Friday, April 25, 2014

Boot up: privacy measured, Beats tunes in, Yahoo as Detroit, and more

A vacant derelict property sits alone in an east side neighborhood once full of homes in Detroit, Michigan. The story of the decline of Detroit has become a symbol of the US economic situation. A vacant derelict property sits alone in an east side neighborhood once full of homes in Detroit, Michigan. Is Yahoo headed the same way? Photograph: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

A burst of 8 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Asked which companies are the greatest threat to the future of privacy, 59% of 1,100 respondents cited Facebook and 40% said Twitter, according to a survey conducted by McCann; 32% pointed to Google, almost doubling from the 18% who said as much when McCann conducted the same survey in 2011.

"It's not necessary that people feel Google or Facebook has done anything bad with data to date. It's what might happen in the future. It's a nebulous fear," said Laura Simpson, global director of McCann Truth Central, during a session on privacy held by Ad Age and IPG at CES in Las Vegas.

By comparison, Amazon topped the list of companies consumers trust with their data, with 73% of respondents citing the e-commerce giant. It's worth noting that a majority of respondents also named Google to this category, but that number fell from 63% in 2011 to 53% in 2013.

Twitter is seen as a threat to privacy?

Music streaming services in the US have struggled to find a workable business model. Beats is marketing itself as a tastemaker, but its success may ride on a partnership with the squarest of companies: AT&T, the country's second-largest wireless provider. Starting 21 January, Beats customers can pay $10 a month for the service either directly or via their monthly smartphone bill from AT&T.

For AT&T customers with a family plan, the carrier will subsidize subscriptions significantly: As many as five customers can access Beats for $15 per month, total, compared with the combined $50 they'd pay individually. AT&T customers will also get free trials of the service for 30 to 90 days, depending on their plans.

Clever way to get access to a lot of users. But you can bet AT&T is keeping a lot of that money.

Brian Hall:

Yahoo is the Detroit of web properties. Once big, once thriving, it helped create a future it can never be part of. It's only hope, in my view, is to whither away, quickly, so maybe a few worthy pieces can find life in the wild.

While the tech blogosphere was in a tizzy last week, some outraged, most envious over the firing and massive golden parachute that Yahoo's Henrique de Castro received, they missed the larger story: de Castro was not the "dead man walking."  Yahoo is the dead man walking. Gleeful rubbernecking by industry watchers won't change the company's fortunes.

Outraged that Yahoo dropped so much on an executive who failed at his job? Surprised that Yahoo paid so much for Tumblr? The desperate always pay too much. de Castro and Tumblr's David Karp are, I suspect, only the first of many scavengers who will feast on Yahoo's bones.

"Yahoo is the Detroit of web properties." Ouch. But so apt.

David Pierce:

Getting the Typo set up and connected is impossibly easy. The two halves of the thin, matte black plastic case slide easily onto your iPhone 5 or 5S and connect firmly and simply in the middle. Press and hold the Bluetooth button until a blinking blue light appears, then open Bluetooth settings on your phone and select Typo Keyboard. It pairs almost instantly — I was ready to go in six seconds.

That's where the list of good things about the Typo ends. The rest of my experience has been a poisonous mix of mistakes and missed opportunities, leaving me waiting with bated breath for the moment I could tear the case off my iPhone and go back to the way things should be.

If only the iPhone had voice dictation. Oh, hang on.

BlackBerry has suggested that there are still no plans to launch a BBM Windows Phone app despite having brought the messaging service to iOS and Android.

Despite the iOS and Android iterations of the free-to-use BBM messaging app secure a staggering 10 million Day One downloads late last year, the Canadian manufacturer as claimed that there is still not enough consumer demand to warrant a BBM Windows Phone app.

"It [the continuing lack of a BBM Windows Phone app] is entirely market driven," David Proulx, BlackBerry's Senior Director of BBM Business Development said while speaking with TrustedReviews. "Our initial launch on iOS and Android was a function of the prevalence of those platforms."

BBM remains a zero-million-dollar business for BlackBerry. Downloads aren't use - and use isn't high, according to all the independently gathered data.

Meizu Russia have posted details that Meizu engineers are in fact working on an Ubuntu version of the Meizu MX3 and that work is still currently underway to make things stable. They also go on to say that currently the Meizu team are mainly focussing on working on a new version of Flyme ROM (based on Android) for both the Meizu MX2 and MX3 and Ubuntu won't be released until the Flyme ROM is launched.

It is believed that Meizu will first offer the Ubuntu phone in the US later this year along with a 4G LTE version of the MX3.

Are they offering Ubuntu in the US because they think it's the best possible for the market segment they're aiming at, or to avoid patent suits over Android from Microsoft? (Meizu is a Chinese handset maker.)

"We are in the Apple IIe days of mobile," Moss told Re/code. "It's just starting."

The 14-person San Francisco-based company has been working at whatever it is doing for about a year now.

There are some hints in Moss' background and in the other people that are part of the team–a group that includes workers with experience in iOS and Android as well as recruits from Amazon and Dropbox.

"We love to solve crazy complex problems by architecting elegant solutions," Nextbit says on its barebones Web site.

Joining Nextbit's board is Google Ventures partner Rich Miner, who is also a co-founder of Android and worked with Moss on Google's mobile operating system.

"Tom had an uncanny ability to address and understand their pain points," Miner said in an e-mail. "He's always one step ahead, and is better equipped than anyone I know to build a platform and products that address this space and bring a next-generation vision to market."

Certainly up to speed on the buzzword bingo.

Om Malik has diabetes, and points out that contact lenses are discouraged if you suffer from it. So why do this?

I emailed Google's press relations department — about 12 hours ago — asking them to elaborate on why the researchers took this specific approach. Yes, as a diabetic, I appreciate the efforts of Google in general and specifically Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, the project smart contact lens co-founders, just as I appreciate every effort made by every scientist and doctor around the world trying to tackle one of the worst diseases to afflict the post-industrial society.

And yet, I cannot get over what seems to me a tone-deaf approach by Google's scientists. It also highlights Google's fundamental challenge: it fails to think about people as people, instead it treats them as an academic or an engineering problem. Instead of trying to understand the needs of actual people, they emerge with an elegant technological solution.

Which gazillionaire has had the biggest effect on human health? Bill Gates. How? Buying $10bn of vaccines and getting them administered. Sometimes simple solutions work best.

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