Because Walking Saves Lives, Mobilizer Inc. Is A Startup That's Aiming To Get Hospital Patients Moving

For sedentary medical patients, one of the easiest ways to reduce the time of hospital stays and decrease the risk of complications like blood clots and pressure ulcers is simply to get up and walk around. But with medical equipment like oxygen tanks or IV drips in tow, it can take nurses up to 20 minutes to prepare a patient for ambulation, adding up to hundreds of hours of wasted time each week. This means that when patients are finally up and moving, some are only walked as far as their door before being sat back down.

Mobilizer Inc., a graduate of the ZeroTo510 medical device startup accelerator, created a six-wheeled holster for all of that medical equipment in order to make medical ambulation easier and faster. The carrier sits next to the patient’s bed so that only one attendant — rather than up to five — is needed to unplug it from the wall, release the brake, and get them moving.

Mobilizer, which launched in May, has raised $300,000 in funding from Innova Memphis and MB Venture Partners and plans to close another $400,000 in the coming year. CEO and co-founder James Bell said that so far Mass General Hospital and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center have purchased units, which cost a little under $5,000 apiece.

According to Bell’s projections, Mobilizer will be net cash flow positive by year’s end. The company has sold almost 100 units to date.

The proliferation of medical startups like Mobilizer offers an invaluable payoff: the possibility of finding ways to reduce the economic and personnel burdens on the hospital system. Medical tricorders like the Scanadu SCOUT and Teddy the Guardian, for instance, show potential to do so by putting diagnostic tools in consumers’ hands and therefore reducing the number of unnecessary visits to the doctor.

In the case of Mobilizer, getting patients’ blood flowing means turning over beds faster by speeding recovery rates, avoiding the cost of complications, and boosting staff efficiency.

Although medical tech companies often struggle to get FDA approval before they go to market, Mobilizer is a class 1 exempt service, meaning the clearance process requires proving a certain level of quality and paying a fee to register with the FDA.

Bell said that the plan is to create platforms for different hospital departments, tailoring the Mobilizers to their varying equipment needs. Outside of the hospital, it will be easy to scale into home care as well. And Mobilizer is looking to form partnerships with other medical tech companies.

“We are establishing relationships with other companies, for example with a portable ventilator company that mounts right on the Mobilizers really easily,” Bell said.

Mobilizer does have some competition in this space, but Bell pointed out that efficient solutions are not widespread in hospitals yet. He said he had heard of some centers using red Radio Flyer wagons to carry equipment, or taping oxygen tanks to walkers, which, yes, is just as risky as you might imagine.

You know what? That alone is a pretty good argument for a better equipment carrier.

via TechCrunch

India's Visa Maze Ensnares Foreign Entrepreneurs

Carrying all the right documentation for his five-year business visa, Alex (not his real name) embarked on what he thought would be his fourth and final visit to the Indian immigration authority. He believed his wild goose chase was almost at an end. However, his awkwardly smiling assassin, the elusive office supervisor, had other ideas.

“Sorry, you can’t get your visa now, please come back in some time,” the supervisor said, fatally.

Alex’s plight shows the difficulties entrepreneurs face in trying to access the booming market of India today. This is his story.

The economics graduate moved to India about a year ago to co-found a social business with his peers. The government made them wait the best part of a year before approving their application to be incorporated as a local not-for-profit — a vital credential to navigate the country’s Catch-22 regulatory system. With incorporation certificate in hand, Alex was confident the last piece of his visa puzzle, namely attaining a five-year authorisation to work to improve the quality of life for Indians, was about to fall into place.

How wrong he was.

Stepping into the office was like entering Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Groundhog Day, endlessly waiting for a weasley little oracle to emerge from his hovel in order to deliver bad news. Alex was forced to return to the office three times because he “didn’t have the right documentation.”

On the fourth visit, the bureaucrat, ensconced in his glass bubble, again said he didn’t have the right documents and would have to come back again. At the end of his wits, Alex didn’t buy it. After failing to plead his case with the front-line worker, he asked to speak with the manager lurking in the background. The bureaucrat turned meekly, skulked over, and relayed the request to his superior who took one look at the fiery redhead on the wrong side of the counter and scurried away to his glass-walled office, deep in the bubble. The clerk returned and, as if the whole spectacle had not been witnessed, told Alex the manager was unavailable.

“The manager is right there,” he said, pointing to the anonymous office. “I just need to speak with him for two minutes. I’ve already met him before. He knows my case.”

“Sorry sir, he is not available,” the bureaucrat said, reciting a well-used line. “You’ll have to send him an email to organise an appointment.”

Email? Alex was all too familiar with India’s digital black hole, where bits may have even travelled backwards and forwards in time, even to alternate universes, because they never seemed to reach their intended destination.

He whipped out his laptop and emailed the appointment request to the teller who was sitting down before him, but also included a stern warning: “I’m not leaving until I can speak with him.”

The bureaucrat retreated to discuss the latest turn of events.

Alex briefly took a minute to survey his surroundings. The same situation was playing out at three or four adjacent counters.

“This is the fourth time you’ve asked me to come back for a five-year business visa. I have all the right documentation, I have had it all along. Why won’t you accept my application?” railed another aggrieved applicant.

Alex snapped back to attention when the manager emerged from his den. He was face-to-face with his tormentor.

“What’s the problem, sir?” the manager asked.

“You know what my problem is! We’ve already spoken about it, you told me to come back with more information and I did. I’ve come back four times with the correct documentation and you’re still telling me I won’t be approved?!” he said.

“I’m sorry sir but we can’t process this visa application now, please come back in some time,” he said, wearing a weak smile.

“Why not?”

“I’m sorry sir but we can’t do this now, please apply in some time,” he repeated, like a broken record.

No matter how he always received the same answer and result but despite the frustrating experience he plans to come back and try again. He’s chasing that sweet feeling of victory that can only be earned by simultaneously exerting extreme amounts of effort and patience to achieve ordinarily routine tasks.

The Red Tape At The Finish Line

For an entrepreneur, there’s a lot to like about India. The subcontinent’s diversity, population, and economic disparity offers near endless problems to solve, as well as the scale to make a meaningful impact and return. But if you get too far ahead of yourself, the red-tape woven noose dangling around your neck will rein you back in. The rope becomes dangerously short as you enter the government maze, where searching for the right approvals demands long wait times, repeated visits, and constant apprehension as to whether the application will even be received. It’s an exercise in humility.

Saju James, partner at Fragomen Global Immigration Services, said the visa process was straight forward — if you know the procedures. This means that you must give the consulates the right information, right down to using the correct vernacular in the application.

“If you don’t stick to the template, exactly what the consulate is looking for, the chances of getting denials are much higher,” said James, whose firm has processed close to 1,000 work permits, less than two percent of which have been rejected.

This is a legacy of the way that visa offices were run before 2009, James said, when the Indian government didn’t have direct oversight of the approval process. Previously, each visa office and consulate operated as its own fiefdom; and a single supervisor served as judge, jury, and executioner.

“It was very arbitrary and the consulate officers had the power to decide, simply based on the interview,” he said. “They would say, ‘no, I’m not convinced this candidate should go on a work permit, he needs to apply for a business visa,’ and the reverse would happen as well.”

That changed as the government took direct control of the process and released specific guidelines and processes to be followed. Most importantly, it started measuring workers on how many visa applications they actually processed, as opposed to simply documenting the number of hours they worked.

It was a vast improvement.

“The only difference is that they have not published the formats for when you apply for a visa application, so some offices still give a difficult time to applicants.”

James said it was difficult to track the efficiency because the agencies themselves did not record the rejection rates. However, he estimated that the number of unsuccessful applications previously ranged into the double-digit percentages.

This is all little comfort to Alex, who still goes to bed every night in fear of being woken up by that same Sonny and Cher song and seeing his visa application, as complete as it always was, lying unapproved on his cheap desk.

[Image via Flickr]

via TechCrunch

CrunchWeek: iPhone Trade-Ins, The New New Foursquare, And Twitter's Blue Lines Problem

This weekend, summer is sadly coming to a close (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least.) But all is not lost! At least we still have CrunchWeek, the show that brings a few of us TechCrunch writers together to chat about the most interesting tech news stories from the past seven days.

This time around, Leena Rao, Anthony Ha and I discussed the ins and outs of Apple’s new iPhone trade-in program, the latest big update to the Foursquare app (and the rumors of a possible Microsoft investment), and Twitter’s latest redesign with lots of controversial blue lines.

via TechCrunch

If analytics is the answer then you’re asking the wrong question

Hugh Reynolds is the chief executive of Swrve.

Ask the chief executive of every Fortune 500 business in the country what the single most important thing to a successful business is and the answer likely wouldn’t involve the word “analytics.”

Many would reply with thoughts about being responsive to user needs, focusing on product design, or operating bulletproof delivery. Other CEOs might say the key for business is smart and targeted marketing or innovative sales initiatives.

All of those answers have some things in common. They involve action, meaning they are about implementing something to deliver a better user experience or changing consumer behavior. But another aspect all of these answers share is, in fact, analytics. Analytics is always in the background and is a core component of any sound business practice.

Despite its prominence, what app and game executives need to be wary of is thinking that analytics on its own will drive success. Large amounts of analyzed data will simply gather dust unless you have a crack team of analysts who can extract key insights that will spur engineering, marketing, or sales to take action. This is why stand-alone analytics packages should be greeted with healthy skepticism. Many of these solutions are good at compiling large and varied amounts of data, but they don’t always lead to actionable decisions unless you have the right team in place.

So what’s the alternative? Think about instances where analytics really makes a difference. For example, when it’s embedded as a support tool for products or services that drive change. It should be a part of something that drives the core key performance indicators (KPI) of the business. Consider Google AdWords, which is fundamentally an “analytics” tool, which is never called one by name. It’s a well-designed product that has a specific job to do that is matched with a specific need. Analytics is simply the engine.

Why are we having an analytics discussion when our world is mobile apps and games? For one, management in this industry has invested a lot of time and resources into analytics which helps to track user behavior or other similar actions. Unfortunately, it’s easy to point out what is wrong with data analysis in this context, namely that it doesn’t impact the main things developers care about, such as retention, conversion, and revenue. This doesn’t mean app and game developers don’t need visibility into their business. We need to measure performance and have some sense of the broader industry, but the trouble comes when the focus is on “actionable insights” or “turning analytics into action.” The proper way to look at it should be “what insights do I need to properly support activities that will drive retention and conversion”, not “what should I do with all this data.”

This is much more than semantics. You can of course turn analytics into action, but it’s simply hard to make that happen in a meaningful way. It’s even harder to know for sure if the analytics-driven changes to an app or game made a tangible difference in the bottom line metrics. The key is to start with what you want to achieve. Focus on the goal that will help you to convert prospects, retain and engage users, and build a sustainable revenue stream. Your goal isn’t going to be to “possess a lot of interesting data”, it should be results-focused. This showcases the limits of analytics, and underscores its role as a component in reaching goals, not the solution in itself.

Driving the primary KPIs for apps and games comes through optimizing and testing the user experience, targeted marketing campaigns within the app or game, and anything else that helps convert non-paying users into actual customers. Analytics provides context into these activities and provides the data to benchmark success, but developers first need a platform in place to generate those successes and not rely on analytics alone.

via VentureBeat

NSA may have surveilled Al Jazeera’s internal communications in 2006

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) used its surveillance tactics to monitor Al Jazeera, a Middle East-based publication that recently purchased Al Gore’s Current TV to open an official branch in the U.S.

German publication Der Spiegel claims it has seen documents from former NSA-contractor Edward Snowden regarding the spying efforts on Al Jazeera. It seems the document was dated March 23, 2006 and detailed a surveillance mission that included accessing Al Jazeera’s communications to obtain information about “interesting targets.” Who these targets were — sources, journalists, or other — is not specified. It does mention that the mission to access “Al Jazeera broadcasting internal communications” was a “notable success.”

If information was encrypted, it was delivered to the NSA to be cracked and digested.

We have reached out to Al Jazeera and the NSA for comment and will update this post upon hearing back.

Snowden has been leaking information to the media since June when he released groundbreaking information about a U.S. government surveillance program called PRISM. Since then he has released information to The Guardian and The Washington Post predominately about a number of other programs and, most recently, a “black budget” for the United States’ intelligence agencies.

He has taken political asylum in Russia. Today’s Snowden document itself has not been released.

Al Jazeera was hacked in 2012, but by the recently popularized Syrian Electronic Army. This is a group of pro-regime hackers that often defaces or otherwise disturbs publications whose reporting on the conflict in Syria it does not like. Al Jazzera, at the time, was running a liveblog of the conflict, which the SEA defaced.

via VentureBeat

What ShoeDazzle taught us about subscription commerce

ShoeDazzle may no longer be dazzling, but it’s delivering useful lessons in subscription commerce.

I still remember the thrill of receiving my first ShoeDazzle delivery. The beautifully wrapped package, the perfect pair of shoes for me inside, the fun welcome letter, and the confidence I had that I could ship it back at no cost if I didn’t like it – all for $40! It seemed too good to be true, and perhaps it was.

Four years later, ShoeDazzle has been acquired by its primary competitor, JustFab, after dropping to about a tenth of its $200 million valuation and failing to achieve profitability despite a valiant attempt by boomerang CEO Brian Lee to revive the business. It’s a sad outcome for a brand that once held so much promise — great products, cool business model, solid financial backing, celebrity appeal.

In trying to move past the disappointment, I’ve found some important lessons that apply to future subscription businesses, including the newly combined JustFab. Most of the lessons stem from how different the subscription commerce business model is from other kinds of retail, even e-commerce.

First, there’s the need for different metrics. The number of customer acquisitions is much less important than the quality of acquisitions. When Bill Strauss took the reins of ShoeDazzle, he deemed its 10 million members insufficient and set about trying to bring in millions more by jettisoning membership and opening the site to anyone. What he didn’t understand was that those initial existing members loved the brand — they were not only acting as brand ambassadors to spread awareness of the site, but were also likely to continue buying over time. Compared to cultivated members, customers are less loyal, more fickle, and harder to please.

Further, the typical retail metric of cost of customer acquisition is less relevant than customer lifetime value. It may cost more to acquire a quality customer, but she will produce a greater return with higher value/more frequent purchases, longer retention, and brand advocacy. A subscription business model requires a longer-term view on metrics.

The value proposition looks different with subscription commerce too. It’s not enough to have cool products — they should be exclusive whenever possible. That was part of ShoeDazzle’s initial appeal. Because its styles were designed specifically for the site, they generated so much demand. Exclusivity remains JustFab’s strongest path forward, and it can be leveraged even further through exclusive prices (special prices depending on membership level), exclusive access (new products available in advance), exclusive services (concierge services and enhanced customer style profiling), and exclusive experiences (interactions with celebrity designers, virtual fashion shows, etc.)

With a subscription, the customer value equation is no longer simply the product divided by the price. It involves status and benefits, which are more intangible but more valuable.

The ShoeDazzle story also teaches us that subscription commerce requires a different kind of brand and brand strategy. In order to capitalize on subscriber value, the best growth comes from expansion into new categories — that is, selling other products and services to the same people (vs. selling the same stuff to other people). A subscription brand, therefore, must be developed with elasticity. A name like ShoeDazzle is limiting, whereas JustFab is more flexible. Beyond the name, the brand personality, visual identity, and cultural associations should also allow for more stretch.

Also a brand position based on relevance makes more sense than one based on accessibility. Offering fewer products that are “just right” for customers and communicating messages that express brand identification increases customers’ feelings of brand affinity, whereas having a huge selection of more random products and a brand that is marketed as “something for everyone” dilutes perceptions of brand value. A subscription brand essence stems less from being a retailer and more from carefully curating the membership experience.

Ultimately, subscription commerce requires a different mindset. Subscription-based companies are building relationships, not selling products. Of course, those relationships must be monetized — it’s a business, not a charity. But the focus needs to be on engagement and shared value. Models to emulate include Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters and American Express, not ProFlowers and Woot.

I may no longer be a customer of ShoeDazzle, but from the company I’ve gotten some valuable insights into subscription businesses — that, and some great shoes.

Denise Lee Yohn has been inspiring and teaching companies how to operationalize their brands to grow their businesses for 25 years. World-class brands including Sony, Frito-Lay, Burger King, and Nautica have called on Denise, a brand-building expert, speaker, and writer. She is the author of What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest (Jossey-Bass, January, 2014.) Read more by Denise at

via GigaOM

Google to hit U.S. gov’t harder with transparency reporting demands

Department of Justice granted Google a “stay” on its decision about whether the company can release information about FISA data requests. Google will now hit harder on the issue of transparency reporting with amended demands, according to a source familiar with the matter.

In June, Google formally asked the courts to allow it to publish the total number of requests for user information made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as well as the number of people and accounts affected by these requests. Google releases a transparency report that details all of the requests for information it receives from government around the world and has thus far been barred from including this information.

The Department of Justice has pushed off the decision six times, but will pause the process in order to let Google file its latest movement, according to a source speaking with VentureBeat.

“It’s another chance for the DoJ [Department of Justice] to consider the petitions from a different perspective. It’ll be rewritten,” said the source, who could not speak publicly on the matter, and wishes to remain anonymous.

The amendment comes after the government announced yesterday that it will release its own form of a transparency report — something Google, along with the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and other tech companies demanded from the U.S. in July.

“While the government’s decision to publish aggregate information about certain national security requests is a step in the right direction, we believe there is still too much secrecy around these requests and that more openness is needed. That’s why we, along with many others, have called on the U.S. government to allow us to publish specific numbers about both FISA and NSL requests,” said a Google spokesperson in an e-mail to VentureBeat.

The government’s transparency report, as introduced by Director of Intelligence James R. Clapper, will detail total numbers of national security letters, FISA business records, FISA pen register/trap and trace requests, and “FISA orders based on probable cause.” It will also include the number of people affected by each of these requests.

In Google’s original June filing, the company said it has the right under the First Amendment to:

  1. Publish the total number of FISA requests it receives, if any

  2. Publish the total number of users or accounts encompassed within such requests

It further said these requests would be published as a range in increments of 1,000 instead of actual totals, and would not state what areas of FISA the request came from.

However, the company likely will model the new demands after those it sought in the CDT petition from July. These included:

  1. The right to publish government requests for Section 215 of the Patriot Act, Section 702 of FISA, National Security Letters, and “others”

  2. The right to publish the number of individuals, accounts, and devices affected under each specific request-type

  3. The right to publish how many requests related to “communications content” and “basic subscriber information” under each request-type

This kind of information would give the U.S. a better indication of what kind of information is being released to the government, and which act is being used most often.

Google and the CDT further noted in that same petition that, “basic information about how the government uses its various law enforcement-related investigative authorities has been published for years without any apparent disruption to criminal investigations.”

The government will likely announce the stay after the Labor Day weekend with more information about when Google must submit its new petition.

via VentureBeat

With Facebook’s, the battle for the third world is on

When the news broke last week I realized that what was at stake here isn’t about social justice but was instead about global internet dominance. And it starts and ends in what we today perceive as the third world.

Led by Facebook, a group of Samsung, Nokia and several other giant tech-companies launched the initiative, which aims to bring internet access to the two-thirds of the global population who don’t have it. Hearing the news, a number of seemingly disparate developments fell into place: the Facebook Home smartphone system, Google’s internet-balloons and the sustained rumors that Apple will soon launch a discount iPhone.

It’s becoming clear that global tech brands are bringing the fight for dominance to places where technology so far hasn’t played a huge role.

Zuckerberg, Facebook Home and cracking the code for growth

iFacebookHome002 At the yearly “all hands” meeting at Facebook in January, joined by all 5,000 employees of the social network, Mark Zuckerberg took the stage. In essence he said that Facebook runs the world’s most successful social network with more than a billion users. That it is a publicly traded company that has cracked the mobile nut, and it has the future of search in its hands. Next comes the rest of the world. That’s where Facebook’s future growth lies. From the five billion people who don’t use the web yet.

It makes sense. In the U.S. 179 million users – about 57 percent of the entire population – regularly checks status updates, likes and comments. In Europe the pattern is the same. The potential for new users is sparse in these parts of the world.

In April, Facebook launched its highly anticipated Facebook Home – its new mobile system. It didn’t fare too well, and hasn’t really gained traction yet. It doesn’t matter much to Facebook, however. Because Facebook Home isn’t really about the U.S. and Europe. It’s about Asia and Africa. Facebook Home is the first step in Zuckerberg’s plan for world dominance for his company.

The third world won’t turn to Facebook on desktops or laptops. People in developing nations will use mobile phones. Today one quarter of all internet access in Asia and Africa takes place through regular mobile (not tablet) devices. Tomorrow it will be many more. Billions of people will never own a regular computer. Mobile will be their portal to the web. And Facebook Home is meant to ensure that the phone they use will have Facebook on it.

Chips for feature phones

Facebook+Home+launcher People in Mali or Haiti aren’t going to be flashing the newest Samsungs or HTCs. They’ll go with smaller, more modest phones, the so-called feature phones. Not quite as fancy as smartphones, but still perfectly suitable for connecting to the internet and to Facebook. At least if one uses a few tricks on the hardware.

That’s why Facebook in February partnered with Chinese chipmaker Spreadtrum with the aim of manufacturing chips for feature phones that are particularly suitable for Facebook-use. Although most of the functionality of the Facebook app and the Facebook Home-mobile system lies in the way the apps themselves are programmed, the right chip can improve speed and power consumption greatly.

At the time Facebook Home was launched, evidence that Facebook was ramping up its mobile venture to acquire world domination, was still a little sparse. With it isn’t anymore. is precisely about broadening the Facebook-Spreadtrum partnership to embrace as much of the mobile industry as possible. Not only chip producers such as Qualcomm are part of the alliance, but Samsung, the world-leading smartphone-company (and themselves a major chip-producer), Ericsson, one of the world’s largest provider of wireless network equipment, Nokia and others as well.

Why Facebook didn’t make a phone of its own

In this light it easy to understand why Facebook didn’t produce a mobile phone of its own, when it had its chance. Instead it tweaked the Android operating system to accommodate its wishes. Why? Because with a phone of its own, Facebook would have had to compete head-to-head in a market crowded with smartphones. Sure it would have been able to get a few million to adopt the Facebook-phone. But not much more. Having made Facebook Home in a way that can run on potentially all Android-devices is simply the only logical way to reach critical mass, given that Android now accounts for nearly 80 percent of all smartphones sold on a global scale.

Balloons over Africa

Project Loon

That’s Facebook’s plan. Meanwhile, Google has balloons. Three month ago Google made headlines with rumors it was about to develop a fleet of blimps or balloons which should function as gigantic airborne hotspots, making wireless internet accessible to specific African territories. At the time the approach seemed to me to be yet another far-flung futuristic shot from the search giant – just like its driverless car and its Project Glass.

It wasn’t. Or perhaps the internet balloons themselves were. But they are only the tip of the iceberg, revealing a much more profound attempt by Google to win the world, not by smart applications like Facebook’s Home, but by colonizing the infrastructure on which the internet runs. Apart from balloons, the attempt also encompassed land-based white spaces networks, which might run on airwaves normally reserved for television broadcast.

Like Facebook, Google has been working on building an ecosystem of new microprocessors and low-cost smartphones, suited precisely to connect to the new wireless networks it is setting up, reports the Wall Street Journal . With Facebook however seems to have out-positioned Google as lead architect for the new the tech ecosystem. Google doesn’t even have a seat in this new super-alliance of internet and mobility. This is actually somewhat surprising, given that Android is Google’s operating system for smartphones, and Facebook is only a third-party trying to make good use of it.

Is your next iPhone made of plastic?

iPhone 5S 5C And what about the other big player in the smartphone war? Apple isn’t ignoring the developing world. In a few weeks’ time Apple is expected to introduce its next version of the iPhone, the iPhone 5S, as it will be called, if Apple sticks to its naming conventions. The high-end iPhone might not be the only iPhone to be introduced at the planned event. A cheaper plastic model, dubbed iPhone 5C, might also go on sale, the rumors suggest.

Such rumors have been around for years, and so far they haven’t come true. There’s a reason for that: the iPhone is a mythic brand, devoted to delivering a superior user experience. A discount phone runs counter a vital part of the Apple way of life. If you want a cheaper iPhone, Apple has always said, buy last year’s model.

Apple might stick to the same tune this time. But if they do, chances are they’ll have a hard time defending its 14 percent global smartphone market share, as more and more poor people buy into the mobile internet era. Not least due to the renewed pressure from Facebook and

With the alliance Facebook has created a unique position for themselves in the fight for the future markets of the internet – the third world. Google and Apple, two of the mightiest competitors in the space, have seemingly been caught on the wrong foot. But nothing’s determined yet. It’s one thing to start the battle. It’s another to win the war.

Jon Lund is COO and partner at memit, a knowledge sharing network startup. Follow him on Twitter @jonlund.

via GigaOM

Gillmor Gang: Contextual Adults

The Gillmor Gang — Robert Scoble, John Taschek, Kevin Marks, Keith Teare, and Steve Gillmor — settle in for the Labor Day weekend with a tour of a busy news week. Stops along the way include iBeacon in iOS7, Twitter’s thin blue line, the politics of twerking, and devices, devices, devices.

Short takes on Bill Gates’ unlikely return, Apple’s iTrade-In offer, why Chromecast will change our habits, and Google’s Chromebook move in classrooms round out a lively end to summer. It’s a world where software is free and we spend our time saving up for the next shiny dongle.

@stevegillmor, @scobleizer, @jtaschek, @kevinmarks, @kteare

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

Live chat stream

via TechCrunch

This week in tech stock: iPhone rumors do NOT bring all the boys to the yard

Consumers and investors are in two very different boats. The investors are on the not-so-proverbial slow boat from China, and consumers are on Jetskis.

One watercraft presents a long, dangerous haul over long distances. The other gives a short burst of adrenaline at high speeds that thrill the soul and wreck the hair. The former makes money. The latter costs money.

So when consumers get all riled up over the anticipated new iPhone, investors have to continue with their own journeys. After all, rumors of a new phone mean a decline in sales for the current phone (and this time, a trade-in program for the old phone). And when a company only sells one phone at a time — well, some might say that just ain’t good business.

None of the smartphone manufacturers on our radar had a particularly brilliant week on the public market. The “hero” of the bunch was LG, which didn’t even see gains of a whole percent for the week.

AAPL Chart

via VentureBeat

Dog Days of Summer: Doggy Dashboard

Yeah, there's nothing cuter than a puppy ... unless it's a puppy that is sitting on a new (in 2009) 13" MacBook Pro keyboard. This is Kevin, and his human Don Jones says:

This photo is from a few years back when Kevin was a puppy. I was trying to teach him to sit beside me while I worked, but as you can see Kevin didn't like playing second fiddle. He crawled up onto my then new 13" MacBook Pro and activated Dashboard. Three Macs later Kevin is still around.

If you have a Dog Days nominee to share, let us know via our feedback page (and please remember that the photo has to have some sort of connection to Apple and its products -- don't just send us a photo of your canine buddy). For security reasons we can't accept inbound attachments, so you should host the photo (Dropbox, Flickr, iPhoto Journals, etc.) and send us the link.

Thanks, Don!

via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Android this week: $99 Moto X coming; Google bought WIMM; Nexus 4 price cut

The wooden backs for Motorola’s Moto X shown off at the handset’s launch event may be here soon. Noted tipster Evleaks tweeted out images and information on the price and availability. He expects them to add $50 to the cost of a Moto X handset when they arrive in the fourth quarter, which actually starts tomorrow. Also noteworthy is an expected price cut he reports:

Moto X price drop to $100 coming in Q4, along with wooden back configurations (for $50)

@evleaks (@evleaks) August 31, 2013

Neither bit is terribly surprising although some who have already purchased a Moto X could be unhappy by the news. However, it’s common for most Android handsets to see a price cut within a few months of launch. And it’s likely most new Moto X owners are still within their return policy so if they really wanted to wait for any potential price drop, they could probably still do so.

I doubt the price cut takes place soon though. More likely would be after the initial carrier roll out excitement fades, which would be closer to the holiday season: A price cut could help spur a second wave of sales. Regardless: Those disappointed in the initial price point for “mid-range hardware” should have one less reason not to consider the phone.

Of course, it’s always nice to save $100 and that’s what buyers can do by purchasing a Nexus 4 now. Google announced price cuts of the handset this week, making a good phone an even better buy. The handset doesn’t natively support fast LTE networks and has been around for nearly a year but it’s still a great handset for those who prefer the Nexus experience. The base model now starts at $199 for an unlocked handset in the U.S.

Nexus 4 in hand

In the meantime, next week’s focus could shift from smartphones to smartwatches as Samsung is expected to make a splash with its Galaxy Gear wearable. Don’t count Google out of this race, however. This week, GigaOM discovered that Google purchased Wimm, an Android smartwatch maker, last year. This marks the second smartwatch that Google has either bought or inherited; the first being the MotoACTV from the Motorola acquisition.

I’ve noted before that I think Google has all the tools to make a killer smartwatch: A highly used platform in Android, strong developer support and contextual data in Google Now that it can put on the wrist. With the Wimm purchase, it adds another group of engineers and developers that have created a working product along with a developer program to create mini apps for the Android-based watch.


When might we see a watch from Google? Although I’d like to see one sooner than later, I suspect Google will wait until it has a bulletproof product because it will want to get this right the first time.

via GigaOM

25 Mbps broadband speeds by 2019: The stupidest policy ever?

With an election one week away in Australia, the incumbent Labor Party’s latest piece of propaganda is a spoof of the opposition’s proposed broadband infrastructure policy — one that replaces the well-underway gigabit National Broadband Network with a plan to ensure speeds of 25 megabits per second around the country.

Abbott’s Internet shows faux salesmen pitching the proposed plan by the current conservative opposition, lead by Tony Abbott, to deliver these speeds by 2019 in random street encounters in various countries. The reaction is generally one of laughter or shock — that the speeds are so low compared with what is currently available throughout the world, that the plan to deliver those speeds is going to take until the end of the decade, or that the proposed costs to consumers are ludicrous.

Residents of Bucharest and New York alike mocked the pitch.

Tested on social media among Asian and US markets, the response was by and large some sort of variation on the question: is this a joke?

Even within Australia, 25Mbps isn’t a big deal. I’ve enjoyed 115 Mbps in the past. Moving into a large apartment building knocked my standard speed down to a paltry 30 Mbps — a line speed still faster than the 25 Mbps guarantee. Realistically, access to Telstra’s “Ultimate” cable product — the one that increases cable speeds from a 30 Mbps standard to 100 Mbps+ — is available only in certain metropolitan areas. Outside of rural Australia, most of us have access to ADSL2+ speeds, though there are suburbs around that don’t have access to anything faster than 8 Mbps ADSL1 speeds.

According to a Akamai’s quarterly state of the Internet report earlier this year, the average peak connection speed in Australia is already over 25 Mbps, though the average connection speed is still 4.5 Mbps. Meanwhile in Hong Kong, the peak connection speed is over 60 Mbps.

Forget wired, though. My phone doesn’t have to contend with the pressures of a home Internet service: streaming TV shows and movies on the Apple TV; uploading large files, whether that’s putting a video on Facebook or uploading gigabytes to work servers; sustaining a good connection for each member of a multi-resident household, each of whom might have a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone; and use of the communal Xbox or other home entertainment devices.

A quick speed test — from Surfers Paradise, a metropolitan area albeit in one of Australia’s smaller cities — on my iPhone 5 running on Telstra’s LTE network gives me speeds of 39 Mbps. That’s more than what I get on any given day through my $90 per month cable service. It’s a hell of a lot more than what the Coalition presents as a plan for the future. 25 Mbps is already in the past — it’s not even maintaining the status quo, let alone preparing for the next 100 years, which is roughly the current age of Australia’s copper network.

TonyAbbott 25 Mbps broadband speeds by 2019: The stupidest policy ever?

Tony Abbott during the last election in 2010.

A solution is definitely required, but simply making the average peak connection speed more widely available isn’t a particularly inspired idea, nor one that sets Australia up to viably play in the same pond as other countries. There’s a huge difference between promising to bring less populous areas of Australia up to the metropolitan standard and providing gigabit bandwidth to the majority of Australian households and businesses.

Fiber to the premises is future-proofing. The assertion that 25 Mbps is a good enough baseline for Australians is ludicrous. One argument is that it won’t be enough in 2019, but I believe we’re already long past that point. An infrastructure that matches and competes with other Western nations is essential to keep Australia competitive as non-localized knowledge jobs become increasingly prevalent.

Remote employment is more common. More and more people are using the field-leveling attributes of the Internet to employ themselves as free agents and some have predicted that with time this, and not traditional employment, will be the standard way of operating.

Anyone who has worked in online news, where the cycle of competition is measured in minutes, knows that uploading a video package or even a bunch of images while trying to beat others to a story can be a real wildcard. Similar situations can be pointed out in many web-enabled industries. Even when time isn’t of the essence in a competitive sense, infrastructure can be a bottleneck as time that could be spent completing a project and moving on to the next task is spent waiting.

The National Broadband Network’s history has, of course, been fraught with mismanagement. Australia was well-positioned to leapfrog ahead of other major nations with the NBN, which was first made a central part of Labor’s election campaign policies in 2007 and delays and problems have plagued the project since. Still, by December 2011, 18,200 Australian premises were passed by real, in-the-ground fiber; the most well-known fiber-to-the-home project in the US, Google Fiber, announced pricing for their first rollout cities in July 2012.

While Australia got the jump on the concept of making fiber widely available to consumers, the offerings available now only reinforce just how far behind the country’s mentality is. If you sign up through Telstra, for $100 you can get 500GB of data per month… at the whopping speed of 12 Mbps — half that of a good ADSL2+ connection. You have to pay another $20 to bump it up to 100 Mbps. By contrast, Google Fiber will take $70 per month from you for Internet that not only doesn’t artificially cap speeds (up to one full gigabit of upload and download speed is available), it doesn’t put a cap on data usage, either.

GoogleFiber 25 Mbps broadband speeds by 2019: The stupidest policy ever?

The best of the web, 100 times faster. Courtesy of Google Fiber on Facebook.

That’s enough to blow Australian expectations away, of course. But perhaps more interesting, and in keeping with the 2012 United Nations motion that deemed Internet access to be a human right, Google Fiber offers free Internet. There’s a $300 installation fee, and after that the user pays nothing — the 5 Mbps download speed limit isn’t huge, but we’re talking about Internet access that is available to anyone in virtually any economic situation wherever there is fiber in the ground.

And then there’s the question of other infrastructures that are becoming obsolete. The Internet has radically transformed almost every industry on earth in a span of time that is mindboggling when you look at the rate of change in the pre-connected era. IPTV is kind-of-sort-of a thing in Australia; Google’s Gigabit + TV plans are clear evidence that the Internet is the inevitable replacement for many other means of information transfer.

Hell, I haven’t watched TV that wasn’t sourced digitally since 2007. Many people have completely replaced traditional SMS with iMessage, Facebook Chat and other Internet-based alternatives. Calls, to a lesser extent, follow the adoption pattern, with services such as FaceTime that run over data and audio-only FaceTime calls coming with iOS 7.

simple 25 Mbps broadband speeds by 2019: The stupidest policy ever?

The future of calls, according to Apple.

It would be ideal if capitalist competition drove ever-improving infrastructure and ever-increasing speeds, but between the problems of an entrenched monopoly and a low population density discouraging the few big players from reaching beyond their comfort zone, treating Internet connectivity as public infrastructure is the only way to ensure Australia isn’t left behind, tattered in the dirt, as other nations dominate one of the most important growing markets in the world.

This election, Australians are more dissatisfied than ever with the major party candidates they have the option of electing and for good reason. The fact remains that overlooking the importance of a world-class Internet infrastructure is a major mistake. The mining boom — not unaffected by technology and presumably in need of good broadband infrastructure — is over, Tony, and we can’t be rednecks forever.

Note: I don’t have a political allegiance, nor do I believe there’s enough of an ideological difference between the two major parties to be considered a legitimate choice. This is a criticism of a policy, not a piece for or against either the current government or opposition.

via The Next Web

7 stories to read this weekend

Well, the summer is over and it is time for everyone to go back to school. As the U.S. takes one long weekend before getting back to work in earnest, I wanted to offer you a list of stories that will make for good reading.

via GigaOM

Peter Molyneux's Godus scheduled to land on Mac on September 13

If you've not heard of Godus, the upcoming deity simulator by heralded developer Peter Molyneux, you need only glance at the game's ultra successful Kickstarter to see how popular it already is. The title is scheduled to arrive on Mac and Windows through the Steam Early Access program on September 13.

The game lets you play as a god who must manage a civilization and defend against attacks and other threats. When Molyneux's iOS app Curiosity -- a "game" of sorts that had users chipping away at a giant block with only a single person winning the right to view what was inside the core -- finally concluded, it was revealed that the winner would become the ├╝ber-God in Godus for one year. This player can cause huge shifts in the game world that impact all other players, and that individual will also receive revenue from sales once it is released.

An iOS version of Godus is also planned, though no details on a firm release window have been offered at this time.

[via Joystiq]

via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Doctape file viewer launches for iOS

Now that Dropbox and a million other cloud storage utilities have put virtually any file type we want within reach of our iOS devices there's just one problem left to solve: How do you open up uncommon file types? To quote late night television "there has to be a better way." Cloud storage company Doctape agrees and has launched a new app called Doctape Viewer to help out with just this very problem.

Doctape Viewer is a cloud based file conversion engine that allows you to import a file from your cloud storage destination of choice for viewing, regardless of it's file type. Users do not have to have Doctape's own cloud storage service to use Viewer, though obviously this app is designed to help raise the companies profile. With 80 different file types supported by Viewer it's obviously going to do just that.

Doctape Viewer can open the following:

• Adobe PDF files (PDF) with gallery view, bookmark & annotation support

• Microsoft Office files (Word DOC/DOCX, Excel XLS/XLSX, Powerpoint PPT/PPTM/PPTX)

• Libre Office & Open Office files (ODT, ODT, SXW, STW)

• Text-files (RTF, TXT, CSV)

• Audio files (MP3, M4A, AACF, AIFF, WAV, ALAC)

• Video files (MP4, MOV, MPV, M4V, 3GP) IMAGES

• Image & vector files (JPG, PNG, TIF, BMP, AI, NEF, ARF)

• Adobe Photoshop files (PSD)

via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Sony’s next Google TV will be a dongle

Engadget has some interesting details about the next Google TV device coming from Sony: After the company tried everything from integrating the platform into TV sets to Blu-ray players to standalone boxes, it’s now going down the Chromecast route and putting the whole system on a dongle. Except, this one will offer HDMI pass-through for live TV access as well. No word yet when the device will officially be unveiled.

Story posted at:

via GigaOM

Gazelle CEO Israel Ganot discusses Apple's entry into trade-in

Apple's entry into the iPhone trade-in market this week is an important addition to the already growing number of options available for consumers looking to get money for old hardware. But how does their competition feel about it? We sent a few questions over to Gazelle CEO Israel Ganot today to see what one of the net's biggest buyers of used iPhones thinks Apple's latest expansion. These questions were answered via email.

TUAW: What affect do you think Apple's new trade-in program will have on Gazelle?

Israel Ganot: Apple's entry into reCommerce validates the market opportunity we pioneered at Gazelle. Because we take a different approach than Apple - our focus is on online trade-ins - we're actually pretty excited to have Apple in the game as another voice to raise consumer awareness of the opportunity to get value from used devices.

TUAW: Do you think it will ultimately be a good thing, raising awareness of other trade-in sites, as people begin to shop around?

IS: We fully expect Apple's in-store program to help accelerate consumer adoption to trade-in their old devices; we estimate the U.S. reCommerce market to be $14B by 2015, so there's obviously a huge opportunity here for multiple players to be successful.

TUAW: Can you speculate as to why Gazelle is offering more for some models than Apple's own store? Obviously you don't know the details of their business, but it was interesting to see that you were offering more money outright to buy a 16 GB iPhone 5 than Apple was.

IS: Gazelle is focused on delivering a great experience and a great price to consumers - this is our core business, not just an ancillary service we cross-sell. 9 out of 10 Gazelle customers report having a great experience with us and competitive pricing is a part of what drives that high satisfaction.

TUAW: What is it about iOS products that allows them to keep their high resale/trade-in value despite only being upgraded around once a year?

IS: There is an insatiable demand in secondary markets for high-end devices like smartphones and tablets. This is particularly true about Apple devices, though Android devices also have a similar demand. Many of these devices are made with the best materials available and are still valuable, even after their first owner is finished with the product.

Think of emerging markets where top of the line iOS devices may not be available, or affordable, to the everyday person. Some of these people may prefer a slightly used iPhone 4 with all of the bells and whistles, rather than a lower-end new model of a different brand. It's a lot like someone who is in the market for a BMW. Many cannot afford the top of the line product, but are still excited about the idea of buying a slightly used premium model.

via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Hawaiian Airlines will offer iPad minis to passengers

Hawaiian airlines offer iPad minis to passengers

Hawaiian Airlines this week announced that it will begin offering iPad minis to passengers flying between Hawaii and 14 routes that encompass destinations in the U.S., Asia, and the South Pacific.

The iPad mini will offer a full fledged entertainment experience and will enable passengers to pick from upwards of 100 hours of movies and TV shows. Further, the iPad minis will come pre-loaded with a smattering of gaming titles as well.

I suppose leaving the fun and sun of Hawaii can be a harrowing experience, so what better way to soften the blow than to provide passengers with a first-rate entertainment experience as they leave the islands.

In a statement on the matter, Hawaiian Airlines VP of product development Blaine Miyasato said:

Hawaiian Airlines‟ signature on-board hospitality is already very popular with travelers, but we wanted to go even further to ensure our customers‟ travel experience is more enjoyable. With the help of Bluebox Avionics, we‟re building on our acclaimed inflight service by incorporating the latest in popular consumer tech products to enhance our in-flight entertainment options.

As for the logistics of the iPad mini roll out, the program will begin early next week. Passengers flying business class will be given complimentary iPad minis while passengers flying economy class will have the option to rent an iPad mini for $15 if reserved at the gate or $17 if reserved on-board the flight.

via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog

DevJuice: StickyJots for iOS developers

StickyJots provide a low-tech way for you to brainstorm iOS app interfaces. Dave Caolo asked me the other day whether we had covered them before and I was pretty sure we had not. These pretty kits start at US$20 for the faux iPhone, $35 for the tablet and $50 for the "everything kit."

Sure they're not cheap, but they are quite lovely, and I bet they'd make a great gift for the developer in your life. Plus, they might even help you design the next great app.

Further details and an online store are found at the StickyJots site.

via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Ask A VC: Bessemer Venture Partners' Ethan Kurzweil On The Evolution Of Developer Platforms And More

In this week’s episode of Ask A VC, Bessemer Venture Partners’ Ethan Kurzweil joined us in the studio.

Kurzweil, who leads Bessemer’s roadmap on developer platforms and has led investments in Twilio and SendGrid, talked about the biggest changes he’s seen in developer platforms. One observation he made was that companies are tapping to separate developer platform for different functions. So startups are looking to Stripe for payments, Twilio for communications, SendGrid for email and so on.

Check out what area Kurzweil predicts will be the next big service for developers and more.

via TechCrunch

Former Waywire CEO Nate Richardson Joins AOL As President Of AOL Live

A few weeks ago we reported that Nate Richardson, the CEO and co-founder of Waywire, would be leaving the company as it makes a strategic shift from content creation to content curation. Well now we know where he’s landed: Richardson has joined our parent company AOL* as the President of AOL Live, TechCrunch has learned.

Richardson was one of the co-founders of Waywire, along with Newark mayor and Senate candidate Cory Booker and Sarah Ross. The company originally set out to focus on creating its own high-quality video content, but recently shifted direction to become more of a personalized hub for curated content. Richardson exited the company while the curation site was still in beta, and we’ve heard Waywire is looking to announce a new CEO soon.

We heard rumors that Richardson was being courted by AOL around the time of his departure from Waywire, but apparently he hadn’t joined the company at that time. That said, the decision to become part of AOL isn’t totally surprising, as Richardson has a long history of working in media. In addition to serving as the CEO of Waywire, years ago he had also been the CEO of ContentNext Media, former home of tech blogs such as paidContent and MocoNews.

Joining the AOL team also means that Richardson will be reunited with my boss’ boss’ boss’ boss, AOL Brand Group CEO Susan Lyne. Those two worked together while Lyne was CEO of Gilt Groupe and Richardson held various roles at the company, including Gilt City president and GM of Gilt Groupe’s Men’s section.

At AOL Live, Richardson will oversee the new live streaming video channel that the company is putting together. That channel has yet to officially launch, but the idea seems to be to offer up a continuous lineup of news and interviews that will match the type of content you’d expect to see on the homepage. So lots of celebrity and entertainment news, sprinkled with light doses of sports, finance, and quirky lifestyle stories.

There will be lots of opportunity for AOL to experiment with that channel, as the company did when it held an open casting call for anchor auditions. Over the course of two days in June, AOL had anchor hopefuls come in and read the news of the moment, with a hilarious hodgepodge of characters swinging by the studio to try out.

The live auditions weren’t the only experiment that AOL Live will be testing out — apparently the company sees an opportunity to have live brand messages interspersed in the content, in addition to the usual pre-roll ads that will appear when someone starts up the stream.

The hope is that viewers will watch AOL Live in the same way they might leave daytime TV on while going about their day. Lyne told Adweek a few months ago that viewers could eventually get into the habit of leaving a live AOL player on minimized all day at work.

Anyway, it all sounds like an interesting new endeavor for Richardson.


* While we’ve been told that TechCrunch is an integral part of the AOL franchise, neither AOL PR nor Richardson responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

But hey, it’s the Friday before a holiday weekend. I get it.

via TechCrunch

The STEM crisis is a myth

A provocative — and thoroughly researched — post from IEEE Spectrum about the shortage of workers with science, technology, engineering and math skills. I’m not skeptical enough to think it’s all manufactured concern so employers can keep salaries low, but I’ve read enough about the push for more immigrant visas for tech workers to know there’s something there.

Story posted at:

via GigaOM

No IDC, wearables won’t limit tablet sales growth

I generally agree with many of IDC’s forecasts when it comes to mobile devices. I couldn’t disagree more with the latest one however. The research firm reduced its tablet sales growth for two reasons: Demand for larger phones and growth of wearables. I’m fine with the first reason because that’s one of semantics; at some point, larger phones will simply be considered voice-enabled tablets and I’ve said more than a year ago that such tablets will replace phones. But wearables?

Nexus 10 tablet Sorry, but the whole value proposition of a tablet is the improved experience over a smaller screened device. Why then will consumers suddenly crave a small screen experience that’s going to be worse than on a big screen? Will people actually replace a tablet purchase with a wearable purchase?

The only reason I can think of for IDC to believe this is because it’s stuck in the same trap many others are: Thinking that smartwatches and other wearable displays will bring value as second screen devices that can also run apps. I’m taking a different view and alluded to it on Twitter earlier this week:

If future smartwatch sales are expected to eat into phones & tablets sales, there's no innovation; just a smaller screen for same stuff.—

Kevin C. Tofel (@KevinCTofel) August 29, 2013

The innovation I’m expecting is in hyper-personal contextual data: A watch or wearable that knows where you are, where you need to be, what’s next on your calendar, what your likes and dislikes are. Think of a personal assistant that’s better suited for glancing at data points on your wrist then forcing you to retrieve a phone from your pocket.

I alluded to this earlier by saying I want Google Now and other contextual type features on my wrist. Yes, it’s available on a phone already, but I think the phone is really the second-best place for Google Now. A more effective place is on the wrist, in Google Glass or other small tech that becomes “invisible”.

Google Now cards

A tablet, on the other hand couldn’t be more visible. Yes, you can get contextual information on a tablet, but the more I think about it, the more I think that’s overkill. Give me a small screen that’s always an eye movement away for this type of helpful data. And I’ll take a tablet on the side for my apps, gaming, content consumption and other uses. But since the devices offer — or should offer — very different experiences, I don’t think we’ll see cannibalization of tablets through wearables.

via GigaOM

iPhone 5's are 50% off with iPhone 4/4S trade-in at Best Buy this weekend

Starting today and running through September 2nd, US big box store Best Buy is offering 50% off an iPhone 5 when you trade in your old iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S. In order to qualify for the trade-in program, which was first noticed by AppleInsider, customers' iPhone 4's and 4S's need to be able to be powered on and free from water damage. By trading in their old working iPhones, customers can choose the 16 GB or 32 GB model of the iPhone 5, but they also need to sign up for a two-year contract. The deal is also contingent upon the customer being eligible for an upgrade.

The Best Buy trade-in starts on the day Apple's iPhone 'Reuse and Recycle' in-store trade-in program is supposed to begin in select Apple stores. Trade-in programs have many benefits for retailers as it gets customers buying the latest models and also gives those retailers used iPhones, which can then be shipped overseas and sold for higher prices in emerging markets, while still being at a lower cost point than what that latest iPhone 5 would cost.

The trade-in program also doesn't hurt to help move existing iPhone 5 stock ahead of what is likely the release of a new model in just a few weeks' time.

via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Upgrade pricing is the App Store's weakness

Omni Group and Mac App Store Logos

When Apple opened the Mac App Store (2011) it made tracking and downloading software purchases much easier for the consumer, but it created a conundrum for software developers in some areas. In his 2012 Macworld article, "Why developers, customers should be wary of the Mac App Store," Lex Friedman noted that the store "lacked support for upgrade pricing, limited root access, and banned apps that accessed private APIs (application programming interface-code provided by Apple that developers can use to make their apps) or attempted to tweak elements of the Mac's interface." Software companies often post the coveted try-before-you buy versions on their own web sites, because that's another stumbling block not available in the Mac App Store.

The issue of upgrade pricing for a company's loyal customers is not so easily resolved. Jeff Gamet at the Mac Observer wrote this week that "Apple has worked to make the Mac and iOS App Stores more friendly for developers and customers, but there are still some big omissions that need to be addressed, like upgrade pricing. Some developers will sell new apps at a discount on the Mac App Store as a workaround for upgrade pricing, which works, but still doesn't address the underlying problem: upgrade pricing is an industry standard, and it's a glaring omission at the Mac App Store."

Jeff details how the creative team at The Omni Group solved their software upgrade management problem by developing a free utility tool called OmniKeyMaster. Their software includes OmniFocus, OnmiGraffle, OmniPlan and OmniOutliner for the Mac.

According to The Omni Group, "OmniKeyMaster finds Omni apps that you've purchased from the Mac App Store and offers to generate Omni store licenses for them. Select the licenses you'd like to create from the Ready for Import tab." Omni uses your name and email address to generate a license for a major update. The Mac Observer further writes that "The upside is that you can take advantage of upgrade pricing. The downside is that Apple's App Store app on your Mac won't handle future updates for you." Omni apps check for updates from within the program, so that you won't miss any minor updates. What you lose is the convenience that the App Store provides by notifying you of updates, which appears as a red number on your App Store icon in your Dock.

Jeff Gamet's article sums up the upgrade pricing problem developers put up with from the Mac App Store well and thinks that Omni's solution is "a clever way to work around a big App Store limitation, but it also underscores a problem developers deal with every day." He thinks the Mac App Store is remiss in not providing upgrade pricing and calls for Apple to add upgrade pricing to the store.

It is interesting that the users who commented on the the article do not seem to agree with Jeff's assessment. They seem to think that the omission of upgrade pricing leads to less expensive software. According to AppShopper there are 16,541 Mac apps available in the Mac App Store and I wonder how the developers of those apps feel about the lack of upgrade pricing. What are your thoughts on upgrade pricing?

Fun Tidbits

Wikipedia writes "An update to the Mac App Store for OS X Mountain Lion also introduced an Easter egg in which, if one downloads an app from the Mac App Store and goes to one's applications folder before the app has finished downloading, one will see the application's timestamp as "January 24, 1984," the date the original Macintosh went on sale. This is the first time an Easter egg has appeared in a piece of Apple software since Steve Jobs' ban on Easter eggs when he returned to lead Apple."

Wikipedia includes a page on which it lists all the software available for the Macintosh. It's rather incomplete even though it was updated on August 9, 2013, but it's not a bad starting point if you seek a particular kind of software.

Related Articles

Omni Group releases OmniKeyMaster OS X app for discounted upgrades of apps bought in the Mac App Store (TUAW)

Mac App Store apps to get subscriptions support in OS X 10.9 Mavericks (TUAW)

Detailed look at pricing an app for the Mac App Store (TUAW)

Mac App Store Overview (TUAW)

Apple's Mac App Store Opens for Business (Apple PR)

[via The Mac Observer]

via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Three rolling out its 4G network in the UK this December

Yesterday both Vodafone and O2 in the UK switched on their 4G networks in select cities throughout the country -- a full ten months after the UK's first 4G provider EE did. And while the wait has been long for some 4G competition, it's now nice to have some options here. However, perhaps a little disappointingly, there's not a lot of difference between pricing plans on the three networks for iPhone 5 owners who want 4G service on their phones. Thankfully in December that will change, because yesterday UK carrier Three announced that is when their 4G service is going live.

The best thing about Three's 4G plans is that it will be up to 50% cheaper in some cases than competing plans on the other networks and, if you're a 4G customer on Three right now, you'll get 4G automatically at no extra cost. London, Birmingham and Manchester will be the first with 4G service from Three this December, followed by another 50 cities in the UK in 2014 and 98% of the population covered by 2015.

via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Judge throws out case involving faulty iPhone power button

Gigaom reports that a judge in San Jose this week threw out a case alleging that Apple sold the iPhone 4 and 4S knowing full well that the device featured a faulty power button designed to malfunction after the warranty expired.

The case was originally filed by two men in California who sought class action status. The lawsuit asserted that the power button on both the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S becomes "stuck and nonfunctional" three months after the warranty expires. The plaintiffs further argued that both Apple and AT&T were aware of the defect and shipped the products regardless. What's more, the suit alleges that both Apple and AT&T took steps to conceal the existence of the defect.

What's interesting here, if not downright comical, is that the plaintiffs attempted to portray the power button issue as a safety hazard to the extent that users with affected devices would not be able to power down their devices on airplanes. They also argued that affected devices are not always capable of rebooting, thereby becoming unusable and preventing individuals from calling 911 in the case of an emergency.

Naturally, US District Judge Gary Feess wasn't buying what the plaintiffs were selling.

The ruling reads in part:

Plaintiffs' alleged safety concerns are far too speculative to warrant imposing a duty to disclose. If an iPhone power button prevents a phone from being turned off for flight, the owner can readily notify a flight attendant, who can then take whatever action is deemed appropriate. Moreover, the Court is not aware of any authority that if a cell phone owner has a heart attack or otherwise needs to call 911, but cannot because of any defect in the phone, the phone manufacturer is liable. "Glitches" like the one Plaintiffs allude to could happen at any time in any phone for an untold number of reasons, and thus could make placing an emergency call difficult."e as to fail as safety hazards as a matter of law.

Note that this case is entirely different from the case we reported on a few months ago involving a Florida woman suing Apple over the very same issue.

via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog

This Week On The TC Gadgets Podcast: Nintendo 2DS, Pebble, And Unikey

The Nintendo 2DS is just like a 3DS, except for the fact that it’s cheaper and has no 3D. Deal breaker or deal maker? Meanwhile, Matt still seems to fancy the Pebble smartwatch, while the rest of us are sick of hearing about it. And finally, the Unikey Kevo (currently available for pre-order) will make its way into homes in about a month with plenty of competition from Lockitron and others. But which is the better product?

We discuss all this and more on the latest episode of the TC Gadgets podcast, featuring John Biggs, Matt Burns, Jordan Crook, and Darrell Etherington.


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We invite you to enjoy our weekly podcasts every Friday at 3pm Eastern and noon Pacific. And feel free to check out the TechCrunch Gadgets Flipboard magazine right here.

Click here to download an MP3 of this show.

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Intro Music by Rick Barr.

via TechCrunch