Gmail will now automatically add Google Calendar events for emails with flight, hotel, restaurant, or ticket info

Google's new calendar app in action

Google today announced an update that brings Gmail and Google Calendar closer together. The new feature, which adds events to Google Calendar based on information in emails sent to your Gmail account, is rolling out this week to Google Apps customers on desktop, Android, and iOS.

When you receive an email in Gmail with flight, hotel, restaurant, or ticketed event information, a Google Calendar event will be automatically added to Google Calendar with the important data pulled right into the description. Better yet, Google Calendar will even update those events if plans change and a new email is received.

That means you no longer have to worry about creating Google Calendar events that include important information like flight numbers and check-in times. Furthermore, you also don’t have to update your events when a flight is delayed or a reservation pushed back.

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The Events for Gmail feature is being enabled by default, and events added from Gmail to Google Calendar will be visible only to calendar owners by default. Google Calendar owners can also delete any unwanted event, adjust visibility settings, or disable the feature altogether.

This feature is largely aimed at companies, as Google explained:

The Internet has made business travel — booking flights and hotels, reserving restaurant tables, buying event tickets, and more — infinitely easier. Adding that information to a calendar, on the other hand, has remained time-consuming and tedious, typically requiring people to copy and paste information from various confirmation emails.

That said, many business travelers won’t want this functionality. Google Calendar users will thus be getting an in-product popup that explains the feature and how to turn it off. After the first event from Gmail is added, a one-time email notification will also be sent to the user from Google Calendar, with the same details.

gmail_calendar_event_prompts

Events from Gmail aren’t available for Google Apps for Work, Education, or Government accounts, though Google didn’t explain why. And of course, if you use a Google account that doesn’t have Gmail, the feature won’t be enabled either.

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RentBoy CEO, employees arrested in raid of Dotcom-era escort service

RentBoy

Federal agents have raided the Manhattan office of RentBoy.com, one of the Internet’s largest male escort sites, Pix11 reports.

CEO Jeffrey Hurant and several employees were reportedly arrested Tuesday on suspicion of conspiring to promote prostitution under the guise of offering “companionship” from its escorts, officials said.

Hurant and six current and former workers are expected to appear in court Tuesday afternoon.

The site, which was taken offline sometime Tuesday afternoon, hosts thousands of paid ads offering “companionship,” but prosecutors allege the site is actually pushing prostitution.

The criminal complaint

According to the affidavit, RentBoy’s slogan is “Money can’t buy you love…but the rest is negotiable.” The site also calls itself “the original and world’s largest male escort site,” and claims 500,000 daily unique visitors. The affidavit also claims that RentBoy accrued $10 million in revenue between 2010 and 2015.

From the criminal complaint:

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 3.25.46 PM

Users pay $59.95 a month for a basic subscription to RentBoy.com. The “platinum” tier costs $299.95. Advertising on the site can cost hundreds of dollars more, and users can pick the “sexual services they are willing to perform and the price charged,” prosecutors said.

If convicted, Hurant and his employees face up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

You can read the criminal complaint affidavit here.

A long-surviving holdout from the dotcom era, RentBoy.com was founded back in 1997. That the company is only taking heat now is remarkable, as similarly controversial tech firm Ashley Madison faces pressure from a high-profile leak.

Other tech companies, including Craigslist and Grindr, have also faced criticism for allegedly enabling prostitution.


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YouTube Gaming launches on iOS, Android, and Web tomorrow to take on Twitch

YouTube Gaming will bring Google head-to-head with Twitch.

After promising all summer to launch its Twitch competitor, YouTube is finally getting into the game.

YouTube Gaming, the video site’s centralized hub for everything related to the digital medium, launches tomorrow. This will give fans one place to get live and recorded content about the biggest, smallest, and most popular games. That’s because YouTube Gaming automatically populates with all gaming content from the site’s huge community of video creators. On top of consuming content, YouTube Gaming is also about enabling gamers to create more videos as Google is promising to make it easier than ever for people to livestream their games.

Gaming is among the most popular video-content categories on the Web. It is second only to music, and the top channel on all of YouTube is the screaming game player PewDiePie. YouTube has made a lot of money putting ads in front of those kinds of videos, but — in some areas — it has fallen behind upstart Twitch. But this YouTube Gaming initiative is largely about finding ways to catch up to (and surpass) that Amazon-owned competitor.


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To help establish YouTube Gaming as a brand of its own, Google is launching the hub online as well as on mobile. If you have an Android or iOS device, you can download the YouTube Gaming app from Google Play or App Store starting this week.

If you’re wondering what kind of experience you’ll get from those apps, YouTube explained that it’ll serve up more than 25,000 gaming pages. It’ll curate what each person sees based on the games and channels they like and watch.

YouTube will enable you to build a list of games that you enjoy.

Above: YouTube will enable you to build a list of games that you enjoy.

Image Credit: YouTube

In addition to the aforementioned app, YouTube is also trying to raise its profile among gamers by showing up to conferences and fan events. It already had a large booth and a number of major guests at the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show in June. Now, this weekend, it is doing the same at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. YouTube Gaming will have a full booth and stage show featuring some of its biggest content creators and partners.

 

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Dhruva Interactive opens new studio near the Himalayas in northern India

Dhruva Interactive's new studio in Northern India.

Dhruva Interactive, a major South Asian game development company, has opened a new game studio in the city of Dehradun in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India. The move will give the company an avenue for expansion and greater ability to attract talent in the sprawling Indian market.

Rajesh Rao of Dhruva Interactive

Above: Rajesh Rao of Dhruva Interactive

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Rajesh Rao, the chief executive of Dhruva and a pioneer in the Indian gaming market, said in an email that the move was “long overdue.” About 30 people are relocating from Dhruva in Bangalore to the new Studio D in Dehradun. It shows that the Indian market is making progress in growing both on a domestic front and on the global stage for games.

Dhruva got its start as a contract maker of assets for games, such as the polished cars in Microsoft’s Forza Motorsport. It also makes its own original games for the Indian market, such as Bazzle.


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The company will have about 350 people by the end of the year. The new Studio D has room for 120 people, and it is based in a former bulb factory. It is surrounded by forests and national parks.

Most recently, Dhruva has worked on games such as Halo 5: Guardians, Quantum Break, Alien Isolation, Dead Island 2, and the latest Forza game.

“It was long overdue,” Rao said in an email. “India is a large country, and people would love to stay in their regions if they can. At Dhruva we have people from all the states in India, but we realized that for every one person from the north who came to join us in Bangalore, there are 3 more who would like to work for Dhruva, but could not relocate due to family and other constraints.”

Rao is going to be a speaker at our upcoming GamesBeat 2015 conference on October 12 and October 13 in San Francisco.

Team members from Dhruva's new game studio.

Above: Team members from Dhruva’s new game studio.

Image Credit: Dhruva









Top German court rejects Apple touchscreen patent appeal

An Apple logo hangs above the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015.

(Reuters) – Apple patents covering the “slide to unlock” feature on smartphones are invalid, Germany’s highest appeals court ruled on Tuesday, reaffirming a 2013 decision rejecting the U.S. company’s claims by a lower court.

The ruling by the Federal Court of Appeals in Karlsruhe covers one of the Apple iPhone’s most popular defining features, of which makers of rival Android-based phones have developed their own versions.

In a statement, the appeals court said it confirmed a ruling by the lower Federal Patent Court that canceled Apple’s German patent, based on the technique’s similarity to a phone released by Swedish company Neonode Inc a year before the iPhone’s 2007 launch.


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Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Neonode N1 had substantially similar technical features, the patent court had found. It ruled Apple’s easier-to-use interface was not in itself patentable.

Neonode sold tens of thousands of phones before declaring bankruptcy in 2008. It reorganized itself as an intellectual property firm licensing its patented optical technology for use in phones, tablets, readers and other touchscreen devices.

Motorola Mobility, at the time a unit of Google but now owned by China’s Lenovo Group, filed the original suit in a Munich court against the Apple user interface patent.

Apple won that case but the ruling was later overturned by the federal patent court.

(Reporting by Eric Auchard and Peter Maushagen; Editing by David Holmes)

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Analyze this: mobile, adtech, and big data analytics vendors fail to engage marketers

analytics

With more than 2,000 marketing technologies and growing on the market, it should come as no surprise that there are often gaps between the solutions vendors offer and the marketer’s ability to use them. The problems are pretty classic.

First, most marketers focus primarily on data that they can see and count, like conversion tracking for AdWords. That misses a huge opportunity on more important areas, such as customer journey tracking, which relies heavily on mobile.

primary objectives

Second, platform-based analytics, like Facebook Insights, evolve and change quickly. This means that as quickly as some third party tools can be implemented and put to use, their value for marketers is already marginalized.

Finally, the marketing tech universe suffers from systemic, crippling fragmentation of both data and tools. Cloud-based solutions are a bridge to a better world, but it’s still early days, and uptake and proven ROI has been slow in many verticals, particularly among SMEs.


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As Jon Cifuentes recently wrote in The State of Marketing Analytics: Insights in the age of the customer, “No matter where you are in the modern marketing organization, you’re likely not maximizing the tools available, or even aware of the tools available.”

Here are four segments where analytics vendors must significantly improve their engagement of marketing users:

Mobile: According to Cifuentes’ report, mobile marketers consistently feel that marketing tech vendors simply do not align with the marketer’s journey-focused vision, and that the techs that are available aren’t consistent performers. This is too big a bucket for vendors to be so disengaged from their users. Expect big evolutions here in the next 12 to 18 months.

Adtech: There are a lot of analytics solutions for measuring ad effectiveness — perhaps too many. Fragmentation is rampant, meaning marketers are constantly forced to jump from platform to platform. Many marketers will get sick of this trial-and-error approach and opt to invest in premium networks, resulting in fewer headaches and less risk of fraud.

Big data: At this point, big data is used less by marketers than by data scientists. This speaks volumes about the business side of things taking big data seriously, but also highlights a dangerous lack of integration of big data into the marketing organization. In other words, big data analytics vendors are building for a completely different kind of user, raising the question: How are you going to offer me, the marketer, a high-performing, integrated solution when I’m not even the person you’re designing for?

SEO/SEM: Pretty much everything marketers do is moving towards signal data and personalization. That means SEO on the whole is being devalued, pushing the function out of HQ and more into the agency world. Unfortunately for SEO vendors, that’s a double whammy in that, even as their addressable market is shrinking, user definition is also being dramatically altered from an in-house technical role to an outsourced role in a creative, multi-client environment. Someone new will emerge here with a lean, integrated offering specifically targeted to cost-conscious agencies.

Net-net, the market for marketing tech analytics solutions is growing and morphing quickly.

The successful vendors will be those that find ways to engage marketers with cohesive, omni-channel solutions that are easy to use and derive measurable results from. The successful marketers will be those who develop the data chops to leverage increasingly complex analytics tools to drive personalized experiences throughout the whole of the customer journey.


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The plot thickens in the Machine Zone vs. Kabam lawsuit

Kate Upton in Game of War: Fire Age ad.

When Game of War mobile game publisher Machine Zone sued Kabam a couple of weeks ago for allegedly accessing a confidential Machine Zone document, the evidence was based on an argument that took place at a cocktail party. But now, during the course of discovery in the lawsuit, Kabam has disclosed an email that Machine Zone says supports its case. On top of that, the declaration of a Kabam employee appears to shed some light on some financial details that Machine Zone wants to keep private.

Gabe Leydon, CEO of Machine Zone.

Above: Gabe Leydon, CEO of Machine Zone.

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

The newly disclosed email from Kabam corporate development director Daniel Wiggins is the latest in what Kabam belittles as an episode of HBO’s farce, the Silicon Valley TV show. But if this email is an indicator of what is to come in the case, the whole thing could turn out to provide a rare look inside the corporate walls at two of Silicon Valley’s largest mobile game companies.

The incident started on August 12 during the Casual Connect game conference at an after-party that took place at the Clift Hotel in San Francisco. Gabe Leydon, the chief executive of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Machine Zone and whose Game of War: Fire Age has been in the top charts for a couple of years, was at the party with Wiggins. Based on sources interviewed by GamesBeat, we believe Leydon is trying to raise a $500 million round of funding — a huge amount for a mobile game company. His pitch deck (a PowerPoint document) was apparently being circulated by investment bank Morgan Stanley, as we reported on June 25, well before the incident happened.


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Wiggins and Leydon got in an argument while drinking at the cocktail party. During that bickering, Wiggins allegedly told Leydon that he had seen the confidential Machine Zone pitch deck. After that, Leydon became irate, and Machine Zone sued Kabam the next day. The companies began gathering testimony and witnesses. At first, Kabam said the lawsuit was ridiculous, like an episode of Silicon Valley, and that it could find nothing related to Machine Zone’s deck in all of Wiggins’ computer documents. Kabam still maintains it does not have the confidential document.

But the case has brought up one interesting email. Provided by Kabam, the email from Wiggins shows that he sent a message to his supervisor, Chris Petrovic, the senior vice president at Kabam, about Machine Zone’s attempts to raise money. In an email sent on July 10 with the subject line (sic) “Re: MachineZone and Japan,” Wiggins told his boss that he talked to a banker at Morgan Stanley who was complaining about “how slow Japanese companies were to make decisions and negotiate.”

Petrovic asked who the “big players,” or presumably potential investors, were. Wiggins replied, “No confirmations. I got him to admit that they were advising, which was prior a two-source rumor. I tested (sic) w “so SoftBank and Gung Ho” [a reference to SoftBank and its subsidiary GungHo Online Entertainment],” and he laughed, awkwardly excused himself from our group.”

That email message differs slightly from an account that Wiggins gave earlier, where he said that he met a Morgan Stanley person at a different party and couldn’t confirm that they were representing Machine Zone in its attempt to raise money. In his previous declaration, he had said that he surmised that Morgan Stanley’s big client was Machine Zone.

Kabam spokesman Steve Swasey, senior vice president of corporate communications, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the email means nothing and doesn’t corroborate any of Machine Zone’s allegations.

“They are chasing an elusive butterfly which has transparent wings, because it doesn’t exist,” Swasey said. “We have been transparent on this because we know there is nothing here. Regretably, it has gone on for far too long. We want it to go away, but we will defend ourselves.”

Kabam email, with email addresses redacted, between Daniel Wiggins and Chris Petrovic.

Above: Kabam email, with email addresses redacted, between Daniel Wiggins and Chris Petrovic.

Image Credit: Court records

But Machine Zone views the email as a kind of smoking gun. Tracy Tosh Lane, the deputy general counsel and head of litigation for Machine Zone, issued a statement about the discovery of the email.

“Kabam’s story simply doesn’t add up. One month before Casual Connect, Daniel Wiggins sends an email bragging to his boss, SVP Chris Petrovic, that he successfully pumped a Morgan Stanley banker for highly confidential Machine Zone information,” Tosh Lane said. “Rather than reprimanding Mr. Wiggins, Mr. Petrovic applauds Mr. Wiggins’ behavior and even asks for more information. Mr. Wiggins’s statements at Casual Connect are looking like more of a drunken confession than innocent banter. We believe this email is just the tip of the iceberg and reveals the true business practices of Kabam and its executives.”

Wiggins sent a second email about Morgan Stanley shopping around a Machine Zone deal, but that was simply a copy of my publicly available article on rumors about the deal.

Wiggins’ own previously undisclosed declaration of what happened was recently unsealed in the court, and it is also revealing. Wiggins’ job is “competitive intelligence,” or finding out what other companies are doing.

Wiggins claims in his declaration that he and Leydon gradually became involved in a “very heated exchange” about the business prospects for both companies. Leydon put down Kabam for being dependent on licenses from Hollywood entertainment companies. Kabam has licenses from Disney’s Marvel and Warner Bros.’ The Lord of the Rings properties. Wiggins alleges that Leydon said that the licensors are “evil” and “predatory” and that “game developers [such as those who license their works to Kabam] are stupid to work with licensors because they take advantage of the game developers.”

Game of War: Fire Age

Above: Game of War: Fire Age

Image Credit: Machine Zone

Wiggins declared, “I felt Mr. Leydon was extremely aggressive — if not downright hostile — in attacking Kabam so openly and in public.”

Wiggins further said that Leydon “bragged” that his company had only paid about $1 million to use supermodel Kate Upton’s likeness in the Game of War ads. As a result, Wiggins said that Leydon contended that the Upton rights were “hugely profitable for Machine Zone.” Leydon also allegedly said that Upton did not require Machine Zone to pay ongoing royalties for the use of her likeness.

Leydon also reportedly said that his company has 1.2 to 1 ratio of lifetime value (LTV) to cost per install (CPI). That means that the amount of money that Machine Zone gets from its free-to-play games is 1.2 times the marketing spend. Wiggins did a calculation in his head (first doing so inaccurately) and concluded that marketing spend is about 83 percent of Machine Zone’s costs. Wiggins doubted that model would be sustainable.

Upon hearing that, Leydon allegedly said that Machine Zone’s revenues next year would be $1 billion. In other words, Leydon allegedly communicated a confidential figure that is likely part of the confidential document in question. Wiggins said the rumor was that Machine Zone was not profitable, and he alleges that Leydon replied that the company could become profitable very quickly if it just stopped “spending so much on marketing.”

The argument came to a halt when Wiggins said he told a lie. He admitted in his declaration that he told Leydon that he saw the confidential Morgan Stanley document and knew what Machine Zone’s numbers were. Wiggins said in his declaration that, in fact, he had never seen a confidential deck about Machine Zone.

Wiggins alleges that Leydon “shouted at me for some time.” Witnesses reported that the two men did in fact get into a heated argument over the matter. Leydon reportedly showed his phone to Wiggins to convey that he was texting his lawyer to file a lawsuit against Wiggins and Kabam.

I would expect Machine Zone’s legal counsel to point out that the witness declarations do not (so far) verify that Leydon himself disclosed any of the financial information during the argument. I would also expect them to say that Wiggins isn’t a reliable source of what Leydon said, as he admitted that he was both drinking and lied about one thing.

Near the end of his declaration, Wiggins said that Machine Zone’s complaint has many inaccuracies. He concluded, “In hindsight, I should not have made the false boast that I did about seeing a Morgan Stanley ‘deck.’ The fact is that I had had a few drinks, was just angry that Mr. Leydon was being so unreasonably aggressive about Machine Zone, and felt that someone should put him in his place about how wrong he was to attack Kabam and about his company’s long-term prospects for profitability.”