Sonic the Hedgehog zooms into Angry Birds Epic

Sonic in Angry Birds Epic

Sonic the Hedgehog has been a gaming icon for decades, and now he’s lending his powers to Rovio’s Angry Birds’ brand.

The Finnish tech giant has revealed the latest instalment in its Sega partnership, one that will see Sonic appear in Angry Birds Epic, an Angry Birds spin-off RPG (role-playing game).

For a limited time, gamers will be able to “unlock” and control Sonic in a special event on Piggy Island. Sonic is on your side, and with him your mission it to defeat Doctor Eggman, Sonic’s sworn enemy.


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This comes just months after the spiny mammal invited a handful of characters from Angry Birds over to play in Sonic Dash, a Temple Run-type endless runner game on mobile.

“It’s been a fun partnership with Rovio,” said Naoki Kameda, Sega’s VP of business development. “It was great to host Red, Chuck and Bomb in Sonic Dash this summer, and we hope fans enjoy playing with Sonic in Angry Birds Epic.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that Sonic has fallen on hard times, but Sonic Dash recently passed the 100 million downloads mark, claiming 14 million monthly players. It seems that he’s found a new lease of life on mobile.

Rovio recently launched Angry Birds 2, six years after the original, but the company has been branching out into too many things — as such, it recently announced it was cutting up to 260 jobs as it looks to refocus its efforts. And Sonic, it seems, is only too happy to help out.


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NewsCred nabs $42M to expand beyond content marketing

From the NewsCred site

Content marketing platform NewsCred is today announcing a new round of $42 million to help it evolve into a broader marketing platform.

Brands want to tell their unique story, cofounder and CEO Shafqat Islam told me, but their messaging underperforms when it relies on ads, because users often block or tune them out.

Based around a brand’s need to control how its story is told, the seven-year-old company is now expanding beyond its content marketplace and distribution to a more generalized marketing platform.


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As one example, Islam noted that NewsCred’s former Editorial Calendar is now replaced by a Marketing Calendar that helps keep track of what’s happening on websites, email, social, and other channels.

There are also operational tools for managing content-related workflows, task management, and collaboration, which in recent years have expanded to include social media, integration with other systems, publishing to owned properties like a brand’s websites, and analytics that describe who is viewing and sharing the content.

Islam also noted that a tool is in the works to help marketers determine the best places to invest their budget.

Content marketing via NewsCred

Above: Content marketing via NewsCred

Image Credit: NewsCred

Content itself is continually expanding, venturing beyond white papers, case histories, webinars, licensed imagery, and short- or long-form recorded video to include user-generated imagery and posts, advocacy by employees, and live streaming video.

With content playing a central role in marketing, Islam said his company’s platform “has taken off.” NewsCred reports that its revenue grew threefold last year, and its customer base doubled. Fortune 2000 companies represent 40 percent of its customers, and include such well-known brands as Barclays, Cap Gemini, Cisco, Fidelity, Dell, Pepsi, USAA, Visa, and NASDAQ.

But this newly expanded role for the company does not completely replace the rest of a marketing stack, he acknowledged. For instance, he said that you can use NewsCred to create an email list and manage it, but you might still employ Salesforce’s ExactTarget marketing platform for deliverability.

NewsCred’s evolution is part of a trend of marrying content marketing with other capabilities. New York City-based PulsePoint, for example, recently added content marketing to its ad targeting automation, as DNN did with its content management and Acrolinx with its language optimization.

Among direct competitors, Islam sees Percolate as being more focused on social, while Skyword and Contently are more oriented toward their writer marketplaces. At the high end of marketing platforms, there are the big players like Adobe, Salesforce, and Oracle, but he said they’ve added much of their functionality through acquisitions, while NewsCred has “built it organically.”

And, he pointed out, his company looks at marketing “from the content angle.”

The new funding, which brings the total raised to $88.8 million, will be used to double the company’s sales team and to support software development of the platform.

FTV Capital led this Series D round, with participation from existing investors FirstMark Capital, InterWest Partners, and Mayfield Fund.

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Amazon chooses India for its Asia debut of Kindle Unlimited

amazon-kindle-unlimited-india

September is turning out to be a significant month for Amazon on the international expansion front.

The e-commerce giant announced the availability of its Kindle Unlimited subscription service in India Wednesday, just days after it also revealed plans to enter Japan with its video streaming service. (Its main rival Netflix officially launches in Japan today.)

This marks the service’s debut launch in Asia, and is an unsurprising choice considering India’s forecast to become to world’s second-largest smartphone market by 2017, behind China.


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Amazon’s director of Kindle content, Sanjeev Jha, said the India launch was part of the company’s push to make “reading more accessible than ever.”

“For less than the average price of one hardcover bestseller, we’ve made the best digital library in the world available to every corner of India,” he said.

The service will cost about $3 per month, and include access to over one million titles — though Amazon is offering half-price subscriptions through September.

Along with Kindle devices, users can also take advantage of the service through the Kindle app on iOS and Android (hence the importance of India’s strong smartphone growth forecasts). Books included as part of the deal are clearly labeled with a Kindle Unlimited logo.

As for India more broadly, Amazon has already made very clear its intentions there: it announced a $2 billion investment into its India operations at the end of July, in a bid to better compete with local rivals Flipkart and Snapdeal.

On Tuesday, Amazon and a host of other tech giants announced that they were banding together to create new open media formats. And on the same day it finally launched a standalone video-streaming app for Android, as well as making available Prime movies and TV shows for offline playback.

Now the question becomes: which country in Asia will Kindle Unlimited roll out to next? Place your bets.

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Alibaba’s Streaming Video Subscription Service Rolls Out In China

streaming video Alibaba’s unlimited video streaming subscription platform, Tmall Box Office (TBO), is now available for some users of its smart TV operating system in China. Tech In Asia spotted TBO’s homepage, which gives viewers access to Chinese and foreign shows and movies starting at RMB 39 (about $6.10) for a month’s subscription. Read More

Alibaba’s Streaming Video Subscription Service Rolls Out In China

streaming video Alibaba’s unlimited video streaming subscription platform, Tmall Box Office (TBO), is now available for some users of its smart TV operating system in China. Tech In Asia spotted TBO’s homepage, which gives viewers access to Chinese and foreign shows and movies starting at RMB 39 (about $6.10) for a month’s subscription. Read More

An open letter to the enterprise file sync and share market

Nexus 4 Thinkpad 月明 端木 Flickr

To whom it may concern,

I do not consider myself an oracle or a fortune teller, but I like to think that my last 22 years in Silicon Valley has made me more adept at navigating the future of the technology space and uncovering trends. Last year I predicted that companies with scale would control storage pricing and shove the sector into a race to the bottom. Fast forward to the present day; Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have thrown their weight around to do just that — offering unlimited storage as a part of their solution, which essentially renders cloud storage free.

Now, one year later, I am writing this letter to make another prediction: Enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) as a standalone solution will disappear in the next two years.


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While Gartner created the EFSS category just two years ago, this space is at an inflection point that will force the vendors to make drastic changes or disappear all together. EFSS was created when implementing file sharing, storage, and sync was a time-, effort-, and resource-intensive effort and hence, moving capital expenditures to operating expenditures was the driving force. This was a time where the cloud was seen as the best possible solution, a panacea for complex file infrastructure if you will. As a result cloud-only, turnkey solutions were developed and rolled out to both consumers and businesses.

This was a good start but had fundamental flaws. While the focus was to make things easier for users, solutions veered toward being too simplistic. However, the reality is that a company’s file infrastructure involves serving variety of use cases that cloud-only solutions simply cannot support — security and privacy issues with data, problems of scale (lots of files), large files, and performance expectations. As time has progressed, vendors have learned that there is a significant amount of customer data that should not be in the cloud, which is now making on-premises storage all the more valuable and relevant. Other than for archival purposes, interacting with terabytes or even petabytes of data in the cloud is simply not viable.

Unlike consumer needs, enterprise needs cannot be satisfied by a one-size-fits-all approach. Providers must be seen either as a platform or as a core piece of infrastructure. The enterprise needs flexibility, security, and control, which are achieved by providing value-added services on top of the simple file sync and share solutions that were initially created. These services include collaboration, data management, and data protection.

Microsoft and Google are already playing this game. Microsoft is capitalizing on the ubiquity of Office to build a three-pronged strategy around making business processes more efficient, incorporating an “intelligent cloud platform” and “creating more personal computing.” Google aims to replace Office products with its own Google Docs, while pitting Google Drive against Dropbox, which itself grew into a main player based on ease of use and widespread adoption.

With all of that being said, the bloom is off the rose for the EFSS category. We are two years since the inception of the EFSS category, and we are now within two years of its demise.

Early entrants to this space like SugarSync and YouSendIt (Hightail) have all but disappeared. Even storage powerhouse EMC decided to sell control of its Syncplicity unit to Skyview Capital.

There is a new realization for enterprise customers, and they are pausing to regroup and rethink their strategy. They are assessing strengths and weaknesses, looking for one solution that can provide a platform to answer all of their needs — functionality, openness, security, and control. This is why I refer to our present time period as “halftime.”

There is still time to find a way to win if you can grow beyond the confines of file sync and share.

Regards,

Vineet Jain

Vineet Jain is cofounder and chief executive of Egnyte.

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Lego blocks, algorithms and the birth of Google

The glut of cash flowing into Silicon Valley over the last few years may be corporatising the startup culture, but cool new technologies are still being spawned in student garages. While many complain that the valley has been scarred by the stampede of venture capitalists and MBA students who have rushed to join the gold rush, two new startups are proving that some traditions can not been shaken.

Xiaomi reportedly working on $470 laptop with Samsung, others due early 2016

Flickr / Jon Russell

China’s smartphone giant Xiaomi is reportedly working on its own line of laptops with partners including Inventec and Foxconn for release in early 2016, according to a report by DigitTimes Tuesday.

Samsung may also be tapped to supply the chips and displays, according to a separate report from Bloomberg Wednesday.

DigiTimes, which is initially predicting a 15-inch notebook model priced at around $470 running Linux, cites its sources as saying:

For the notebook business, Xiaomi is planning to use the same strategy as the one for smartphones and will release notebooks with high price/performance ratio.

While much cheaper than Apple’s MacBook offerings, it’s likely that Xiaomi will be positioning itself to steal marketshare from both Apple and homegrown rival Lenovo. Bloomberg’s sources specifically claim it will look to compete with the two brands.

VentureBeat has reached out to both Samsung and Xiaomi for comment, and we’ll update you if we hear back.

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