Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

Benchmark’s Mitch Lasky on App Discovery, Distribution, and the Power of Chat Networks

December 16, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Benchmark Capital partner Mitch Lasky is a games guy. He’s been in the business for decades — long before he went into venture capital — and when it comes to selling games, he has seen what works and what doesn’t. So it seems strange that Lasky is so knowledgeable on apps like Line, WeChat and KakaoTalk — some of the biggest messaging applications in countries outside the U.S. But it’s not so odd, considering that mobile games companies are increasingly moving toward these chat apps to help people find and download their games. I sat down with Lasky last week to chat about the gaming industry, and social games in particular, and what he had to say about chat networks is something every gaming company should take note of. Oh, and while he wouldn’t speak much about it, pay attention to the part in here about Snapchat, the buzzy messaging app he happens to advise and sit on the board of. AllThingsD: So talk to me about something I know a little bit about, but I hear is going to be big: Games distribution through chat apps. WeChat, Line and KakaoTalk are all offering mobile games for sale or download inside their main chatting apps. Why is this a big thing, and why are American companies interested in it? Mitch Lasky : It’s amazing –if you look at the Korean mobile app stores, 10 out of their Top 10 mobile games are being distributed through KakaoTalk. It’s totally working. It’s an unbelievably great distribution channel. So, why is that better than, say, Apple’s App Store? I want to know how it works so well. Well, if I told you, then I’d have to kill you. No, seriously though. I think you need to decouple the concept of distribution and discovery. Distribution has become completely commoditized.

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With Private Messaging, Instagram and Twitter Continue Their Arms Race

December 12, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

So Instagram introduced a version of private messaging on Thursday morning, allowing users to send photos to only one or a few of their followers at a time. And it’s a fine decision. Communication between Instagram users has been limited mainly to proxy networks to date. This knits the service together more cohesively. But more than that, it heightens the continuing battle with another popular social network: Twitter. And Twitter should be worried. Consider the similarities: Both Twitter and Instagram are based on blasting out wide distribution of content to a public follower network. Both now allow users to send media privately on a one-to-one basis. And Twitter is looking much more like Instagram lately, shifting toward full in-line photos inside users’ Twitter streams (though users can still choose solely to communicate via text). Both are trying to be, in a nutshell, the premier public media-sharing service on the Internet. “Instagram is here today because we were public from the start,” Instagram founder Kevin Systrom said in an interview. “And I think if we were a private network or if we had a symmetrical following model, we wouldn’t nearly be as big as we are today.” And make no mistake: Twitter may have 232 million monthly active users, but Instagram is big . The photo-sharing service has garnered more than 150 million monthly active users in half the time Twitter has existed. And more than 50 percent of Instagram’s users return to the service on a daily basis . That’s got to be unsettling for Twitter. The curveball in all of this, however, has been the rise of private messaging over the past few years. While Twitter and Instagram rose to prominence based on the premise of being public, both companies realize that the general public has room for forms of both public and private online expression, rather than one over another. And if not given the choice to share and communicate privately within a network, users will go elsewhere to find it

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With Microsoft CEO Race in Home Stretch and Mulally Fading, Here’s My Dark-Horse Pick: VMware’s Gelsinger

December 12, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the possibility of an outsider dark-horse candidate emerging in the race to become CEO of Microsoft. Now it might be more of a possibility than ever before, tracking on sources inside the company that have consistently said that there is a male tech executive in the running who has not been named publicly as yet. Said one person about this candidate: He is “in tech, someone folks are excited about, but not a done deal.” By definition, the term “dark horse” is meant to describe a come-out-of-nowhere winner, or, as Wikipedia notes , “a race horse that is not known to gamblers and thus is difficult to place betting odds on.” And make no mistake, this CEO search has turned into a race, with the variety of candidates pulling ahead and then falling behind, with all of them jockeying for position, as the crowd of investors and insiders have also tried to put their own fix in. At the time of my post in mid-November, Ford CEO Alan Mulally was the clear front runner of the process to replace outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer. Also in that mix: Enterprise chief Satya Nadella; COO Kevin Turner; strategy exec Tony Bates (whom I have dubbed the Silicon Valley choice); and Nokia exec Stephen Elop. Elop was considered the top contender (by me, at least), after Microsoft bought the mobile phone division of Nokia. But — for a variety of reasons — he soon fell behind two other internal candidates, Bates and Nadella. And further back still, Turner. Among the outsiders, Mulally — who has done a lot of deft lobbying for the job, after helping Ballmer in his efforts to restructure Microsoft — has always been in the forefront of the choice

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Twitter Dethrones Facebook as 2014′s Best Tech Company to Work For

December 11, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Sorry, Facebook — you can’t win ‘em all. Twitter took the top spot as best tech company to work for in 2014, according to job-listings and ratings site Glassdoor, ending Facebook’s three-year streak as champion. The social giant was bumped to third place, while professional networking site LinkedIn climbed to the second slot. The deciding factors? Some of the ratings on Glassdoor — which allows current and former employees to weigh in on their experience of working at a company — have said that the feel at Facebook has changed in recent years, likely due to the rapid scaling-up of the company. Also, a number of senior employees had left the company after it debuted on the Nasdaq in 2012. Of the Top 50 companies that made the list, nearly half of them were tech employers — including eBay (21), Google (6), Salesforce (22) and Apple (16). Nothing gold can stay, however. I imagine that Twitter, now a public company, will see similar scaling and departure themes, just like Facebook did in the months after its IPO

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Simulmedia’s Investors Bet $25 Million More on Smart TV Ads (Video)

December 10, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Dave Morgan’s pitch is simple, and counter-intuitive: There’s going to be a boom in video ads – and it’s going to happen on TV. The Simulmedia CEO  doesn’t mean that the TV Industrial Complex is  going away (and  you would miss it if it did ). Instead, he predicts, advertisers and programmers are going to get savvier about the way TV ads work, and will start using the same data and mechanics that power Web ads. And since TV ads are going to be a much bigger business than Web video ads , for a quite some time, he wants his company to be in the middle of that. Morgan has been making some version of this pitch for several years now , and he admits that the future isn’t here quite yet. But investors keep betting on the thesis, and him. Simulmedia has just closed a $25 million round, led by Valiant Capital and R&R Ventures, bringing its total raised in 5 years to $58 million. Until now Simulmedia has been making money by buying leftover airtime from programmers and pay TV providers, adding in a dollop of data about who’s actually watching the stuff, and reselling it to advertisers. Now it wants to use some of the new funding to build out a platform so other people can use to do the same thing. Morgan’s idea is that networks may want to apply advanced analytics to their prime ad inventory, but won’t want outsiders like Simulmedia inserting themselves as middlemen. So he’ll sell them the tech instead. You can hear him explain his plan in his own words at the bottom of this post. But one quick detour first. I don’t usually spend time talking about the people behind the money in funding stories but I’ll make a brief exception here, because they’re interesting. So: Valiant is a hedge fund run by Chris Hansen, which normally makes big bets in late stage Web companies like Facebook, Dropbox, Pinterest and Uber; you may also have heard of Hansen because he’s the guy who nearly bought the Sacramento Kings and moved them to Seattle earlier this year. Hansen used to be an analyst at Montgomery/ Banc of America, the bank that almost took Real Media, Morgan’s first company, public, back in the first boom. And R&R Ventures is a new fund run by former Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons and media investor Ron Lauder. Earlier investors including Time Warner, Avalon Ventures, Union Square Ventures, and Allen & Co. are all back in this round as well.

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AllThingsD Week in Review: BlackBerry’s Future and Predictions for Tech in 2014

December 7, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

In case you missed anything, here’s a quick roundup of some of the news that powered AllThingsD this week: BlackBerry interim CEO John Chen hasn’t said much since he took the reins of the once-great smartphone pioneer. But a recent C-suite shakeup and focus on emerging markets indicate that a new strategy is afoot . In a major talent grab, Facebook exec and Instagram advertising guru Emily White is leaving to become COO of Snapchat . While the Internet was abuzz when Jeff Bezos teased the idea of delivery by drone , the Amazon CEO also addressed something much more immediate in his “60 Minutes” interview last week: Small businesses that can’t compete . In its first two and a half weeks, Sony’s sold 2.1 million units of its new gaming console, the PlayStation 4. Microsoft, meanwhile, hasn’t disclosed a current sales number, but also reports record-breaking sales for its rival Xbox One, which has had one fewer week on store shelves

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Like This If You Like Pandas! Facebook Says Publishers Shouldn’t Fret About News Feed Changes.

December 6, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

In 2011, Google changed the way it ranked websites , in an effort to punish spammers and “content farms” that showed up high in search results but delivered crummy pages. Google’s “Panda” changes had giant ripple effects throughout the Web: Ask Demand Media , among others. This week Facebook announced that it was changing the way it ranked content in its all-important News Feed — the main page Facebook users see on their desktop and on their phones — in order to promote “high-quality content.” And Facebook said it would make things like “meme photos” harder to see. The immediate reaction from several publishers I’ve talked to this week: “This is Facebook’s Panda.” But if that’s the case, then who is Facebook trying to punish? And why does Facebook care about this anyway — isn’t the crucial thing that people like the stuff, and not what the stuff is? One way to get some answers is to ask a Facebook executive directly

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Instagram to Hold December 12th Event in NYC

December 5, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Instagram has invited reporters to a press event on December 12th in Manhattan, according to reports from CNet and TechCrunch . The invitations do not specify what the event will focus on, though a recent report from GigaOm suggests it could be a messaging service .

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Dell Tablets at Bargain Prices

December 4, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

If you’re thinking of getting someone a new, name-brand tablet for the holidays, but blanch at spending base prices of $229, $399 or $499, Dell is hoping you’ll look its way. The computer giant, battling an industrywide slump in PC sales, is once again making a push into tablets and one of its weapons is low pricing. Dell has had little success in tablets. But it introduced this fall a family of four Android- and Windows-based slates called Venue models. I took a close look at one model, the seven-inch Venue 7, which, at $150, is the least expensive new major-label tablet I’ve seen at the standard 16-gigabyte base memory level. (There are a few year-old models, or models with less memory that cost somewhat less.) To understand how low $150 is for a name-brand, 16GB tablet, consider that the market-leading Apple iPads start at $499 for the 9.7-inch iPad Air, and $399 for the iPad Mini with a 7.9-inch Retina display. Even the latest seven-inch models from Google and Amazon, known for aggressive pricing, start at $229. In fact, mostly because they adopted better screens, the 2013 models of the iPad Mini, Google Nexus 7 and top-of-the-line seven-inch Kindle Fire actually rose in price from the 2012 models. So, what exactly do you get from a $150 name-brand tablet? The answer: You get a lower-quality device with weak battery life, which might suffice for a first-time tablet buyer with a tight budget. The Venue 7 is a relatively chunky black plastic tablet running Google’s Android operating system, that’s available via Dell’s online store. It operates over Wi-Fi only, though a cellular version is planned for next year. It cannot be ordered with more internal memory than 16GB, but it has a slot for a memory expansion card. This tablet has a big brother, the Android-powered Venue 8, with similar specs, that starts at $180, still a good price. On the plus side, I found the Dell Venue 7 to be fast enough not to be annoying. Common apps like Gmail, the Chrome browser, the Kindle reading app, Google Maps, Twitter and Facebook all worked fine for me. Videos played smoothly. But buyers of this tablet aren’t getting the latest or best technology. The processor, an Intel Atom, and the version of Android used, Jelly Bean 4.2.2, are last-generation editions, though Dell says it hopes to offer an upgrade to the latest version of Android next year

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Pay Attention, Snapchat! China’s WeChat Messaging App Does E-Commerce Well.

November 29, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

American messaging services could learn a thing or two from WeChat. The mobile-focused app is massively popular in China and spreading quickly abroad; of the 270-million-plus regular users of the service, about a quarter of those are outside of mainland China . Aside from its wide user base, WeChat’s biggest success looks to be in its bottom line: In-app purchases. Take WeChat’s recent experiment with the fast-growing Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi . The two companies teamed up to offer a limited number of Xiaomi’s latest flagship phone, the Mi-3, inside the WeChat app exclusively.

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