Apple has announced that it s creating its first app development accelerator in Asia, as the Cupertino company seeks to woo India s engineering community with a dedicated space in which to learn design best-practices for Apple s mobile operating system.Expected to open in Bengaluru in early 2017, the iOS App Design and Development Accelerator will support engineering talent and accelerate growth in India s iOS developer community, according to a press release.India has emerged as a key battleground for the big U.S. tech companies as both Google and Facebook look to tap the burgeoning online population — with varying degrees of success — even though much of the country s 1.3 billion inhabitants remain offline.And earlier this year, Apple confirmed plans to open a new development hub in Hyderabad, India that s expected to eventually house around 4,500 people.Apple s new app accelerator will essentially serve to help developers improve their design and development skills for iOS and will include one-on-one app reviews for developers, as well as support for Apple s programming language, Swift.India is home to one of the most vibrant and entrepreneurial iOS development communities in the world, said Apple CEO Tim Cook.With the opening of this new facility in Bengaluru, we re giving developers access to tools which will help them create innovative apps for customers around the world.Bengaluru is a major startup hub in India — an estimated one million people work in the city s technology industry, while more than 40 percent of university graduates in the area specialize in IT or engineering, according to Apple.This isn t the first such center Apple has unveiled — earlier this year, it announced its first iOS App Development Center in Europe, to be located at a partner institution in Naples, Italy.The company also has a similar hub in Brazil.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is also licensing the Nokia name for handsets back to Nokia, which has set up a new company that will make feature phones, Android-based smartphones, and tablets.Now, Microsoft claims it is not giving up the ghost entirely, even though it is enabling yet another competitor in the smartphone business.There was no bold vision or explanation of where Microsoft plans to go next in terms of mobile platforms and devices.Plus, Alcatel has actually been acquired by Nokia .What s more, the deal is not likely to reassure app developers, handset manufacturers, or consumers that Microsoft is in the smartphone game for the long haul.At this point, walking away is probably the best thing Microsoft can do.During its second quarter earnings report in January, Microsoft reported that it had sold 4.5 million Lumia devices, down from 10.5 million for the same period a year earlier.In the five years since Microsoft first gave us the Windows phone, the news has been bleak:And in the Kantar market share report for the three months ending in February, Windows Mobile was bleeding market share just about everywhere: down from 4.8 percent in 2015 to 2.6 percent in 2016 in the U.S; down from 9.1 percent in 2015 to 5.8 percent in 2016 in Australia; and down 10.1 percent to 5.9 percent in Europe s five biggest countries.Meanwhile, Windows Mobile was stuck at .9 percent in China, practically irrelevant.Microsoft has been focusing on services and applications that run across mobile platforms lately.This is probably its best hope for maintaining a foothold in the mobile platform game going forward.No doubt, it s a bitter moment for a company that once had such a lock on personal computing — thanks to its Windows desktop monopoly.But the mobile wars have long since become Apple s iOS versus Google s Android.Microsoft can only really move on by admitting that hard truth to itself.
But the company s voice platform is fast, alarmingly accurate, and likely baked into tons of products we interact with in some form or another.MindMeld was founded in 2011 and is backed by over $15 million in funding.The company shows example after example of how voice beats just about every other input for generating a response, and even showed off its chops against incumbent giants like the Apple TV voice search.I caught up with CEO Tim Tuttle to see how the company fits into the broader scheme of AI giants e.g., IBM Waton, Amazon Echo and NLP-based startups and to get a view at where we might be headed.We re currently engaged with companies in video, music, quick service restaurants, fashion retailing, IoT, and other categories.There is definitely much greater awareness of AI based conversational interfaces among our target customers than there was even six months ago, Tuttle told me.That s the power of MindMeld s underlying tech — it s not just about powering conversational bots on Facebook Messenger and other messaging platforms the company released its bot platform yesterday, as well .Given the dramatic shift in user behavior we are seeing, this will probably change over the next year.Tuttle, like many others in the media, is particularly unimpressed by the range of bots out there in the wild.
A new study from the Pew Research Center has found that while a majority of Americans have used at least one of the emerging collaborative economy services, a large number of people are still unaware of their existence and potential benefits.In its first major study of the collaborative economy, Pew reported that 72 percent of Americans have used some kind of sharing, collaborative, or on-demand service, evidence of just how widespread the impact of these services has become.But Pew researchers sounded a cautionary note regarding those who have not heard of these applications, or don t know how to access them.The sharing economy has been the subject of much ongoing debate, but these services are impacting consumers to widely varying degrees, said Aaron Smith, associate director at Pew Research Center and author of the study, in a statement.Some Americans have deeply integrated these platforms into their day-to-day lives – but a larger number exist on the fringes of the sharing and on-demand economy.Of course, those benefits are only available to those savvy enough to take advantage of them.There is certainly a core group of power users who are leveraging this new economy.Beyond the 72 percent who have used at least one of these services, Pew found that one in five Americans have used at least four services, while 7 percent have used six or more.The problem is that for the 28 percent who have never accessed these services, many simply have no idea that they exist.But double that percentage had never heard of the concept of ridehailing.Same goes with home-sharing.
But the company will soon have another challenger, in the form of Uber, which has announced it will be bringing its autonomous cars to the roads of Pittsburgh in the coming weeks.This collaboration and the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center represent an important investment in building for the long term of Uber.Pittsburgh is a natural test bed for Uber s new venture, given that it s where the company chose to base its new R facility, and the city s mayor reckons it can help improve road conditions in the region.From the first steel mills to the laboratories at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh has a long history of innovation, said Mayor William Peduto.We re excited that Uber has chosen the Steel City as they explore new technologies that can improve people s lives — through increased road safety, less congestion, and more efficient and smarter cities.But with Google going full-steam ahead with its robotic car plans, General Motors investing heavily in self-driving car tech, and international companies such as Chinese Internet giant Baidu recently announcing an autonomous automobile arm in Silicon Valley, the battle really is heating up to get self-driving automobiles on American roads.
In the first quarter, the value of merger and acquisition deals in the U.S. entertainment, media, and communications sectors totaled $10.4 billion, the lowest value since before 2014.That s the conclusion from PwC s US Entertainment, Media & Communications EMC Deal Insights report.The decline in megadeal amounts started in the second half of 2015.In the two big deals, Dalian Wanda bought a majority stake in Legendary Pictures for an undisclosed amount, and Verizon Communications acquired XO Communications.But PwC said it remains optimistic that there will be an uptick in activity in coming quarters, with recent regulatory clearance for previously announced cable megadeals and the overall macroeconomic environment stabilizing after a volatile start in 2016.Deals in the sector are being driven by industry innovation in the highly dynamic digital ecosystem.Changing consumer demands coupled with rapid technological advancement make it essential for deal makers to seek targets that help deliver the connected experiences consumers want.In film and content, deals were led by film production and distribution studio deals.Chinese and Qatari companies increased their acquisitions, and PwC expects more foreign buyers to come forward in the coming quarters.Deal activity continued to be dominated by Internet media lifestyle and entertainment content properties targeting consumers rather than business-to-business users.In advertising and marketing, deal volumes rebounded from 45 in Q4 2015 to 58 in Q1 2016.PwC expects ad tech to grow more investment and M activity.
It took a long time to happen, but Minecraft is finally making it to China.Microsoft and its Mojang division have partnered with China s NetEase to take the block-building game into the Chinese market on mobile devices and PCs.As part of the deal, Mojang will develop a version of Minecraft tailored for the Chinese market and release it in partnership with NetEase.Minecraft officially launched in 2011, and has received numerous global awards and accolades.We ll always embrace opportunities to bring Minecraft to new players around the world, widening our community, and giving us a new perspective on our game, said Jonas Martensson, CEO of Mojang, in a statement.We are excited to bring Minecraft to Chinese audiences, and expect our large online community to embrace this preeminent game, said William Ding, CEO and founder of NetEase, in a statement.We believe this cooperation could leverage the strengths of both Mojang and NetEase, as well as provide the world s largest audience with a superior user experience.
While consumers debate spending hundreds of dollars to bring PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive virtual reality devices into their homes, Starbreeze is inking a different kind of deal for its competing headset.The IMAX Corporation revealed today that it plans to make content for Starbreeze s StarVR headset.The company noted they will aim for certain multiplexes as well as tourist destinations and shopping centers.IMAX is now fully embracing VR, which is a business that analysts predict will generate nearly $40 billion in revenues by 2020.IMAX established itself in the theater industry by providing tools that enable filmmakers to capture wider, more detailed images than ever before, and now it s deploying a similar strategy for VR.StarVR is similar to a Rift or a Vive, but it has a 210-degree field-of-view.IMAX wants to make content that takes full advantage of that while also leveraging its many theater locations around the world.In a canned statement, IMAX chief executive officer Richard L. Gelfond said that he wants his company to continue to innovate and find new platforms for The IMAX Experience.And we ve already seen that VR has a lot of appeal for Hollywood and global brands looking for the newest, most exciting way to reach consumers.Starbreeze is already building a VR game based on the Keanu Reeves action film John Wick from Lionsgate.
In fact the intelligence assistance market has been on a tear since 2010 – the year Apple bought Siri for $200 million.Viv is the brainchild of Dag Kittlaus, who as CEO and cofounder of Viv Labs has re-assembled his former company s leadership including Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham, who reprise the respective VP of Engineering and Chief Architect roles they held at Siri.Viv Labs isn t blind to the looming competition.Now, gaining the same ubiquity may prove to be Viv s biggest challenge, and it just might need help from an Amazon or Apple again .You can construct the best intelligent assistant in the world, but if it s not easily available to users, it won t became pervasive.Just look at how Amazon has blasted Alexa out of the gates, thanks to its established brand, offering SDKs for developers to add skills to Alexa s library and to integrate Alexa into their products, and financially backing companies through its $100 million Alexa Fund.It also drove a number of the Siri team—Kittlaus among them—to start up Viv Labs.What Viv has spent a lot of time and money on is perfecting this third-party ecosystem, said Kittlaus.Kittlaus stated after his demo that there had already been acquisition offers for Viv, but that he turned them down—perhaps to save Viv from Siri s single platform fate, and to have a shot at true ubiquity.Here s Kittlaus s demo of Viv:
The daily fantasy sports DFS industry has taken one hell of a beating these past seven months, with states from New York and Illinois to Nevada concluding that betting on virtual sports teams compiled from real pro and college athletes isn t a game of skill after all — it s illegal gambling.The two most prominent players in the saga have been Boston-based DraftKings — founded in 2011 and with $445 million in VC cash to its name so far — and FanDuel, which has raised north of $360 million in financing since its inception in 2009.And this surely can t be good for business.In FanDuel s latest annual report, announced just this week, auditor Deloitte highlighted the uncertainty created by this situation:Despite legal challenges, FanDuel has confirmed it has suspended operations in both Nevada and New York, which surely doesn t bode well for its bottom line.The loss of turnover in the states in which the group has suspended operations pending further legal clarity represents less than 20 percent of total turnover for the 18 months ended June 30, 2015, he said.FanDuel s predicament helps highlight how much can change in a year.Though the company received VC investment in its former incarnation, Hubdub closed in 2010 to focus all its efforts on a separate product it had launched a year earlier — FanDuel.Noting that sports was one of the most active categories on Hubdub at that point, and fantasy sports in general was a significant market, Eccles and co. scanned existing fantasy sports products and concluded it had room for improvement.
Spotify has announced an overhaul of its Family Plan subscriptions today, effectively bringing the offering in line with competing services.First launched in October 2014, Spotify s Family Plans have hitherto been available at half-price for each additional family member — so $10 for one person, $15 for two users, $20 for three users, $25 for four users, and $30 for five users.Now Spotify will offer a single $15 plan that allows up to six people and is identical to plans offered by Apple Music and Google Play Music.It was really only a matter of time before Spotify followed its rivals leads, because pricing was a major differentiator.This new plan means up to six people can have their own accounts for around half the previous price, with users able to create their own playlists and listen to their own tunes at the same time as others on the plan.Existing Family Plan subscribers will be upgraded automatically from the next payment date.It s also worth noting here that family plans have yet to find their way to Canada.Elsewhere in the music-streaming realm, Tidal and Rhapsody offer a 50 percent discount for additional users, similar to the deal Spotify has just ditched, while Deezer quietly unveiled a Family Plan of its own last year that costs $16 / month for six people — but which is only available in France for now.
TourRadar, an Austria-based online marketplace that specializes in selling multi-day tours around the world, has raised $6 million in a round led by Cherry Ventures and Hoxton Ventures, with participation from Austrian funds AWS Founders Fund and Speedinvest.Founded in 2010, TourRadar works with third-party travel companies to connect travelers with more than 20,000 tours across 200 countries, covering everything from city breaks to high-end luxury holidays.The company claims that 70 percent of its customers are female, and the most popular destinations are France, Italy, and Spain, with Australians and Americans representing its biggest source markets.Austria doesn t often hit the mainstream startup radar, but last year Adidas acquired Linz-based mobile fitness company Runtastic in a $239 million deal.And earlier in the year, Zynga founder Mark Pincus invested in Austria s slack competitor ChatGrape.While TourRadar s latest cash influx may serve as a minor boon to the broader Austrian startup ecosystem, it also illustrates the growing impact of online marketplaces.We are amazed that from its office in Vienna, the team has been able to cover the world so effectively and become a recognized leader.It will be used to support the company s ongoing expansion, with plans to grow its existing 40-strong headcount to 70 within the next 12 months.
Grush, the maker of a gamified toothbrush for kids, won $1 million for the grand prize on the America s Greatest Makers television show.The results were revealed moments ago on recorded television before a primetime audience.The show was created by Intel, Shark Tank producer Mark Burnett, and TBS.The actually shot the show back in February, and they were sworn to secrecy until the episode aired.If they want to perform a motion that helps them succeed in the game, they have to keep brushing vigorously.This money is really going to help our company, Schur said.We had team members who wore very unique hats, Sacheti said.Schur noted that VentureBeat wrote the initial story about Grush when most publications ignored it.
Microsoft has announced plans to lay off up to 1,850 employees, a move that will largely impact its mobile hardware division in Finland.The news is the latest in a long line of setbacks to emerge from Microsoft s doomed $8 billion Nokia acquisition.Three months after the deal was closed back in April 2014, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella revealed that the company would be cutting up to 18,000 jobs, almost three-quarters of which belonged to former Nokia staff.A year later, in July 2015, Microsoft announced a major restructuring plan for its mobile business, with up to 7,800 job cuts.The company revealed that 4,500 employees would have the opportunity to join one of the two firms — a move that also heralded the return of Nokia to the mobile phone hardware realm.Microsoft hasn t entirely pulled the plug on its mobile phone business — it recently confirmed it will continue working on Lumia-branded phones, and it is also rumored to be working on its own Surface Phone under the stewardship of Nadella.But the company has announced its mission to reinvent productivity and business processes, build the intelligent cloud platform, and create more personal computing.We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation — with enterprises that value security, manageability and our Continuum capability, and consumers who value the same, said Nadella in a statement today.
The quirky queries cover the last dozen years by each US stateBy Sky News US Team"Do penguins have knees?", "Am I a psycho?"are some of the most Googled questions in US states, according to a survey.It was people in the rural Midwestern state of Iowa who were apparently interested in penguin joints.", while in New Mexico they were Googling: "Do dogs dream?"New York , "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?"
Earlier this week, we reported that Snapchat was raising more money.We also obtained a leaked pitch deck revealing Snapchat s revenue and forecasts.The cloud communications platform also announced a new product called Programmable Wireless – programmable SIMs for IoT and handsets with T-Mobile – as well as its new Notify API that lets developers orchestrate push notifications, text messages and chats.Now, Gawker founder Nick Denton has published an open letter challenging the investor in a public debate outside the courtroom.Natasha Lomas wrote that the original dream of Google s project Ara modular smartphone concept is dead.Microsoft and Facebook announced that they are teaming up to build a subsea cable across the Atlantic that will connect Virginia Beach, Virginia, with Bilbao, Spain.
For today s banking executives, this app thing has now become this bot thing.As the appetite for apps grew and banks rushed to develop their own independent app, they removed a layer of friction for customers, providing a clickable path for them to reach their banking information.Banks, forced to reimagine their notion of a graphical user interface GUI , jammed as much personal finance information as possible into a small smartphone screen.According to a recent report by Jim Marous, co-publisher of The Financial Brand and Publisher of the Digital Banking Report, Millennials are the largest generation in world history, numbering 80 million and commanding $1.3 trillion in direct annual spending in the U.S. alone.Institutions are missing out on an opportunity to provide personalized recommendations at scale, especially when it comes to helping a person manage cash and grow into a financially secure customer.Mary Beth Sullivan, Managing Partner, Capital Performance Group, offered the following prediction: Banks of all sizes will leverage data and technologies to help customers make better financial decisions – improving the ability to save money, achieve specific financial goals, increase financial knowledge, better budget spending, etc.Banks might consider building a bot that can lead a guided conversation to help a customer see the pros and cons of a personal finance decision.Banks, with a contextual understanding of user data, might consider a bot an interesting channel to offer timely and well designed products directly to users.Josh Reich CEO and co-Founder of online bank Simple described the challenge this way: Banks who don t have a strategy to build authentic relationships with digitally native customers will continue to feel pressure as their customers leave their branches and head online.Bots have landed and brought with them a new way for people to engage with their money.
BRUSSELS – Facebook, Twitter, Google s YouTube and Microsoft pledged on Tuesday to review requests for the removal of hateful content posted on their platforms within 24 hours as part of a code of conduct agreed with EU regulators.Authorities across Europe have been trying in recent months to get social platforms to crack down on rising online racism following the refugee crisis, with some even threatening action against the companies.European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said tackling illegal online hate speech has taken on added urgency because of the increasing use of social media by terrorist groups to radicalise young people and spread violence and hatred.The European Commission said the four web giants will review the majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content if necessary.Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Julia Fioretti
It may have not one, not two, but four USB Type-C ports.At least leaked photos published today by Cult of Mac indicate as much.Four USB-C ports and one headphone jack are the only things you can see on the sides of the chassis.The other thing missing from the chassis is the row of F1-F12 keys.In its place is a flat section — which could presumably be taken up by the OLED display touch bar that analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is expecting on the refreshed MacBook Pro.The speaker grilles on either side of the keyboard have also been redesigned.But the switch from USB-A to USB-C times four!is remarkable and will be jarring for those who haven t begun the journey with the MacBook or mobile devices that use the USB-C spec.This will solve the problem of not being able to simultaneously charge the laptop and charge a phone using the laptop, but this will also mean people will need more dongles in order to use peripherals such as external monitors and SD card readers.Then again, it should be welcome to those who believe in industry standards.Also, unlike USB-A, USB-C is reversible, so you don t have to flip it if you find out the hard way that you stuck it in wrong.See Cult of Mac s article for more leaked photos of what could be the next MacBook Pro.