Archive for the 'google' Category
Google today took the wraps off +Post ads, a new ad format that lets brands take content from their public Google+ pages and run them on any site using Google’s ad network.
Unlike typical display ads, Google’s new ads are built to be social, meaning that people can click and comment on them like native Google+ content.
Google says the idea behind the ads, which won’t run on Google+ itself, is to display content to people when it’s most relevant. So Google isn’t breaking new ground there.
Still, for early partners like Toyota and Ritz Crackers, the +Post ads check all the boxes: Not only do they give content greater reach, but Google says they also make said content feel more conversational and human.
They’re also particularly great advertisements for Google+ itself.
Think about it like this: By putting brands’ Google+ content in front of more eyeballs, Google is also putting Google+ in front of more eyeballs. It’s a win for both sides, at least in theory. And it’s the sort of thing that Google+ sorely needs.
Since introducing Google+ two years ago, Google has struggled to get its users to adopt the social network in any significant way. Google said in October that more than 540 million users engage with Google+ across all of Google’s properties each month, though the company has been vague about what it means by “engagement.”
For a company that tends to dominate just about every vertical it tries its hand at, Google’s Google+ struggles are tough to ignore.
This, in the end, is why the new +Post ads feel premature. If Google really wants to make Google+ a useful platform for brands, it first has to give people a reason to use Google+.
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, LinkedIn, Yahoo have banded together to created the Reform Government Surveillance coalition saying spy tactics around the world need to change now.
“The undersigned companies believe that it is time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information,” the coalition website reads, “We strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed.”
The NSA, the U.K.’s GCHQ, and others including Australia’s government have come under attack for their surveillance practices since former NSA-contractor Edward Snowden released many leaked documents about their spy techniques.
This includes blanket data collection orders to U.S. telecommunications companies, special data-sharing relationships with major tech companies, and fiber optic cable taps on unencrypted areas of these companies’ data centers. Many of the companies included in the initial PRISM leaks are represented in this reform group.
The reform government surveillance groups stands on 5 pillars:
- That governments’ authority to collect user information should be limited
- That there should be more oversight and accountability
- That there needs to be a lot more transparency around government demands
- That the “free flow” of information should be respected and not inhibited
- That governments should work with each other to protect their citizens’ privacy even where those laws may differ
Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and others have already lobbied the government to change its surveillance practices. More specifically, the companies have called for transparency from the government. This includes allowing these tech giants to publish exact numbers of government data requests made under the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Google CEO Larry Page, and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo all contributed their thoughts on the reform government surveillance page, which ends with an open letter to Washington. It ends:
“We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law.”
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In September, Google chief executive Larry Page announced his latest “moonshot,” a mysterious new venture to extend the human life span.
We don’t know much yet about the initiative, dubbed Calico, but Page revealed in a blog post that it will receive funding from Google. Biotechnology mogul Arthur Levinson, 63, who sat on both Google and Apple’s boards and formerly served as the chief executive at Genentech, will lead Calico as its CEO. Levinson said he declined numerous high-profile CEO positions before agreeing to join Calico.
“This was just so out of the [blue] that I instantly got extremely excited about it,” Dr. Levinson said in a rare interview with the New York Times.
Few details have emerged since the initial announcement, but Calico has continued to generate intense excitement among geneticists and biotech experts. Adding fuel to the fire, Levinson recently lured some of the most well regarded scientists out of semi-retirement or away from high-ranking research positions.
As we previously reported, Hal Barron will leave his post as the chief medical officer at Roche to oversee research and development at Calico, which is a huge get for such an early-stage venture. Dr. Robert Cohen, a senior oncologist at Genentech has also signed on, along with Dr. Cynthia Kenyon, 55, a molecular biologist who discovered a genetic mutation that can double the lifespan of a tiny round worm, and David Botstein, 71, the director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University.
The quartet of high-profile recruits is expected to begin work on Calico in the next few weeks and relocate to the Bay Area to join Levinson.
Calico is bold, but it’s not as “out of the blue” as you might as expect. These researchers have already contributed to anti-aging research in various ways. Dr. Kenyon delivered a TED talk on the topic after her team discovered that we don’t just wear out, like cars or an old shoe. In fact, aging is subject to control by the genes — and specifically by hormones.
Kenyon’s research team at UCSF has already performed early genetic studies, which have proven successful, on mice, rats, and worms. Kenyon, who found a genetic mutation that can double the life of a species of worm, believes a new therapeutic or pill could replicate some of these effects in humans.
The timing may be just right for a project like Calico. And unlike the vast majority of Silicon Valley’s startups, the technology is addressing a need that is keenly felt by many of us. Most people are in a constant battle against aging and will pay exorbitant sums of money to slow down the rate that our bodies deteriorate.
“Biology and medicine have been increasingly reductionist — focusing on specific biological targets or pathways and narrow medical specialties,” said Camille Samuels, an early-stage biotech investor based in San Francisco. However, she believes the field is realizing the “futility of fixing an individual problem, like heart disease, when the rest of the body is rotting.”
Can this startup slow aging?
In a recent issue of TIME, Page discussed how Calico will treat aging and related diseases. He didn’t reveal much about the methodology, but stressed that Calico’s team will “shoot for the things that are really, really important.” The goal for Calico’s research according to Page, is to help prevent many diseases and have a greater impact on public health than drugs that target individual diseases.
“Biotech entrepreneurs usually start with a technology and then try to find an application for it, [but] in this case, Calico and some of the other longevity bets I’ve seen are starting out with the application – human aging — and still hunting for the technological solution” said Samuels, who sits on the board of biotech ventures Achaogen, Kythera Pharmaceuticals, and Carmenta. “That’s a far better approach for health care,” she added.
Samuels says the company is already “trolling for biology,” meaning that it is on the hunt for talent. Rather than starting completely from scratch, Calico will seek out potentially relevant research and experiments that are already underway at different institutions.
Indeed, despite the lack of concrete information, scientists seem intrigued. After my initial report on Calico, well over a dozen academics reached out to ask how they could get in touch with Levinson — we rarely see this level of interest for an early-stage venture.
By all accounts, the recruiting process is well underway. Several sources familiar with the matter said that a couple weeks ago, Levinson sent an email to current and former Genentech employees introducing the venture and implying that interested parties should get in touch. Presumably, Calico will hire the bulk of its first employees from Genentech, the biotech giant where Levinson, Cohen, and Barron held leadership positions. After more than two decades, Levinson left Genentech in 2009 after the acquisition by Roche, a move that was considered by the scientific community to be a loss for the company.
Can Calico succeed where others have failed?
Early excitement aside, Calico isn’t the first company in the anti-aging space. Other well-funded startups have tried and failed to stunt the aging process.
Most anti-aging initiatives today exist purely as nonprofits and have no clear plans for commercial products. Related initiatives have been downsized over the years, including Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline for $720 million.
“Historically, the whole field of aging research has been very underfunded and filled with sketchy people,” said Aaron Rowe, a director of clinical research at a startup called Integrated Plasmodics, in an interview. “As soon as a scientist says that they want to slow or reverse aging, they lose their credibility.”
That said, recent developments in the field have made anti-aging seem like a viable field of study. Researchers are investigating the rejuvinatize effects of stem cells, and building nano-scale technologies that can insert drugs into the deepest recesses of our bodies. And in 2010, news broke about Brooke Greenberg, a teenage girl who remained the size of an infant due to a rare genetic disorder. Scientists interested in her case scanned the genes to for clues about what controls aging in human beings.
In addition, the mere fact that five such renowned scientists are joining Calico adds much-needed legitimacy to the space.
Will we lead longer and healthier lives?
Researchers and bio-tech entrepreneurs we spoke with have vastly different ideas for how Calico will tackle aging. Rowe said it’s his “best guess” that Calico will focus on “biologics that promote tissue regeneration, extend the upper limit of human lifespan, and help seniors feel healthier.”
Dr. Peter Huber, a fellow at conservative think thank The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, predicts Calico will focus on genetic engineering to manipulate the body’s repair chemistry. Samuels expects the team will study the “whole human body and its aging rather than a narrow body part,” such as the human heart or the brain.
Researchers we spoke with seemed to agree on one thing: Calico is our best shot at making real process to prevent aging.
“If we want to fight aging directly, there’s no other way to go. The government is unlikely to fund this kind of work, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may well make it almost impossible to get potential antidotes licensed,” said Huber, who recently penned the book The Cure in the Code. “But the company backed by Google’s pattern-recognition expertise and resources may be able to go where no one else currently dares to venture,” he explained.
As is the case with any truly innovative technology, it won’t be easy. Already, reporters are speculating Calico’s leadership team will raise eyebrows among federal regulators in Washington, DC. A company run by an Apple board member and having received Google funding may prove problematic, given that these companies are locked in fierce competition for mobile device supremacy. A reporter at TIME recently questioned whether Levinson’s Apple and Google ties would pose a conflict of interest.
The FDA will also pose hurdles along the way, although Levinson has plenty of experience dealing with health-focsed regulation.
For this reason, we shouldn’t expect to see immediate results. Health care is not a three-to-five year proposition (for this reason, many venture capitalists have shied away from the sector, despite the size of the market). Dr. Huber, an expert on health policy and regulation, says this kind of “look-ahead medicine” can take decades to evaluate, and reach the public.
“The FDA, the tort system, and the vaccine market have taught most drug companies everything they care to learn about the perils of look-ahead medicine,” he explained.
That said, Levinson remains optimistic about Calico’s chances. “I’m confident that we are going to do some really great science on aging,” he said at a Genentech event in Washington, DC, in October. Despite the challenges, Dr. Huber agrees, given that we are fast acquiring the ability to re-engineer our own chemistry down to the molecular level.
“All in all, it does look like that we already have, or know how to develop much of the toolkit that could be used to launch a systematic attack on aging,” he said.
Interested to learn more about the field of anti-aging? Don’t miss this TED talk, in which Dr. Kenyon describes recent experiments that hint at longer lives.
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Juniper released its top 10 tech trends for 2014 today. And if the research firm is right, our cities are going to get smarter, our money is going digital, and we’ll be printing a lot more products at home.
Here’s a quick overview:
Cities will get increasingly smart as sensors and cloud-enabled apps connect transportation, metering, health care, lighting, and environment data, and make it actionable.
See what Sensity is doing, building a billion-node planetary network of sensors — in street lights. Also, see what IBM is doing in San Francisco and Cisco is doing in Lake Nona, Fla.
2) Mobile money will continue to grow — as will ‘mAgri’
Mobile money is enabling banking and financing systems in the developing world via mobile wallets, which should continue to grow both there and in developing countries. And as mobile grows in Africa and Asia, so will the provision of data, including data on better crop management, yield, and product tracking.
See the latest data on how mobile penetration in Africa is reaching 80 percent and how African companies are using mobile payment solutions like mPesa.
3) Wearable devices will proliferate
Google has Glass, and Samsung has a smartwatch, but Apple’s iWatch and many other smart wearable technologies are coming out soon. Juniper says 2014 will be a “watershed year” for wearables — but privacy will be an issue as cameras go everywhere.
4) iPads and tablets will grow in education
Tablet computing is increasingly attractive and affordable in education, Juniper says, and are likely soon to go mainstream in place of full desktop PCs or even laptops.
5) Mobile fitness devices will grow even bigger
On my desk, I’ve got a sleep bracelet that someone snapped on my wrist at a conference, a Jawbone Up, and a Fitbit Flex. In 2014, these mobile fitness devices will start to focus on the whole range of health and start to enter the tougher and more challenging health care industry.
See more details on the proliferation of mobile fitness devices, a fitness bracelet that actually knows what you’re doing at the gym … and a smart shirt that knows your emotions — and if you’re having a heart attack.
6) LTE subscribers will double and 4G LTE will start to roll out
LTE will hit the big-time, Juniper says, with global users doubling in 2014. And even faster networks will debut. See how T-Mobile and other U.S. carriers already have most of the USA covered with LTE, and how you can even get free LTE data.
7) Device context awareness will accelerate
More wearables, more devices, and more intelligence: Our devices are going to get smarter about where we are, what we’re doing, and what they can do to help us. Google Now is a good current example, Juniper says.
8) Ouya and other ‘microconsoles’ will disrupt home gaming
The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One may have captured all the recent headlines about gaming systems, but Ouya is only 20 percent of the cost of the latest Xbox. As such it — and other cheap interlopers like the GameStick — pose a threat at the low end of the market, while other computer-based gaming systems pose a threat at the high end.
See how Microsoft is turning the Xbox One into the center of your digital home and which of the two megaconsoles is likely to win. And why some feel the Ouya is a better buy.
9) Personal clouds will explode
The public cloud is the NSA’s playground, some might think. So they’re turning to private cloud solutions and network-attached storage devices, right in the home.
See how Pogoplug is now powering over one million personal clouds and how BitTorrent Sync is starting to displace public file-sharing and cloud storage companies.
10) 3D printer sales will jump
3D printers were hot in 2013, but they’ll increase significantly over the next 12 months, Juniper says, as HP, Samsung, and Microsoft join the party.
Most of Juniper’s predictions make a lot of sense, and you can see the budding trends right now. One, however, makes me wonder. Technologists have been promising smart cities for years, but the question is whether cities have the money to make it happen.
2014 will let us know.
Instagram is the best platform for brands, according to a new study that reviewed all brands on social with over 25 fans on each of four major social platforms: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
“With increases in fan/follower engagement nearly three times that of other networks studied, Instagram is the clear winner for 2013,” SumAll CEO Dan Atkinson said. “If a company has a visual product to sell and it’s currently not on Instagram, that company is missing out on significant brand awareness and revenue.”
SumAll, a business analytics tool, currently tracks over 100,000 businesses on social networks, analyzing over 290 billion social actions per year.
Across businesses that are on all four networks, SumAll says that Instagram resulted in the most new followers in 2013 — and significant revenue. Brands on Instagram saw an average of seven percent growth in both followers and engagement. And while U.S. brands saw a nice little revenue lift from Instagram — 1.5-5 percent — businesses in the UK reported more, up to 3.6 percent.
Which means that social commerce may finally be a real phenomenon.
Social media marketing expert Eric Dahan, CEO of Instabrand, agreed. Instabrand is a social marketing organization focused on visual media. Right now that means Instagram, but Vine, Tumblr, and Pinterest are on the horizon.
“Instagram is the best platform for brands,” he told me. “It’s much stronger than Facebook.”
Instabrand says its customers saw their followers grow from zero to 30,000 in campaigns costing just $3,000 to $5,000. One jewelry company, NouviNomi, got 50,000 unique visitors to its site from Instagram in two months, as a result of a campaign that cost just $3,000.
“We average around 2 cents per engagement,” Dahan says. “We can’t measure impressions — Instagram doesn’t allow it — but we can measure engagement. If you have 200,000 followers, we’ll see 3,000 to 15,000 likes for a post, for a 2-10 percent engagement rate. Sometimes that jumps to 20 percent.”
Clearly, with a visual medium, visual brands that can communicate via images do best.
SumAll says that fashion retailer In God We Trust credits 2.3 percent of its revenue to Instagram, a number that may sound small but is actually huge for social commerce stemming from just one mobile social network. And SumAll’s Atkinson says that a bicycle manufacturer, Pure Fix Cycles, reports that every Instagram post it publishes is worth roughly $100 in revenue.
The best approach on Instagram, Dahan says, is not what you might think. Many brands are turning to celebrity endorsements as a quick-fix strategy to drive views, engagement, and ultimately revenue, but that can backfire.
“We match businesses with users that already like the brand,” he told me. “We tend not to like using celebrities — they’re almost corporate now, and people know they’re promoting a product just because they’re getting paid. We like to use grassroots people.”
And other networks, such as Facebook and Twitter?
“Twitter is mainly text-based … great for articles and headlines … but not as good for brands,” he said. “And Instagram is … much stronger than Facebook.”
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Sorry, I killed Santa.
I was playing Google’s new “race with reindeer” game, part of its Santa extravaganza this morning, and hit his sleigh too many times on the side of the track.
Google has gone all out with Santa this year, adding not just a Santa Tracker, but also Santa’s Village, with games and interactive scenes that will unlock as Santa gets closer and close to delivering all the goodies he forgot on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That includes racing with reindeer as you pick up gifts, ensuring Rudolph is streamlined and ready to soar in a flight tunnel, and many more in the days and weeks to come.
If you get lucky, you’ll also see an Android-occupied spacecraft. Which might explain how Santa gets all those gifts to all those girls and boys in just one night: alien technology.
But that’s not all.
Google’s also releasing an Santa Tracker Android app with a built-in flight game, and a Chrome extension so you can count down the days to Christmas pretty much everywhere you happen to be. The app is coming in mid-December, Google says.
Oh, and that bit about killing Santa?
Actually, he’s annoying indestructible. Santa grunts “oh, oh, oh” when you steer his sleigh into obstacles, but recovers his good cheer when you drive well, reversing the refrain for his standard “ho, ho, ho.”
And just so you know: Santa (and Christmas) are 19 days, 18 hours, 22 minutes, and two seconds away. At least, last time I checked.
After an 18-month preview period, Google’s Compute Engine (GCE) is finally ready for prime time.
On Monday, Google announced “general availability” for its cloud compute offering, which now includes a service level agreement that guarantees it’ll be available 99.95 percent of the time. The American tech giant also introduced a few new GCE features, including 16-core instances and faster persistent disks, as well as price cuts for its standard instances and persistent disk storage. (If we’ve already lost you, think of cloud “instances” as virtual servers that can run applications.)
Widespread commercial availability should reassure Google Compute Engine customers that the service won’t be arbitrarily shuttered like the discontinued Google Reader or Google Wave.
“We’ve been working to improve the developer experience across our services to meet the standards our own engineers would expect here at Google,” said Google vice president Ari Balogh, who oversees the company’s data storage, network infrastructure, and cloud computing efforts.
Google has operated its App Engine platform-as-a-service since 2008, but it’s a latecomer to the cloud infrastructure space. It originally introduced Google Compute Engine in June 2012, long after Amazon released its Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) service in August 2006. Amazon Web Services is the unquestioned leader in cloud computing in terms of overall market share, towering over competing vendors like Google, Microsoft (Azure), and IBM (SoftLayer).
Current Google Compute Engine customers include Snapchat, Evite, and Wix. To learn more about the service and its official launch, check out the video below.
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61 percent of us have heard of digital wallets, but only 11 percent of us have used one, according to a new survey by Forrester. Interestingly, most would rather trust PayPal with their mobile money — rather than their bank or credit card company.
There are three types of mobile wallets, Forrester says: remote-only wallets, proximity-only wallets, and omnichannel digital wallets.
Remote-only wallets, like iTunes or Amazon Checkout, are accessible from virtual any device, but are for ecommerce transactions only. In contrast, proximity-only digital wallets are used in-store at point of purchase, typically from your mobile device. Examples include Square Wallet and Apple Passbook — although Passbook current doesn’t support payments, just the storing of loyalty cards, tickets, and other payment-related data.
Of course, omnichannel wallets, like Google Wallet, PayPal, and MasterPass by MasterCard, support both.
The most-trusted digital wallet? PayPal.
That’s consistent with what we’ve seen in the past year, which is that PayPal is the most recognized and most trusted digital wallet solution, vastly outpacing Google Wallet. 38 percent of the 4,000 consumers that Forrester polled said that they would trust PayPal with their mobile digital wallet, while banks and credit card companies came in second place, with 35 percent of consumers willing to try their solutions.
Third goes to Amazon, with 23 percent, which shows that both Apple and Google, the two tech companies that might be best positioned to build and maintain digital wallets, due to their extensive dominance of mobile devices and operating systems, don’t place in the top three.
That’s like due to the fact that people don’t associate Apple with digital payments, in spite of iTunes and the app store infrastructure having likely one of the biggest repositories of credit cards on file anywhere on the globe. And, Google is late to payments, only recently having created a set of digital wallet solutions, and starting to collect credit cards on Google Play.
While 2012 was a knockout year for tablets — with the introduction of the iPad Mini, Nexus 7, and Microsoft Surface — 2013 is actually somewhat boring in comparison.
Yes, tablet sales continued to grow steadily (up 53 percent from 2012, says Gartner), but this year is more about evolving last year’s killer tablets than breaking new ground. The iPad Mini got a killer hardware upgrade and a much-needed Retina Display screen, and the Surface and Nexus 7 both got major upgrades of their own.
Apple’s iPad Air, which is mainly notable for being incredibly light, is the only big tablet surprise I can recall this year.
What 2013 lacked in groundbreaking tablets announcements, it made up for in better overall value. All of the revamped tablets from this year offer far better hardware at reasonable prices, and they’re also run off better software. If you held off on a new tablet last year, now is the perfect time to upgrade.
Best overall tablet: iPad Mini with Retina Display
The original iPad Mini was my favorite tablet last year, so it’s not a huge surprise that I’ve fallen head over heels for its replacement. Apple’s new iPad Mini with Retina Display upgrades the original’s disappointing display, but it also manages to pack in all of the juicy hardware from the iPad Air, including the fast A7 processor and M7 motion processor.
But at $399, up from last year’s $329 iPad Mini launch price, the new model also makes it clear that Apple doesn’t see its smaller tablet as a budget device.
Best big tablet: iPad Air
Apple is now basically offering two high-end tablets, the new iPad Mini and the iPad Air, separated only by their price and screen size. The Air weighs in at close to a pound, closer in size to the iPad Mini than last year’s big iPad. That means it’s much easier to hold with one hand, which should be helpful for prolonged reading sessions (and it deftly solves one of my biggest issues with large tablets).
If you need a big 10-inch screen, go for the $499 iPad Air. But for everyone else, I’d recommend prioritizing portability with the new 8-inch iPad Mini.
Best budget tablet (& best Android tablet): Nexus 7
Once again, the Nexus 7 is the best tablet deal on the market — even after Google raised its price slightly to $230 (the original was just $200). While last year’s model was notable for being fast and cheap, the new Nexus 7 is much slimmer and easier to hold.
It also packs in the usual speed improvements, but really, the biggest upgrade with this new model is that it no longer feels like you’re holding an overweight slate. In the domain of tiny tablets, that’s key.
Best Windows tablet: Surface 2
After raising our hopes and swiftly dashing them with the first Surface, Microsoft has apparently learned from its mistakes. The Surface 2 ($449) is a fast and capable tablet — and together with its revamped keyboard covers (from $120 to $130), it’s also a productivity dream. While you’re stuck with Windows 8′s slim app ecosystem, the Surface 2 also includes Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Office, which means it will fit right into many corporate IT setups.
Check out VentureBeat's product data sheets for more in-depth information on tablets.