Archive for the 'google' Category



Switch.co launches first enterprise phone system for Google Apps

Tuesday 30 September 2014 @ 11:01 pm
Switch.co launches first enterprise phone system for Google Apps
Image Credit: Switch.co

Switch.co founder and CEO Craig Walker has been around the block a few times in the Internet voice business. He sold his first startup, Dialpad, which made one of the first Voice-over-IP (VoiP) services, to Yahoo in 2005. After leaving Yahoo, he launched a new service called Grand Central, which later contributed much of the brains of Google Voice after the search giant purchased it in 2007

Flash-forward to 2014. The cloud rules. Mobile rules. Google is gaining power in the enterprise. And Walker’s latest startup, Switch Communications, is launching a new service that capitalizes on all of these things.

That service, called “Switch,” is deeply integrated with Google Apps. Walker told me that while Microsoft can offer a full stack of communications and productivity tools, including voice (with its Lync product), Google has everything … but the voice part. It’s the one question Google’s enterprise salesforce can’t answer when going head-to-head with Microsoft to compete for enterprise business, Walker told VentureBeat.

“Google Apps has been leader in cloud-based apps for the enterprise, with Gmail and Docs and Apps,” Walker said. “There are tens of millions of businesses now using Google Docs, and Google says they’re signing up 5,000 new businesses a day.”

“We want to build a product for that user that can make their voice communication as good as their email communication.”

Switch.co is a cloud-based, business-grade phone system that works across all devices and platforms, including iOS, Android, Mac, PC, Linux, and even the old desktop phone. The system provides callers with a business phone number that rings all of their devices, with controls that let others reach them when and where they like.

Switch.co mobile or desktop app can manage features like call transfer, company directory, visual voicemail, and switching between devices. When someone is calling in, for example, a window pops up on your screen showing the caller’s basic data, recent emails you’ve sent or received from them, docs you’ve shared, upcoming calendar events involving that person, and even some social media information like recent tweets.

“Work, as we know it, is transforming. It’s not a place you go; it’s an activity you do,” Walker said. “People work anywhere and everywhere these days, so why use a phone system that’s tied to your desk?”

Switch.co is currently available for Google Apps users as a private beta. Pricing for companies of all sizes is $15 per month, per employee, including a free company number and unlimited domestic calls and texts.

I asked Walker what he’s going to say when Google eventually knocks on the door and says “OK, we’re ready to acquire you now.” He said the answer would probably be no, because Switch.co may one day sell its voice solution to enterprises using Microsoft for productivity and communications.

But, Walker added, one should never say never.

Switch Communications is funded by Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures.


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Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »

Launched in 2011, Firespotter Labs is a startup founded by serial entrepreneur Craig Walker, focusing on making complex telephony products easy to use. With over 15 years experience as an entrepreneur in the emerging telephony space, W... read more »











With Atlas, Facebook makes an attempt to dig itself out of No. 2 ad spot

Monday 29 September 2014 @ 4:05 pm
With Atlas, Facebook makes an attempt to dig itself out of No. 2 ad spot

With the official rollout of its new and improved Atlas ad platform, Facebook hopes to become more than an also-ran in the global online ad market.

What’s clear, however, is that Facebook has big challenges ahead. Let’s start with market share: Google has more than 31 percent of the global market for digital advertising, and Facebook is a distant second at 7.8 percent, according to recent figures from research firm eMarketer.

Facebook’s share has been growing, slowly, over the past few years. Atlas is its chance to accelerate that growth — but it has much more work to do if it wants to challenge Google.

That’s the verdict of analysts, mobile executives, and even former Google ad veterans who spoke to VentureBeat on what Facebook’s Atlas portends for the mobile and web advertising sectors. Atlas is a true cross-channel ad platform (delivering ads not just to Facebook.com but also to other websites) that Facebook bought from Microsoft last year for under $100 million and unveiled publicly today.

“Certainly, I believe Facebook’s biggest challenge is convincing enough publishers to work with them to make their network play successful,” Gartner analyst Andrew Frank told VentureBeat.

“They’re great at placing native ads on their own properties, and their mobile reach and engagement are unmatched, but Google is embedded in a large number of apps and sites, and [Google's] DoubleClick currently dominates the ad server space that Facebook would challenge with Atlas,” Frank said.

To be sure, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg declared that Facebook was a mobile-first company earlier this year. The social network has been building its own in-house mobile analytic capabilities to help drive targeted mobile ad campaigns on smartphones and tablets.

With Atlas, however, it shows that Facebook is still interested in desktop.

The mobile ad sector amounted to nearly $18 billion last year, with Google the No. 1 player, followed by Facebook and Twitter. In fact, according to eMarketer, the entire U.S. ad spend amounted to $171 billion last year, a number expected to top $189 billion by year’s end. But clearly, big brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi are more comfortable now advertising on mobile devices than they were one year ago.

Since the relaunch of Atlas today, mobile operators have announced new advertising initiatives with Facebook. Medialets, for example, announced it would be partnering its media platform with Facebook to help shore up mobile ad management and ROI measurements for the social network’s ad campaigns.

With Atlas, Facebook will be working to leverage lots of highly personalized data from its 1.3 billion users. That information on consumers is highly specific, and it’s exactly the kind of information advertisers want in order to target potential customers in mobile and desktop ad campaigns. But Facebook doesn’t sell this information en masse to third parties. Yet.

“Facebook’s ads business is already a mobile ad business, with 66 percent net revenue from mobile,” said Jesse Hurwitz, formerly Google’s former head of global strategy for mobile ad platforms. He’s now an employee at AdBrain, a mobile ad intelligence platform based in London.

“As a percentage of net revenue they are significantly bigger than Google in mobile.  From an absolute dollar perspective Google is ahead but FB is chasing fast.”

“Google has an ecosystem which makes them very hard to compete against,” Frank said. “Between Android, Play, AdMob, DoubleClick, Bid Manager, AdWords, AdX, etc., they have a formidable presence at almost every stage of the advertising value chain, and they’ve done a masterful job of migrating their broad customer base seamlessly into the mobile world.”

Frank acknowledged that Facebook had done a good job of growing its mobile presence. But, he added, it needs to do more.

“Google still has a broad base of media partners that Facebook will need to pursue with a better angle,” he said.


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Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 w... read more »











The DeanBeat: Tearing down barriers to games and building them back up

Friday 26 September 2014 @ 7:00 am
The DeanBeat: Tearing down barriers to games and building them back up

Above: David Helgason, CEO of Unity, at GamesBeat 2014 with Malathi Nayak of Reuters.

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

It is time to recognize a new cycle in the game business. It’s not the “boom-and-bust cycle” that previously bedeviled the console game industry. This one is different. This cycle raises barriers to game development, tears down those barriers, and then creates new ones. Numerous speakers explored this at the GamesBeat 2014 conference, where we discussed “Total World Domination,” a theme that touched on the barriers or paths to a truly global gaming business.

It’s about opening and closing ecosystems and shutting down or creating competition and innovation. In this “barriers up, barriers down cycle,” you may find that barriers are being broken and built at the same time. Many of our speakers, like John Riccitiello, former CEO of Electronic Arts, hailed the “Golden Age of gaming,” where that boom-bust cycle is gone because gaming is expanding on so many fronts: PC, mobile, online, console, and new platforms such as virtual reality.

But ecosystem barriers are a real threat to the Golden Age. We definitely need open ecosystems for gaming the thrive. But I would argue that some barriers are good and some are bad. How you navigate them will determine whether your game company will succeed. It’s just like the boom-and-bust cycles. Some companies, like PayPal, thrived during a bust because they innovated.

History can guide us. The creation of the iPhone led to the victory of Apple’s walled garden, with an Apple operating system and Apple hardware. Apple took back power from the carriers. It enabled innovation, but it also closed the market. Then Google’s Android reopened things by providing more open competition.

But the opening of Apple’s App Store led to an explosion of indie games and apps, resulting in huge growth for the mobile game industry and a huge flowering of mobile game companies. The emergence of the Google Play store and the Amazon App Store also led to more diversity. All of that was obviously a good thing, and it’s why we now have a $16 billion worldwide mobile game market.

Owen Mahoney, CEO of Nexon

Above: Owen Mahoney, CEO of Nexon

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

This kind of change has happened a lot in the history of the technology industry. IBM created the computer industry, and it held a virtual monopoly for many years. It became vertical, creating everything from the chips to the software to the applications. But, in response to Apple, IBM turned to Intel and Microsoft to patch together the horizontal layers for the processor and the OS of the original IBM PC. That was fateful, as those companies wrested control from IBM and enabled a clone market. In the PC market, horizontal won.

But that victory wasn’t necessarily permanent. Microsoft, taking a lesson from Apple’s success, is contemplating closing the Windows ecosystem. That, in turn, has scared Valve, which is contemplating opening up by creating a new operating system, the Linux-based Steam OS, and new hardware dubbed the Steam Machines. It is interesting to note that Valve didn’t choose to support Android, which has been embraced by both Google and Amazon. Valve has probably had enough of the big companies.

Bob Meese, head of global business development for Google Play, noted that Google isn’t in the game business for “Total World Domination.” When I asked him about that, he said, “Your words, not mine.” He said that Google does not place a priority on exclusivity on its platform — a possible outcome of its posture “don’t be evil.” Rather, he measures the health of Google’s Android ecosystem by looking at the health and number of its developers.

Bob Meese of Google Play

Above: Bob Meese of Google Play

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

In contrast, that very day, Microsoft bought Mojang, the maker of Minecraft, for $2.5 billion. So far this year, more than $12 billion have been spent on acquisitions in the game business. Amazon paid $970 million for gameplay livestreaming firm Twitch to keep it out of Google’s hands. With fewer startups and more acquisitions, we can expect an increasing concentration of power in the game business. That is likely not going to be good for innovation or openness.

Unity Technologies has played a role in the opening up of the industry, regardless of the platforms. It has weakened the power of the platform owners by making it easier to create cross-platform games. Developers can build games in Unity and run them on lots of platforms. That has helped Unity live up to its goal, which David Helgason, chief executive of Unity, calls “democratizing game development.” With Unity, it’s less expensive to make games. Game studios with a handful of developers can create games that can run on multiple platforms and be launched worldwide.

But new barriers have arisen in mobile. With too many games being released in the app stores, it’s hard to get discovered. To get enough players in a free-to-play game, mobile companies have to spend a ton of money on user acquisition.

“It’s not what kind of games you can make any more,” said Mitch Lasky, general partner at Benchmark Capital, in his talk. “It’s about customer acquisition. I see companies spending 70 or 80 percent of 30-days trailing revenue on customer acquisition.”

He added, “I still have people coming to me today and saying, ‘I have this great game but if you could just give me $5 million so I could market it….’ I just want to throw those people out on the street. It’s the dumbest thing you could possibly say to me.”

Only the leaders like Supercell, creator of Clash of Clans, can afford the advertising rates for customer acquisition. And that is now the new barrier. Venture capitalists don’t want to fund companies just so they can have a budget for user acquisition.

Helgason said he wished his friends at Supercell good luck, but he hopes that Clash of Clans will “drop like a fly” in the name of diversity and competition in the game industry.

Open ecosystems seem to foster creativity. But during this long period of mobile gaming expansion, some CEOs feel like there hasn’t been enough creativity.

Owen Mahoney, chief executive of Nexon, said, “Until pretty recently, I felt like from 2009 to about six months ago, our industry was taken over. The business of games became the topic of all discussions. Not game making. Not what was fun. They were talking about MAU growth at company X. You guys have incredible ARPU. Those topics are interesting, but they are derivatives of game quality. It seems more people are seeing that. The companies that have done well are the ones that have focused on fun.”

Jens Begemann, CEO of Wooga

Above: Jens Begemann, CEO of Wooga

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

There is one barrier that is good for innovation and creativity. That one is self-restraint by game companies. As the barriers come down, developers are tempted to join the Gold Rush by launching waves of games. They can see which one are hits, and then make more clones of those hits.

Jens Begemann, chief executive of Berlin-based Wooga, made a very good presentation at GamesBeat 2014 about self-restraint. Eighteen months ago, his company released five games at once. Only one of the five was a real hit. The others should never have been released. That shook the company up.

“We should have stopped them earlier,” Begemann said. “We realized we need to change our approach. Now we question our projects regularly.”

Wooga has created a more disciplined system. The company starts with hundreds of ideas. It applies its “hit filter,” starting with 40 or so prototypes. Of those, it may move 10 to production. Then it will test launch seven. Of those, three will launch. The goal is to have two hits per year.

“In this day and age, you need to stop your projects,” Begemann said. “You need to focus only on your critical hits. You need to filter the near misses. All of the games that are good, but not great, need to be filtered. You won’t have a chance in the market.”

Rick Thompson, managing director at Signia Venture Partners and former chairman of Playdom, has invested a lot of money into game companies. But asked what his advice for entrepreneurs is, he said in his talk that he discourages them from going into the game market. It’s overcrowded. It’s hard to get a hit. When it comes to making games, you need to show restraint.

“My answer to that has changed over the years,” he said. “Back in 2008, I was trying to get anybody I knew to get into the game business. Now when people ask me if they should start a new game company or do something else, the answer is something else. The world has changed. The opportunistic days of free users and easy money is long past us. I’m glad to see the transformation take place. The people we are looking for are the ones who are born to build games, play games, understand their users, and are building games they want to play.”

So there you have it. You should build on the platforms that let you be creative. Don’t rush into games. Respect the barrier of self-restraint. Don’t expect to get rich quick. And make the best quality game. If you like, watch the videos from GamesBeat 2014 that I’ve talked about in this column here.

Rick Thompson of Signia Venture Partners

Above: Rick Thompson of Signia Venture Partners

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

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Signia Venture Partners is a unique early-stage venture fund dedicated to helping passionate entrepreneurs build the best new impactful and high-growth companies. Signia operates as co-founders and investors in five key areas: mobility... read more »











Google experiments with breaking the glass ceiling

Thursday 25 September 2014 @ 5:58 pm

Google is trying to disrupt the oldest system of all — the methodology we use to decide who we hire and reward professionally.

Today, Google announced a new workshop that takes on the unconscious bias in the work place, appropriately titled Unconscious Bias at Work.

“We fill in the blanks because our brains are wired to do that,” says Google chief technology officer Megan Smith in a promotional video about the workshop. The roughly four-minute video introduces viewers to a host of employees and leaders within Google that are largely not old white men. They all talk about how unconscious bias, mental associations our brains that help make sense of the world, may be preventing the tech sphere from diversifying.

Unconscious bias happens naturally. Our brain creates shortcuts or associations between people, places, and things that happen repeatedly. For instance, if every time you meet your friend Joe for lunch and he’s late, you’ll associate Joe with tardiness. “If we had to remember each circumstance, that would be too much information,” says Heather Berlin, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai Medical school.

Berlin says that Google’s initiative to change the way people are treated in the workplace is a good start, but bringing awareness to unconscious biases may not have the desired effect. Google intends for the workshops to make its workforce more open to diversity by focusing on educating employees about their inherent biases.

“The first step is education; we need to help people identify and understand their biases so that they can start to combat them,” the blog post reads.

Google’s motivation here is clear. Like many tech companies, it has a diversity problem — in that it’s not diverse. In general, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics suffer from the same plight.

But trying to change those biases and make Google a hospitable environment for diversity may prove more challenging. The notion that you can change unconscious biases consciously is a flawed conceit, according to Berlin. “Changing [biases] is going to happen outside of awareness. You don’t say I’m going to consciously change my subconscious biases. You need to change them unconsciously,” says Berlin.

The problem with changing biases is a chicken-egg scenario. In order for people to develop associations between women and leadership or African-Americans and engineering, for example, people are going to need to repeatedly see diversity in those roles. The solution to changing biases, Berlin maintains, is as simple as saying there needs to be x number of women in leadership, for example. She points to gay marriage, which has seen an increasing amount of support in recent years. “It was an anomaly, but now because people see it more, and it’s more commonplace, the negative associations start to disappear,” says Berlin.

Only adding more diversity to a workplace isn’t easy. Many companies have tried using affirmative action to increase diversity with little success. But without changing demographic ratios, erasing biases will be difficult.

“There’s no correlation between your conscious biases and unconscious biases. So you can train your conscious biases, but that won’t reflect on your unconscious biases — they’ll show up in other ways,” says Berlin. She does say that perhaps over a long period of time, if you call someone out on their biases and they react by hiding them, then it will reflect as that bias being changed.

But she also says what Google is doing with these workshops, regardless of its inability to correct the unconscious consciously, is not a bad idea. Still, in order to change biases and achieve a more diverse workforce, ultimately Google just needs to have more diversity in its ranks.

In attempt to shift the statistics, Google has sponsored a number of programs that help give female and minority students access to computer-science opportunities, so that down the road the employment pool itself will be more diverse.

But another step Google could take, says Berlin, is to make the work environment more appealing to the people they want to attract. “Google is good at this,” she says. They made work more attractive to young people with games and services. Now the company needs to ask itself what its new target demographic wants. “You need to make the environment somewhere that these people want to be,” she says.


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Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »











Watch out, Google: Facebook getting ready to unveil new mobile ad platform

Thursday 25 September 2014 @ 5:30 am
Watch out, Google: Facebook getting ready to unveil new mobile ad platform
Image Credit: Illustration: Eric Blattberg / VentureBeat

Facebook is apparently moving away from the cookie — and it may announce its plans for a new mobile ad network this Monday at Advertising Week.

There is mass speculation across the virtual ad world that the Menlo Park-based social kingpin will very soon unveil a new, more advanced mobile marketing paradigm in a bid to knock Google, the number-one player in the mobile ad space in terms of pure revenue, off the block. The platform will rely on Facebook’s trove of raw human data with less dependence on cookies for deploying and tracking mobile campaigns. And word on the street is Facebook, number two in mobile ad revenue behind Google, may unveil its new platform this Monday at the ad industry’s annual event, which opens next week in the Big Apple.

“Our gut says that this will be mobile-centric and built on Facebook data using Facebook identification instead of cookies. Where I am super excited [is] the focus on measurement and cross-channel attributions, like being able to track users between desktop and mobile — it’s impossible otherwise,” said David Hirsch, a Google ad veteran who spent eight years at the company.

Hirsch joined Google in 2000 and was a founding member of the company’s advertising team. In fact, he was involved in the creation of the first iteration of Google AdWords. Today, AdWords has emerged as one of the Google’s top revenue generators and has helped push Google itself to the as yet undisputed king of the mobile ad spend. These days, Hirsch runs Metamorphic Ventures in New York.


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There is a lot at stake in the mobile ecosystem — and Facebook recognizes this.

About 500 players currently occupy a space that amounted to over $17 billion last year, a number expected to crest $35 billion by the end of 2014, according to eMarketer. Ad brokers, ad exchanges, retargeters, publishers, and analytic outfits currently operate within it, all vying for a piece of a pie that eMarketer projects will grow nearly 100 percent year-over-year for the foreseeable future. That’s because more Americans are getting comfortable relegating more responsibility to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

“They are busy building something behind those doors, and there’s clearly a gag order for the people I met with on the advertising side not to talk about it,” said a mobile executive who works closely with Facebook who requested anonymity.

In order to buttress its mobile offerings, Facebook has acquired 15 companies since 2013, including mobile analytics, back-end, and app companies such as WhatsApp for $19 billion. But numerous people interviewed for this story strongly believe that whatever the new platform turns out to be, it will have some genesis in Facebook’s purchase of Microsoft’s ad server Atlas Solutions, in February 2013, for a sum estimated to be in the region of $100 million.

The reasoning follows that Facebook engineers have been heavily souping up the formerly Windows-centric ad platform, building cross-channel features into it. And whatever Facebook unveils, sources told VentureBeat, it’s likely to include at least some of the remnants of the original Atlas platform.

“If marketers and agencies can get a holistic view of campaign performance, they will be able to do a much better job of making sure the right messages get in front of the right people at the right time,” Brian Boland, Facebook’s director of product marketing, said on a blog post at the time of the Atlas acquisition. “Atlas has built capabilities that allow for this kind of measurement, and enhancing these systems will give marketers a deeper understanding of effectiveness and lead to better digital advertising experiences for consumers.”

Indeed, Valerie Davis, PM Digital’s veep for search media, told VentureBeat in an email that Facebook may actually be relaunching Atlas itself, albeit with tweaks.

“Of course, this is all theoretical as we haven’t seen it live yet, but in my opinion, the relaunch of Atlas will give Google’s DFA [DoubleClick For Advertisers, an ad management service] a run for their money,” Davis said. “Facebook has seemingly managed to solve this device-agnostic ad-targeting obstacle ahead of Google, which will definitely set them apart.”

“However, Google will remain the clear winner in the space until Atlas has a proven record of success,” Davis added.

Facebook has been steadily chipping into Google’s mobile marketing ad dominance since last year. In 2012, Google had 52 percent of the mobile ad market, and the following year, that number decreased to 49 percent. It now stands at about 46 percent. Twitter is also catching up.

At the end of the day, the Facebook workers toiling like Santa’s elves behind closed doors, building, tweaking, and polishing their new mobile-centric platform, will likely to be another game changer, ad veterans told VentureBeat. Despite its weight, Facebook assuredly is still agile enough to surprise even the most jaded technologists.

“We are moving from a world of inferred data and social signals to real human data. Facebook has evolved from a ‘social’ network to a social and communication operating system that seems to be ubiquitous with how people spend their time online,” Hirsch said.

“We have gone from a world of thinking about mobile-to-mobile strategy, to mobile-first, to mobile-agnostic with … iOS and Android, eventually to mobile only.”


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Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 w... read more »











Yelp dumps climate denying lobby group — are Yahoo & eBay next?

Wednesday 24 September 2014 @ 11:20 am
Yelp dumps climate denying lobby group — are Yahoo & eBay next?
Image Credit: Ed Kwon/Flickr

Yelp joined a growing roster of tech giants that have cut ties with the  over the right-wing lobby group’s views on climate change.

“Yelp is not a member of ALEC,” said Luther Lowe, the company’s director of public policy in a statement. Lowe noted that the firm’s membership ended several months ago, after which they decided to end their relationship.

This announcement signals the third major departure from the controversial firm this week.

A Facebook representative told the San Francisco Chronicle late Tuesday, “While we have tried to work within ALEC to bring that organization closer to our view on some key issues, it seems unlikely that we will make sufficient progress so we are not likely to renew our membership in 2015.”

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told NPR on Monday that “the people who oppose [climate change] are really hurting our children and grandchildren and making the world a much worse place.” He added, “We should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying.”

Google was the only company this week to specifically mention ALEC’s environmental stances. Yelp, Facebook, and Microsoft all declined to give specific reasons for their respective exits.

Earlier this month, an alliance of public advocacy groups wrote a formal letter asking Google to stop funding ALEC, which has stridently opposed environmental regulations over concerns that they would hinder economic growth. ALEC has also supported the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and the repeal of the Renewable Portfolio Standards.

Critics also cite ALEC’s other sources of funding, particularly multinational energy companies like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and TransCanada.

A list maintained by Common Cause shows that a number of tech firms still maintain a relationship with ALEC, most notably Yahoo and eBay.


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With Nexus 9, HTC Could Get A Crack At Making An Android Tablet To Get People Excited

Monday 22 September 2014 @ 5:40 am
HTC-One-M8-2 HTC is gearing up production of a Nexus 9 tablet device to showcase the Android operating system, a report from the Wall Street Journal claims. The report follows earlier rumors that this would be the case, and suggests a Nexus 9 from the Taiwanese device maker is almost a lock. But HTC is a strange bedfellow for Google in this case – the OEM swore off tablets altogether back in 2011.… Read More



Moto 360: A round smartwatch not yet ready to roll (review)

Friday 19 September 2014 @ 11:29 am
Moto 360: A round smartwatch not yet ready to roll (review)

From a distance, you could mistake the Moto 360 for any other chunky men’s watch. But once its 1.56-inch screen lights up with a notification of a new email, a Twitter mention, or an upcoming event, it’s obvious to all onlookers that this Motorola timepiece doesn’t just tell time.

Like other Android Wear watches, the $250 Moto 360 serves as a selective external display for a Bluetooth-linked smartphone running Android 4.3 or newer versions. Wear this, and your odds of missing a new notification or a Google Now update drop to near zero: The watch vibrates, and its screen displays a banner for each new item, and in most cases you can act on it with swipes of its touchscreen.

The 360 also provides a limited amount of remote control via voice input. Say “OK Google” and the watch — assuming it hears you correctly, which was not assured in my experience — will then invite you to say your Google search query, ask for directions, check your schedule, or tell it to do such simple actions as setting a timer or an alarm.

You can also dictate replies to texts or e-mails — but the exceedingly short time you have to correct any mistakes invites “damn you autocorrect” mishaps.

And even when disconnected from a phone, the 360 counts your footsteps, can measure your heart rate and, yup, indicate the current time. Motorola also threw in an app that checks to see if you’ve gotten the recommended 30 minutes of moderately cardio-intensive activity.

But where earlier Android Wear models like the Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch I tested earlier this summer have featured square displays that leave no doubt you’ve shackled a tiny computer to your wrist, the 360’s nearly round display fits with other watches. Its leather band is also far more comfortable than the Gear Live’s plastic strap.

(The very bottom of the display is cut off to leave room for an ambient-light sensor. That was not inevitable; LG’s upcoming Android Wear-equipped G Watch R sports a completely circular screen.)

The 360’s backlit LCD — not a more energy-efficient OLED — gets tricky to view in sunlight, but indoors it can function as a short-range flashlight. My toddler delighted in being able to “turn the light on on the watch” with a tap of her fingers.

Its diameter barely exceeds the diagonal spans of the Gear Live and G Watch screens, but that translates into a surface about 50 percent larger. That’s not always good: When Android Wear notified me of somebody’s birthday by splashing their Google+ profile picture on the screen, I worried that people across a subway car would recognize the person.

The 360 also feels thicker than .45 inches, probably because its circumference isn’t broken up by the chamfered edges, curves and multiple dials around the even thicker non-smart watches that top Amazon’s “new and popular” list. Much of that volume is taken up the 360’s 320 milliamp-hour battery.

Moto 360 in charger

Motorola claims an “all day” battery life for this thing, and that is possible with its default screen setting. But that default — disabling the “ambient screen” option that keeps the screen on but dimmed for longer — leaves the 360 an inert disc of glass most of the time.

The screen is supposed to illuminate when you get a notification or you flick your wrist, but that gesture failed to wake the watch often enough to leave this setting somewhere between irritating and unusable.

With ambient screen on, however, battery life shriveled. After 12 hours of use, it had 23 percent of a charge left on one day, 27 percent on another. It didn’t make it past 17 hours either day.

Recharging the 360 happens to be a dramatically more awkward proposition than topping off a phone’s battery. You can’t grab any random micro-USB cable. You also need its inductive charger. And this charger isn’t a compact plastic clip like the Gear Live’s; it’s a large lump that cradles the watch and which you can’t hope to stash in your pants pocket.

Nothing on the watch or the charger indicates this, but the 360 sort-of supports the Qi wireless-charging standard … in the sense that a Motorola tech-support note says you can try using a different Qi charger but then warns that it probably won’t work. And at least one outside report suggests that caution is warranted.

This watch leaves me torn. I increasingly appreciate being able to see a new text message or e-mail without having to grab my phone (provided that I can refrain from checking a smartwatch for new notifications as often as I glance at my phone). But under no circumstances should a watch’s battery life make a phone’s battery life look good, and the 360 does exactly that.


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Here’s what you can earn at the 20 top tech companies

Tuesday 16 September 2014 @ 11:30 pm
Here’s what you can earn at the 20 top tech companies
Image Credit: David Crow/Flickr

While there’s debate over whether there’s a shortage of qualified tech workers, there’s one thing no one argues about: Tech companies pay their employees well.

We’ve heard of senior engineers getting a base salary of $160,000, with stock options and other benefits on top. Some interns are earning $7,000 a month, which amounts to $84,000 a year.

So we sifted through job-hunting site Glassdoor to find the best-paying jobs listed on that site, at the best tech companies, according to Glassdoor’s ranking of the best places to work.

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We listed the highest-paying job on Glassdoor, plus salaries for two common tech jobs: a senior technical role and a software engineer, at each company, to give you a sense of what those jobs pay as well.


No. 20: Salesforce.com, $319,000

Salesforce.com’s-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for an executive vice president at $319,347.

A senior technical staffer gets, on average, $130,233.

A staff software engineer gets, on average, $112,942.

Employee rating: 3.8 out of 5 (Rank 20)

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

What it does: Salesforce.com offers a cloud computing service that helps companies find and support customers.


No. 19: eBay, $320,679

eBay’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a vice president at $320,679.

A senior technical staffer gets paid, on average, $178,080.

A staff software engineer gets, on average, $120,424.

Employee rating: 3.8 out of 5 (Rank 19)

Headquarters: San Jose, California

What it does: eBay is an ecommerce site best known for letting consumers sell stuff through online auctions.


No. 18: Texas Instruments, $156,530

Texas Instruments’ top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for an applications engineering manager at $156,530.

A senior technical staff gets, on average, $125,778.

A software engineer gets, on average, $91,633.

Employee rating: 3.8 out of 5 (Rank 18)

Headquarters: Dallas, Texas

What it does: Texas Instruments is a semiconductor manufacturer.


No. 17: NetApp, $227,370

NetApp’s top-paying job on Glassdoor is for a director of marketing at $225,494.

A senior software engineer gets, on average, $144,756.

A staff software engineer gets, on average, $93,726.

Employee rating: 3.8 out of 5 (Rank 17)

Headquarters: Sunnyvale, California

What it does: NetApp offers enterprise computer-storage products.


No 16: Citrix, $176,322

Citrix’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a senior director at $176,322.

A senior software engineer gets, on average, $108,179.

A software engineer gets, on average, $88,728.

Employee rating: 3.8 out of 5 (Rank 16)

Headquarters: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

What it does: Citrix makes enterprise software that allows PCs and devices to remotely access corporate apps and data.


No 15: CareerBuilder.com, $131,000

CareerBuilder.com’s-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a director at $131,000.

A senior software engineer gets, on average, $84,650.

A software engineer gets, on average, $73,850.

Employee rating: 3.8 out of 5 (Rank 15)

Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois

What it does: CareerBuilder.com is a website for job seekers and recruiters.


No. 14: Apple, $255,700

Apple’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a senior director at $255,700.

A software development manager gets, on average, $180,333.

A software engineer gets, on average, $110,867.

Employee rating: 3.8 out of 5 (Rank 14)

Headquarters: Cupertino, California

What it does: Apple makes the Macintosh PC, iPad tablet, iPhone smartphone, and other consumer tech devices and software.


No. 13: Intel, $231,084

Intel’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a software engineering director at $231,084.

A principal engineer gets, on average, $170,146.

A software engineer gets, on average, $97,403.

Employee rating: 3.8 out of 5 (Rank 13)

Headquarters: Santa Clara, California

What it does: Intel is a semiconductor manufacturer best known for processors that power PCs and servers.


No. 12: Rackspace, $136,229

Rackspace’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a software developer V at $136,229.

A manager of software development gets, on average, $125,528.

A software engineer III gets, on average, $82,000.

Employee rating: 3.9 out of 5 (Rank 12)

Headquarters: San Antonio, Texas

What it does: Rackspace offers cloud computing and web-hosting services to enterprises.


No. 11: National Instruments, $122,486

National Instruments’ top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a Principal Engineer at $122,486.

A senior group manager gets, on average, $112,500.

A software engineer gets, on average, $64,129.

Employee rating: 3.9 out of 5 (Rank 11)

Headquarters: Austin, Texas

What it does: National Instruments makes test equipment for building tech products.


No. 10: Red Hat, $192,333

Red Hat’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a senior director at $192,333.

A principal software engineer gets, on average, $124,277.

A software engineer gets, on average, $79,725.

Employee rating: 4 out of 5 (Rank 10)

Headquarters: Raleigh, North Carolina

What it does: Red Hat offers open-source software for enterprises, including a popular version of Linux.


No. 9: MathWorks, $137,313

MathWorks’ top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a principal software engineer at $137,313.

A senior design engineer gets, on average, $117,947.

A software engineer gets, on average, $81,060.

Employee rating: 4 out of 5 (Rank 9)

Headquarters: Natick, Massachusetts

What it does: MathWorks makes computational software for engineers and scientists.


No. 8: Intuit, $216,714

Intuit’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a director of product management at $216,714.

A software engineering director gets, on average, $195,636.

A staff software engineer gets, on average, $137,424.

Employee rating: 4.1 out of 5 (Rank 8)

Headquarters: Mountain View, California

What it does: Intuit makes financial and tax-preparation software for consumers and small businesses.


No. 7: Riverbed, $186,667

Riverbed’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a senior director at $186,667.

An engineering manager gets, on average, $145,309.

A software engineer gets, on average, $109,464.

Employee rating: 4.1 out of 5 (Rank 7)

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

What it does: Riverbed makes hardware and software that helps enterprise networks run faster.


No. 6: Qualcomm, $222,647

Qualcomm’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a senior director of hardware engineering at $222,647.

A principal systems engineer gets, on average, $183,153.

A software engineer gets, on average, $88,312.

Employee rating: 4.2 out of 5 (Rank 6)

Headquarters: San Diego, California

What it does: Qualcomm is a semiconductor manufacturer best known for its Snapdragon processors that power smartphones and other mobile devices.


No. 5: Google, $281,930

Google’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a marketing director at $281,930.

An engineering director gets, on average, $256,250.

A software engineer gets, on average, $118,968.

Employee rating: 4.3 out of 5 (Rank 5)

Headquarters: Mountain View, California

What it does: Google operates the world’s largest internet search engine and makes the Android operating system. It makes most of its money from advertising.


No 4: Guidewire, $157,918

Guidewire’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a development manager at $157,918.

A senior solutions architect gets, on average, $136,493.

A software engineer gets, on average, $108,918.

Employee rating: 4.5 out of 5 (Rank 4)

Headquarters: Foster City, California

What it does: Guidewire offers software for the property- and life-insurance industries.


No. 3: Facebook, $191,591

Facebook’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a software engineering manager at $191,591.

An IT Manager gets, on average, $163,197.

A software engineer gets, on average, $118,445.

Employee rating: 4.5 out of 5 (Rank 3)

Headquarters: Menlo Park, California

What it does: Facebook is a social network where people can share their thoughts and photos with friends. It makes most of its money through advertising.


No. 2: LinkedIn, $205,980

LinkedIn’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for an engineering manager at $205,980.

A senior business systems analyst/business analytics gets, on average, $171,745.

A software engineer gets, on average, $127,557.

Employee rating: 4.6 out of 5 (Rank 2)

Headquarters: Mountain View, California

What it does: LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. It sells premium subscriptions and job-recruiting services.


No. 1: Twitter, $179,416

Twitter’s top-paying job listed on Glassdoor is for a staff engineer at $179,416.

An engineering manager gets, on average, $166,520.

A software engineer gets, on average, $121,642.

Employee rating: 4.6 out of 5 (Rank 1)

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

What it does: Twitter offers a social-media service where people can share their thoughts with the word in 140 characters or less. It generates revenue through advertising.

This story originally appeared on www.businessinsider.com.


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Feds nail Yelp for violating kids’ privacy rights

Tuesday 16 September 2014 @ 9:00 pm
Feds nail Yelp for violating kids’ privacy rights
Image Credit: http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-31437106/stock-photo-many-dollars-of-money-and-a-judge-hammer.html

When it comes to violating children’s rights online, the Federal Trade Commission picked not a mobile gaming company to hit, as rumored, but Yelp.

And today, Yelp admitted to having a “bug” problem.

Virtual customer review stalwart Yelp, based in San Francisco, said it paid $450,000 to the FTC for collecting names and other identifiers of children without their consent, a clear violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

This is an interesting case. Earlier this year, the FTC announced with great fanfare that it would aggressively begin going after operators in the mobile space that were in violation of COPPA, which the government amended last year to give mobile gamers and app developers time to get their houses in order.

The FTC made no public announcement about the hit on Yelp; instead, Yelp announced the fine on its website in a little noticed blog post.

Yelp chalked up its violation to a “bug” that wreaked havoc in its mobile registration process.

Yelp’s blog post, in part, read:

“Yelp recently reached a settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission regarding a bug in our mobile registration process that allowed certain users to register with any birth date when it was supposed to disallow registrations from individuals under 13 (birthdates on Yelp are optional in the first place, so users are always free to register without one).”

The good news is that only about 0.02% of users who actually completed Yelp’s registration process during this time period provided an underage birth date, and we have good reason to believe that many of them were actually adults. Regardless, we don’t want any ambiguity when it comes to our users. When this problem was brought to our attention, we fixed it immediately and closed the affected users’ accounts.”

An FTC spokesperson in Washington DC could not be reached for comment.

The crux of the lawsuit, according to Yelp, was the FTC’s accusation that the company, launched in 2004, was collecting email addresses from kids, some of them aged 9 and under, without the consent of their parents from 2009 until 2013.

To be more specific, kids who signed up for Yelp accounts did not have to go through an adequate process in order to set up an account. The FTC’s move against Yelp mirrors, to a degree, the fines it levied against Apple, Google, and Amazon this year. Those three heavyweights were accused of billing minors for unauthorized purchases to their app stores.

Apple and Google settled for over $60 million combined, while Amazon is fighting the FTC.


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