23 Jul 2014

Windows 9: One OS For Desktop, Mobile & Xbox

By Chris Smith at BGR:  

Unlike Apple, which thinks merging iOS and OS X would be a “waste of energy,” Microsoft wants one single Windows operating system to be available to all its device users, whether they’re Windows Phone handset owners, Xbox fans, or rely on a Windows computer for work or play. Business Insider reports that CEO Satya Nadella said on the company’s FQ4 earnings conference call that a future version of Windows will merge all current Windows versions, becoming an “operating system that covers all screen sizes.”

“In the year ahead, we are investing in ways that will ensure our device OS and first party hardware aligned to our core,” Nadella said. “We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes.”

“We will unify our stores, commerce and developer platforms to drive a more coherent user experience and a broader developer opportunity,” he added.

Microsoft already revealed at Build 2014 in early April that it will let developers create apps that will work across devices, including Windows Phone smartphones, Windows computers and Xbox consoles, but the company is apparently ready to go even further.

However, that doesn’t mean Microsoft will have a simpler way of selling Windows products to users.

“Our SKU strategy will remain by segment, we will have multiple SKUs for enterprises, we will have for OEM, we will have for end-users,” Nadella added. “And so we will – be disclosing and talking about our SKUs as we get further along, but my statement was more to do with how we are bringing teams together to approach Windows as one ecosystem very differently than we ourselves have done in the past.”

Microsoft Launches Lumia 530 w/ 4-inch Display

By Ben Woods at TNW:  

Microsoft has today announced a new member of its Lumia range in the form of the low-end Lumia 530, which will arrive from the start of next month in Europe.

Priced at €85 before taxes or local subsidies, Microsoft said it expects the Lumia 530 to go on sale in European countries for a retail price of below €100 when it starts to roll out next month, putting it at the lower-end of the affordability scale for Lumia devices.

Key specs include the most recent version of Windows Phone 8.1, a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a 5-megapixel camera, a 4-inch FWVGA (854 x 480 pixels) display and a selection of interchangeable colored shells – available in bright orange, bright green, grey or white. The device will also be offered in single SIM and dual-SIM variants.

Alongside the phone, the company also introduced a new mini speaker designed with portability in mind. Priced at €19, the Bang by Coloud may not offer luxuries such as Bluetooth connection, but it does offer connectivity through a 3.5mm headphone jack and promises up to eight hours of playback. Microsoft said it would be available “in the coming weeks”.

The Next Age Of Foursquare Begins Today

By Ellis Hamburger at The Verge:  

In mid-May, Foursquare decided to split itself in two. The first half is Swarm, an app that lets you find friends nearby and check in. The second half is the forthcoming Foursquare 8.0, a complete redesign of the company’s existing app that has until now been kept secret. It's launching in just a few weeks. In the words of CEO Dennis Crowley, the new Foursquare is the app he always wanted to build — an exploration app unhindered by the check-ins that previously held center stage. Now we’re finally getting to see how it looks.

The new Foursquare swaps the service’s trademark green for pink ("watermelon"), and ditches its famous bouncing-ball logo for a vibrant "F" flag. Foursquare’s new wordmark is bold and grown-up instead of a playful doodle. The company looks nothing like before, and that’s the point. Battling the world’s preconceptions about the company is seemingly just as important as battling Yelp and Google.

"The check-in story has dominated the brand and user experience," says Crowley. "We’d hear people say ‘I had no idea I could use this app to search for places.’" So, the new Foursquare puts personalization front and center. Every piece of the new app that’s customized just for you, like your favorite foods served at nearby places, is accentuated in pink. Crowley calls Foursquare’s hyper-contextual recommendations "superpowers," a theme that has become increasingly prominent within the company in recent years. Crowley repeats again and again that Foursquare should help you see through walls and find the best places instantly in a city across the world.

In early brainstorming sessions, the company tried globes, magnifying glasses, and other symbols of exploration to represent the company. More than twenty-five different Foursquare icons rotated across the home screens of the company’s many employees, a series of A/B tests to see what felt right. But eventually, the company rallied around Crowley’s "super" vision. The new Foursquare icon’s blocky pink "F" is Crowley’s superhero emblem as much as it is a flag, or a location pin. Instead of saving the world, however, Crowley’s app might help you find the best soba in SoHo.

Foursquare hopes that its new design will make the service’s strengths more obvious, and provide more room for experimentation. "The existing version of Foursquare didn’t have enough room for us to flex all the things we wanted to do," says Crowley. "There’s been so much stuff locked up in admin tools and insider Foursquare views. Adding a 'most popular this month' section would’ve been awesome, but where are you gonna put it?" As part of today’s announcement, Foursquare is also teasing a few features of its new app, one of which is a Billboard-style "Most Popular" module that lets users see which places nearby are hottest right now. Thanks to its users who still check in, Foursquare is perhaps the only company that can track up and coming places with so much precision. But even without check-ins, Crowley argues, Foursquare’s unique "Pilgrim" location engine can pin you down at specific places better than any other app.

While many of Swarm’s user reviews have been disappointing — the app holds a 1.5 star rating in the App Store as of this writing — COO Jeff Glueck says that current users are checking in more than ever. "People are using Foursquare and Swarm better," he says. "They check in more often on Swarm according to our data, and are using Foursquare more often to explore. We’re seeing more Explore queries once people migrated." Glueck emphasizes that it’s a very vocal minority of Foursquare users who have opposed the company’s changes, which not only moved check-ins out of Foursquare but largely removed mayorships and the app’s points system for competing with friends for check-ins. Foursquare has since added back some of these features to Swarm.

Foursquare admits that it could’ve managed expectations a bit better, and timed the two app launches closer together so users weren’t confused. "It wasn’t a mistake. There is no prior arc with someone trying to do an unbundling like this before," says Crowley, "but I don’t think there’s any real perfect way to do it." In the next few weeks, the company plans to finish pushing all of its users to Swarm before completely removing the check-in from Foursquare once and for all. Another big change it will have to communicate is that Foursquare and Swarm will soon contain two separate friends lists. Foursquare will let you follow people and tastemakers you like, while Swarm will let you pick who you want to share your general location with, which is likely a much smaller group. This distinction perfectly exemplifies why Foursquare struggled as an app containing two often-separate utilities.

One year ago, rumors swirled that morale at Foursquare had hit a new low. The company’s two focuses, check-ins and local recommendations, seemed interminably at odds. Only 5 percent of its users did both when they opened Foursquare each time. Today, Foursquare is getting the fresh start it always wanted — a chance to look different, and an opportunity to take on not one but two important new roles in peoples’ lives. Crowley and co. are betting that with their two new apps, people will finally understand exactly what Foursquare is for.

Facebook Save Lets You Bookmark For Later

By Selena Larson at ReadWrite:  

Since you're not spending enough time on Facebook, you can now save things to read or view later ... on Facebook.

On Monday, the company announced the Save feature, which allows users to bookmark things like links, photos or videos to view when they actually have time to sit down and enjoy them. It's Facebook's answer to Pocket and Evernote—sort of.

Unlike these other services, stuff saved on Facebook can only be saved and viewed while using Facebook mobile and Web services.

Though the feature lets you bookmark things like pictures, it's clear this is geared more towards news and information shared on Facebook—the stuff we usually don't have time to check out when we're quickly scrolling through the news feed. The company has put an increased focus on putting news higher in your feed than, say, pictures of Grumpy Cat.

Good on Facebook for calling this feature "Save" instead of "Read Later," because, let's be real, who has time to read it later anyway?

Why Many People Want Their BlackBerrys Back After Switching

By Zach Epstein at BGR:

Following the release of the original iPhone in 2007 and the subsequent launch of Android, many people with work-issued phones spent years asking for their employers to switch away from BlackBerry smartphones to more modern devices. Finally, as Apple and Google increased their focus on security and BlackBerry hit dire straights a few years ago, workers began getting what that wanted and bring your own device (BYOD) policies became more common.

More recently, however, an interesting trend is being observed: Workers want their BlackBerrys back.

Following the release of the original iPhone in 2007 and the subsequent launch of Android, many people with work-issued phones spent years asking for their employers to switch away from BlackBerry smartphones to more modern devices. Finally, as Apple and Google increased their focus on security and BlackBerry hit dire straights a few years ago, workers began getting what that wanted and bring your own device (BYOD) policies became more common.

More recently, however, an interesting trend is being observed: Workers want their BlackBerrys back.

FROM EARLIER: BlackBerry says its square phone is already stealing back iOS and Android users

CIO’s Tom Kaneshige reports on an interesting phenomenon that we’ve heard rumblings of in the past. At companies where employees were permitted to ditch their work-issued BlackBerry phones and bring their own iPhones and Android handsets, they’re now begging their IT departments to move back to BlackBerry.

Why? It turns out there are a few reasons.

For one thing, there are privacy concerns. When workers use their own iOS and Android devices, IT departments gain access to all of their private data in addition to any corporate apps that might be on the devices. It’s never a good thing when you have to hand over a smartphone packed full of naked selfies so that IT can fix an issue with email not syncing properly.

Beyond that, IT professionals Kaneshige spoke with say they are having some serious problems with mobile device management (MDM) software, and the related on-device apps often cause issues like battery drain and device bogging.

The full report

Apple Is Giving Access to OS X Yosemite Public Beta Tomorrow

By Nick Summers at TNW:

Apple will soon allow any Mac user to download the beta version of OS X Yosemite, the latest version of its desktop operating system.

To access Yosemite, you’ll need to head to the OS X Beta Program page and submit your details. As Engadget reports, only one million people will be accepted into the scheme, so if you’re interested sign up now.

By registering an email address, Apple says it will notify you shortly about the OS X Yosemite beta. The early preview should be available at around 1PM Eastern/10am Pacific tomorrow (July 24), meaning there’s just over 24 hours for you to sit and gaze longingly at these screenshots.

OS X Yosemite sports a flat design inspired by iOS 7, including a new dark theme and translucent layers for the Finder and Dock. There’s also an Alfred-style productivity and app launcher, iCloud Drive and ‘Continuity,’ which makes it easier to switch between your Mac and iOS devices.

18 Jul 2014

#INFOGRAPHIC: Global Spending on Facebook Ads Up 50 %

Quarterly spending on Facebook advertising has increased 51 per cent year-on-year in Q2 of 2014, a new study shows.

According to research by predictive media optimisation company Kenshoo, both search and social advertising have seen increases in most metrics both quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year, with advertising spend on search up 25 per cent compared to last year, and a 15 per cent increase on search clicks from last year.

You can find these facts and more in the infographic below.

Global Spending on Facebook Ads Up 50 Per Cent

Facebook Is Testing a 'Buy' Button for Newsfeed Transactions

By Sean Keach at T3 Magazine:

Facebook has announced that it's testing a new 'buy button' feature that will enable users to make product purchases direct through their newsfeeds.

The feature will be available to both mobile and desktop users in the form of a 'call-to-action button' embedded onto ads and page posts.

"With this feature, people can purchase a product directly from a business, without leaving Facebook," reads the Facebook blogpost.

The buy-button is just being trialled for now, with the feature limited to 'a few small and medium-sized businesses in the US', but we'd imagine it's likely to land in the UK if testing is successful.

Facebook was keen to point out that the purchases will be all above board, assuring users that privacy and security won't be an issue.

"We’ve built this feature with privacy in mind, and have taken steps to help make the payment experience safe and secure," says Facebook.

"None of the credit or debit card information people share with Facebook when completing a transaction will be shared with other advertisers, and people can select whether or not they’d like to save payment information for future purchases."

Facebook will certainly be taking skimming some dosh off the top of every transaction, we're sure, but there's no word yet on how big FB's cut will be.

17 Jul 2014

Google Analytics Finally Gets an iPhone App

By Josh Wolford at WebProNews:  

In pretty big good lord, finally news, Google has released a native Google Analytics apps for iOS. Available in 39 languages, Google Analytics for iPhone promised to let you “access all of your Google Analytics web and app data from your mobile device, monitor recent changes with Real Time reports, and easily get your Analytics data anytime, anywhere.”

Considering Android has had a version of a Google Analytics apps for years, it’s high time that iOS was invited to the party.

The app is plain but functional, with an overview tab that shows real time visitors to pages, total audience visits and a location breakdown, traffic sources, and a pageview grid.

Airbnb Updates Design Introduces New Logo

By Roberto Baldwin at TNW:  

Airbnb today unveiled a new flat site and mobile design and replaced its logo with something that resembles an upper-case A, amongst other things. One glaring issue is that it looks nearly identical to the logo for Automation Anywhere.

The new design removes all the drop shadows from the site and mobile apps (iOS and Android) and uses a system-wide font. It’s cleaner and easier to navigate which is helpful when you’re trying to book a spare bedroom in Hawaii for your next vacation.

Microsoft To Cut 18,000 Jobs This Year

By Bill Rigby at Reuters:  

Microsoft Corp said on Thursday it will slash up to 18,000 jobs, or 14 percent of its workforce, this year as it trims its newly acquired Nokia phone business and tries to transform into a cloud-computing and mobile-friendly software company.

The larger-than-expected cuts are the deepest in the company's 39-year history and come five months into the tenure of Chief Executive Satya Nadella, who outlined plans for a "leaner" business in a public memo to employees last week.

"We will simplify the way we work to drive greater accountability, become more agile and move faster," Nadella wrote to employees in a memo made public early Thursday. "We plan to have fewer layers of management, both top down and sideways, to accelerate the flow of information and decision making."

The size of the cuts were welcomed by Wall Street, which viewed Microsoft as bloated under previous CEO Steve Ballmer, topping 127,000 in headcount after absorbing Nokia earlier this year.

16 Jul 2014

Israel and Hamas Clash on Social Media

Via The Guardian:

The lethal military confrontation between Israel and Hamas is being mirrored in a bitter clash on the battlefield of social media.

Each side has taken to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to denounce the other, and to present accounts that are at best partial and often blatantly distorted.

The propaganda war between Israel and the Palestinians is not new, but this battle-round is being fought with unprecedented ferocity. And like the asymmetry in the military conflict, the strength and resources of the Israel social media troops outweigh those of Hamas and other Palestinian organisations.

The Israel Defence Forces has an official Twitter account (@IDFspokesperson) in English, with 292,000 followers, providing dozens of updates every day on military activities plus graphics, photographs and video. As well as data on air strikes and rocket launches, it also comments on Hamas's motives and actions, and posts "infographics", such as one purporting to show how Hamas uses Palestinian homes as military command centres and weapon storage facilities.

Before the World Cup final it asked followers to retweet its posts on the number of rockets fired from Gaza using the hashtags #WorldCup and #GERvsARG in order to maximise its reach.

The IDF is also active on YouTube and Facebook, and Israeli government ministries, officials and embassies have Twitter accounts.

In recent years Israel has recruited hundreds of students to assist in its hasbara, or public diplomacy campaign. These individuals – some of whom are paid – act openly and covertly, many engaging in below-the-line online discussion threads to promote Israel's interests.

At the start of the current conflict in Gaza students at the Interdisciplinary Centre, a private college in Herzliya, launched a social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook, "Israel Under Fire".

According to its leader, Yarden Ben-Yosef, 27, more than 400 students have volunteered for the programme, running five Facebook pages in five languages (English, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and German). They run a website, israelunderfire.com, which posts in 21 languages and claims to contain only factual data – "there is no propaganda, no exaggeration, no lies".

"We counter Palestinian propaganda and explain the Israeli perspective," Ben-Yosef said. "Social media is another place where the war goes on. This is another way to tell our story."

He conceded that the students used pictures and data provided by the Israeli government, but insisted it had no say in how the group used such information. "This is part of the hasbara effort – we're working for the same goal, but we do it in our own way."

On the other side of the conflict, Hamas and other Palestinian organisations have used social media in the propaganda war. Hamas's military wing, al-Qassam, has increased its Twitter activity, posting in Arabic, English and Hebrew and using graphic and distressing pictures of injured children, funerals and the destruction of homes. It has 11,900 followers for its English posts (@qassamfeed).

It uses language such as "genocidal aggression", "resistance" and "martyrs", which may seem strong to westerners but is part of the daily discourse among Palestinians.

Hamas has also hacked Israeli television channels and Domino's Pizza's Facebook page to warn Israelis about its military intentions. Other organisations and individuals in Gaza have joined the campaign to win public support using the hashtag #GazaUnderAttack.

As well as the general public, both sides are aiming their barrages of information/propaganda at the mainstream media. The rise in live blogs covering events such as the conflict in Gaza has led to a greater reliance by journalists on social media for access to a steady stream of information in real time.