Microsoft has started to sell t-shirts, hats, mugs, and sweatshirts that bear slogans from its Scroogled campaign that needles Google as bad on privacy. I confirmed with the company that the clothing line was released today. It’s more than cheeky. Here’s one of the offered shirts, bearing a statement that you can also get on a mug if you so desire: Yes, that’s the Chrome logo sitting on top of text that says that you should really kick back as your data is stolen. Oh my. Google is not going to be happy with this, I presume. Scroogled, as you certainly know, is a campaign by Microsoft to paint Google in a negative light when it comes to things like Gmail’s automatic scanning of incoming email to target advertisements. Google maintains that it doesn’t do so for sensitive categories such as bankruptcy. Microsoft also scans incoming email, but only to weed out malware and the like. This has always felt like a small distinction to me. A recent Google response to Microsoft’s claims went as follows: “Ad targeting in Gmail is fully automated, and no humans read your email or Google Account information in order to show you advertisements or related information. … We also don’t deliver ads based on sensitive information, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, health, or sensitive financial categories.” Still, Microsoft is pushing on with the campaign with apparent gusto. You don’t release a clothing line like this if you don’t want to make a little noise. The above shirt will knock you back $12, if you were curious. Google has had a few recent scraps with the law on the privacy front, including a recent $17 million fine that it paid over its changing Safari settings. The fine was token, given its size when compared to Google’s wealth as a company. Microsoft and Google have had a rough year, fighting over email, YouTube, and more. Given their huge competitive surface area — from selling music, to search, to mobile operating systems, and so forth — that’s not surprising. Still, Microsoft appears more willing to sling mud. Top Image Credit: Flickr Continue reading
Today, Tumblr is releasing its redesigned client for iPhone and iPad, bringing along a completely refreshed look and feel for iOS 7. The redesign, unlike some others to come out of Apple’s big shakeup, manages to maintain the core of what makes Tumblr so attractive to its millions of users. The new Tumblr app will look fairly familiar to users, as the trademark blue remains, as does the post format that puts the focus on the content being shared, with a slim bar of interface hovering behind, helpful but not intrusive. What’s gained this time is a big focus on the Activity stream, which was previously buried underneath the account tab. Moving the Activity stream out to the tabs, says Tumblr’s Creative Director Peter Vidani, was a decision that was made simply because it was so popular. Users, especially heavy users, were checking it a lot to see the latest likes, replies, reblogs and follows incessantly. Moving that out to the tab bar is a statement about how important this stream is. It’s the feedback loop, the thing that keeps you coming back to the app obsessively, just to see if you’ve got some new interactions to check out. The same concept drives feeds in other apps like Twitter’s Connect tab. If you’re getting feedback, you’re going to keep producing content (or re-blogging it) to get more. Call it Pavlovian, but it makes a lot of sense. In addition to the Activity stream’s promotion, posting has also gotten a complete revamp. Tapping the new post icon gives you access to six large and easier to tap icons for all of the content types. Each of the composition screens has also gotten a revamp, but the photo sharing option is probably the most different. The photo capture screen is really cleverly done, and now dumps you onto a grid of images from your camera roll, rather than allowing you to choose immediately between the roll and the camera. This, Vidani says, was done after the data suggested that people dipped into their albums for images to post far more than they went to the camera. But the camera experience isn’t neglected — there’s a square near the bottom with a camera icon that displays a live view of your phone’s camera, inviting you to shoot an image if you choose. It’s neatly done. Nicely detailed touches are scattered throughout. There are Continue reading
As Launch KC celebrates its one-year anniversary, the tech and entrepreneurial communities are invited to spend an evening celebrating the program’s first year. The initiative launched last year and aimed to attract tech entrepreneurs and companies … Continue reading
YC-backed Coin, the electronic credit card that stores multiple cards on one Bluetooth device, made a big splash last week blowing past its $50,000 pre-order in less than 40 minutes.
Turns out, people not only want to buy more Coins but they want to know more about Coin, too. That said, the company is responding to consumer feedback, announcing a number of features that will be available in the first release. Continue reading
Today Instagram and Waze came to the Windows Phone platform, bringing two applications to Microsoft’s smartphone venture that it has long lacked. Microsoft also released a set of numbers that outline the platform’s growth, and yet modest size. Windows Phone has seen 3 billion applications downloads, a fine number for the platform, but something that pales in comparison to iOS’s more than 60 billion aggregate downloads. The platform tallies 10 million app transactions each day, or 300 million per month. That’s up from 9 million per day in September, and 6.66 million per day in June. According to the company, 500 new Windows Phone applications are uploaded daily. The release of Windows Phone 8 remains the crux moment for the platform, with “monthly paid app revenue” up 181% since its launch. Also in roughly the past year, app downloads have increased 290%. Windows Phone is small, but growing at healthy rates. The above figures indicate that there is likely enough user activity for developers to warrant the platform enough attention to build for it. However, Windows Phone remains especially small in its home market, the United States, a key application revenue source for iOS and Android developers. Its lack of popularity in that country likely tempers developer enthusiasm. Sales numbers for Windows Phone handsets are growing, often at triple digit paces on a year-over-year basis, but the platform was small enough a year ago that those figures don’t indicate rampaging growth that could rival iOS or Android on a unit volume basis anytime soon. The company still has most of its work in front of it: Unit volume must rise in the United States, and other issues such as developer lassitude persist. The above all sums to the simple fact that Microsoft, through expense and struggle, has managed to build a mobile platform that has achieved something close to exit velocity. It wasn’t long ago that that wasn’t true, and that Windows Phone was more the butt of jokes than something for developers to begin to get to know. The Windows Phone story remains mixed, but I think it’s trending positive. Continue reading
Instagram made it onto the Windows Phone platform today as a beta and immediately, everyone lost their mind. You see, the Instagram app for Windows Phone defaults to an in-app screen that shows you the photos you have already taken. You can click on a little button to take a photo, but you are then scooted out of the application to the default camera application where you shoot the picture. Then you are scooted back into Instagram. It’s about as smooth as sandpaper. The iOS experience, for contrast, let’s you quickly shoot a picture inside the application itself, something that is fast, and far more seamless. People have pointed out the discrepancy, stating variously that you can’t take photos inside of the Windows Phone Instagram application. This is technically true. Others, incensed by the assertion, claim that you can, you just have to exit the application to do so. That’s not quite the same thing. The shitbag of all of this is that Windows Phone users have waited years for the application to land on their platform in an official capacity. And when it finally did, it was not as good as what the photo sharing service offers to others. You get to wait, and then you get less. The official line about this is that many Instagram users use photos that they have already taken, and given that Windows Phone devices have other pretty darn good photo taking applications, defaulting in-app to your photo roll makes sense. Not really, as if I am Instagraming a photo I’m hardly fretting about its crispness given that I am about to Sepia its brains out, but even still, it would be nice to have the same flow that I have on other platforms. Don’t make the choice for me, essentially. Instagram on iOS has been one of the largest mobile application success stories, ever. It worked. The version that Windows Phone users received today – albeit in beta, somehow – is less good than what other platforms have. No matter how you slice it, late and less good isn’t so great. Top Image Credit: Flickr Continue reading
If you had a PC and you listened to MP3s in the late 90s, chances are you managed your playlists with Winamp. Since then, Nullsoft sold Winamp to AOL (the parent company of TechCrunch) for $80 million and online music has changed quite a bit, but there was always something reassuring about the fact that Winamp was still hanging in there. So much for that. Winamp is shutting down. The website and all of Winamp’s web services will shut down on December 20 and the desktop player will no longer be available for download. Continue reading
For a while there a physical Google Wallet card seemed like the stuff of rumors, and then it looked like another project lost to the ages when former Wallet chief Osama Bedier (who purportedly pushed the concept) officially resigned from his post earlier this year. Larry Page’s disapproval of the card after a buggy pre-launch demo certainly didn’t help the project’s chances either.
But here we are, months later, and Google has gone ahead with the project anyway. Continue reading
Google has launched an ambitious Chrome experiment today, in partnership with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It’s an interactive updated version of those great handdrawn maps Tolkien included in his print edition of the works upon which these movies are based, that provides a guided tour of Middle-earth and the people, elves, trolls, wizards and other beasts that populate it. Continue reading
While there are unverified rumors that Chinese mega-giant Tencent is interested in joining a fresh, large round for Snapchat, mainland China’s biggest social networking platform actually already secretly invested in the ephemeral messaging app. Tencent was an undisclosed minority participant in the company’s last $60 million round led by Institutional Venture Partners, according to sources familiar with the deal in both China and the U.S. Such a relationship is a win-win for both parties. Snapchat gets an powerful strategic partner if it wants to expand into Asia — especially mainland China, where other Western consumer Internet and mobile companies have stumbled like Google or are blocked like Facebook. Snapchat also gets to learn from the most successful social networking platform in the world aside from Facebook. Tencent, which is valued at $99.3 billion on public markets, has 815.6 million monthly active users on its messaging platform. Its upstart messaging app, Weixin or WeChat, has racked up 272 million monthly active users in the last two years or so. Tencent also said it sees 400 million photos uploaded per day according to a presentation the company gave at MIT over the weekend, more than the 350 million per day Facebook sees, according to a whitepaper published in September. In turn, Tencent absolutely has ambitions of being a global company, not one that’s limited to mainland China. CEO Pony Ma said back in May that internationalizing China’s consumer Internet companies, in the same way that the country’s manufacturing industry serves a global market, would be a “revolution.” Right now, WeChat is the company’s most visible shot of building a truly global product. The messaging app — which, by the way, is a fantastic product that’s ubiquitously used throughout China’s coastal cities — is growing internationally with help from the Chinese diaspora. But, like other powerful Asian messaging apps, it will have trouble expanding in the super-competitive U.S. market. Having a U.S. subsidiary, joint venture or large-scale strategic investment might make a lot more sense. This is a route Tencent has taken in the neighboring South Korean market after it acquired a 13.84% percent stake in Kakao Talk, the maker of South Korea’s leading mobile messaging app. It also successfully pulled off a strategy like this when it acquired a majority stake in Los Angeles-based, League of Legends-maker Riot Games in 2011 for $400 million. Notably, that was another deal where Snapchat board Continue reading