Monthly Archives: April 2017

Take your study time to warp speed with MarginNote Pro — only $24.99


Learning in the 21st century takes many forms. Thankfully, the “old school” age of spiral notebooks, highlighters and photocopies has given way to more technology-driven, hyper-individualized means of committing new knowledge to memory. All those tech tools to streamline and accelerate your learning are at your disposal with MarginNote Pro for Mac, which you can pick up right now at 50 percent off — just $ 24.99 — from TNW Deals. MarginNote takes the entire concept of note-taking and organizing data to another level. With MarginNote, you can quickly and efficiently cull through stacks of PDFs and EPUBs, highlight and save…

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How Netflix plans to tackle China


Netflix’s growth over the past 15 months has been impressive to watch. Its arrival on the global scene last January with 130 new markets was swiftly followed by a massive $ 1 billion financing initiative for new content, a much-requested offline mode, and another $ 1 billion financing initiative earlier this week to spearhead its push to dominate the video-streaming market globally.

Netflix is now gearing up to hit 100 million subscribers in 2017, but there remains one huge elephant in the room in terms of its international aspirations: China.

China is a notoriously tricky market for Western technology companies, with the likes of Google more or less banned across the board. Netflix hasn’t found it any easier, and China remains conspicuously absent from its list of launch markets, though Netflix has found some success in the past through licensing its own shows to existing platforms in China. Netflix’s House of Cards proved something of a success when local player Sohu bought the rights a few years back, but it was later pulled by regulators. And Netflix also brought the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel, Sword of Destiny, to Chinese movie theaters last year, where it reportedly performed rather well.

Netflix still doesn’t hold out much hope of launching its service in China in the immediate future, but it has just signed another deal with Baidu subsidiary iQiyi, an ad-supported video platform founded in 2010 that streams a range of licensed and original TV shows and movies to Chinese viewers. iQiyi is also in the midst of switching to a subscription-based model, similar to Netflix’s.

First reported by the Hollywood Reporter earlier this week, the deal will see a slew of Netflix original shows arrive on iQiyi, though the company has remained tight-lipped about which shows will be given airtime in China. The likes of House of Cards will probably remain off the agenda due to its political theme, but Netflix has now confirmed two shows that will definitely be arriving for Chinese viewers: the excellent Stranger Things and Black Mirror. This represents a milestone moment for Netflix, as it gives the company room to maneuver and garner mindshare in what could prove a hugely lucrative market. It also goes some way toward justifying the significant investment Netflix is making in original content — as the rightsholder to so many movies and shows, it holds sway over where its content is broadcast. That’s usually on the Netflix platform itself, but when it comes to China, where it’s banned, this means selling its shows, similar to how a traditional production company would sell programming to TV networks.

But while the iQiyi deal represents a positive step forward for Netflix, the company isn’t getting its hopes up that this will somehow magically open doors to launching its streaming service in China. Netflix calls its expectations from the deal “modest,” but says it’s nonetheless “delighted that consumers will be able to enjoy these highly popular series on iQIYI,” according to a statement issued by the company. “Our cooperation will be subject to the relevant regulations on online streaming of imported drama and film content in China,” it added.

China’s tight regulatory hurdles will likely mean Netflix won’t be bringing its service to market there anytime soon. Even heavily funded companies such as Uber, which was able to launch in China, finally had to unfurl the white flag and merge with a local player. When the mighty Amazon finally launched its own Prime Video service globally back in December, China was missing from the list. Plus, Alibaba-backed Tencent Video and Youku Tudou are already huge in China, so if there ever was to be a concerted effort to get more Netflix content into China, it will almost certainly be through licensing programs to existing companies.

Netflix shares have been riding on the crest of a wave, recently hitting an all-time high of $ 148, though the price dropped when the company missed its new subscriber target by 250,000. Hot on the heels of Netflix announcing its China licensing deal, however, the company’s shares broke the $ 153 barrier for the first time, achieving a new all-time high.

 

Social – VentureBeat

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey snaps up shares worth about $9.5 million


(Reuters) – Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey snapped up more than half a million of the company’s shares for about $ 9.5 million, a regulatory filing on Friday showed.

Dorsey bought 574,002 Twitter shares in multiple transactions at prices ranging between $ 16.47 and $ 16.74 per share, according to the filing.

That adds to the roughly $ 7 million worth of Twitter stock Dorsey bought earlier this year, bringing the total number of shares he has purchased this year to 1 million, the CEO said in a tweet.

According to the filing, Dorsey now owns about 16 million Twitter shares, which equates to a stake of about 2.2 percent in the company he co-founded.

Dorsey’s disclosure comes a day after Twitter reported better-than-expected user growth for its first quarter, following several quarters of stalled growth.

Twitter’s shares rose 1 percent to $ 16.65 after the bell on Friday.

The stock closed up nearly 5 percent in regular trading on Friday, adding to a gain of roughly 8 percent on Thursday when the company reported its results.

(Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza)

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Samsung Galaxy S8 owners report their phones are randomly restarting


The mysterious reddish tint might not be the only issue Samsung is experiencing with its smash-hit Galaxy S8 flagship. Numerous users are reporting their all-new handsets are randomly restarting by themselves. While it remains unclear what could be causing the glitch, it appears the issue persists in both the standard S8 and its slightly bigger S8+ sibling. Concerned owners have taken to Reddit, the XDA Developers forums as well as the Samsung US Community page to complain about the issue. According to complaints from users, some handsets have restarted over five times within the first 10 hours of using the device.…

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SiriusXM acquires connected car company Automatic for over $100M

 SiriusXM has acquired Automatic, the maker of the Automatic Pro and Automatic Lite connected car OBD-II port accessories. The deal is acknowledged by SiriusXM CFO David Frear to be worth a little north of $ 100 million, and SiriusXM and Automatic both note in releases announcing the news that the brand will remain separate, and Automatic’s products and team will remain focused on the… Read More
Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Amazon’s Echo Look is a voice assistant with a camera, because that’s not creepy


Amazon debuted a new camera-equipped, Alexa-enabled device today called Echo Look.

The Echo Look can take pictures, share a live video feed of the camera to your phone, and record videos. The totally not creepy device will set you back $ 199.

The Style Check feature could be one of the main features that makes a smart speaker with a camera interesting. Using computer vision, Echo Look can help you decide what shirt or dress to wear by taking a picture and running it through style-trained machine learning algorithms. In initial news, Amazon has not shared many details about how its Style Check computer vision works.

This feature suggests additional visual always-on services such as security. Sharing those photos of with friends in chat or social media — a feature that made A-B bot Swelly popular — may also be an attractive feature for an intelligent assistant with a camera.

Several bots like Mode.ai have been made with computer vision or to give fashion advice, though there are few fashion advice voice apps available today.

Google Home also has a stylist. A voice app called Able Style gives daily mens fashion tips and with the assistant can walk through a website that provides a series of fashion ideas and color combinations.

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Why this former Facebook Messenger product manager is investing in AI


Outsourcing, automation, and connecting strangers on chat apps are among some of the biggest opportunities in conversational commerce forming around chat app platforms, former Facebook Messenger product manager turned investor Seth Rosenberg told VentureBeat.

Last Wednesday, amid a rush of Facebook news from F8, Greylock Partners announced that Rosenberg would join its consumer investment team to make seed or early round investments in startups working with bots, AI, messaging, AR/VR, and other fields.

Until late last year, Rosenberg had been part of the Messenger team working with businesses and a developer community to create a bot ecosystem for the Messenger Platform. During Rosenberg’s three years at Messenger, the chat app launched its bot and game platforms and grew from 200 million to more than one billion monthly active users.

About the series of changes made this week to increase the discoverability of bots on Messenger — the new discover tab for popular or featured bots, chat extensions to bring bots to groups, bots for Workplace by Facebook — Rosenberg said he wasn’t surprised, and that in this case it’s good to be predictable.

“It was really a signal of reinvestment in the platform and tools that were universally requested and practically useful. Every year you don’t want some kind of ‘this is the future of world’ bomb drop,” he said. “It’s kind of refreshing actually for everyone involved to not be super surprised by some of the announcements. Like ‘OK, they’re doubling down on the same platform, they built a lot of tools based on feedback we’ve given them,’ and people are starting to get more visibility to it, which is helpful.”

He told VentureBeat he’s interested in investing in companies making services to connect people outside of each other’s network for platforms like Messenger, WeChat, Kakao, and Line.

Companies that connect people include visual A-B test bot Swelly, as well as bots like NearGroup and Foxsy that connect people interested in dating or making friends nearby.

“It’s still an open space for using messaging to connect with people that are not in your close network,” Rosenberg told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “A lot of people have tried this, but nothing has really taken off yet.”

Above: Left to right: Wingstop CIO Stacey Peterson, Facebook Messenger Product Manager Seth Rosenberg, Fandango SVP Mark Young, and panel moderator Stewart Rogers of VentureBeat. Panel participants discussed opportunities and challenges in commerce and bots at MobileBeat, a two-day chatbot and artificial intelligence gathering held July 12-13 at The Village in San Francisco.

Image Credit: Michael O’Donnell / VentureBeat

Rosenberg also believes there are big opportunities on chat platforms for communication within and between businesses because “email is still the default.”

“There are obviously companies like Slack and Microsoft Teams, but beyond the Silicon Valley bubble, email is still the way businesses communicate with each other. And I still believe there’s something [there for] either those companies or others who tackle it in a slightly different way or who tackle verticals like SMBs or have more of a hybrid approach to messaging,” he said.

Rosenberg sees chat platforms as a vehicle for automation and outsourcing in the workplace, with the potential to “unlock a distributed sales force on mobile.” The most interesting of these companies fuel entrepreneurship that could play a big role in the way people work and think about work.

Several startups in enterprise and other businesses are working on such services. On Friday, Magic launched a bot to complete office tasks in a Slack channel for $ 35 an hour. The now-defunct Tina assistant bot connected a Slack channel to a network of tens of thousands of freelancers in the Philippines to complete administrative tasks. TARA bot automates recruitment and project management.

Other companies exploring the chat gig economy include Ask Wiz, which currently allows tech experts to accept tips from $ 2 to $ 10. There’s Sensay, which intends to allow its anonymous advice givers to get paid, and therapeutic and medical chat services from Talkspace and HealthTap.

Rosenberg sees both pitfalls and opportunity in the way tech is reshaping the workplace for many people.

“You have essentially a fork in the road where on one hand you can have a large group of people that are kind of left behind in this new economy, and it can lead to unhappiness and societal unrest and drug problems and political issues and war and conflict and Brexit, and you’re starting to see signals of that right now. But the other fork in the road is that services like Etsy, Uber, and Shopify are building tools to enable micro entrepreneurship, and they’re replacing giant corporations that you worked at for 40 years in a cubicle, and you can actually replace that with something better where people have more control of their time but still have the same level of security, just through more distributed services.”

“That’s one kind of outcome of AI that I think is interesting to invest in, which is the future of work,” he concluded.

Social – VentureBeat

LinkedIn passes 500 million member milestone


Giant cloud-based resume repository LinkedIn announced that it now has 500 million members spread across 200 countries.

For context, the company announced 400 million members back in October 2015, and 450 million members in August 2016. However, these numbers don’t tell the full story — at last count, only 25 percent of LinkedIn’s members were active on the platform every month. With this latest announcement, LinkedIn hasn’t revealed how many of the 500 million are monthly active users (MAUs), but it’s probably safe to assume that the previous 25 percent figure remains about the same.

After its $ 26 billion acquisition by Microsoft last year, LinkedIn is no longer a public company, so we may not ever get a breakdown of its active users, unless Microsoft decides to do so as part of its own earnings. As it happens, LinkedIn has lost $ 100 million since it was bought out by Microsoft.

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Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino sparks social media backlash from baristas


(Reuters) – Starbucks baristas have taken to social media to complain about the coffee chain’s entry into the latest food craze: Unicorn Frappuccino.

The sparkly color-changing frozen beverage has become one of the top posts on photo-sharing platforms such as Instagram since its release on Wednesday.

But Starbucks baristas are not happy with the popularity.

Complaints have been rolling in on social media website Reddit Inc, with one barista calling the new beverage “Frap from hell” and others sharing the joy of running out of ingredients to make the drink.

Another barista shared an image of 56 Unicorn Frappuccinos that constituted one order, and others gave thanks to customers with simple orders like a black coffee.

On Twitter, just hours after the release of the new drink, Starbucks barista Braden Burson shared a 100-second tirade, saying he had “never been so stressed out in his life.” His post was shared more than 1,000 times.

“I have never made so many Frappuccinos in my entire life,” he said in the clip.

“My hands are completely sticky. I have unicorn crap all in my hair, on my nose. I have never been so stressed out in my entire life.”

A barista from Florida, Tina Lee, wrote: “As a barista, just know that every time you ask me to make this, a part of me dies #unicornfrappuccino.”

The drink is available only until Sunday.

Above: A barista makes a Unicorn Frappuccino beverage at a Starbucks coffeehouse in Austin, Texas, U.S. REUTERS/Mohammad Khursheed

“We’ve seen tremendous positive feedback on the Unicorn Frappuccino from both customers and partners (employees/baristas),” said Starbucks spokesperson when asked if the company is aware of complaints from its baristas.

Starbucks shares closed up 0.9 percent at $ 60.61 on Friday.

(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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Q&A app Quora valued around $1.8 billion in $85 million fundraise

 Quora just became the unicorn of subjective human knowledge. After eight years carefully cultivating an intelligent question and answer community, it’s just raised an $ 85 million Series D round co-led by Collaborative Fund and Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund. Read More
Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch