Google Is Buying Connected Device Company Nest For $3.2B In Cash


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Google is acquiring connected device company Nest for $3.2 billion. Google sent out an email to employees noting the acquisition today and later issued a press release.

In the release, Google noted that Nest has been offering its best-selling thermostat since 2011 and recently began offering the Protect smoke alarm, which networks with its other devices.

Nest Founders Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers will both join Google. Rogers was one of the first engineers on the iPhone team at Apple.

“They’re already delivering amazing products you can buy right now–thermostats that save energy and smoke/CO alarms that can help keep your family safe,” said Google CEO Larry Page in a statement. “We are excited to bring great experiences to more homes in more countries and fulfill their dreams!”

Fadell, who is known as the ‘father of the iPod’, said that they’re ‘thrilled to join Google.’ “With their support, Nest will be even better placed to build simple, thoughtful devices that make life easier at home, and that have a positive impact on the world.”

Nest will continue on as its ‘own brand identity’ and continue to be led by Fadell. The deal hasn’t closed yet as it has to meet regulatory approval.

Nest founders Fadell and Rogers also sent an emailed statement to TechCrunch about why Nest chose to go ahead with the acquisition.

“Google will help us fully realize our vision of the conscious home and allow us to change the world faster than we ever could if we continued to go it alone. We’ve had great momentum, but this is a rocket ship,” Fadell says. “Google has the business resources, global scale and platform reach to accelerate Nest growth across hardware, software and services for the home globally. And our company visions are well aligned – we both believe in letting technology do the hard work behind the scenes so people can get on with the things that matter in life. Google is committed to helping Nest make a difference and together, we can help save more energy and keep people safe in their homes.”

Fadell says that this decision was not made hastily. He says that at the 2011 TED conference — even before Nest had launched — he and Nest VP of business Erik Charlton had ‘huddled’ together in a corner with Google’s Brin to show him a video and early model of the Nest thermostat.

He instantly got what we were doing and so did the rest of the Google team when we showed them. In May 2011, Google Ventures led our Series B round of financing, and in 2012, Series C. Time and time again, Googlers have shown themselves to be incredibly like-minded, supportive and as big of dreamers as we are. I know that joining Google will be an easy transition because we’re partnering with a company that gets what we do and who we are at Nest – and wants us to stay that way.

We’ve been hearing rumors about Nest getting courted with large billion-dollar acquisition offers for months now, but a Google buy is a definite statement. The company has been fairly serious about its connected device efforts for a while but hasn’t quite been able to get anything to gel. For instance, there have been some abortive attempts at connected devices like Android at Home in the past. But Nest already has a nice start in producing well-designed and connected home devices — something that Google should be able to build off of in the future.

Peter Nieh, a partner at Nest investor Lightspeed Venture Partners, has a post up about his early days working with Fadell at startup General Magic and what Nest has done since. He also shared a photo of the pair from 1992:

Tony-Peter-e1389593411451-1

Nieh says that though he was excited to work with Fadell again when it came time to invest in Nest, “…our excitement went off the charts when we met Matt Rogers, Tony’s co-founder, who was responsible at Apple for iPod software development and one of the first engineers on the original iPhone team.  We would have invested had they been looking to start a food truck.”

We reached out to Nieh for more thoughts, and he told TechCrunch that “Nest is a very special company — it’s a combination of an incredible team led by Tony and Matt, world-changing vision, and world-class execution.

“The acquisition by Google is just a milestone along the way as they continue their quest to change the world,” he added. “I can’t wait to see how they will continue to bring magic to all those unloved things in our homes.”

Google has previously been rumored to be investigating ramping up its own smart thermostat efforts, but this would likely supplant that — or the Nest team would take those projects over. Google also has an interesting project called PowerMeter which monitors power consumption over time which could have some cool applications here.

The acquisition could also provide a patent boost of some sort for Google. In December, Nest said that it had 100 patents granted, with 200 more on file with the U.S. Patent Office and another 200 ready to file. Nest has been the target of some fairly high-profile patent suits and threats from legacy manufacturers like Honeywell over its thermostat and BRK over its Protect smoke detector. Google will likely offer shelter from further suits with its wide range of patents across a variety of technology arenas.

As far as how much autonomy Fadell will have to execute on his vision of what Nest can be, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for Google to derail a business that — by most counts — was fairly successful already. And had been garnering praise from consumers over design. It could help with infrastructure problems that have cause failed firmware upgrades which resulted in complaints recently.

There’s also bound to be an immediate and visceral reaction to the access that Google will now have to information about when you’re home, which rooms you’re in and more. Which is why Nest also issued a Q&A about what will happen to users now that Google owns their thermostats and smoke detectors:

Will Nest continue to support iOS so I can have the Nest app on my iPhone or iPad?

Yes, absolutely. We’ll continue supporting iOS, Android and modern web browsers so you can check in on your home and control the temperature from wherever you are.

Will Nest and Google products work with each other?

Nest’s product line obviously caught the attention of Google and I’m betting that there’s a lot of cool stuff we could do together, but nothing to share today.

What will happen to the Nest warranties on products?

No change there – we stand behind our products like we always have.

Will I still be able to find Nest products at my local retailer?

You bet. We intend to continue selling through the same partners in the US, Canada and the UK.

Will Nest customer data be shared with Google?

Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest’s products and services. We’ve always taken privacy seriously and this will not change.

That answer is a bit vague, but the concerns over the recent revelations of enormous data gathering efforts on the part of the NSA should definitely cause some to worry. Whether or not Google chooses to share information voluntarily, it’s still a big target for those looking to hoover up vast swaths of data about its users, and that will only be more likely as time goes on, not less.

Posted Jan 10, 2014

Subscription Billings Startup ChargeBee Raises $800k From Accel Partners


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ChargeBee, a Chennai-based startup that helps companies manage their subscription billings, has raised around $800,000 in a Series A funding from Accel Partners. This brings ChargeBee’s total funding to $1.17 million, including the $370K it had raised in seed funding during October 2012.

This new funding will be used to beef up ChargeBee’s sales teams in the U.S. and also hire more engineers to work on next versions of the startup’s core product.

Subscription billing startups such as ChargeBee, Recurly and Chargify, leverage SaaS model to help customers implement a billing system fast by automating most of the back-end processes of invoice generation and payments collection.

Krish Subramanian, co-founder of ChargeBee said the startup offers more choices compared with other rivals.

“ChargeBee differentiates as the most extensible billing solution available including more choices with our REST API and the option to use Stripe tokens instead of card,” said Subramanian.

ChargeBee now has around 500 paying customers from 10 countries including Australia, US, UK and Canada. Currently, the startup processes average monthly transactions worth $1.6 million. By end of this year, ChargeBee wants to achieve $20 million in monthly transactions.

Co-founded by former Zoho employees Krish, KP Saravanan, Thiyagarajan T and Rajaraman S, ChargeBee started in 2011. A Hacker News post about Chargify increasing its subscription rates inspired the ChargeBee founders to look at building a startup that offers better services, at cheaper rates.

“Our plans start at $49 for startups and we do have a “bootstrapper” plan wherein customers use ChargeBee for free till they reach 10 customer billing a month,” said Krish.

Accel India has to date invested in around 17 startups in India at the seed stage from its $150 million+ Accel III fund.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/12/subscription-billings-startup-chargebee-raises-800k-from-accel-partners/

My 2013 in apps


The first week of 2014 just passed. It is Sunday evening and the perfect time to take a quick look back. In case you’re wondering who this post addresses, it’s mainly for myself to reflect.

2013 was quite an intense year. The little company my co-founders and I founded back in 2010 moved out of the SoundCloud offices into our own office in Berlin Kreuzberg (actually in the rooms where one of the first Von Neumann computers was build). Over the course of the year we kept busy building all sorts of apps. I didn’t contribute to all of them, but I had the chance to work on some. Out of the twelve apps we worked on as a company, I made major contributions to three.


Trivago

It actually started end of 2012. We managed to secure Trivago as a new major client of nxtbgthng. Trivago is one of the worlds biggest hotel metasearch engines and is very popular in Germany, Spain, the UK and elsewhere. They made quite some press when Expedia bought a majority stake in the company as the biggest German exit in recent times.

My colleague Max and I took on the project which was previously outsourced to another agency. We didn’t have access to the old sources but even if we had, there would not have been a way around starting from scratch. The old app was actually two apps, one for iPhone and one for iPad and a goal for the new version was to create an universal app.

One thing worth mentioning about Trivago: they are global. The app is localized in 40+ languages. I know, everyone is talking about app localization and how important it is, but this was the first time we did something on this scale.


Impossible

I first heard of Impossible a couple of years ago when they announced they were going to take over the production of instant film after Polaroid shut down its factories. See this NYT article from 2010 if you don’t know about them.

Fast forward to the end of 2012 they came up with an idea to expose pictures from your smartphone onto their instant film. They called it Instant Lab and launched it via kickstarter. I instantly became interested and became a low tier backer, to follow their progress.

Fast forward again. Early 2013 Oskar reached out to ask us about helping with the software side of things. Being fans of Impossible we quickly decided to work together.

In the three months I did most of the development that went into the app, and also managed the project from our side. Together with Impossible we not only created the Instant Lab flow to expose pictures to instant film and turn digital into analog, but we also added a way to do the opposite, use a scanner that can digitize analog instant photos using the iPhone camera. The scanner makes heavy use of GPUImage and applies some perspective correction algorithms (crazy math) to straighten the image and crop the background.

Once you’ve scanned a picture you can post it to a social network or rather a social gallery where you can like and comment on pictures, as well as follow other users (think mini Instagram).

To wrap things up we also added an in-app store to stock up on instant film. The store itself was developed by a swedish agency using Sencha. The tricky part was to use the same user accounts in the gallery and the web shop. We made heavy use of JavaScript callbacks in the shop and managed to provide native login/sign up that seamlessly integrated with the web view content.

After we shipped the app to the App Store, Impossible was able to find a dedicated iOS developer to maintain the app and work on new features in-house. I’m happy we could help kick start the project our way and were able to work together with such creative minds.


ARTE

After creating the SoundCloud app, ARTE was probably the app with the second largest code base that we’ve shipped. But let’s start at the beginning.

When we heard about the pitch to recreate ARTE’s mobile presence (here is how such a thing looks), we knew we needed a top notch team to compete. Fortunately, Studio GOOD came along to help us with the design and Novoda took over the Android development. Under the lead of nxtbgthng we managed to succeed in the pitch leaving the competition in the dust.

What followed was our first truly test-driven project, making heavy use of unit and integration tests. Libraries we used along the way were Expecta, OHHTTPStubs, OCMock and our very own SenTestingKitAsync that we proved to be production ready.

Also we made heavy use of ReactiveCocoa but mostly as a nicer way to do KVO. We came up with a nice pattern to asynchronously load or update objects from an API and store them in CoreData. I hope we find the time to prepare a talk on that topic.

Another thing that worked out nicely was doing SCRUM across three companies plus the client. Toto did a great job managing the project and coordinating all ends.

When we shipped ARTE in October we shipped for iPhone, iPad and Android Phones and Tablets. In December we added support for iCloud syncing of favorites and integrated a Twitter live stream to socially engage with others while watching a program.

A cornerstone of the app I spent most of my time working on was the video player which is very sophisticated. I can only encourage you to try and use it via AirPlay. When you play the video on your Apple TV the player view shrinks down to a minimized version and you can fully navigate through the app without the video being interrupted. We support syncing of the play position across devices, post-roll recommendation and all the social shabang you could be missing.

Development on the ARTE application continues in 2014. So stay tuned, we’ve got some things coming up.


2014

So what are my wishes for 2014?

I hope we manage to attract more awesome clients, work together with more awesome partners, get more awesome colleagues and learn more awesome stuff along our way.

Thanks taking the time and taking a look behind the curtain. If you’re curious about details or would like to work with us (we’re hiring) please get in touch with me.

Until then, all the best for 2014.
-Ullrich

Written by

Mac & iOS coder with a passion for music and controllers like http://t.co/hFhoAtTkuo ☀ Co-Founder of http://t.co/Y5N3SGW6MD

Is The New Snapchat Brilliant Or Totally Boneheaded?


It’s more brilliant than boneheaded. Here’s why.

Snapchat quietly released a major update to the popular photo and video messaging app Friday night, with the following additions described in its release notes:

- Smart Filters
– Add data overlays to your Snaps!
– Visual Filters
– Replay
– Special Text
– Front-Facing Flash
– Up to 7 Best Friends

As a Snapchat fan and FOMO victim, I quickly downloaded the update and poked around.

I sat on my couch hunting for the filters, special text, and other features promised in the release notes. They were nowhere to be found. “What am I doing wrong?” I thought to myself. I even tried uninstalling and re-downloading the app, thinking I had encountered a caching bug. That didn’t work. It took a friend on Twitter to inform me the new features had to be enabled deep within the settings.

I wasn’t the only one. My Twitter feed was filled with people asking how to enable the new features. My Snapchat friends replied to my filter-enhanced snaps curious how I had acquired my newfound powers. Clearly, people were confused as the tech community quickly jumped in, criticizing the rollout and changes to the product.

Without a doubt, Snapchat 6.1 did a poor job of communicating its new features and how to use them, causing a lot of confusion. Many questioned the changes as antithesis to the nature of its ephemeral, intimate communications. Snapchat was once so very simple and pure. Filters introduce more toggles and obscure the raw, unedited visuals. Replays destroy ephemerality, allowing users to view snaps more than once.

But of course, Evan Spiegel and Team Snapchat didn’t release the update on a whim. All of this was very intentional and despite what critics say, more brilliant than boneheaded. Here’s why.

New Snapchat Gives Users Control

Immediately after release, Hunter Owens, posted the update on Product Hunt and a discussion with Adam Besvinick, Ryan Lawler, Will Dennis, Owen Williams, Josh Elman, Buster Benson, and others added their thoughts.

Typically, product creators release new updates to everyone, enabling new features by default. Snapchat took the exact opposite approach, disabling new features by default, requiring users to dig into the settings to enable them. Why? Josh Miller said it best:

They probably put it in Settings because addicted users will turn them on and test their value for everyone else. That way you can be experimental without adding feature baggage (cough cough Facebook).

Reality is, people that want to use the new features will find and use them. Snapchat hid these in the settings to avoid potentially compromising the experience for existing users. We’re all familiar the inevitable backlash that occurs when popular services make a change, even when it’s clearly for the better. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and many other widely successful companies ebb and flow through backlash. Snapchat avoided this by giving its users complete control. Those that don’t want the new features don’t have to use them.

New Snapchat Inspires Word-of-Mouth

As previously mentioned, I struggled to find out how to use Snapchat’s new features, turning to my friends on Twitter to help. By making it non-intuitive, Snapchat got me and many others talking. It inspired word-of-mouth (WOM), spreading news of the update and re-engaging users. This isn’t the first time they’ve used similar WOM growth tactics.

Did you know Snapchat has offered filters for several months already? After capturing a snap, enter the words “B&W…” to transform it into a black-and-white photo or video. When unknowing users receive these B&W snaps, they become naturally curious, asking how it was done. Easter eggs like this can spike engagement and user acquisition by encouraging WOM.

New Snapchat Provides More Context

Snapchat is about communication. Photos and video provide far more context than traditional text or emoticons. Unlike Instagram and most photo and video-sharing services that allow users to load media from one’s camera roll, snaps are captured within the app and shared within the moment to communicate one’s current status.

Smart filters provide even more context, allowing users to layer the temperature, time, or even speed (MPH) of the object captured, into the conversation. It’s unique, fun, and a preview of the product’s long-term direction.

New Snapchat Reduces Inhibitions

Some argue that filters don’t align with Snapchat’s narrative, devaluing the authenticity and intimacy of its unedited communication. I disagree. Snapchat is the fastest way to visually communicate with others. Physical speed — the time it takes to launch the app and share a snap — isn’t the only key to its innovation. Cognitive hesitation is arguably more important.

Disappearing photos and videos is a core component of Snapchat’s design, reducing inhibitions to create and share. This is especially important when sharing intimate selfies (admittedly, I share few Frontback selfies because of my self-consciousness). Filters further reduce inhibitions by masking our baggy eyes, pimples, and other imperfections that introduce hesitation to share.

New Snapchat Opens Doors to Monetize

As far as we know, Snapchat has yet to make its first dollar, practicing monetization abstinence in favor of engagement and growth. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it. In an interview on June 2013, Evan Spiegel revealed that, “In-app transactions will come first. We think we can build really cool stuff people want to pay for. The app is now a part of everyone’s day-to-day lives. That means that they will — I at least would — pay for a more unique experience.”

Talk is cheap but Snapchat 6.1 is a clear step in that direction, giving users a very limited number of advanced features to enhance their experience. It’s not hard to imagine Snapchat charging for additional filters, fonts, and other ways to uniquely express oneself. Like a drug dealer, the first hit is free as its most avid users become accustomed to the fun new toys, seeking more. This is common practice in freemium gaming where players are given small amounts of virtual currency to purchase in-game content — just enough to hook them. It’s not malicious, it’s smart and that’s exactly what Snapchat will do.


The tech community continues to criticize and speculate about Snapchat since its inception and that’s a good thing for Evan Spiegel and team. The the most transformative products are usually polarizing. Many didn’t think Facebook could expand beyond its college roots. Twitter’s 140-character status updates were discounted as a pointless distraction. People perceived Instagram and its photo-filters as a flash in the pan.

Snapchat will continue to breed speculation but only time will tell whether Snapchat 6.1 and its future updates evolve in the right direction.


What do you think? Let me know on Twitter (@rrhoover) and subscribe to my blog for more essays on product design and startups.

Written by

Co-Creator of Product Hunt. Creator of Startup Edition. Instructor at Tradecraft. More at http://ryanhoover.me. Follow at @rrhoover.

Published December 26, 2013

This blog post isn’t free.


“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” It’s a statement that many of us have uttered at some point, and also whole-heartedly believed. But for some reason when it comes to web content, we’ve all been trained into believing the exact opposite.

The last decade or so has gone by and professional publishers haven’t stressed about monetizing web content. Their more traditional revenue streams had remained strong(ish) and the potential the web offered had not been fully realized.

During this time, the internet also felt like a new market opportunity for talented content creators looking to grow (or create) their fan base. It wasn’t a utility yet, but rather a blank canvas that people were willing to invest their time and talent despite a lack of immediate return.

Fast forward to today. The web is ubiquitous in North America. Paywalls are springing up every day. And the traditional forms of revenue publishers have relied on are disappearing. And this has led to many undesirable forms of “payment” springing up, the most popular being ads, and data. There are a few others which are far more appealing, but far less used: 1) pay-walls, something only super-users tend to find worthy and 2) praise, which is only an acceptable form of payment for content creators who produce things as a hobby, versus a way of life.

“Free” DOES still exists of course. There are people who simply enjoy writing and are quite good at it. And whether they are praised or not, they will write. There are also scholars who receive compensation from other venues that share their thoughts publicly. But as web publishing has become easier, finding good quality content has become harder. “Clutter” as described above is a polite way of expressing the fact that you often have to sift through a lot of garbage to get what you need.

Let’s recap:

In the macro sense, free isn’t just an unattractive incentive any more, it barely exists.

You give up data. That’s not free.

You waste time to find what you need. That’s not free.

You get portions of information, but not everything unless you pay. Obviously, not free.

You have to have your reading interrupted by distractions (ads). That’s not free.

Many of the forms of monetization mentioned above are clever indirect ways for publishers to receive compensation for their work. We need to move away from indirect, and make the transaction extremely direct. You want something, you offer money in exchange.

I believe that the future of quality content is through content-specific rewards to the publisher. In fact, I also believe that system will produce the highest quality of content.

And before I hear the big, BUT!!! let me explain…

Ads on site: We already know that advertising as a primary revenue model for publishers is a broken system. Regardless of all the amazingad tech companies emerging, I do not believe they are in any way improving the consumer’s experience and desires, which is getting the best possible content. (I’ll caveat that Buzzfeed is knocking it out of the park with their brand partnerships. But they’re definitely a rare breed)

Site paywalls: Some publishers can pull this off really well because they’ve earned an adoring fan base. Last week Andrew Sullivan moved himself and staff over to a private subscription site and generated a massive amount of interest and paying customers. Outside of these rare cases, paywalls are a product purchased by a relatively tiny base of customers and therefore isn’t pushing content producers (as a whole) towards higher quality work.

Content-specific paywalls: Publishers know that people won’t pay a few dollars for an individual article unless it’s tremendously useful or entertaining. That ensures high quality content. The problem from a business perspective is that people are reluctant to buy content based on a few sentence preview. Frankly, people will feel silly for spending $1.99 on something that proves to be of little value to them. Unless a customer gets a recommendation from someone else who already bought and read the article, they don’t have a lot of confidence making that investment. Then again, they’re friend probably already sent them the article for free anyways.

Content-specific rewards: Content creators deserve to make money from their work, but audiences today feel forced to pay, not necessarily motivated. Publishers need to reward their readers with exclusive content, tangible items, and better content. But they should do so after fans volunteer to offer them cash in exchange the amazing content they just consumed. Micropayments have struggled to gain traction before, but that’s because the current systems don’t work hard enough to benefit all parties involved. Reducing the increments of payments and increasing the frequency is where the industry needs to move because the opposite (more traditional paywalls) have clearly failed to lure mass adoption. Not only will smaller individual payments help increase the overall level of giving, it will absolutely improve the quality of all online content since only the most captivating articles, videos, etc will receive compensation. I’m personally working on a system that takes this model and fuses it with charity to strengthen the ecosystem even further. But you can learn more about that soon enough.

There are two benefits to a content-specific reward system.

1) Our digital consumption experience will become freer of massive distractions (ads) that interrupt our learning and analysis.

2) Content gets better because we’re rewarding specific work, not an entire publication. This means the best authors, topics, and processes earn the most income from readers.

Free is on its way out.

Face it. Free isn’t what it used to be. As traditional media forms cease to exist and all our content moves into the digital world, the noise that comes with current monetization systems (advertising or otherwise) are overcoming us. People are increasingly opting out of “free” to pay for what the media they want sans interruption. I hope that publishers and especially fellow bloggers continue to look at ways to motivate their fans to compensate them for great work.

By the way…this blog post isn’t free. And if you paid attention, you’ll know why.

Written by

Expert at nothing. Social Entrepreneur, founder of @getCENTUP. The internet is my box of LEGOs. @LenKendall on Twitter

Type A or Bust: The Great Productivity And Success Myth


As I see it there’s two types of folks: those who are ambitious go-getters and those who would really rather take time to smell the roses.

For the former, all of life is a productivity challenge. How much can you get done in x amount of time. How much of that is meaningful. How far can you go. How fast can you go. How persistent are you. How focused. How disciplined.

Then there’s people who are exhausted just reading the above. They are the ones for whom the journey, not the destination, is the goal. They don’t want to cram every waking minute with productivity. In fact to them, productivity might even be a bad word.

The trouble is not that you are the former or latter. The trouble is that often you think you should be the former when actually you’re the latter. Or vice versa.

People seem to hold productivity as a barometer of success. They feel they should be making to do lists, getting organized, waking up early, exercising/meditating every day. They are made to feel that if they don’t do all the above, then they are slackers who don’t really deserve their success (if indeed they do become successful). Or that they do not want to work hard and believe that success will come just by working smart not hard.

Here’s the thing though: you need to work out for yourself what your personal success horizon is. How far are you willing to go before you understand your own psyche? Have you tried and failed to wake up at 5am for most of the year? Then maybe its time to realise you’re just not a morning person and instead find what is your most productive time and pander to that (even if it means ordering pizza at 2am while you’re “in the zone”).

Have you tried exercise, weight loss, organizing your life, managing your finances ad nauseam and still feel like you don’t have a handle on things? Well that’s most of us! Maybe its time to stop trying to be a perfectionist. If you’re the kind of person who feels exhausted just reading about productivity hacks, maybe its time to admit to yourself that you march to a different drummer.

Success shouldn’t be measured in one-dimensional criteria. Hell, you might pull all-nighters when the right idea strikes but you couldn’t stay up on a regular day in spite of overdosing on coffee and red bull combined.

So do yourself a favor and stop trying to be somebody you’re not just cause an article in Forbes or Fast Company or Time proclaims that you need to be doing X to be successful. Find your own measurement criteria for success.

Written by

Founder & CEO of http://t.co/6Ne8H4hWaY – Content Marketing | Social Media | Online Videos. Personal blog at http://t.co/AxOg1dJ3Yd. Mom & fire-breathing dragon

Rumored Windows ‘Threshold’ Update Could Recast Microsoft’s Key Platform


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Microsoft mostly kept its head down during CES, but with its Build developer conference on the horizon and several platforms to unify, the company has a busy few months ahead of it.

Recently, both Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley wrote on Microsoft’s future ‘Threshold’ Windows update. Threshold is not what Microsoft will release in 2014. That code, an update to Windows 8.1, will likely land in the first half of this year, along with an update to Windows Phone.

Simply put, we should see Windows Phone 8.1 and an update to Windows 8.1 in April.

But what is further ahead matters more. Threshold, the 2015 update to Windows, will likely be named Windows 9 according to Foley. Thurrott echoes the fact, but goes further, indicating that it will include a rethinking of the Metro-facing elements of the operating system, a change that could include “a windowed mode that works on the desktop.”

Thurrott also mentions that Microsoft is aiming for an April 2015 release date for Threshold. That’s almost an interesting timing. If Microsoft completes and ships Windows Phone 8.1 and the Windows 8.1 update in April, they will be the code that ships on computers for the rest of the year. If Windows 9 ships in April of 2015, Microsoft will be releasing its new code in the first half of the year in an industry that can see hardware sales cycles titled towards the second half of the year.

This would also lead to a very decoulpled Windows and Surface release schedules.

It seems likely that we will be given a taste of the Windows to come at Build. The Windows 8.1 update could help Microsoft staunch yet continuing losses in the size of the greater PC market, but it’s clear that PCs themselves could use a shot in the arm. Thurrott is pessimistic on the current Windows-machine market:

Windows 8 has set back Microsoft, and Windows, by years, and possibly for good. [...] Threshold will target this new world. It could very well be a make or break release.

That almost feels too extreme, but only slightly: If alternative operating systems can prove themselves as PC possibilities, the total size of the PC market won’t be indicative of Microsoft’s own market scale. That’s a reality Microsoft can’t afford.

Foley has a final thought that is worth repeating: “Threshold will include updates to all three Windows OS platforms (Xbox One, Windows and Windows Phone) that will advance them in a way to share even more common elements.” That squares with all the above: Microsoft will continue its process of uniting its larger operating system varietals while at once trying to unwind at least some of the bind that Windows 8.x has caused its users.

We’ll have more in short order, but keep it safe to say that the first half of this year and the next are going to be critical for Microsoft’s most sacred platform.

Top Image Credit: Flickr

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/12/rumored-windows-threshold-update-could-recast-microsofts-key-platform/

NBCUniversal Invests In Mobile Video News Service NowThis News


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NBCUniversal News Group is announcing a minority investment in NowThisNews, a New York-based startup that’s looking to reinvent video journalism for the Facebook and smartphone era. As part of the investment, the two companies will co-produce original short-form news videos to be distributed across mobile and social platforms.

The brainchild of Huffington Post co-founder Kenneth Lerer (who also serves as Chairman of Buzzfeed), former Huffington Post CEO Eric Hippeau, and Bedrocket founder and CEO Brian Bedol, NowThis News is reinventing video news for the social and mobile worlds.

Part of this is making news accessible to newer platforms like Facebook, Vine, YouTube, Snapchat and others. Specifically, the teams will co-produce content for TODAY, MSNBC, NBC News and CNBC on topics relating to pop culture, political, and business news. These videos are posted on social platforms as well as on NowThis News’ mobile app. In fact, NBC Universal’s staff will be sent to NowThis News studio to co-produce videos, which will then be distributed across NBC properties and NowThis News. There will 30-40 co-produced videos published a week, we’re told.

The startup has a team of journalists who have held senior positions at ABC News, CNN, Washington Post and The Huffington Post and previously raised $10 million in funding from Lerer Ventures, SoftBank and others. The New York Times reports that NBC took a 10 percent stake in NowThis News.

“We know that news consumption among younger audiences continues to grow, but in order to reach that audience, we need to continue to create video for the platforms they use most. NowThis News does exactly that — delivering relevant news stories for the mobile and social platforms that resonate with this audience,” said Patricia Fili-Krushel, Chairman of the NBCUniversal News Group, in a release. “We’re excited to incorporate this relationship into our overall strategy — to innovate inside and outside the company — positioning the News Group for future success.”

“Short term content is an area we have to play in,” she tells us in a phone conversation this evening. “In the same way you get text alerts, you need video news alerts.” There are other emerging ways in which media properties can integrate advertising into these new news formats, she adds.

Kenneth Lerer, NowThis News’s Co-Founder and Manager Director of Lerer Ventures said, “By working together, the NBCUniversal News Group and NowThis News can learn from each other and build a great digital news experience that’s a win-win for the new news consumer who wants all video, all the time, built for social and mobile. This partnership allows us to showcase our shared vision of combining the world’s strongest news brands with NowThis News to super serve consumers.”

In a conversation with TechCrunch, Lerer told us that most news sites weren’t producing real short form video, which needed to be done. “It’s seem obvious that instead of just going to a mobile app, you also need to go where your user is.” He tells us that the company will also be debuting new Twitter and Facebook products in the near future. For NBC, NowThis News can teach the media company around producing short form video for social formats, he says.

For NBC, this is the second investment in a non-traditional news platform this year. NBC Universal just backed Re/code, the technology news site recently founded by former AllThingsD founders Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. “We plan to be aggressive in expanding brand into new areas,” Fili-Krushel tells us. “There are these new avenues where people are consuming news and that’s where we have to go.”

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/12/nbcuniversal-invests-in-mobile-video-news-service-nowthis-news/

Aereo Apologizes To Customers Affected By Service Outage During Golden Globes


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Aereo, the streaming TV startup backed by media mogul Barry Diller, has apologized for a brief service outage tonight. The outage only lasted about an hour, but was especially unfortunate because it coincided with the Golden Globes.

“Aereo experienced a partial outage in New York City tonight, which impacted a small group of users who were unable to access their accounts. Our engineers have worked to resolve the issue. We are truly sorry for the inconvenience and encourage any Aereo members impacted by the outage to reach out to support@aereo.com,” Virginia Lam, Aereo’s VP of communications and government relations, told us.

The outage struck Aereo’s largest market, New York City, where it launched in 2012.

Though brief, the outage was another challenge in a busy week for the startup. Two days ago the Supreme Court decided to hear the ongoing legal battle between Aereo and broadcast networks. At the center of the dispute is the fact that Aereo takes OTA signals out of the air through miniature antennas and streams content over the Internet to any device for a low monthly fee. If successful, Aereo could potentially upend the current TV/cable subscription model even more than on-demand streaming video platforms like Netflix.

So far, Aereo has won appellate cases in Boston and New York, but networks have refused to give up. The Supreme Court’s ruling will not only decide once and for all if Aereo’s operations are legal, but have potentially far-reaching ramifications for the future of the online media industry.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/12/aereo-apologizes-to-customers-affected-by-service-outage-during-golden-globes/

“A calm sea never made a skilled sailor.”


A few quick thoughts after catching up with friends who are sailing deadly seas.

My friend runs a small SaaS company. He’s essentially a one-man-army, who has fully “disappeared into the fire” of his work — merging his identity and self-worth with the success and failures of the company. We caught up recently and this statement stuck in my head…

“Each time we lose a customer, I feel like my girlfriend dumped me AND told me what guy she’s gonna sleep with next.”

It is so common among many of my friends — whether they’re founders themselves or simply passionate, creative people — but it’s a dangerous roller-coaster to ride. Yes, the highs are highs, but the lows somehow feel much, much lower.

I know this ride well, because I’ve been on it several times before. I don’t have a magical cure-all for you, but I do know that the following few things are underrated, and always help:

  1. Talk to peers, especially those whom you can be candid with, are close to your position (ex: CEO to CEO), and can empathize with you.
  2. Get perspective on your situation by looking at everything you have accomplished. It’s easy to forget a year of progress after a single disaster. Don’t do that.
  3. Mentor others. By mentoring others, you’ll realize how much you’ve learned and grown, and it will reestablish your confidence in yourself.

Finally, just be grateful for the opportunity. A phrase I love is “A calm sea never made a skilled sailor.” Whether you realize it or not, you’re probably doing a lot better than you think, and you’re probably growing a lot more than you think. It’s awesome. Appreciate it for what it is, and get back at it.

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founder http://shelby.tv and other fun stuff

Published January 12, 2014