Google’s executives have long operated their fleet of private jets out of NASA’s Moffett Field thanks to a long-standing deal with the U.S. government, but it looks like Google is ready to expand its presence at the Silicon Valley airfield. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and NASA today announced that Planetary Ventures LLC, a shell company Google occasionally uses for its real-estate deals, has been selected as the preferred lessee for Moffett Field and Hangar One.
The iconic Hangar One will be rehabilitated under this proposal. Google’s executives – through H211, an LLC that operates their jets – had previously tried to work with NASA to revamp the hangar, but was rebuffed by NASA at the time. Just a few years ago, the Navy stripped the toxic panels from the structures outside and, currently, only its skeleton remains. Under the new proposal, Google will “rehabilitate and maintain the historic integrity of Hangar One and the Shenandoah Plaza Historic District.” Google will re-skin Hangar One, upgrade the existing golf course and also create a public use and education facility on the airfield.
“Hangar One was the landmark of Silicon Valley well before the rise of today’s high-tech titans. Naming a lessee is a testament to GSA’s commitment to providing the best value for the agency’s federal partners and the American people. NASA’s partnership with the private sector will allow the agency to restore this treasure for more efficient use,” the GSA’s Dan Tangherlini said in a canned statement explaining the decision today.
It’s worth noting that today’s agreement just means NASA will now negotiate the lease terms with Planetary Ventures/Google, but given Google’s deep pockets and interest in the project, it seems unlikely that this project won’t proceed.
H211 is also currently involved in a project to expand the $82 million private jet center at San Jose International Airport. It’s not clear if today’s announcement will change any of these plans.
Google itself, it is worth noting, has no direct relationship with H211.
In the past, H211 has been widely criticized for getting tax cuts on the jet fuel it purchased at a discount from the government, and, unsurprisingly, Consumer Watchdog‘s Privacy Project Director John M. Simpson today noted that “This is like giving the keys to your car to the guy who has been siphoning gas from your tank. It is unfairly rewarding unethical and wrongful behavior. These Google guys seem to think they can do whatever they want and get away with it – and it’s beginning to look like that is true.”
Mt. Gox, one of the original Bitcoin trading sites, has shut down its withdrawals system, citing problems related to transaction malleability (more on that shortly).
Mt. Gox wrote on their site that this problem has forced them to shut down their withdrawal services:
“We apologize for the sudden short notice. All bitcoin withdrawal requests will be on pause, and the withdrawals in the system will be returned to your Mt Gox wallet, and can be reinitiated once the issue is resolved.”
So what happened?
Put simply, Mt. Gox has been suffering from a sort of hack that makes its transactions vanish, allowing aggrieved customers to come back and ask for their money again. In fact, however, these vanished transactions are properly processed and the customer is paid twice.
To explain it without going into too much detail, transaction malleability means that transaction – 1 bitcoin sent from Mt. Gox to User A, for example – could be changed so that Mt. Gox wouldn’t be able to track that the transfer ever happened. The transfer as it stands is added to the blockchain, the ledger of all bitcoin transactions, and User A gets the BTC. BTC transfers are actually chains of data leading back to the original coin in question’s “birth.” Each transaction has its own ID or hash which is based on the data inside the transaction – the recipient and the sender in most cases. These IDs are unique.
A renegade node can modify the transaction, whenever it sees certain data pass through the network. This modified transaction still says Mt. Gox sent User A 1 BTC, is still a valid transfer, but has a completely different hash. This new, modified transaction essentially cancels out the previous transaction (if the renegade node is fast enough to spread its data to the confirming nodes) and Mt. Gox doesn’t have any way of proving that the transaction occurred because it records transactions based on the hash. User A goes back to Mt. Gox complaining they didn’t get their cash and the exchange has no recourse but to send another payment… and another… and another. At least that’s how this would work in theory.
In practice there is no absolute way to tell if this is widespread abuse. Mt. Gox is definitely losing money — you don’t just shut down your customer’s accounts on a whim — but the bitcoin community is up in arms saying that Gox is foolish for not maintaining its own unique method for identifying its own transfers. Writes one Reddit user, “All these dipshits needed to do was to write their gox-specific tx id as a message on the transaction. They already know the recipient address, so if someone tried to say that they didn’t receive their funds, it would be completely trivial to look at the recipient address, and find the transaction with the gox-specific tx id attached at the time their system said that they sent the tx.” In short, Mt. Gox should have a better accounting system. Many major players are calling Mt. Gox’s claims bogus at best and alarmist at worst.
As a result of this shutdown, exchange trackers have removed Mt. Gox from their listings citing the spread of fear, uncertainty, and doubt by Mt. Gox admins. Bitcoin fell to a low of $572 and rebounded to about $670 today.
No one is happy with Mt. Gox.
“Bitcoin is in a period of transition, and Mt.Gox represents the sort of boot-strapped legacy infrastructure the market has left behind. Unnecessary and confusing panics like this are yearly occurrences, the one thing Mt.Gox has going for it is momentum and name recognition,” said Adam Levine, Editor-in-Chief at LetsTalkBitcoin.com. “How much value remains in that name recognition is dubious at best, that’s been the case now for over a year.”
Whether the exchange returns to full capacity at this point is in question. One of the oldest and strangest bitcoin exchanges may have just pulled its own plug.
Young tech billionaires gave generously in 2013. Of the 50 top philanthropists compiled by the Chronicle Of Philanthropy, only 4 were under the age of 50 and 3 of those were in the tech industry: Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan (Facebook, $992M), Pierre and Pam Omidyar (Ebay, $225M) and Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki (Google, $219M).
The one non-techie philanthropist joining their youthful brethren are John and Laura Arnold, who made their billion in finance.
Zuckerberg, who led the pack with nearly a billion in charitable donations, is most remembered for his $100M gift to Newark’s public schools and, more recently, nearly a billion dollars in Facebook stock given to The Silicon Valley foundation.
Technology IPOs have been churning out an impressive number of millionaires, many of them quite young. Twitter’s recent IPO, alone, created roughly 1,600 new millionaires. Facebook, too, created around 1,000 millionaires and billionaires, including the fresh-faced co-founders who boostrapped the site in Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room.
Notably absent from The Chronicle Of Philanthropy‘s list are super-philanthropists Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who had pledged barrels of cash in previous years.
Both Zuckerberg and eBay founder Pierre Omydiar have also invested heavily in political organizations. Zuckerberg gave roughly $50 million to his immigration-focused political lobby, FWD.us. Omydiar is giving $250 million to a new civil liberties-oriented news organization, which just launched its first publication, The Intercept, last night.
See the full list here.
Microsoft will soon rebrand its SkyDrive cloud storage service OneDrive. The OneDrive splash page currently reads “Coming Soon.”
It now appears that there is more to the coming OneDrive rollout than a simple name change. According to leaked screenshots posted by LiveSide, Microsoft will roll out a number of incentives for users in an effort to boost their usage of the service, and bring their friends aboard as well.
Microsoft declined to comment.
SkyDrive, Microsoft’s current and soon-to-be-renamed cloud storage service, provides users with 7 gigabytes of free storage. Presuming that Microsoft maintains that level of free storage in OneDrive, users will be able to pick up a total of 15 gigabytes of capacity, given that the new incentive structure will allow users to agglom another 8 gigabytes to their account.
5 of the 8 potential gigabytes will come from referrals: 500 megabytes per referral, up to 10. And, OneDrive will reward users who link their phone’s camera roll to OneDrive with another 3 gigabytes of storage.
Users can create the link either through the OneDrive — currently SkyDrive, of course — iOS and Android apps, or with the built-in function that exists in Windows Phone.
All this is unconfirmed with the company, but mirrors similar methods employed by the rival storage firm Dropbox, meaning they are unsurprising and almost proven tactics.
Why would Microsoft want to get people to automatically upload their photos to OneDrive? Increasing user buy-in to the service not only boosts the service’s total revenue and use, but also draws potential oxygen from competitors. And given the importance of cloud storage to Microsoft’s larger services vision, anything to bolster that effort is worthy.
We’re seeing a decline in the cost, and price of delivering a gigabyte of cloud storage. As Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and Microsoft vie for both consumer and enterprise market share in the space, expect more of this sort of effort.
You know how you spend multiple emails trying to set up a meeting time, and a meeting place, and once it’s all done you then have to leave your email and head into your calendar and add an entry and it’s a big first-world problem?
Well, now you don’t have to, thanks to the beauty of Super.cc.
The product adds an automated way for busy people to add events to their calendars without having to bounce through different browser tabs, or opening up a mobile app and entering things in manually. Because, I mean, who’s got time for that?
To do so, you simply sign up for the service. And then, once you’ve connected it to your calendar, you can forward whatever email exchange you have to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the service will automatically add it to your plans.
On the back end, Super.cc has algorithms that are designed to parse emails and determine exactly what needs to be put in your calendar. Date and time, of course, and who you’ll be talking to. It can also send invites to other participants based on the info provided.
While a lot of the work is done with technology, Super.cc also has a QA team that is there to monitor and correct errors before calendar invites end up being sent out to others.
The whole thing was built by Michael Galpert, who was previously one of the founders of Aviary and decided to take a shot at improving personal productivity a few years ago. The whole thing grew out of his plans to build Superhuman.io, which was designed to create a sort of virtualized personal assistant, for a monthly subscription.
The problem with that was that not everyone was comfortable with the whole idea of having an assistant. At least they didn’t know what to do with it. Instead, making calendaring easier seemed like a better way to attack the problem.
For now, Super.cc is free, and in my experience, really useful. In the future, Galpert says he will consider potential paid features for users who need more power features.
Review: Jolla Phone Has Design Flare But Sailfish’s Waters Are Muddied By App Issues & UI Learning Curve
Jolla is a very small fish trying to make headway in global smartphone waters dominated by the whale-sized Android OS. In its plucky attempt to make a splash, building its own phone hardware as well as floating a new software platform, the Sailfish OS makers have crafted a device that’s different — sometimes refreshingly so — but the Jolla phone’s difference can frequently manifest itself as difficulty. The device asks its users to row against the current, requiring they accept a lot more that’s rough than smooth.
- 4.5-inch, 960x 540, 245ppi display
- 16GB storage
- Dual-core 1.4GHz processor, 1GB RAM
- 8MP rear camera, 2MP front camera
- 4G/LTE, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.0
- MSRP: €399/$540 unlocked, off-contract
- Product info page
- Can run Android apps
- Interface navigation can work well one-handed
- Impressive attention to smaller design details
- Swappable NFC backplates for extra colour & function modding
- Very few native apps
- Android app compatibility/stability issues
- Interface has significant learning curve & navigation can be confusing
- Mid-range hardware; unspectacular performer
In recent years, smartphone hardware design has converged to adopt mostly the same slab-shaped template — unsurprisingly so, being as the interesting stuff is what a large enough, responsive enough touchscreen acting as a canvas for the software running on it lets you do. Any alternative hardware form factors — sliders, physical Qwerty keyboards and so on — just get in the way or put a limitation on the software. The main smartphone design trend over the past few years has therefore been for screens to get bigger to allow for more prodding.
Jolla’s first phone, for all the startup’s talk of doing things differently, does not buck this trend — presenting the user with a rectangle slab of touchscreen glass to act as their playground, albeit one that’s relatively modest in size by current palm-stretching standards. It’s still a little larger than the current crop of iPhone screens, though.
The main hardware design flare here is the sandwich form factor of the slab, created when the backplate is pushed onto the body of the phone. The edge where the two pieces meet leaves a continuous seam which give a little extra grip as you hold the phone. The test device I was using came with a white backplate, contrasting with the black front for an attractive two-tone look.
If brightly coloured phones are your thing there are options to select a more boldly coloured Other Half (as the backplate is known). The first batch of Jolla handsets, launched by Finnish carrier DNA, had a bright pink rear. Jolla has also now started selling an aloe green Other Half via its website, along with a black option for those that want a less stand-out look.
The backplates aren’t just about adding a splash of colour; they include NFC to support a link with the software, allowing a particular colour backplate to also change the theme colours of the OS (for instance). And potentially support other implementations, such as being preloaded with digital content such as a music album. Or those are the sort of use-cases Jolla is hoping to encourage.
It has also released the 3D files for The Other Half as an SDK to encourage developers to get modding the backplates. And with a power (and bus) connector incorporated into the back of the phone where the backplate snaps on, it would be possible for an Other Half to include sophisticated additional hardware functionality, such as a Qwerty keyboard or e-ink screen. (Not that either of those possible Other Halves have been built yet — but the hooks for extending the platform in such ways are ready and waiting).
The handset casing is plastic front and back — so does not feel as premium as metal/glass clad devices like the iPhone or HTC’s One device. But Jolla’s attention to detail in aspects of the hardware design, such as its mixture of rounded edges with smooth blunt ones, and a gloss logo invisibly inked on the matt backplate that jumps into reflective view when you tilt the device, give the design a confident, sure-footed air, and help to elevate the overall look and feel beyond the plebian plastic Android hoards it’s attempting to disrupt.
Similarly aesthetic touches are evident in aspects of the software too, whether it’s Jolla’s calendar app with its subtle flip animation that turns Sunday to Monday as you scroll, or the dual-dial interface in the Jolla clock app for setting a timer by positioning two glowing beads within two concentric circles, or the understated double tap gesture that can be used to wake the phone from sleep. A distinct design flare is evident.
Size-wise (and weight-wise), Jolla’s phone is a good middle ground, with enough screen to showcase whatever content you’re playing around with, without being so big the actual device becomes unwieldy. That said, if you’ve already pushed past the 5-inch phablet mark for your personal mobile device you’ll probably miss the extra space. So the one-way-street of mobile phone screen inflation goes.
What’s really new here is of course the Sailfish OS — which carries on the MeeGo heritage that Jolla took from Nokia when the startup’s core team left to carry on developing the platform Nokia was abandoning in favour of making the leap to Microsoft’s Windows Phone.
As a platform MeeGo had plenty of promise but its timing was terrible. Even when Nokia outted the N9 (way back in 2011) Android was pushing ahead of the rest of the field. Now, for Jolla, it’s not so much a gap between Android and everyone else as a gulf. Even the industry’s third placed OS, Windows Phone, (which has been kept afloat by Redmond’s deep pockets), remains a bit-player in an Android-saturated universe.
Realistically Sailfish stands no chance of achieving mass market penetration — but then it’s not really being positioned for that. Jolla’s appeal has mostly been about serving the non-mainstream margins; aka the fringe folk who are dissatisfied with vanilla and are looking for a less orthodox flavour. People who are bored by the functional similarity of Android and iOS, and don’t see a Microsoft-branded alternative as an non-mainstream alternative.
That is necessarily a smaller and more modest market. Indeed, it may be more of a niche than a market but that remains to be seen. Outside Jolla’s native stamping ground of Finland, where national pride and Nokia-fuelled nostalgia may help to buoy up Jolla’s little boat, Sailfish’s greatest chance for building scale is likely to be out East in China — a region that was an early focus for the startup.
However, Jolla has concentrated the launch of this its first handset on Europe (and indeed, on Finland thus far), and appears to have rowed back from talk of a strong early push into China — with no follow up to its 2012 announcement of a distribution deal with Chinese retailer D.Phone. So momentum in the East is not a story it can currently tell, beyond the implied potential of the previously announced Hong Kong-based Sailfish alliance. Ergo, Sailfish’s Eastern promise also remains to be seen.
What exactly is different about the Sailfish OS? The Jolla phone interface is built around a series of gestures — pulling down on the screen typically brings a contextual menu into view, and simultaneously incorporates a selector bar so the same fluid movement is used to both point to and select the action from the menu — depending on when/where you release your finger. So, for instance, in the email app, the ‘compose new email’ or ‘update’ actions reside just off-screen, in the pull-down menu.
The advantage of this type of drag interface is you can perform actions with the same (single) finger movement, without having to lift off and tap. So there are potentially some time/efficiency savings, plus the ability to control more of the OS with a single digit, rather than being forced to use two hands to navigate. For certain groups of users with dexterity issues or a disability affecting their hands/arms Sailfish navigation could therefore be a bit less challenging than the tap-happy mainstream mobile options.
Another aspect of the Sailfish navigation is built around swipes. A swipe up from the bottom of the screen brings up an events/notification screen. Swiping in from the left or right is used to close the app you’re currently in — or partially close it (if you pause the gesture mid way through), by allowing you to peek back at the home screen. You can then either reverse the gesture to go back into the app, or follow through to minimize it and land back on the homescreen.
Why would you want to peek at the homescreen? Because it contains a series of minimised apps that are displayed like a deck of cards, each containing glimpses of active content allowing you to see if there’s a new email in your inbox, for instance, or a glimpse of the latest content on a website.
For native Sailfish apps, such as the built in Jolla browser, there is support for functional interaction right from the homescreen card itself — so you can refresh webpages or trigger a call to open up a new webpage just by dragging your finger left or right on the browser card itself. Similarly you can pause/play music from the media homescreen card, and so on.
At this granular point, the Sailfish interface can resemble a Russian doll of nested gestures. For a user who takes the time to get to know all these short cuts, the interface certainly has the potential to feel fluid and productive. But, on the flip side, all these gestural layers and incremental short-cuts can end up piling a confusing amount of possible navigation options atop the OS, resulting in a steep learning curve for the Sailfish newcomer.
Beyond the user-education challenge, Sailfish’s reliance on gestures is not without other problems too. The main problem with the side-swipe gesture is that it can mis-register as one of the back/forth swipes also used to move between multiple menu screens in apps. And vice versa. So you can end up closing an app, when you were just trying to get to the next screen. Or doing the reverse.
Misregistered actions like that serve to confuse a navigation system that is already at a disadvantage because it’s different to mobile’s mainstream, and therefore involves the aforementioned disadvantageous learning curve.
Knowing when you can swipe or pull down to reach other menus also isn’t always obvious, so the user has to know to be on the look-out for Sailfish’s visual cues — either a glowing bar at the top of the screen, or small glowing dots that indicate the number of additional screens available for swiping to.
Add to that, at times, when — intuitively — you feel you should be able to simply reverse the swipe action you just did to reverse your path and return to the screen you were just on, you find you can’t — and instead have to pull down to retrace your original steps via the contextual top menu.
There is a logic there, but it’s not exactly taking the path of least resistance from the user’s point of view. So the interface can sometimes feel as if you’re being made to do something not because it’s better/easier, but just because it’s different. Which can be irritating.
The navigation also doesn’t do away with taps entirely — which does mean that when you need to tap on something to confirm an action, rather than pulling down to bring up the contextual menu, it’s not always clear that’s what you need to do to proceed. Ergo, more confusion.
The functions supported by the homescreen cards also take some getting used to, especially as non-native Sailfish apps (such as the Android apps that are compatible with the device) don’t include support for gestures. And those native apps that don’t have any additional gestures sometimes resort to signposting that lack — with a written instruction on the card to ‘tap to continue’ — to avoid further user confusion about whether they support gestural interaction or not. But having to do that is rather sub-optimal (and potentially introduces further procedural confusion where apps don’t include such signpost text).
The card-based homescreen is a potentially richer alternative to the icons of iOS and Android. However the size of the cards can limit their functionality as portals into what’s going on elsewhere in your apps. The Jolla phone supports a deck of up to nine cards displayed on screen at once. When there are more than four cards their size shrinks so the text/content displayed on them can be tricky to make out. The cards are far more useable when larger — so when there’s between one and four on screen (as pictured left) — allowing for content to be displayed more comfortably, and gestural interaction to be less fiddly.
As a ‘glanceable’ interface, the Jolla phone homescreen shares something with BlackBerry 10 — with its panel of ‘Active Frames’ — or Palm’s WebOS. Or, to a lesser extent, with Windows Phone’s info-displaying Live Tiles. Sailfish’s support for gestural interaction with its own take on homescreen cards does take things a little further than Live Tiles. Whether that ability adds significantly to the interface, or is better described as more of an incremental benefit, depends on which apps you use, and the sort of actions you regularly perform.
If, for instance, you’re often checking in on a particular webpage or regularly refreshing your inbox for new content, then being able to perform such actions right from the homescreen without having to dive into the app itself may be a boon. But it’s a little hard to shake the feeling that the usability benefit here is relatively incremental. If you have a new email, you’re going to have to fire up the inbox to read it anyway — and even iOS, with its static icon-based homescreen, sticks a little red digit on your email icon telling you when its time to go check in.
One area where Jolla has delivered a really usable slice of software is the native Sailfish keyboard. The touchscreen keyboard incorporates a scrollable next-word suggestion bar above the Qwerty layout which offers an evolving rack of words to choose from as you’re typing.
The typing time-savings can be considerable here as multiple word suggestions can fit on the screen so the chances of the right one cropping up before you’ve finished spelling it out are good. Plus, even more words lurk just off screen where you can pull them in with a quick swipe on the bar.
It’s a great use of available (and implied, i.e. off-screen) screen real-estate to support a smarter kind of touchscreen keyboard. Better than the static old iPhone keyboard? Absolutely!
Jolla has built a series of what it terms “essential apps” for the phone that you can download during the set up process, or snag direct from the Jolla Store later on. These include basics such as a media player, email, maps (powered by Nokia’s HERE), calendar, clock, notes, calculator, documents viewer etc.
This is Jolla filling in the Sailfish platform gap itself, as — being the new kid on the mobile block — it’s unable to rely on a substantial third party developer ecosystem to do that for it.
Essential here is a synonym for ‘basics’. These Jolla-made Sailfish apps really are the bare-bones that any mobile user would expect to get as standard on a smartphone. If you want more ambitions apps — and really, which modern mobile user doesn’t? — from ephemeral messaging to insanely frustrating gaming, well, Sailfish isn’t going to be able to deliver. Not yet, and perhaps not ever on its own.
There are a handful of native Sailfish apps made by developers other than Jolla available for download on the Jolla store. But, including Jolla’s essentials, there are less than 200 apps in total on the Jolla Store in total right now — and that includes plenty of very simple stuff like an age calculator app, and kitchen timer and torch apps, plus some apps that have evidently been ported from Android. The Sailfish app ecosystem clearly remains very nascent.
Jolla’s solution for this app gap — or more accurately this ‘app gulf’ vs Android and iOS — is to add a pipeline into the Android ecosystem to allow for a sub-set of apps to be siphoned off via platform compatibility with Android. The preloaded hub for Android apps on the Jolla device is Yandex’s app store – which holds some 85,000 Android apps for downloading and extend the device’s functionality.
Jolla users can also download other Android app stores (i.e. in addition to the Yandex store) to get access to additional Android apps, although Google’s Play ecosystem is obviously off limits.
Jolla’s line in to the Android app ecosystem is an inelegant fix for a platform that wanted to provide an entirely alternative mobile reality. But when your platform lags the mobile category leader by circa one million+ apps then it’s a necessary compromise. And that pragmatism means Jolla’s device gets a much needed leg up in the app stakes vs other smaller players also trying to crack the Android/iOS duopoly (such as Mozilla and its HTML5 Web apps approach with the Firefox OS).
It is not a trouble free compromise though. The main problem with this approach — ignoring the core philosophical one of having to incorporate the very thing you dislike (including having to tolerate Android navigation keys cropping up within Android apps to sprinkle additional confusion over your alternative navigation system) — is that Android apps don’t always run smoothly in the Sailfish OS environment.
This was true when I did a hands-on with the Jolla phone back in November. And it’s still true now, although the big bug evident then, of the Android runtime sometimes spontaneously taking over the interface, appears to have been sorted now. App compatibility issues are an ongoing problem, though.
Many Android apps — including the Yandex app store — run sluggishly, with noticeable lag. Some Android apps are also unstable after installation — Skype for instance stopped responding after a moment’s use (although, to be fair, the Skype app is pretty universally terrible, regardless of the mobile platform you’re accessing it from). Plus, certain actions within Android apps aren’t supported within Sailfish — which triggers a dialogue box when you try to do something you can’t, informing you that such and such an action isn’t possible. Such is the price of compromise.
But, when the Android apps do work, their line in to a dominant ecosystem does help to expand the Jolla experience for its users, providing access to a lot more app ‘essentials’ — whether that’s Facebook or Twitter or Cut The Rope. Whatever your particular app poison. Just so long as you don’t expect the next Flappy Bird viral hit to be natively spawned on the Sailfish platform.
Some performance issues on the Jolla phone are clearly directly associated with its Android emulator feature, such as the laggy apps discussed above.
More general handset performance issues that affect the Jolla phone likely relate to what is effectively (on paper) a chunk of pretty mid-range smartphone hardware.
The handset is not a powerhouse in the processor stakes — certainly not by today’s flagship phone standards (which is one of the problems with having a long development time to get your debut device to market, as Jolla has). This relative lack of horsepower translates to overall performance that has a tendency to feel a bit plodding.
There are times when the interface has noticeable lag — such as when taking a photo and watching the shot you’ve just snapped slide off screen and onto the (off-screen) camera roll. The delay isn’t huge but it’s noticeable.
Likewise, the browser can feel a little underpowered when tackling certain websites. And seem a little slow to scroll and respond to taps. Transitions from one type of content to loading another also require a spot of micro-patience from the user.
The response time lag is more pronounced when running (some) Android apps, as noted above.
Native Sailfish apps fair better, as you’d expect, but there it’s not so much overall performance that’s the issue but the aforementioned paucity and scarcity of app quantity and quality.
Elsewhere on the performance front, the handset’s rear camera is distinctly mid-range. Photos lack crisp clarity, and the lens struggles with variable light levels. Likewise, the handset’s qHD screen is far from pin-sharp. Again, these aspects of the Jolla phone are distinctly mid-range.
Battery life at least does seem pretty good, both on standby and for active use. The phone should easily manage a day’s normal use without needing a recharge.
The Jolla phone’s gesture-based interface has a steep learning curve for newbies, and considering how embedded most mobile users are with Android/iOS navigation paradigms that’s inevitably pushing water up hill. Floating a whole new platform so long after Android and iOS set sail also means Sailfish can’t hope to compete on quantity of native apps — or indeed on attracting hoards of developers, so it’s a tough ask for it to deliver high quality third party native apps either.
That huge app gap means Jolla has been forced to tether its dingy to the very Android leviathan it’s trying to circumvent — to extend the reach of its dinky Sailfish ecosystem in the hopes of building sustainable momentum. It’s a practical and pragmatic strategy but it’s also an ongoing compromise that muddies this new platform’s clear blue waters.
A report from Business Insider earlier today claimed that Barnes & Noble had eliminated its Nook hardware engineering staff in its entirety. Barnes & Noble has confirmed to TechCrunch that there were “job eliminations across the organization,” but stressed that they have not in fact eliminated their hardware division as first reported.
Nook spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating provided the following statement from the company to explain the current situation and recent organizational changes:
We’ve been very clear about our focus on rationalizing the NOOK business and positioning it for future success and value creation. As we’ve aligned NOOK’s cost structure with business realities, staffing levels in certain areas of our organization have changed, leading to some job eliminations. We’re not going to comment specifically on those eliminations. We believe we have a strong management team in place at NOOK, having recruited significant new talent. The new NOOK management team is focused on managing the business efficiently so that it becomes financially strong while at the same time aggressively moving to drive revenue growth.
The Nook business hasn’t been doing well for a long time, and the unit’s revenue dropped 32.3 percent year-over-year last fiscal quarter. There have been multiple rumors about B&N considering buyers for the Nook business, but so far, it seems to remain committed to the division despite its declining fortunes.
Sony seems to be intent on extricating itself from the e-book market, where few companies have seemed to be able to weaken the Amazon stranglehold. It recently announced it was shutting down its e-book market in the U.S. and Canada, and moving existing users to Kobo. Nook remains in the game for now, but players are dropping like flies, so who knows how much longer that will remain true.
Headed to Barcelona for MWC? Love you some startup talk, presentations, and global mobile meet up chitter chatter? Join Mike Butcher, Natasha Lomas, Ingrid Lunden, and myself on February 24, 2014 at 10pm-midnight at the official TC MWC meet up held in cooperation with Bubble Over Barcelona.
This is a global mobile meet up designed to mix innovators and influencers in town for Mobile World Congress. We are doing this in a majestic, historic Mansion in the Eixample district where all the night-time action occurs away from the conference venue. A select number of tickets will be released by TechCrunch, so watch for news on how to get them and keep your eye on @bobmwc. If you don’t want to risk it, go ahead and purchase a ticket to gain entry. We are capping this event at 200 people so it is not too crowded and attendees can engage in real conversations. There will be three open bars set up across the two-floor building to encourage mingling, along with a large terrace overlooking the city so you can enjoy the views. The tickets are a bit expensive but we are trying to encourage real conversation in a stellar environment and it will definitely be a valuable opportunity.
Date: Monday, February 24, 2014
Time: 10pm-12:00pm midnight
Location: El Palauet, Passeig de Gràcia 113 – 08008 Barcelona
Buy tickets here.
We’re also going to hold a mini pitch off at the event, inviting 5 entrepreneurs to take the stage to pitch to a panel of expert judges. The five entrepreneurs will get two free tickets each and the winner will get a table at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York and two runners up will get a ticket to the event. You can apply below and we’ll contact those we choose directly. Apply here.Loading...
BBM Chief Andrew Bocking Departs BlackBerry, Division Will Be Folded Into Global Enterprise Solutions
BlackBerry had another high-profile executive departure today, as Executive Vice President of BBM Andrew Bocking has left the smartphone and enterprise software maker. Bocking’s exit was first reported by BGR, but BlackBerry confirmed the move to TechCrunch in an emailed statement, and explained that BBM’s new home will be in its Global Enterprise Solutions under John Sims.
“Andrew Bocking, EVP, BBM has made the decision to leave BlackBerry,” BlackBerry said in its statement. “We thank him for his years of leadership and contribution.”
The BBM EVP role won’t be filled by another candidate at this point, the company revealed to TechCrunch, and instead BBM will fall under the purview of Sims. BlackBerry says that this doesn’t mean that BBM product development falls by the wayside, however.
“The BBM organization remains as a group within BlackBerry and will continue to focus on BlackBerry and BBM strength in messaging and new areas of strength such as mobile marketing, community-building and enterprise messaging,” they explained in a statement. “John Sims, President, Global Enterprise Solutions, who has extensive experience in mobile messaging, will add the BBM team to his organization.”
Sims does indeed have prior mobile experience – he was SAP’s mobile lead before being hired by BlackBerry back in December, where he oversaw the sending and receiving of 1.8 billion messages per day according to a press release from April last year.
The new home for BBM suggests it could possibly be focused more on the enterprise market, which might mean shying away from the consumer push that’s been going on recently. The iOS and Android apps were greeted with an enthusiastic response from users when they were launched last year, but we haven’t heard much about their progress since.
eBay founder Pierre Omidyar revealed the first publication in his new media organization, First Look Media. “The Intercept” launched last night with revelations about the National Security Agency which had apparently been using the bulk collection of phone records to target terrorists with drones.
The Intercept’s explanatory introductory blog post explains that these types of revelatory stories will be a staple of the news site, keeping with its mission “to hold the most powerful governmental and corporate factions accountable.”
First Look Media made waves in the industry after it had announced that the journalist responsible for revealing the NSA’s controversial spy program, Glenn Greenwald, would be joining as editor. Greenwald and his partner on the original NSA leaks, Laura Poitras, are part of the new site’s small 12-person team.
The breakout story on the NSA drone program clearly establishes First Look Media as an opinionated news site, with unabashed opposition to security hawks. Their first story is sourced from whistleblower Edward Snowden and an anonymous former drone operator, who alleged that the NSA “often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.”
Greenwald, in his traditional civil liberties-championing tone, reminds readers that drone strikes have often inadvertently killed innocent civilians, which shows the perils of automated targeting weapons.
Omidyar is shelling out upwards of $250 million for First Look, the very same amount Amazon head Jeff Bezos paid for the Washington Post. It should be noted that Greenwald and Omidyar can only milk NSA leaks for so long, so it remains to be seen how a hard-hitting media site can reach financial viability over the long-term. At least for today, they’ll be making news and that’s a (very) good start.
Last week Microsoft announced that its new CEO is Satya Nadella, and that its first CEO, Bill Gates, would be spending time at the company helping with product decisions. It was the culmination of a long bout of CEO bingo.
The role that Gates will now play at the company he founded is interesting: Will he help Nadella’s strategic vision? Would he help the re-org solidify?
We have a better answer to that question today, as Gates took again to Reddit to answer the Internet’s questions. Asked directly what his new role at Microsoft will entail, Gates elaborated on what he sees coming up in technology, noting that Nadella specifically asked him to help out:
I am excited about how the cloud and new devices can help us communicate and collaborate in new ways. The OS won’t just be on one device and the information won’t just be files – it will be your history including being able to review memories of things like kids growing up. I was thrilled Satya asked me to pitch in to make sure Microsoft is ambitious with its innovation. Even in Office there is a lot more than can be done.
This is essentially the current Microsoft approach: A single OS core across device and form factors, a focus on services and cloud collaboration, and Office, in some capacity.
So, it seems that Gates’ vision is in tune (Intune?) with the current Microsoft strategy. That’s not surprising, given that he was active on the board during the current play’s invention and early implementation.
Nadella will make the decisions as to what Microsoft becomes, and it appears that his closest ally has a similar vision. Keep in mind: In Redmond, Gates is still god, and Nadella can use god’s backing to make sure that his dictums are law.
Also asked in almost joking terms “Yeah… Bill, I gotta ask you, what would you say you do there?” Gates gave the high-level view of his work at the company:
I make sure we pick ambitious scenarios and that we have a strong architecture to deliver on them. I encourage good work (hopefully).
Given the sheer magnitude of change going on inside of Redmond, that’s a decent mix.