Archive | May 2014

Apple grabs another gaming executive with appointment of Xbox Live marketing chief

Apple has named former Microsoft Product Marketing chief Robin Burrowes as the head of App Store Marketing for iTunes Europe, becoming the latest games executive to join Apple’s ranks.

MCV reports that Burrowes worked at Microsoft for seven years, where he was responsible for product, business and marketing management of Xbox LIVE across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

Burrowes was one of the main figures behind the promotion of Microsoft’s latest Xbox dashboard update and previously worked for MSN and UK retail store HMV. His LinkedIn profile suggests that he joined Apple in January, to help the company promote its iTunes service and App Store across Europe.

As MCV points out, Burrowes isn’t the first high-profile British gaming figure to make the jump to Apple. The Cupertino-based company welcomed former Nintendo PR boss Robert Saunders early last year, adding former Activision, EA and Xbox PR boss Nick Grange to focus on PR for its hardware products.

It’s the second European hire that we have become aware of this week, with Apple appointing Dixons Retail CEO John Browett as its new senior vice president of Retail, reporting directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Browett has been CEO of Dixons since 2007 and will join Apple in April, becoming immediately responsible for the company’s retal strategy and “continued expansion of Apple retail stores around the world.”

Apple has declined to comment on its new hire.


Nokia’s North American Breakout


Investor confidence in Nokia appears to be on the upswing. A narrower third-quarter loss and an upbeat forecast from the mobile phone company pushed its shares up eight percent Tuesday morning.

And, indeed, there is good reason to celebrate Nokia’s third-quarter earnings. The company once again posted an increase in sales of its Lumia smartphone, shipping 8.8 million of them during the quarter. That’s a nice bump up from the record 7.4 million it sold in the quarter prior, and a vast improvement over the 2.9 million it sold during the same period a year ago.

Another highlight: Nokia’s handset sales in North America. There, the Finnish company recorded sales of 1.4 million units in the third quarter. That’s nearly triple the number it sold in the second quarter, and far more than the 300,000 units it shipped in the year-ago period.

Now, 1.4 million smartphones shipped in North America isn’t exactly a triumph in absolute terms – companies like Apple and Samsung shipped many, many more – but it’s progress, and a promising development for Nokia’s device business, which is to be acquired by Microsoft early next year. Great news for the software giant, which is paying $7.2 billion for it in the hope that Nokia’s smartphone expertise will make Windows Phone relevant in a market dominated by Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone.

Kickstarter CEO Passes Job to Co-Founder

Kickstarter co-founder Perry Chen is stepping down from his role as CEO and up to the post of chairman of the online crowdfunding company on Jan. 1, he blogged today, saying that the move will give him more time for creative projects. The new CEO will be co-founder Yancey Strickler, who previously worked on customer service, community and communications. The third Kickstarter co-founder, Charles Adler, is leaving his day-to-day role. The company published new stats yesterday, among them that it has had five million people back projects.

Neustar Buys Aggregate Knowledge, One of Facebook’s Ad Tech Favorites, for $119 Million Cash


iStockphoto | dny59

Neustar, which makes most of its money managing databases for phone companies, is buying Aggregate Knowledge, an analytics company best known recently for its work with Facebook.

Neustar, which reported earnings today, paid $119 million in cash for Aggregate Knowledge; Neustar officials said they would also use restricted stock units in the transaction.

Aggregate Knowledge had raised a reported $64 million since 2005, from investors including Kleiner Perkins, DAG Ventures and OVP Venture Partners. The company restructured in 2010, when current CEO David Jakubowski came on board.

Neustar’s main business involves managing databases of phone numbers for carriers, and that work generated more than half of its $830 million in revenue last year. But it has been trying to build up a marketing business as well; marketing is part of its “information services” unit, which makes up roughly a quarter of its revenue today.

Aggregate Knowledge is supposed to help accelerate that push, and Jakubowski will head up Neustar’s marketing businesses.

Prior to today’s deal Aggregate Knowledge has been spending a lot of time with Facebook, helping the company explain how its ad campaigns are working for marketers. That relationship will continue after the acquisition, Jakubowski said.

Two Next-Level Wearables That Aren’t for Everyone


Many people are waiting for expected upcoming smartwatches from Apple and Google to take the wearable category to the next level. Or at least as much of a next-level as you can expect from a first-generation product. “It seems as though the whole product category has moved on to Activity Tracking 1.1, but hasn’t quite graduated to Wearables 2.0,” AllThingsD‘s Lauren Goode astutely observed.

Until that next level arrives, today’s wearable gadgets offer limited activity-tracking accuracy and somewhat forced integration with phones. Trying out the notifier watch Pebble or the often-buggy Jawbone Up can feel like beta-testing prerelease prototype products. At best, the products provide the user with a little push to be more active.

In an attempt to compete with what’s available today, and to carve out space before the biggies hit the market, a couple of new bands are currently raising money via crowdfunding by trying to be excellent by being more specific.

The Memi is kind of like the Pebble watch, but specifically for women. It’s based around notifications, not fitness. The big appeal is the simplicity of the design: A simple metal bangle that vibrates to indicate incoming calls and texts from people on a preapproved list. There’s no display.

Based in Atlanta and New York City, Memi launched on Kickstarter three days ago, and has raised just over $20,000, with a goal of $100,000.

“A lot of these smartwatches are trying to do more. You’re getting pinging and dinging, vibrating and lights. We’re taking a different approach, for women who want to unplug a little more,” said Memi co-founder and president Margaux Guerard, who formerly worked in luxury marketing with brands like Bobbi Brown and Diane von Furstenberg.

Guerard’s pitch is that Memi will allow women to leave their phones in their pockets or bags, and only pull them out when they know that a call or message is important. Memi is also meant to be pretty.

“Timeless jewelry is metal,” Guerard said. “And really nothing else in this space is metal.”

Kickstarter pledgers can currently get Memi bands for $125.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum is Push, a new wearable band for bodybuilders.


Made by a startup from Toronto, Push is worn on the forearm, so the wrists can be left free for weight-lifting. An onboard accelerometer and gyroscope detect the force, power and velocity of each exercise.

Why couldn’t this just be done with a smartphone and a strap? The accelerometer is higher-quality than those found in smartphones, and the device needs to be worn with the band right up against the skin to get the best measurements, according to Michael Lovas, Push’s chief design officer.

Push will also offer a belt to measure exercises that don’t involve the arms, though Lovas said the forearm should cover most of the big lifts, including squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, clean and jerk. The default size should be small enough to fit women, he said.

Indiegogo backers can buy the device for $149. Push is also planning to sell through coaches, who will pay a monthly fee to set up a fitness portal for their athletes and observe their progress.

Push has exceeded its Indiegogo goal of $80,000 Canadian dollars, with 18 days of fundraising to go, and more than $94,000 CAD pledged.

Amazon Mines Its Data Trove to Bet on TV’s Next Hit

In May, a dozen Inc. executives, including Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, gathered in a Seattle conference room to select the first original TV shows the company would produce for its streaming video service.

A group of 14 “pilot” episodes had been posted on the company’s website a month earlier, where they were viewed by more than one million people. After monitoring viewing patterns and comments on the site, Amazon produced about 20 pages of data detailing, among other things, how much a pilot was viewed, how many users gave it a five-star rating and how many shared it with friends.

Those findings helped the executives pick the first five pilots – winnowed down from an original pool of thousands of show ideas – that would be turned into series. The first will debut this month: “Alpha House,” a political comedy about four politicians who live together, written by Doonesbury comic strip creator Garry Trudeau.

Read the rest of this post on the original site

Yahoo’s Mayer on the Talent Hunt for Tech Journalists (Even From AllThingsD!)


This weekend, a Yahoo recruiter tried to poach two of our fine AllThingsD reporters for what was described as a “new initiative within our Tech Vertical.”

According to the recruiter, who used LinkedIn for the outreach, the effort had the “backing of [Yahoo CEO] Marissa Mayer, as well as many of our executives, and will be the first of many of these types of editorial models that we expect to roll out globally within the next year.”

As I had previously written, Mayer is pushing a new content effort that will focus on bringing big content to Yahoo, including the recent splashy hiring of the New York Times’ gadget reviewer, David Pogue, also for the tech effort. She has also been in talks with well-known television news star Katie Couric about an interview-type show that would appear on the homepage.

Among many execs in the Web space, Mayer has always been more attracted to the flashier media scene, having struck deals for Google to buy content properties like Zagat while she was there. But, let’s be clear, none of her efforts there were particularly successful.

Additional efforts to up Yahoo’s content business will require the hiring of a top media exec to replace recently departed media chief Mickie Rosen. Internal sources said that Mayer has said she is aiming to hire a top television exec for the job, to underscore the company’s commitment to video.

For now, it seems, tech is just the start, according to the email from the Yahoo recruiter, without any reference to a very similar previous Yahoo effort called Tech Ticker, which petered out many years ago. And, years before that, there was another content effort, called Finance Vision.

In other words, Yahoo has been no Netflix in its many efforts to jump into the content space, save for a series of light Web shows like “Primetime in No Time.”

One show, though – “Burning Love,” created and commissioned under former media head Ross Levinsohn – has generated a lot of buzz and traffic.

Mayer seems to have even bigger plans, though, using tech an some sort of “anchor.”

“The initiative is a news website, focused on technology, that is extremely social friendly and another way to drive significant traffic back to our platform,” wrote the recruiter. “We have identified this endeavor as a key anchor of our media strategy and a high growth opportunity for the media organization.”

It’s nice to see Mayer finally acknowledging the importance of what tech journalists do, even if it means she is trying to fish in our pond.

(Marissa, bygones on the poaching, as I see it as a compliment to our excellent work at AllThingsD! So, let’s have a just-us-media-ladies lunch, and I can explain how a tech blog works and stuff.)

Here’s the full email to one of our staffers this weekend:

I am the North American Recruiting Lead for Yahoo’s Global Media and Commerce organization.

We are currently looking for strong editorial professional to join the staff running a new initiative within our Tech Vertical. This venture has the backing of Marissa Mayer, as well as many of our executives, and will be the first of many of these types of editorial models that we expect to roll out globally within the next year. The initiative is a news website, focused on technology, that is extremely social friendly and another way to drive significant traffic back to our platform. We have identified this endeavor as a key anchor of our media strategy and a high growth opportunity for the media organization. I was hoping to connect with you as I thought your background was quite interesting for the opportunity.

Please understand that we are operating under a very quick timeline – Would you be open to discussing the role?

I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss your background and Yahoo! in more detail.

The NYT’s Nick Bilton Talks About His Book on IPO-Ready Twitter (Video)


I always like to indulge in a little logrolling in our own time, but this video interview I did with New York Times columnist Nick Bilton about his new book is pretty fun.

“Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal” officially comes out on Tuesday. But it is already being reviewed and munched over by many for its controversial stories about the founding of the San Francisco-based social microblogging phenom.

Including: Former CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey fired! Former CEO and co-founder Evan Williams hired! Dorsey returns! Williams fired! Current CEO Dick Costolo hired! Costolo almost fired!

Essentially, it is like a Spanish telenovela over there at Twitter, except it’s all dudes falling in and out of bromances.

Bilton noted to me that it reads like a mystery novel, akin to the game of Clue. As in: Board member and VC Peter Fenton in the server room with a virtual hammer!

Since Twitter is going public this week – ya might have heard – Bilton’s timing could not be better.

Here’s my interview with Bilton, who showed up at my house in the Castro on Halloween night. (It is an annual costume apocalypse in my neighborhood, so this guy really wants to sell that book!)

Here’s the interview: