Posts Tagged ‘tech’

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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While Mulally/Nadella Remain the Favorites, Bates Is Silicon Valley’s Choice for Microsoft CEO

November 29, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Tony Bates About 10 days ago, AllThingsD reported once again that Ford CEO Alan Mulally was in the lead position to take over as CEO of Microsoft, with one internal exec as the No. 2 choice. As I noted in a post on November 19 : “Ford CEO Alan Mulally remains in the pole position for the job, with the idea that he will be more a ‘caretaker’ type CEO, whose deep experience and inspirational charisma will get the company on the right path, while also training up a number of internal candidates to eventually take over from him. The top pick among the possible heirs inside for that princeling role: Enterprise chief Satya Nadella.” Bloomberg reported similarly that Mulally and Nadella were the two top candidates yesterday. In the story, it noted that the Microsoft talent search documents are calling for someone with an “extensive track record in managing complex, global organizations within a fast-paced and highly competitive market sector; track record of delivering top and bottom line results. Proven ability to lead a multi-billion dollar organization and large employee base.” Let’s be clear, none of this is new. ATD and others reported in September that Mulally was the leading name in the race to run the software giant. The Mulally/Nadella scenario is both intriguing and also makes basic sense, along with another newer scenario in which a board member — like Seagate’s CEO Stephen J. Luczo — becomes the CEO (inside the company, this is being jokingly called “pulling a Dick Cheney”). But more than a dozen tech leaders in Silicon Valley, as well as several top Microsoft execs, I have talked to over the last week have one single choice to lead the company: Tony Bates. Having the love of Silicon Valley, of course, is perhaps a little dicey for anyone from Microsoft, despite years of bridge-building done by many company execs, including the British-born Bates, after decades of hostility. But those I spoke to said Bates had all the right assets, making him “the best candidate across all of the various criteria,” said one source. “Tony is a bold choice that would say a lot to the rest of the tech world that Microsoft is ready to engage,” said another source close to the company. “Mulally makes sense only if the board wants a transitional figure, which means it basically doesn’t know what to do yet.” Among Bates’s pluses, according to these sources: Scale management experience from his time as an exec at Cisco, where he managed about 12,000 global workers and was responsible for more than $20 billion in revenue. Technical ability, although Bates does not have a technical degree (he dropped out of mechanical engineering program in Britain). But, at Cisco, he was in change of development of a complex networking product, and he also holds many patents related to the area.

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SurveyMonkey Launches an Enterprise Version

November 19, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

For years there’s been a well-established tradition among certain distinctive tech companies that goes a little like this: A company launches and builds up a successful product or service. People like it so much they start using it at work, even though the corporate IT policy doesn’t officially support it. Examples that come to mind over the years include the original PalmPilot and, more recently, the cloud file storage service DropBox. It’s a common enough occurrence now that the tech industry has created a phrase to describe the phenomenon — the consumerization of enterprise IT. It’s a term so over-used in recent years that I try to avoid using it entirely, although it’s a rare company that can really claim have done it effectively. Here’s one that seems to have done it, but one that you probably wouldn’t necessarily think about in that way: SurveyMonkey. It turns out that SurveyMonkey, a 14-year old company that specializes in doing Web-based surveys and questionnaires, has never had an enterprise-class product. Now it does and it is called SurveyMonkey Enterprise, an enterprise-grade version that tracks how everyone in a company has been using it, and aggregates all their account data — including the historical data from past surveys — in one place

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Adventures in Google Self-Driving Cars: Pizza Delivery, Scavenger Hunts, and Avoiding Deer

November 18, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

After 500,000 miles of road tests, Google’s self-driving car team gave New Yorker writer Burkhard Bilger unusually deep access for a profile this week . It’s still unclear whether the larger idea of autonomous cars will work at all — the most optimistic estimate seems to be that they will come to market in five to 10 years. But self-driving cars are what put Google on the map as a company that tries to make science fiction into reality, so the tale of how they came to be is compelling. The hero of Bilger’s story is 33-year-old engineer Anthony Levandowski, who joined Google after building a self-driving motorcycle for the DARPA Grand Challenge (though it sounds like that didn’t work all that well). Levandowski was toiling away on Google Street View with the more-famous inventor/professor Sebastian Thrun before the two of them got the go-ahead from Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to start working on self-driving cars. What made the difference? A TV show producer’s wacky idea for a stunt, believe it or not. From Bilger’s piece: “In February of 2008, Levandowski got a call from a producer of “Prototype This!,” a series on the Discovery Channel. Would he be interested in building a self-driving pizza delivery car? Within five weeks, he and a team of fellow Berkeley graduates and other engineers had retrofitted a Prius for the purpose. They patched together a guidance system and persuaded the California Highway Patrol to let the car cross the Bay Bridge—from San Francisco to Treasure Island. It would be the first time an unmanned car had driven legally on American streets.” The successful bridge crossing earned Page and Brin’s go-ahead within a few months, according to Thrun. Then the two Google co-founders, “like boys plotting a scavenger hunt,” gave the self-driving car team a set of 10 100-mile itineraries. “The roads wound through every part of the Bay Area— from the leafy lanes of Menlo Park to the switchbacks of Lombard Street. If the driver took the wheel or tapped the brakes even once, the trip was disqualified.” The team completed all 10 in a year and a half. There’s a lot more to the story, but the real question is, what’s next for the self-driving car? There are challenges on multiple fronts, now that the scavenger-hunt phase is over. 1) Jumping over legal hurdles. 2) Figuring out how to bring the cars to market, given carmakers are allergic to the word “self driving” (though they’re OK with smaller and subtler tweaks, where machine smarts help drivers out). And 3) Making next technological leaps forward in sensors and machine learning.

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Dear Mayor-Elect de Blasio …

November 7, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Tony Fischer Photography via photopin cc Congratulations on your election as Mayor of New York City. When you take office on January 1, the technology sector in New York will be larger and more vibrant than ever. This is good news, since technology-based innovation has become not only America’s new engine of prosperity and job creation, but inarguably New York City’s as well. Each new high-skilled tech job leads to five additional new jobs in the local economy. As Executive Director of the New York Technology Council (NYTECH), I can assure you that tech is not only an innovative sector in its own right, but also a leading force behind innovation in many other sectors of the New York economy, including finance, advertising, media, publishing, retail, entertainment, fashion, transportation, health care and education. As mayor, one of your priorities must be helping grow the tech sector, aiming to make NYC the best environment in the world for technology businesses of all ages and sizes. Here are ten ways you can help improve the environment for tech and tech businesses to flourish in NYC: Actively promote NYC as the leading center for tech-based innovation Further encourage entrepreneurship so that NYC becomes even more of a magnet for the most creative talent in the world Support the NYC Tech Campus projects and encourage closer ties between business and academia Develop and support programs to increase the diversity of the tech workforce in NYC Improve and promote STEM education at all levels Work with industry to improve broadband wireline and wireless connectively citywide Improve public transportation and help keep NYC affordable for its workforce Improve public education so highly-skilled workers won’t leave for the suburbs as they start families Reduce bureaucracy and red tape for businesses of all sizes Advocate on behalf of issues that matter to the tech community, such as comprehensive immigration reform Beyond helping the technology sector to prosper, you could and should use technology and the tech community to help reduce inequality among New York City’s people. More specifically, tech can reduce the digital divide, the economic divide and the divide between citizens and their government. The members of NYTECH, who range from individuals to startups to some of the largest corporations in the United States, stand ready to help you ensure that New York City is the greatest and most tech-savvy city in the world. Erik K. Grimmelmann is the executive director of the New York Technology Council (NYTECH), which is a membership-driven, nonprofit organization focused on developing and promoting the technology industry in New York City.

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Yahoo’s Mayer on the Talent Hunt for Tech Journalists (Even From AllThingsD!)

November 3, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

This weekend, a Yahoo recruiter tried to poach two of our fine AllThingsD reporters for what was described as a “new initiative within our Tech Vertical.” According to the recruiter, who used LinkedIn for the outreach, the effort had the “backing of [Yahoo CEO] Marissa Mayer, as well as many of our executives, and will be the first of many of these types of editorial models that we expect to roll out globally within the next year.” As I had previously written, Mayer is pushing a new content effort that will focus on bringing big content to Yahoo, including the recent splashy hiring of the New York Times’ gadget reviewer, David Pogue, also for the tech effort. She has also been in talks with well-known television news star Katie Couric about an interview-type show that would appear on the homepage. Among many execs in the Web space, Mayer has always been more attracted to the flashier media scene, having struck deals for Google to buy content properties like Zagat while she was there. But, let’s be clear, none of her efforts there were particularly successful. Additional efforts to up Yahoo’s content business will require the hiring of a top media exec to replace recently departed media chief Mickie Rosen. Internal sources said that Mayer has said she is aiming to hire a top television exec for the job, to underscore the company’s commitment to video. For now, it seems, tech is just the start, according to the email from the Yahoo recruiter, without any reference to a very similar previous Yahoo effort called Tech Ticker, which petered out many years ago. And, years before that, there was another content effort, called Finance Vision. In other words, Yahoo has been no Netflix in its many efforts to jump into the content space, save for a series of light Web shows like “Primetime in No Time.” One show, though — “Burning Love,” created and commissioned under former media head Ross Levinsohn — has generated a lot of buzz and traffic. Mayer seems to have even bigger plans. though, using tech an some sort of “anchor.” “The initiative is a news website, focused on technology, that is extremely social friendly and another way to drive significant traffic back to our platform,” wrote the recruiter. “We have identified this endeavor as a key anchor of our media strategy and a high growth opportunity for the media organization.” It’s nice to see Mayer finally acknowledging the importance of what tech journalists do, even if it means she is trying to fish in our pond. (Marissa, bygones on the poaching, as I see it as a compliment to our excellent work at AllThingsD ! So, let’s have just-us-media-ladies lunch, and I can explain how a tech blog works and stuff.) Here’s the full email to one of our staffers this weekend: I am the North American Recruiting Lead for Yahoo’s Global Media and Commerce organization

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Lenovo Launches Yoga Tablet With Multiple Modes and a Side of Ashton Kutcher

October 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Ashton Kutcher is back pushing another tech product. But it’s not another Nikon camera or a Steve Jobs movie . Rather, it’s a new tablet from Lenovo . Tonight, the actor joined Lenovo onstage at an event in Los Angeles to unveil the Yoga Tablet. The Android Jelly Bean (4.2) device comes in an 8- and 10-inch model and will be available tomorrow for $249 and $299, respectively. When designing the Yoga Tablet, Lenovo said it wanted to do something that would help make its device stand out from the “sea of sameness,” referring to the fact that all tablets look alike. As a result, it features a cylindrical handle that allows you to use the tablet in several different modes — a concept Lenovo borrowed from its line of Yoga convertible laptops . In Hold mode, you can simply grip the handle for a more comfortable experience when reading e-books and messages. Rotating the cylinder 90 degrees will expose a stand, so you can prop the tablet on a desk for watching movies or video chats. Finally, you can lay the device down with the stand out to angle the screen for easier typing and viewing. One other benefit to the cylindrical handle, says Lenovo, is that it allowed them to include a larger battery. The Yoga Tablet is powered by dual batteries, similar in power to those used in laptops, and Lenovo estimates battery life to be around 18 hours in reading mode. Both the 8- and 10-inch Yoga Tablet have 1,280 by 800-pixel touchscreens, quad-core processors from MediaTek and 16 gigabytes of internal memory with microSD expansion options

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Social Sharing App Buffer Hacked, Temporarily Halts Service

October 26, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Buffer, an app that automatically schedules sharing from a company’s social media accounts, was hacked on Saturday morning, according to the company. The attack was first noticed when an undetermined number of users began posting spammy weight-loss links to their Facebook and Twitter pages. That included highly visible members of the tech community like investor Fred Wilson , as well as brands Startup Genome, Turnstone and Brussels Airlines. “We greatly apologize for this big mess we’ve created. Buffer has been hacked,” co-founder Leo Widrich said in a Facebook post on Saturday morning . Widrich told Buffer customers that, in order to avoid automatically posting content from their accounts, users should either change their Facebook passwords or revoke Buffer’s social sharing permissions, and then delete the spam posts from their Facebook timelines. Buffer is hardly the only app which has had spam-related problems as of late. Just recently, Instagram saw a viral wave of weight-loss-related spam spread quickly across its service, though it was not the result of a hack. Buffer has not provided details on the extent of the hack, but has temporarily disabled its app’s Facebook functionality . Update 2:14 PT: Widrich and his staff sent out emails to users on Saturday afternoon, and also posted a few more details to the company blog . Among the additional information, Widrich said that no user passwords have been affected, nor has any “billing or payment information been affected or exposed.” “I am incredibly sorry this has happened and affected you and your company. We’re working around the clock right now to get this resolved and we’ll continue to post updates on Facebook and Twitter,” Widrich wrote.

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American Express to Let Cardholders Pay NYC Taxi Fares With Membership Rewards Points

October 21, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

American Express’s loyalty program is set to make a big splash in the offline payment world by letting cardholders pay for their fares in New York City taxis with rewards points. Through a deal with point-of-sale hardware company VeriFone, American Express will offer the new payment option in about 7,000 New York City taxis — about half of all taxis in the city. The move marks the loyalty program’s first step in what will likely be a major expansion into the physical world. After all, AmEx partner VeriFone also has a presence in plenty of brick-and-mortar retail establishments. “We built this tech which is very flexible and can be used in a variety of different ways,” said Leslie Berland, SVP, digital partnerships and development at American Express. “We are assessing what are the most meaningful powerful areas in the physical world to bring this to life.” Starting with New York City taxis made sense for a few reasons. For one, there was an attractive density of cardholders in the city, specifically in Manhattan. And for cardholders in the city, taking a taxi is a relatively frequent occurrence. Before this expansion, American Express membership rewards could be used for a variety of different purchases — from gift cards to iPads to purchases on, all of which had to be made online. And, other than those American Express customers who use points for purchases, cardholders don’t really have a way to pay for a product or service with points on a daily or even weekly basis. That changes with this move; American Express is making its program more attractive to cardholders in the area, since they can now use points for a service they use more frequently. And redeeming points for fares won’t require a lot of work on the part of taxi riders. They can simply choose to pay with credit, swipe their card, and then are given the choice on the payment screen to pay with Membership Rewards points if they’d like. Fares will cost 100 points per dollar, so a $10 fare would cost taxi riders 1,000 points. For taxi drivers, there’s no difference between the payout they get for a credit-card purchase and what they’d earn for one of these new types of payment methods, American Express execs said.

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Top NBCU Digital Exec Lauren Zalaznick to Depart Company

September 27, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Well-known NBCUniversal exec Lauren Zalaznick, who has recently been working on the media giant’s growth into new digital arenas, is leaving the company, according to an internal memo. A longtime veteran of NBCU, who is also one of its most high-profile women execs, does not have a new job as yet. But, in a note that just went out to staff, NBCU CEO Steve Burke said Zalaznick would continue to “consult with NBCUniversal on digital media content and technology marketplace trends.” There has been speculation recently that Zalaznick might be in line to take over the empty seat at the top of Yahoo’s media unit, but she has not been tapped for that job as yet, said sources. Yahoo or another Web content company would make sense though, as a next move for her. Of all the top media execs at NBCU, Zalaznick has been the most interested and well known in Silicon Valley, having made a lot of efforts to reach out to the tech digerati. (That includes being interviewed for a Twitter board seat, said several sources, a spot that ultimately went to Peter Chernin.) Zalaznick started out her career as an independent feature film producer, coming to the company in 2004 via NBC’s acquisition of Vivendi Universal. Once there, Zalaznick took over the once-moribund Bravo cable network and launched a series of shows that became both hits and pop cultural icons, including: “The Real Housewives” franchise (yipes, Lauren!), “Top Chef” and “Watch What Happens Live” with Andy Cohen (thank you, Lauren!). At different times, Zalaznick was also in charge of the Oxygen cable network, Telemundo, iVillage and the Women at NBCU effort. Earlier this year, in another management shift, in which all the cable properties were moved under Bonnie Hammer, Zalaznick was given the the title of EVP NBCUniversal and charged with focusing on innovation, digital, monetization and emerging technology. The amorphous job — digitally focused cross-company tasks at big traditional media giant are tricky (thankless, really), as you might imagine — still kept Fandango and Daily Candy under her purview. She also launched NBCU’s first data science team and created the NBCU Digital Council to coordinate its digital strategery. I had heard rumblings of Zalaznick’s impending departure over the last week, which sources said was pending. As it turns out, sooner than later. NBCU declined to comment, but here’s the entire note that Burke just sent out to the company about Zalaznick, which also outlines where all her minions (this is the company that owns the movie, “Despicable Me,” after all) are headed: Here is the I am writing to let you know that Lauren Zalaznick will be leaving NBCUniversal after 12 successful years working in a variety of leadership roles here. Those of you who know Lauren well know she is one of those rare executives that combine great creative instincts with a true business orientation. Her contributions to our company have been significant and far-reaching, from cable entertainment to Spanish-language broadcast, from digital initiatives to new marketing campaigns. Lauren also has been an important champion for many of our company-wide initiatives.

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