music is a unit of Vivendi SA, and Sony Entertainment is part of Sony Corp.

The online music video service started out distributing videos to AOL and Google’s YouTube, creating revenue from a portion of the advertising revenue it generated.

Of the approximately 6 billion music videos streamed each month, 5 billion occur outside the United States, Caraeff said. The top countries include the UK and Germany. Vevo offers its own service in more than 13 countries and will soon roll out in Mexico.

The most watched video ever is teen pop star Justin Bieber’s “Baby” with over 1 billion streams, according to the company. Last year, Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason” topped Vevo’s list of the most viewed videos.

Caraeff said the company is holding conversations with potential investors as it seeks to expand. He declined to say who the company has spoken with. The Wall Street Journal has reported Vevo held talks with financial services firm Guggenheim Partners.

“We are continuing to speak to investors as we try to find the right partners to grow the business more rapidly than we’ve been able to do so far,” Caraeff said. “We’re still very active in that process.”

Last week, Vevo, which provides some of the most popular content on YouTube, expanded its content partnership with Yahoo in a deal that brings Vevo’s music videos and other programming to Yahoo’s video channel, Yahoo Screen, in the United States and Canada.

The partnership is expected to soon extend to Britain, Germany, Spain, France and Italy as well as the Yahoo Screen mobile app.

 

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.

 

 

Amazon Rumored To Launch Smartphone In Time For Christmas Season

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon.com Inc is making plans to unveil its long-rumored smartphone in the second half of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people briefed on the company’s plans.

The Internet retailer would jump into a crowded market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The company has recently been demonstrating versions of the handset to developers in San Francisco and Seattle. It intends to announce the device in June and ship to stores around the end of September, the newspaper cited the unidentified sources as saying.

Amazon has made great strides into the hardware arena as it seeks to boost sales of digital content and puts its online store in front of more users. Amazon recently launched its $99 Fire TV video-streaming box and its Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets already command respectable U.S. market share after just a few years on the market.

Rumors of an Amazon-designed smartphone have circulated for years, though executives have previously played down ambitions to leap into a heavily competitive and increasingly saturated market.

Apple and Samsung, which once accounted for the lion’s share of the smartphone market, are struggling to maintain margins as new entrants such as Huawei and Lenovo target the lower-income segment.

To stand out from the crowd, Amazon intends to equip its phones with screens that display three-dimensional images without a need for special glasses, the Journal said.

Amazon officials were not immediately available for comment.

 

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

Amazon Shoots Down Rumors Of Free TV Service

March 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc has no plan to provide a free streaming TV service, a spokeswoman said on Friday after a report that the online retailer might enter the streaming arena to challenge Netflix and Hulu.

Speculation about Amazon’s plans for its TV service, including the possibility that it could launch its own streaming device, has increased ahead of a news conference in New York next week.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the online retailer was considering a free, add-supported streaming TV and music service. Amazon spokeswoman Sally Fouts said no such plan was in the works.

“We have a video advertising business that currently offers programs like First Episode Free and ads associated with movie and game trailers, and we’re often experimenting with new things,” she said in an e-mail on Friday. “But we have no plans to offer a free streaming media service.”

Amazon’s streaming TV service currently comes included as part of its popular $99-a-year Prime service, which offers unlimited two-day shipping among other perks.

 

 

Cisco Makes Cloud Computing A Top Priority With $1B Pledge

March 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Cisco Systems Inc will offer cloud computing services, pledging to spend $1 billion over the next two years to make a foray into a market currently dominated by the world’s biggest online retailer Amazon.com Inc, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Cisco said it will spend the amount to build data centers to help run the new service called Cisco Cloud Services, the Journal reported.

Cisco, which mainly deals in networking hardware, wants to take advantage of companies’ desire to rent computing services rather than buying and maintaining their own machines.

Enterprise hardware spending is dwindling across the globe as companies cope with shrinking budgets, slowing or uncertain economies and a fundamental migration to cloud computing, which reduces demand for equipment by outsourcing data management and computing needs.

“Everybody is realizing the cloud can be a vehicle for achieving better economics (and) lower cost,” the Journal quoted Rob Lloyd, Cisco’s president of development and sales as saying.

“It does not mean that we’re embarking on a strategy to go head-to-head with Amazon.”

Microsoft Corp last year said it was cutting prices for hosting and processing customers’ online data in an aggressive challenge to Amazon’s lead in the growing business of cloud computing.

 

Cisco could not be immediately reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S.business hours.

 

Apple, Comcast Discuss Possible Streaming TV Deal

March 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc is having discussions with Comcast Corp to enter into a deal for a streaming-television service that would allow Appleset-top boxes to bypass congestion on the web, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The discussions are in early stages and there are a lot of hurdles to be crossed before a definitive agreement could be reached, the Journal said.

Apple, which wants its TV service’s traffic to be separated from public internet traffic over the “last mile” for faster transmission, is looking for special treatment from Comcast’s cables to bypass congestion, the report said.

Comcast and Apple declined to comment on the report.

Apple has been in talks for a faster TV set-top box with Time Warner Cable Inc, which recently agreed to be bought by Comcast.

Apple’s $99 TV box competes with similar streaming devices from Roku and Google Inc.

Netflix agreed last month to pay Comcast Corp for faster speeds, throwing open the possibility that more content companies will have to shell out for better service.

The Federal Communications Commission is in the process of drafting a new “net-neutrality” bill that would ensure that network operators disclose exactly how they manage Internet traffic and that they do not restrict consumers’ ability to surf the Web or use applications.

 

GoDaddy Considering An IPO Again

March 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Web hosting company The GoDaddy Group Inc is gearing up for a second attempt at an initial public offering, according to two people familiar with the matter, as the 2014 tech IPO pipeline continues to grow.

GoDaddy, the Internet domain registrar and web host known for its racy ads, would join a number of high-profile tech names expected to go public this year in the wake of Twitter Inc’s successful debut. They include “Candy Crush” developer King Digital and cloud services providers Box and Dropbox.

The company is in the process of selecting underwriters for its IPO, one of the two sources said on condition of anonymity.

GoDaddy was not immediately available for comment.

GoDaddy had filed to go public in 2006 but was told at the time that it would be required to take a 50 percent haircut — a percentage that is subtracted from the par value of assets that are being used as collateral — on its initial public offering.

The company instead decided to pull its filing, citing unfavorable market conditions.

The company, founded in 1997, was eventually acquired by a private equity consortium led by KKR & Co and Silver Lake in 2011 for $2.25 billion. Silver Lake declined to comment while KKR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other private equity buyers included Technology Crossover Ventures.

GoDaddy, which provides website domain names, is famous for airing bawdy commercials with scantily clad women for the past decade during the Super Bowl.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the plans.

 

EA Thinks Digital Games Will Reign Supreme In Two Years?

February 25, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

In a keynote conversation with Entertainment Software Association boss Mike Gallagher at the Digital Entertainment World conference, Electronic Arts COO Peter Moore talked about industry lessons learned as the business transitions more to digital games.

For now, games remain a hybrid of physical and digital, and the quick sales of the new consoles are enabling the industry to coalesce around two great platforms that offer a tremendous competitive environment, which ultimately benefits the market. While he believes the console sector’s in great shape, Moore does see mobile gaming thriving, and digital revenues should surpass that of physical game sales in just two years, he said.

Looking back at the music industry’s transition to digital (which it still hasn’t recovered from), Moore said that the games industry must embrace “creative destruction” – there’s nothing an industry can do to stop a shift in consumer tastes and habits. The most important thing for EA – and much of the industry is headed this way with the digital transition – is that games are becoming live operations. That means they require a massive infrastructure with customer service and global billing. Moore noted that it’s a completely different industry now, with a global network running live ops, and gamers deserve their games to be always up and available, and it’s EA’s job to provide this access. Moore acknowledged that EA is still learning a lot about what that takes.

The online environment has been incredibly valuable to EA in building a direct customer relationship. Moore said that EA’s customers used to be the retailers, but now they’re the gamers. In fact, EA has tripled its customer facing support staff resources in the last five years. It’s changing how the publisher interacts with, and markets to, gamers. He eschews “marketing” and prefers “engaging”. Social media has become crucial to success, and Moore noted that on Twitter a gamer will get a response from EA within 30 minutes to resolve a problem.

On the marketing end, Moore said that EA’s TV spend is down 20 percent while the company has actually doubled its digital spend and engagement. Social media and community management are changing the rules. Don’t spend tens of millions on TV to see if it lifts sales, Moore said; instead game companies can more effectively use digital channels and focus on performance-based marketing.

“TV ads today are chum in the water. It attracts customers, then reel them in with digital media so you can engage instead of pushing a message out,” he remarked.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Google Teaming Up With Foxconn For Robotic Venture

February 13, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is collaborating with long-time Apple partner Foxconn to further develop Google’s robotics vision.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Taiwanese contract manufacturer, which has built a lot of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, has struck a deal with Google to build robotics for the company.

Google declined to comment this afternoon and Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Andy Rubin, Google’s former Android lead and now the head of the company’s robotics efforts, recently went to Taipei to meet with Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou about the deal, reported the Journal, citing unnamed sources.

The deal would benefit both companies, giving Google a robotics manufacturer and giving robotics technology to Foxconn for its manufacturing business.

“Well, that should speed up development cycles for Google,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “Foxconn is one of the industry’s largest contract manufacturers and what they do best is build things. Google, on the other hand, invents things but its core competency isn’t building things, particularly hardware, quickly and efficiently.”

The pact, he added, would bring hardware manufacturing scale to Google — a must, if Google wants to mass produce robots at an affordable price.

“Pretty soon we’ll have an army of Google robots, like in Star Wars II,” said Kerravala.

Google, a company known worldwide for search, Android and its ubiquitous Maps service, has been taking a deep dive into robotics in the past six months or so. The company announced late last month that it was acquiring DeepMind Technologies, a London-based artificial intelligence (AI) company.

In December, Google bought Boston Dynamics, a robotics company known for its four-legged BigDog robot, as well as six-foot-tall, 330-pound humanoid robot, Atlas.

Those acquisitions came on the heels of a six-month buying spree in which Google bought seven other robotics businesses.

In addition, Google has been working for the last several years to develop autonomous automobiles. The self-driving car effort has logged thousands of miles on the road and even had Google executives approaching Detroit car makers in the hopes of finding business partners.

 

 

Did The British Go After Anonymous And Lulzsec

February 7, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Did a British Spy agency linked to GCHQ attacked hacktivists of the Anonymous and Lulzsec collectives, according to leaked US National Security Agency (NSA) documents?

NBC published documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden showing that the group codenamed the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) proactively attempted to shut down and spread misinformation throughout the Anonymous collective.

The leaked document allege that the unit attempted to phish Anonymous members and launched attacks designed to disrupt and infiltrate its networks as part of an operation called Rolling Thunder.

The documents show the spies mounted a sophisticated espionage campaign that enabled intelligence officers to phish a number of Anonymous members to extract key bits of information.

The documents include conversations between intelligence officers and Anonymous members G-Zero, Topiary and pOke in 2011.

One log shows that a GCHQ spy duped the hacker pOke into clicking on a malicious link dressed up to look like a news article about Anonymous. The link used an unspecified method to extract data from the virtual private network (VPN) being used by pOke.

The documents allege pOke was not arrested, but that the information acquired during the phishing attack was used in the arrest of Jake Davis, who was known as Topiary, in July 2011.

Davis’ arrest was taken as a key victory for law enforcement. British citizen Davis was believed to have acted as a spokesman for many Anonymous cells and is credited as having written several of its statements.

A GCHQ spokesman declined The INQUIRER’s request for comment on NBC’s report, but reiterated the agency’s previous insistence that all of its operations are carried out within the letter of the law.

“It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework,” read the statement.

Experts in the security community have questioned the GCHQ’s argument. Corero Network Security COO Andrew Miller said that the secret unit’s use of blackhat tactics was at the very least morally questionable.

“We have to remember that cyber-spooks within GCHQ are equally if not more skilled than many black hat hackers, and the tools and techniques they are going to use to fight cybercrime are surely going to be similar to that of the bad guys,” he said.

“Legally, we enter a very grey area here, where members of Lulzsec were arrested and incarcerated for carrying out DDoS attacks, but it seems that JTRIG are taking the same approach with impunity.”

The campaign against Anonymous is one of many revelations from the leaked Snowden files.

The files initially were leaked to the press in 2013 and detailed several intelligence operations carried out by the UK GCHQ and US NSA. Documents emerged in January alleging that GCHQ and NSA used mobile apps such as Angry Birds to spy on citizens.

Courtesy-TheInq