martes, 31 de diciembre de 2013

AppAide Recommends Apps Based on How Often They’re Actually Used

The Spark of Genius Series is made possible by MicrosoftBizSpark. Each post highlights a unique feature of a startup. If you'd like your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: AppAide

Quick Pitch: Help users discover trending apps in real time.

Genius Idea: AppAide highlights apps based on how often they're used rather than the number of times they've been downloaded.

When an iPhone user wants to browse for apps, he or she will typically visit the iTunes App Store, look through a list of the most downloaded apps and choose one that ranks high on the list. In part, this is because we assume the amount of times an app has been downloaded speaks to its quality. However, there are plenty of apps that may be downloaded and used only once, or else that may just be hidden gems in the App Store.

That's where AppAide comes in. This application hopes to surface some of the more overlooked apps in the App Store by tracking the apps that are actually being used by people in real time. The free app monitors the apps that its users engage with, and uses this information to reveal which apps are trending in the AppAide community.

Cody Barbierri, the company's co-founder, realized this kind of app was needed while he was attending South by Southwest earlier this year.

"I realized that it was really hard to figure out what app everyone was using in real time out there," Barbierri told Mashable. "People were making suggestions, but there wasn't really a way to know."

AppAide was released at the end of July and has since been downloaded more than 3,000 times, according to Barbierri. The app received a useful update earlier this month that lets users browse trending apps by categories like books, social networking and random. AppAide is only available for iOS right now, but the team plans to release an Android version near the end of this month.

With more than 700,000 apps in Apple's App Store alone, the need for better app discovery services has never been higher.

Earlier this year Apple acquired the app discovery engine Chomp which "learns the functions and topics of apps, so you can search based on what apps do, not just what they're called." Then there are other services like Quixey, which gathers data from blog posts, tweets and more to provide more details about what exactly an app can do.

While AppAide is certainly not the only app discovery service out there, it does stand out for its ability to potentially locate exciting lesser-known apps that are actually being used right now.

Would you use AppAide to search for apps to download? Tell us in the comments.

Images courtesy of AppAide

Series presented by Microsoft BizSpark
Microsoft BizSpark
The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible byMicrosoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives software startups three-year access to Microsoft software development tools, marketing visibility to help promote their business and a connection to the BizSpark ecosystem, giving them access to investors, advisors and mentors. There is no cost to join, so if your startup is privately owned, less than three years old and generates less than U.S. $1M in annual revenue, sign up today.

New Computer Algorithm Knows Your Phony Smile [VIDEO]

Have you ever wondered how genuine that smile really is?

If your intuition isn't stellar at gauging real versus fake smiles, this information might be of interest to you: Researchers at MIT have developed a computer algorithm to distinguish honest-to-goodness smiles from those simply trying to mask frustration.

Experiments conducted at MIT's Media Lab asked people to act out expressions of delight or frustration — and webcams captured their reactions. Researchers then watched the participants either fill out an online form purposefully designed to cause frustration, or invited them to watch a video designed to draw out delight. The researchers captured and logged each smile.

The results? According to Ehsan Hoque, graduate student in the Affective Computing Group of MIT's Media Lab and lead author of the paper documenting the research, when asked to feign frustration, an overwhelming majority of the subjects — 90% — didn't smile. Yet when it came time to fill out the form intentionally designed to be frustrating, the same percentage of people did smile to cope with the situation.

While still images of the photographs showed little difference between the frustrated smiles and the delighted smiles, the video analysis of the experiences eliciting those reactions revealed the nuances — especially regarding the progression of the smiles. While the genuine, happy smiles built up gradually, feigned smiles appeared quickly but faded just as fast.

With the data accumulated from the experiment, the researchers then created the computer algorithm they say is more effective than humans at determining the sincere smiles.

"We humans can normally zoom out and try to interpret an expression, whereas a computer algorithm can utilize the nitty gritty details of a signal, which is much more enriching than just zooming out and looking at the high-level picture," Hoque said.

Indeed, when humans were asked to interpret the smiles, they were only 50% successful at accurately determining the real responses. The algorithm, on the other hand, was correct 92% of the time.

In addition to noting the timing of the smiles, the algorithm tracks the movements of different facial muscle groups, which also come into play when people smile. Phony smiles tend to be made with just the major muscles at the corners of the mouth. Real smiles, though, involve involuntary muscles that raise the cheeks and cause crinkles around the eyes.

And who might be able to benefit from the research? Just about anyone, says Hoque. Timing especially has much to do with how people interpret expressions. For example, he says, people perceived former British Prime Minister Gordan Brown as having a fake smile because of the unnatural timing of his grin. Similarly, when former presidential candidate Herman Cain came out with a campaign video that concluded with him displaying an incredibly slow-motion smile — it took 9 seconds to appear — it was widely parodied.

"Getting the timing right is very crucial if you want to be perceived as sincere and genuine with your smiles," Hoque says.

Although knowing how to create genuine smiles just might obviate the sincerity behind them — if people do in fact take the time to appear happy when they really aren't — Hoque says the goal of the research is "to help people with face-to-face communication."

That means that this information is especially important in areas like autism, since autistic people are generally taught that a smile means someone is happy. Potentially, the research could help train autistic people and others who have difficulty interpreting expressions how to more accurately gauge the expressions they see.

Not only that, but the information could also be useful to marketers in assessing customer satisfaction. As Hoque says, "The underlying meaning behind the smile is crucial."

Would you be interested in a computer algorithm to figure out real versus fake smiles? Let us know in the comments.

? Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, TPopova ?

Zillow, Mum On $45M RentJuice Rumor, Launches First Dedicated Rental App, On Android

Zillow, according to one report, may be closing in on a deal to buy rental marketing software maker RentJuice for $45 million, but in the meantime the online property portal is focusing on the rental market in another way: by launching its first dedicated rentals app — a free app for Android devices.

Zillow Rentals is the latest development in Zillow's strategy for mobile, which — now numbering at 10 apps — has become a huge part of its business: on weekends, a full 40 percent of all of Zillow's traffic — 32 million uniques in March — comes from mobile devices, and in the same month 155 million homes on Zillow were viewed from mobile devices: that works out to 57 homes per second, the company tells me.

And although users are able to view some rental information on the original app, the new, dedicated app gives a speedier and more streamlined experience for the fast, high-volume property viewing that characterizes the average would-be renter, says Jeremy Wacksman, VP of marketing at Zillow.

Wacksman says Zillow opted for Android first over iPhone for the launch because its Android users "tend to skew younger, and we felt this group of earlier adopters could benefit from an app developed specifically with renters in mind." He says the company will extend it to other platforms in the "near future." Other apps from Zillow work on iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Windows Phone and Blackberry platforms.

Zillow is partly launching this rental app — and in general getting more focused on the rental space because activity in that segment is on the rise. At the moment, some 70 percent of markets tracked in the Zillow Rental Index showed increases in annual home value. In contrast, only 14 percent of markets tracked in the Zillow Home Value Index (for house sale prices) went up in price.

The new app will have several features that are unique to it. Among them will be the ability to view Rent "Zestimates" — the company's proprietary rental price estimates on some 100 million properties in the U.S.

The app also lets users compare selected rental properties on a side-by-side list and to narrow searches by geography by drawing boundaries around neighborhoods. It also integrates with Android voice search to find homes in a specific area. People can also browse based on the age of the rental posting, to find those that have just been listed versus those that have been on the market for longer or have already been viewed (and may therefore be a waste of time to visit). Users can also get push notifications for when homes that match your search criteria get posted. There is also the ability to contact owners or landlords through the app.

Zillow has added in a few elements to its property portal that have set it apart from many others in the same field: in addition to list prices, it compiles a list of data around price valuations and recent renovations among other things; and it has inked big deals with other portals like Yahoo and some 180 newspapers to extend its reach.

Wacksman says that Zillow is still seeing "tremendous" growth from its activities in the U.S. so it is continuing to stay focused here rather than expand internationally.

Zillow, Inc. founded and operates – a leading online real estate marketplace dedicated to helping homeowners, buyers, sellers, renters, real estate agents, mortgage professionals, landlords, and property managers find and share vital information about homes, real estate, and mortgages. Zilow, Inc. also operates Zillow Mortgage Marketplace and Zillow Mobile. Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink started Zillow in early 2005, and launched in early 2006 with data and information on millions of U.S. homes. Zillow's goal is to help...

Learn more

Moms We’d Like To Fund

Editor's Note: Christine Tsai is a Partner at 500 Startups. Learn more about her at and follow her on Twitter at @christine_tsai.

Are you an entrepreneur looking to build something truly awesome that will positively impact millions of people's lives? (And by the way, make a LOT of money?)

If so, then I have a suggestion…

Stop building yet another daily deal site or mindless social game or yellow filter so-lo-mo photo-sharing service. Instead, build something awesome for moms, dads, families, or kids. Believe it or not, there are a lot of them so make their lives easier and happier. Because, the best part is that they'll probably pay you for it.

Need some numbers to prove that this space is worth going after? A few nuggets of data*:

  • In the U.S. alone, there are 69M moms total w/ children under the age of 18.
  • Total spending by U.S. moms topped $2.1 trillion.  Yes, TRILLIONS.
  • In the last 4 years, social media use among moms has increased a whopping 591%.
  • An estimated 63.6M tablet devices are expected to be sold this year. Parents download on average 27.2 apps for their kids, spending about $100 in total.
  • Children and infant clothing spend in the U.S. is at $10B. It's even higher for baby foods – that market is expected to grow to $35.2B by 2016.

It's clear that families are where the kwan is.

As a parent, I'm not surprised by these numbers. I've certainly spent a considerable amount of money since I became a mom over 9 months ago – diapers, clothes, parent club membership, child care, diapers, baby wipes, baby food, strollers, car seats, toys, diapers, doctor visits, and more. My partner-in-crime, Dave, has 2 kids (ages 5 and 7) and has spent thousands of dollars on children's story books, language tutors, mini vans, kids clothing, soccer classes, ballet classes, basketball classes, gymnastics classes, private school tuition, and more.

What many single male 23 year-old entrepreneurs don't realize is that family tech is a BIG FREAKING BUSINESS. As in, TRILLIONS of dollars. People will never stop having kids, and people will never stop spending money on them to make sure they're safe, healthy, and educated. If anything, these numbers are growing year after year. But there's more to it than the total addressable market. There are huge pain points experienced by parents. It's hard to find good child care options in one place. It's hard figure out things to do with your kids on the weekends or after school. It's hard to find iPad apps for your kids that you are confident are helping them learn, vs just being entertained. It's hard to figure out whether to do cord blood banking. The list goes on and on.

mamabear logo500 Startups has invested in over 25 family tech startups to date and expect that we'll invest in another 20+ every year (and in multiple countries). We are so passionate about family tech as a key investment theme that we're holding an entire conference about it today (MamaBear).

Many of the problems that families face can be solved with great technology, design, and distribution. Going after families is (or should be) the new 'sexy'. Whether you're building learning apps for everyone in the family (like MindSnacks), a mom-targeted commerce site (like ecomom), subscription services for kids (like Kiwi Crate), or mobile apps to monitor infants (like Evoz), you're making a huge difference in the lives of families.

* Numbers cited from BabyCenter, BCC Research, IBISWorld, The Globe And Mail.
To check out more resources on family tech, visit

* Don't have a ticket to the MamaBear conference? We're also live streaming at starting at 9:00AM Pacific on Friday April 20.

Zynga launches new gaming site

Posted 01 March 2012 21:49pm by Heather Taylor with 0 comments

Back in October, Zynga hinted at a new play service called Project Z. Today, its unveiled this mysterious project as a new online gaming platform,, which will launch in beta this month.

This new site will allow you to play popular Zynga games such as "Words with Friends" and "CityVille" without going through Facebook or mobile apps. But why would Zynga bother?

According to lead product manager, Reed Shaffner, Zynga gamers want to find other people to play with beyond Facebook and to have a community for gaming and play that isn't integrated with the platforms they use for other tasks. So it appears that Zynga are looking to create a gaming community it can harness without the restriction of Facebook. Imaginably, this would also allow the company greater access to player data which will make Zynga a stronger platform in its own right.

Though you can continue your game no matter what space you are in (Facebook, mobile apps, website), the site allows for greater interaction with anyone on the Zynga network. They have created a live social stream with conversations from everyone across the ecosystem. These interactions have then been made into a game outlining how helpful you are verses how much help you've received and how you compare to the rest of the community. Of course, this type of function has had success in other communities to drive more online use as users compete with each other to top the leaderboard.

The most intriguing part of this development is that Zynga are opening their platform to third party game developers.  As Shaffner states in his video address, "Building games is in Zynga's DNA and we want to bring third party developers along to give them a space to make their games better." By partnering with Zynga, developers will extend the reach of their games, while Zynga will gain more users and have more products to put advertisements against. The first round of Zynga Platform partners includes MobScience, Row Sham Bow and Sava.

There is no mention of the benefit the developers receive. Is it advertising dollars? Development funding? Or just a launch platform for their work? According Zynga's blog:

These developers will be able to leverage our zCloud infrastructure for scalability and availability and our analytics to measure and drive their social engagement with metrics such as ASN (Active Social Network) which measures how many friends our players interact with.

It may seem a strange move to go away from mobile and social networks as Zynga's primary platforms, but the gaming company may be looking at a more long term strategy here. If it is able to host endless new games (and ones that may be better than its own) that Zynga didn't have to invest development dollars in, then its focus can move more to in-game advertising, which is where the dollars are. Especially as they reward customers for watching them.

What do you think? A bold move forward for Zynga? Or will this be a doomed endeavour?

10 Essential Photoshop Tips From Advice Mallard

Learning to use Photoshop requires patience and determination. With countless ways to edit your photos, a simple crop-and-resize job can easily turn into a brush-stroked, 10-layer mess.

Sometimes all you really need to know are the basics — that's where Advice Mallard comes in.

Imgur user KiloFX compiled a comprehensive list of basic Photoshop tips and tricks, presented with help from the Internet's wisest duck.

Image: Flickr, cameron23 and aspherical element

As investors pour $200m more into Pinterest, is a business model in the offing?

Posted 25 February 2013 15:51pm by Patricio Robles with 0 comments

The internet economy may be one of the brightest spots in today's global economy, but the hits taken by shares of publicly-traded prominent internet brands like Facebook, Zynga and Groupon has definitely had an impact on venture backed companies, many of which have had and will have a more difficult time convincing investors that they're worth as much as they might have been able to convince them they're worth a couple of years ago.

You wouldn't know that, however, looking at Pinterest's latest funding round, which made headlines last week. The image-based social network is on the verge of becoming the second most popular social media site in the United States, and despite the fact that it hasn't figured out how to make money, investors poured $200m into the young company at a $2.5bn valuation.

Pinterest's appeal to investors isn't difficult to explain: the company's audience is a potentially lucrative one, and there's evidence that the audience is already a productive one for brands.

BYOB: bring your own bandwagon

Brand marketers looking to jump on the Pinterest bandwagon haven't exactly found it easy to do. Unlike more mature social cousins such as Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest doesn't have an API, and offers marketers very little in the way of extras, leaving those marketers on their own to figure out how they can capitalize on the Pinterest opportunity.

Not surprisingly, companies hawking Pinterest tools, such as analytics dashboards, have emerged to fill the void, and some are gaining traction thanks to surging marketer interest in Pinterest. Naturally, few of these companies are expecting their Pinterest gold rushes to last forever. At some point it is all but certain that Pinterest, like Twitter before it, will move in and look to seize for itself the opportunities it finds to be the most attractive.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Pinterest representatives haven't hinted that a revenue model is just around the corner -- they're taking the tried and true approach of claiming focus on developing and growing a fantastic product -- but with the company's latest $200m haul bringing its total funding to more than $300m, it seems ever more likely that we'll see a revenue model emerge over the next 12 months.

Obviously, for planning purposes, it would be unwise to place bets on what Pinterest's revenue model will mean for the 'unofficial' Pinterest ecosystem that has developed. But it's not too early for brand marketers active on the social network to assume that changes will come, and to start thinking about what a revenue model will mean for them and any tools they have adopted to manage, grow and monitor their Pinterest activities.

9 Apps to Fast-Track Your New Years’ Resolutions

Whether your goal in 2013 is to lose five pounds, manage your finances, or spend more time with friends and family, there are a growing number of apps that fall into the self-help category and can assist you in accomplishing these resolutions.

At Mashable we've tested a lot of them out, but we're still always hearing about new ones. There are a ton of fitness and health apps to chose from, but you might be pleasantly surprised to know they're not all about weight loss. A device and app called Tinke monitors your stress levels and how deeply you're breathing. An app called Fig will remind you to drink more water, skip fried foods and take breaks at work to keep you feeling good. Arianna Huffington also released an app called, "GPS for the Soul" that focuses on wellbeing.

Other apps can help you organize your social life, make new friends or save money for a vacation.

We've compiled a list of apps that can help you accomplish all sorts of goals this year. Check it out and let us know if we missed any that you plan on using in 2013.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, hocus-focus

Opinion: Microsoft’s Astonishing Windows 8 Boondoggle

The other day, I got a Skype video call from my mother. This was unusual since she rarely calls me via Skype. I answered the call and saw my mother sitting in her living room, the camera at an odd angle as I looked up at her.

"I hate Windows 8," she said to me.

This sentiment, I assured her, was completely natural.

Mother was in the midst of testing her new Window 8 tablet, trying to figure out the interface and get some work done. Calling me was her version of figuring out Skype on her newfangled but imminently confusing device.

Herein rests a problem for Microsoft. People just do not like Windows 8. My mother is computer-savvy but a bit set in her ways. She likes her iPad but can see the value of Android and once reviewed the Nexus 7 when it came out in July. Yet, she looks at the Metro-style interface of Windows 8 and wants to chuck it out down the stairs.

Early sales of Surface tablets reportedly have been far less than what Microsoft expected, leading the company to reduce shipments for the year. Research firm IDC projects that Microsoft will take about 10.3% of the total tablet market … by 2016.

A tenth of the tablet market in the next three-ish years is probably not what Microsoft had in mind when it launched its extravagant new operating system and started pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into marketing. You cannot walk into a subway station in the United States these days without seeing posters for the Surface everywhere or turn on the television and avoid happy, dancing people click-clacking their new Surface tablets to some poppy tune.

All to little effect

Microsoft is one of those arrogant tech companies that believes it should succeed just because it put a lot of work into a product and throws a lot of money behind it. The fact of the matter, though, is that Microsoft is slow, its tablets (and even the Windows Phone 8 smartphones) are marginal competitors and the mobile duopoly of Apple and Android provide higher-quality products with easier to understand interfaces.

Which brings us back to Microsoft's primary problem. Many people share the same sentiment as my mother. They just do not like Windows 8 (or RT). Microsoft may have overthought the stylish new interface and provided something that is too far a departure from its previous operating systems that people just are not bringing themselves to buy it.

One of the primary problems is that Windows 8 tablets are built with the "Hubs and Tiles" interface that first came to Windows Phone. Coming from a Windows-based user interface to a tiles-based one has not sat well with initial reviewers and consumers.

Then there is the price of Windows 8

The original Surface RT with 32GB starts at $499, the same as the 16GB, Wi-Fi only iPad. The Surface Pro will come in at a startling $899 and, really, won't add much additional functionality, though the ability to run all Windows software (which RT does not) is a plus for business users and other potential customers. If Android has proved anything over the past few years, it is that the best way to compete against Apple in the smartphone and tablet space is to undercut the iPad and iPhones on price. Microsoft is either unable or unwilling to do this and sales will thusly suffer.

For as long as the Windows 8 operating system was in development (three years) and how long Microsoft waited to get real products on the market, the missteps it has made with its flagship are little short of astonishing. And Microsoft is going to have to live with it, because it is not like Windows 9 is coming out any time soon.

Image by iStockPhoto, MrIncredible

This article originally published at TabTimes here

lunes, 30 de diciembre de 2013

The iPad Owned Black Friday, So Let’s Start Seeing Better Shopping Experiences Designed For It

The iPad seems to have dominated online shopping from tablets, according to an IBM report, and in fact won out over all other devices in mobile e-commerce. Arguably, that's because it has far more market share compared to its Android rivals, and because it offers more of a full-web experience, which is more pleasant for browsing standard online retailer sites than what a smartphone screen provides. But tablet-based shopping continues to be a less than optimal experience, and it represents a largely ignored growth area where new solutions and innovative e-commerce experiences can't come fast enough.

The state of online shopping for iPad isn't exactly thrilling, despite the obvious market opportunity. IBM says that mobile shopping sales climbed over 6 percentage points this year, and mobile visits to e-commerce sites were made by 24 percent of all online shoppers, up a huge 10 percent form last year. Research from earlier in the year saw mobile commerce double in size in 2011, to a total of $65.6 billion. Tablets have been shown to drive more e-commerce spending than smartphones, meaning they're the perfect target for custom experiences.

But why bother? The whole point of the iPad is that it delivers standard websites without really sacrificing usability, right? That's true, but just because an experience does work on a platform doesn't mean efforts should stop there.

Not that everyone's just leaving well enough alone. Best Buy has a dedicated tablet version of its website that it serves if you visit from an iPad; Amazon has an iPad app and a more playful, experimental take on tablet commerce with its Windowshop app. But these are exceptions, rather than rules: Walmart isn't optimized, nor is Amazon's web experience, as just a couple of noteworthy examples.

But even the exceptions have significant drawbacks. Best Buy's tablet experience is okay, but it does little to truly explore the benefits of the platform, and it feels a little hastily thrown together in places. Amazon's Windowshop was a fun, novel experimental take on how tablet shopping might differ from traditional desktop web experiences when it came out in 2010, but it has remained relatively unchanged since then, and it doesn't seem like the e-tailer learned any valuable lessons to fold back into its main portal from the effort. In other words, where Amazon originally looked to have begun building a playground to figure out the future of tablet-based retail, Windowshop actually seems to have been more of a one-trick pony.

There are startups out there that are stepping up and trying to rectify the relative stagnation of the bigger players. Shopmox is a great example. The Toronto-based startup has created an app that combines the best elements of paper and online catalogs with an interface tailored to the iPad for a shopping experience that's actually pleasant, not just functional, on Apple's tablet. The startup is in the process of signing up more retailer partners, CEO and co-founder Kevin Lister told me, but stores and brands should be jumping on this kind of thing faster.

There are and were good reasons for retailers to be cautious with products designed specifically for a new device category. There was definitely a chance that the consumer love affair with tablets would be short-lived, but I think nearly three years on, with no end of growth in sight, we can agree they're not just a flash in the pan. There's also the possibility that economic worries could put a damper on all consumer activity in the near future, including mobile commerce. But regardless of whether the market overall contracts, I think mobile will continue to make up a growing percentage of business, so if brands want to get as much of the remaining spend that's out there, it makes sense to develop shopping experiences that shine on the devices they're using most.

Tomorrow's Cyber Monday, and that means we'll probably be inundated with even more stats later this week about how much shopping was done on tablets. But I can't help but wonder how much higher those numbers would be if more companies were actually paying proper attention to the needs of tablet shoppers, instead of taking a half-cocked, wait-and-see approach that is definitely leaving money on the table.

LeKiosk Books Another $7.1M For Its Online Store, As It Strives To Become The ‘Spotify Of Magazines’

Tablets, with their larger touchscreens that are less cumbersome than laptops, lend themselves naturally to long-form content consumption, and that is spawning a new breed of services to fit the bill. One of those is Paris-based LeKiosk, a digital periodical "stall" that has now closed a Series B round of funding totalling $7.1 million to grow its business across Europe.

The funding comes from CM-CIC, the investment arm of Credit Mutuel and investor in Deezer and Spartoo; and FSN PME CDC Enterprises, a French government investment fund. Prior to this, LeKiosk had raised $3.8 million in a Series A round from private investors and French investment funds Sigma Gestion and Promelys.

LeKiosk says that it wants to become the Spotify of the magazine world — by that, it means the go-to place to read streams of magazines from a wide variety of publishers, with its business model based around luring people to the platform around monthly subscription fees (but no freemium options; more on that below). It has seen some good traction in that effort: In its home market of France, it was the highest-grossing iPad app in the country in 2011.

Unlike Apple's NewsStand, which offers magazine and newspaper apps, LeKiosk focuses on what are essentially digital facsimiles of physical magazines, something that may mean less interactivity in the magazines themselves, but on the other hand gives LeKiosk a chance to attach an actual pricetag to each piece of content (it's usually the same as the newsstand price).

No freemium models here: "When we sell print content more people understand why they should pay," says Michael Phillippe, co-founder of LeKiosk. Magazines come from leading publishers like Conde Nast, Dennis and the BBC. Also unlike the NewsStand, LeKiosk works across all major platforms, from iOS and Android and desktop, and is currently developing a Windows 8 app as well.

Phillippe says that so far the service has seen a surge of interest: in the first year of launch LeKiosk was downloaded 500,000 times, accounting for 1 in every 3 iPads in France. More recently, that download frenzy has slowed, with the total number of downloads today at 700,000, as the service has expanded to the UK and Italy.

Nevertheless, the conversion rates of free downloads to paid purchases has been strong: Of those downloads, some 100,000 have paid for magazines a la carte, and 30,000 have taken out "subscriptions, which give users access to 10 magazines per month in exchange for €10 or £10. The charges are made through Apple's in-app purchasing service, which means Apple gets a 30 percent cut.

The company is growing fast in terms of revenues: This year it should reach total sales of €6 million, compared to €1.4 million in 2011, according to Les Echos, and it expects to be profitable by 2014.

While the French store has around 600 titles in it today, England and Italy each have around 100 titles.

Phillippe says that the new funding will be used to help to beef up those latter two catalogs further, as well as eye up the rest of Europe. The U.S. is not on the agenda yet, although you can still download LeKiosk's iPad and iPhone apps there, with European titles on them.

Part of LeKiosk's European expansion will involve developing relationships with publishers to get all must-have content onto the app, and also working in new services to the app itself, boosting interactivity among users around sharing magazine stories and magazines themselves. This would be crucial for content that might otherwise be perceived as "flat" when compared to more dynamic magazine apps.

But he also argues that the pared-down, digital versions of the magazines on LeKiosk is also part of the company's strategy: "We are trying to build a simple user experience," he says, using a dynamic 3D newsstand that "provides a consistent look and pricing structure for all the magazines within it."

Going forward, if anything, it looks like LeKiosk wants to try out even more premium services rather than any advances to freemium. In France, the company is experimenting with adding comics into the mix at the start of 2013. It plans to offer them under a separate pricing structure, charging €10 for four comics.

Microsoft’s Windows President, Steven Sinofsky, Leaves Company Following Launch Of Windows 8

Microsoft has just dropped a major bombshell: Steven Sinofsky, President, Windows Division, is leaving the company, effective immediately. The news is being characterized as a mutual decision, but industry observers know that these things never are. According to the release, Julie Larson-Green will be promoted to lead all of Windows software and hardware engineering, while Tami Reller will expand her current role to assume responsibility for the business of Windows. Reller also will retain her role as CFO and CMO, Microsoft says.

The news comes just after Microsoft put its latest release of its operating system, Windows 8, on the market – a groundbreaking new product for the company that Sinofsky has played a lead role in engineering and demonstrating onstage at various Windows events leading up to its launch, including its official unveiling in New York.

Sinofsky has been with Microsoft for 23 years, having most recently served as president of the Windows Division from July 2009 to today. Previous roles have included stints in the Office division and with the Development Tools group.

The full release is below:

REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 12, 2012 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that Windows and Windows Live President Steven Sinofsky will be leaving the company and that Julie Larson-Green will be promoted to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering. Tami Reller retains her roles as chief financial officer and chief marketing officer and will assume responsibility for the business of Windows. Both executives will report directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

These changes are effective immediately.

"I am grateful for the many years of work that Steven has contributed to the company," Ballmer said. "The products and services we have delivered to the market in the past few months mark the launch of a new era at Microsoft. We've built an incredible foundation with new releases of Microsoft Office, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Microsoft Surface, Windows Server 2012 and 'Halo 4,' and great integration of services such as Bing, Skype and Xbox across all our products. To continue this success it is imperative that we continue to drive alignment across all Microsoft teams, and have more integrated and rapid development cycles for our offerings."
Julie Larson-Green
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"It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft. I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company," Sinofsky said.

Since 1993, Larson-Green has worked on and led some of the most successful products for Microsoft, including the user experiences for early versions of Internet Explorer, and helped drive the thinking behind the refresh of the user experience for Microsoft Office. For Windows 7 and Windows 8 she was responsible for program management, user interface design and research, as well as development of all international releases. She has a master's degree in software engineering from Seattle University and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Western Washington University. In her new role she will be responsible for all future Windows product development in addition to future hardware opportunities.
Tami Reller

"Leading Windows engineering is an incredible challenge and opportunity, and as I looked at the technical and business skills required to continue our Windows trajectory — great communication skills, a proven ability to work across product groups, strong design, deep technical expertise, and a history of anticipating and meeting customer needs — it was clear to me that Julie is the best possible person for this job, and I'm excited to have her in this role," Ballmer said.

Reller joined Windows in 2007 from the Microsoft Dynamics Division where she held a number of leadership positions. She began her career in technology at Great Plains Software in 1984 while still in college, and was the company's chief financial officer at the time the company was acquired by Microsoft in 2001. She has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Minnesota State University Moorhead and an MBA from St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif. In her expanded role she will assume the lead in driving business and marketing strategy for Windows devices, including Surface and partner devices, in addition to her current marketing and finance responsibilities.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

Welcome To The Beta: Windows 8 Will Succeed, Despite All The FUD

Microsoft is already screwing it up. Microsoft can't win. Windows 8 is sunk. Seriously: to read the headlines this last week you'd think Microsoft wasn't still one of the premier tech manufacturers in the world. While I would agree that it faces a number of challenges, both from Apple and its own OEM partners, Windows 8 will thud into the landscape with more a bang and much less than a whimper.

What we are witnessing, for better or worse, is the wholesale restructuring of the Windows paradigm. Just as Windows 95 changed the way we thought of computers (at least for those of us who focused primarily on PCs), Windows 8 will force us all to rethink what it means to run a Windows program and work within the paradigm set by this new interface. Most early users note that they feel like absolute novices when first using Win8 and that the change is too jarring. I'd wager, however, that the average user will simply take it in stride. Why? Because change, for at least most of the last decade, has been a near constant in the user experience game.

In truth, Microsoft can get away with his massive change for one simple reason: there is no such thing as an "old, familiar interface" anymore. Consider, for example, Windows 7 itself. Although the standard paradigm holds, there are plenty of odd, tacked on design elements that appear and disappear. When you run a game on a PC, Windows is all but gone, replaced by a full-screen experience of the designer's choosing. Apps have their own design elements that aren't related to Windows. Even OS X users now have full-screen interfaces for many popular apps. Dashboards pop up everywhere with clocks and widgets galore. In short, UIs are a hodgepodge in the first place. Users honestly won't care if that hodgepodge appears in a set of colorful boxes on a screen or in a virtual machine running a 10-year-old shell.

This isn't Microsoft BOB vs. Windows 98. This is a tweak. Our minds, I believe, have become so malleable to new interface techniques that they are considered beneficial tweaks and not offensive changes.

Consider the cognitive burden associated with iOS. After a short period of "You can't multi-task!" the clear benefits of a single state interface became clear. As long as those interfaces were persistent i.e. you left mail, entered maps, and came back to the same screen you left mail, the perception of multi-tasking was maintained.

The same holds true of Windows 8. Those live tiles offer a bit of information – the tip of the iceberg, if you will – and a richer interaction underneath. Multi-tasking is more like multi-screen-tasking and the odd "dumps" back into Windows Vista will become less and less common as new apps appear. In short, we're moving from a desktop environment to a more mobile one. Apple has tried to do this with LaunchPad (and they've consistently failed) but Microsoft is betting the farm on this new design.

What will happen? The early adopters will complain, OS X fans will gloat, and end users will begin experience Win8 on the new PCs they buy over the holiday. Average users will, in the end, find the Word and Excel icons and maybe run an alternative browser. All of the odd quirks – the "gems" that allow you to move back home and to share information with a click – will become more transparent and fade into the background. Windows, in short, will go back to being the leading desktop operating system and iOS may or may not follow suit with more unique interface paradigms.

Could I be wrong? Could my resigned optimism be misplaced here? Sure, but on the whole we have experienced so many shifts – from text interfaces on phones to rudimentary graphical UIs to the modern iOS and Android OSes we're dealing with today – that UI is no longer static. Rather than looking at a monolithic whole – a great, dark rock called Windows – we are dealt a continuum of interface aspects that may or may not appeal to us immediately but will inevitably change as Microsoft's user base changes. In short, Windows is now and will be henceforth always in beta. It may be a little jarring for the purists, but I doubt many users really care.

Next Generation HTC One Phones Headed Exclusively to AT&T

The HTC One X+ and HTC One VX are on their way exclusively to AT&T in the U.S. The flagship Android devices will join HTC's Windows Phone 8X on the carrier and will run on its 4G LTE network.

The two phones are the next-generation of the HTC One X, which was also an AT&T exclusive. Highly praised by reviewers, the phone was touted by many as the best Android phone on the market for some time.

HTC One X+
The HTC One X+ will be the first smartphone in the United States to feature HTC Sense 4+, the newest version of HTC's custom Android software, running on top of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

The phone will come sporting a 1.7 GHz Tegra 3 NVIDIA quad-core processor, 64GB of internal storage, and 4.7-inch 720p screen.

SEE ALSO: First Look: HTC Windows Phone 8X has a Great Front Camera

The One X+ will also have a battery-saving "fifth core," which allows customers to use a single core processor on the phone for everyday use –- such as sending text messages and emails -– and switch to full quad-core mode when doing processor-intensive tasks such as watching video and gaming.

The HTC One VX is a new budget addition to the HTC One line of phones. The slim phone is 9.19 mm thin, and has a 4.5-inch display which is laminated with scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass (as seen on the iPhone).

The phone has a 5-megapixel built-in rear-facing camera which can shoot photos at 4 frames per second, as well as capture still images from video recorded on the phone.

Both the HTC One X+ and HTC One VX will be available from AT&T "in the coming months." Check out a gallery of the two handsets below.

Thinking about switching to one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Bacon Pancakes: The Catchy Jingle That Will Ruin Your Life [VIDEO]

In case you didn't catch that, Jake the Dog is making bacon pancakes.

By the way, you will never be able to stop playing this song in your head — for the rest of eternity. Try singing "It's a small world after all" to get it to stop.

SEE ALSO: Replace Baby Pics in Your Facebook Feed With Bacon and Cats

But if not, at least you'll be singing about bacon and pancakes, so we don't apologize.

BONUS:: Check out our top 5 viral videos of the week:

Apple Falls Victim to Its Own Hype Cycle

There are millions of people who are in the market for an iPhone, but are holding off on buying one because they believe Apple will introduce a new iteration this fall.

That's probably a good decision. Apple is all but certain to announce an iPhone 5 (though there's a good chance they won't call it that) as early as September. You'd have to be a fool to buy an iPhone 4S when the next-generation model was coming in just a few weeks.

Such a predicament isn't unique to Apple. In the auto industry, everyone knows that the new models arrive in September, so the best time to buy a car is around Labor Day, when dealers are eager to clear the old models from the lots.

But Apple's release cycle doesn't follow the calendar year. The company used to release new iPhones in the early summer, but last year it launched the 4S in October. The 5 could hit in mid-September, but no one knows for sure.

Apple could guide consumers through their product road map, but that's not its style. Steve Jobs brilliantly exploited interest in the company by keeping mum about any product details until he was ready to announce them. However, in the absence of solid information, consumers have nothing to go on but endless rumors and speculation.

In its conference call with analysts on Tuesday, Apple's top execs blamed that rumor mill several times for depressing demand for the iPhone. Sales for the product, which provides more than 50% of Apple's revenues and earnings these days, fell by more than 31% in units compared to the second quarter.

That's not because people are suddenly souring on the iPhone. On the contrary, there's a huge amount of pent-up demand for the new model. A recent survey by ChangeWave Research found that 14% of people said they were "very likely" to buy an "iPhone 5? and 17% were "somewhat likely" vs. 10% and 11.5%, respectively, of those who were asked about the iPhone 4S prior to its announcement in October 2011.

Since Apple is maddeningly quiet about its plans for an iPhone 5, the depression in the buying cycle seems to last longer. You may hold off buying a new car in August if you're waiting for next year's model, but what if you own an iPhone 4? Should you upgrade to a 4S in April or wait a few months more to see what Apple's going to do?

"I think there is a lot of speculation out there. It's hard to sort out," Apple CEO Tim Cook said during the call. "There is an incredible anticipation for future products, as you would expect given what we've been able to deliver in the past."

Quite true, but it might be less of an issue if Apple stuck to a firmer release calendar or at least provided some kind of guidance about when it's new products were going to hit. (Apple actually did do this during the call, referring to a "fall event." Translation: A new iPhone.)

In the meantime, though, customers will have no choice but to scan the Internet for any hints of Apple's intentions. It may be a solid marketing strategy, but it's frustrating for consumers and, as CFO Peter Oppenheimer admitted, for Apple itself. "We're hearing the same rumors and speculation about the iPhone that you are and we think this is causing some speculation in people buying," he said.

Yet Cook appears content to take the hype around Apple in stride: "I am glad people want the next thing, I'm super happy about that," he said. "I'm not going to put any energy into getting people to stop speculating."

Are you waiting for the iPhone 5 to buy your next iPhone? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, igrec

Where are web analysts focusing their efforts?

Posted 09 July 2012 09:13am by Andrew Warren-Payne with 2 comments

In our newly released Online Measurement and Strategy Report, published in association with Lynchpin, one of the key trends to emerge was how the shortage of experienced analysts is impacting on the ability of businesses to gain the most value from their data.

For this year's report we asked respondents, "Which of the following tasks are web analysts in your organisation engaged with?" Respondents were asked to state to what degree their analysts had to focus on these, and what it showed was that analysts are being asked to perform a wide range of tasks.

While it is encouraging to see that for over two-thirds of respondents (67%) there is a major focus on analysts communicating insights to senior management, almost the same number (65%) state that there is a major focus on producing reports. While reports can be useful, a danger is that they are produced but that no one takes any action on them.

Almost four out of ten (37%) state that implementing tagging and fixing is another area where analysts have to focus significant efforts. With site tagging being a major headache for many marketers and analysts, there has been a rapid growth the in the number of vendors offering a tag management solution.

What these figures suggest is that rather than focusing on just those tasks which will add real value to the business, analysts are being asked to juggle other responsibilities, taking time away from their core purpose.

With resourcing being such of an issue that fewer companies this year are employing analysts, it is not surprising that those working in this area need to do more to keep up.

At a Web Analytics Wednesday meeting in London last week, where the research was launched, a number of attendees raised the question around how the talent issue within web analytics can be addressed.

As well as suggestions of hiring burned out bankers, one observation made by Lynchpin Managing Director Andrew Hood was that rather than looking for people with a rare combination of talents, companies should consider building teams that consist of members with different but complementary skillsets (from great analysis and insight skills, through to expert use of JavaScript). 

In addition, many companies are looking to train up their current staff (through courses such as Econsultancy's Graduate Certificate in Analytics and Optimisation) to get the most value out of their web analytics.

What are analysts in your company doing?

Does your company place the same focus on communicating insight as producing reports? Have you found it difficult to recruit experienced analysts? Or are you an analyst with suggestions on what areas other analysts should be focusing on? Share your comments below.

How Top Entrepreneurs Are Using Microsoft’s Kinect

Most people know Microsoft's Kinect as a the motion sensing device you can hook-up to your Xbox to track your moves onscreen while playing virtual tennis or bowling. An accelerator program at Microsoft challenged budding entrepreneurs to create innovative ways to use the Kinect technology — and they created a lot more that just games.

Eleven teams of entrepreneurs worked 13 weeks with $20,000 to fine-tune their creations and presented their ideas to a room full of investors on Thursday in Seattle. The companies were selected from 500 that applied from around the world.

Microsoft accelerator presented by TechStars is a startup incubator that nurses innovative ideas. For this round of the accelerator program, program participants utilized Microsoft's Kinect technology. The Microsoft accelerator program is accepting application for its fall class of startups from now until July 13. The upcoming program will "build on the success of the Kinect class and offer a fall class focused on Windows Azure and cloud-based startups," notes Microsoft in a press statement.

The entrepreneurs used Kinect for Xbox 360 and Windows to create myriad of ideas, from healthcare-related to entertaining.

Microsoft provided explanations of each of these startups:

  • Freak'n Genius makes it possible for anyone to animate instantly using Kinect for Xbox.
  • GestSure Technologies has developed a device that allows surgeons to navigate patient MRI and CT scans in the operating room while maintaining sterility.
  • Developed while coaching some of the most elite athletes in the world, IKKOS is changing the way the world learns movement by using Kinect. The product aims to assist athletes in performing better than they thought possible through teaching physical movement faster than traditional methods. The product is also being validated to teach stroke patients how to regain movement with Dr. Richard Macko, director at the Veterans Administration Center of Excellence for Exercise & Robotics in Maryland.
  • Kimetric uses Kinect for Windows sensors strategically placed across a store to gather useful data, helping a retailer better understand consumer behavior and, at the same time, allowing the creation of a new interactive shopping experience for customers.
  • Jintronix uses Kinect for Windows to track a patient's movements as he or she performs rehabilitation within a virtual environment,
    increasing accessibility and engagement while lowering cost. Jintronix uses the depth-sensing and gesture technology of Kinect for Windows to improve healthcare and rehabilitation.
  • Manctl seeks to bring 3-D capture to the masses by producing 3-D scanning software solutions based on consumer-grade depth
    sensors such as Kinect for Windows. With their main product Skanect, French co-founders Nicolas Burrus and Nicolas Tisserand challenge other expensive and complex 3-D scanning solutions by offering a cost-effective way of producing real-world 3-D models of people, places and things.
  • NConnex is designed to allow for 3-D room scanning using Kinect for Windows. Their product, NConnex Designer, allows users to digitally place furniture in their homes and get a feel for sense of space before purchasing.
  • Based in Los Angeles, Styku is empowering consumers to "try before they buy" using a virtual fitting room technology enabled with
    Kinect for Windows.
  • ubi interactive can turn any surface into a 3-D, multitouch screen with Kinect for Windows.
  • Voxon, based in New York, is developing the first open hardware reference designs and standards for "voxie" volumetric 3-D movie capture and display with the introduction of the VoxieCam, VoxieStage and VoxieBox. The founders are eager to release these kits into the creative community so visual artists, makers and game designers can begin building experiences that will usher the public into the volumetric age of "holographic" entertainment and education.
  • Zebcare uses Kinect for Windows to monitor the well-being of seniors in real time, without the use of images or video. Zebcare provides ongoing reassurance that loved ones are active and well.
  • Check out this video of Microsoft executives explaining why they started the Kinect program and check out where it all happens:

    What would you create with Microsoft Kinect? Tell us in the comments.

    Image courtesy of iStockphoto, tumpikuja

    Mobile Game Rewards Library Check-ins With Epic Swords

    God of Blades Title ScreenThe upcoming iOS title God of Blades asks players to venture to their local libraries to unlock better items in the game.

    God of Blades, which is coming to all iOS devices later this year, is a side-scrolling action game set in a fantasy world. Your character, known as The Nameless King, moves across the world as a spirit, vanquishing enemies with his collection of awesome swords.

    But it's much more than just a hack-and-slash, say the creators at White Whale Games. The small studio in Austin, TX is spending time to lovingly craft this passion project. The whole theme of the game is literary. The side-scrolling levels are meant to resemble Japanese scrolls and the nameless spectre gathers swords from many lost tales to complete his battles.

    It's also this literary theme that inspired White Whale to incorporate check-ins. Using Foursquare's API, anyone who checks in at a library will be rewarded with one of several ultra-powerful swords.

    "We just wanted to encourage people to go out there and enjoy the adventure that is life," co-founder and lead designer George Royer said.

    Royer intends to bring a deeper level to a game that is already about stories and memories. A portion of the game revolves around a fictional literary canon — a series of "lost" pulp novels from the 1940s to the '70s. The covers of the novels, which all say they are from the "God of Blades Universe," are being designed by Jason Rosenstock, White Whale's creative director.

    "We took a lot of inspiration from the pulp novels of the time, and have gotten a great response from people," Rosenstock said.

    Rosenstock is also drawing intricate backgrounds for all the levels reminiscent of another lost medium: the moving panaroma of the 18th and 19th centuries. These kilometer-long paintings were rolled up slowly to give the illusion of movement and action. Rosenstock said he is using art techniques hardly touched by digital, including practical effect, which is pressing paint between two panes of glass to get vibrant hues and color patterns.

    White Whale said the game will be released for iOS and PC later this year. Check out some of the scenes from the game, as well as the covers of the above-mentioned novels, in the gallery below.

    What do you think of check-ins incorporated into games? Let us know in the comments.