Saturday, November 15, 2014

Boot up: Magazine app closing, iOS translation, nuclear football!

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

When The Magazine ceases publication this December, owner Glenn Fleishman will be closing shop on an ambitious two-year experiment in digital publishing.

It's not a total surprise — subscriptions were already on a downward trend when Fleishman transitioned from editor to owner of The Magazine after purchasing the publication from Marco Arment last year — and it's not a total bummer, either.

In fact, Fleishman says he's feeling pretty good about stopping here: he's met his obligation to provide Kickstarter backers with their one-year subscriptions, and he's ending this fascinating experiment while it's still profitable.

"I'm even able to pay myself an ever-declining hourly rate for my time," said Fleishman, who spoke with Cult of Mac about what went right, what went wrong, and his feelings about pulling the plug on a project that was his full-time job for the last year and a half.

The app was profitable from start to finish, and paid writers well, but subscriptions fell from 35,000 to below 10,000. An object lesson in the problems everyone has with the explosion in content: how do you keep making money, and a living, from it?

The Translator Keyboard for iOS 8 can translate what you've typed into one of 44 other languages — including French, Spanish and even Welsh. Beth annisgwyl!

The app, which is the work of UK developer Steven Barnegren, is using the Microsoft Translate API to do the grunt work of turning whatever you've typed into fair foreign phrasing.

So how does it work? Swiping left along the top of the keyboard brings in the language selection interface where you can specify your current language and the one you want to translate your words into.

C'est magnifique!

According to former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, the Football acquired its name from an early nuclear war plan code-named "Dropkick." ("Dropkick" needed a "football" in order to be put into effect.) The earliest known photograph of a military aide trailing the president with the telltale black briefcase (a modified version of a standard Zero-Halliburton model) was taken on May 10, 1963, at the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Since 1963, the Football has become a staple of presidential trips, and was even photographed in Red Square in May 1988, accompanying President Ronald Reagan on a state visit to the Soviet Union. (Reagan's Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, was accompanied by a military aide who was clutching a very similar device, known in Russian as the chemodanchik, or "little briefcase.")

The 'selfie' has been a huge consumer fad in the past 12 months or so. According to Google, Android users capture and share almost 93m selfies everyday which equates to roughly 200 terabytes of images captured and shared daily and that too just in the Android ecosystem.

When you add iPhones and other devices, the number is going to be staggering. Globally we could end up with 150 petabytes worth selfies or 50bn selfies being captured and shared for the full year 2014. This is huge trend in the mobile industry and tje average camera megapixel resolution of the front-camera is increasing with every model refresh,

Increasingly, those front cameras also have a wide-angle capability to pull in more of the scene around you. We'll know it's peaked when there's a phone with a built-in selfie stick, surely?

Peter Bright:

The company is hoping to reassure potential buyers that it's serious about hardware and that Surface Pro will offer the kind of long-term support that corporate customers want. To that end, it's making some promises and offering some new pricing options that it thinks will appeal to corporate buyers.

Keen to position the Surface Pro 3 as a laptop alternative, the company has put together a new package that bundles the Surface Pro 3 with a Type Cover keyboard and the Docking Station, with savings of up to $150 compared to buying them separately. There's also a new three-year warranty option with accidental damage protection and faster exchanges of damaged units.

Microsoft also promises that these devices are forward-looking, with Type Covers, the Docking Station, and the Surface Ethernet adaptor all compatible with the next generation Surface Pro, whenever that may happen to be released.

In the great Indian ecommerce race, the real winner is a company which isn't even on the race track — Google, the US-based search giant. The California-based company, sources said, is on its way to clocking over $1 billion (Rs 6,000 crore) in revenue from India in the year to March 2015, helped along by heavy spending by ecommerce firms.

According to company filings, Google crossed Rs 3,000 crore in revenue for the year ending March 2014, up 47% from the year before. Globally, Google's revenue in 2013 was $58 billion.

"Marketing budgets have gone through the roof. It's highly competitive these days and whoever pays the most for a keyword wins the race," said Vasudevan T, a former head of digital marketing at Myntra who is now the CEO of online coaching company Coatom.

Android One looks like a smarter and smarter move.

Our vision for Quip is to reimagine the productivity suite around communication. Our products are not just for creation, but for collaboration, enabling you to interact with your team whether you're at your desk or on your phone at the airport. With Quip, you work with people, not files.

We've been working on Quip Spreadsheets for a long time, iterating with a handful of our customers to design a product that captures these unique values. In the process, we came up with a completely different approach than legacy productivity suites.

Quip is a document app designed specifically for spreadsheet use - rather as Google Docs (formerly Writely before it was acquired) were designed for cloud-based use.

Andrew Orlowski:

how fair is it to blame Elop for years Nokia's years of neglect? Elop inherited a dysfunctional bureaucracy, warring factions, and a product team that took 18 months to develop a mediocre device. Nokia executives tended to overestimate its formidable brand and distribution power. And its own technological advantages in battery power and call quality were about to become much less important in the new era. Whoever took the CEO's seat in September 2010 needed to address these challenges – whatever decisions he or she would take.

Nokia employed over 16,000 people in phone R&D when Elop took the helm. One in three dollars spent in global phone R&D was being spent by Nokia, which devoted more resources to it than Apple devoted to all its products. Yet the Finnish firm still couldn't produce a competitive device.

Elop concluded Nokia's own software factory was beyond repair, and by choosing Window Phone, effectively outsourced the lot to Microsoft. (He maintained some platform development in-house: the low-cost Series 40 featurephone platform, and for a while, a Unix for midrange phones, until this too was eventually scrapped).

"Plan B is to make sure Plan A is very successful," Elop told reporters in June 2011.

Orlowski knows where a lot of the Symbian bodies are buried. It looks as though Nokia was unsalvageable - but Windows Phone didn't help.

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