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Advertising can ultimately define the user experience. It can underpin the whole look and feel of a service. It’s about combining the quality and creativity seen in organic content with the commercial aspects of paid-for marketing. It has the potential to once again be an artistic feature if done transparently and responsibly. This means designing ads that are intuitive, not intrusive. At WeTransfer, we are using native content to build better relationships with our users, not destroy them. We do this by partnering with some of the world’s most recognized brands and exciting creative minds. This allows us deliver beautiful content, whether it’s paid for or not. Perhaps this is why our clickthrough rates (anywhere up to 2 percent) are so much higher than the industry standard. Our service is designed to intrigue consumers, not interrupt them. The advertising, in the form of full-screen images and videos, is designed to improve the experience of our users. They add relevance, experience and creativity to our platform. Next to advertising we offer 50 percent of our ad inventory to young creatives free of charge. This means we are not entirely reliant on marketers to produce content for our platform. We seek the most exciting and relevant content for our users. This in turn heightens the creativity and quality of paid advertising. For us, supporting both advertisers and the creative people who would use our service is intuitive. We are building an ecosystem that will ultimately strengthen our brand, not damage it.

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After a few months without a regularly scheduled software update, Google Glass now has one in the form of KitKat. Google took time off from monthly updates to deliver Android 4.4 to the wearable computer, which is ideal because KitKat is the version of Android that works better on devices with less powerful chips and smaller amounts of internal memory. Since all of the KitKat changes are behind the scenes, the most noticeable and welcome change should be a boost in battery life, which the current edition of Glass sorely needs. Getting through a full day with moderate use is a challenge with Glass because it has such a small battery. Google says KitKat makes the device easier to update going forward and will also help developers as they can use the latest software features available in the Android toolbox. Most of the other changes are small in nature but will definitely improve Glass’s usability. Photos will be bundled by day, for example, so that heavy picture-takers won’t have to scroll seemingly forever to find a particular shot. Glass will also learn which voice commands are used most and adjust the command menu accordingly. This will surface commands on the screen after saying “OK Google” so that the most likely commands will be shown first; that’s a huge potential timesaver, as the list can grow longer with each third-party app installation. Glass also now supports photo replies in Hangout chats, a sort of MMS-style addition. It’s not all good news for the Glass update, however. Google decided to remove the video calling feature from Glass for now. The company says that only 10 percent of Glass owners use it — for the record, I don’t — and that the current implementation isn’t living up to Google’s standard. There are alternative apps in the works, says Google, so Glass owners missing the feature should watch the Glassware app store. The timing of the update is likely coincidental, but is rolling out on the one day that anyone can purchase Glass in the U.S. Typically, you’d need a an invite to buy Glass for $1,500 but Google is running a promotion on Tuesday to open the market for Google Glass, even throwing in a free eyeglass frame or shade with the purchase.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What happened in mobile in the fourth-quarter 2013Gigaom Research predictions for 2014Takeaways from mobile’s second quarter

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Zebra Technologies, an inventory tracking specialist that helps Amazon and other customers keep track of products, is buying Motorola’s Enterprise Business unit for a whopping $3.54 billion in cash and debt, the companies said Tuesday. There seems to be a lot of, um, synergy here: Zebra makes bar-code readers and RFID gear used to scan inventory, while Motorola’s technology collects and aggregates that data. “This creates the industry leader in identification and tracking assets. The two companies’ solutions have led in this space for years and people have long asked us why we didn’t merge. Now we have,” said Philip Gerskovich, Zebra’s SVP of New Growth Platforms told me this morning. Together, and before that separately, the two companies competed with Honeywell, which also makes inventory ID and tracking gear and ancillary products. Honeywell has been bulking up as well, buying Intermec last year, among other acquisitions. All this activity shows how important the internet of things (IoT) opportunity is to tech vendors. IoT refers to an explosion of connected sensors and other non-PC devices all feeding data to each other and to centralized locations. That scenario creates new opportunities for manufacturers, retailers and application developers who will arm the home, factories, even our personal apparel, with such devices and gather the resulting data. The combined companies would generate annual sales of close to $3.5 billion and will field more than 20,000 channel partners in more than 100 countries, and an expanded pool of intellectual property including 4,500 U.S. and international patents. Motorola Solutions will keep making and integrating  voice and data communication solutions for government and public safety customers, the companies said. Gartner expects some 26 billion devices to be connected by 2020, generating $300 billion in revenue.To accommodate all that action, tech will need an overhaul, not only end-point devices but in edge locations and data centers that will aggregate and process that data. That will be a big topic at the Structure show in June.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.A look back at the first quarter of 2014How to utilize cloud computing, big data, and crowdsourcing for an agile enterpriseThe influence of M2M data on the energy industry

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Crowdsourced Wi-Fi network operator Fon wants you to turn up the music: Fon is set to launch a Kickstarter campaign for a new device dubbed Gramofon Tuesday that lets you beam Spotify to your stereo system while also helping you to share your Wi-Fi signal with the world. It’s a new twist on Fon’s original Wi-Fi sharing concept, and the company hopes that it will help to finally conquer the U.S. market. Gramofon is a square box that has about the look and size of two jewelry gift boxes stacked on top of each other. It features two Ethernet ports as well as a line-out port to connect your stereo. Users can interact with the device either through mobile apps, or with a simple round button on top of the case, which is accompanied by a round LED that communicates basic status messages through changing colors. Kickstarter backers will be able to acquire the device for as little as $30, and it will go on sale for $50 later this year. Many of these details will be familiar to Gigaom readers — I first reported about Gramofon last month when I stumbled across the device in some surprisingly revealing FCC filings. But last week, Fon COO Alex Puregger stopped by our office in San Francisco to demo the device and tell me a little more about what the device actually does, and how it fits into Fon’s strategy. How it works Gramofon functions like any Fon router in that it shares a user’s internet connection through a separate public network, making sure that visitors won’t access files on your computer or slow down your network. At the same time, it also uses Wi-Fi as a kind of authenticator for social music consumption. Friends that come to your place can authenticate via Facebook, for example, and then automatically start to play music on your Gramofon, without the need to share Wi-Fi passwords or link their mobile devices with the music player. Right now, Gramofon only supports Spotify as well as the web radio service Wah Wah, but Puregger told me that the company wants to add additional services in the coming months. Paying Spotify users can beam music straight from the service’s mobile app to a Gramofon, much in the same way that media is being cast with a Chromecast adapter (which means the music is being streamed straight from the cloud, and the phone can be turned off at any time without interrupting playback). Gramofon is also building a dedicated control app to play Wah Wah, and Puregger told me that it wants to eventually add collaborative playback functionality, making it possible for users to queue up songs for a kind of real-world Turntable.fm listening party. One feature notably amiss is the ability to play local content. There’s no USB port, and Puregger told me that there are no immediate plans to enable the playback of files stored on a computer or network-attached storage drive. “We don’t believe in that,” he said, adding that Gramofon would focus on cloud music services instead. Where Fon wants to go with it Also missing is multi-room music playback, which would enable users to play the same music throughout their house. Puregger said that the company may enable this in a future version, but also added that it doesn’t really want to take on established whole-home audio players. “We don’t want to compete with Sonos at all,” he said. Instead, the plan is to focus on Wi-Fi sharing and other unique features. Speaking of Wi-Fi: Barcelona-based Fon started 8 years ago with the idea of a community Wi-Fi network, giving users free wireless access in exchange for opening up their routers to strangers. The company has seen a lot of traction in countries where it partners with ISPs, and says it is now running close to 13 million hotspots worldwide. But in the U.S., Fon never really took off. Gramofon is an attempt to change that, and also put a spotlight on other services that could be enabled through shared Wi-Fi. Much like the music router uses Wi-Fi for presence and Facebook for authentication to let you and your friends play music together, Fon could enable other services to offer shared experiences, be it in a connected home or a more communal space, said Puregger: “We see Wi-Fi as the connector.”Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Opportunities and risks in the share economyOpportunities and risks in the share economyConnected world: the consumer technology revolution

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As the eagle-eyed investigative journalists at Pando Daily recently noted, there hasn’t exactly been an outpouring of new material from The Intercept — the high-profile First Look Media property that includes newly-crowned Pulitzer Prize winners Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. In a sort of open letter to readers, Intercept editor and Gawker alumnus John Cook said the main reason for the radio silence is that the new entity is still trying to figure out how things are going to work, hiring new writers and editors, and more or less getting down to business. And when will the finished product be ready? “I don’t know, but soon,” the typically acerbic Cook said in a free-form Q&A session that took place in the comments. Until then, he said, the only new material coming from The Intercept will be news stories related to the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden — unless, he added, “Glenn Greenwald has some blogging he wants to do, because no one can stop Glenn Greenwald from blogging.” Apart from that, said Cook: “The Intercept will be narrowly focusing on one thing and one thing only: Reporting out stories from the NSA archive as quickly and responsibly as is practicable. We will do so at a tempo that suits the material. When we are prepared to publish those stories, we will publish them. When we are not, we will be silent for a time.” The Intercept: A work in progress It’s not really that surprising that The Intercept would still have some work left to do in setting up the organization. While its existence has been known since October, that was (ironically) the result of a leak, and the only person attached to the idea at that point was Greenwald. While backer Pierre Omidyar may have committed $250 million to First Look, finding and hiring good writers and editors, setting up an office etc. still takes time. When asked what kind of attributes he was looking for in filling out the ranks at The Intercept, Cook was succinct — and possibly also somewhat controversial: “Not white. Not male. Fast,” he said. “Interested in reporting as a live, iterative process that plays out on the Internet, as well as one where you go away for six weeks and come back with 4,000 words.” One commenter asked whether outside investments by First Look financial backer Pierre Omidyar, including the co-funding of USAID programs in Ukraine — something that was the subject of a long and critical article at Pando in February — would interfere with the editorial process at The Intercept. Cook replied: “My position is that we have publicly been guaranteed complete editorial independence (https://firstlook.org/about/). Any interference in our editorial work would be an abrogation of that agreement. I have every expectation that it will be honored. Our credibility comes from the work we have done and will do, not from our financial backer.” Looking for a good comment system When asked what kinds of stories The Intercept would be focusing on outside of the NSA leaks from Snowden, Cook said that he wasn’t targeting specific beats so much as he was looking for an attitude: “Long term, I want the site to be identified more by the posture that Glenn, Laura, and Jeremy exemplify – aggressive, honest, impolite when necessary, and unburdened by the institutional norms that govern the behavior of so many reporters at major establishment news organizations – than any menu of beats or subject areas.” Not surprisingly, a number of commenters (many of whom seemed to be regular participants in Greenwald-related discussions on other political and news sites) complained about the low-quality commenting system on The Intercept’s website, as well as the fact that a number of critical comments were deleted. Cook said that the site was looking for a good commenting system, but the first priority was to get the editorial structure in place. At that point, Joel Johnson — editor-in-chief at Gawker Media and Cook’s former colleague — said the site was welcome to use Kinja, the discussion platform that Gawker has been rolling out across all its sites, which (among other things) turns commenters into bloggers. Cook responded that he participated in the beta testing of Kinja, and added “I look forward to such a time as it reaches its full potential.” Among other things, Cook also said that The Intercept will be covering international stories (but he doesn’t know whether it will have actual bureaus in different countries), that he did not attend a recent symposium of media advisers convened by Omidyar to discuss how First Look should proceed, and that the site planned to publish “a wide variety of stories – short, fast posts to keep the site alive” as well as “lengthy reported narratives to devote attention to stories that need to be told, and all manner of story in between.” Post and photo thumbnails courtesy of Thinkstock / Dinic, as well as Honolulu Civil Beat

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Quantenna Communications has already made its mark in the evolving gigabit Wi-Fi market by getting its 802.11ac technology into world’s fastest commercial Wi-Fi access point, but now it’s preparing to raise the bar again. The wireless networking specialist is preparing a Wi-Fi chipset that can support 10 Gbps of capacity by using a boatload of antennas. That’s eight antennas, to be exact. Quantenna is pushing the limits of the next wave of the 802.11ac networking standard. Wave 2’s multi-user multiple input-multiple output (MU-MIMO) technology also went into Asus’s new 1.7 Gbps router, but Quantenna’s next-generation chip will double the amount of spatial streams used to transmit data from four to eight as well as use several other techniques to boost capacity more than four-fold, Quantenna said. I wrote capacity, not speed, because no consumer device has — nor likely will ever will have — the eight-antenna configuration necessary to grab every spatial stream transmitted by such a router. Also, a lot of 802.11ac’s promised power depends on your router being able to tap vast swaths of unlicensed airwaves, which aren’t available in all places. (In the U.S., though, the government is starting to open up more spectrum for Wi-Fi.) Source: Shutterstock / iconmonstr But Wave 2 differs from the first wave of 802.11ac in that it can send these different data streams to different devices simultaneously, meaning you could connect multiple devices to the network in a combination of sub-gigabit and multigigabit speeds without experiencing any kind of congestion. That’s actually the much more impressive feat. A 1 Gbps connection to any consumer device is overkill these days — to say nothing of 10 Gbps — and any internet use-case for such raw speeds would be limited by the speed of your ISP’s broadband pipe. But an extremely high-capacity wireless router would allow for some interesting local-area networking scenarios in your home. Imagine being able to stream multiple 4K movies to different TVs simultaneously from a home media hub while instantaneously transferring your entire digital music library from your laptop to your tablet. Quantenna said it plans to have its first 10G chipsets available to equipment makers in 2015.  Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Smart TV forecast: gigabit Wi-Fi in the living roomResearch In Motion: future scenarios and its likely fateCES 2012: a recap and analysis

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Cleantech appears to be turning the corner after some very difficult years. Positive acquisitions are occurring and public market performance of cleantech companies highlights growth prospects at market leaders like SolarCity, SunPower, and Tesla.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.How to utilize cloud computing, big data, and crowdsourcing for an agile enterpriseBitcoin: why digital currency is the future financial systemWhat defines the key players of the IaaS industry

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On April 2, the NYPD had to disperse thousands of New York’s most stylish kids lining in front of Supreme, a streetwear store, for a chance to buy a limited-edition Nike sneaker. In effect, it was a one-day only opportunity to get a buzzed-about and rare product. While Google Glass may be criticized for not having any style, its own one-day sale tomorrow is a good example of how Glass is already fashionable in its own way. Google is borrowing strategies from Nike and other clothing companies to keep interest high and products exclusive. It’s an age-old trick: to make demand appear insatiable, simply restrict the supply. By artificially limiting sales — which it doesn’t do with more commodified devices like the Nexus line — Glass remains an insider product for those well-connected and in the know. Glass is fashionable because it’s exclusive. While there have been devices with spotty initial availability in the past, such as game consoles and the first iPhone, Google’s one-day Glass sale shares more in common with handbag trunk shows than lines waiting for the PS3. In fact, the entire Glass rollout playbook has been taken from high fashion. It started invite-only, like haute couture clothing, with luxurious pickup locations in — no surprises — New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the tastemaking capitals. Once a few glossy magazines picked it up and Glass became more well known, the invites became easier to come by, but they were still distinctly capped. On Tuesday, Glass will take another step towards general availability with a limited edition release: if you’ve got $1,500 and follow Google’s procedure, Glass can be yours. First, you have to express your interest by signing up for the Glass mailing list on Google’s website. Second, you’ve got to log on at 9ET Tuesday morning and hope you get a pair — according to Google, supplies are limited. While it’s not as simple as buying most things online, it is at least possible. Unlike the first two waves of Glass, you don’t need a reason or an invite. The process to sign up and purchase Glass even resembles Nike’s policies for “launch products” — similar limited edition releases primarily meant to generate buzz instead of revenue. Officially, the one-day sale is taking place because Glass needs more testers. And it’s hard to tell whether the slow rollout for Glass is because of technical issues, production issues, or by Google’s choice. Plus, it’s hard to estimate the actual demand for Glass: there’s a chance that everyone with the desire and funds already has a pair. But by keeping the barriers to becoming a Glass Explorer high, specific, and limited, Google is helping it retain its cachet as a rare luxury good, completely independent of its promised functionality or features. But while Glass may be a fashionable topic of discussion, it is not aesthetically pleasing. Even the newest titanium frames remain more cyborg accouterment than stylish accessory. Chic eyewear companies like Luxottica and Gucci have signed on to make Glass less aggressive and more conventional-looking. But its ugliness may be its biggest fashion bonafide — you can’t mistake Glass for another face computer the same way that even the most premium iPhone at a glance can resemble the least expensive Android handset. Lots of high fashion pieces are clunky and garish, meant to be noticed instead of appreciated. In fact, I personally find the Supreme Nike Foamposites mentioned at the beginning of the story to be hideous, and certainly not worth $1000, as some resellers are asking on Ebay. But like Glass, it’s hard to miss them when someone on the street has them on.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Why design is key for future hardware innovationGigaom Research predictions for 2014The future of mobile: a segment analysis by GigaOM Pro

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In a bit of an about-face, Microsoft added a little support to Google’s Chrome strategy by announcing Office Online apps in the Chrome Web Store on Monday. “Apps” is a bit of a misnomer: These are shortcuts for Chrome’s app launcher to the already available web versions of Word, Excel and Power Point. The timing of the gesture is interesting as well: It corresponds with the ZDNet’s reported end of Microsoft’s Scroogled ad campaign today, a series of spots that focused on Chrome OS deficiencies including the fact that they don’t run Microsoft Office.

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At any moment, dozens of experiments are underway on the International Space Station, from testing how ants problem-solve in microgravity to developing robots that can assist astronauts. All of those experiments, on top of the space station crew’s daily communications with Earth, add up to a lot of data. The ISS’s current reliance on radio communication means that its crew has to pick what data is worth sending back to Earth. But NASA’s Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science team wants to make it possible to send 10 to 100 times more information at a time by converting data into a laser beam that will travel from the ISS to Earth. If the team is successful, their work could open up the possibility of more data-intensive experiments and even streaming video from distant locations like Mars. OPALS’ 600 pound instrument was scheduled to take off on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket today, but the launch has been delayed until at least April 18. Once OPALS arrives at the ISS, it will be affixed to the outside of the space station on a 4 x 4.5 foot plate. The OPALS experiment hardware. Photo courtesy of NASA/Jim Grossmann. “We–JPL, NASA, humans–are making science instruments that gather just an awfully large amount of data. Just a huge amount. And we can’t possibly get it all back with radio communications right now,” OPALS project manager Michael Kokorowski said in an interview at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. “Really, what optical communication will do is make that pipe larger. It has the potential to make every mission just that much more useful because of the return.” Sending data in the form of lasers is not new. The internet is supported in part by fiber optic cables that transfer information as pulses of light. And NASA has recently experimented with laser communication from as far away as the moon on its LADEE spacecraft. What OPALS adds to the equation is accurately beaming the laser from a moving vehicle. OPALS will spend 2 minutes during each 92-minute-long orbit around the Earth directing a laser at a target that measures just three feet across. Considering that the ISS moves 17,500 miles per hour relative to the ground and is more than 200 miles above the Earth’s surface, achieving that level of precision is no easy task. “It’s like taking a laser pointer and holding it on the size of a human hair from about 20 feet away while you’re walking along,” Kokorowski said, attributing the analogy to another OPALS team member. “That’s the kind of pointing that we need for this to work.” OPALS project manager Michael Kokorowski. Photo by Signe Brewster. OPALS will direct the laser by spotting a beacon signal that will emanate from the target on Earth. It will need to constantly readjust the direction of the laser, as the ISS moves 5 miles a second. OPALS would eventually like to test sending a laser from Earth to the ISS, but at this time there is no receiver on the space station. The project is still an experiment. Kokorowski said that OPALS has tested sending the laser across a room, but can’t know for sure what to expect on the ISS. There will be the difficult job of directing the beam, but OPALS will also face other obstacles like vibration and noise from the ISS and its affiliated experiments. The project could be of interest to commercial entities like Google and Facebook, which are working on transmitting data from satellites and high-altitude drones. Kokorowski said OPALS has received some commercial interest, but would not say anything further. “We are not the only ones thinking about it,” Kokorowski said. “But we are certainly the ones thinking about it for science and for space, and for Mars and outer planets.”Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Is the 3D printing market a hype, a hope, or a threat?What defines the key players of the IaaS industryA look back at this year’s CES and what it means for tech in 2014

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SpaceX’s CRS-3 mission, which has already been delayed for months, was pushed back again today after the Falcon 9 rocket experienced a helium leak. SpaceX said it will fix the leak before the next launch opportunity Friday, though the weather is expected to be poor. The CRS-3 mission will deliver supplies and equipment for experiments to the International Space Station. SpaceX will also deliver a gasket needed to fix a broken backup computer on the ISS.

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Although I covered many of the newest features of Windows Phone 8.1 in my review earlier today, I apparently missed one. In my defense, Microsoft hasn’t announced it. It’s only because of The Verge’s Tom Warren that we know about Windows Phone 8.1 working with Apple’s Passbook files. Warren tweeted out the following on Monday morning, showing that he has a boarding pass in his phone’s Microsoft Wallet app. Windows Phone 8.1 supports Apple's Passbook natively. I've been using it for flights. Works perfectly http://t.co/MFScqvEVU7— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) April 14, 2014 iMore’s Rene Ritchie expanded on the topic, suggesting that Microsoft is using Apple’s Passbook file format to create the files in Windows Phone 8.1. That’s likely true because it’s pretty easy to find the Passbook data file structure: A quick web search turned up all of the information, including a detailed PDF file, needed to build a specific Passbook file for a boarding pass, coupon, or loyalty code. Ritchie said that Apple code-signs the files, so it’s not clear how Microsoft is dealing with this aspect, possibly just accepting any files in Wallet whether they’re signed or not. Regardless of whether Microsoft’s implementation is simply a test or not — Windows Phone 8.1 is in developer preview — there have already been Android apps that do the same. Passbook for Android reads .pkpass files, which are zipped Passbook data bits, to do exactly the same thing. And it’s not the only one available for Android. I’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment to see if using Apple’s Passbook file structure is a long-term strategy for Windows Phone or if this is just a one-off test in the developer preview, and will update this post accordingly with any response.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What the global tablet market will look like by 2017How the app economy could reboot the EU economyHow mobile will disrupt the living room in 2014

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It’s not unheard of for a laptop review to ding the product for a surprising reason: A bulky power adapter. What’s the point of carrying a light slim laptop if you also have to tote a near-brick sized power adapter for it? A new Kickstarter project aims to rid laptops of their bulky bricks: Enter the Dart, touted as the world’s smallest laptop power adapter. Dart is shockingly small but provides 65 watts of power to a connected laptop. That’s plenty of juice for most notebook computers although you’ll have to pay more for Dart if you use an Apple laptop because of the magnetic power connectors on newer MacBooks. How small and light is the Dart? When I first saw a picture of it, I thought it was meant for charging phones or tablets. Here’s a video showing a closer look at the Dart: The obvious question is how can something so small convert enough power for a laptop? According to the project team, the secret sauce is the Dart’s very high frequency (VHF) power conversion. “It is well known in power electronics that increasing switching frequency is key to reducing size, weight, and cost. However, it is critical (and very hard) to switch faster while maintaining high efficiency. This is because modern power converters repeatedly deliver small packets of energy to the electronic device in cycles called switching cycles. Switching isn’t a perfect process and during every cycle some energy is wasted in the form of heat. At FINsix, our technology allows us to waste far less energy with each cycle. Thus, we can cycle up to 1000x faster without wasting any more energy than a conventional power converter. Cycling faster means we can transfer a smaller packet of energy to each cycle – and make the power converter a lot smaller.” Aside from powering most laptops with such a small converter, the Dart can also pull double duty and charge mobile devices as well. Dart includes a 2.1 Amp / 10.5 Watt in-line USB port that can be used even while the laptop battery is charging. That added functionality, along with the Dart’s small size is certainly appealing: The Kickstarter project is already nearing its $200,000 funding goal on the very first day. Early backers can get a Dart in their choice of five colors for $89 as the first round of $79 backers is already gone. The Dart team expects to deliver the first batch of products in November; at that time, expect to pay the full retail price of $119. And if you plan to use Dart with a Mac full retail will be $199 although there are currently early bird deals costing $148.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.GigaOM Research highs and lows from CES 2013CES 2013: disruptions and disappointments from consumer tech’s biggest showHow operators can manage the signaling storm in 2013

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The peering deal between Netflix and Comcast seems to be paying off for consumers: The average speed of Netflix streams consumed by Comcast subscribers has increased by 65 percent over the last two months, according to Netflix’s most recent ISP Speed Index. In January, Comcast customers accessed Netflix with an average bit rate of 1.15 Mbps. By March, that rate was up to 2.5 Mbps. The average performance of Netflix streams consumed by Comcast subscribers. Data: Netflix. This increase led to Comcast climbing the charts in Netflix’s monthly speed index, where the company is now fifth among the country’s big ISPs. Comcast still comes in behind Charter, Suddenlink, Cablevision and Cox, but is faster than Time Warner Cable, Verizon or AT&T. Netflix entered a paid peering agreement with Comcast in February after previously resisting demands by internet providers to pay for peering. The agreement guarantees Netflix enough peering capacity to prevent slow-downs when its traffic enters Comcast’s network, but it also sets a precedent for content providers paying ISPs for their traffic. Netflix subsequently called on the FCC to make peering a net neutrality issue and prevent ISPs from charging these kinds of peering fees, but the commission declined to take up the issue. Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.How consumer media consumption shifted in the second quarterHow mobile will disrupt the living room in 2014How the truly smart home could finally become a reality

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Google said today that it will purchase Titan Aerospace, a drone startup that could support the company’s efforts to provide drone-supported internet and electricity, according to a Wall Street Journal report. A price has not yet been disclosed. Titan builds large drones that rely on solar power to stay in flight for years. Depending on the model, they can carry hundreds of pounds of equipment to carry out applications like mapping, tracking and communication. The Wall Street Journal confirmed that Google will have Titan work closely with Project Loon, which uses high-altitude balloons to provide internet. The startup may also pair with Makani, which affixes wind turbines to tethered drones to generate power. An example of a drone built by Titan Aerospace. Photo courtesy of Titan Aerospace. Titan says that the drones can deliver internet at speed up to 1 gigabit a second. But their mapping and monitoring abilities could also be a useful addition to the company’s mapping initiatives like Google Earth, which provides an aerial map of the planet with images taken by satellites. The drones could make it cheaper and easier to generate images that are refreshed more frequently, opening up possibilities like tracking shipments and even forest fires. Titan will remain in New Mexico with its current CEO and team of roughly 20 people. It will begin commercial operations in 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal. Facebook was reportedly eyeing purchasing Titan earlier this year for $60 million. It later acquired Zephyr, which will support Facebook’s competing initiative to bring internet connectivity to remote areas of the world.  Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.How new devices, networks, and consumer habits will change the web experienceNewNet Q1: Content Farms and Niche Networks on the RiseFacebook Remained Social Media’s Chief in Q3

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What if you could pick up a printed newspaper, but instead of a handful of stories hand-picked by a secret cabal of senior editors in a dingy newsroom somewhere, it had pieces that were selected based on what was being shared — either by your social network or by users of Facebook, Twitter etc. as a whole? Would you read it? More importantly, would you pay for it? You can’t buy one of those yet, but The Guardian (see disclosure below) is bringing an experimental print version it has been working on to the United States for the first time: a printed paper that is generated entirely — or almost entirely — by algorithms based on social-sharing activity and other user behavior by the paper’s readers. Is this a glimpse into the future of newspapers? According to Digiday, the Guardian‘s offering — known as #Open001 — is being rolled out later this week. But you won’t be able to pick one up at the corner store: only 5,000 copies will be printed each month, and they are going to the offices of media and ad agencies. In other words, it’s as much a marketing effort at this point for the Guardian (which isn’t printed in the U.S.) as it is a publishing experiment. Robots write news — why not edit it as well? As tiny an experiment as it is, however, the Guardian project raises some interesting questions. A paper produced by robots (or at least algorithms) isn’t all that different from tools like Paper.li or even the “Most Shared” feature that many newspapers have now on their websites. Sharing-analytics company NewsWhip recently put together a look at what front pages might look like if they were based on what people actually shared. But is that what we want from a newspaper? The Guardian‘s latest project is based on a similar experiment it has been running for the past six months or so in Britain, one that generates a printed paper called “The Long Good Read,” made up of some of the best long-form content from the Guardian and its sister paper The Observer. It’s available for free once a week at the Guardian‘s public coffee shop in the London neighborhood of Shoreditch (a shop that is an interesting experiment in itself, as I’ve discussed before). The Long Good Read started as a joint venture with The Newspaper Club, a company that prints small-run custom newspapers, and was based on work done by former Guardian developer Dan Catt as a side project — a way of automatically collecting the best reads from the paper for later reading, as either an RSS feed or a sharing feature similar to Longreads. As the editor behind Long Good Reads explained in a blog post, the paper uses algorithms — including the Guardian‘s own in-house tool for tracking which stories are the most read and the most shared — and generates a list, which The Newspaper Club robot lays out in newspaper style. All the human editor does is check to see if any stories are out of date by the time it gets to the printing stage, and/or fiddle with the layout a bit. The whole process takes about an hour. “Sometimes what the Guardian decides to put on its front page or home page matches what the users are reading, other times everyone seems to be focusing on something else, with twitter, facebook and other sites acting as a back channel. Editors are our first filter, the readers are our second.” Will we miss the serendipity factor? Obviously, neither the Long Good Reads project nor #Open001 are going to replace The Guardian or any other printed newspaper any time soon. One is a monthly publication and the other is weekly, and they are aimed at what — for now, at least — are fairly niche markets. Nevertheless, we clearly have the ability to print newspapers tailored to our interests. But should we? The benefit of tools like Paper.li — which allows Twitter users to create a custom digital “newspaper” view of all the links that have been shared by people they follow — or even customized digital magazines like the ones Flipboard launched last year, or Facebook’s new Paper app, is that we can create a specialized news-feed that is targeted directly at our interests, via our social graph. One of the downsides of this approach, however, as explained by Filter Bubble author Eli Pariser (who is now, somewhat ironically, a co-founder of the viral-content engine Upworthy) is that we potentially become surrounded by things we already agree with, instead of being challenged or exposed to different ideas. This is why news-recommendation engines like Prismatic try to engineer what they call “serendipity” features, so that everything you see isn’t a homogeneous mass of things you have already expressed an interest in. Newspaper editors also (theoretically at least) choose to print stories that might not be sexy or interesting, but are important in some way. Can we teach robots how to do that too? Guardian News & Media is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom. Post and photo thumbnails courtesy of Thinkstock / Ociacia as well as NewsWhip and The Long Good ReadRelated research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Content Farms: The Players, The Benefits, The RisksNewNet Q1: Advertising, commerce and discovery dominateNewNet Q4: Platform mania and social commerce shakeout

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Starting in May T-Mobile plans to get rid of all overage charges on all of its customer bills, pushing a new marketing strategy that claims consumers should be charged only for the services they sign up for, not the extra minutes, texts or megabytes that accrue before the end of a billing cycle. The announcement is in part a publicity stunt, as T-Mobile already eliminated automatic overage fees more than a year ago when it launched its Simple Choice plans. Displaying his characteristic bombast, T-Mobile CEO John Legere today launched a Change.org petition calling for all U.S. carriers to end overages. But there definitely is substance to this new policy change if you’re an older customer who never signed up for a Simple Choice plan. T-Mobile CEO John Legere kicking off the iPhone and T-Mobile’s Un-carrier strategy last year T-Mobile is essentially turning all of its older grandfathered plans into Simple Choice plans. If you currently subscribe to a bucket of minutes or text messages, you’ll find your plan now offers unlimited voice and SMS. And if you’re still on one of T-Mobile’s old hard-capped data plans, your monthly data allotment will turn into a soft cap. That means instead of incurring data overage charges after you hit your cap, you’ll still be able to surf at no additional cost, just at throttled-back 2G speeds. Legere is railing against overage fees as the new face of carrier evil, but there are trade-offs if you embrace T-Mobile’s no-overage model. If your primary concern is having absolute control over your monthly bill, then T-Mobile’s plans make a lot of sense. You’ll never get an additional domestic data charge unless you specifically authorize T-Mobile to make it. But it also means that you could be stuck with pokey 2G data access for a week or more if you use up your cap mid-billing cycle (in the case of its new Simple Starter plan, you’d lose mobile internet connectivity completely). That said, Verizon and AT&T are still charging pretty punitive rates if you go over your cap, especially if you’re on a smaller data plan. For instance Verizon will charge you as much as $15 for an additional 200 MBs on its entry-level data plan, and AT&T will charge you $20 for an additional 300 MB of its baseline plan. It’s a lot cheaper to simply upgrade your plan if you’re regularly going over your cap, which is exactly what AT&T and Verizon are trying to get you to do with their overage policies. Overages aren’t inherently bad as Legere is claiming, but the way they’re structured today is hardly consumer friendly. What we need in the U.S. mobile industry is an overage pricing structure that gives consumers leeway to occasionally go over their cap or pay for data in metered fashion. Instead we have overage fees that hold many consumers’ feet to the fire every time they stream one too many videos.    Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The state of the converged-mobile-messaging marketWhat You Need to Know About the SoftBank-Sprint MergerWhat happened in mobile in the fourth-quarter 2013

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Folks hoping that Red Hat would give up the ghost and dump its own OpenShift Platform as a Service in favor of Pivotal-backed Cloud Foundry, are out of luck. The first official news out of this week’s Red Hat Summit is a new OpenShift online marketplace where enterprise customers can find OpenShift-related third-party applications. Red Hat said the market, which will include ClearDB, Iron.io, MongoLab, New Relic, Redis Labs, SendGrid, and Shippable products, will go live in a few weeks. In recent months, Controversy has swirled around the place of PaaS in general and OpenShift in particular. Some cloud pundits maintained that OpenStack, the open-source cloud infrastructure framewor, was  adding PaaS-like features that would negates the need for a PaaS. But then again, subsequent Cloud Foundry adoption by OpenStack-backer Rackspace, which had backed a PaaS-like subsystem for OpenStack, seemed to argue against that contention. Given this news, it looks like Red Hat is sticking to its own PaaS as opposed to embrading Cloud Foundry, as some felt it would. For a look at the new OpenShift market check out the video below. Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.What developers should know when choosing mobile backend as a serviceThe top 10 cloud trends for 2014What developers should know when choosing an MBaaS solution

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The Verge published an indepth expose on eccentric energy and computing entrepreneur Mike Cheiky and how he’s been able to convince Valley venture capitalists to invest in his companies, despite some early questionable scientific claims. Cool Planet announced last month that it raised another $100 million (from folks like Google Ventures, BP, UBS, Goldman Sachs and others), and to which my response on Twitter was “I thought this was an April Fools joke, but looks like not.” The companies that Cheiky has founded have distanced themselves from him, and some have changed directions and business models. But the energy industry is particularly susceptible to what I once called “snake oil energy salesmen and green bamboozlers.” Story posted at: theverge.com To leave a comment or share, visit: An expose on the founder of Cool Planet, Transonic & ZPower

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Nexus 5 handsets on Sprint’s network have a software update available. According to Sprint’s own support page for the phone, a new Android build dubbed KTU48F is coming to phones starting Monday. Android Central found the software information, noting that this is likely Android 4.4.3 and will be made available for Nexus phones on various carriers. Sprint’s Nexus 5 is a bit unique, however, due to the carrier’s Project Spark which dynamically chooses which LTE band to use for mobile broadband activities. Video downloads, for example, may be routed over a faster channel while basic email and other notifications are sent from a slower one; in this case, the user wouldn’t likely see a speed difference since so little data is actually being transmitted. Sprint says the new Android software will add support for Project Spark’s band 26 and band 41, along with miscellaneous Android updates. Android Police created a list of expected Android 4.4.3 tweaks at the end of March suggesting that the software will address small fixes for radio, data and camera focus issues. Bigger changes are likely coming at June’s Google I/O developer event although it’s possible Google repeats history from 2013. Last year Android was massively improved without a major Android release; instead, Google updated core common services and APIs to bring the big changes.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Takeaways from mobile’s second quarterIn Q3, the Tablet and 4G Were the Big StoriesIs Android broken and if so, will Google fix it?

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Google may soon give greater prominence in its search results to websites that use encryption, a move that would indirectly make it more difficult for hackers or governments to track what people do on the internet. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google executive Matt Cutts suggested at a recent conference that the search giant is considering an algorithmic boost for websites that encrypt data. Web developers consider Cutts’s public statements to be significant because they telegraph forthcoming changes to the all-important Google rankings, although the story also suggests that Google will not making any changes in favor of encryption anytime soon. Cutts’s proposal comes after  tech companies like Google and Yahoo have moved to encrypt more data in response to controversy over NSA spying revelations. Encryption means that it’s much harder for outside parties to “listen in” as data travels between company website and user computers, but — as the ongoing scare over the Heartbleed bug shows — it’s not perfect. Any Google decision to emphasize encryption in search results would ripple widely because so many developers design websites in accordance with Google’s best practices.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.The rise of M2M security challengesHow to utilize cloud computing, big data, and crowdsourcing for an agile enterpriseBitcoin: why digital currency is the future financial system

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As I watched Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore use Windows Phone 8.1 on stage earlier this month, I kept thinking that in many ways, Microsoft has finally caught up to its competitors in the smartphone software business. After using Windows Phone 8.1 for the past week, the possibility that Belfiore showed off has become reality: Windows Phone 8.1 is a superb update to Microsoft’s smartphone operating system. Cortana is my new best friend Arguably the biggest new feature is Cortana, a personal digital assistant of sorts. I’m a heavy user of the similar Google Now feature on Android phones, and I’ve been relying on Cortana to provide me with information just as often as I do with Google Now. The good news is that in some ways, Cortana is even better. The so-so news is that sometimes, her performance is just that: so-so. Cortana is still a beta service, however, and I’ve given Google a pass before on beta services; it’s only fair to give Microsoft one too. In general, Cortana works as advertised. Simply tap a button and ask a question or state a command out loud. Cortana’s voice recognition worked quite well in my testing, only garbling a word or two here occasionally. She uses Bing for searches and when she can, Cortana will speak back answers to your question. When she can’t, expect Bing results on screen. What I like here is how Microsoft has blended the best of Google Now and Apple’s Siri software. Google Now surfaces contextual information, but has no personality. Siri has plenty of personality but is feature-limited and not really open to a wide range of third-party apps or services. Cortana acts as a contextually aware assistant that does have some personality — a mix that is what you’d expect from a modern digital assistant these days. I also appreciate the approach Microsoft has taken with personal data. Cortana keeps a notebook of your interests and data so you know what the software is considering when answering your queries and commands. You can personalize that notebook by adding or removing information. And it’s up to you if you want Cortana to scan your email to add more information to your local notebook. You manage your own information instead of giving carte blanche to scour emails at the server level, which is Google’s approach. I think many consumers and enterprises will appreciate this and give Cortana a try because of it. One thing I don’t like is how many button presses it can take to get Cortana to work. Admittedly, I’m spoiled by the always listening functions found in certain Android phones: I can simply say “OK Google Now,” for example, and get information without even touching the phone. Cortana is an app — one that I placed on my Start screen at first — so with that setup I have to tap the app and then tap the microphone button before speaking. There’s a simpler way to wake and use Cortana though: tap and hold the dedicated Search button to “wake” her and immediately speak your command. Visual updates and an easier way to get around Microsoft has long said that Windows Phone is the most personal handset software and that theme continues with version 8.1. Although I never minded the basic home or Start screen colors, you can now personalize them with your own photos. Yes, it’s one of those little things that competing phones have long been able to do, but many people will appreciate it. The new Action Center is a simple way to view or change important phone settings. This is just like Android’s notification shade and Command Center in iOS, which followed. It doesn’t really matter which company had the idea first, though: It’s super helpful. Just swipe down from the top of the display on any screen and you’ll have one-touch access to Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and screen rotation lock by default; you can pick which quick actions appear. If you want to see all of your phone’s settings, there’s an button option for that as well in the Action Center. This is also where your notifications reside — a welcome improvement, though it’s still a little lacking. You can interact with notifications on other platforms. In Windows Phone 8.1, you can only tap them to open the corresponding app, which is still an extra step. After using the Action Center — and Cortana, for that matter — I’ve found that these functions help offset some the challenges of Windows Phone app navigation. It’s faster to search, set a reminder or check local weather with Cortana. It’s quicker to use the Action Center than to find the Settings tile on your phone or hold the Back key down to see open apps and find Settings. Microsoft is bringing more efficiency to navigating Windows Phone without modifying the multitasking approach it already had in place. Odds and ends and the big app question While this is a “point” update, meaning Windows Phone 8.1 should only incrementally improve upon Windows Phone 8.0, there are tons of small goodies in here. The new Word Flow keyboard lets you quickly swipe through letters to type words. I was already enamored of the stock keyboard — I find it’s among the best available — but Word Flow makes it even better. WiFi Sense can log you in to public hotspots with ease or be used with private networks to share Wi-Fi with friends in a controlled manner. Battery Sense shows which apps are slurping power. VPN support has been added, although I didn’t test that particular function. Traditional voice calls can be turned into Skype video calls with a button press. Internet Explorer 11 has a great new Reading Mode to show pure content. And the list goes on. Make no mistake: All of these are welcome features. And in many ways Microsoft has brought Windows Phone 8.1 on par with competing mobile platforms. In some very specific ways, it may even exceed them. So Windows Phone 8.1 will bring worldwide domination for Microsoft in the smartphone market, right? Not so fast. For all of the super new and feature-rich improvements found here, there’s still the question of developer support and third-party applications. Let’s face it: The basic features of a phone are “table stakes” in this game and beyond that are the apps that people want to use. I think the future here is a bit brighter than it was, mainly because of Microsoft’s Universal Windows Apps strategy that Windows Phone 8.1 supports. Essentially, Microsoft has made it easier for programmers to make an app that works on phones, tablets and computers powered by Windows. That brings huge potential for more great apps on Windows Phone devices but for now, it’s simply that: potential. Photo by Kevin Tofel/Gigaom It’s going to take time for developers to take advantage of the new universal app approach. Until then, I think people will be very impressed by what Microsoft has brought to the table with Windows Phone 8.1. There’s much to like here and after a few years of trying to close the gap with its competitors, Microsoft has done just that in a considerable way with the new software.Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Forecast: electric vehicle technology markets, 2012 -20177 things you should know about devopsIs Android broken and if so, will Google fix it?

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Seeing Beyond Technology: Advanced Management Program for Digital Leaders A Continuing Education Course at the University of Southern California Spring Session: May 5-9, USC Campus, Los Angeles Register here DISRUPTION. INNOVATION. CONVERGENCE. Technology is evolving at an unprecedented rate, transforming business models and the user experience. Hosted by USC’s Institute for Communication Technology Management (CTM), the Advanced Management Program (AMP) is focused on managing and leading in the age of mobile, digital, social, big data and the cloud. Participants typically represent the communications, technology and entertainment sectors.  Course topics include: The connected, digital consumer and the emerging competitive landscape Business strategy and innovation Millennials as customers and employees Driving positive change through executive storytelling (for the course brochure, see: http://classic.marshall.usc.edu/assets/162/26169.pdf) REGISTER NOW Enrollment in the Advanced Management Program is limited in order to provide maximum opportunity for interaction and teamwork. To register for the course now, go here. DISCOUNTED ADMISSION FOR GIGAOM SUBSCRIBERS Gigaom subscribers can receive a discount when they pay for the course. Simply enter the code GIGAOM when you register. Your fee will be reduced from $8,400 to $6,000. About us Founded in 1985 at the University of Southern California, CTM is the world‘s foremost institute at the intersection of technology and content. It unites a powerful network of industry leaders involved in every facet of the digital media value chain. For more on CTM, go to www.marshall.usc.edu/ctm.

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Looks like bug trackers may be the next price war battle field. Axosoft just cut the price of its bug tracking software, which had listed for $70 per year,  to $1 per year for the entire organization. Not a ton of margin there, but it’s an eyebrow-raising ploy for the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company. Axosoft’s bug tracker competes with Atlassian’s Jira, which starts at $10 for 10 users per month but other contenders include Fog Creek Software’s  FogBugz  ($25 per user per month); JetBrains’ YouTrack ($1,500 per year for a 50-person team); Pivotal Tracker ($2,000 per year for 50-person team); and BugHerd (about $2100 per year for a team of 50.) If you do the math, the latter three products are pretty darned inexpensive per user but still require a relatively big outlay for the whole team. One Jira user was intrigued but not sold.  “I’m not sure the world needs another ticketing system,” said Michael Cizmar, president of MC+A, a Chicago-based development shop specializing in portals and search. “Jira [cost] does start to ramp up after 10 people but do costs matter that much? Sounds like this product would compete more against open-source than Jira. If it’s got feature parity you might consider it, but then again, you want the vendor to make some money so it can support the product,” he said. Axosoft does offer other products for scrum developers. (Scrum is an agile software development methodology that enables developers to quickly prioritize,  incorporate and test new features in a product.) Of course, offering one key tool (say a bug tracker) for rock-bottom price is a way to get developers to look at the entire portfolio which includes OnTime management software for scrum teams in both on-premises and hosted versions. with the latter starting at $25 per user per month. Oh and if you’re not clear on scrum development, the company also launched ScrumHub.com, an educational site about the technique.     Feature photo courtesy of  Flickr user PundaGRelated research and analysis from Gigaom Research:Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.Understanding project management in the new era of work

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After seeing Windows Phone 8.1 shown off earlier this month, developers can now get their hands on the software. Engadget saw that Microsoft released the update on Monday for any Windows Phone 8 device. While the software is meant for those who make Windows Phone applications, anyone can technically download and install it either by registering as developer for $19, register for free using Microsoft’s App Studio software or follow a process to developer unlock their handset.  The new software includes Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-centric assistant, personalization tools and support for Universal Windows Apps to name a few functions.

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