Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Boot up: Microsoft wearable?, Android L permissions, Tinder's firing

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off the app grid on the new Amazon Fire phone at a launch event in Seattle. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off the app grid on the new Amazon Fire phone at a launch event in Seattle. What if in-app purchases aren’t sorted? Photograph: Ted S Warren/AP

A burst of 9 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Paul Thurrott:

You may have heard that a Microsoft smart watch is coming, and that Microsoft will be rejuvenating its decade-old SPOT watch platform, at least spiritually.

Not exactly.

My sources tell me instead that Microsoft will this fall release a Samsung Gear Fit-like fitness band that will display smart phone-based notifications, just like the current and rumored watches and other wearables. So that's the first bit of rumor busting: It's a wristband, not a watch. (Yes, I'm sure you'll be able to see the time on its screen. But the form factor is a wristband.)

From a differentiation standpoint, Microsoft's wearable will do something that no other wearable platform does. It will work with everything and not just the device maker's smart phone platform.

(Thanks @GambaKufu for the link.)

[Here's] a screenshot, which appears to suggest that the Android permissions system will be introducing some "at-time-of-use" prompts, somewhat like iOS.

As shown in the image above, it appears that the Permissions UI is extending to cover a prompt issued at time of use, allowing the user to allow or deny the location information. While these don't, at a glance, appear hugely different to the existing prompts to enable Location Services, we suspect these are different and tie into the new Unified Data Controls discussed in the keynote.

Would be good if this were indeed implemented. (Thanks @GambaKufu @LazioLazio for the link.)

Nick Summers spent time talking to Tinder for an article in summer 2013, and saw it from the inside:

Getting an app to critical mass is not simple or easy. In 2012, when Tinder was still an unknown app, Wolfe thought up and executed a plan to promote the service at a half-dozen key sororities. "We sent her all over the country," Munoz told me this week. "Her pitch was pretty genius. She would go to chapters of her sorority, do her presentation, and have all the girls at the meetings install the app. Then she'd go to the corresponding brother fraternity—they'd open the app and see all these cute girls they knew." Tinder had fewer than 5,000 users before Wolfe made her trip, Munoz says; when she returned, there were some 15,000. "At that point, I thought the avalanche had started," Munoz says.

Mateen was only then hired by his longtime friend Rad, as chief marketing officer—Wolfe's superior. Wolfe had been at the IAC incubator, Hatch Labs, since May 2012, working on projects that were shelved when the team sensed Tinder was its best shot at a breakthrough success. In her lawsuit, Wolfe says she was the one who suggested the name "Tinder" to Rad.

"She never got credit for [her contributions]," Munoz told me. "She never got credit for it. It got taken away, and marginalized in favor of the friend."

If you aren't incredulous and outraged by the end of this article...

Amazon.com is bucking a request from the Federal Trade Commission that it tighten its policies for purchases made by children while using mobile applications.

In a letter to the FTC Tuesday, Amazon said it was prepared to "defend our approach in court," rather than agree to fines and additional record-keeping and disclosure requirements over the next 20 years, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

…In a proposed complaint, the FTC said Amazon "often has failed to obtain parents' or other account holders' informed consent to in-app charges incurred by children" since it began allowing in-app purchases in late 2011. Many of the purchases have been made using Amazon's Fire tablet computers.

An FTC lawsuit beckons.

Jason Kottke:

I tweeted about this but wanted to document it here for posterity. The Attorney General of Texas Child Support website has the worst set of password requirements I've ever seen.

They truly are.. wait, that has too many t's.

Jan Dawson:

I've always found it fascinating the two dominant companies in the smartphone market – Samsung and Apple – have such different business models. On the one hand, you have a company that approaches the market in a tightly integrated fashion, combining hardware, software and services in a proprietary way, encapsulating them in a very small number of high end devices sold at premium prices. On the other hand, you have a company which appears willing to try anything and to fill every possible niche in the market, from budget to high end, with its own hardware running third party software and services. The commentariat has always speculated about how sustainable Apple's business model is, but I've always wondered the opposite: how sustainable is Samsung's business model?

The model he uses to analyse businesses is intriguing.

Self-driving cars can free people to do more of the things that earn Google money, such as Web search. But [Chris] Urmson [director of Google's self-driving cars group] said Google is still figuring out how to make a profit from the technology.

"I would imagine that this is probably different than just making more time for people to click on web sites," he said.

Car makers such as GM, Mercedes and Volvo have been developing their own autonomous vehicle technology for years.

But most favour an incremental approach to self-driving cars, in which features such as lane centering and parking assistance are gradually integrated into vehicles. Car makers are also hesitant to invest in new features until they are certain there is enough demand to pay for them.

Danny Sullivan:

It's very important to understand that the EU's action is not causing content to be removed from publishers themselves, which would no doubt have raised a huge outcry among major news outlets. They usually don't remove content they've published without an exceptionally good reason or a court order.

Rather, the articles are being removed from Google, for certain searches. The court went this route understanding that if you pull something out of Google (and search engines generally), that can effectively cause the material to be hidden more easily than someone trying to track down many different publishers that might carry the same thing.

That's especially an issue when it comes to "scraper" sites, where someone might simply copy the content off another site without permission and republish it. Copyright owners know what a "whack-a-mole" situation this is, where getting one removed only makes room for another to spring up.

But the EU action is arguably a de facto censorship of the press. News stories are being made to disappear without any court review. Instead, Google seems to be following the letter of the new EU mandate and rubber-stamping any reasonable request that comes along.

The first three paragraphs are correct; the start of the fourth is wrong. The press is not being censored - that is, nothing is being removed from news sites, and they aren't being told what or what not to write. However, if you do a search on a particular name, some pages won't show up in the results. But all other searches that would previously lead to that page will still lead to it.

Sullivan is correct, though, that Google seems to be rubber-stamping any request, without regard to whether it passes the ECJ tests of "outdated, inaccurate, invasion of privacy, irrelevant" with the balancing test of "public figure".

One other thing: it's not a "right to be forgotten". It's the Data Processing directive.

CCS Insight's latest forecast signals demand for smartphones and tablets in the UK has slowed dramatically. The research company estimates 27m phones and 12m tablets will be sold in the UK this year — five million devices fewer than in 2013.

The forecast showed sales of mobile phones dropped 20% in the first months of 2014 compared with the same period in 2013. Meanwhile tablet sales, which broke all records in previous quarters, slumped 17%. This is the first time such a sharp decline has been recorded in the vibrant UK market outside a recession.

However it's not all doom and gloom for the UK tablet market. With over 25m tablets already in use in the UK — many of them being used by more than one person in a household — CCS Insight expects the number of tablets in use to double by 2017 as more people and businesses buy the devices.

Marina Koytcheva, director of forecasting at CCS Insight, said, "The slowdown in tablet sales should come as no surprise to the industry. We warned back in December that the spectacular tablet growth we've been seeing in the last two years was unsustainable. With replacement rates for tablets slower than those of smartphones, a temporary lull was inevitable."

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