Sunday, November 17, 2013

Social: SnapChat Spurned Facebook and Even Google for $4 Billion

Source:  New Yorker.

So, Snapchat turned down Facebook who offered them $3 billion for the chat network.  And it's not any ordinary one but one that is whole-heartedly embraced by the youth.  And supposedly, even Google offered $4 billion and they were turned down.

The New Yorker post explains some of the reasons why.  However, it doesn't explain how the company and its private investors plan on making back their initial investment.  Perhaps, it looks to monetize future chats somehow.  Make the app and its services paid only.

But the whole point is that SC not only believe the offers were too low, it believes it has something of valuable beyond a few measly billions. On top of that, even a few of its investors might be fine with the decision.  One investor in Snapchat who was also an investor in Instagram, did not seem to mind.  In fact, they were up happy Instagram gave in so quickly and for only $1 billion.

My sense is that Facebook will continue to look for social apps to buy.  Like Snapchat.  However, with reports of the youth looking elsewhere for their social fixes like Snapchat, Whatsapp, or Line, these social companies may be sensing blood.

And why settle for a few billion when they could conceivably be the next Facebook worth closer to $100 billion.  Even Twitter with a smaller active user base albeit with a much more useful service than Facebook has a market cap of about $24 billion.  So $3 or $4 billion sounds like nothing.

Apple Bought PrimeSense, Tech Behind Microsoft's Kinect - Now, What?

Source:  PrimeSense, Reuters.

Today, the Web exploded with news that Apple bought PrimeSense, the company that develops 3D sensing technology for systems including mobile.  And it happens to be the company behind Microsoft's Xbox Kinect.

So, what happens now and when will see something come to fruition from this buyout?


Look beyond just the Xbox at who PrimeSense's partners are and you see why Apple showed interest in the company and decide to bring it into the fold.

  • Microsoft, again. 
  • Robotic companies like iRobot.  
  • 3D scanners that could become a bigger deal with 3D printing.  
  • Asus with computers.
  • Real world physical activities.
Only Apple knows what it will do with this new buy.  It's unlikely Apple will just introduce a Kinect clone.  Apple does make and released products for the sake of doing it.  Apple has found an unique and identifiable use for PS technology, whether in its current line of products or new ones, that can benefit its customers.  

It's likely going to be used in something Apple has in the works for some time.  The integration of 3D sensing technology from PrimeSense could take some more doing.  Apple probably has already gone pretty far with this.  It's likely we can see something new in 2014 with this.  I'm possibly being optimistic but, hey, it's Apple we're talking about here.

PS already has 3D sensors small enough to fit inside a mobile device like a phone or tablet.


LG FLEX: Curved Screen Needs Real-World Uses To Be Effective, Whatever They Are

Source:  thedroidguy.com.

I'm excited by the LG Flex because if its curved screen but I don't know why.  And the Flex isn't the first smartphone with a curved body and screen.  I'm not talking about whatever that phone Samsung also has in store for us.


The Nexus S was the first mainstream phone I know that also had a curved screen.  Despite that, I still could not see just what the purpose is for.  Does it reduce glare, maybe?

Still, like I said, I'm excited.  My hope is that folks are not doing this because they can.  What I want is to know how this would help us in the real world?  Of course, there is also rumors that Apple is looking at curved screens as well.  So, maybe there is something.

In reading the LG press release for the Flex, it spoke about the design.  Nothing new there.  As for use, it stated the curved design of the phone helped put the speaker closer to the user.

I'm more interested in the curved battery that supposedly reduce its wear and tear.

However, I did not find anything in the press release with a stated advantage of a curved screen compared to traditional ones.  And what I said above about the glare?  I'm convinced if done right, it might make the screen more readable in more lit areas like the outside.

Lazy Sunday Morning: Aliens A Classic Movie That Deserves A Remake

I've decided to take Sunday off and watching some TV at home and get some work done around the house.  I'm usually watching Netflix (in the middle of bing watching the third season of The Killing) but I had turned on my cable to see what games are on and I stumbled across Aliens. And it's stuck.


This must have been the sixth or seventh time I've seen the movie.  Each time, I noticed something new.  Something that I missed before.  Maybe there have been different versions on DVD and on television.  And maybe it has to do with the commercial breaks.  But I think it's by far the best of the Aliens movie.

And it's served as basis for many alien or big bad monster movie - a team goes into an unknown situation to investigate an incident or conduct a rescue.  Things go wrong and nearly everyone gets wiped out except for a couple of civilians or scientists.  I mean you usually know going into the movie who is going to get out alive.  It's usually the actor or actress who gets paid the big bucks.

Anyway, it's more about the plot and the character development throughout the movie.  Perhaps it's because this movie was made in the 80s and the characters on the team of marines were more tolerable. And they had the right amount of dialog to add a sense of urgency to the movie.  Essentially, it was just right.

And of course, there's Sigourney Weaver as Ripley who made the movie much more believable. She played along side the team, going with the flow and stepping up at just the right time - whether it's the rescue of the marines in trouble or chiming in at the right time to change the mission a bit.

 Then there is also her unwillingness to leave Newt behind. After gone through so much herself, she could sympathize with the little girl. It likely was not a sudden injection of bravery but she felt the little girl had suffered enough being lone on a planet for so long. During one part of the movie where she was tracking down Newt on the sensor and finding only the bracelet and not the girl, she showed just the right amount of pain. But then seemingly waking up to Newt's screen set everything aside and got her going again.

I can't say much of the other movies that followed.  The Aliens versus Predators movies were a decent distraction.  Scifi movie fanboys' collective dreams come true.  However, there was no Schwarzenegger or Weaver to carry the movie.  There was no anger or urgency or the main character losing it and decided enough was enough.

For anyone reading this, I hope this serves as a reminder to get back into Aliens and rewatch the movie.  Maybe even Predator (came out a year after Aliens).  Both movies had the right balance of story and action.  Unlike today's action or science fiction movies that rely more on special effects that sent budgets sky-high, I'm hoping future directors can rely more on the actors (those who can act and carry a movie) and less on special effects and very loud sounds.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Social: Power of A People, Social Media, And Kindness Helps Kid Battling Leukemia Save Gotham

Source:  Make A Wish FoundationBusiness InsiderPolitico.

Great news, folks.  Gotham City is once again safe.  Thanks to not Batman (he had a small part in it).  Not one of the various Robins.  Not Nightwing.  Nope, not Superman either.  Or the JLA.  It's Batkid!!!

batkid san francisco

That's right!  Thanks to Make A Wish Foundation, more than 10K fellow Americans, and thousands if not millions of us on social media cheering him on, Batkid, aka Miles, roamed through Gotham (San Francisco) to save its citizens from evildoers.

What's more, many are cheering him on via social media like Twitter.  Tweets from famous folks, politicans (some of them I like Batkid to deal with, and even the President of the United States.


This has got to be one of the best stories of 2013.  It's just so heart-warming to see what Americans can do even for a 5-year old when we work together.

And Miles, continue the good fight.  We're all pulling and with you!

Also, never once did the Make A Wish Foundation expect their website to crash.  And only the Batkid could do that!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cloud/Product Rollout: Beta Or Staggarded Roll Out Versus US Government

It's safe to say that the federal government's rollout of the health insurance exchange has not gone well.  In fact, it's pretty dismal.  At the same time, they're hardly to be blamed for this.  Remember all those cloud services that Apple tried to unveil that didn't work? MobileMe, the early days of iCloud?

I'm sure you can think of a few other examples of how things didn't work out well for private companies. And the health exchange is probably many times more complex.  This is why I don't get why Washington thought it could make it work from day one.

Where was the beta testing with real people participation?  Google's Gmail has been in beta for years and I'm sure there are a few other apps that are still in beta?

The health insurance exchange debacle is a very valuable lesson for government officials and entrepreneurs.  This reminds me of Google+ unveiling.  You needed an invitation to sign up.  And it was done over time probably to give Google time to scale properly.

In fact, a few mobile apps that I've signed up for had this system where you can sign up for service you had to wait until the app developers had scaled enough to accommodate more users.  One app in particular was Mailbox from Orchestra.  It took about a week between me signing up for service and when I could actually use the app but it was worth it because it worked seamlessly.

President Obama spoke today about the frustration regarding the ACA roll out.  I think he should have added that the exchange was a beta process and it could be a while before it's up and running properly.  Word is that Google engineers have been tasked to help out.  I think that helps but should have done that from day one.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Microsoft Gets Rid Of Bad Stacking Review Policy for Employees - It's Probably Too Late

Source:  The Verge.

Building 34, Redmond Campus

For a long time, a decade now, I've wondered why Microsoft has had such a political corporate structure, more so than most of any other companies.  I had attributed that to the media and bias against Microsoft and all things Windows from Mac and Linux folks.  A few months ago, I learned about an employee review process.  Upon understanding how it basically works, I knew right away it was a bad, bad policy.

Essentially, the stack-ranking policy pits one employee against another.  Not just one team versus another but team members as well.  And within each team, it was necessary that some employees be given poor remarks regardless of their true worth and contribution.

Now, Microsoft is getting rid of this.

I wonder if there had not been about fifteen years of back-stabbing and killing off innovative products and services to protect one's turf (like Windows and Office), what an innovative Microsoft could have produced.
However, I wonder if it's too late.

Social: I Was Targeted With An Ad On Twitter But That's Okay. Because I Let It

I found this ad on my Twitter feed today that was very interesting.  It was a Hyundai sponsored feed that specifically targeted me.  A Bruin from UCLA.


I should be outraged?  Well, I'm not.  Here's why.  I let Twitter target me.  I know that anything I tweet has the potential to be seen by everyone and anyone is free to comment, retweet, or whatever they can do with it on Twitter.  An advertiser will attempt to direct something at me that might be of interest to me.

And that's what Twitter is for.  And it makes sense for this format.  Had this happened with Facebook, that I'd be pretty pissed off.  Their views on privacy and what is private or public is much more skewed.  I can see a scenario in which something I write to can be turned into a "story" and be made public to my friends or anyone else.

Supposed a female Facebook user shared with her close friends and families that she's expecting and tracked where she went to look for maternity or baby gears. Then Facebook turns around and tells her friends that she was interested in specific stores or liked.  That would kind of let the cat out of the bag.

It's why I gave up on Facebook.  And people are not happy about it.  It's why they've had to expand their user base to tweens.  It's why more of the valued youth market are abandoning Facebook for other social apps.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Zune I Get But Windows Phone 7: This Blows. Microsoft Ends Support for Video

Source: The Verge.

If you bought Xbox video, and you use Windows Phone 7 or Zune, you're going to be able to continue using it until Feb of 2014.  After that, nada.

Microsoft gave some crap about how they improved on the video and offerings.  Translation:  if you wanna keep using Xbox content, get a new Windows Phone device, preferrably the Lumia which Microsoft effectively own.

Zune?  I get that.  But Windows Phone 7.  Not so much.  It's still pretty new.  It's the OS that has been delayed over and over until Microsoft managed to ship it against some already entrenched smartphone heavyweights.  It, along with Blackberry, had owned the mobile market.  One theory I've got on why Microsoft is chucking WP7 now.  There were not many takers to begin with.

Kinda like Zune I guess.  

Well, I'm sure there is a lesson in here somewhere.  In this day and age, if you want to make sure your digital content are available for the long-run if not forever, make sure you go with a platform that has legs.  Like iTunes or Amazon. 

I want to add Google but its history of killing off apps and services without warning has me worried about buying media or music from them.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Social: Waste of the Criminal Minds

I've been watching Sons of Anarchy.  I'll be honest.  Until a week ago, I thought it was a reality show following a motorcyle club.  Well, it's not.  It's a hard hitting, edgy drama about a criminal enterprise. It's a decent show and I'm watching it until all of Breaking Bad, including the last half of the last season is available on Netflix so I can binge-stream the whole thing.

I'm bringing this up now because remember a couple of weeks ago when two convicts escaped their Florida prison?  Well, it appears that the fake documents they used to escape were forged not from outside the prison but from within (CNN).

Watching the SofA show, more than a few times, I've sat there thinking "that's too far-fetched".  Now, I'm gonna have re-evaluate that somewhat.  Apparently, in the Florida prison escape, the two convicts doing hard time,Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins, had help with creating the fake documents, then they were smuggled out, and those documents filed by someone from the outside.  And so far, there is no evidence that this daring escape involved help from employees.

Now, there is a review underway in Florida about giving prisons too much access to law information and other resources that evidently were used to create fake but legitimate-looking documents that passed for the real thing.

It's sad really.  Imagine what the mind of this prison or prisoners could really do in the real world to better society had they decided to use them that way.  Sure, they were probably stupid for getting into crime in the first place.  Maybe they didn't have a choice.  I'm not here to debate that issue.

It is just unfortunate that these minds are wasted and wasting away.  Personally, I do believe in harsh prison sentences but we also should try to put more resources into helping those move into more promising lives and opportunities.

With the rise of 3D printing, I'm both excited and scared what the criminal minds will come up with.  You can bet that fake documents would be the least of our worries.


Science Versus Applied Science

I read this article from Live Sciences that based on studies of data from the Kepler satellite, one in five sun-like stars have planets that occupy the habitable zone that fits a very liberal set of criteria that can support life as we know it.  As a science and science fiction fan, I think it's pretty exciting.  But I also wonder what the point of the Kepler mission is.

I get that if one day, we have the ability to go explore these planets in a starship or a probe, then it makes sense to do this.  As it is now, we can barely get to the moon.  Actually, we can't get to the moon right now.  There are plans to get to the moon but that's it.  Just plans.

And for me, that's where the science and technology debate comes in.  And how we should distribute our scarce resources today.  With government funding harder and harder to come by, can we afford to keep looking at deep space or should we try to find a way to the moon, mine asteroids for minerals, or even build more space stations.  And we really care about finding the smallest of small particles in the universe or should we try to build a sustainable fusion plant to provide clean, cheap power source?

Maybe I'm getting older.  Maybe it's just the way things are and we have to face some harsh economic and social reality.  But I wouldn't mind seeing more money funneled into fields of science and technology that would have more immediate impact.  Look, don't get me know.  Mapping out our neighborhood of the Milky Way so that one day we can send probes or starships to explore is great but we can just as easily do that one hundred or two hundred years from now.

Today, we have problems that need more immediate attention and issues that has to be addressed.

What do you think?

Social: Most Useless Use of Excel Ever

You'll want to check out this Excel sheet.  Or not.  It's a spreadsheet tells you what color shoes best goes with your pants, depending on its color.

Okay, maybe the Joker might find it useful.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Blackberry: No Takers, Relegated To App Maker Role But Small Chance Of Keeping Hardware Future

Black Monday for Blackberry today. For both the company and its fans.  Apparently, things are so bad there that there are no real takers who believe the company can be turned around and reclaim even part of its former glory.  And that is sad.

And apparently, the patents that Blackberry own do not have the value which many believe should have.  It's surprising because Blackberry is a pioneer in messaging and a trailblazer in smartphones as far as most are concerned.

Today, the CEO of Blackberry, Thorsten Heins, was forced out and it received an injection of $1 billion in investment.  The details aren't that important here.  It's how the investors perceive today's announcement.  Blackberry has apparently taken itself off the market.  And it's uncertain what its turnaround plan is if there is one.  That's the scary part for investors. And this development certain does not inspire confidence among developers and consumers.

There is a possibly a sliver of hope for mobile fans who want Blackberry to stay in the mobile hardware game.  It's new interim CEO, John Chen, believes Blackberry has enough ingredients to continue innovating on the hardware front (http://crackberry.com/blackberry-has-no-plans-shut-down-handset-business).  While that could just be PR talk, I'm also very confident that Blackberry with the right guy at the top could mount some sort of a comeback.  While I don't know if Chen is the right guy or not, certainly the old regime has not produce the results the mobile market had hoped for despite its best efforts.

I think that Blackberry has to change the narrative and get people talk about the future in ways that isn't about its products fighting an uphill battle against mobile juggernauts.  When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he changed the narrative immediately by declaring the PC war over and it's on to the next phase.  Blackberry has to do the same.  It cannot possibly go up against Apple, Google, and Microsoft with a combined cash of around $250 billion.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

State of Mobile Stores: Google Leads In Downloads And Apple In Revenue

Source:  Game Industry.

There's a lot of competition between Apple and Google over the mobile war.  In some limited respect, they're also partners - they're partners in that Google pays Apple for being the default search engine in Safari.  Google has a set of very good apps on the iOS platform - some of the best and innovative apps I might add.  Still, Apple likes to brag about the many billions they've already paid developers.


Right now, Google has surpassed Apple in the number of downloads.  It's to be expected as Google's Android platform owns a greater portion of the mobile market.  It's unclear if this include the non-Google variants.  Google has 1.25 times more downloads than Apple

However, Apple still leads when it comes to monetizing the app market.  The GI post is a very interesting read if you're a mobile developer or a mobile enthusiast keeping scores.  The iOS platform generates 50% more revenue than Google Play.

What's interesting is the placement of China.  We know that the US market will lead in terms of download and monetization for the seeable future.  China has jumped to number two in the US downloads.  Given the size of the market, well, that's expected.  And it should get bigger for Apple when it includes China Mobile as one of its iPhone partners.  What's surprise is the monetization in China.  China jumped two spots to land on number 3.

What's surprise is where Google Play is the biggest.  Japan then followed by South Korea because Samsung and LG are among two of Google's biggest Android partners.  One thing is missing for Play, which is China as Google has no ground game there for its Android devices.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mobile: What Would Former Blackberry Execs Use When Their Company No Longer Make Phones

We already know that Google CEO Eric Schmitz uses a Blackberry.  It's not really a scandal or anything because he seems likes the type on physical keypads and there are no Android device with physical keys that can compare to what Blackberry makes.  And we also know that in the Gates household, there are no iDevices.  I think for the Gates kids, its probably just Lumias and Surfaces.  The executives for these two respective companies, Google and Microsoft, have choices.


But what happens when Blackberry, in the midst of its bleakest of nights, gets sold off as it is currently trying hard to do, gets broken up and sold off as parts, and stops making Blackberry hardwares?  Right now, with the Playbook really going nowhere, and let's be honest, hardly anyone buying it even with a steep discount, it's dead.

So, what are Blackberry executives, current and former, and employees using as tablets?  Android?  Probably.  iPads?  Yeah, I think it's right up there.  Surface?  Sure, why not?  But maybe they're sticking with their laptops.

But you can pretty much be sure that most of them have smartphones - probably everyone is outfitted with a Blackberry device.  That will remain the case until Blackberry stops making hardware - which could really be any day now.

So, what will the executives and employees lucky or unlucky enough to be around with what's will be left of Blackberry use?  Android devices and iPhones are the top choices.  Heck, maybe even some Windows Phone devices from the Microsoft/Windows BYOD fifth column in Blacbkerry.

Even now, I wonder what the Blackberry founders, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, are using.  Have they defected?  And what will they use post-Blackberry?  Interesting to think about.