Sept 29 – Oct 5

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This week’s headline story: Business Supported MOOCs

empty_classroomMassively Open Online Courses or MOOCs have received a lot of attention, but questions remain as to the value that businesses place on students who receive education through MOOCs rather than through traditional colleges. That question is beginning to be resolved. Major corporations are beginning to invest in building MOOCs that meet their specific needs. Last week, MOOC provider Udacity announced the Open Education Alliance, which allows students to earn a free certificate based on a series of online courses developed with input from Google, AT&T and several other companies. Similarly, MIT and its MOOC partner edX are offering the XSeries – a series of courses based on input from a consortium of about 50 companies, including UPS, Procter & Gamble Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The XSeries will prepare students to take a test and earn a “verified certificate” in subjects like computer science and supply-chain management. Meanwhile, companies such as Yahoo Inc. have begun reimbursing employees who take certified courses from Coursera, another MOOC provider.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • Okay, you’re familiar with MOOCs, how about MOORs? The first Massively Open Online Research or MOOR course is being offered by a team from UC San Diego. In “Bioinformatics Algorithms – Part 1,” students will work in teams on specific research projects under the direction of prominent bioinformatics scientists from around the world.
    Is Massive Open Online Research the Next Frontier for Education? [UCSD News]
  • Scientists at Stanford University have built the first functioning computer based on carbon nanotube transistors. “This could be a revolutionary technological leap,” says Dan Olds, an analyst at The Gabriel Consulting Group. “It takes much less power to change the state of a carbon nanotube versus today’s transistors,” Olds said. “Nanotubes are much better at dissipating heat. You can pack more nanotube transistors onto a chip. We would see devices that can do a whole lot more useful work while using a whole lot less juice — and that’s a great combination.”
    Replacing silicon with nanotubes could revolutionize tech [Computerworld]
  • The creator of the world wide web and director of the web standards body W3C, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is backing measures to embed support for Digital Rights Managament in HTML5. The measures Berbers-Lee backs would add support for Encrypted Media Extensions to HTML 5 allowing media companies to publish DRM-protected music, movies, and other media to the web reducing worries that users will download and distribute the media illegally. Berners-Lee believes that supporting DRM on the Web is necessary in order to get media companies to utilize the Web for media distribution. Free software advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Free Software Foundation, have called the proposals “disastrous”. They argue it is an attempt to elevate the business interests of media companies over the greater good of an open web where information can be shared freely, and would place unacceptable restrictions on how individuals use computers.
    World wide web creator rules DRM support should be baked into web tech [ZDNet]
  • NASA is planning to send a 3d printer into space next year allowing astronauts to print tools and parts as needed.
    NASA To Launch 3-D Printer into Space [NewsFactor]

and in Tech Industry news…

  • Microblogging service Twitter has filed for an initial public offering and should debut on the stock exchange in November. The firm aims to raise as much as $1 billion under the TWRT ticker symbol.
    Post-IPO, Twitter Co-Founder Moving to Billionaire Status [NewsFactor]
  • Apple has displaced Coca-Cola as the leading global brand in Interbrand’s 14th annual Best Global Brands report, ending the soda maker’s 13-year rule. Google took 2nd place pushing Coke down to 3rd.
    Apple, Google Stomp Coke in Global Brand Ratings [Ecommerce Times]
  • There is unrest amidst Microsoft’s Board of Directors. Several of the board members are pressuring Bill Gates to step down as chairman. They are looking to reboot the company with fresh ides from a new CEO and new Chairman of the Board.
    Mutiny at Microsoft Over Gates’ Future Role [Ecommerce Times]
  • Amazon is about to join Apple, Roku and others in the set-top box business. Amazon’s box will provide instant access to Amazon Videos, as well as Netflix and Hulu Plus.
    Amazon To Debut Set-Top Box For Holidays [NewsFactor]

and finally…

  • The new iOS7 recently released by Apple for iPhones and iPads has a new user interface where icons seem to float above the background, and apps zoom in an out as the user interacts with them. While most users think the new user interface is cool, a minority are complaining that the zoom animations are making them nauseous and giving them headaches.
    Does iOS 7 Make You Feel Sick? [NewsFactor]
    Twitter IPO Filing Shows It Ain’t No Facebook [Technology Review]

February 4 – 10, 2013

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This week’s headline story: FCC Proposes Robust National Wi-fi Networks

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 10.28.09 AMThe Federal Communications Commission is proposing the creation of free, powerful Wi-Fi networks that could dramatically change wireless access to the Internet in the U.S. The plan would be the first of its kind for any country. Compared with existing Wi-Fi networks, the FCC networks would have greater penetration through walls and over hills, would be able to travel much further, and would make Wi-Fi available throughout virtually every city and many rural areas. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that “freeing up unlicensed spectrum is a vibrantly free market approach that offers low barriers to entry to innovators developing the technologies of the future, and benefits consumers.” As you might guess, the proposal is raising strong objections from the existing wireless carriers and cable operators.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • The Amber Alert system, designed to notify citizens of child abductions, has been extended to cell phones. The next time a child is abducted near you, your cell phone ma y shriek to life with an alert text message. Amber Alert messages have already taken tens of thousands of people by surprise. There is concern that, while the system is useful in catching abductors, the messages sent to cell phones are vague on details. One Amber Alert message stated “Emergency Alert: Amber Alert. An Amber Alert has been issued in your area. Please check local media. “FEMA officials said they are aware of the confusion the Amber Alerts have caused and are working with the U.S. Department of Justice to include more information in the text messages.
    Shriek! Texts on Missing Kids Startle Cell Users [NewsFactor]
  • The Federal Trade Commission has released a major report on mobile privacy in which it makes a number of recommendations to the industry. A key recommendation is that companies consider offering a Do Not Track mechanism for smartphone users, so that users could choose to opt out of having their path through apps or the Web reported to ad networks or other third parties.
    FTC Tackles Mobile Privacy with New Report [NewsFactor]
  • The use of social media during the Super Bowl was up significantly this year. Trendrr reports that there were 47.67 million instances of social-media engagement during the game this year, up from 17.4 million last year, and only 3.1 million in 2011.
    Super-Social Engagement Set Record for Super Bowl [NewsFactor]
  • The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, have found that 69 percent of online adults use some kind of social networking site like Facebook, compared with 47 percent in September 2009. It also discovered that 61 percent of current Facebook users say they have felt the need to take periodic long breaks away from Facebook.
    Need to Take a Break from Facebook? You’re Not Alone [NewsFactor]
  • Cisco is predicting that mobile data traffic will increase 13-fold over the next four years as more and more devices become connected.Cisco Predicts 13-Fold Mobile Data Traffic Increase by 2017 [NewsFactor]

and in Information Security news this week…

  • After recent reports of China-based cyber-attacks against The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Department of Energy told employees in an e-mail that its systems, too, had been infiltrated.
    Energy Dept. Reportedly Latest Target of Hackers [NewsFactor]
  • Twitter has admitted that 250,000 of its user accounts may have been hacked last week. “This attack was not the work of amateurs, and we do not believe it was an isolated incident,” said Bob Lord, Twitter’s director of Information Security, writing in a blog post. “The attackers were extremely sophisticated, and we believe other companies and organizations have also been recently similarly attacked.”
    Twitter Hack ‘Not the Work of Amateurs’ [NewsFactor]
  • A hacker broke into several e-mail accounts belonging to friends and family of former President George W. Bush. A wealth of personal photos, correspondence, home addresses, and other sensitive information were exposed on the website The Smoking Gun. The intrusions have prompted a criminal investigation, according to published reports.
    Bush family privacy shattered after e-mails, photos exposed online
    [Ars Technica]

and in Tech Industry news…

  • It looks as though Blackberry is hoping to gain market share by taking a stance to protect its user’s privacy. The company has begun issuing notices to application developers — and consumers — anytime it finds an app approved for distribution in its BlackBerry World online store that collects more data than users might think. Blackberry’s new phones running it’s latest OS are expected to be available in the US around mid-March.
    Sneaky Apps Beware: BlackBerry Is Watching [NewsFactor]
    New BlackBerry Scheduled for Mid-March U.S. Release [NewsFactor]
  • Amazon has received patent No. 8,364,595 for a “secondary market in digital objects.” The patent describe an electronic marketplace for used e-books, music, video, computer applications and other digital content. So soon, you may be able to sell your old, unwanted ebooks, digital music, movies, and apps on Amazon.
    Save Those Old Music Files, Content Markets Are Brewing [NewsFactor]
  • Industry researcher Canalys has released a new report which concludes that worldwide PC shipments have increased by 12 percent year-over-year for the fourth quarter. What’s unique about the report is that it includes tablets as PCs, while other similar reports that don’t include tablets conclude that the PC market is slowly drying up. So if tablets are PCs, then PCs are thriving and Apple is king.
    If Tablets Are PCs, PCs Are Thriving and Apple Is King [NewsFactor]
  • Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet computer is now available to U.S. consumers. The surface has a 10.6-inch screen and includes an optional Type Cover keyboard dock that doubles as a case. The tablet comes in models with 64GB and 128GB of storage, and runs the full version of Windows 8 – unlike its predecessor that runs the more limited Windows 8 RT.
    Microsoft Surface Pro goes on sale Saturday [Computerworld]
  • Sony is poised to unveil the next PlayStation game console on Feb. 20, a date that would give the Japanese electronics company a head start over Microsoft ‘s expected announcement of an Xbox 360 successor in June.
    New PlayStation Announcement To Trump Microsoft [NewsFactor]
  • Amazon has come up with it’s own form of currency: Amazon coins, and is using it to promote its Kindle Fire. The company plans to give Kindle Fire users tens of millions of dollars’ worth of free Amazon Coins to spend on apps in the Amazon Appstore. One Amazon Coin equals one penny of value. Who knows, perhaps perks will expand to purchases of other products on Amazon.
    Kindle Fire Users to Get Pennies From Heaven [ecommerce times]

and finally….

  • We often hear about private companies going pubic – for example Facebook’s initial public offering made headlines last year. We rarely hear about public companies going private. This week Michael Dell made headlines by signing a leveraged buyout agreement worth $24.4 billion, to purchase the company that he founded in his Texas dorm room. Roger Kay, senior analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, says that taking Dell private “will shelter the company from Wall Street while it makes its potentially ungraceful transformation from supplier of commodity PCs over to full-line enterprise solutions provider.” Microsoft is pitching in $2 Billion to help.
    A $24.4 Billion Bet on Dell’s Future [NewsFactor]
    Dell Hightails It Into Private Territory [Ecommerce Times]

Sponsored by:

January 14 – 20, 2013

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This week’s headline story: Facebook Graph Search

facebook-graph-searchFacebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced a new feature coming to Facebook. It’s called Graph Search, and Zuckerberg described it as an integral part of the product, a third pillar, along with the newsfeed and timeline. Using Graph Search, Facebook users will be able to search all of their connections – what Facebook calls their graph, in order to find people, places, photos, and items of interests. So for example, a Facebook user could search for Mexican restaurants in Tucson recommended by friends, places in Ireland that their friends visited, or bands that are most popular with friends. Graph search will also provide search results outside your graph courtesy of Microsoft Bing. While some are proclaiming this the future of search, others are predicting major issues around privacy, and ugly unintended consequences. The nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends that concerned Facebook users utilize the “Who can see my stuff?” feature and click “View as” to see how their Facebook profile and timeline appears to the public and to the various people in their groups of friends.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • You may recall a couple years ago when Kansas City MO won the privileged of serving as host to a new super-fast Internet service courtesy of Google. With that network now in place, Internet startups are flocking to Kansas City is take advantage of gigabit Internet speeds, giving the city the nickname “Silicon Prairie.”Google’s Ultrafast Internet Creates ‘Silicon Prairie’ [NewsFactor]
  • San Jose State University is signing a deal with the Massively Open Online Course company Udacity, to deliver a series of remedial and introductory courses to its students. San Jose State and other California State colleges are looking to MOOCs as a solution to the issue of an increasing number of incoming students who are unable to meet basic college entrance requirements.California to Give Web Courses a Big Trial [NYTimes]

and in Information Security news this week…

  • One year to the minute after the FBI shut down file sharing service Megaupload, the Internet tycoon that owned the service, Kim Dotcom, held a huge party at his mansion in New Zealand to celebrate the opening of his new service, simply named Mega. Mega is a cloud storage service that encrypts the data users upload giving the user the encryption key. So only the user, and those the user selects to share files with, can access files. Not even Mega knows or can find out what users are storing on its servers. Mega will force governments to seriously consider the level of responsibility Internet companies maintain for users activities on the Internet. It is likely that the movie industry and the FBI will be examining Mega closely to determine if the service is encouraging the illegal sharing of copyright protected property.A Year After the Closing of Megaupload, a File-Sharing Tycoon Opens a New Site [NYTimes]
  • Google researchers think that two-step identity verification isn’t secure enough. They are investigating the use of physical passwords, which might come in the form of a piece of jewelry such as a ring. Imagine being logged onto your computer and all of your web services automatically by the ring on your finger.Google sees one password ring to rule them all [Computerworld]

and in Tech Industry news…

  • AI expert and singularity evangelist Ray Kurzweil has taken the job of Director of Engineering at Google. Kurzweil has revealed details around an upcoming AI project at Google, focused on helping computers to better understand human language.Ray Kurzweil lifts lid on Google AI project [ZDNet]
  • Google is planning to bring it’s voice-recognition feature to Chrome browser. Soon users of Chrome on all platforms will be able to dictate to their Chrome browser and Web apps.Google Bringing Voice Recognition to Chrome Web Browser [NewsFactor]
  • Google has filed for a patent for a laser-projected keyboard on its Google Glasses which would project a keyboard on a surface allowing users to enter data by pressing virtual keys.Patent Filed for Laser-Projected Keypad with Google Glasses [NewsFactor]
  • Google is hosting two hackathons – one in San Francisco and the other in New York, where hackers will get a crack at creating apps for Google glasses.Google Glass Hackathons Unveiled to Further Develop the Technology [eWeek]
  • eBay received a much needed breath of life with its recently released mobile app. The app supports the popular activity of “showrooming” where shoppers in retail stores can check prices of items on eBay and make online purchases through eBay’s paypal service in under 30 seconds. eBay’s revenue jumped 18 percent to US$3.99 billion for the quarter after the release of the app.Showrooming Shoppers Send eBay Soaring [Ecommerce Times]

and finally….

Sponsored by:

Google’s New Stuff

It is the season for developer conferences. Two weeks ago I reported on Apple’s developer conference and Apple’s unveiling of the new Macbook Pro product line. Last week it was Microsoft developers conference and the unveiling of the new Microsoft Surface tablet. This week it’s Google’s developer conference where Google unveiled its own tablet called the Nexus 7. While Microsoft’s new Surface tablet competes in price and features with the iPad, the Nexus 7 is more in line with the Kindle Fire, priced at $199 like the Fire but outperforming the Fire in several areas. The Nexus 7 features a 7″ HD display made of strong Corning Gorilla Glass, a 1.2 MP front-facing camera, a quad core Tegra 3 processor, and a 12-core GPU that has gamers drooling. The Nexus 7 will be released later this month running the new Android 4.1 – Jelly Bean.

Google engineers also demonstrated Google’s futuristic augmented reality glasses at the developers conference, providing developers with the opportunity to purchase prototypes for $1500. And if that weren’t enough, Google unveiled a set top box called Nexus Q, which allows viewers to stream content from the cloud using their Android smartphone or tablet. Both the Nexus 7 tablet and the Nexus Q set top box integrate with Google Play – Google’s new cloud-based media store providing music, books, magazines, movies, TV shows, apps and games.

Microsoft’s New Stuff

Last week I talked about all of the new Apple stuff announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. This week it’s Microsoft’s turn. The big announcement, that many anticipated, was a new Microsoft tablet computer, named Surface. That’s right – the name was borrowed from Microsoft’s tabletop technology which will be getting a new name. Since Microsoft has traditionally stayed out of the hardware business, except for the Xbox, the failed Zune, and accessories like keyboards and mice, this announcement has caused quite a stir. The decision to make its own tablet suggests Microsoft’s disappointment with Windows tablets being manufactured by its partners, and puts Microsoft in direct competition with those partners. The first reviews of the Surface tablet are very positive; the devices do appear to be a cut above its competition. Of course, its biggest competitor will be Apple’s iPad. Surface offers some significant benefits over the iPad. The biggest benefit is its integration with Windows PCs and phones, and the inclusion of a fully functional version of Microsoft Office. Surface may be the first tablet to offer true productivity capabilities for business users. Surface also comes with a built-in stand and a cover that features an integrated keyboard. Covers come in a range of colors that automatically blend with the Surface display color settings.

Microsoft also announced its next edition of its Windows Phone OS – version 8. Windows Phone 8 will be INcompatible with current Windows handsets, as will be apps developed for Windows 8. So, if you are considering a Windows phone, you would be wise to wait a few months for Windows Phone 8 handsets, which are scheduled to roll out this Fall. Windows Phone 8 offers full integration with Windows 8 PCs and tablets. It also offers tighter security features that should please businesses. As we approach the release of Windows 8 across PCs, tablets, and smartphones, we begin to see Microsoft’s strategy unfurling, and perhaps a glimmer of hope for a company that has been steamed-rolled over by Apple and the world’s transition from desktop to mobile.

Apple’s News Stuff

Apple unveiled new Macbook Pros at its developers’ conference last week. The new Macbook Pros are thinner than current models and feature Retina displays that double the density of pixels for ultra-high resolution. The new Macbook Pros also boast Intel’s new quad-core i7, the new GeForce Kepler graphics card, and solid state drives, producing the best possible performance. Apple also announced that it has developed its own Maps app which will replace Google Maps on future generations of iOS on iPhones and iPads. Launching its own Maps app will reduce Apple’s dependence on Google, and will allow Apple to innovate independently, including providing its own turn-by-turn navigation feature and tightening up its integration with Siri. Apple is expanding Siri’s resources by allowing it to tap into sports data from Yahoo, restaurant info from yelp, and movie trailers and reviews from Rotten Tomatoes. Apple hopes that its mobile users will turn to Siri before resorting to a Google search. The new version of iOS will feature embedded integration with Facebook, providing the opportunity for users to post to Facebook from a variety of iPhone and iPad apps. Apple’s new direction includes partnering with other tech companies that excel in areas where Apple is weak.

A Big Week for Zuckerberg and Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook had a big week last week with a mix of good news and bad. The week began with Zuckerberg’s birthday. The young billionaire turned 28 on Monday. On Thursday, Zuckerberg’s birthday present arrived as Facebook raised $16 billion in its initial public offering valuing Facebook at $104 billion. On Friday, shares of Facebook began trading at $42.05 but fell soon afterward, closing at $38.23, just 0.6 percent above the initial public offering price.

While investors may have to wait a while before experiencing any financial gain from their investments, Facebook executives and many share-holding employees have become instant millionaires and billionaires. The company’s 3500 employees are sitting on about $10 billion of the equity. Roughly 1, 000 employees have become instant millionaires (on paper at least). Mark Zuckerberg increased his worth by around $19 billion. It is expected that the influx of money into Silicon Valley will jump-start the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Facebook’s IPO was not without its challenges. Privacy advocates organized flash mob protests against Facebook on Tuesday at locations in New York and San Francisco over Facebook’s invasive privacy practices. Just prior to the IPO General Motors pulled its paid advertising from Facebook, an advertising campaign reportedly worth $10 million. The move caused many Facebook advertisers to question the value of advertising on Facebook. The NASDAQ suffered some trading glitches, Friday morning, as Facebook shares went public, as it wrestled with an extraordinarily high number of transactions. All of this, along with skepticism on the part of some Wall Street investors, kept the price of shares from taking off, turning the day into a bitter sweet win for Facebook.

It turns out that the public wasn’t that surprised by the luke warm reception Facebook shares received. Roughly half of those polled by the Associated Press/CNBC think Facebook is a passing fad. Only a third of those surveyed think the company’s expected value is appropriate, while 50 percent say it is too high.

But that’s not the end of Facebook news this week. A class action law suite has been filed against Facebook for tracking its users even after they are logged out. If guilty, Facebook could pay up to $15 Billion.

And for icing on the cake, Zuckerber announced that he has married his longtime girlfriend from Stanford, Priscilla Chan. The ceremony took place in Zuckerberg’s backyard with fewer than 100 guests. Zuckerberg gave up his trademark hoodie for a black suit and tie with a white shirt. The announcement was made, of course, on Facebook.

Big Data and the Internet of Things

A new buzz word is emerging as a mainstream topic for corporate executives. Actually, it’s two words: BIG DATA. The concept of Big Data emerged from the vast and exponentially-growing amount of data generated by social media, mobile devices, apps, and all the other digital tools wielded by the global population every day. Corporations and others are driven to collect all of that data and analyze it to gain useful insights that can be used to make better business decisions. Companies like Google, Facebook, AT&T, and many others have gotten good at collecting the data. Developing software to analyze the massive amount of data being collected is the primary challenge of the Big Data industry.

In coming years that challenge will become much more complex. Today, the average Internet user owns two Internet connected devices: typically a smart phone and computer. Over the next couple years, that number is expected to jump to seven, more than tripling the amount of devices on the Internet. The bulk of new Internet devices will represent things rather than people – thermostats, security systems, televisions, electric meters, cars, refrigerators and other appliances. These devices will increase the amount of Big Data by adding information like the temperature in every home at every moment, the energy usage of each residence and business, eating habits, laundry habits, water usage, waste production, and more. Add this information up and the Internet becomes a source of real-time information about the state of the entire planet at any given moment in time.

IBM researchers view the Internet as becoming a “global electronic nervous system, with trillions of individual sensors monitoring the status of everything of interest to humans.” IBM wants to stream all of those exabytes of data to its cloud-based cluster supercomputers to extract the “ultimate value from the data using Analytics software modeled on the human mind.”

You’ll be hearing a lot more about Big Data in coming months and years, as the world awakens to the potential of IBM’s vision. Many companies are working on developing analytics software that can tackle Big Data for all industries including health care, transportation and energy. Last week, Big Data company Splunk Inc, made an impressive debut on Nasdaq where it doubled its $17 initial public offering price. This marked Wall Street’s awakening to the value of Big Data, and alerted the media to a new industry focus. Big Data could provide many benefits beyond improving corporate profit margins and padding investment broker’s wallets. If managed properly, Big Data could also provide valuable insight for improving life on Earth. Managing Big Data in a secure and ethical manner, with concern for consumer privacy, may end up being the biggest challenge of all.

Bend your display

Bendable displays are finally coming to the market. LG has begun mass producing a 6-inch e-ink plastic screen, with a resolution of 1024 x 768, that bends up to 40 degrees at the center. Bendable displays will fuel the creation of new interesting devices, and also begin replacing glass displays in phones and tablets to create more durable devices. Samsung is developing a foldable OLED screen with no seam that folds in half — and unfolds to show a combined, larger screen. Nokia has shown a concept phone, the GEM, in which the entire surface of the device — front, side, back — is a single, touch-sensitive display.

LG Launching a Bendable Display [NewsFactor]