Sunrise Calendar Stops Sending iCloud Credentials Back To Their Servers

The increasingly popular Sunrise calendar app faced a bit of a brouhaha last week, after a couple of well-respected developers (namely, Neven Mrgan and Instapaper creator Marco Arment) pointed out that the application asked the user to punch in their iCloud credentials with little indication of what happened to them next.

Given the amount of sensitive data that tends to be transmitted over iCloud (iMessages, backed up photos, email, etc.), such a request was iffy, at best. It’s certainly not the sort of thing you want to become the norm.

Making things worse, the company was in turn taking those credentials and transmitting back them to their server (though they note that they were not storing them.) They were sending the credentials in a secure way — but still: if it’s at all avoidable, sending important credentials back to the mothership isn’t good practice.

This morning, Sunrise pushed out a patch that makes things a little better. They’ll still need you to punch in your credentials, which is a bummer — but now, at least, they’re handling authentication within the app itself. Instead of sending your username and password back to their servers, they send a unique token that allows them to access your iCloud data without ever sending your actual username/password off of the device. And if you decide that you don’t want Sunrise to be able to access your data? Just change your password, which renders the token useless.

It’s not a perfect solution, as it does still require the users to trust a third-party with some pretty precious data. In this case, since Sunrise is now being quite transparent about how they handle the data, that’s fine. But it’s still not something that apps should be getting users comfortable with doing. Until/unless Apple builds in some sort of iCloud permissions dialog that allows for the user to grant a service like Sunrise access to data (sort of like the way Facebook handles Facebook logins within apps), however, this is the safest route they’ve got apart from.. you know, not existing.

It’s been just 9 days since concerns about Sunrise’s methodology were raised; good on them for moving quick.

via TechCrunch

Talking to Siri: the glass half-empty edition

Siri is not Glass. And it's just fine with that.

Steven Sande and Erica Sadun have been working on the third edition of Talking to Siri, the book that covers all the ins and outs of everyone's favorite digital assistant.


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed

Daily Update for January 31, 2014

It's the TUAW Daily Update, your source for Apple news in a convenient audio format. You'll get some the top Apple stories of the day in three to five minutes for a quick review of what's happening in the Apple world.

You can listen to today's Apple stories by clicking the player at the top of the page. The Daily Update has been moved to a new podcast host in the past few days. Current listeners should delete the old podcast subscription and subscribe to the new feed in the iTunes Store here.


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed

Apple Said To Be Focusing On Health With iOS 8 And iWatch, Following Exec Meeting With FDA

Apple’s plans for iOS 8 focus on redefining health tracking via mobile devices, according to a new report from 9to5Mac, which has a terrific track record when it comes to rumors it has sourced itself. The report details a new marquee application coming in iOS 8 called “Healthbook” that monitors all aspects of health, fitness and workout information, including vitals monitored via the new iWatch, which is said to pack a bevy of sensors and to be “well into development” according to 9to5Mac’s sources.

The health monitoring app called “Healthbook” will come pre-installed on iOS 8, which, if true, would be a huge blow to third-party apps including those made by Fitbit, Nike, Runkeeper and Withings just to name a few. It would track and report steps, calories burned, distance walked and more, including weight fluctuations, and blood pressure, hydration levels, heart rate and more.

Apple’s focus on health in iOS 8 is given credence by a number of new reports from this week, including the news from the New York Times earlier today that Apple execs met with the FDA late last year to discuss mobile medical applications. Apple also reportedly hired Michael O’Reilly, M.D. away from a position as Chief Medical Officer of Masimo Corporation in July 2013. O’Reilly is an expert in pulse oximetry among other things, which is used to non-invasively take key vitals from a user via optical sensors.

9to5Mac’s report details functionality of the proposed “Healthbook” app, which, as its name suggests, takes a lot of cues from Passbook. It’ll offer swipeable cards for each vital stat it tracks, letting users page through their medical and health information. The report cautions that this functionality could be taken out prior to the final release of iOS 8: With the FDA’s involvement, one concern might be getting the necessary approvals to market the software as a potential medical aid.

As for the iWatch, the new report doesn’t add much in terms of firm details, but it does suggest we could see a release before year’s end, and offers that it could feature sensors that provide data to Healthbook. That app could also use existing third-party monitors and devices designed for iOS to source data, however. One more tidbit about the iWatch suggests that maps will be a central feature of the device, and navigation on the wrist is actually a prime potential advantage of smartwatch devices that has yet to be properly explored.

We’ve reached out to Apple for comment on these developments, and will update if we learn anything more.

via TechCrunch

Airbnb Is Testing Out An Affordable Cleaning Service For Hosts In San Francisco

Peer-to-peer lodgings marketplace Airbnb has been focused on finding ways that it can help its hosts improve the quality of experience for guests that stay in their homes. As part of this effort, the company is trialing a low-cost cleaning service for some hosts on the platform.

According to an email sent to a host in the San Francisco Bay Area that was forwarded to TechCrunch, Airbnb is piloting a program that will make cleaning services available to some people who make their homes available on the platform. The email claims those services will be “affordable, easy to schedule, and can be tailored to include amenities such as linen service and gift baskets.”

In a statement from an Airbnb spokesperson, the company confirmed the trial, saying: “We’re always testing ways to make the experience on Airbnb better. This is a test we’re looking at in one market.”

Airbnb is working on a number of ways in which it can better support the people who list their homes on the platform. It recently brought on a new head of hospitality, Chip Conley, and created a Hospitality Innovation Lab in Dublin aimed at determining best practices for hosts.

It’s also introduced a new suite of mobile apps that are aimed at making the listing process easier. At the same event in which those apps were unveiled, Airbnb announced that it would relaunch Airbnb Groups to enable hosts to communicate and share tips with each other, and even toyed with the idea of offering up smartphones to hosts as a way to improve response times to guests and boost overall bookings.

But chief among the ways that Airbnb hosts can improve the quality of stay for their guests is through cleanliness of the spaces that they list. Those who frequently have Airbnb guests already know this, and many so-called “super hosts” already schedule regular cleaning sessions between stays.

Doing so can be expensive, however, and can eat into the money that hosts make — especially those who rely on income from Airbnb to help them pay their rents. At $55 for a three-hour cleaning, the price is slightly below what you might get from a service like Homejoy, which generally charges $20 an hour (in San Francisco, at least). Individual cleaners can run even higher, depending on the size of the home or how much cleaning is needed.

Offering hosts a somewhat discount price is a nice perk, especially for those who regularly rent out their homes to other members of Airbnb. It also improves the overall quality of their stays, could lead to better reviews, and overall increase the likelihood that hosts will have future guests.

Full text of the email sent to our host contact below:

Hi [XXXX],

We’re excited to invite you to try a new cleaning service we’re piloting for a select group of Airbnb hosts! Airbnb Cleaning is affordable, easy to schedule, and can be tailored to include amenities such as linen service and gift baskets, too. Pricing starts at $55 for a 3 hour cleaning.

We built this service to address what Airbnb guests care about most (things like odors, stray hairs, and refrigerators!). We also worked with hosts like you to understand how to cater to personal hosting styles and home setup preferences. We’ll save your preferences and set up your space exactly the way you want it every time.

Click here to learn more!

If you have any questions, simply reply to this e-mail and we’ll answer it promptly.

Happy hosting,


via TechCrunch

Leave the absolute zero to NASA. Your quantum computer will be an API

If you’ve seen the video below, you know what it takes to run a quantum computer. The only version commercially available today, made by D-Wave Systems, takes a 10-square-foot appliance to keep a 1-square-centimeter chip at a temperature of near absolute zero. It’s not for the meek, or the budget-conscious, which is why the only known purchasers to date are organizations like Google, NASA and Lockheed Martin.

But don’t worry, D-Wave CEO Vern Brownell promises, the rest of the us will probably consume our qubits as a service. That’s right: D-Wave wants to deliver quantum computing via API.

Technology aside, it’s this vision why I’m so excited to have Brownell speaking at our Structure Data conference March 19 and 20 in New York. A big theme of the event is about taking advantage of advances in data processing and delivery models to do new things, and even if it’s a few years off, quantum computing delivered as a cloud service might be about as promising as it gets.

In the long term, Brownell said during an interview earlier this week, the company “absolutely” expects to be in the business of renting cloud cycles rather than selling entire quantum computing systems. “We have the capability already to do that,” he said, noting that Google actually tuned some of its quantum algorithms over the internet. “… It’s really kind of a business decision at this point that we don’t offer that.” (He even suggested it could be done via partnerships with Google and even Amazon Web Services, noting that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is an investor in D-Wave.)

The business factors involved are really three: support (as in D-Wave doesn’t have the resources to support potentially many thousands of users); abstractions (it’s in the process of developing interpreters that will make it easier for non-experts to program the computer); and algorithms. As it works with early customers and partners, Brownell said, the company is wrapping its head around more potential uses for the system and trying to develop the best algorithms for carrying them out.

The long and short of it is that D-Wave’s type of quantum computer (adiabatic as opposed to the more popular gate variety) is, theoretically, ideal for complex workloads. Google is using it to build try and better, faster and unsupervised classifiers for machine learning and artificial intelligence, Brownell said, while Lockheed is working on software validation and verification for flight systems. Another early tester is trying to optimize the pattern of radiation its cancer treatment system emits.

It could also be valuable in the financial services industry, where banks run untold number of Monte Carlo simulations in order to calculate the risk of their investments. “Goldman [Sachs, where Brownell used to work], they run hundreds of thousand of cores, 7 by 24, running nothing but these types of calculations,” Brownell said. Programmed correctly, a quantum computer could probably do this faster, more accurately and, because it doesn’t dissipate heat, much more efficiently.


Vern Brownell. Source: D-Wave Systems

“I think 10 years from now … you should have a level playing field for examples where it makes sense to implement an algorithm using our quantum computer [alongside traditional CPUs],” Brownell said. “… This is a good time to come up with a quantum computer because there is cloud … people are much more comfortable with that model than they were 10 years ago.”

Brownell also addressed recent criticism stemming from published benchmark tests in which the D-Wave system sometimes performed no better than an optimized GPU. He claimed the tests weren’t on the types of workloads for which someone would normally use a quantum computer, and noted that while researchers took advantage of 60 years worth of research in tuning their competitive processor, the D-Wave processor is only in its second generation (something even the researchers note). In fact, by the end of the year, the company expects to increase the qubit count on the processor from 512 to 1,000.

So while critics are questioning the validity of D-Wave’s claims about its computer, Brownell described the tests as “historic,” adding that, “It could be one of the most important innovations in the computer space in the last 60 years that something like this has happened.”

via Gigaom

The Gigaom Interview: A chat with Microsoft’s Satya Nadella from before he was the (likely) next CEO

Back in October 2013, I sat down with Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s cloud chief, and we ended up talking about Microsoft and its competition, the role of the company in modern technology landscape and what it needs to do in order to get its mojo back. While most of the conversation took place from the context of cloud computing, we did get into specific challenges facing the company.

The conversation was very telling, about Nadella and his approach to the large-scale overhaul the company needs to make in order to regain some of its lost sizzle. This week, there have been several reports that he is going to be named CEO of Microsoft next week — a great choice if you ask me — and the interview below will give you an insight into why I think so.

Om Malik: What does the future of Microsoft productivity apps and Microsoft’s Enterprise business look like, say in 2020?

Satya Nadella: Let’s even take a couple of different dimensions to it. I think everyone’s going to be in the cloud and no one’s going to be exclusively on one public cloud; that’s the dichotomy. So it means you’ll be using multiple SaaS applications that could be in multiple clouds, you might even still have a private cloud, not just private servers, but you may have a private cloud and a public cloud. So if distributive computing isn’t going to die, it’s actually going to be thriving even in the year 2020 or 2030, then (our goal is) imagining that future and making it easy for end users to use their devices that they have to be able to access corporate information and for corporations to be able to have controls that allow them to give per device and user access. That’s the future that we build for, not the old model of IT procures and provisions but the model where end users procure and IT governs. That’s the model that I see.

What is your biggest challenge right now from a cloud and enterprise standpoint in the company?

The way I look at it, in order to be an enterprise company of the future, there are three things that I believe one has to do to be relevant. First is, you need to have hit apps, there’s no point by starting by just infrastructure because if you start with infrastructure without the most horizontal ubiquitous application efforts you probably will get the infrastructure wrong. So that’s where the tip of the spear for us is Office365 and the fact that we are off to the races on it, in terms of our hit rate versus Google apps is pretty high and we’re very happy about that.

Now the second piece is Azure itself, which is the public cloud infrastructure. You need to have an honest-to-God public cloud infrastructure which is at global scale. It has to even be available in China which is something uniquely we do and in fact, Office365 runs on Azure so it keeps us honest about your point about what parts of Microsoft actually run on Azure. All of our first parties run on Azure and that’s a big piece to it.

But the third piece I think is the most interesting one is it’s not enough to even have our own massive first-party public cloud but you need to enable others to build their own cloud. So that’s where our servers come in.

So I look at that three-part framework and then score ourselves, which is on number one, we say, “Hey, we compete against Google and Salesforce,” and I’ll claim that we have more usage than Salesforce because of the nature of the category of Office and I’ll say in the core of the enterprise, we have much more success than Google apps has, even today as of SAS applications.

On the second one, Amazon is definitely doing very well, they are off to a good start. They’re even a partner of ours, but we’re the number two player. If you ask me, “Hey, score yourself in the last year, have you bridged the gap?” You do your own survey, maybe in startups not as much but as far as when it comes to the enterprise we are the number two guys and we’ve been growing faster.


In the world of cloud, startups are where you find the most future growth. Dropbox, for example benefitted from Amazon Web Services. Companies that are growing really, really fast are going to Amazon. So as a result of that they (AWS) get to experience a whole different kind of usage behavior (and scale) which perhaps doesn’t translate to Azure. How do you attract the startups to your platform?

I look at it and say, first of all, I think my own first-party diversity from Skype to Yammer to Xbox Live to Bing to Office365 gives me a lot of diverse set of what I would call SaaS application feedback. The other thing is, let’s not forget that all the ISVs out there in the world who have SQL applications, SQL server is the most ubiquitous database [chuckle] in the world and they are moving all to Azure.

In fact, I have meeting ISV after ISV, who built banking applications, insurance applications, healthcare applications; they’re all database applications of the past but now they’re big data applications. They have a huge web front end to it, they have a mobile front end. So they’re the ones that are moving into the cloud.

Even this morning, one of the biggest applications in India happens to be the Rail Reservation System app, and that’s now all built on Azure on the back. So we have a lot of these wins across various countries where we are seeing the third-party usage. You’re right in saying, do we have to do more in the Silicon Valley in particular where we have to get more relevant? Absolutely and that’s right. I was recently meeting with the Cargo guys who are one of the Azure customers, they’re the machine learning company out here. So we have Blinkbox which is like the Netflix of the U.K. They are owned by Tesco now — that’s on Azure. So we are seeing Warner Brothers … replicating exactly what Halo did with game play analysis for their games.

What is your outlook for cloud over the next 24-72 months? How do you see the Cloud evolve both from scale, the size and the scope and explain to me in terms, perhaps that more can understand.

Cloud is perhaps the most secular growth engine out there because it scales with a number of devices, it scales with a number of apps, so it scales with the users and their devices and their apps. So that means all of those things are calling back home, they need more compute, they need more storage, and so therefore, cloud is the one thing you can bet on, is that there is going to be more cloud. Just because you can imagine all of those other things exploring.

Now then the question is, what is that nature of the cloud? That’s where I think, those three things that I mentioned: one is proliferation of SaaS applications and in particular … the question of what’s the most ubiquitously used SaaS application? And the race is on for us and the industry and I think that’s where I think it will be something around communications and collaborations. That’s why Office365 is super important to us.

The second thing that I think is also going to be true is, who are the scale players who can actually satisfy that demand? In the past, in the enterprise, there were actually many enterprise players. There was us, there was Oracle, there was VMWare, there was EMC, there were many guys who in fact all serviced the enterprise. In the new world, who are they? There is Amazon, there’s us, and maybe Google if they are serious about the enterprise infrastructure business.

You don’t think they (Google) are serious?

I don’t know. I don’t run into them. We compete with them, but on Office365 and Google apps, not as much when it comes to Azure. It’s really Amazon and Azure as far as I can tell when it comes to the public cloud. That would be the other thing that I see, who are the ones – and you can’t just say I’m going to enter this business tomorrow, it requires five, six billion dollars of capital expense every year — who have the muscle to be able to get into the public cloud business. If you’re already not in it at this scale, you’re probably never going to be in it. You have to wait for the next big inflection point. And then lastly, it is like, if you go with the notion that the world will still be hybrid, and there is a need for server products that mimic what you use in your own public cloud, that’s where VMWare and others will play and I think that’s still going to be very important.

Right now there’s a lot of applications which are in private hosted environments and internal hosted environments. What type applications do you think are going to actually move to the cloud?

That’s a great one. What I see is sometimes we will be thinking of it and conceptualizing this is just a migration. … Take American Express – they’re doing a lot with Azure but one of the fascinating things I’m noticing is that they are using Azure for a lot of new things that they never did in the past. They are building back-ends for a lot of mobile experiences they are creating. They are automating a lot of things that they never automated in the past when it comes to their merchant experiences. Take Telefonica, which is a big customer of ours, where they basically wanted to partner with us to build a private cloud.


They built that but they are now using the private cloud with Azure, not just for dev/test but also to be able to do geographic expansion, which Telefonica itself is expanding geographically. And the best means for them to do that is to not open up data centers everywhere they go but to be able to use us. Same thing with Disaster Recovery; one of the fascinating things I see is everybody who buys a SQL server, in fact in this release, gets an always-on secondary in Azure. So it even comes through where it’s just part of what you’re doing. So you may not even need migration. So one of the things is, I have an always-on database, where is it running? The always on database is kind of on your private cloud and kind of on Azure and so the distinction even goes away.

Can we switch gears a little bit? So we were talking a lot about the cloud, right? The question I have for you is, rightly or wrongly, Microsoft is known as a company of the past, compared to Facebook or Twitter and any of these new companies that are popping up. How do you attract talent to Microsoft? There’s some serious options for smart people now, it’s not just one or two big companies.

Look, first of all, I joined the company in 1992. It’s not like that serious competition and seriously hot competitors is new. We’ve always had them and it’s just that our memory is such that the present state always looks hotter and cooler than our past. But even if you look at the dot-com era there was lots of companies and things going crazy in the stock market. So therefore, we’ve always faced this.

I do a lot of recruiting from college and even at the senior levels, and in fact I just hired one of the key guys out of Amazon, doing all of their machine learning work on the retail side and he’s working on our side. So we have tremendous amount of success in getting people from different places. There’s a guy who was working on database technologies in startups who just recently joined us, so I would say, the pitch is, “Look, we are the only company that is audacious enough, bold enough, to do a bunch of different things.”

From building the core operating system for the cloud to building the games console. And that level of breadth, you could say if you do it well, can be a fantastic opportunity for anybody, either as a student who is graduating to a senior person in hardware. Take some of the people who we are hiring nowadays are people with a lot of silicon experience and silicon is changing how you build servers, how you build game consoles. So I think that depth and breadth of experiences one could get out of a Microsoft tenure is still unparalleled I would claim.

The not-cool image works against you guys in the sense that, I don’t find (young) programmers who say, “I’m going to go work for Microsoft.” They all say they’ll go work for Facebook and they can perhaps have a bigger impact. Don’t you think that’s a legitimate challenge? Forget all the market forces at work. I think the inability to attract young, fresh, talent can be basically the end of any enterprise.

I track all the graduating class out of CMU or Stanford or Berkeley or anyone Comp Sci (schools) we track and we look at how many people did we make offers to, how many people accepted and the data shows that we win. There’s definitely new people who are showing up on campus than the traditional guys. There’s Google and there’s Facebook and there’s Twitter but as far as people who look at it — if I want to do serious systems work that is relevant in the era of the cloud — where else would you go? I think we get our fair share.

In the world of cloud, I think of five big players. There is you guys, there’s Amazon, there’s Google, there’s Apple, and then there’s maybe Facebook and Facebook is still a pure play software company. The rest of the four are doing devices, cloud and services. How would you rank those four?

Let me take the enterprise lens because that’s the one I live and breathe. If you look at what I described as the framework at least that I evaluate by, which is who has the most used SaaS applications in the enterprise, who has the cloud infrastructure that backs that up and is available for third parties at scale — and there’s no lock in effect which is somebody who can say, “I’ll give you even the infrastructure software to stand up,” — I’d claim that really it’s us and Amazon and Google; those are the three players. If I had to rank in the enterprise, I’ll claim we’re number one, Amazon number two, Google number three. That would be my rank ordering of the new enterprise players.

How would the overall market, consumer enterprise, cloud…?

SN: It’s Google and Microsoft.

You don’t think Amazon and…

SN: Not broad enough.

You don’t have a big device penetration just yet.

Steve (Ballmer) gave me this framework which I think works a lot which is — if you have to predict what the future could look like, then you have to say, “Do you have capability, do you have concept, do you have capability and do you have the culture?” I think those are all three worthwhile things to think about.

The concept of devices and services, in just looking at our share, our share in mobile is low but our share on PC is high. But as long as you say there is going to be all sorts of ubiquitous computing around you, there’s going to be big screens, small screens, things in your pocket, and we’re going to be a player. Do we have share today, and do we have to grow share, that’s I think we will be a player.

The second one, really will come down to the capability that most difficult capability that I think is not easy to build because it requires both scale and immense amount of software skills is the cloud. The cloud infrastructure is perhaps the toughest, if you’re not in it, and so if you take those two things, it’s really us and Google are probably the two players who have the best.

Moderated by: Om Malik - Founder and Senior Writer, GigaOM Speakers: Satya Nadella - President, Server and Tools Business, Microsoft

Moderated by:

Om Malik – Founder and Senior Writer, GigaOM


Satya Nadella – President, Server and Tools Business, Microsoft

I’d say developers are the third thing. I think while you guys do have a good control of the past operating environments, I think the new world is very different. I think there is multiple choices and Microsoft hasn’t done well in the world of multiple choice, it has always struggled. I think that is the challenge, when I look at the cloud environment — the big four plus Facebook — and the challenge for Microsoft comes down to: you’ve got developers, you’ve got cloud, you’ve got the legacy, the enterprise relationships, those things you got right. You’ve got old legacy products which people like to use however there is a little bit of challenge when it comes to the new world. Look at the world where people are spending money on applications, devices, other way of thinking. We don’t have a Microsoft product in our company now, which is unimaginable five years ago and I think that’s the challenge you have.

SN: I thought you had an Xbox in your lounge?

The Xbox is a different story. [laughter] (Editor’s note: We have an Xbox 360 we forget is there.) And if you really think about the challenge, is that as a company, you don’t get to scale with me. Google gets to scale with me and Dropbox gets to scale with me and to some extent Apple gets to scale with me or maybe not, we don’t know yet. But I think that is the question I was trying to get to — isn’t that a big challenge?

Oh, it is, absolutely. Take your own case, the thing is we have to have things that really make it such that you adopt. That’s why I think the Dropbox was the Skydrive or Yammer was as anything else you were doing for your social, inside the enterprise, which then is just an entry point into Office365. So some of the cycles you’ve gotten into with let’s say Google, you sort of described it well, you said, “The Google ID is critical for me and your communications is critical for me,” I agree and the fact that we lost you as an Office365 is horrible, but luckily, I think three out of four of those customers, we win and that to me is really what is the story of our relevance in the future.

Before I go, two questions. What is the office space, the work space of an employee, when you have no offices and you have completely fluid on demand work force. What does it look like?

SN: In fact, you’re sitting in one such, Microsoft Office. It’s actually all open space and I studied, in fact, the Yammer and also a lot of other Silicon Valley companies, and our developer division is completely open space now. In fact, we did it in such a way that every twelve person team can self assemble at any given point in time and have a pod for themselves and we can keep changing it on a weekly, monthly basis. So we absolutely are believers in saying, “Look, the demographics are shifting, how people work, share the tools that they use at work shift, and how do you design the work space to keep up with it,” is one of the quests we have right now. One of the other things [chuckle] that I’m also aware of is the spread of diseases as I’ve learned [chuckle]. One of the fascinating things is one person gets the flu, everybody gets the flu, so what do you do about those kinds of things, are interesting issues but we definitely have some very interesting learning and experimentation. At this point it’s no longer like our work space is very different from Silicon Valley work spaces.

What do you think is the big challenge for the incoming CEO of Microsoft?

I’d say our current challenge and our current opportunities are the following. You look at, let’s divide it into two parts, on the enterprise side I actually think we’re playing offense. We have a big business, the business I’m associated with closely is 20 plus billion dollars but guess what, there’s two trillion dollars that play in this move to the cloud, so we’re playing offense all the time. In fact, all of today’s announcements are all about, “Hey, the data center of the future, device management of the future, date management, big data, and so on,” so I feel like we have only things to gain and we’re already in there. So it’s not as if you’re talking about the future that’s some time in the distant future but it’s today.

Then on the consumer side, you could say we have devices today and we have a new operating system that we launched, that’s a pretty radical set of bets. New silicon, new UI, new app model, and the fact that we had had tremendous success with the desktop, people look at that and say, “Hey, instantly why is this not at the same scale?” But we’re not confused that it’s touch first and big screens are all important and we’re coming at it and you’ll see us to continue to innovate on our devices front. So the challenge really, and the opportunity is the devices and services and making progress on it.

It’s funny, you didn’t have a single comment about Apple’s Cloud Services. I feel like that’s their biggest shot coming out of the company. I was pretty amused that you didn’t bring that up. Maybe they should use Azure.

via Gigaom

Within a few years, a self-powered robot could be mowing your lawn

Around the time of World War II, fuel rations caused Europeans to look to alternative means to power their cars. Some attached hulking tanks to the back of their car that burned wood chips as fuel.

Wood powered car

Several years ago, George Mason University graduate student Jason Force had a modern idea for the technology: Because grass pellets are just as good as wood chips for this kind of system, why not create a lawn mower with it? It could power itself with the grass it harvested. It could also be self-guiding, like a Roomba, so users would not longer have to mow their own lawn.

He got to work on the self-guiding aspect five years ago. The idea grew into a startup called EcoMow Technologies. Its team began working on the chemical engineering last year.

Force tested the robot among consumers and found that they loved the idea. But investors hated it. Developing software for this type of robot is highly complicated and will be a big challenge for the EcoMow team.

“Because it’s such a major departure from what the public has seen before, they consider it too risky,” Force said in an interview. “A lot of work would have to go into this product to make it safe; don’t run over your pets or children, don’t run into the street and cause an accident. The concern was we would get to the end of the $2 million development cycle and the customers would just decide they didn’t like it.”

For now, EcoMow is pursuing another product: a larger mower that will harvest hay fields for fuel pellets, which can then be sold. It won’t have as sophisticated of a guidance system, but it uses the same chemistry as the consumer model and, more importantly, has found support among investors. EcoMow plans to produce a prototype by April and sell it to customers next year.

Force said he hasn’t forgotten about the consumer mower. He still plans to develop it, likely beginning in 2016. A small model designed to manicure lawns less than an acre in size might cost $500 and weigh less than 10 pounds. A larger model for a 10-acre property might cost $2,000 to $3,000.

An EcoMow prototype. Photo courtesy of Melissa Cannarozzi.

An EcoMow prototype. Photo courtesy of Melissa Cannarozzi.

Force also sees the EcoMow as a potentially powerful tool in developing nations. Instead of building a power plant and biomass processor, plus buying a harvester to collect biomass, communities could use a version of the EcoMow for all three.

“An application I’m pursuing is having little micro grids set up in East Africa where the units would go harvest during the night and then come back and plug themselves in to a power unit during the day and supply power to the local region during the day,” he said. “It would be operating all the time, but dividing its time between power generation and harvesting. In this capacity it would lower the barrier for developing nations to have a new energy economy in areas that don’t currently have one.”

via Gigaom

Backblaze stats on 27,000 hard drives show which ones keep on ticking

chart showing drive failure rates

When your business value proposition is delivering inexpensive, reliable cloud backup for thousands of customers, you're going to learn a thing or two about drive reliability. The Backblaze team has been sharing that HDD savvy (gleaned from several years' experience and more than 75 petabytes of storage) in a series of blog posts over the past couple of months, and we've been fascinated to note their discoveries. Now Brian Beach at Backblaze has addressed the eternal question: What hard drive should I buy?

BB's StoragePods are packed with consumer-grade hard drives just like the ones you'd buy at Costco or Best Buy, so it's reasonable to use Backblaze's failure stats as a proxy for how these drives might perform on your very own desk with your very own Mac. Granted, drives in a StoragePod are in more continuous use and subject to more vibration than a home-use drive, so your mileage may vary.

Of the 27,000-plus drives running in Backblaze's server racks, the vast majority (almost 13,000 each) are Seagate or Hitachi models. There are only a couple of drives that Backblaze won't buy or try -- WD's Green 3TB drives and Seagate LP (low power) 2TB models -- because the BB StoragePod environment doesn't agree with them, possibly due to vibration sensitivity on spin-down/spin-up. Other than that, the company buys drives on a commodity basis, going with the best GB/$ ratio available at a given point in time.

Best of the BB batch? Hitachi/HGST's Deskstar 2 TB, 3 TB and 4 TB models. Beach says, "If the price were right, we would be buying nothing but Hitachi drives. They have been rock solid, and have had a remarkably low failure rate." At the moment, due to price fluctuations, the drives of choice are a Seagate HDD.15 4 TB unit and the Western Digital 3 TB Red.

As Beach notes, however, Hitachi's storage unit (originally purchased from IBM in 2002) has been bought (and split) in the past two years, with the 3.5-inch business going to Toshiba and the 2.5-inch product line going to WD. Although HGST is still marketing and making the Deskstar line, it's likely that technology will settle under the Toshiba brand in the future.


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed

How fictional Apple fans watch a product keynote [Video]

With so many mediocre Apple spoofs littering the internet -- do we really need another parody of an Apple product-introduction video, white backdrop and all? -- it's nice to finally see a video poking fun at Apple fans with some comic muscle behind it.

From the talented folks over at Vooza, check out this hilarious depiction of how Apple fans act during an Apple keynote. While some bits are naturally exaggerated for comic effect, others are incredibly spot on.


A few of my favorite lines include:

- When the fanboys, at the beginning of the media event, begin clamoring for Tim Cook to "give me those stats!" As anyone who has relentlessly refreshed an Apple media event liveblog can attest, Cook loves kicking things off with cold hard data.

- Q: What was Microsoft's marketshare again? A: Nothing like that.

- The hoopla surrounding Craig Federighi's hair is great: "I have nightmares that his hair's not there."

- "Jony Ive! Look at that bald head.. it's so minimalist."

- "Gooooooooold!" The gold iPhone viewed through the eyes of a soccer fan.

- And of course, eagerly waiting around for a "one more thing" announcement that never comes is something I'm sure we can all relate too. "He's really just walking away."


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed

Before Halo we had Marathon -- play Bungie's three Mac classics free

Mac users have always been second-string players in the world of computer gaming. For every AAA title that debuted on both Mac and Windows, a hundred games never reached for that gleaming Apple. Growing up in the '90s, I was a Windows user and never heard an end to the complaints from my Mac gamer friends about the vicious neglect of the gaming community. With one shining exception. The one series that didn't come to Windows -- Marathon.

Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can play each and every game in the Marathon trilogy for free, on your modern machine. Utilizing the Aleph One game engine and with the blessing of Bungie, these three classics now run on Mac, Windows and Linux. Marathon 2 features the enhanced graphics found on the Xbox Live remake, while Marathon Infinity has support for online multiplayer. With three titles for nothing, you've got a lot of gaming to do.

The titles are also available for iOS if you'd rather play on your iPhone or iPad. You can find them here; Marathon 1, Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity.

Developed by a pre-Halo Bungie Studios, the Marathon series was on the cutting edge of the first-person shooter genre. Marathon introduced concepts like dual-wielding weapons and real-time voice chat in multiplayer. The three games feature a physics engine that allows for changing gravity, bringing as much depth to actual gameplay as the incredibly complicated story.

Marathon 2 continued the innovations with the ambient noises and the ability to swim. It was also the only title in the trilogy to be ported to Windows. For Marathon Infinity, the series took a hard turn toward the surreal with a story that transcended time and space to send you blasting evil through alternate realities.

These open-source updates have been available for a while now, but our readers may not have been aware of them. Readers who grew up on modern shooters may be unimpressed by Marathon's graphics at first, but once you get involved in its tales of inter-dimensional alien warfare, this game will go from history lesson to heart-pounding thrill ride. See what the developers of Halo were working on before they changed console gaming forever. Give Marathon a spin.


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed

This Week On The TC Gadgets Podcast: Facebook Paper, Lenovo-Moto, Carbon 3D Printing, And Coffee!

Looking for a way to get through Friday? Here you go.

Facebook launched a news reader app called Paper. (Teens will love it.) And Google sold Motorola to Lenovo for $3 billion, which made earnings week interesting. And, in the land of startups, we explore a new Carbon 3D Printer and a Keurig Coffee machine. So you can print yourself a cup-holder, which will store your fresh cup of coffee, as you drive to work on this blessed Friday.

We discuss all this and more on this week’s episode of the TC Gadgets Podcast, featuring John Biggs, Matt Burns, Jordan Crook, Darrell Etherington, and Romain Dillet.

The Superbowl is in two days, and the work week is almost over. We’re almost there.

We invite you to enjoy our weekly podcasts every Friday at 3 p.m. 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.

You can subscribe to the show via RSS.

Subscribe in iTunes

Intro Music by Rick Barr.

via TechCrunch

BrightFunnel Raises Funding To Build Smarter Marketing Predictions

Marketing startup BrightFunnel is announcing that it has raised a small “advisory round” of slightly less than $1 million from some big-name investors.

Co-founder and CEO Nadim Hossain served most recently as the vice president of marketing at PowerReviews (which was acquired by Bazaarvoice). In that role, and in other jobs as a marketing executive, Hossain said that with his background in economics and econometrics he expected to be “swimming in CMO insights,” but that turned out not to be the case.

Instead, Hossain said he found “production tools” with limited analytics, at least on the level of what a CMO would want to know.

“I remember being at a board meeting in May of 2011, and they asked me questions where I didn’t know the answers,” he said. ” My self identity is as someone who can get at the numbers and get at the truth, and I had to make guesses. It just made me feel not authentic and wonder, why don’t I have the answers? These are knowable questions.”

So at BrightFunnel, he’s trying to build tools that will given him the answers that he was looking for. The eventual goal, Hossain said, is to create “the Google self-driving car for marketers.” In other words, customers should be able to identify how much money they want to spend on a campaign and what their revenue targets are, and with BrightFunnel’s recommendations, the marketing plan should basically run itself.

The company isn’t quite there yet. Instead, Hossain said, it’s more like navigation app Waze. Its current features include identifying the marketing “levers” that can lead to increased revenue, as well as analyzing performance trends by campaign and channel. BrightFunnel also integrates with marketing automation systems including Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, Act-On, and Hubspot.

And yes, it offers predictions about the revenue impact of marketing campaigns. Hossain estimated that those projections are within 10 to 20 percent accuracy — not just on the conversion rate but also how long it will take to close the sale, which is particularly important for the business-to-business marketers that BrightFunnel is targeting.

One of Hossain goals is to improve that accuracy, which he said is “blows [marketers] away” but is not quite up to snuff for statisticians.

Anyway, here are the investors:

Paul Albright, former CRO, Marketo

David Gutelius, former Chief Social Scientist, Jive Software

Ryan Holmes, founder and CEO, HootSuite

Steve King, former CEO, DocuSign

Scott Kleper, founder and CTO, Context Optional (Adobe Marketing Cloud)

Tim Kopp, former CMO, ExactTarget ( Marketing Cloud)

Chris Maeda, former CTO, KANA Software

Mark Organ, CEO, Influitive and co-founder, Eloqua (Oracle Marketing Cloud)

Venkat Rangan, CTO, Clari and founder, Clearwell Systems (Symantec)

Russell Siegelman, former VP, Microsoft, and Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

via TechCrunch

Gillmor Gang Live 01.31.14 (TCTV)

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Gillmor Gang test patternGillmor Gang - Robert Scoble, John Taschek, Kevin MArks, Keith Teare, and Steve Gillmor. Live recording session today at 1pm Pacific. Have you found us on Facebook yet?

via TechCrunch Files For $100M IPO On The NYSE, Trading As Coup

The march of the 2014 initial public offerings commences, with the latest one of the oldest brands on the internet. has just filed S-1 papers with the SEC for an IPO on the NYSE, trading under the name COUP, and raising $100 million.

Goldman, Sachs & Co., Allen & Company LLC, BofA Merrill Lynch and RBC Capital Markets are listed as the underwriters on the filing.

The news comes a day after Box reportedly filed a “secret” IPO. may elect to use a similar route to keep from disclosing certain aspects of its business, it notes. “We are an ‘emerging growth company’ as defined under the federal securities laws and, as such, may elect to comply with certain reduced public company reporting requirements for future filings,” it notes.’s IPO filing was long anticipated, most recently with Paul Sloan jumping from his position as editor-in-chief at CNET to take up head of communications to lead the effort.

As one of the earlier movers in the online coupons space, is also one of the biggest. It notes in the IPO that in the first nine months of 2013, its sales were generated from some 940 million transactions on its site. Those included customers picking up digital coupons and also redeeming codes over its platform. That figure is up 49% over a year ago. says that today its platform includes more than 700 consumer packaged goods companies, representing over 2,000 brands, and retailers covering some 58,000 physical stores in North America. It had 17 million monthly unique visitors on average across and affiliated sites over 2013 and visited the sites of its CPGs, retailers and publishers. Its mobile apps have been downloaded some 7 million times.

First established as a site for newspaper coupons, more recently the company has been trying to convert its brand recognition into a business fit for a more social and mobile age. In December acquired Yub for $30 million to add loyalty networks to its service and position itself as a better bridge between offline and online commerce. In March 2013, it acquired KitchMe, a Pinterest-like recipe service.

Founded in 1998, has raised some $277 million in venture funding but it is a loss-making business. During the nine months ended September 30, 2013, the company says, it generated revenues of $115.3 million, growing 51% compared to the same period in 2012 but at a net loss of $12.8 million. That net loss was a decrease of 75% over the same period in 2012, the company says.

The full-year figures for the year before show that is improving its structure. In 2012, sales were $112.1 million, 23% up versus 2011, but with a net loss of $59.2 million, up 158% (!) over 2011.

Sill, coupons are big business, potentially. says that in 2012, 305 billion total coupons were distributed, “representing an aggregate discount value of $467 billion, with 2.9 billion redeemed representing an aggregate discount value of $3.7 billion,” citing stats from NCH Marketing Services.

Photo: Flickr

More to come.

via TechCrunch

How a failed clean technology could be the key to future iPhone screens

In many respects, solar startup Twin Creeks Technologies was a failure, representing the classic missteps of Silicon Valley’s efforts to back promising cleantech startups.

The company raised over $90 million from Valley venture capitalists for its solar manufacturing tech, launched in the spring of 2012 with much fanfare, and less than a year later its assets were sold for much less than it raised — $10 million in an initial payment — to solar materials giant GT Advanced Technologies. Like several other startups before it — and after it — Twin Creeks even left angry politicians and workers in its wake, after taking in $26 million in loans from the state of Mississippi, and promising hundreds of local green jobs in a downtrodden economy.

But like the complicated story of cleantech itself, that’s not the end of the story for the technology that got its investors, employees and press initially excited. Twin Creeks’ Hyperion machine — which can slice materials like silicon for solar cells, but also sapphire crystals for different applications — could one day be used to cut very thin, ultra-strong, sapphire screens for Apple’s future iPhones.

Twin Creek's Hyperion Wafer

Twin Creek’s Hyperion Wafer

Apple changes the game

For a couple years GT, which built a business making solar manufacturing equipment and materials, was swept up by the struggles in the solar sector. While solar panel customers were benefiting from some of the lowest prices in history, the companies that made those panels, and the components in those panels, were facing prices so low that many were going out of business. The price of silicon, the key ingredient in solar cells, had dropped dramatically, and there was a flood of super-cheap Chinese solar panels on the market. Between late 2010 and late 2012, GT’s stock dropped from over $15 per share to under $3 per share.

Clearly GT needed to diversify out of solar, and turns out its sapphire business — its furnaces, equipment and material production capacity — would provide the key to that. Sapphire crystal, which is much stronger and less breakable than glass, is starting to be used for components, screens and casings for consumer electronics. Apple has already used sapphire crystal for the fingerprint reader in its iPhone 5s, and other phone makers have used it for camera lens covers.

Apple sapphire patent

Apple sapphire patent

But the problem with sapphire glass is that it’s generally expensive to make; traditionally far more expensive than the Gorilla Glass made by Corning, which Apple uses for its iPhone screen. However if GT could find a way to lower the cost of making the sapphire crystal, perhaps phone makers would use sapphire glass for the entire screen as well.

A couple months ago, GT Advanced Technologies scored a game-changing deal with Apple to provide Apple with sapphire production technology for components. It’s unclear exactly what the sapphire will be used for, but it is clear that it’s a major initiative. Apple is providing a facility in Mesa, Arizona that will employ 700 workers, and is also investing $578 million to develop the plant. According to reports the factory will be ramping up next month to create a “critical new component.” GT’s share price has risen in the wake of the Apple deal announcement to over $10 per share.

The Hyperion machines

So where does Twin Creek’s tech come in? The machines that Twin Creeks developed, called Hyperion, are able to cut silicon and sapphire into thin slices for much less cost than traditional methods. The machines can cut a thick block of silicon by bombarding it with hydrogen ions down to the depth of 20 microns. The ions create a bubble layer, and when the wafer is moved to a furnace and heated, the bubble expands and separates the 20-micron top layer from the rest of the silicon block. The remaining silicon block is then used again and again, instead of thrown out and wasted. Traditional silicon wafers are closer to 200 microns thick, and the Hyperion machine was supposed to be able to reduce the capital equipment expenditures for a vertically integrated solar company (one that makes silicon and the cells) by 50 percent.

The Hyperion Machine

The Hyperion Machine

The slicing process is similar with sapphire. GT has said that it sees a lot of promise with Hyperion for “thin sapphire structures that we believe will have broad use in consumer applications.”

GT is so excited about the Hyperion technology that in its recent earnings call it called it “one of the most exciting technologies in our portfolio” and said “Hyperion could rival the size of our PV business in its peak.” GT also owns 50 issued and pending patents around Hyperion and said in the call:

“[W]e believe this tool is the first-of-its-kind in the world.”

That said, it’s unclear if Hyperion is currently being employed within the current development of Apple’s sapphire factory. GT said it has a pre-production Hyperion machine in operation now, and the technology is supposed to be more widely commercialized in 2015. It’s only been about a year since GT purchased it from Twin Creeks. But Apple has never been one to shy away from investing in tomorrow’s cutting edge technologies.

The complexities of cleantech

If Twin Creek’s slicing technology does end up playing a key role in future iPhone screens, it would underscore the complexities of the clean technology sector, and the short comings of the venture capital model in getting clean technologies to market. As we’ve written many times before, the long timelines and the high capital requirements to bring solar manufacturing technology — however promising it might be — to market are out of whack with the short timelines and low capital requirements preferred by VCs.

Twin Creeks raised over $90 million, but that wasn’t enough to scale the technology into a commercial product, particularly during a time (post-Solyndra) when VCs were losing their appetite for new solar tech. In this case (if it is used in sapphire screen production for Apple’s next iPhone), it would take GT’s and Apple’s large half a billion dollar investment in building out the production to see the tech reach its potential.

More and more new clean technologies are being developed under the wing of large corporations that have deep pockets, rather than in the garages of scrappy entrepreneurs in the Bay Area.

via Gigaom

How Leap Motion can use its accelerator program to … leapfrog the competition

When you build something new, you need to show people it’s worth it. In the technology world one way to do that is to find applications for your invention to show people what the new-fangled tech can make possible. If you’re Apple, maybe you can open up an app store and developers will rush to fill it because of the huge potential audience, but if you’re a startup gesture-controlled controller maybe you have to pay developers a bit of money to seed your market with awesome apps that show off the technology’s promise.

They may not agree with the characterization, but that’s what some investors in Leap Motion have managed to create with the Founders Fund and SOSventures teaming up to offer the Leap AXLR8R program. On Friday it named 10 startups to the program — all that take the Leap’s gesture-based controls out of the realm of gameplay into something far more interesting.

These applications range from physical therapy and sterile operating room interfaces to controlling robots and enabling a computer-vision-aided wearable. Each participant in the 13-week accelerator program gets mentoring and $25,000 in seed funding from SOSventures. They’ll also debut at a demo day on May 9 to a room full of investors and potential employees.

This sort of program is a good move by Leap and its investors since Leap’s technology has so much promise, but many of the implementations so far are a bit limited to games. I believe the tech has promise, but my initial review didn’t convert me to the technology. And as more alternative user interfaces emerge it’s not enough just to have a developer program and an SDK for folks to play with. Not only is there a lot of competition to build apps for a variety of UIs (Kinect, MYO, Leap, Oculus Rift etc.) some of the greatest promise for the Leap might end up in relatively smaller, niche, professional markets like medicine or industrial design that will still need a lot of hand-holding before adopting a new UI and app.

That’s not the kind of business one can build in a 48-hour hackathon. I’ll be curious to see how this first class of Leap-focused startups does and what it might mean for the adoption of the Leap technology in more places. And for those who are wondering, here are the startups participating in the program:

  • MotionSavvy – Giving voice to the deaf and hard-of-hearing through real-time American Sign Language translation

  • Diplopia – Restoring depth perception for the 5 percent of the population affected by amblyopia (lazy eye) through virtual reality computer games using Oculus Rift and Leap Motion

  • Sterile Air – Creating the “Operating System” to enable a computerized, sterile surgical operating room

  • LivePainter – Enabling real-time DJ-ing and VJ-ing as performance art via live web collaboration

  • Ten Ton Raygun – Gamifying physical rehabilitation therapy for stroke and other injuries to make rehab fun, quicker, and measurable

  • Mirror Training – Making robots an extension of your own body using Leap Motion and video. A DARPA spinoff revolutionizing robotic arm control with a natural user interface and visual feedback for the user

  • GetVu – Creating a next-gen augmented reality platform that mixes computer vision with human vision in a wearable device

  • Illuminator 4D – Easily create interactive, holographic environments for retail and in-home usage

  • Crispy Driven Pixels – Reinventing 2D and 3D creative software through a new, natural user interface

  • Paralagames- Improving hand-eye coordination through games controlled by the hand

via Gigaom

It’s a lot easier to say you want to move from print-first to digital-first than it is to actually do it

Large newspaper companies are struggling with a very real-world version of Clay Christensen’s “Innovator’s Dilemma” — namely, the need to transition from a print-focused business model to a digital one, with all the mess and upheaval that entails. But how do you actually take a chain of almost a hundred small daily and weekly newspapers and transform those newsrooms in real time? That’s what Digital First Media is trying to do with what it calls Project Unbolt, a new effort that CEO John Paton launched earlier this week.

The name, Paton said in a presentation to the Online Publishers Association, comes from the way in which traditional media entities often see digital or online publishing as something they “bolt on” to their existing processes, which he argued is exactly the wrong way to approach the problem — and in fact dooms anyone who does approach it that way to almost certain failure:

“If legacy news media wants to win this fight and successfully transition to a more vital future then in my part of it – newspapers – we need to start with this: Acknowledge Print is dying. Accept it and plan for it. News isn’t dying. Newsrooms are not dying. Just Print. We can no longer treat digital as a bolt-on to our strategy and protect the legacy business.”


One step forward and two steps back

Even Digital First Media — which under Paton has made a point of pushing the digital transformation of its newspapers as hard or harder than any other chain in the country — the continuing decline of print means that it is sliding two steps backwards for every step it takes forward: Paton said profit is up more than 40 percent over the last three years, but that still means it is down by almost 60 percent since 2006, the peak year for newspaper advertising.

So how does Digital First, or any other newspaper chain, get to where it needs to go? Paton said that Project Unbolt, which is being driven by editor-in-chief Jim Brady — the former head of the Washington Post‘s digital unit — will go through every part of how the chain’s papers currently produce the news and make digital the focus and print the afterthought, even though print still produces the lion’s share of the company’s profits as it does for most newspaper publishers.

“Starting with some test sites we will work through every process, every workflow step of what makes a digital newsroom digital and make that the very core of what we do… we won’t forget print but when we are finished this process it will be the bolt on to digital and not the other way around. The newsroom of the future is not the current one dragged into it. It is going to be re-built from the ground up.”


Fast, real-time, mobile and engaged

In addition to Brady, one of those leading Digital First’s new project is “digital transformation editor” Steve Buttry, who has been blogging for some time about the challenges of moving from print to digital. As he goes through each and every newsroom among the chain’s 75 daily and weekly newspapers, Buttry says he will be focusing on a number of key elements of a truly digital-first approach, including:

Live and interactive: Newsroom efforts should be focused on being digital first and live/interactive whenever possible. “Reporters and/or visual journalists covering events plan for live coverage unless they have a good reason not to,” Buttry said.

A focus on speed: Editors need to make sure what they are doing produces content quickly (but accurately) for digital platforms, with print editors then “harvesting and adapting” digital content for their print editions, instead of “shooting for the deadlines of a morning newspaper.”

Community engagement: The chain’s papers need to engage with their communities through a variety of tools and techniques, including social media, blogs, crowdsourcing and live events. “The editor explains newsroom decisions and developments regularly in a blog, social media and community appearances.”

Becoming mobile: For every story, newsrooms have to think about their mobile audience and provide content that works for them. “Editors and staff in the unbolted newsroom routinely use mobile tools in their work and in personal news consumption. Most of staff routinely uses newsroom’s app.”

Caught in a dark hallway between two rooms


As both Buttry and Paton have hinted in their respective blog posts and presentations, the kind of transformation that Digital First is trying to engineer isn’t just about feel-good efforts at community engagement like “open newsrooms” — it’s also going to involve making hard decisions about resources, including laying people off and cutting costs in a variety of other ways. To take just one example, one of Digital First’s newspaper units has had to file for bankruptcy protection not just once but twice to deal with legacy costs like pensions.

David Carr, the media writer for the New York Times, came up with a terrific analogy for what most newspapers are going through at an event in Toronto that I attended: Newspaper companies are in one room, he said — the print room — and they know they have to get to another room (the digital room) but at the moment most of them are stuck in the hallway, and it’s dark, and no one really knows how long it is or how they are going to get there.

In many ways, digital-only media entities such as BuzzFeed or Gawker (or Gigaom) have an easier time of it because they aren’t dragging around a legacy business that is declining rapidly but still makes up a large part of their revenues. Any decisions that are made can be taken based solely on what is right for a digital platform or online audience — there is only one room.

While Digital First is still stuck in the dark hallway along with everyone else, it at least appears to be trying hard to fight its way to that digital room. How long the journey will take is anyone’s guess.

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Thinkstock / Chung-Sung Jun

via Gigaom

Facebook loses key design leader

Facebook’s director of brand design, and former design director for four years, Kate Aronowitz, is leaving the company. She announced the move on, where else, Facebook, and says she’ll be working on projects that matter to her and spending more time with her family. Facebook has spent considerable resources building a design team, and acquiring design talent, but it’s been hard to keep some of the young design talent around.

via Gigaom

Daily Deals for January 31, 2014, featuring the iSlider From Rain Design

It's time to save some of that hard-earned cash with our Daily Deals, featuring exclusive TUAW Deals, a handy list from Dealnews and our own handpicked iOS and OS X selections.

TUAW's Daily Deals

iSlider From Rain Design [On sale for $39.99, down from $50]

iPad owners rejoice, the iSlider is the first adjustable pocket stand for all your iOS devices. It eliminates the stress and strain of holding your iPad when watching videos or typing for long periods of time.

Plus, it's adjustable from 15 to 70 degrees off a flat surface, which makes typing faster and more natural than ever before; and it accommodates Apple's smart case, smart cover, and all other cases up to 5/8 inches thick.

Save 20% on iSlider From Rain Design at TUAW Deals. Please note: Only available to customers in the continental United States. The sale price includes shipping and all sales are final.

Deals from Dealnews

  • Other World Computing: [Computer Accessories] OWC Garage Sale: Deals from 70 cents on RAM, accessories, computers, more

  • StackSocial: [Design & Multimedia Software] The Dynamic Designer Bundle for PC and Mac downloads for $29

  • Panasonic: [Streaming Media Players] Panasonic Streaming Media Player for $40 + free shipping

  • Other World Computing: [iPad Accessories] NewerTech NuStand Alloy Display Stands from $13 + $4 s&h

  • StackSocial: [Mac Software] FaceFilter3 Pro for Mac for $49

  • Best Buy: [TVs] Sharp 42" Class 120Hz 1080p LED LCD HDTV for $350 + free shipping

  • StackSocial: [iPhone Accessories] Sensordrone Multisensor Tool for Smartphone or Tablet for $149 + $6 s&h

  • eBay: [iPhone Cases] LifeBox Waterproof Case for iPhone 5 for $20 + free shipping

  • mwave: [Computer Accessories] Syba 100-Piece Computer Tool Kit for $42 + free shipping

  • Best Buy: [iPhone Accessories] Philips Docking System w/ Radio for iPod / iPhone for $50 + free shipping

  • eBay: [iPad Accessories] Open-Box Apple iPad Smart Cover for $10 + free shipping

  • Best Buy: [TVs] Samsung 65" 120Hz 1080p LED LCD HDTV for $1,000 + pickup at Best Buy

iOS Software Discounts

  • XCOM®: Enemy Unknown [iOS Universal; Category: Games; On sale for $9.99, down from $19.99] As the commander of XCOM, you must create a fully operational base, research alien technologies, plan combat missions, and lead your soldiers in fierce battles against a terrifying alien invasion.

  • Demon Dash [iOS Universal; Category: Games; Now free, down from $2.99] Demon Dash is a fast-paced, ridiculously fun multiplayer mayhem that is played on a single touchscreen.

  • Monsters Rising [iOS Universal; Category: Games; Now free, down from $1.99] Wipe out the Human Race and Destroy hordes of Monsters in this stunning HD quality 3D Action-strategy game.

  • PDF Scanner - easily scan books and multipage documents to PDF [iOS Universal; Category: Productivity; On sale for $2.99, down from $5.99] Use your device as a handy portable scanner. Convert paper bills, invoices, tickets and any other documents into the popular PDF format.

  • Hero Siege [iOS Universal; Category: Games; Now free, down from $2.99] Grab your axe, bow, gun or magic powers and start purging the Gate Keepers and their minions.

  • Camera Genius [iPhone; Category: Photography & Video; Now free, down from $9.99] Camera Genius lets you capture great photos and videos with ease.

  • groopic [iOS Universal; Category: Photography & Video; Now free, down from $1.99] Groopic solves this age-old problem by seamlessly including your photographer friend in every group photo.

  • DrumJam [iOS Universal; Category: Music; On sale for $3.99, down from $7.99] DrumJam is a whole new world of percussion and drums for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

  • The Room Two [iOS Universal; Category: Games; On sale for $2.99, down from $4.99] Welcome to The Room Two, a physical puzzler, wrapped in a mystery game, inside a beautifully tactile 3D world.

  • BLEND - Overlay your pics [iPhone; Category: Photography & Video; Now free, down from $0.99] BLEND your photos into layered collages.

  • ScrapPad - Scrapbook for iPad [iPad; Category: Photography & Video; Now free, down from $4.99] Scrapbooking for made simple for iPad.

  • Wonderful Days - Diary with Style [iPhone; Category: Lifestyle; Now free, down from $2.99] Wonderful Days is an ideal app for use as a diary, journal and note-taker. It is polished with a lot of customization options, including themes, photo frames, fonts and icons.

  • Mars Miner Universal [iOS Universal; Category: Games; Now free, down from $1.99] You've been kidnapped by the evil Mars Corp. and forced to mine for pieces of an ancient artifact buried deep below the surface of Mars.

  • Pocket Informant - Calendar & Tasks [iOS Universal; Category: Productivity; Now free, down from $12.99] Pocket Informant is the professional planner that brings together your calendar, tasks, notes and contacts into one amazing planner.

OS X Software Discounts

  • Otto's Antenna [OS X; Category: Productivity; Now free, down from $1.99] Launch Automator actions, Applescript, and even Unix shell scripts on your Mac at home from your iPhone, wherever you are.

  • Sticky Notifications [OS X; Category: Productivity; Now free, down from $4.99] Create quick sticky-note-like reminders in Notification Center (Mountain Lion or later) or Growl.

  • PhotoBulk: Watermark, Resize, Optimize and Rename [OS X; Category: Photography & Video; On sale for $0.99, down from $7.99] PhotoBulk is an easy-to-use bulk-image editor that lets you add text/image watermark, resize and optimize hundreds and thousands of images or photos in just one click.

  • PhotoStitcher [OS X; Category: Photography & Video; On sale for $0.99, down from $19.99] Automatically stitch your photos to panorama.

  • iResizer [OS X; Category: Photography & Video; On sale for $0.99, down from $19.99] iResizer scales an image without changing important visual content such as people, buildings, animals, etc.

  • Inpaint 5 [OS X; Category: Photography & Video; On sale for $0.99, down from $19.99] Inpaint -- Magically remove unwanted objects and people from your photos!

  • Geography Drive USA [OS X; Category: Education; Now free, down from $0.99] Hit the gas and head out on the highway in the fact-packed game that turns textbook geography into an exciting cross-country adventure.

  • Abyss: the Wraiths of Eden (Full) [OS X; Category: Games; Now free, down from $6.99] Famed underwater explorer Robert Marceau has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and now his fiancée must descend to the gloomy depths of the ocean to find him.

Note: All prices are USD and subject to change. Some deals may expire quickly. TUAW is not responsible for third-party deals and cannot guarantee availability or quality of any particular product at a specific price.


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed

LensFX for iOS 'Hollywoods' your photos

We've seen a few apps that add Hollywood-type FX to your videos, but here's an app that does the same for your photos.

LensFX (free with some in-app purchase options) will let you take a photo, or load one from your camera roll. You can then choose from more than 130 effects to add, like explosions, aircraft, fire and dinosaurs. Each effect can be placed in an individual layer so they can be moved, resized or rotated independently.

There are color adjustments, gradients and vignette settings. There isn't any help, but the app is pretty obvious to use. There is even a cityscape to get you started.

I tried the app with some of my landscape photos, adding a rampaging reptile and an attack helicopter. I also placed some missiles with a smoke trail over some familiar landmarks. The effects are of very high quality, and the dinosaurs cast a realistic shadow. You re-size by pinching or expanding two fingers on your screen, and there are options to flip the image.

There is a nice collection of lens flares which look good too, and various explosions so you can blow up anything with style.

In-app purchases are US$0.99 and include robots, more fire FX, a greater variety of dinosaurs, jets and helicopters.

If you want to really go extravagant on FX, you might want some of the extras, but I found the basic free app had enough to make some striking and colorful photos.

I found placement of the objects sometimes tricky. An errant tap would take the effect right off the screen, and I had to re-apply it. Still, the app was mostly predictable and I did not see any crashes (other than planes and missiles).

The same developers gave us Alien Sky, which is another high-quality app for augmenting photos.

LensFX is a universal app, and requires iOS 6 or later. It is optimized for the iPhone 5. It's definitely worth a download if you love to modify your photos.


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed

When Steve Jobs played Dating Game host with Bill Gates as a contestant [Video]

Thirty years ago last Friday, Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh to the world. About three months before that, Jobs took the stage at an Apple sales conference where he hosted the "Macintosh Software Dating Game." As revolutionary as the Mac was, it was important for Apple to get the support of big software players in order to see the platform to truly take off.

That said, the game's three contestants represented software companies that were extremely important in the '80s: Fred Gibbons from the Software Publishing Corporation, Mitchel Kapor from Lotus and a very young Bill Gates, who was wearing some comically big glasses.

This video is where Gates famously heaps praise upon the Mac. When Jobs asks him if the Mac will be the third industry standard, Gates replies:

Well to create a new standard it takes something that's not just a little bit different. It takes something that's really new and really captures people's imagination. And the Macintosh, of all the machines I've ever seen, is the only one that meets that standard.

Earlier in the video, Gates said that Microsoft in 1984 expects to get half of its revenues from Macintosh software, a statement which elicited a ridiculously giddy smile from Jobs.

Now what's interesting is that Jobs had given Gates early access to the Mac in exchange for a promise that Microsoft wouldn't ship "any software that used a mouse until at least one year after the first shipment of the Macintosh." That tidbit comes straight from Andy Hertzfeld, one of the original Mac team members.

Just one month later, however, Microsoft demoed Windows 1.0, mouse and all, at Comdex 1983. According to Hertzfeld, Jobs "went ballistic" when he found out.

And to think, Jobs and Gates were as thick as thieves just a few weeks earlier.

Following what Jobs likely categorized as a betrayal was a Jobs/Gates confrontation you may have heard before, with Gates defends Microsoft's actions.

As Hertzfeld recalls it:

"You're ripping us off!" Steve shouted, raising his voice even higher. "I trusted you, and now you're stealing from us!"

But Bill Gates just stood there coolly, looking Steve directly in the eye, before starting to speak in his squeaky voice.

"Well, Steve, I think there's more than one way of looking at it. I think it's more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it."

Incidentally, before Jobs and Gates took the stage at the 2007 AllThingsD Conference, the dating game video clip was shown to the entire audience.


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed

Kitty likes that old-school PowerBook style

I'd begrudgingly have to pick the one on the left -- for productivity reasons, of course -- but that oh-so-retro PowerBook could definitely have a place in my home as well. As could that adorable feline.

[Photo Credit: Raneko]


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed

Fuzel updates its collage maker with animation and music

I looked at the Fuzel app last year and found it a nice way to make some striking collages on iOS. A new update puts your images in motion with tasteful zooms, and lets you add music from your iTunes library or use the music contained in the app. You can also select frames and the arrangement of photos or make static collages.

You can create your own photo arrangement instead of relying on the provided templates. Variations can easily number in the hundreds.

The app lets you determine the length of your video, and changes can reflect the beats in the music.

Making an attractive collage is easy, with intuitive commands and an undo feature. Once your collage is done, it can be saved to your photo roll, or shared via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Tumblr.

The app works well, but it is not universal. I saw a couple of crashes using it scaled up on my third-generation iPad. It was rock solid on my iPhone 5s. While the app is free, there are a variety of in-app purchases that range from US$0.99 to $4.99. The purchases get you more frames and other graphic elements. When you save your work in the free version, you get a Fuzel logo at the lower-right corner, and it can be removed with an in-app purchase. I would have preferred there be no logo, and the non-animated older version did not have one.

Fuzel requires iOS 7 or later, and it is optimized for the iPhone 5. I can only vouch for the app stability on an iPhone, but you may have better luck on your iPad. As the app is free, it is easy to check.


via TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog RSS Feed

The UK government moves to unblock websites inadvertently affected by ISP porn filters

The porn opt-in debate divided opinions and generally caused a stink when UK ISPs revealed plans to ‘protect’ children from adult content on the Web. And many of the initial concerns, vis-à-vis perfectly legitimate sites being inadvertently blocked by filters, have proven to be valid.

Yes, it seems a slew of sites run by charities, designed to educate children and others on the matter of sexual health, have been automatically blocked. And now, the UK government is producing a safe-list of such sites for ISPs to ‘unblock’.

As the BBC reports, moves are also being made to set up a standard system that lets any website that has been ‘wrongly’ blocked inform ISPs, so they can be added to an approved list.

UK government tackles wrongly-blocked websites

Feature Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

via The Next Web

Strategy Analytics: Smart TV shipments grew 55 percent in 2013, accounted for one third of all flat panel TVs

Global Smart TV shipments grew 55 percent year-over-year to reach 76 million units in 2013, accounting for 33 percent of the total number of flat panel TVs shipped last year. Western Europe was the leading market for Smart TVs in terms of penetration, with almost 45 percent of flat panel TVs shipped in 2013.

Those figures come from Strategy Analytics, which also predicted Smart TV share will grow as follows globally for the next few years:

pr 310114 chd Strategy Analytics: Smart TV shipments grew 55 percent in 2013, accounted for one third of all flat panel TVs

That being said, only about half of owners are actually taking full advantage of their new devices. David Watkins, Strategy Analytics’ Director of Connected Home Devices service, said: “Our consumer survey data shows that around 50 percent of Smart TV owners across the USA and major European markets are currently using their TV’s Internet capabilities, so vendors must continue to add compelling applications and services to entice consumers to utilize their platforms.”

Image Credit: Jon Fingas/Flickr

via The Next Web