BlackBerry has fired 250 people from its research and development division while it attempts to re-establish itself as a leading smartphone manufacturer and stabilize its business.
As reported by TechCrunch (via CTV News) all of the affected employees were based in the company’s new product testing facility in Waterloo, Ontario. A company spokesperson said the changes have been made to help BlackBerry streamline their product development.
“I can confirm on the record, that BlackBerry on Tuesday informed 250 employees of their termination in Waterloo,” BlackBerry’s Lisette Kwong said. “These employees were part of the New Product Testing Facility, a department that supports BlackBerry’s manufacturing and R&D efforts.
“This is part of the next stage of our turnaround plan to increase efficiencies and scale our company correctly for new opportunities in mobile computing. We will be as transparent as possible as those plans evolve.”
The move follows the resignation by David Smith, BlackBerry’s Vice President in charge of its struggling PlayBook tablet vision. That was less surprising given that BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins recently ruled out porting BlackBerry 10 to the unsuccessful slate – admitting that multiple teams had spent “a great deal of time and energy” looking at various solutions.
Richard Piasentin, BlackBerry’s US managing director, was also fired earlier this month.
Both departures follow BlackBerry’s announcement last year that it would shed 5,000 jobs from the company. A further 250 from its R&D team is certainly worrying, given that it’s the first place where new products and ideas would be conceived.
Image Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
We’ve all done it: one minute you’re happily sitting there sending emails and the next you have that horrible moment of realization that, actually, you hadn’t meant to send that confidential or potentially embarrassing file to that Sam, you meant to send it to the other Sam. The one you actually know and work with.
While potentially embarrassing in our personal lives, you can usually recover. An apology goes a long way. But in a work context when you’re a lawyer or banker where the need for secrecy is imperative – in some cases a legal imperative. For example, when an investment bank is managing a takeover but there are other teams in the same banks that can’t know it is taking place. Sending an email to the wrong Sam in that sort of situation could lead to far more serious consequences than feeling a bit silly.
This is why Quiver, a London-based startup with an eye on making sure this never happens again, has developed Recipicheck. It’s also why the company’s attentions have gone purely on businesses where data privacy is paramount, Quiver’s co-founder and director Tim Sadler, told The Next Web.
“It’s targeted at organizations that deal with highly-sensitive information. It uses algorithms that we’ve designed and developed just to try and predict whether you’re sending the email to the correct person or not. And kind of integrating with all the other processes that go on in an investment bank usually.”
Sadler explained that while the software has a critical mission, it has been designed to be non-intrusive for the end-user.
Through its algorithms it identifies situations in which it thinks you might be sending an email to the wrong person, either through possible name confusion, or by learning that you normally email certain things to certain groups of people, and that actually, in this instance you’re sending it to the usual group plus two other individuals.
“One of the things that we wanted was for it not to get in peoples’ way and for it not to be a burden for them. It’s completely discreet and operates in the background.
When it detects you’re sending an email regarding a certain set of information, whether that’s because there’s a certain attachment in there, or because it’s regarding a certain project or deal that you’re working on, the software will look to see if it thinks you are sending it to someone who is not approved to see that information.”
If it does it just pops-up a prompt asking if you really still want to send the email to the people addressed. Pricing for the service is just as simple, if not opaque. Businesses just pay a monthly fee, negotiated on an individual basis.
The company’s founders met as engineers at Imperial College in college, and as such mostly have a background in programming. After realizing that toiling for others as software engineers in investment banks wasn’t for them, they left their jobs and spent 9 months developing the software with feedback from the industry; the first public iteration was just last week.
But how does this help me?
Well, Quiver wants to take Recipicheck (which as a name I don’t like) far and wide – put it in the cloud and make it interoperable with every single email service, client and device on the planet, whether a desktop installation of Windows Live Mail or that random little cloud email provider that you still use for some yet to be revealed reason.
It wouldn’t be a Web email client (as you might be thinking because of the word cloud), instead, it would allow you to stop yourself from accidentally sending an email to the wrong person from any device, account or platform. It’d be totally agnostic.
To do this would mean putting the service server-side (it’s currently all client-side, avoiding most potential issues), but to do that would mean all sorts of navigation of European (and beyond) data regulation laws, as well as some other headaches.
“Going server-side means we obviously have to have a host server that deals with this kind of information and these kind of email communications. We’re talking with engineers at the moment about how we can encrypt the data as it comes in so we wouldn’t even be able to see the data that came in. I think that’s something that would be of a major concern and will be a challenge for us as engineers to find a solution.”
Data regulation and practical encryption aside, I have bigger concerns for Recipicheck. The first thing that sprang to mind was, “aren’t there people already doing this? I’m pretty sure Gmail has a feature in Labs called Got the wrong Bob?”
When I asked Sadler about this and whether they had protected the software and algorithms’ IP (intellectual property). He said they were still looking into what Quiver’s claims to the technology could be.
Don’t misunderstand, I like the idea. I sent an email to my colleague Martin Bryant that was intended for someone else just yesterday. I’m just a little concerned that with no IP protection in place and rival/similar in effect, if not in method, filter services already out there Recipicheck could be ripe for copying.
However, with the launch just last week and the immediate plan to focus on the UK financial and legal business sectors, to be followed by expansion to other large financial centers, the service could service it’s niche very nicely. Whether or not the company will be able to break the service out of the niche is yet to be determined.
The long-term goal would then be to widen it out to every device and service under the sun before someone else does it. Maybe Recipicheck will manage it; I imagine Martin hopes so, that way he shouldn’t get any more emails like the one yesterday that wasn’t really meant for him.
Featured Image Credit – Thinkstock
Zynga confirmed today in its second quarter earnings announcement that it will not pursue a license for real-money gaming in the US.
In April, the company launched ZyngaPlusPoker and ZyngaPlusCasino real-money games in the UK in partnership with Bwin.party. At the time, reports emerged that Zynga had applied for a license to provide real-money poker in the state of Nevada. It’s not clear what happened with the application, but Zynga says it will instead focus on free games.
Here’s the statement directly from the earnings release:
Zynga believes its biggest opportunity is to focus on free to play social games. While the Company continues to evaluate its real money gaming products in the United Kingdom test, Zynga is making the focused choice not to pursue a license for real money gaming in the United States. Zynga will continue to evaluate all of its priorities against the growing market opportunity in free, social gaming, including social casino offerings.
Zynga’s second quarter performance was not stellar. It posted a net loss of $15.8 million and revenue was down 31 percent year over year to $231 million. After-hours trading pushed Zynga shares down over 12 percent, erasing the stock’s 6.71 percent gains from earlier in the day.
The company’s future is now in the hands of former Microsoft executive Don Mattrick, who took over as CEO earlier this month.
Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
That escalated quickly. When Google unveiled its Chromecast dongle for streaming YouTube, Netflix and Chrome tabs, it announced a promotion for three free months of Netflix with purchase of the device, but the deal is now sold out due to “overwhelming demand”.
Savvy shoppers quickly did the math yesterday ($35-$7.99*3=$11.03) and scooped up the device in droves. Google announced that the offer was no longer available little more than 24 hours after launching Chromecast.
Google Play lists Chromecast as shipping in 3-4 weeks, while Amazon is currently only selling the device by way of third-party sellers. Best Buy has also sold out of the dongle online, though it is listing in-store pickup in my area in 3 to 5 days.
Google has issued the following statement about the offer:
Due to overwhelming demand for Chromecast devices since launch, the 3-month Netflix promotion (which was available in limited quantities) is no longer available on Google Play.
That demand has led to a secondary market for the device, with some eager buyers paying as much as triple the price.
Google’s free Netflix offer may have been a generous one, but it hasn’t been handled well. For instance, its promotional page for Netflix is still live with no indication that the deal is over. Sure, the fine print says “Offer available while supplies last,” but shouldn’t the company, you know, tell us when those supplies run out?
I bought a Chromecast on Amazon on Wednesday shortly after it became available, and it arrived on Thursday afternoon. However, the email with the Netflix promo code, which was supposed to go out after the device had shipped, has yet to arrive in my inbox.
When I called Netflix about the issue, a support representative said the email and code would come from Google, but when I called Google, a rep said it was on Netflix. I’m not the only one having these issues.
It’s nice to see Google have a hardware hit on its hands, especially after its struggles with the Nexus Q and Google TV, but the company needs to get better about communicating if it’s going to keep selling devices directly. My colleagues and I like Chromecast and see a lot of potential in it, but customers aren’t going to stay happy if they bought the device expecting a Netflix promotion and end up with nothing.
Related: Hands on with Google’s Chromecast, a tiny set-top box for the Web
The series finale of the hit TV series Breaking Bad will air in the UK and Ireland exclusively on Netflix starting from mid-August, following hotly on the heels of the episodes being aired in the US.
The online streaming service announced the news on Friday, adding that new episodes will be available each Monday following August 12 as they are shown in the US.
“We are thrilled to be bringing the highly-anticipated Final Season of Breaking Bad to Netflix members in the UK and Ireland on a first-run basis,” Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said. “Breaking Bad is a once in a generation calibre of show and continues to be a huge success on Netflix.”
That’s right folks, you’re favorite crystal meth kingpin will be back on your screens shortly to conclude the story.
As well as watching the final season, Netflix members can also play catch up by streaming any of the previous series’ episodes.
The deal is a particular coup for Netflix in the UK and Ireland specifically as it will see the shows being transmitted with the minimum of delay following the US screening of the episodes. Traditionally, content shown in the US could take weeks or even months before it was ready to be shown to a UK audience.
The move keeps pressure up on rival online services like LOVEFiLM, Amazon’s online streaming arm in the UK. The domestic market is also seeing challenges from non-traditional content providers such as supermarkets. For example, Tesco’s BlinkBox service simply charges on a per-viewing basis, rather than charging a monthly subscription.
Featured Image Credit – AFP/Getty Images
18 months ago, if you made an infographic, chances are that it was going to get widely spread. But people grew tired of the format quickly, perhaps largely because most of the examples were light on both info and graphics. But Column Five Media co-founder Ross Crooks thinks that there’s still plenty to be done in the space. His upcoming TNW Academy course can teach you what works, what doesn’t and how to make the favor fall toward your content. We had a chance to talk to Ross, and his insights are pretty fantastic.
Infographics have perhaps gotten a bad rap because of over-use. What separates the good stuff from the mediocre?
The infographic medium has gained popularity over the last few years as marketers used them as editorial content to drive traffic and promote their brands. While this can still be effective if done right, this is the use case that has become a bit hackneyed. However, infographics as a medium of communication are nothing new. Weather maps, reporting dashboards, anatomical diagrams- these are all examples of informational graphics as well that have been used in newspapers, reports and textbooks for years. The common familiarity with infographics is in need of expansion – the realization that there are more tools in the belt that can be used.
The popularity of any medium often leads to a saturation of poor quality content (looking at you, YouTube) – but this shouldn’t discredit its efficacy altogether. What separates the good from the bad? The same factors that apply to quality video or articles – an interesting and unique concept, sound research/data collection and engaging copywriting. Beautiful design also helps attract viewers by appealing to them aesthetically. Those that give infographics a bad rap are poorly thought out and quickly thrown together, lacking a compelling narrative and advanced design, ultimately failing to achieve the communication objectives.
When you talk about building trust through visualization, how do you do that?
Visualization can provide context that helps people gain a holistic understanding of a topic very quickly. When people are given this context, instead of just a sound bite statistic, they are able to form their own opinions about the content. This relationship with the information builds trust.
For example, if I told you that unemployment has decreased 10% in the U.S. – some people might think this is good, while many others would want more information in order to make a judgement. What is the trend over time? How do various geographic regions differ? Does male vs. female unemployment differ dramatically? Is the total number of unemployed people high or low historically? All these answers and more can be visualized in a concise way – allowing the viewer to extract the information they feel is necessary to come to their own conclusion.
What’s the most interesting use case of visualization that you’ve seen so far?
Certainly there are many diverse uses of visualization that can be interesting. From a technical perspective, I am particularly interested in how the combination of animation and interactivity can combine to tell better stories visually. Some really cool things can be done using a combination of passive and active user experience. Topically, I have seen a lot of interesting use cases in the financial industry as well as the communication of environmental and social issues. In both cases, there are complex concepts that need to be communicated clearly in order to incite audience action. This is visualization’s sweet spot.
I am also enamored of old graphics such as Minard’s Map of Napolean’s March and Florence Nightingale’s Diagram of Causes of Mortality because of the social impact they had. In a time when data and information was much less accessible to the common man – this type of public insight, portrayed in a clear visualization, must have been like seeing in color for the first time.
What common mistakes are companies making when trying to push out graphics?
The most common mistakes I see are brands not knowing their audience, or not being disciplined about targeting their content to a specific audience. As brands increasingly become content publishers, many are still getting used to creating and distributing editorial content. They are tempted to inject typical marketing messaging that plays up the brand, as this is what brand communication has always been about. They fail to realize that this is not the purpose of this content type, and their audience will not respond well to it. It is essential to understand when it is appropriate to talk about your brand, products and services, and when to be purely editorial and educational to attract and engage a broad audience. Both can utilize infographics and data visualization, but the objectives are much different – thus requiring a unique approach to each.
With the shift toward responsive design, how do infographics and visualization work within these confines?
Great question. We already see a lot of companies wanting to create content in a modular way as to be utilized in various contexts. An example of this is the design of a long-form infographic in a way that can be easily divided into a slide show format. This same approach can be used to divide and reorganize layouts into sections to optimize for varied display dimensions.
How do you see companies using infographics in new ways?
Progressive companies are finding great use for infographics outside of the content marketing and editorial application. Many are incorporating visualization into their products, presentations, collateral, and reports. Adding more data and information into these experiences and displaying it beautifully can transform these communication channels and change how people perceive and understand the company and their work.
What is the best way for a company to approach infographics?
It is really beneficial for companies to take a holistic look at their visual communication strategy, not just infographics as they relate to content marketing. Developing a consistent style of visualization across the company ensures that visualizations are not only impactful in their message, but also support their association with the brand. Having focus and understanding of how visualization can impact various parts of your business and taking a strategic approach to implementation will pay dividends over time.
Make sure to catch Infographics: Build Trust Through Visualization, an online course via TNW Academy. There are still a few seats left, so get yours while you can.
500px integrates MapBox to vizualize photos’ geolocation data and help users find shots taken nearby
Photo sharing platform 500px has integrated MapBox maps across its site over the last couple of days, giving users a better idea of where their newly discovered or all time favorite shots were taken.
Users will notice that on individual photo pages, a new Location tab is highlighted alongside the image’s licensing information, upload date and other default details. Selecting it reveals a small window with a blue arrow icon depicting exactly where the photo was captured.
It’s a bit small though and difficult to make out the country or region in question. Thankfully, clicking on the map again triggers a far more expansive window which can be used to examine the location in greater detail.
In addition, viewers can also see other photos uploaded both by the original photographer and other 500px users in the surrounding area. It’s a far more organic way of navigating the site and adds a sense of context to users’ photos.
The new Location tab isn’t present for every image uploaded to 500px. That’s because the majority of photographs won’t have geolocation data attached to them automatically. Users can set this manually when they upload a photo to the service, or at anytime by hitting the edit button from the dashboard.
Rival services such as Flickr and Google+ offer similar mapping functionality, but MapBox’s integration with 500px is particularly slick. For those who like to spend hours just commenting and Liking on a seemingly endless number of photos, it’s a nice if not particularly innovative addition.
500px launched its new, redesigned Professional Photo Portfolios in May this year, following pretty significant updates to both its iOS and Android apps in the months prior.
Image Credit: OLIVER BERG/AFP/GettyImages
Spy agencies in the UK, Australia and the US have internally banned using Lenovo PCs because of remote access vulnerabilities that were discovered during testing, a new report from the Australian Financial Review alleges.
Chinese technology firms have long attracted suspicion from international governments, with telecommunications firms Huawei and ZTE recently coming under suspicion in both the US and UK. Lenovo has grown to become one of the top PC makers, but its popularity with consumers hasn’t translated over to classified government networks.
The ban is believed to extend across the “Five Eyes” group of nations, which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, because their respective intelligence agencies have linked their networks.
While Lenovo hasn’t gone after the required security certifications needed to provide hardware to some of these agencies, AFR’s report suggests there’s more to the situation.
According to the paper, intelligence sources confirmed the ban was instituted in the mid-2000s “after intensive laboratory testing of its equipment allegedly documented “back-door” hardware and “firmware” vulnerabilities in Lenovo chips.”
Details on the discoveries remain classified, but the vulnerabilities allegedly could provide remote access to intruders.
Also of concern is the extent of Lenovo’s ties with the government. China’s Academy of Sciences has a substantial stake in Legend Holdings, Lenovo’s largest shareholder.
Lenovo didn’t immediately respond when contacted by The Next Web, but the company did tell AFR that it did not know of the spy agency ban.
Part of the deep-rooted suspicion of Chinese hardware may come from Western governments’ own interest in creating back doors in their own hardware. For instance, security expert Professor Farinaz Koushanfar told AFR that she had “personally met with people inside the NSA who have told me that they’ve been working on numerous real-world cases of malicious implants for years.” France was also believed to be working on kill switches for its military equipment.
Given that most of this is locked up as classified, we probably won’t ever find out what’s really going on here. Still, given the recent revelations of the deep surveillance structures created by the likes of the NSA, it’s hard not to look at all our technology with a bit of mistrust.
See also: Here’s the letter Apple, Google, Microsoft and others sent to the US government over data requests and UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee says GCHQ is accessing the NSA’s PRISM programme legally
Image credit: Philippe Lopez / Getty Images
After raising $123,000 on Kickstarter to develop a new tabletop board game called ‘The Doom That Came To Atlantic City’, creator Erik Chevalier has told backers that the project has been abandoned.
“The project is over, the game is cancelled,” Chevalier wrote in an update for the project’s Kickstarter page (spotted by CVG).
“Every possible mistake was made, some due to my inexperience in board game publishing, others due to ego conflicts, legal issues and technical complications. No matter the cause though these could all have been avoided by someone more experienced and I apparently was not that person.”
The remarks have been met with a wave of criticism from backers that have pledged potentially thousands of dollars to see the game realized and eventually own a copy of the final product. A number of these commenters have now filed complaints with the Oregon Department of Justice – the state where Chevalier’s company is based – for fraudulent activity.
Trying to make peace
A second update has since been posted by Chevalier to try to stabilize the situation. He has contacted the Oregon Department of Justice to explain the situation and will now work with them “to see what I need to do to make this right in their eyes.”
“This project has been a year of frustration on every level,” he said. “There are things you don’t know and I can’t talk about yet without first seeking legal advice, but hopefully in time everything will be made clear. I don’t expect everyone to accept my apologies, there is nothing I can say that will make every single backer forgive me.”
Chevalier has also stated that he wants to refund all of the Kickstarter backers, as well as those who pre-ordered the game after the campaign closed through his company’s webstore. He claims to have started this process already – starting with post-campaign pre-orders – although there’s no time frame as to when it will be completed.
We’ve seen this time and time again
The scenario is not uncommon for Kickstarter. Josh Dibb, a band member of Animal Collective, infamously raised over $25,000 in 2009 and never delivered any of the materials promised to backers, further highlighting the various flaws and pitfalls associated with Kickstarter.
The crowdfunding platform has huge accountability issues. It’s a tool that enables the public to make donations for projects they want to succeed. The problem lies in the ‘perks’ offered to backers with specific pledge amounts – these are often straight-up pre-orders, which come with social expectations. The main one being, of course, that they’ll eventually get the product.
Kickstarter doesn’t have a mechanism for ensuring that project creators actually deliver on their original pitch. The problem is heightened when the amount raised goes far beyond the original funding target – in the case of Chevalier, he raised well over three times his initial goal. The perception and expectation that backers have of the pitch is then changed and inevitably heightened, increasing the likelihood that the creator won’t fully deliver.
Kickstarter: Not our problem
It later adds: “Kickstarter does not offer refunds. A Project Creator is not required to grant a Backer’s request for a refund unless the Project Creator is unable or unwilling to fulfill the reward.”
This would point to some kind of structural, or perhaps contractual obligation by project creators to deliver their rewards to backers as promised. Wrong.
“Kickstarter is not liable for any damages or loss incurred related to rewards or any other use of the Service,” it continues. “Kickstarter is under no obligation to become involved in disputes between any Users, or between Users and any third party arising in connection with the use of the Service. This includes, but is not limited to, delivery of goods and services, and any other terms, conditions, warranties, or representations associated with campaigns on the Site.”
Kickstarter is, essentially, completely disconnected and won’t hold project creators to account. Just to make that crystal clear, it later states: “You release Kickstarter, its officers, employees, agents, and successors in rights from claims, damages, and demands of every kind, known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, disclosed or undisclosed, arising out of or in any way related to such disputes and the Service.”
Backers involved with ‘The Doom That Came To Atlantic City’ are therefore on their own. Reporting the matter to the Oregon Department of Justice was likely their only option.
British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), or known better as simply Sky, has reported full year earnings for the last 12 months revealing that the broadcaster made great strides in growing on-demand and mobile viewing figures.
Overall, revenue for the year was at 7.2 billion, an increase of 7 percent in comparison with the previous 12 months and operating profit was at 1.29 billion, an increase of 4 percent year-on-year (YoY).
Notably, Sky said that much of its growth had come from its on-demand viewing options and its Sky GO mobile TV service.
Overall viewing figures for on-demand content had increased by five times the level it was at this time last year and now delivers more than 6 million on demand streams per week.
“Over 2.7 million Sky customers, more than a quarter of total customers, have already connected their Sky+HD boxes to broadband, a rise of 170 percent on last year. This gives them access to the UK’s biggest Catch Up TV service alongside hundreds of hours of popular TV box sets and an extensive library of exclusive movies,” Sky said in a statement.
The company also said the growth of Sky GO had helped the overall perfomance during the period. For example, of the 3.3 million regular Sky GO users, the company has converted 166,000 of them to Sky Go Extra customers – which allows users to view content on mobile and tablet devices with or without an active connection.
As part of its push to increase the number of people using its streaming services, Sky has been gradually introducing new providers and programming for its on demand content.
For example, it introduced Fox and Sky Movies Disney to the line-up, while a further 14 channels joined Sky Go including 8 kids channels (Disney, Disney XD, Disney Jnr, Nick, Nick Jnr, Cartoon Network, Cartoonito and Boomerang), 5 entertainment channels (SyFy, Universal, C&I and Star Plus) plus Channel 4 and More 4 and 4oD’s VOD (Video On Demand) content.
Particular hit shows for the broadcaster over the past 12 months have been Game of Thrones, Mad Men, The Sopranos and Hannibal, it said.
In order to keep up the pressure on rival providers, such as Virgin Media and BT’s Vision packages, as well as online streaming providers like Netflix and LOVEFiLM, Sky said it would introduce another 20 channels to its catch up service over the next 12 months.
To spur the number of people using its on demand services, Sky also introduced a new 10 NOW TV box that will allow people to access content on a pay-as-you-go basis.
The broadcaster has recently been in a bitter battle with BT to retain customers that are particularly interested in football and other sports broadcasting.
Earlier this year, BT won the rights to show 38 premier league football matches this season, and added an extra lure to win over existing Sky customers by offering its sports TV service for free to customers on its Infinity fiber broadband packages. Sky, naturally, responded with its own football-orientated offers, such as broadcasting the first day of the season for free to the whole of the UK, regardless of which TV service is used.
Featured Image Credit – AFP/Getty Images