We’ve added some exciting speakers for our D: Dive Into Mobile conference on April 15 and 16 in New York.
While much of our lineup remains intact from October’s hurricaned-out event, there are a few notable changes.
First, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt is joining the roster. Schmidt, of course, is fluent and well-versed on many topics, including competing platforms, the big picture of artificial intelligence, privacy, tech diplomacy and more.
Schmidt is replacing Android head Andy Rubin, who had an unmissable conflict halfway around the world. (Rubin will be appearing at our next conference, D11, instead, and Schmidt will likely have plenty to say about Android and Google’s many other mobile efforts.)
Schmidt has given us many a memorable interview, including a prescient declaration at our D9 conference in 2011 that the next stage for technology was a platform battle between a “gang of four” companies — Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook.
Plus, it’s a particularly exciting time to have Schmidt onstage, as his book, “The New Digital Age,” written with Jared Cohen about the global impact of technology, is set for release on April 23.
With lots of interest around mapping these days, we’ve also added Waze CEO Noam Bardin, who leads the fast-growing and remarkably effective crowdsourced mapping and navigation startup.
Bardin’s Waze got a big boost this past year when Apple CEO Tim Cook went so far as to prominently recommend it as an alternative to Apple’s homegrown and half-baked iOS Maps app.
But the Waze story is bigger than that. This is a company that started from an open-source mapping project in Israel that is now vibrant with users’ driving data from all over the world. Is it a real business yet? No. But that hasn’t kept investors — including Kleiner Perkins, Horizon Ventures and Blue Run Ventures — from pouring money into one of the most useful examples of a social application.
Bardin, who was previously CEO of Intercast Networks and cofounder of Deltathree, doesn’t speak at events very often, so we’re looking forward to picking his brain on a range of topics.
And last but not least, another scheduling switcheroo: Twitter’s international head Katie Jacobs Stanton can’t make it this time around, so she will be replaced by the company’s VP of product, Michael Sippey.
Sippey has brought stability and a mobile focus to Twitter’s product team since joining last year. And he’s responsible for increased efforts at consistency and faster development cycles for Twitter’s apps.
Prior to Twitter, Sippey was at Say Media and Six Apart.
We’re keen to talk to Sippey about how Twitter thinks about mobile, especially monetization, for which Twitter claims it has a particular knack.
It will also be interesting to hear Sippey in juxtaposition with Facebook engineering head Mike Schroepfer, as the social media giant has more publicly struggled with shifting its product organization to think mobile.
In addition to these folks, we have a great array of speakers sharing mobile perspectives from around the world. Juliana Rotich will share her views from the mobile disaster coordination startup Ushahidi, while Movile CEO Fabricio Bloisi Rocha will talk about the quick-changing Brazilian market and Xiaomi President Bin Lin will update us on his startup’s latest high jinks in the Chinese device market.
Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter will talk about reaching fans in a mobile age, and DoSomething.org’s Nancy Lublin will talk about activating teens. Plus, Mozilla, Microsoft, Snapchat, WhatsApp and more.
Verizon activated a record number of iPhones in its fourth quarter — 6.2 million. It was the carrier’s strongest quarter for iPhone sales since it first began offering the handset in 2011, one in which Apple’s handset accounted for about two-thirds of its new smartphone activations. The iPhone 5 was a key driver of these sales, but not just for its promise of 4G LTE speeds and Apple’s latest handset design. Its debut on Verizon allowed the carrier to offer the iPhone 4 free-on-contract.
Fielding questions at the Deutsche Bank 2013 Media, Internet & Telecom Conference this week, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said the iPhone 4 drove a lot of the company’s fourth-quarter activations.
“… This past fourth quarter, you … had really one thing happen that never happened before, especially with Verizon Wireless, and that was for the first time ever, because of the iPhone 5 launch, we had the 4 at free,” Shammo said. “So it was the first time ever you could get a free iPhone on the Verizon Wireless network.”
And just as the iPhone 5 helped spike LTE subscriber numbers, so, too, did the iPhone 4 drive 3G subscriber numbers.
“[The iPhone 4] produced a lot of volume for us,” Shammo said. “We had a lot of new customers come into Verizon who took that free phone, and that was great for us, because, again, if you think about — we sold a lot of LTE product in the fourth quarter. We sold a lot of 3G product from the iPhone products in the fourth quarter.”
That’s a point worth noting. By offering less-expensive legacy iPhone models along with the latest iteration of the device, Apple is expanding its addressable market. A smart move. The caveat here is that those lower-priced models will inevitably grow their share, as well. And that may have implications for the company’s revenue and profit, because a free-on-contract iPhone 4 compresses the iPhone’s average selling price.
Back in January a law came into place in the US that made unlocking of cellphones illegal, and as you can imagine a lot of people were less than pleased about this so they decided to start a We the People petition with the White House.
The petition ended up getting 114,000 signatures, and once a White House petition reaches 100,000 then the White House must respond to the petition, they have done and have agreed with the petition that unlocking of cellphones should be legal again.
Camera manufacturer Nikon has this week added a new product to its range in the form of the first DX-Format Coolpix A camera.
The new Nikon Coolpix A camera is equipped with a DX-format CMOS sensor which has been designed to provide superior image quality previously only available via a Nikon DSLR camera.
After a wave of early demonstrations, the first Oculus Rift developer kits are going out, and the question of how the Rift will be used for real-life games is becoming more important. Over at MTBS3D, a forum member unearthed an EA request for a student researcher to look into “VR technology in games,” with specific mention of the Oculus Rift. Since then, site president Neil Schneider has gotten confirmation that while nothing is certain, EA is indeed weighing support for the Oculus Rift on its Frostbite engine — which is used in the Battlefield series as well as upcoming Dragon Age and Mass Effect titles.
“I am really eager to see how the Oculus Rift works with Frostbite,” says Frank Vitz, who heads the Frostbite creative team at EA…
The simple home stereo is struggling in the digital world. Little black boxes and audio sources are proliferating under the TV, remotes litter the coffee table, and docks clutter the bedroom and kitchen. Countless inputs and apps, disparate interfaces, and way too many wires have mashed up into a home theater headache that’s barely keeping up with music after the CD. It’s not a pretty situation.
Sonos is finally making a serious move to the living room with its new Playbar soundbar, a category generally known more for compromise than for great sound. If you go the serious A/V receiver route, you’re still stuck spending a lot of time switching cables, adjusting inputs, and dealing with multiple software and hardware interfaces…
Former Apple Ad Man Says Apple Considered Calling the iPhone the ‘TriPod’, ‘TelePod’, ‘Mobi’, or ‘iPad’ [iOS Blog]
Former Apple advertising lead Ken Segall was at an event for the University of Arizona’s Department of Marketing tonight and in giving the latest version of his “Insanely Simple” talk revealed some of the names Apple considered for its smartphone before settling on “iPhone”, reports 9to5Mac.
The proposed names included “TelePod,” “Mobi,” “TriPod” and “iPad.” Segall also presented the name “MicroMac” to his audience, but insisted that it was not under consideration and that he wanted to gauge their thoughts on the name. In past versions of the talk, Segall has presented “PocketMac” as the outlier option that was not actually considered.
Segall went on to explain the thought process of the names:
– TelePod: Segall said Apple considered this name because it sounded like a “futuristic twist” on the word “telephone.” The “Pod” part obviously came about from the success of the iPod.
– Mobi: This name was in consideration not only because it was a creative take on the word “mobile,” but that it also had personality, Segall said.
– TriPod: When Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone, he famously referred to it as three devices in one: an iPod, an Internet device and a phone. This name likely had an impact on that presentation and represents the three “legs” that the iPhone was built on.
– iPad: This eventually became the name of Apple’s tablet line, but Segall said it was under consideration for the company’s smartphone product as well. Steve Jobs did confirm that Apple had been working on a tablet before it started working on a phone, and that the tablet had internally been codenamed “Safari Pad.”
Of course, Apple eventually settled on the name “iPhone”. At the time, Cisco actually held the U.S. trademark for iPhone for a line of VoIP handsets, but the two companies eventually reached a trademark agreement over the name.
Apple was today granted a 2009 patent application to allow users to control a device by pressing on, or squeezing, parts of the casing. An illustration in the patent shows potential touch-sensitive areas across a whole range of different devices:
The patent, discovered by AppleInsider, combines two different methods of detecting and measuring the amount of pressure applied: one physical, the other electrical. The capacitance test, which works in a similar way to touchscreens, would enable the device to tell human touch apart from accidental pressure applied while the device was carried in a pocket or bag.
Sensors disposed within the housing, in some embodiments directly beneath the surface, can detect when deflection occurs, which in turn denotes stress or pressure. In some embodiments, the sensors are connected to a printed circuit board that can in turn illuminate a light or other indicator when a minimum amount of readable stress is applied … A processor can take the measurements with their corresponding deflection rates, and translate them into device actions. For example, a threshold stress level is reached when a user presses down on a certain area of a device’s housing. The processor determines that the capacitance change is outside the bounds of normal readings and can trigger a UI event or other device feature in response. The system can be customized to detect patterns and varied sensitivities to support a broad range of tasks.
Apple patents a great many technologies it never uses, either as potential solutions that are later rejected or to protect against competitor use, although the metal casing of the iPhone 5 could make the system practical on any future iPhone models with a similar casing.
Bitcoin, the digital coin with a questionable past, is gaining ground as a legitimate currency, trading at $32 a share last week
Dale doesn’t exactly look like an international crypto-criminal. He’s soft-spoken, baby-faced, and a senior at an Ivy League college. But every couple of weeks the political science major logs onto the Silk Road, an online black market that has been described as an “amazon.com of drugs” to buy wholesale quantities of “molly” (also known as MDMA, a particularly “pure” form of ecstasy), LSD and magic mushrooms. Some of these will be for his personal use, and the rest he’ll flog to less tech-savvy classmates at a mark-up of up to 300%. On a good weekend, he can net a profit of around $2,500. It’s a more lucrative sideline than waiting tables.
While Dale prices his party favours in dollars, he pays for them the only way you can pay for anything on the Silk Road: by using Bitcoins, an untraceable digital currency founded in 2008 by the pseudonymous “Satoshi Nakomoto”. Despite persistent efforts to uncover his identity, little is known about Nakamoto: he’s the Banksy of the internet. Or, rather, he was. Nakomoto disappeared without a trace in 2011, after telling a developer “he’d moved on to other things”. Bitcoin itself, however, shows no signs of vanishing: in the past two months it more than doubled its value against the dollar and after reaching an all-time high last Wednesday, it has been trading at above $32 a share.
Unless you’re a major tech geek or a regular patron of the shadowy computer underworld known as the dark web, you’ve probably never heard of – let alone used – Bitcoins. But below the “real” economy of legal tender and federal reserves, Bitcoins fuel a shadow economy that connects students, drug dealers, gamblers, dictators and anyone else who wants to pay for something without being traced. It has found a niche as the currency of internet vice, digital “pieces of eight” for modern-day pirates.
Despite these unsavoury associations, Bitcoin is increasingly winning a place on the internet as a legitimate currency, albeit one that will probably never quite shake off its dodgy past. Bitcoin is part of a gradual, technological shift in the way we think about money. It poses a tangible threat to centralised banking and the guardians of fiat money. Bitcoin won’t knock off the dollar any time soon; the euro can sleep easy. But it is clearly a force to be reckoned with. Bitcoin has become the world’s best performing currency, with its value spiking 130% just this year.
Bitcoins, unlike the cash you have in your pocket, are finite. There are currently 10.8m Bitcoins in the system, and this will cap out at 21m coins by the year 2140, according to market research firm ConvergEx. Limiting supply has been a major plus for Bitcoins, and a major reason why prices have gone up.
If you want to buy Bitcoins you simply go to an online exchange service such as Bitinstant and convert your local currency into the virtual money. These are then stored in a “wallet”, which functions as a sort of online bank account. You can then go and spend these anywhere that takes Bitcoins to buy anything from socks to drugs.
The Bitcoin network is structured like a guerilla movement: it is decentralised, controlled by its users rather than governments. This means it is (theoretically, at least) anonymous, and that, unlike credit cards and PayPal, which block payments from a number of countries, it enables instant payments to anyone, from anywhere in the world. That’s why criminals love it and why some online retailers do, too. It’s money without any kind of safety net below it. There’s no legislation to protect your investment and you can’t protest fraud.
It’s worth bearing in mind that while Bitcoin operates outside the parameters of governmental control and is often used to dubious ends, so too is a lot of the money we see around us. The US Treasury printed 3bn $100 bills in the 2012 fiscal year and, 80% of them go overseas, according to Federal Reserve estimates. As Nicholas Colas, ConvergEx Group chief market strategist, notes, “many of them simply facilitate the global drug and arms trade, not to mention tax evasion and human trafficking”. Bitcoins fit into the world of real currency more than anyone would like to think.
While governments and legislators have long been waging wars on traditional funny money, they are only just starting to wake up to the effects alternative currencies may have on the financial landscape. In 2011, two Democratic senators, alerted to the thrills of the Silk Road by a Gawker article, wrote to the US attorney general demanding that something be done about Bitcoin. And in October last year, the European Central Bank published a paper that recommended that developments in virtual currencies be regularly examined to reassess the risks.
The association between Bitcoins and drugs is clearest on Silk Road, where the currency is the only method of payment that is accepted. But Dale, the Ivy League student, uses the currency with care – not least because of its volatility. “I try to purchase only as many as I will need for a specific transaction, because they have historically had pretty wild inflation and deflation.”
Dale sees Bitcoins as the glue that binds a certain type of digital trade: “It seems to me like Bitcoins are essential for the currently thriving digital underground economy, but they also represent the beginning of an extra-governmenta, international digital economy.”
Bitcoin isn’t just for petty criminals, however: it has also made its debut in geopolitics. Last year, Iran was cut off from the European and US currency systems. High inflation caused the native currency, the rial, to plummet in value. With no dollars or euros available, Iranians used Bitcoin as a way to gain access to the international currency markets: they bought Bitcoins and later swapped them for dollars through an exchange site like Mt.Gox.
While Bitcoin has so far operated at the margins of the economy, there is some evidence that it is slowly entering the mainstream. WordPress, Reddit, and Megaupload have just started to accept Bitcoins and you can now even buy pizza with them. In December, the currency took its biggest step towards legitimacy yet, after partnering with a payments service provider in France. They also had a booth at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which featured a picture of a wholesome looking woman holding an iPhone running a Bitcoin app.
Edward Castronova, a professor of telecommunications at Indiana University Bloomington, who has who pioneered the economic study of virtual worlds, doubts that Bitcoins will ever become a mainstream currency, however. Castronova’s scepticism stems from the way that Bitcoin is structured as a currency with a fixed size. “It just isn’t very fun. We’ve learned from game currencies that people like a little inflation in their economies. But Bitcoin is built to deflate. And we’ve just seen, culturally, people don’t like deflation.”
While it seems unlikely that Bitcoins will ever represent a full-scale challenge to regular money, they point to the rise of virtual currencies and changing definition of currency. Alternative currencies continue to slowly creep in around the edges of the economy: in February, Amazon announced that it is introducing its own custom currency called, rather imaginatively, Coins.
Starting in May, US customers will be able to use Coins to buy apps, games and in-app items on the Kindle Fire, with Amazon giving out “tens of millions of dollars worth of Coins” as a preliminary stimulus package.
And calculations by the Economist in January 2005 suggested that the total stock of unredeemed frequent flyer miles was worth more than all the dollar bills in circulation.
Castronova notes that among young people, the mental accounting on different sorts of “money” is already very fuzzy. “Twenty-year-olds don’t see any difference at all between dollars, gold coins, GPAs,” said Castronova. “They’re all just digital score sheets”.
The future of money may or may not include a Federal Reserve Bank of Amazon, but it probably does involve the gradual decentralisation and democratisation of currency. Virtual currencies aren’t just a new-fangled sort of Monopoly money. Rather, they may just be the thing that ends the monopoly on money.
Irom Sharmila has been protesting against India’s use of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Kashmir and Manipur since 2000
A veteran Indian activist who has not eaten a meal for 12 years in protest against what she says are repressive laws allowing widespread human rights abuses was charged in a court in the capital, Delhi, on Monday with attempted suicide.
Irom Sharmila, 40, is protesting against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which is in effect in Indian-ruled Kashmir and parts of the country’s remote north-east. It gives troops the right to shoot to kill suspected rebels without fear of possible prosecution and to arrest suspected militants without a warrant. It also gives police wide-ranging powers of search and seizure.
Sharmila, who is from Manipur, one of the poorest and most violent parts of India with some of the worst social indicators, is dubbed the “Iron Lady” by her supporters and has become a rallying point for those demanding the law’s repeal.
The attempted suicide charges stem from a 2006 protest she attended in New Delhi. Police took her from the protest to hospital and registered a case against her.
Sharmila had her last voluntary meal on 4 November 2000, in Imphal, capital of Manipur, one of several north-eastern states where long-running insurgent movements contest state authority. The immediate cause was a recent shooting, allegedly by the paramilitary Assam Rifles, in which 10 civilians were killed. She was arrested three days later and has been force fed through a tube in her nose ever since. Under law, she has to be released once a year to see if she will start eating. When she refuses, she is taken back into custody and force fed.
Appearing in court with her nose tube in place, she pleaded not guilty.
“I love life. I do not want to take my life, but I want justice and peace,” the Press Trust of India quoted her as saying in court, which she attended after flying in from Manipur over the weekend.
The magistrate set her trial for 22 May. If convicted, she faces one year in prison.
Sharmila remained unbowed as she left the courtroom. “I will continue my fast until the special powers act is withdrawn,” she said.
Sharmila’s supporters demonstrated outside the court to demand the repeal of the act. “The Indian army should leave Manipur state and authorities should withdraw all the cases against her,” said one protester, Sucheta Dey.
Human rights workers have accused Indian troops of using the law to detain, torture and kill rebel suspects, sometimes even staging gun battles as pretexts to kill.
The army opposes any weakening of the act, saying it needs extraordinary powers to deal with insurgents.
Ashwini Kumar, Indian law minister, defended the act, saying it was needed for conflict zones where the onus and burden of proof were not easy to resolve.
“Therefore, the opinion of the defence establishment and intelligence agencies was critical in such matters,” Kumar was quoted as saying by The Hindu newspaper on Monday.
Student activists in Manipur disagree, complaining that the Indian army misuses these extraordinary powers and treats civilians as insurgents.
Kennedy Sanabam, a member of the Manipur Students’ Association, said the military had failed to contain the insurgency despite these powers. “The number of insurgents has gone up,” he said.
Pranshu Prakash, a research scholar in a Delhi university, said the arrest last week of an army officer in Manipur with illegal drugs worth millions of dollars suggested the special powers were being misused to carry out extortion and drug trafficking.
The law has come under fire amid India’s re-evaluation of its sexual violence laws following the gang rape and killing of a student on a bus in New Delhi in December. Women’s rights activists have said the law allows troops to rape women without fear of arrest or punishment.
A panel appointed by the government recommended in January that the law be re-examined and that protections be removed for soldiers accused of sexual violence. The government declined to amend the law when it approved new measures to protect women.
The law prohibits soldiers from being prosecuted for alleged rights violations unless it is expressly allowed by the federal government. According to official documents, the state government in Indian Kashmir has sought permission to try soldiers in 50 cases in the last two decades. The federal government has refused every one.