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At some point during the past year, the media industry seems to have gotten the message that explanatory journalism is the next big thing — how else to explain the launch of not just one but three major efforts in that area, and more to come? The New York Times has just launched The Upshot, which seems like a blend of both the data-focused journalism practiced by Nate Silver’s new site FiveThirtyEight and the explainers of Ezra Klein’s Vox. Each has its own unique flavor, but is the market for that kind of content really big enough to support them all? In his own overview of the three sites, James Ball of The Guardian newspaper’s US unit makes a good point about the dilemma inherent in this boom market for explanatory journalism: who exactly is the target reader for long stories about the statistics behind the Senate race or the problems of the American middle class? What if the vast majority of news consumers just don’t care enough to read all of that explanation and background? Who will go there? “All three sites risk what economists call adverse selection: let’s say you’re writing basic explainers, but the only people finding them are already pretty informed. They’ll find your content superficial, and they won’t return. If you respond by increasing the complexity of your articles, you’ll please the wonks, but alienate a little more of your audience.” @mathewi The story of daily journalism: Set 'em up; knock 'em down; baffle beyond comprehension; then explain, as to a child.— Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) April 22, 2014 The Upshot: Clean design — but a tad boring Since it is the newest, The Upshot is getting most of the attention, so let’s start our hands-on review there. As befits something from the New York Times, it is extremely well-designed and shares the clean and easy-to-read look of the rest of the newspaper’s website. It also makes use of the NYT’s formidable design chops for the charts and graphs that make it easier to “navigate through the news,” as editor David Leonhardt puts it in his welcome message. While not all of the visualizations render that well on a mobile device — as more than one commenter on the site has mentioned — there are some unique implementations that make them worthwhile: For example, one of the charts the site uses for a Senate story allows readers to click a button and run a Monte Carlo-style simulation of potential results. It’s not clear just how explanatory that is in terms of the overall topic of Senate races, but at least it’s fun. For its launch day, The Upshot’s line-up included the Senate race story, the American middle class piece, one about what investors have in common with marathon runners, a story about swing voters in mid-term elections, a survey on web censorship and a piece on the causes of Europe’s debt crisis. Almost every piece included a chart or a graph, and in some cases multiple charts and graphs, each of which was fairly clean and easy to understand. Meet our forecasting model, LEO The site also includes some background on its Senate forecasting model, one named after LEO, the first business computer, which was invented by an accountant for a chain of tea shops in Great Britain in 1951 (a chain founded by former Reuters financial writer Felix Salmon’s ancestors, as it turns out). The Upshot piece also notes that LEO is based on the FiveThirtyEight model — and one of the site’s graphs compares its forecasts to Silver’s and to those from several other sites. There’s no question that the pieces on The Upshot are filled with useful background and context on issues like the European debt crisis and mid-term election variability — and the Times will no doubt find them useful to link to as backgrounders when those topics come up in more straight-forward news stories. But as my friend Om notes in his capsule review of the site, they are also somewhat boring: “Reading through it felt like homework,” Om says. Is that going to be a big enough draw to make the resources invested in the site worthwhile? Vox does porn, Nate Silver does math Vox, by contrast, has clearly decided to live up to its commitment to make news “vegetables” as exciting as possible by broadening its explanatory ambit to include topics like the porn industry and the impact of actor Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling” from her spouse, singer Chris Martin. In that sense, it shares a certain irreverence with sites like BuzzFeed, and that could give it more of an audience than a dry explainer site might otherwise get. At the same time, however, Klein’s site has also run into some criticism for the way it handles corrections and updates to its information: One post on a survey of porn-consumption habits that appeared to show Republican states engaged in more porn-related behavior turned out to be based on a flawed premise — which in turn came from a misunderstanding about how geo-coding works. An update was posted, but it rendered the story largely meaningless, and that’s not the only case. The explanatory news fad is an exercise in long winded self indulgence that will test readers patience more than anything else.— David Teicher (@Aerocles) April 22, 2014 Since its much-hyped launch, Nate Silver’s site has also come under fire for some of the ways it approaches its data journalism mandate — including some criticism that it is “Slate but with charts,” meaning it takes a contrary opinion without much actual data to support its case. Several stories have been slammed for using an approach that made them seem to be based on hard data, when in fact they were just opinion, and one on climate change was criticized widely for being just plain wrong. Like Vox, FiveThirtyEight has also been criticized by some for broadening its reach too far into more entertainment-related topics, such as a statistical breakdown of painter Bob Ross’s oeuvre or a look at the most popular days for buying weed. And Silver got some negative response to an early post he did looking at the data behind his former NYT colleague Paul Krugman’s criticisms of Silver — although the FiveThirtyEight founder later said this was intended to be satire. Who is going to read all of this? From a design and usability point of view, both the Vox and FiveThirtyEight sites are much more cluttered looking than The Upshot, and not everyone is a fan of the yellow theme that Vox uses. But Vox’s information “cards” are arguably a better method of displaying quick pieces of background information than the long-form posts that both FiveThirtyEight and The Upshot seem to be focusing on (so far at least). Journalists in general still seem to be overly enamored of the “story” format. What if the problem with "explanatory journalism" is that … a large portion of the population simply does not care to know?— Tom McGeveran (@tmcgev) April 08, 2014 Leaving the journalism aspects aside, what are the prospects for these different models when it comes to actually being a business, or supporting an existing one? That’s a tougher question to answer: The Upshot seems to be in the best position of all, since it is piggy-backing on the resources of the New York Times — although those resources are as strained as any newspaper. Nate Silver has the might of ESPN behind him, while Vox is trying to build something new, and although its parent company (also called Vox) is well funded it will still need to pay its way. Which brings us to the real bottom line: how many competing explanatory or data-focused journalism sites does the market really need? Can all of these different sites — including the Washington Post‘s rebuilt Wonkblog, which is in the works — find an audience, or are they symptoms of a wonk bubble? And what happens when that bubble pops? Explanatory journalism may be the secret to success for one site, but it likely won’t be for half a dozen or more. Post and photo thumbnails courtesy of Shutterstock / Docstock MediaRelated research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.NewNet Q1: Advertising, commerce and discovery dominateContent Farms: The Players, The Benefits, The RisksFrenemy mine: The pros and cons of social partnerships for online media companies

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Amazon’s unannounced handset will employ a 3D interface that “dramatically changes the way users interact with a smartphone,” according to a report published on BGR on Tuesday. Although Amazon’s smartphone has yet to be officially confirmed, last week BGR published what looked like images and specs of the long-rumored handset. Previous reports noted four low-power head-tracking cameras would be included on the front of the handset. Those cameras are supposedly the primary interface for the device, using a variety of unique gesture controls built into Amazon’s heavily skinned Android software. According to BGR’s Zach Epstein, tilting the handset in different directions while in use will bring up menus and options. For instance, a user could scroll through a book in the Kindle app by tilting the phone up or down. Or a tilt could reveal labels under small icons in the calendar or email apps. BGR said that they have been told that “Amazon’s smartphone apps don’t even have traditional menu buttons.” While Apple’s iOS 7 introduced parallax effects on a mobile operating system, Amazon’s reported heavy use of 3D is something new. A wild new interface could be an important point of differentiation, or it could be a thoroughly frustrating user experience. We’ll have to wait: the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the phone will be announced in June with an expected third quarter release.  Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What the fourth-quarter 2014 meant for tech buyersA look back at the first quarter of 2014How to utilize cloud computing, big data, and crowdsourcing for an agile enterprise

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“Longform” is a buzzword these days and it’s generally used to refer to nonfiction works for adults. But Toronto-based illustrated storytelling platform Storybird thinks longform can work for a younger crowd, too, and this week it rolled out options that let writers serialize longer illustrated works. Until now, Storybird’s two available formats were picture books and poetry. “Eighty percent of our audience is between [the ages of] seven and fifteen,” Storybird co-founder and CEO Mark Ury told me, with a “core” of 9 to 14-year-olds. In all, Storybird says it has about 4 million users. “The picture book format has served us well, but it’s a format that doesn’t suit longform stories, and it feels a little young,” Ury said. “With longform, we’re catching up with our community.” So is Storybird trying to become more like Wattpad — the other, and more well-known, Canadian collaborative storytelling platform that recently raised $46 million to expand internationally? Ury insisted otherwise: “Our focus will always be art-inspired and enhanced stories,” he said, aand “we’re a family brand…we’re looking for the next Harry Potter, not Fifty Shades of Grey.” Storybird also wants schools and libraries to adopt its product; it’s used in over 300,000 classrooms today. “We’re more similar to [children's publisher] Scholastic than Wattpad,” Ury said. In that vein, one of Storybird’s paths to monetization is becoming a publisher. Last year the company hired Molly O’Neill, a former editor at HarperCollins (where she acquired the hit Divergent trilogy), as its editorial director. And Ury said he sees the launch of the longform platform as a possible commercial opportunity for some authors and illustrators. Storybird has already launched ten sample longform projects, which Ury said are “the basis for experimentation with promotion and commercialization,” whether it’s “working with publishers and traditional channels” or launching “our own branded subscription service.” Storybird has raised about $4 million, with investors including Index Ventures, High Line and Lerer Ventures, among others.

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Bring your own device is coming to a living room near you: Time Warner Cable customers can now buy the $99 Fan TV set-top-box to access the cable company’s programming, as well as a variety of streaming services, through an innovative new interface. Fan TV devices will start shipping to Time Warner Cable customers during this second quarter, and not require any additional fees beyond the existing cable subscription charges. “This is a landmark for the industry,” said Fan TV CEO Gilles BianRosa during an interview Tuesday morning, adding: “This has never been done before.” Fan TV’s streaming device was designed by Yves Behar, and features a unique remote control that comes without any visible buttons, and works more like a touch pad than a traditional TV remote. The device doesn’t offer any DVR capabilities, but is capable of accessing Time Warner Cable’s on-demand library, and features 4 GB of memory for caching, which BianRosa said is enough to pause live programming for more than 20 minutes. The Fan TV also comes with a deep integration into Fan’s existing online content recommendation service, allowing users to access watchlists that they have built on the web or with Fan’s mobile apps, and then watch the content on the TV. Fan also taps into a user’s social graph, giving viewing recommendations based on movies and TV shows friends have liked on Facebook. Check out a promotional video of Fan TV featuring Time Warner Cable content: The partnership with Time Warner Cable is a big win for Fan TV, which started out as a TV recommendation app and service. The device was first introduced a year ago, and was briefly tested by Cox as part of the cable company’s short-lived FlareWatch trial. Bianrosa said that Fan intially is going to sell the device through its own website, but that it also intends to be in retail stores and possibly Time Warner Cable stores in the near future. The challenge for Fan will now be to explain to consumers why its streaming box will offer a better value proposition that Time Warner’s existing cable boxes, and why its initial offering may not live to its full potential. At launch, only a few streaming services will be available through the device, including Redbox Instant by Verizon, Target Ticket, Crackle and Rhapsody. Bianrosa said Tuesday that additional services would be added over time, but declined to give any specifics. Netflix would be a natural fit, since many consumers likely wouldn’t want to buy a streaming device that doesn’t support the most popular over-the-top subscription service. Netflix announced Monday that it will become available on set-top-boxes from U.S. cable operators this quarter, but so far has only committed to being available through TiVo’s set-top box. Fan TV buyers could also find themselves in a situation where the new device doesn’t actually offer all the channels they’re paying for. That’s because Fan’s live TV integration is based on Time Warner Cable’s TV Everywhere service, which doesn’t offer access to all channels in all markets. Consumers will be able to access up to 300 channels in major metropolitan markets, but the line-up may be slimmer in other areas. The other big if caveat is that Time Warner Cable is in the process of merging with Comcast. If approved, Fan TV may find itself confronted with Comcast’s much more controlling approach towards TV experiences and devices. Comcast has invested a lot of money into the development of its X1 and X2 platforms, and the company wants to own the relationship with the customer through those platforms. This could mean that Fan’s BYOD approach may be short-lived, at least for Time Warner Cable customers.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Gigaom Research predictions for 2014What the shift to the cloud means for the future EPGWhat the shift to the cloud means for the future EPG

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Is Aereo, a service that lets consumers stream over-the-air TV, akin to a cable company or a hardware provider like RadioShack? The justices of the Supreme Court appeared to struggle with that question on Tuesday morning as they listened to oral arguments in what many media watchers view as the most important TV-related court case in decades. In deciding how to respond to broadcasters’ claim that Aereo is violating copyright, the court expressed repeated concern over how to write a ruling that did not create major ripples for the rest of the TV business on one hand, or for the cloud computing business on the other. “It makes me nervous about taking your preferred route … Where does it stop?” said Justice Stephen Breyer, addressing Paul Clement, the lawyer for ABC and other big broadcasters that want to shut Aereo down. Breyer and other Justices expressed particular concern about the broadcasters’ claim that they have a public performance right in Aereo’s transmissions, which are controlled by its subscribers. Breyer pointed out that a thousand people can  – and do — store a file in a personal cloud service like Dropbox, and can play it back at the same time — which could be considered a public performance under the broadcasters’ version of the case. The “public performance” question is the central issue in the closely-watched case, which turns on whether Aereo’s antenna technology, infringes broadcasters’ copyright, or if the service is instead an extension of existing legal services like remote DVR’s. Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia leaves the U.S. Supreme Court after oral arguments April 22, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) Chief Justice John Roberts also pressed Clement, noting that Aereo appears to provide an antenna in the same way that RadioShack does. But he also expressed deep skepticism over Aereo’s technology, asking why it rents out tens of thousands antennas rather than using just one. “Is there any reason you need 10,000 of them,” asked Roberts, suggesting the only reason Aereo’s technology operates this way is to get around copyright laws. “There’s no technically sound reason to use all those antennas,” added Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. David Frederick, the lawyer for Aereo, responded by suggesting that modular designs help startups who don’t know how quickly they will have to scale up and that, in any case, efficiency questions are irrelevant for copyright purposes. The justices also pressed Clement over how the court could square a ruling in the broadcasters’ favor with the decision in a case called Cablevision, in which an influential appeals court ruled that remote DVR’s are legal. The court noted that the Cablevision ruling was not binding on it, but appeared to agree with its outcome. Clement responded by stating that the outcome in Cablevision was right but that the reasoning that allowed remote DVR’s was all wrong. For copyright watchers, the Justices questions left no clear indication of how the case will turn out. While Ginsburg appeared, as expected, to be clearly in the broadcasters’ camp, the other Justices expressed repeated concern over the cloud computing issue, and also expressed sympathy at times for one of Aereo’s central contentions — that the signals its antenna services are local over-the-air signals that are free already. And, in a possible nod to an argument made in a supporting brief signed by 36 law professors, several justices suggested that what the case was really about was a reproduction right — not a public performance right. As Frederick was quick to point out, the broadcasters did not rely on the reproductive right argument because they would have run afoul of a seminal case 30 years ago that found private copying, such as what is done by consumers with VCR’s, does not infringe copyright. The case is significant not just for Aereo, which operates in 11 cities and is backed by media mogul Barry Diller, but for the entire TV industry. The broadcasters have warned that they may remove their over-the-air signals, and become cable channels if Aereo wins. Barry Diller, who whose company IAC had put up most of the $97 million invested in Aereo so far, says there is “finished” if the court grants the broadcasters an injunction. A decision is likely to come sometime in June or July. The case attracted considerable attention, including an overnight line for seats that began forming on Monday evening. This post will be updated with more details shortly Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The biggest third-quarter events in the consumer spaceConnected consumer first-quarter 2013: Analysis and outlookWhat the shift to the cloud means for the future EPG

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Withings, the French company behind a variety of connected home health products, has launched the second generation of its Pulse activity tracker, dubbed the Pulse O2. The company, which is perhaps best known for its connected scale, has crammed a lot of features into the $120 device, including a blood oxygen monitor and an optional watchband. The app got an update as well. Withings’ original Pulse stood out among the myriad other personal trackers out there because it included a heart rate monitor as well as sleep monitoring, calorie tracking, step counting and elevation measurements. It did this in the same price range as a Fitbit (see disclosure), the basic Jawbone and the possibly defunct Nike Fuelband, which made it a compelling option for folks interested in taking their fitness tracking to a higher level. Now, with a blood oxygen sensor on the back, the Pulse O2 is clearly trying to keep ahead of the competition with finer-grained tracking metrics. As with any tracker, there are questions about how accurate the Withings Pulse is when it comes to measuring your heart rate or even steps, but that’s a function of most trackers unless they come with FDA approval. I expect your mileage may vary depending on your activities and how sweaty your hands are when you try to get your pulse. The Withings comes with an improved HealthMate App that seems to focus on giving users suggestions and insights based on their data, rather than just the data. This is probably a smart way to encourage mainstream users to adopt the product, and goes beyond the “step fatigue” that tends to set in once you realize that you take X number of steps each day and that owning one of these things is kind of dull. It also added a wristband. The original Pulse was a clip-on device — a discreet form factor I like — but users apparently like wearing trackers on their wrist, so Withings has delivered. The company also shot a hilariously dry video about the product’s development and availability as a wristband below. As a side note to interested buyers, the Pulse O2 so far only works on Android and iOS devices, is Bluetooth 4.0 compatible and has a battery that Withings says will last two weeks. Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Connected world: the consumer technology revolutionThe top 10 cloud trends for 2014What we expect for wearables in the near-term future

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While the courts work out whether drones can or can’t be used commercially, regular people continue to have access to them for personal use. And interest is clearly rising. Blade’s 350 QX is one of the more popular, affordable hobbyist models available to the public. I recently had the chance to fly it in a few San Francisco parks and found it to be a solid option for a personal quadcopter, with a few setbacks. I expected that there would be some quirks. When I flew the DJI Phantom 2 Vision last year, it required a goofy dance where I spun the drone in circles to get it calibrated. But the 350 QX had some even bigger quirks that were compounded by shortcomings in Blade’s manual and online videos . It felt like a device better suited to an experienced hobbyist than a beginner just interested in capturing great aerial footage. San Francisco’s Great Meadow Park, as seen from a GoPro attached to a Blade 350 QX. Photo by Signe Brewster. Getting it flying The first time I flew the 350 QX, it took me 30 seconds to get it into the air. Then it stopped cooperating before the next flight. Sometimes it emitted a series of beeps. Other times it just refused to starts its propellers. The 350 QX comes with an instruction manual that at times is poorly organized and full of jargon. Blade also has a series of well-meaning, straightforward videos available on its site that are more clear on how to fly the 350 QX. But something was missing from what they were telling me about preparing the quadcopter for flight. A glimmer of help came when I called Blade directly. When you land the 350 QX, you pull down on one of four knobs, which are known as trims. The trims are also involved in readying the drone for flight, so before every takeoff you need to “center” them. After I flew once, I moved the trims out of their proper place and got no hint from the manual on how to fix them. An online video indicates that you need to “center” them, but when you are a beginner the instructions provided are not thorough enough. Centering the trims goes like this: Pull each one down and then up (or to the side) until it emits a loud beep. Then pull it the other direction until it does the same. If you can pull it one more notch again and elicit another beep, then you have it in the right place (but be sure to notch it back again to where it was before the final beep). If all four trims are in the right place, the drone will emit a “happy” tone. If it doesn’t, you need to start over and redo each of the trims. Simple, right? It’s not unusual to need to do some form of calibration before flying a drone. But the 350 QX’s system was incredibly time consuming and annoying. The manual doesn’t explain it, and neither did the videos online. I talked to Blade three times. Each time, my helper explained how to get the trims centered. But they never described the process clearly enough for me to grasp it on my own. The last time, they actually said they were stumped why the drone wouldn’t start. After I finally figured out the process on my own, the drone started every single time. My other gripe was about the battery. Charging it is not as simple as just plugging it in and waiting. I ruined the first battery just by leaving it plugged into the drone overnight. Then the spare wall charger Blade sent me (the standard 350 QX charger attaches to your car battery, but I don’t have a car) didn’t work. The second one did, but it involved knowing the type of battery and pressing a series of buttons on the charger to get it charging. It sounds like a silly problem, but I am guessing that like me, most people have never been exposed to this kind of battery. Up in the air Once the 350 QX is in the air though, it really is fun to fly. It has three modes to choose from–known as smart, stability and agility–depending on how advanced you want to be with your controls. Each mode is intuitive and easy to grasp. The drone responds quickly to commands, which is great for agility but sometimes an issue if you want to collect super smooth video. It has a disappointingly short battery life of 10-15 minutes though. Any time you are flying a drone, it is really important that you feel you can trust it. The 350 QX acted exactly as described when it came to safety features, which made me feel very comfortable. It has a switch that commands it to return to the spot from which it took off and even in strong winds it was capable of holding itself steady in the air. However, these features are reliant on a GPS signal, so when I flew it in denser parts of San Francisco (and in the Gigaom office) where a signal is not possible, it was much more difficult to maneuver. When a signal was available, the 350 QX never had a problem picking it up automatically. I used the 350 QX with a GoPro. The drone came with a plastic frame that attached to its bottom. The GoPro produced beautiful video, but the frame was one of the quadcopter’s most annoying features. Unlike the DJI Phantom Vision’s camera, which you can reposition from your phone, the frame is static. There is only one possible angle for taking video. It is also attached to the drone via two plastic plates held together by four rubbery pieces meant to stabilize the camera. But if the quadcopter crashed, they popped out nearly every time. There is no easy way to reattach them without unscrewing the plates altogether. The best solution is just to learn how to not have a crash landing every time, but that takes some practice. The 350 QX comes with a mount for a GoPro camera. Photo courtesy of Blade. If you do expect to have a lot of crash landings, consider that the 350 QX is plastic. It feels flimsy. I never broke anything during a flight, but I did manage to crack the plastic piece that sits over the battery enclosure the first time I went to remove the battery. It does keep the drone ultralight though at just 1.5 pounds. I trucked it around in a backpack without any problems. If you are ready to put some work into getting to know a quadctoper, the 350 QX is a very reasonable option. It is competitively priced at $420 or $470, depending on if you want to provide your own controller, and seemed easy to repair if one of its parts did break. I had a great time flying it and would consider it an option if I already owned a GoPro. But overall, I would choose the DJI Phantom over the 350 QX in a second.

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Dedicated cloud instances are something of an oxymoron. The traditional understanding of cloud computing is that it runs stuff from many users runs on shared infrastructure. Dedicated instances, by definition, aren’t shared and thus could appeal to a class of users who worry about the drag that neighboring workloads can have on their jobs — the so-called “noisy neighbor” problem. They also may suit those who see shared infrastructure as not compliant to various industry regulations. There are enough companies worried about such things that Amazon Web Services launched dedicated instances in March 2011 and significantly cut prices on them in July. Since that price cut — which amounted to nearly 80 percent in some cases — the use of AWS dedicated instances has risen significantly, according to Cloudyn, which monitors AWS and Google cloud usage for customers. In a blog post, Cloudyn VP of marketing Eron Ambramson wrote that before July 2013, dedicated instances were hardly used at all. But now, 9 months after price cuts, 0.5 percent of the instances it monitors are dedicated. (Cloudyn said it has eyes on 8 percent of total AWS workloads.) Percentage of workloads running on AWS dedicated instances by region. The price differential now between dedicated and regular instances is about 10 percent, although dedicated instances also incur additional run-time charge of $2 per hour per region — which for big companies is “outweighed by the advantages and peace of mind of having your own dedicated hardware,” Abramson wrote. Server Density CEO David Mytton said AWS needs to offer dedicated resources since rivals offer very fast bare-metal capabilities, which he argues can also be cheaper than shared cloud infrastructure in some use cases, a topic that Mytton and others will address at Structure in June. “Everyone knows the noisy neighbor problem and AWS doesn’t have a great historical reputation for performance on that front. It’s one reason why Softlayer has an advantage with their fast deployment of bare metal that works alongside their cloud, so you can easily move workloads around,” he said via email. SoftLayer, bought by IBM last year, is now the core of IBM’s cloud computing story. Dedicated instances? meh. Others don’t see dedicated instances as a real advantage. For one thing, performance drag comes more from virtualization itself rather than noisy neighbors, said Joe Emison, CTO of BuildFax, an avid cloud user. “And, noisy neighbors do more damage with respect to network traffic than anything else.” If that is the case, Amazon’s IOPS-optimized Elastic Block Store and scaling options in S3 storage and CloudFront content delivery network address those issues. “Buying dedicated for performance is a bit like buying premium gasoline to make your Honda Accord perform better — it probably does but shouldn’t you be doing something different if you want to see significant results?” Emison said. He also discounted the compliance argument. It’s true that some auditors don’t sign off on the use of multi-tenant environments, but those auditors will  also “not be OK with other things AWS does even with dedicated instances,” he said. Users cannot tour AWS data centers, for example, or even get a comprehensive list of all security details for those facilities. For auditors of security- and compliance conscious organizations, these hurdles will probably be deal-breakers anyway.  Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The Structure 50: The Top 50 Cloud InnovatorsA field guide to web APIsWhat you missed in cloud in the third quarter of 2013

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Truecaller, the Swedish reverse-lookup phone directory, has expanded its Live Caller ID feature to its iOS app, allowing users to quickly look up unknown numbers from the home screen, the company announced on Tuesday. While Truecaller’s Live Caller ID feature has been available on Android since 2010, it’s much more difficult to integrate on iOS because Apple’s platform does not let apps intercept calls. This means Truecaller had to find a workaround, but it’s a fairly innocuous one: When you receive a phone call from a number you don’t recognize, you simply take a screenshot of the call. Truecaller references that screenshot against its database of phone numbers, and then Siri reads out the name. The demo video is short and sweet: Speaking to TechCrunch, Truecaller CEO Alan Mamedi expressed a hope that Truecaller could gain access to Apple’s calling APIs in the future, to make the process a little less kludgy. While that seems unlikely, there’s no denying that the company has some momentum recently: it raised nearly $19 million from Sequoia Capital in February, and it wants you to know it’s a big deal in India.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Hyperlocal: opportunities for publishers and developersWhy iMessage won’t kill SMSWhy Apple Could — and Should — Bring Voice Recognition Technology to our Phones

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With dramatically higher throughput and lower latency, flash-based SSDs offer an obvious performance boost over traditional storage solutions. Still, flash storage commands a premium, and many businesses struggle to justify investments in new storage technology when existing solutions are performing adequately. Implemented properly, flash storage can not only enhance existing applications but also create entirely new ones. To take advantage of these improvements and build an implementation plan that offers the best return on their investment, businesses must understand the use cases best suited to flash technology and budget accordingly. In this webinar, our panel will discuss these topics: What are the functional advantages and operational efficiencies of flash-based SSDs? What are the benefits and drawbacks of hybrid approaches? Can lower latency and higher IOPS enable entirely new products and services? How can businesses determine what level of performance improvement is worth the cost and disruption of an upgrade? What are the staffing and operational concerns of managing flash-based and hybrid storage? How can businesses avoid vendor lock-in and take advantage of continually dropping flash prices? Speakers include: Barb Goldworm, president and chief analyst, FOCUS Mike Karp, VP and principal analyst, Ptak, Noel & Associates Marc Staimer, president and chief dragon slayer, Dragon Slayer Consulting Andrew Warfield, CTO and co-founder, Coho Data Register here to join Gigaom Research and our sponsor Coho Data for “Flash storage: when, why and how to get there,” a free analyst roundtable hosted Thursday, May 1, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. PT.

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Google has signed its largest clean power contract to date — for 407 MW of wind power — with Iowa power company MidAmerican Energy to supply clean energy for Google’s data center in Iowa. Google made the announcement on its blog on Tuesday, which is Earth Day. MidAmerican is largely owned by investor Warren Buffet’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway. Four hundred and seven megawatts of wind power is the equivalent power to a mid-sized coal plant or a large natural gas plant. Or, to put it another way, it could provide enough electricity for over 100,000 average American homes. Google says that amount of wind power in Iowa will not only cover the power of its current facilities there, but will also allow for expansion. The deal includes both direct energy generation from MidAmerican’s wind farms and MidAmerican’s renewable energy certificates that are part of other wind projects. A Google-backed wind farm in Iowa The deal is the latest to show how Google is evolving its business of contracting out and buying clean energy in various ways — including working with utilities, power companies, and clean power financiers. Google has been one of the most creative and aggressive internet companies when it comes to buying clean power to run its data centers. This week, also timed with Earth Day, Apple has been touting its clean power commitments to both its data centers and retail outlets. Apple has pledged to run all of its data centers off of 100 percent clean energy. While Apple and Google are leading the way, other Internet companies like Twitter and Amazon are lagging behind.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Warren Buffett and the true value of solarWhat first-quarter 2014 meant for the mobile spaceWhat today’s companies need to bridge the sales automation-to-CRM gap

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Cloud storage service Bitcasa is adding Chromecast support for its Android app, the company announced Tuesday. Bitcasa offers an “infinite drive” for an annual price of $999, as well as a free 20 GB plan. The most interesting uses for this new feature should be centered around casting personal content like photos and home videos onto a TV. While the Chromecast can natively cast image file types from a desktop browser, streaming from a cloud app streamlines the process. You can download Bitcasa from Google Play right here.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Why the TV industry matters for GoogleThe evolution of consumer-media cloud storageWhat first-quarter 2014 meant for the mobile space

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IBM has made another investment out of the $100 million it has set aside to fund companies using the Watson cognitive computing system, this time investing an undisclosed amount of money into a company called Fluid. IBM and Fluid are working on an application, called Expert Shopper, that will let consumers ask complex, natural language questions on retail websites and receive product recommendations in return. Fluid is IBM’s second publicly announced Watson-fund investment, with the first going to a health care startup called Welltok. Both were early partners in IBM’s cloud-based Watson service and API.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What the fourth-quarter 2014 meant for tech buyersListening platforms: finding the value in social media dataA near-term outlook for big data

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AT&T, the nation’s second largest broadband provider and wireless company, is getting into the streaming business with a $500 million joint venture created to acquire, invest in and launch a Netflix-style video streaming service. As the television distribution model that’s been in place for decades collapses online, this deal marks the first time a big U.S. ISP has decided to go over the top with a TV service. AT&T has joined forces with media and entertainment company the Chernin Group, and together the two companies have committed $500 million in funding to the venture. More detailed financial terms of the transaction have not been disclosed. However, the Chernin Group will bring assets to the venture, including the contribution of its majority stake in Crunchyroll, a subscription video on demand service. From the press release, it is unclear exactly what type of content the joint venture hopes to offer. The Crunchyroll content is mentioned in the release, and Chernin has a quote that seems to indicate this is about providing more content outside of the traditional broadcast options. From the release: “‘A critical part of The Chernin Group’s strategy has been our significant focus on the online video industry, and joining forces with AT&T only further underscores our strategic commitment in this area as operators, investors and programmers,’ said Peter Chernin, Chairman and CEO, The Chernin Group. ‘Consumers are increasingly viewing video content on their phones, tablets, computers, game consoles and connected TVs on mobile and broadband networks. AT&T’s massive reach on those platforms across mobile and broadband and their commitment to the online video space make them the perfect fit for this venture with us.’” If done well, this joint venture is a significant move and could break down the geographical barriers for buying pay TV. If the content is robust enough on the AT&T effort, Comcast subscribers or FiOS pay TV subscribers might elect to choose the AT&T offering instead, destroying the triple play bundle and throwing content companies into a tailspin. If the venture is done poorly, or with a lack of compelling content, the new offering will join a crowded field of big over-the-top providers and perhaps help drive up up content acquisition costs. This might validate Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Instant Video and YouTube’s efforts, but it’s also a big new player to look out for.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Over-the-top video in 2012: trends and technologies to watchOTT technologies and strategies for broadcastersWhat the shift to the cloud means for the future EPG

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Clickatell is a global leader in mobile messaging and transaction services, which enable its customers to connect, interact and transact with their business partners and communities via mobile phone. Clickatell’s technology team is charged with supporting three main business applications: a message exchange, transaction exchange and USSD gateway. These are all revenue-generating systems for the company, so keeping them running smoothly is crucial. Clickatell needed greater insight into how these applications were operating, in real time. Previously, when something went wrong with one of the platforms, the support staff would be notified via the monitoring applications, but troubleshooting and performing root-cause analysis was often a time-consuming process. Clickatell now uses Splunk software for incident investigation, performance monitoring and operational business analytics. This lets Clickatell become aware of a potential issue before it becomes a real issue. The team now has the ability to react faster and proactively, so they can let customers know there’s a problem ahead of time. In addition, Splunk gives Clickatell visualizations of its system performance and health. Splunk dashboards also provide senior executives with insights into key business KPIs and SLAs. With Splunk, Clickatell can extract valuable pertinent information — such as activity, data volume, patterns of events or errors — from its machine data and supply that directly to customers. As a result, Clickatell’s customers can also be more proactive and deliver better service to their own clientele. Read more about how Clickatell is using Splunk for improved business metrics, customer service and availability.

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It’s not a shocker that Satya Nadella will anchor Microsoft’s third-quarter earnings call Thursday, but folks will be listening carefully to what he has to say — expecting him to hold fast to his broad strategy of device independence, as long as those devices hook into Microsoft’s Azure cloud. His predecessor, Steve Ballmer, was not a fixture on these calls. What would be surprising is if Nadella deviated from his cloud-first-mobile first messaging. Wall Streeters don’t expect Nadella, an engineer, to delve into the niceties of foreign currency and tax rates — CFO Amy Hood will handle that. But they do want to hear about broad strategy, and perhaps even get a continued commitment to the “One Microsoft” mantra rolled out last summer by Ballmer and reaffirmed by Nadella in his first email to employees as CEO. That re-org was aimed at nuking structural silos and infighting at the famously fractious company. Nadella has to negotiate a tricky passage. On the one hand, he’s pledging support for non-Windows devices — last month Microsoft finally announced Office for iPad and Android. (Some say the new tablet-oriented version of Office is dumbed down, but that’s another story.) On the other hand, traditional Windows and Office and on-premise versions of SQL Server, Sharepoint, etc., continue to pay most of the freight. Scott Guthrie, the long-time Microsoft vet who is now the executive vice president in charge of Azure, will discuss progress on this front at Structure in June. In (somewhat) related news, Ford CEO Alan Mulally, once a primary contender for Microsoft CEO, is stepping down before the end of the year, handing the reins over to Ford COO Mark Fields, according to the Wall Street Journal (reg required). In January, Mulally said he planned to stay at Ford till the end of 2014, so this represents a slightly accelerated changeover.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Is Android broken and if so, will Google fix it?CES 2012: a recap and analysisMillennials in the enterprise, part 2: benchmarking IT’s readiness for the new digital workforce

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Some major acquisitions jolted the mobile industry in the first quarter of 2014, underscoring some important trends. Meanwhile, turbulence plagues the mobile-gaming industry and Dish is ramping up speculation about its plans to enter the mobile market.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What happened in mobile in the fourth-quarter 2013The living room reinvented: trends, technologies and companies to watchWhat mattered in mobile in the second quarter

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Home security is one of the gateway services to a smart home, which is one reason iControl purchased the maker of Piper a few weeks ago, and why companies such as Alarm.com and ADT are getting pushing into the smart home market with new products. But between the old and the new, Steve Hollis, the CEO of Korner thinks there is a market. He’s just launched an Indiegogo campaign on Tuesday to help get people excited about the idea and find backers for the project. His Seattle, Wash.-based team has built an all-in-one open/close sensor that people can place on doors and windows. The design of the sensor is unique in that it measures the door opening and closing, without requiring two parts. Together, three of these sensors, one fob to bridge the sensors’ radio network to Wi-Fi and the app cost $99. That’s an crazy low price point for a DIY security product that basically lets you know if a door or window has opened. The app is fancier than that, letting you establish trusted contacts that alarms can escalate to, much like a higher-end monitoring service from a professional alarm company. Hollis explains that the goal behind Korner, was to bring the cost of security down to a level that everyone could truly afford it and install it. I like the simplicity the project offers — it fits within my mantra of buying products that solve a particular pain point as opposed to a system that tries to be everything. I’m curious though how Korner plans to take the product past the Indiegogo campaign. Hollis says that while Indiegogo backers will get free service and access to the app in perpetuity, people who end up buying Korner when it hits the market at the end of this year or early next will likely buy a $59 package with a $39 annual service fee. Hollis thinks that the app itself is a potential source of a lot of innovation around neighborhood information. He says that when people sign up for Korner, they are likely to include a neighbor as a potential contact to escalate alarms to. As they do this, buyers introduce their neighbors to the product. Hollis thinks it’s possible that people with the system will be able to leave messages for their neighbors, creating a kind of local community of information about potential problems, lost animals or whatever else. I think that’s a nice ideal, but even $100 is still a significant chunk of change to spend on a neighbor’s recommendation — although less than the $200 to $240 for a Piper or Canary –or even more for a monitored service. I’d like to see the sensors used in other kits, although given the subscription model Hollis is going after, it wouldn’t make sense for Korner to license that technology and become merely a hardware provider. So for those interested in created a DIY security product with a bit of a social aspect to the monitoring, check out Korner. It’s a project worth watching, given the hardware and the subscription model. Korner has a partnership with Domestic Abuse Women’s Network, funding closes early june: ship in year end for GA or early new year. how did you cut the costs to the bone?Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.How the truly smart home could finally become a realityA look back at this year’s CES and what it means for tech in 2014Sponsored content: Why the smart home is finally ready for the mainstream market

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On Tuesday at 11am ET, Aereo will face off at the Supreme Court against big broadcasters and the Justice Department over whether Aereo, which lets consumers watch and record over-the-air TV for $8/month, should be shut down for copyright infringement. Here’s a brief Q&A about the most important TV case since 1984, when the Supreme Court found the VCR to be a legal technology. Below you can find links to full background coverage. What is Aereo and why are the broadcasters suing it? Aereo rents dime-size antennas that act like long-distance rabbit ears attached to a remote DVR. The service, which is available in 11 cities, lets people watch and record over-the-air channels like NBC and Fox by streaming shows to their phone or computer. The broadcasters say Aereo is violating copyright law by rebroadcasting their signals. Aereo, however, claims that it’s the subscribers who are doing the transmitting, and that Aereo simply rents a tool that lets people watch a private performance — much like they do when they tape a TV show and watch it their living room. What does each side want? The broadcasters want the Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court ruling, and to issue an injunction that will shut Aereo down across the country. Aereo wants the court to say it does not violate copyright law, which would allow it to expand to more cities, including ones on the west coast. How long is the hearing and how can I follow it? The hearing lasts one hour. The lawyer for ABC and the other broadcasters will argue for 20 minutes, and the Solicitor General (who is siding with ABC) will weigh in for 10 minutes. Aereo gets 30 minutes to make its case. The Supreme Court is still a sketchbook and note-pad sort of place, so there will be no live-blogs, tweeting or TV. But Gigaom and others will be filing stories shortly after the hearing. How will the Justices decide? Experts genuinely aren’t sure and are predicting a tight ruling. Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is expected to side with the broadcasters, but the views of the other Justices are less clear. Copyright lawyer Ali Sternburg has pointed out that Justice Elena Kagan did not support the broadcasters in a similar Supreme Court case when she was Solicitor General, and noted that Justice Stephen Breyer has argued in the past for more limited copyright — meaning these two Justices could side with Aereo. As such, the outcome is likely to come down to Chief Justice John Roberts and the other conservatives on the bench. Another notable feature of the case is that, in an unusual move, Justice Samuel Alito at the last minute reversed his early decision to recuse himself from the case. Alito’s surprise move eliminated the prospect of a 4-4 tie, which would have upheld a lower ruling in favor of Aereo. Finally, veteran SCOTUS reporter Lyle Denniston observes that things will turn out poorly for Aereo if the Justices spend most of their time focusing on what Aereo is doing – while things will look brighter if the Justices’s questions are instead about what consumers are doing when they use the service. When will the decision come? Sometime in the summer — probably late June or early July. Why is the case so important? Aereo right now is still just a speck in the massive television economy. But the TV industry is worried that Aereo could eventually upset the current “bundle” model of TV, which relies on selling consumers a large package of channels. If Aereo is legal, it may encourage more consumers to “cut the cord” and replace their pay-TV provider with some combination of Aereo and other internet services like Netflix. This had led the broadcasters to threaten that, if Aereo wins, they will take their signals off the air and become cable channels. Meanwhile, sports leagues like the NFL — which seek to tightly control how and where people watch their games — are warning that Aereo will hurt their business, and are supporting the broadcasters in the case. The case also has implications for the emerging cloud computing industry. Companies like Google and Dropbox, which are supporting Aereo, worry that a win for the broadcasters could thrust the “public performance” right — the central legal issue in this case — into a host of other consumer cloud services. Where can I learn more about all this? Argument preview: Free TV at a bargain price? (SCOTUS Blog’s rundown of all legal issues, including the Justice Department perspective) Here are 3 ways Aereo will tell the Supreme Court it is legal (Our overview of Aereo’s legal strategy) Aereo Case will Shape TV’s Future (New York Times media writer David Carr explains what the case means for the TV industry) Aereo’s CEO on the future of Netflix, TV sports and the public airwaves (Gigaom’s interview with Chet Kanojia) What happens if broadcasters lose the Aereo case? (Fortune story contains numerous quotes from TV analysts and law professors) Inside Aereo: new photos of the tech that’s changing how we watch TV (Gigaom’s original profile of the Brooklyn site where it all started)    Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The biggest third-quarter events in the consumer spaceWhat the shift to the cloud means for the future EPGWhat the shift to the cloud means for the future EPG

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Navigation may have found its initial home in the car dashboard, but there are many different modes of transportation we use from feet to bikes to skis that can all benefit from some turn-by-turn directions. San Francisco’s scooter-sharing startup Scoot is a good case in point. It wanted to create a navigation system for its fleet of electric mopeds, but it had a few concerns. Its scooters don’t handle freeways well. Nor are they particularly good at mounting steep hills. So it went to open source mapper Mapbox to help it develop a turn-by-turn directions app that navigates around those obstacles. Source: Mapbox Scoot and Mapbox announced today they have built a nav and mapping app with the capabilities and limitations of the electric scooter in mind. In addition to highways and inclines, the app can help Scoot’s customers avoid San Francisco streets with trolley tracks — notoriously unkind to two-wheeled vehicles – as well take into account the amount of juice left in the electric vehicle’s battery so you won’t find yourself stranded a mile from your destination. The deal represents a new twist for Mapbox, which recently raised a $10 million Series A. Founded four years ago by a bunch of open-source mapping enthusiasts, Mapbox follows the same business model as Nokia Here, providing raw map data to navigation and other location-based services companies. But instead of selling proprietary geographical data, Mapbox draws its maps almost entirely from open sources such as OpenStreetMap and the government. It then offers its products to customers through an API, which allows them to customize the designs of their maps as they see fit. You’ve probably already run into Mapbox data on Foursquare, Runkeeper or Pinterest. With its deal with Scoot, though, Mapbox is expanding into a new field: navigation that can be customized by context, CEO Eric Gundersen said. “We want to take that same level of customization in the map design space to the navigation space,” Gundersen said. As with its mapping data, Mapbox is relying on open source with its nav technology, using Open Source Routing Machine (OSRM) at its core. Mapbox is making that technology more developer friendly by presenting its features as parameters customers can turn on and off to tailor navigation engines for any mode or style of transport. In the case of Scoot, it’s barring freeways, trolley car routes and any hill with an incline greater than what the scooters can manage. But there are endless possible permutations, Gundersen said. Scoot’s new Mapbox powered nav engine resides on your smartphone but plugs right into the shared scooter. For instance, Gundersen said Mapbox is working with companies building sight-seeing apps for the connected car that would allow you to take the most scenic route to your destination, rather than the quickest or most fuel-efficient one. Or a sports-driving app for a motorcycle could map out the most curve-filled route through a city, guaranteeing you’ll get the maximum thrill ride out of your crotch rocket. But Gundersen said he believes the biggest opportunity for Mapbox’s technology lies outside of the motor vehicle. We’re already starting to see a second wave of navigation apps targeting public transit users. But given the vast wealth of geographic information systems (GIS) data Mapbox has collected, navigation can go beyond the commute and into outdoor recreation. National parks could offer hiking trail navigation apps. Training apps like Runkeeper (which is already a Mapbox map customer) could route you through parks and along sidewalks with fewer intersections interrupting your jog. And a bicyclist can arrive in a new town already armed with a digital map of all bike lanes.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Takeaways from mobile’s second quarterWhy Google Android’s Electric Vehicle Deal With GM MattersLocation: The Epicenter of Mobile Innovation

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If you want to track your fitness with Nike software, you’re probably going to have to use Apple products. The news that Nike had laid off a majority of its digital sport hardware engineering team last week meant the reported end of Nike’s FuelBand, the oldest of the current generation of wearable fitness trackers. Nike will still be a player in the wearable space, but it will no longer be producing hardware, according to reports from CNET and Recode. If Nike exits the physical wearable market, as now seems likely, Apple will be the primary sensor maker for Nike’s future wearable apps given the length and depth of the two companies’ close ties. Although there are a handful of Nike apps available for Android, there is no app (on any other mobile platform aside from iOS) that supports Nikefuel, which Nike describes as the “heart of the Nike+ ecosystem.” In many ways, this is the culmination of a process that’s been taking place between the two companies for the better part of a decade: Nike will design the fitness app experience, and the hardware will be made by Apple. Apple and Nike have a long history Apple CEO Tim Cook, who has been spotted sporting a FuelBand, sits on Nike’s board of directors. Nike has had partnerships with other innovative tech companies in the past, releasing a Nike+ Kinect game with Microsoft in 2012, and a GPS watch with TomTom in 2011. TomTom currently makes its own GPS watches, and the public face for Nike+ Kinect, Jay Blahnik, now works for Apple. Apple CEO Tim Cook looks on, wearing a Nike Fuelband, before the Apple Store opens to sell the new iPhone on September 20, 2013 in Palo Alto, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Nike is an important partner for Apple. The iPhone 5S includes an advanced motion coprocessor, the M7, which allows fitness apps to track motion without turning on the full power of the main processor. At the iPhone 5S announcement, the demo app was Nike+ Move, which is almost identical to the Nike+ FuelBand app but does not require an external wearable sensor. Currently, Nike+ Move is available only for the iPhone 5S. Nike’s first foray into the digital activity tracker market was a product called Nike+iPod, released in 2006. That consisted of a piezoelectric sensor that tucked into a shoe and a dongle that attached to an iPod nano, and the software was eventually expanded to include the 2nd generation iPod Touch and iPhone 3GS. Eventually, Apple integrated enough sensor capabilities into the iOS platform so that the separate dongle was no longer needed. Now there are seven different apps available on the App Store which include the Nike+ brand. Only one now requires separate hardware — Nike+ FuelBand. There is still no NikeFuel app for Android. In previous statements, Nike has said there isn’t an Android app in development. And while Nike hasn’t ruled it out, it seems unlikely. If Nike wants to stop the fragmentation of its sensors, there is no easier way to do that than to make Apple products the preferred hardware for the platform. In fact, this is Apple’s advantage over other handset makers — because there are so few iPhone models, there is no need to finely calibrate sensor readings for a multitude of devices. Nike’s platform, built on top of Apple’s platform Nike’s expressed plan is to make its Fuel fitness tracking system into a platform for other developers on which to build applications. This makes sense — hardware is difficult and expensive, and requires specific engineering expertise and supply chain mastery in order to produce decent margins. Other companies may have good hardware or data expertise, but are unlikely to grab the attention of the toned and tan. Fitness trackers are bought with high hopes, but many end up forgotten after a few weeks, like a diet. Nike CEO Mark Parker and Apple CEO Steve Jobs during the May23, 2006 unveiling of a partnership between Nike and Apple. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/WireImage While Nike has never released sales data for the FuelBand, a report estimated the entire fitness tracker to be worth $330 million in 2013, and the FuelBand only accounted for 10% of brick-and-mortar sales during that period, according to a report from the NPD Group. Nike revenue for the third quarter of 2013 was $7 billion, so it appears the FuelBand was not moving the dial. Taking into account research and development costs, it’s possible the FuelBand was a money pit. But as the world’s largest sportswear designer, Nike already has the attention of fitness fanatics, and knows the exact kind of marketing will best hook athletes into a new product category. It’s that kind of large, committed user base that will compel competitors, like Strava and MyFitnessPal, to build features on top of the Nikefuel API, whereas they may not have considered the FuelBand platform important because there is a limited install base. To better reach potential partners, earlier this month Nike opened up a new tech office in SOMA, the heart of San Francisco’s tech district. While it might not make competitive sense for some of the smaller fitness apps to team up with Nike, if there’s a large contingent of customers who associate Apple’s fitness features with Nike+, they might not have a choice. By making Nike hardware and Apple hardware one and the same, Nike not only gains a huge installed user base, but Apple gets a user-facing feature no other handset maker can match: fitness from a world-famous fitness company. Nike Fuelband close-up. Image from Flickr/Angel Navedo Nike’s hardware exit has been a long time coming Nike executives have been hinting at their plans to get out of the hardware market for some time. Talking to Fast Company earlier this month, Steven Olander, the Nike vice president of digital sport — the department which just lost 80 percent of its staff — said, When Nike developed the FuelBand SE, people asked if we were becoming a technology company. But that was never the intention. We weren’t so much excited about the thing as what the thing enabled, which is motivating people because they have a way to measure how active they are–we have a saying that you can’t improve what you can’t measure. Last year, Nike CEO Mark Parker said at a Fast Company conference: It’s really important to understand what we do well . . . what we bring to the party, so to speak, and actually amplify that and not to expect us to really go in and compete with the latest, greatest development of sensor technology. Apple’s strength is is making slick, well-engineered hardware that sells well. Now these devices, as a matter of course, have advanced sensor technology built in. Nike’s strength is making fitness cool. Regardless of whether Apple introduces a wearable product this year, or simply introduces new features like the rumored Healthbook app, Nike’s fitness software will be a big part of it.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Analyzing the wearable computing marketGigaom Research predictions for 2014How to manage the customer experience through mobile apps

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Ever since Nate Silver left his perch at the New York Times and took his FiveThirtyEight blog to ESPN, where he subsequently launched an ambitious experiment aimed at data-driven journalism, the NYT has been working on a new venture aimed in part at filling the hole he left, and also at competing with the “explanatory journalism” of Ezra Klein’s recently launched Vox project. The new effort from the Times — known as The Upshot — debuts on Tuesday. In a post on the project’s Facebook page, editor David Leonhardt, formerly the paper’s Washington bureau chief, said that the idea is to give readers some help in understanding complex stories like Obamacare, inequality and the problems in the U.S. real-estate market. The Upshot will “build on the excellent journalism the New York Times is already producing,” he said. “We believe many people don’t understand the news as well as they would like. They want to grasp big, complicated stories… so well that they can explain the whys and hows of those stories to their friends, relatives and colleagues. We believe we can help readers get to that level of understanding by writing in a direct, plain-spoken way, the same voice we might use when writing an email to a friend. We’ll be conversational without being dumbed down.” A boom in journalistic explainers That sounds very much like the mission statement behind Vox, which Klein started after joining Vox Media (the company behind sites like The Verge and SB Nation) when his offer to start a new venture at the Washington Post — where he ran the Wonkblog — was turned down. But the second part of Leonhardt’s description of The Upshot sounds very much like FiveThirtyEight’s mission, namely reporting and analysis based on data sets. “The world now produces so much data, and personal computers can analyze it so quickly, that data-based reporting deserves to be a big part of the daily news cycle. One of our highest priorities will be unearthing data sets — and analyzing existing ones — in ways that illuminate and, yes, explain the news. As with our written articles, we aspire to present our data in the clearest, most engaging way possible.” One of the biggest strengths that The Upshot has going for it, as Leonhardt mentions, is the existing firepower and resources of the New York Times, which theoretically gives the new project a foundation from which it can work without having to reinvent the wheel for every story. In a sense, The Upshot is an attempt to act as a kind of internal aggregator and explainer for the NYT’s own content — something the paper has typically allowed external players to do, apart from ventures like its topic pages. This really gets back to my old hobbyhorse: News orgs should build their own self-aggregation layer rather than let others do it for them.— Joshua Benton (@jbenton) April 17, 2014 Journalist, aggregate thyself This kind of approach is one that a number of media-industry observers have recommended, including Nieman Journalism Lab director Josh Benton, who mentioned on Twitter how traditional media outlets should do more with the data in their own stories — the way the Pew Research Center does with its new site FactTank — instead of always leaving that role to others. In addition to Leonhardt, the new site will feature writing from Josh Barro, Nate Cohn, Neil Irwin and Derek Willis and will be using the graphic and technology skills of former NYT science editor Laura Chang and former technology editor Damon Darlin. Leonhardt said he also wants the new project to “feel like a collaboration between journalists and readers” in the same way that some NYT blogs like Tara Parker-Pope’s Well blog are: “We will often publish the details behind our reporting, and we hope that readers will find angles we did not. We also want to get story assignments from you: Tell us what data you think deserves exploration. Tell us which parts of the news you do not understand as well as you’d like.” One unanswered question that The Upshot will have to confront: Will readers want to get smart aggregation and/or analysis of the context behind New York Times‘ stories from a unit within the newspaper itself — however well-meaning — or would they prefer to get it from somewhere else? Post and photo thumbnails courtesy of Shutterstock / Ivelin RadkovRelated research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.NewNet Q1: Advertising, commerce and discovery dominateContent Farms: The Players, The Benefits, The RisksFrenemy mine: The pros and cons of social partnerships for online media companies

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Food Network has slowly been evolving its digital strategy over the years, moving away from using the web and mobile to just tease its cable programming toward creating original content and apps. It looks like that strategy may take an interesting turn by using data analytics to help consumers plan their meals and shop for food. FN and its parent Scripps Networks Interactive have bought an Austin startup called Food on the Table that aims to use big data and partnerships with local grocery stores to help consumers plan and shop for their weekly meals. Austinpreneur reported the acquisition on Monday. I got confirmation from Food on the Table that the it is now part of Scripps, though we’re still waiting on more details. It does look like founder and CEO Manuel Russo has taken on the role of VP of commerce for Scripps Interactive. Source: Shutterstock / Fedor Kondratenko My colleague Stacey Higginbotham was impressed with the Food on the Table (and still remains a subscriber) when she first wrote about them in 2011: “The final piece of this puzzle is the Food on the Table service (I said people should meet them during SXSW) which tracks grocery deals, allows me to submit my recipes, then delivers a meal plan that helps me use recipes to incorporate food that’s on sale. From there, I can generate my shopping list. I think it’s an extraordinarily disruptive service because it takes the act of applying data and technology to disrupt an industry, much like TiVo aggregated data on a variety of shows and channels, added a hard drive and changed the way people watch TV.” Though we don’t know how Food Network and Scripps Interactive — which also owns the Cooking Channel, the Travel Channel, HGTV and the DIY Network – will integrate Food on the Table’s technology, there are loads of possibilities. Food Network may be primarily an entertainment outlet on TV, but online it’s become a huge resource for recipe and cooking techniques drawn from its on-air talent like Alton Brown and Ina Garten. Considering the size and breadth of its content library FN could easily create a service that allowed it to use Food on the Table’s technology to generate meal plans based on its recipes alone, though it would be even more useful if users could bring in alternative recipe sources. For instance, if you’re in Southwestern frame of mind, you might be able to tell your FN/Food on the Table app you want to eat like Bobby Flay for the week. It could then scan all of Flay’s recipes (FN lists 1,731 of them) and compare their ingredients against sale items generated form your favorite local grocery stores. Before you know it you’ve got meal plan mapped out by a Food Network celebrity that even takes pains to spare your wallet.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The Future of Work Platforms: An OverviewMobile Operators’ Strategies for Connected DevicesVMware’s Cloudy Ambitions: Can It Repeat Hypervisor Success?

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IT decision-makers must better understand the modern workers they’re supporting in order to make them more productive and better aligned with corporate objectives.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Cloud security market landscape, 2013–2017An analysis of Windows Azure’s strengths and weaknessesGet the most from your IT service management provider

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Netflix wants to bring its streaming service to set-top-boxes leased by U.S. pay TV operators this quarter, the company announced Monday. In its Q1 letter to shareholders, the company announced that it will first launch on TiVo (S TIVO set-top boxes leased by operators in the U.S., which is similar to agreements the company struck in Europe. Netflix also said that it will “try to extend to non-TiVo devices” after rolling out on TiVo boxes. In Sweden, Netflix partnered with Com-Hem earlier this year to make its service available to pay TV subscribers. Com-Hem customers can access Netflix through the TiVo box they’re leasing from the operator, where the service will be listed alongside traditional cable channels in the channel grid. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said during the company’s earnings call Monday that the integration with U.S. operators would at launch not include any billing services, but that consumers could potentially also directly pay their Netflix subscription through their cable bill. A Com Hem TiVo featuring the Netflix app, as shown at CES 2014 in Las Vegas. Netflix wants to unveil similar partnerships with other operators this year. Netflix has struck similar agreements with Virgin in the U.K. as well as Denmark’s Waoo. In the U.S., the company could previously not enter similar partnerships because of restrictions in its contracts with Hollywood studios, but Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said earlier this year that those contracts have since been renegotiated. Netflix didn’t identify the U.S. operators it is partnering with Monday, but U.S. operators that already offer TiVo devices include RCN as well as Suddenlink. Both operators are also already Netflix partners, and use the company’s OpenConnect content delivery system.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What the shift to the cloud means for the future EPGWhat the shift to the cloud means for the future EPGNext-generation TV remotes and interfaces

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