Google is going to close its engineering office in Russia, the Financial Times says.
Russian authorities have been cracking down on internet activity throughout 2014.
In Russia, a new law forces tech companies to keep all data about Russians inside the country's borders.
Google has so far declined to comment.
The government asked Google to remove 253 links from its search engine during a six-month period in 2013, the FT reports.
Google may well be joined in its escape by a host of entrepreneurs and engineers who want to work in less restrictive environments.
Google and its various units have now withdrawn from, been kicked out of, or face crippling restrictions in Russia, China, Spain, and the EU generally. It shows how hobbled even the most innovative tech companies can become in countries that do not have laws guaranteeing free speech.
In the tech world, particularly in Silicon Valley, the prevailing ethos is a libertarian one. Founders tend to believe that their companies are transforming society for the better and that government is a vestige of the industrial era that can be disrupted and swept away by consumer demand and the distribution of power to people.
These are the people who believe they can create independent countries on artificial islands floating off the coast of California, after all.
But recent events are challenging all that: Governments are fighting back, and, in the short run, they're winning:
The long run is another matter. The EU and US spent much of the 1990s and early 2000s trying to break up Microsoft, which at the time had a monopoly position tying its Explorer internet browser to the Windows operating system. Microsoft lost its dominance of the browser and OS markets — but not because of government regulation. Google and Apple came along with more interesting alternative products, and consumers abandoned Explorer in droves. The antitrust fight became an interesting footnote to tech history, but not much more.
Read more at BusinessInsider.com.
Google is really getting serious about selling Google Apps for Work, its Microsoft Office killer, to more businesses.
It is rolling out a better, more sophisticated program to attract partners, called "resellers," to help it sell.
And one big thing it will do is paying its most successful resellers a bigger commission.
Currently, the standard commission it pays is 20%, sources close to Google told the Wall Street Journal. To do the math: at the low end, Google sells Apps for $50/user/year, which gives the reseller a $10/user/year commission, while Google keeps $40. On the high end, it costs $120/user/year, which equates to $24 commission for year for the reseller while Google keeps $96.
For resellers that sell more, Google will now give them a bigger commission. Plus they will be encouraged to sell other services to Google Apps customers (like support, training, and customization).
This move is one of a series that Google is making to win over Microsoft.
Microsoft has a world-class enterprise sales force and partner program, and many customers who are locked into complex, multi-year enterprise contracts known as enterprise agreements.
As we previously reported, one way that Microsoft has been able to expand its cloud services so rapidly (and keep customers from moving to Google) is by adding them for little or no extra cost into these agreements. It's a "try-it-you'll like-it" strategy and its very successful.
But Google doesn't sell enterprise software or have enterprise agreements.
So it has been smartly building up its salesforce the old fashioned way by signing up more partners. For instance, in October, it signed a big agreement with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to be both a customer and a partner that sells Google Apps for Work to enterprises.
The deal today will help Google attract even more partners, big and small.
The man helping Google build an enterprise partner program is Murali Sitaram, the WSJ reports. Google hired him earlier this year away from Cisco Systems, another company with a huge, powerful enterprise salesforce.
That's also important. A year ago, businesses were telling us that one reason they chose Microsoft over Google was because Google was fairly clueless about enterprise sales. But Google is hiring people and investing in new partner programs to fix that.
Google hasn't publicly released details of the new commission plan. But it did post this blog telling resellers all the great new things it plans to do for them.
Introducing the Google for Work and Education Partner Program
The landscape of cloud technology has changed significantly since we started selling Google Apps in 2006, and our breadth of offerings has changed with it. Today, millions of companies and schools around the world turn to Google's products to help them launch, build and transform their organizations in the cloud. Our commitment to bringing the best of Google to work has also grown substantially.
Our partners are a fundamental part of our business and this effort. Partners help customers move, live and grow in the cloud by taking full advantage of the Google for Work and Education suite of products. They onboard and train new customers, manage change, create specialized software to integrate with Google Apps and develop unique solutions using Google Maps and Google Cloud Platform.
In order to meet the needs of customers moving to the cloud, and a new generation of partners, we’re updating our partner program. Our existing programs across Apps, Chrome, Cloud Platform, Maps and Search will fuse into one Google for Work and Education Partner Program. The new program allows partners to better sell, service and innovate across the Google for Work and Education suite of products and platforms.
Our new partner program is simple in design, having just three tracks, each designed to address specific customer needs (partners can join multiple tracks):
The Sales Track is for partners whose core competency is marketing and selling Google for Work and Education products at high volume. Selling includes ongoing account management and renewals associated with a partner’s customers.
The Services Track is for partners who provide the full range of services to customers, such as selling, consulting, training, implementing and providing technical support for Google for Work and Education products.
The Technology Track is for partners who create products and solutions that complement, enhance or extend the reach or functionality of Google for Work and Education products.
To ensure the best customer experience, we have also updated the requirements and application process for the Google for Work and Education Partner Program, which will roll out in early 2015. Partners will receive a range of benefits to help them better support customers, including:
We will also offer an updated Premier tier, which is reserved for partners that have demonstrated higher levels of excellence within their track. Premier partners will receive exclusive benefits and support, including:
From Cloud Sherpas to Sprint, Agosto to Softbank, CDW to Promevo, and many more, our partners are helping transform businesses around the world. With the new Google for Work and Education Partner Program, we will continue to invest in creating world-class business relationships with our customers and provide the support and investment our partners deserve.
Authored by Julie Bort
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-smart-move-in-war-with-microsoft-2014-12#ixzz3KzInG46m
Ride-sharing service Uber Technologies Inc. said Thursday a new round of funding valued it at $41 billion, a bet by some of the world’s top investors the firm can sustain a breakneck global expansion pace despite fierce challenges from regulators and taxi companies.
The San Francisco-based company collected $1.2 billion that enables it to expand its workforce, lure new drivers, test a delivery service and subsidize prices in some of the 250 cities around the world where it operates. The closely held company has raised eight times as much as its closest ride-sharing rival, Lyft Inc.
The funding is a vote of confidence in Travis Kalanick, Uber’s co-founder and chief executive whose brash personality has courted controversy. A recent privacy scandal stirred by one of Mr. Kalanick’s deputies appeared not to faze investors focused on Uber’s business prospects.
Uber is now valued at $41.2 billion, easily the highest for any private startup now backed by venture capitalists, and above the market capitalizations of publicly traded companies including Delta Air Lines Inc., Charles Schwab Corp. , Salesforce.com Inc. and Kraft Foods Group Inc.
Now, the five-year-old company must prove it can turn a mobile app for hailing a ride into a significant and profitable global business. Its app, which lets people hail a car from professional or nonprofessional drivers with a few clicks and a credit card, has become a part of daily life in cities from Anchorage to Shenzhen, China.
Some of that cash will go into defending its services. Uber is in fierce fights with local regulators in many places where it operates. It has faced protests by taxi drivers, shutdowns and laws aimed at forcing ride-sharing services into compliance with safety measures and work rules governing taxi operators.
Uber also is exploring using its fleet of drivers to transport goods and services in addition to people. The company has tested deliveries of items including ice cream, flu shots and fresh meals and recently poached the head of Google Inc. ’s same-day delivery business.
The latest financing assumes that Uber’s rapid expansion overseas will overcome these hurdles and continue apace, said Bill Gurley, a partner at Uber venture investor Benchmark and a board member of the ride-sharing company.
“International expansion probably is the key theme of the fundraising,” said Mr. Gurley. “We feel remarkably good about where we stand in the domestic market and our real growth initiatives are focused internationally.”
Uber profits by keeping 20% of the fare paid on most rides on its service and gives the rest to its drivers, who work as independent contractors.
It made hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue last year and is growing sales at a clip of more than 40% a quarter, said a person familiar with the company’s operations. That is an increase from earlier this year, when Mr. Kalanick said revenue was doubling every six months.
By the end of next year, Uber expects to be operating at an about $2 billion net annual revenue rate, excluding driver pay, according to the person familiar with the company’s financials. Such growth is coming from a cookie-cutter global expansion, where the company moves quickly to open up shop, splash out incentives to sign up drivers and then hire lobbyists and lawyers to gird for legal challenges from taxi companies and regulators.
“They are doing exactly what they need to do to change the market,” said Dave Ashton, co-founder of SnapCar, another app-based car service in France that competes with Uber. “They don’t even make any effort to comply with what they think are bad laws.”
That plan doesn’t always work. Uber last week suspended operations in Nevada after a judge issued an injunction against the startup amid accusations that it competes unfairly with taxis because it doesn’t follow the same rules regarding drivers, insurance and more. Elsewhere, regulators in Brussels are readying new laws that would allow Uber and taxis to coexist, while a decision from a French court over the possible banning of Uber is due Dec. 12.
In Europe, Uber has been the focus of violent protests by taxi drivers and regulatory bans on a carpooling service it calls UberPop that was unveiled this year. UberPop, which uses drivers without professional taxi or chauffeur licenses, is banned in Brussels and facing court challenges in Berlin. In France, the national consumer-protection agency and the Paris prosecutor say the new service is illegal and are backing a suit against Uber in commercial court.
Uber’s response last month was to hold a news conference at its Paris office to declare that the firm would expand UberPop in Paris. In a presentation before giving televised interviews, executives said their goal is to have 70,000 drivers without professional licenses picking up fares across Paris in two years.
Uber executives say they are operating under outdated laws that they fully expect to change once lawmakers see the service’s popularity with constituents.
“If every time somebody wants to ban us, we just go along with that, we wouldn’t be in business,” said Mark MacGann, Uber’s main lobbyist in Europe and the former head of government affairs at NYSE Euronext in Brussels.
Uber’s strategy has been to get a foothold in a market in any way possible, whether it offers a way to hail traditional metered taxis, livery cabs or drivers without professional licenses through its ride-sharing services. The key is to get potential customers to download the app and then expand the range of services.
In London, the company has tried to recruit taxi drivers, but many drivers of London’s iconic black cabs refuse to work with a company they believe is breaking the law. Cabdrivers say the smartphone app that calculates fare based on time and distance is tantamount to a taximeter, which is only allowed to be used by the more expensive black cabs.
Any delay into a city costs Uber potential market share. Uber hasn’t successfully cracked the Dublin market, for example, where the London-based competitor Hailo Network Ltd. is widespread.
Authorities in Berlin and Hamburg banned the service. In response, Uber lowered the fares drastically in an attempt to appease passengers. But the low fares make it unattractive for drivers to offer their services. In recent weeks, Uber cars have been unavailable in the city.
Mr. Kalanick said in a blog post on Thursday that the Asia Pacific region is a priority for the company’s international growth. It recently opened in Vietnam and Singapore, joined with a rental-car firm in Jakarta and plans to add rickshaws in India.
But the company also faces increased scrutiny in Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, where regulators are examining the service’s legality. On Monday, Thailand’s transport minister, Prajin Juntong, said the government would ask Uber to cease its operations there because it uses private cars that lack fare meters, among other issues.
Uber hopes to recruit prominent investors in India, Latin America and the Middle East as it raises $600 million, with the goal of fostering powerful new allies who could help the company clear obstacles to growth, according to people familiar with its goals.
Uber is also seeking to rebuild its public image in the wake of controversial comments made last month by one of its executives, who suggested in a private dinner that the company should do opposition research on journalists critical of its business. The incident sparked concerns about Uber employees’ access to its customers personal data, and Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) called on the company to explain what data privacy policies it has in place.
“We also need to invest in internal growth and change,” Mr. Kalanick said in the blog post. “Acknowledging mistakes and learning from them are the first steps.”
Uber’s latest valuation is double the amount set by investors just six months ago and is nearly 12 times last year’s total. The company didn’t disclose which investors participated in the funding.
No other private tech startups are valued anywhere near Uber. Four companies currently have $10 billion valuations—home-rental site Airbnb Inc., software company Dropbox Inc., mobile-messaging service Snapchat Inc. and Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc.—though those valuations could climb quickly with a newly announced funding round. Various reports have said Xiaomi is raising funding at a valuation above $40 billion.
Uber has now raised more than $2.7 billion from a wide range of investors, including mutual-fund managers Fidelity Investments and Wellington Management; venture-capital firms Benchmark, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Menlo Ventures; and private-equity firm TPG Growth.
—Chase Gummer, Newley Purnell and Friedrich Geiger contributed to this article.
Authored by Douglas MacMillan at email@example.com
Original article found here.
The No. 2 official at the Justice Department delivered a blunt message last month to Apple Inc. executives: New encryption technology that renders locked iPhones impervious to law enforcement would lead to tragedy. A child would die, he said, because police wouldn’t be able to scour a suspect’s phone, according to people who attended the meeting.
At issue is new technology that Apple, Google Inc. and others have put in place recently to make their devices more secure. The companies say their aim is to satisfy consumer demands to protect private data.
But law-enforcement officials see it as a move in the wrong direction. The new encryption will make it much harder for the police, even with a court order, to look into a phone for messages, photos, appointments or contact lists, they say. Even Apple itself, if served with a court order, won’t have the key to decipher information encrypted on its iPhones.
The meeting last month ended in a standoff. Apple executives thought the dead-child scenario was inflammatory. They told the government officials law enforcement could obtain the same kind of information elsewhere, including from operators of telecommunications networks and from backup computers and other phones, according to the people who attended.
Technology companies are pushing back more against government requests for cooperation and beefing up their use of encryption. On Tuesday, WhatsApp, the popular messaging service owned by Facebook Inc., said it is now encrypting texts sent from one Android phone to another, and it won’t be able to decrypt the contents for law enforcement.
AT&T Inc. on Monday challenged the legal framework investigators have long used to collect call logs and location information about suspects.
In a filing to a federal appeals court in Atlanta, AT&T said it receives an “enormous volume” of government requests for information about customers, and argued Supreme Court decisions from the 1970s “apply poorly” to modern communications. The company urged the courts to provide new, clear rules on what data the government can take without a probable cause warrant.
Relations between the federal government and Silicon Valley have soured since revelations about government surveillance by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden —and the criticism of some technology companies that followed.
The new security measures threaten to alter the government’s post 9/11 efforts to intercept terrorists and other suspected law breakers. Last month, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey said new Apple and Google encryption schemes would “allow people to place themselves beyond the law.”
Robert Hannigan, the head of GCHQ, Britain’s version of the NSA, wrote in the Financial Times earlier this month that U.S. technology companies “have become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us.”
As recently as 2012, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt was on a first-name basis with then-NSA head Keith Alexander, published emails indicate. He and other Google executives participated in classified cybersecurity briefings on hacking threats facing the U.S.
In March, Mr. Schmidt declined a personal request by President Barack Obama for technical staffers from Google and the government to discuss what the NSA does and doesn’t do, according to two people familiar with the exchange.
At a public hearing in October, Mr. Schmidt said NSA snooping would wind up “breaking the Internet.”
Tech companies say concerns that they too easily turn over data to the U.S. government are costing them business overseas.
The dispute resembles the so-called Cypto Wars of the early 1990s, when the Clinton Administration sought to regulate certain encryption schemes like weapons and require that they include a key that could be unlocked by law enforcement. Tech firms resisted, arguing that people should be able to encrypt their information to safeguard it.
A federal appeals court mostly ended the dispute in 1999, when it ruled computer code, including encryption schemes, is protected speech under the First Amendment.
Over time, Washington and Silicon Valley repaired relations. Tech companies generally responded to government requests for data following the 9/11 attacks.
Then came Mr. Snowden’s revelations, beginning in June 2013. The former NSA contractor released documents showing the NSA scanned Internet traffic extensively, suggesting tech companies were complicit in the snooping. Other documents revealed that the NSA had intercepted traffic between Google’s overseas data centers, infuriating Google executives.
In June 2013, Mr. Snowden provided reporters with documents describing a government program called Prism, which gathered huge amounts of data from tech companies. At first, tech-company executives said they hadn’t previously heard of Prism and denied participating. In fact, Prism was an NSA code word for data collection authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Tech companies routinely complied with such requests.
More than a year later, tech executives say consumers still mistrust them, and they need to take steps to demonstrate their independence from the government.
Customer trust is a big issue at Apple. The company generates 62% of its revenue outside the U.S., where it says encryption is even more important to customers concerned about snooping by their governments.
These days, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook stresses the company’s distance from the government.
“Look, if law enforcement wants something, they should go to the user and get it,” he said at The Wall Street Journal’s global technology conference in October. “It’s not for me to do that.”
In early September, Apple said the encryption on its latest iPhone software would prevent anyone other than the user from accessing user data stored on the phone when it is locked. Until then, Apple had helped police agencies—with a warrant—pull data off a phone. The process wasn’t quick. Investigators had to send the device to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, and backlogs occurred.
Apple has long encrypted customer communications through its iMessage and FaceTime services, introduced early this decade. That decision prompted separate complaints from law enforcement.
Shortly after Apple’s announcement, Google said it had adopted a similar encryption scheme on phones using the newest version of its Android operating system, which was released in October.
The announcements set off alarm bells at the FBI, the Justice Department, and other law-enforcement agencies. Officials feared that other companies would follow suit, making even more communications paths difficult to investigate.
Since the Snowden revelations, Google, Facebook Inc. and YahooInc. had begun scrambling information transmitted between their overseas data centers to block NSA spies from listening in. Microsoft Corp. fought a government request for information about users of its Ireland data center, arguing the government had no jurisdiction outside the U.S.
Twitter Inc. this fall sued the government, arguing a recent settlement between the Justice Department and other tech firms restricts what it can say about government data requests.
Soon after Apple’s announcement, the FBI requested a meeting. The task of speaking for the government at the Oct. 1 meeting fell to Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the Justice Department’s second-ranking official. Mr. Cole had previously brokered the settlement about disclosures of government data requests. Apple was represented by General Counsel Bruce Sewell and two other employees, according to people who were there. The following account of what happened at the meeting is based on recollections of those people.
In his fourth-floor conference room, Mr. Cole told the Apple officials they were marketing to criminals.
At one point, he read aloud from a printout of Apple’s announcement, quoting a section in which the company said that under the new system Apple couldn’t cooperate with a court order to retrieve data from a phone even if it wanted to.
Mr. Cole offered the Apple team a gruesome prediction: At some future date, a child will die, and police will say they would have been able to rescue the child, or capture the killer, if only they could have looked inside a certain phone.
His statements reflected concern within the FBI that a careful criminal can shield much activity from police surveillance by minimizing use of cellphone towers and not backing up data.
The Apple representatives viewed Mr. Cole’s suggestion as inflammatory and inaccurate. Police have other ways to get information, they said, including call logs and location information from cellphone carriers. In addition, many users store copies of a phone’s data elsewhere.
During the hourlong meeting, Mr. Sewell said Apple wasn’t marketing to criminals, but to ordinary consumers who store growing amounts of data about themselves on smartphones and are increasingly suspicious of tech companies. Many of those customers are outside the U.S., the Apple representatives said, where phone users want to shield information from governments that are less respectful of individual rights.
If the government wants more information from Apple, the company representatives said, it should change the law to require all companies that handle communications to provide a means for law enforcement to access the communications.
Mr. Cole predicted that would happen, after the death of a child or similar event.
More than once, Mr. Cole suggested there had to be a technical solution—a way to design a phone so that police, with a court order, can access information, without compromising security.
“We can’t create a key that only the good guys can use,” Mr. Sewell responded.
After the meeting, Mr. Cole told colleagues he didn’t expect Apple to back down.
The two sides agreed to a follow-up meeting between technical experts from Apple and the Justice Department. At that meeting, Apple laid out ways in which the government could still collect information about specific phones. But its representatives acknowledged that under the new system, there will be more information on the phones that can be hidden from investigators, even with a warrant.
Later in October, Mr. Comey, the FBI director, criticized the new Apple and Google encryption schemes in a speech, saying the pendulum had swung too far toward protecting privacy, at the expense of law enforcement.
At Apple, Mr. Cook believes consumers will push the pendulum further toward protecting privacy. At the Journal conference, he made a prediction: Consumers will appreciate efforts to protect their privacy once “something major happens.”
“When that happens everybody wakes up and says, ‘Oh my God,’ and they make a change,” he said. “What that event is, I don’t know, but I’m pretty convinced that it’s going to happen.”
During discussions inside the White House, some officials disagreed with Mr. Comey’s approach, according to people familiar with those talks. They had urged the FBI not to speak out publicly, arguing the best chance at a policy change was through quiet negotiations, these people said. Obama administration officials say they plan to keep talking with the tech companies about the issues.
In the debate over phones, government officials repeatedly cite kidnapping or child-abuse cases, in an effort to make law enforcement the focus of the debate, rather than national security. Terror suspects with better-protected data are a serious concern, officials say, but they believe catching criminals is a better public argument to make.
In his October speech, the FBI’s Mr. Comey cited the case of a murdered boy, whom he didn’t name, as one example where data taken from a phone was critical to solving a crime.
That boy, it later emerged, was 12-year-old Justin Bloxom, who was murdered in 2010 in Mansfield, La. His mother, Amy Fletcher, says she has no doubt that phone evidence was critical in convicting his killer. “Everything that was done was done through texts from a damn cellphone,” she says.
Investigators quickly focused on Brian Horn, a cabdriver and convicted sex offender. Mr. Horn’s cellphone was recovered by investigators and sent to the FBI for analysis. The texts showed Mr. Horn lured the boy into his cab by pretending to be a 15-year-old girl looking for sex.
Mr. Horn’s lawyer, Daryl Gold, calls the phone “a crucial piece of evidence.” Before investigators recovered it, he said, “They had a totally circumstantial case.” Mr. Horn was convicted and sentenced to death. He is appealing.
Write to Devlin Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org, Danny Yadron at email@example.com and Daisuke Wakabayashi at Daisuke.Wakabayashi@wsj.com
The Web—that thin veneer of human-readable design on top of the machine babble that constitutes the Internet—is dying. And the way it’s dying has farther-reaching implications than almost anything else in technology today.
Think about your mobile phone. All those little chiclets on your screen are apps, not websites, and they work in ways that are fundamentally different from the way the Web does.
Mountains of data tell us that, in aggregate, we are spending time in apps that we once spent surfing the Web. We’re in love with apps, and they’ve taken over. On phones, 86% of our time is spent in apps, and just 14% is spent on the Web, according to mobile-analytics company Flurry.
This might seem like a trivial change. In the old days, we printed out directions from the website MapQuest that were often wrong or confusing. Today we call up Waze on our phones and are routed around traffic in real time. For those who remember the old way, this is a miracle.
Everything about apps feels like a win for users—they are faster and easier to use than what came before. But underneath all that convenience is something sinister: the end of the very openness that allowed Internet companies to grow into some of the most powerful or important companies of the 21st century.
Take that most essential of activities for e-commerce: accepting credit cards. When Amazon.com made its debut on the Web, it had to pay a few percentage points in transaction fees. But Apple takes 30% of every transaction conducted within an app sold through its app store, and “very few businesses in the world can withstand that haircut,” says Chris Dixon, a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz.
App stores, which are shackled to particular operating systems and devices, are walled gardens where Apple, Google , Microsoft and Amazon get to set the rules. For a while, that meant Apple banned Bitcoin, an alternative currency that many technologists believe is the most revolutionary development on the Internet since the hyperlink. Apple regularly bans apps that offend its politics, taste, or compete with its own software and services.
But the problem with apps runs much deeper than the ways they can be controlled by centralized gatekeepers. The Web was invented by academics whose goal was sharing information. Tim Berners-Lee was just trying to make it easy for scientists to publish data they were putting together during construction of CERN, the world’s biggest particle accelerator.
No one involved knew they were giving birth to the biggest creator and destroyer of wealth anyone had ever seen. So, unlike with app stores, there was no drive to control the early Web. Standards bodies arose—like the United Nations, but for programming languages. Companies that would have liked to wipe each other off the map were forced, by the very nature of the Web, to come together and agree on revisions to the common language for Web pages.
The result: Anyone could put up a Web page or launch a new service, and anyone could access it. Google was born in a garage. Facebook was born in Mark Zuckerberg ’s dorm room.
But app stores don’t work like that. The lists of most-downloaded apps now drive consumer adoption of those apps. Search on app stores is broken.
The Web is built of links, but apps don’t have a functional equivalent. Facebook and Google are trying to fix this by creating a standard called “deep linking,” but there are fundamental technical barriers to making apps behave like websites.
The Web was intended to expose information. It was so devoted to sharing above all else that it didn’t include any way to pay for things—something some of its early architects regret to this day, since it forced the Web to survive on advertising.
The Web wasn’t perfect, but it created a commons where people could exchange information and goods. It forced companies to build technology that was explicitly designed to be compatible with competitors’ technology. Microsoft’s Web browser had to faithfully render Apple’s website. If it didn’t, consumers would use another one, such as Firefox or Google’s Chrome, which has since taken over.
Today, as apps take over, the Web’s architects are abandoning it. Google’s newest experiment in email nirvana, called Inbox, is available for both Android and Apple’s iOS, but on the Web it doesn’t work in any browser except Chrome. The process of creating new Web standards has slowed to a crawl. Meanwhile, companies with app stores are devoted to making those stores better than—and entirely incompatible with—app stores built by competitors.
“In a lot of tech processes, as things decline a little bit, the way the world reacts is that it tends to accelerate that decline,” says Mr. Dixon. “If you go to any Internet startup or large company, they have large teams focused on creating very high quality native apps, and they tend to de-prioritize the mobile Web by comparison.”
Many industry watchers think this is just fine. Ben Thompson, an independent tech and mobile analyst, told me he sees the dominance of apps as the “natural state” for software.
Ruefully, I have to agree. The history of computing is companies trying to use their market power to shut out rivals, even when it’s bad for innovation and the consumer.
That doesn’t mean the Web will disappear. Facebook and Google still rely on it to furnish a stream of content that can be accessed from within their apps. But even the Web of documents and news items could go away. Facebook has announced plans to host publishers’ work within Facebook itself, leaving the Web nothing but a curiosity, a relic haunted by hobbyists.
I think the Web was a historical accident, an anomalous instance of a powerful new technology going almost directly from a publicly funded research lab to the public. It caught existing juggernauts like Microsoft flat-footed, and it led to the kind of disruption today’s most powerful tech companies would prefer to avoid.
It isn’t that today’s kings of the app world want to quash innovation, per se. It is that in the transition to a world in which services are delivered through apps, rather than the Web, we are graduating to a system that makes innovation, serendipity and experimentation that much harder for those who build things that rely on the Internet. And today, that is pretty much everyone.
—Follow Christopher Mims on Twitter @Mims; write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ever since the debut of the iPad nearly five years ago, pundits have been talking about the possibility of a post-PC professional existence. But I’m actually living it; I haven’t touched a personal computer in six months and I’m more productive than ever.
If you could peek over my shoulder at the device I’m writing this column on, you might call me a liar. By all appearances, my notebook computer, with its 13-inch screen, trackpad and keyboard, is a PC.
And yet Gartner, the most influential company charged with determining what is and is not a personal computer, has declared that my Samsung ElectronicsChromebook 2 isn’t a PC. Gartner doesn’t include sales of Chromebooks in its quarterly tally of how many PCs are sold.
“We define a PC as a device which is capable for both content consumption and creation, regardless of form factor,” says Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner’s lead PC analyst.
I guess I’m not a content creator.
Chromebooks, in case you haven’t touched one—and market research indicates that you haven’t—are Google ’s answer to Windows and Mac computers. Gadget reviewers who use Chromebooks only when they are paid to often describe them as more limited than a typical PC. But people who use Chromebooks regularly are more likely to observe that they can do pretty much everything that the average PC user needs.
To be fair to Gartner, many Chromebooks, including my own, have the same innards as smartphones so, at least on paper, they seem underpowered. Samsung’s Chromebook 2 has the same processor, amount of memory and even number of screen pixels as Samsung’s flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5. The only reason the Chromebook 2 works as a PC is that Google’s Chrome operating system is incredibly lightweight—smaller and less taxing on hardware.
I don’t mean to shill for Chromebooks. It’s just that Google is in the vanguard of creating PCs that function like smartphones: light, portable, always on, always connected and relying on the cloud to do their heavy lifting. It’s pretty obvious that in the not too distant future, Apple and Microsoft are going to free their fans from the PC in the same way.
Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has said that he does 80% of his work on an iPad. I bet it would be 100% if the iPad possessed the characteristics that allow you to create content rather than just consume it: true multitasking and fast switching between applications, plus a bigger screen. But there’s evidence that a larger, so-called iPad Pro is coming. And I bet that Apple eventually will give us a version of its mobile operating system that makes iPads true replacements for notebooks, even those made by Apple.
Then there’s Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, which is a full PC in tablet form, one of the many two-in-one notebooks that PC makers have been rolling out lately. From the processing power these hybrid devices pack to their snap-on keyboards, they are clearly designed to get real work done.
Yet were I a Surface Pro user, I still wouldn’t be using a PC, according to IDC, Gartner’s leading competitor for tallying how many PCs are sold each year. But Gartner does consider the Surface Pro a PC. According to Jay Chou, IDC’s senior analyst in charge of tracking PCs, the firm doesn’t consider anything with a detachable keyboard a PC. His firm does consider Chromebooks to be PCs, even though the Surface Pro 3 is far more powerful than most Chromebooks.
That Gartner and IDC can’t even agree on the definition of a PC speaks volumes about the strange times in which we live. Is a smartphone stretched into the shape of a laptop a PC? No, says Gartner. What about a PC crammed into the shape of a tablet? Nope, counters IDC.
These delineations are ridiculous from the perspective of the end user. That’s because most of us are entertaining ourselves and getting work done in the one place absolutely all of these devices can access—the cloud.
I store and edit all my photos in the cloud, which also is where all my media are streamed from. Unless you’re editing video, building 3-D models, playing elaborate games or dependent on legacy Windows applications that your company hasn’t moved to the cloud, you don’t strictly need a PC anymore.
At this point in history, booting up a full-fledged PC operating system to write an email is like using a nuclear sub to go on a weekend fishing trip. And a good Chromebook can be had for $300. Personally, I’d rather spend my technology budget on the one thing I truly can’t do without—my smartphone. Surveys indicate that in this respect, I’m typical of every generation to follow the baby boomers.
In short, I’m done with PCs—at least as they are conventionally defined. And I think the majority of long-suffering PC users would be too if they weren’t so accustomed to thinking of computers in the same way they have for decades. Building new technology is easy compared with changing the habits of those who use it.
—Follow Christopher Mims on Twitter @Mims and write to him at email@example.com.
The Main Difference Between Google's Rising Star Sundar Pichai And CEO Larry Page, Summed Up In One Paragraph
Google’s Sundar Pichai, who was previously tasked with overseeing the company’s Chrome and Android units, just got a major promotion last week.
Now, he’s essentially in charge of all of Google’s major consumer products including Maps, Search, and Google+ as well as commerce and ads.
CEO Larry Page will be stepping back to focus on the “bigger picture.”
According to one former Google employee, the move seems natural — mainly because Page and Pichai offer two very different types of skill sets that complement each other. Maarten Hooft, a partner at the venture capital firm Quest Venture Partners who worked at Google for six years, between 2006 and 2012, described it like this when speaking to Business Insider:
If I [were] to highlight one differentiator, [it’s that] Larry can take on that blue sky vision. He’s not afraid of setting an audacious goal. Whereas I think Sundar is more of a great operator. While Larry and Sergey [Brin] have these visions and can start these initiatives, I think it’s Sundar that’s the guy that can just get it done. He can assemble the team, he can appoint the right people, and he’s the one that makes it happen. That’s not to say that Sundar doesn’t have any product vision. But in terms of the grand 10-year horizon, I think Larry probably has more of that than Sundar does.
Hooft, who joined Google in 2006 as part of the search distribution team before moving to the Android department as a technical program manager in 2010, made it clear that these statements were based on his personal views and were not necessarily definitive.
Still, as a someone who spent time at the company for six years, Hooft was able to offer some insight as to how valuable Pichai was to Google.
“If there’s anybody that could take over as CEO one day, I would see Sundar as being a great choice for doing that,” Hooft said. “There’s a lot of smart people [at Google], but in terms of the consumer products he’s worked on so far, I doubt they would be as successful without Sundar being there.”
Authored by Lisa Eadicicco via businessweek.com.
Larry Page Is Taking A Step Back At Google To See The 'Bigger Picture,' And Sundar Pichai Is Getting A Lot More Responsibility
Google is reorganizing its executive structure.
Former Android and Chrome head Sundar Pichai will lead all of Google's core products.
CEO Larry Page taking a step back to focus on the "bigger picture," Re/code's Kara Swisher and Liz Gannes report. Google sent an internal memo to employees this afternoon to explain the changes.
Pichai will now head up research, search, maps, Google+, commerce and ads, and infrastructure, in addition to Android, Chrome, and Google Apps. The six executives leading each of those product areas will now report directly to Pichai instead of Page. YouTube, run by Susan Wojcicki, will not be under Pichai's domain.
Re/code's sources say that this switch-up seems to come from Page's concern that Google is becoming less innovative as it gets older. He wants to focus on the "bigger picture" and didn't feel like he could do that with so many direct reports and duties.
This is a big promotion for Pichai, but certainly not his first. He's been a rising star at Google and Page's right-hand man for a while now. Originally, he only managed Chrome, but took over Google Apps in 2012 and Android in March 2013. He first started working at Google in 2004.
Why does Pichai keep getting promoted? A former Google product manager observed that he succeeded with important projects, developed a great team, and avoided making enemies.
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-exec-reorgination-2014-10#ixzz3HLc3xzYG
The Web is full of personalized content, whether it’s a Netflix recommendation or the results of a Google search.
But consumers have protested when e-commerce companies have extended their behind-the-scenes personalization to prices, charging different sums for the same goods, or pushing some people toward higher-priced offers.
A new study of top e-commerce websites found these practices—called discriminatory pricing or price steering—are much more widespread than was previously understood.
The study, by a team of computer scientists at Northeastern University, tracked searches on 16 popular e-commerce sites. Six of those sites used the pricing techniques; none of the sites alerted consumers to that fact.
Among the study’s findings: Travel-booking sites Cheaptickets and Orbitz charged some users searching hotel rates an average $12 more per night if they weren’t logged into the sites, and Travelocity charged users of Apple Inc. ’s iOS mobile operating system $15 less for hotels than other users.
Home Depot Inc. shows mobile-device users products that are roughly $100 more expensive than those offered to desktop-computer users. And Expedia and Hotels.com steer users at random to pricier products, the study said.
“In the real world, there are coupons and loyalty cards, and people are fine with that,” said Christo Wilson, an assistant professor at Northeastern who led the research team. “Here, there’s a transparency problem. The algorithms change regularly, so you don’t know if other people are getting the same results.”
Travelocity, a unit of Sabre Corp. , didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Home Depot didn’t dispute the accuracy of the findings, but the home-improvement retailer wasn’t “intentionally steering search results,” said company spokesman Stephen Holmes.
Many factors could influence what a customer sees on the company’s sites, Mr. Holmes said, including prior browsing and purchase history, the location of the store, and whether the customer is on mobile or not.
Home Depot didn’t charge users different prices for identical products but showed more-expensive products to people who shopped using a smartphone, the researchers found.
Chris Chiames, vice president of corporate affairs at Orbitz Worldwide Inc., said in an email that the company clearly advertises its loyalty programs and other deals. He said the discounts some members see on the site apply to just a small proportion of hotels—fewer than 5%. So, it wouldn’t make sense, and might even be misleading, to advertise lower prices to all members, he said.
“The Northeastern study states that ‘overall, most of the experiments do not reveal evidence of steering or discrimination,’ and so we are curious as to why a handful of exceptions to searches on thousands of hotels is the basis of this paper’s conclusions, or even worthy of a story,” Mr. Chiames added. “Would you be as interested in a Kmart ‘blue light special’ deal that was made available to shoppers who happen to be in a certain store at a certain time?”
Moreover, some deals are priced by Orbitz’s hotel partners, he added. “The hotel might have limited inventory of that price, and so they choose to display the rate on a more-limited basis, akin to the flash sale,” he said.
On Orbitz and Cheaptickets, also owned by Orbitz Worldwide, consumers who registered through the websites’ free log-in were shown a tab labeled “members only” that offered lower hotel prices. The company didn’t advertise that users could receive discounts for logging in.
Orbitz has been accused of price discrimination in the past. A 2012 Wall Street Journal investigation found the company charged Mac users as much as 30% more than PC users for a night’s lodging. The company discontinued the practice, which it characterized as a month-long experiment. The Northeastern researchers confirmed the company no longer discriminates between Mac and PC users.
Expedia and Hotels.com, both units of Expedia Inc., don’t show different prices because of users’ differing characteristics but because the company constantly refines its pricing strategies using a method called A/B testing, the researchers said. Shoppers are randomly placed in a group that highlights either less or more costly hotels. “Either way, the user has no idea what bucket they’ve been placed in,” said Northeastern’s Mr. Wilson.
One group of users, for example, were shown an average hotel listing price of $187 a night. The other group saw prices that were $17, or roughly 10%, less.
“Presenting different booking paths and options to different customers allows us to determine which features customers appreciate most” said Expedia spokesman Dave McNamee, in an email. “Pricing is not manipulated by Expedia.com.”
Consumers have long protested price discrimination. In 2000, Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos apologized for an internal research program in which consumers were shown different prices for identical products. He called the experiment a “mistake.” (Amazon and eBay Inc. weren’t included in the Northeastern study because those companies’ services have little power over the prices they charge, the researchers said.)
Staples Inc. varied its online prices based on users’ locations, according to a 2012 article in The Wall Street Journal. The researchers didn’t examine Staples but pointed out that retailers might vary prices by region because the cost of procuring a given product can differ in different parts of the country. They didn’t study geographic variations for that reason.
In their study, the Northeastern researchers devised a statistical method to weed out what they called “noise,” or legitimate factors that might cause prices to vary—a technique they hope will be used in future studies of online personalization.
The research team recruited 300 beta users, who allowed the researchers to track their experience on different sites.
The team also developed hundreds of fake accounts to see whether historical purchase patterns and clicks through the sites had an impact on price personalization. They didn’t examine the impact of consumers’ overall Web-browsing behavior on pricing because they would have no way to know how e-commerce sites tracked participants across the Web.
Write to Elizabeth Dwoskin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently Jeff Price discovered that music-subscription services including Spotify AB, Rdio Inc. and Apple’s Beats Music collectively owed tens of thousands of dollars to his clients, who are mostly songwriters and music publishers.
Mr. Price believes the shortfall resulted from a problem he said plagues the digital music world: bad data.
By using systems he’d built that match recordings of songs with their creators, Mr. Price, founder and chief executive of Audiam, recovered $50,000 about 10 days ago.
The company has banked more than $1 million in missing payments to clients including Jackson Browne and James Taylor since its launch less than two years ago. The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica recently signed on as clients. Audiam keeps a percentage of the royalties it recovers.
Music distribution is now ruled by tech companies—whether giants like Google Inc., Apple and Amazon, or newcomers like Spotify—which pride themselves on offering customers all kinds of digital efficiencies, from accessing virtually limitless amounts of music instantaneously to automated payments.
But there is still inconsistency when it comes to how artists and songwriters get paid when fans stream their music.
That’s partly because tech companies typically outsource the royalty payment process to third-party companies: they provide their music “usage logs,” but leave it to others to sort out who should be paid for each play of a recording, and how much. All three services said they work to provide the most accurate data to their royalty administrators, so they can pay out quickly and accurately on the services’ behalf.
The long-fragmented music industry, meanwhile, has never created a global database that links each sound recording to the many entities that may hold an interest in it: the record company, the performer, the songwriter, the music publisher and the publishing administrator. And now that everyone from amateur DJs to unsigned garage bands can distribute their own recordings online, entering accompanying data as they please, the sheer volume of sound recordings – including covers of older songs – is exploding.
Sometimes, a label, publisher or artist in a hurry might upload song information but leave some data fields blank or enter incorrect placeholders.
Between 15% and 30% of the recordings played on digital music services don’t have the proper ownership tags in these services’ systems, Mr. Price estimates, likely preventing copyright owners from receiving hundreds of millions of dollars. Between 7% and 12% of the money being paid out by digital music providers is mistakenly paid to the wrong people, he added, or to the right people in the wrong proportion.
But third-party royalty administrators say that when it comes to the percentage of revenue they pay out, their success rates are much higher – and are improving. While most digital services now offer consumers access to about 25 million tracks, only a fraction of those account for the bulk of listening activity—and revenue. Those heavily streamed recordings are generally mapped to their proper owners.
The recordings with improper data attached generally aren’t the ones getting significant play, said Michael Simon, chief executive of the Harry Fox Agency, which calculates and pays out royalties on behalf of companies including Spotify. Mr. Simon said that his agency currently matches more than 95% of the revenue yielded by music streaming services to its rightful owners, even though the percentage of recordings matched is slightly lower. The group’s match rate is constantly improving, he added.
Still, correcting the data behind obscure or rarely-streamed recordings is important to ensure that the copyright holders are paid, especially in the event that unlikely songs “go viral” and soar to unexpected popularity, Mr. Simon said.
Ronald Gertz, chairman of Music Reports Inc., another big third-party royalty administrator, said his company also accurately matched about 95% of the revenue generated by big streaming services, but said he welcomed Mr. Price’s efforts to improve the data.
Frank Johnson, chief executive of MediaNet, the royalty administrator for Beats Music and its predecessor, Mog, said his company had invested millions to build a system to match recordings with their copyright owners – a system he believes is more accurate than any other in the industry – and added that he welcomed input to correct inaccuracies.
In an age of shrinking record sales, though, many artists and songwriters are keen on collecting every penny they’re owed – even if the missing pennies don’t always amount to much. Mr. Price said he has seen copious data errors resulting in inaccurate payments. Several years ago, for example, Mr. Price said he discovered that Eric Clapton’s publishing administrator was erroneously getting paid each time fans listened to a particular recording of Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” on one digital service, even though the song was written by the late Irving Berlin. Mr. Price said he corrected the data and fixed the problem.
Mr. Price co-founded TuneCore, a company that helps artists and labels distribute music to digital music stores, but was pushed out by the board two years ago along with the company’s other co-founders. He launched Audiam last year with a focus on recovering songwriter royalties just from YouTube.
Now, Mr. Price has expanded his focus to recovering missing royalties from interactive, or on-demand, music streaming services, which must pay royalties each time a song is played. Internet radio companies like Pandora Media aren’t a focus because they use different royalty systems.
“I would like to create an efficient pipeline,” said Mr. Price.
Authored by Tom Gara via wsj.com.