Posts Tagged ‘internet’

Has Justine Sacco Been Fired Yet? Barry Diller’s IAC Isn’t Saying

December 21, 2013  |  Variety  |  No Comments

IAC, the Internet media company run by Barry Diller, removed the name and contact info for communications director Justine Sacco after her racially charged tweet about AIDS and Africa spawned a massive wave of outrage on Twitter. But the company has not yet confirmed whether she has been fired for the offending tweet. On Friday,... Read more

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Top Products in Two Decades of Tech Reviews

December 18, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

This is my last column for The Wall Street Journal, after 22 years of reviewing consumer technology products here. So I thought I’d talk about the dozen personal-technology products I reviewed that were most influential over the past two decades. Obviously, narrowing so many products in the most dynamic of modern industries down to 12 is a subjective exercise and others will disagree. Though most were hits, a couple weren’t blockbusters, financially, and one was an outright flop. Instead, I used as my criteria two main things. First, the products had to improve ease of use and add value for average consumers. That was the guiding principle I laid down in the first sentence of my first column, in 1991: “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it’s not your fault.” Second, I chose these 12 because each changed the course of digital history by influencing the products and services that followed, or by changing the way people lived and worked. In some cases, the impact of these mass-market products is still unfolding. All of these products had predecessors, but they managed to take their categories to a new level. Some readers will complain that Apple is overrepresented. My answer: Apple introduced more influential, breakthrough products for average consumers than any other company over the years of this column.

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You’ve Come a Long Way, Silicon Valley

December 17, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

At the first big technology conference I attended, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a decade ago, I squeezed past hundreds of attendees on the show floor and was surprised to find myself alone in the ladies’ bathroom. Down the hall, the line for the men’s bathroom snaked out the door. Throughout my career at The Wall Street Journal, I’ve used my casual ladies’ bathroom observations as my own barometer to measure the number of women at events and, more broadly, in the tech community. The more women I see in the field, the less likely it is that just a team of guys are making and marketing tech products. Eleven years later, I’m happy to report I now regularly wait in line for the ladies’ rooms at conferences and product announcement events. A lot has happened since that first conference and I’ve had a front-row seat on this ever-changing industry. I’ve never written exclusively for or about women; rather, I hope my columns are read by anyone interested in learning more about a product. But privately I’ve noted the industry’s shift away from masculine marketing and product designs. In my final column this week, I’m taking a moment to look back at a few examples of how products geared toward women shaped this industry, counting failures and successes. First, the misses. A great example of a now-defunct company that tried entirely too hard to appeal to women with its product was the 2009 Palm Pre. The pebble-shaped smartphone had a slide-out keyboard and the company was proud to note that women would like the mirror that was revealed on the back of the pulled-down keyboard. On top of that, its commercial felt like a cross between a coordinated dance routine and a soap opera, complete with a woman standing on a rock in a windblown dress while she organized her digital life on a Palm Pre. A woman’s breathy voice-over said she was working on sorting “my family’s lives, friends’ lives, work life, play life, my life today and my life next week.” At the end of the commercial, the woman sat on the rock in the middle of a field with her dress tucked under her. All women do this, right? One of the most well-known failed attempts to design for women came in the shade of pink. After years of designing dull black and silver products, tech companies seemed to think they found the solution for appealing to all women by slapping a rosy hue on a device and calling it a female favorite. As laptops, cameras, cellphones, headphones, Bluetooth headsets, portable speaker docks, mice, keyboards and other products flooded the market, women continued to look for the best products with the best user interfaces—not just the pink ones. Another more recent failure: Verizon’s Droid

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Verizon In Advanced Talks to Buy Intel’s Internet TV Unit

December 13, 2013  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Verizon Communications is in “advanced talks” on a deal to acquire Intel Media, which has aborted plans to launch an over-the-top pay TV package, Variety has confirmed. The deal, if it happens, would signal Verizon’s move to become the first “virtual” subscription TV service in the U.S. Verizon offers a traditional facilities-based TV service through... Read more

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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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Two Houses, One Cable TV Bill

December 11, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Q: I have a vacation home and I am paying for cable service at two houses. Is there a practical way to stream TV from one house to another and eliminate one cable bill? A: Probably the easiest option is to buy a Slingbox, a device that starts at $180. It connects to a cable box and streams the programming over the Internet to a PC or Mac, smartphone or tablet, using Sling’s SlingPlayer software. If you want to watch the streamed content at the other house on your TV screen, you can either beam it from a mobile device to the TV via a Roku or Apple TV, or purchase a small set-top box from one of several companies, like Western Digital, which build in the SlingPlayer software. Q: In my work I often visit places that don’t allow camera phones for security reasons. I currently have a BlackBerry Torch without a camera. I would like to upgrade to an iPhone or Android device. Do any of these type of phones come without a camera? A: There are no iPhones sold without cameras.

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NSA Needs a Zoloft After Obama No-Show, But Here Comes Internet’s Wrecking Ball Letter

December 9, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

In a fascinating, only-in-the-Beltway story, the Washington Post is reporting that morale at the National Security Agency is in the doldrums over the controversy related to questionable surveillance techniques that has given the government a decidedly sinister image. And that apparently makes the spies very sad. “Morale has taken a hit at the National Security Agency in the wake of controversy over the agency’s surveillance activities, according to former officials who say they are dismayed that President Obama has not visited the agency to show his support,” wrote Ellen Nakashima, about the the 23 miles not traveled by the commander-in-chief, up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to Fort Meade in Maryland, where the NSA is headquartered. “Supporters of the NSA say staffers are not feeling the love.” It’s like Fed version of “Wrecking Ball.” (Except thankfully without Miley Cyrus and twerking.) Let’s sing together: I came in like a wrecking ball I never hit so hard your code All I wanted was to break your (fire)walls All you ever did was hack me Yeah, you, you haaaaack me Not so former President George W. Bush, who was a gentleman when he paid a visit to show his support after another NSA excessive spying scandal in 2006. But President Barack Obama has gone all Liam Hemsworth-cold and the NSA is feeling wronged. “It’s become very public and very personal,” according to one former official that Nakashima quoted “Literally, neighbors are asking people, ‘Why are you spying on Grandma?’ And we aren’t.” Grandma gets a pass from smartphone invasion?

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Siri Gets Serious, Microsoft Gets Its Mojo Back and Everything Gets Encrypted in 2014

December 6, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

If it’s December, it’s time to start predicting what’s going to dominate the headlines and trends of 2014. I make it a point every year to sit down with Mark Anderson, an industry analyst and CEO of Strategic News Service, and get an early look at the predictions he makes in a speech at an annual dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. As with previous rounds of predictions he has made (See 2011 , 2012 and 2013 ), some already make sense if you’ve been paying attention to the way things are going, and will become more pronounced in the year ahead. Others are a little more surprising. Siris head into silos. There will be more products like Apple’s Siri, and they’ll spread out and dive deep into vertical markets. Current voice-recognition products are sitting in the range of 60 percent to 80 percent accuracy, which is still too frustrating to be effective for daily use. “You still get a lot of Siri jokes,” Anderson says. “But as that rate approaches 90 percent and above, they’ll get more useful and start appearing in industry-specific products.” Customers will start trusting these systems more. Visualization goes mainstream. As more companies spin up efforts to harness the capabilities of big data and analytics, making the results more useful will become a higher priority. That’s going to bring a new emphasis on visualization tools. “Let’s stop talking about Big Data and start talking about seeing data. We haven’t yet had any big improvements in ways to help us use all this data we’re gathering.” Price rules consumer electronics

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Broadcom Co-Founder Sees Peace Coming to Warring Wireless Charging Factions in 2014

December 5, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

While wireless charging is a nice feature on a smartphone, it will be absolutely essential for the market of the so-called Internet of Things, where consumers have dozens of Internet-connected devices, from glasses to watches and more. “You are not going to plug in every device you have overnight to charge,” Samueli said in an interview on Wednesday. The problem is right now there are at least three competing efforts including the Wireless Power Consortium, the Power Matters Alliance and the Alliance For Wireless Power. “We need to converge theses standards,” Samueli said. “Without a standard the market won’t take off.” The good news, Samueli said, is that the various parties are talking. Samueli predicted that sometime next year the competing efforts will merge into a unified standard. “They are very similar,” Samueli said. “It’s actually possible to build a chip to be compatible for all three.”

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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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