The Bargain That Is WhatsApp & 4 More Stories You Need To Know Today

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SUCH A DEAL! — There’s been no shortage of opinions on what Facebook paid for WhatsApp, ranging from “I don’t get it” to “You don’t get it.” But the only opinion that matters has now weighed in, and, in his view, WhatsApp was cheap. “I just think that by itself it’s worth more than $19 billion,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed Monday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “The reality is there are very few services that reach a billion people in the world.” The reality is that WhatApp isn’t one of them — it has around 465 million users. But Zuck thinks it can be a billion-member platform, and, again, that’s all that matters.

 

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DIMON IN THE ROUGH — The Financial Times (subscription required) reports that JP Morgan Chase is set to fire “several thousand” more employees, above and beyond a recently announced round of up to 15,000 job cuts. The reason, per the FT: Better tech at branches and plummeting mortgage applications. Official word may come as early as today, when CEO Jamie Dimon speaks at bank’s annual Investor Day, his first address to shareholders since the bank’s record $13 billion settlement with the Feds over allegations of mortgage chicanery. The bank employs more than 250,000 people.

 

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HI, FIVE — The Samsung 5 got a nice enough reception from the tech press, which tossed around words like “refined” and “elegant.” Samsung’s newest flagship smartphone boasts some welcome features, like water resistance, fingerprint sensing, a built-in heart rate monitor, pedometer and fitness tracker. But the low-key kudos award goes to BGR Executive Editor Zach Epstein, who Tweeted: “Galaxy S5 is a nice iteration. Good job focusing on refinement vs feature spam but no BUY ME features.” Let’s hope, for Samsung’s sake, that’s not literally true. The S5 will be available in 150 countries on April 11.

 

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BAD DAY FOR BITCOIN — The virtual currency that’s beginning to attract mainstream attention is facing an “existential crisis” after a leaked document, allegedly from one of the companies which act like banks for the crypto-currency, reveals it was hacked for years. Missing from the Bitcoin exchange in question, Mt. Gox, are a total of 744,408 coins worth some $350 millionBitcoin lost 17% in value in the 24 hours after the revelation, but has since stabilized (to the extent Bitcoin ever does). Mt. Gox was once the biggestBitcoin exchanges and been offline since late Monday. Six other big exchanges — Coinbase, Kraken, Bitstamp, BTC China, Blockchain and Circle — sought to isolate the problem: “This tragic violation of the trust of users of Mt. Gox was the result of one company’s actions and does not reflect the resilience or value of bitcoin and the digital currency industry. As with any new industry, there are certain bad actors that need to be weeded out, and that is what we’re seeing today.”

 

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ELEVATOR PITCH — In what should come as surprise to nobody — seriously, people — the person behind @GSElevator isn’t a Goldman Sachs employee sharing OH 1% disdain for the rest of us. The New York Times‘ Andrew Ross Sorkin blew the lid off this three-year-old prank “after several weeks of reporting,” outing the Tweeter as John Lefevre. The Texas-based bond executive didn’t actually hear anyone at Goldman Sachs (New York/London/Hong Kong, not Texas) say things like: “I never give money to homeless people. I can’t reward failure in good conscience.” He tells Sorkin his parody was aimed broadly at Wall Street, not Goldman Sachs per se. The Wall Street brokerage was circumspect, telling the Times: “We are pleased to report that the official ban on talking in elevators will be lifted effective immediately.” Lefevre’s last Tweet was Feb. 15, leaving his 628,000 followers in the lurch for tone-deaf white shoe firm humor. Worry not! Lefevre has a book deal. Of course.

 

 

Amazon says it can ship items before customers order

 

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Online retail giant Amazon says it knows its customers so well it can start shipping even before orders are placed.

The Seattle-based company, which late last year said it wants to use drones to speed package delivery, gained a patent last month for what it calls “anticipatory shipping,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Amazon, the Journal reported, says it may box and ship products that it expects customers in a specific area will want, based on previous orders and other factors it gleans from its customers’ shopping patterns, even before they place an online order.

Among those other factors: previous orders, product searches, wish lists, shopping cart contents, returns and other online shopping practices.

Amazon has worked to cut delivery times as a way of encouraging more orders and satisfying customers, such as by expanding its warehouse network and making some overnight and even same-day deliveries.

Amazon didn’t estimate how much delivery time it expects to save, or whether it has already put its new system to work, the Journal reported.

“It appears Amazon is taking advantage of their copious data,” Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester Research analyst, told the Journal. “Based on all the things they know about their customers they could predict demand based on a variety of factors.”

To minimize the cost of unwanted returns, Amazon said it might consider giving customers discounts or even make the delivered item a gift.

“Delivering the package to the given customer as a promotional gift may be used to build goodwill,” the patent said.

The Top 7 Technology Trends That Will Dominate 2014

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Strap yourself in, it’s going to be a wild ride. In considering the changes we’ve seen in technology over the past year, I’m bracing myself for unprecedented growth when it comes to anytime, anywhere, on-demand information and entertainment.

Based on the trends we’ve seen so far in 2013, I predict 2014 will see many fledgling technologies mature and grow beyond what we could have imagined just a few years ago.

1. Consumers will come to expect Smart TV capabilities

With Smart TV shipments expected to reach 123 million in 2014 – up from about 84 million in 2012 – we are poised to see explosive growth in this industry.

In the midst of this growth, we will continue to see fierce competition between major players like Samsung, Panasonic, and LG. Prices will need to continue to drop, as more consumers crave, and even expect, the ability to use Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video and their web browser via their TV.

Of course, the development we’re all waiting for in 2014 is the release of Apple’s much anticipated iTV. It appears the iTV is now in the early development stage, and that Apple may be in the process of making a deal with Time Warner to facilitate programming on Apple devices.

The device is rumoured to include iCloud sync, the ability to control your iPhone, and ultra HD LCD panels. Keep an eye out for this release as early as summer 2014.

2. Smart watches will become ‘smarter’

Rather than having to pull out your smartphone or tablet for frequent email, text and social media updates, you’ll glance at your watch.

2014 is the year to keep an eye out for the Google watch. Rumor has it the device will integrate with Google Now, which aims to seamlessly provide relevant information when and where you want it (and before you’d asked for it).

We’ll see smart watches become even smarter, learning what news and updates are important to us, when we want to receive them, and responding more accurately to voice controls.

3. Google Glass will still be in “wait and see” mode

While Google Glass hasn’t yet been released to the general public, we’ve heard enough about it to know it’s still very early days for this technology. With an estimated 60,000 units expected to sell in 2013, and a predicted several million in 2014, it’s still a long way from becoming a common household technology.

These augmented reality glasses allow you to access information like email and texts, take hands-free pictures and videos, effortlessly translate your voice, and even receive overlaid walking, cycling or driving directions, right within your field of vision.

It’s predicted that both Google Glass 2.0, and its companion, the Glass App Store, should be released to the general public sometime in 2014.

Be on the lookout for competition in this market, particularly from major players like Samsung. I predict we’ll see much of this competition aimed at niche markets like sports and healthcare.

4. Other applications and uses for Apple’s TouchID will emerge

The release of the iPhone 5S has, for the first time, made on-the-go fingerprint security a reality. The potential for Touch ID technology to really take off is, I believe, an inevitable reality. Touch ID, which uses a high-resolution camera to scan your fingerprint, allows convenient ultra-security for your iPhone.

Currently, the technology is limited; the only real uses are unlocking your iPhone, and making purchases in the App store. I predict that we’ll see this technology incorporated into other Apple products soon. I think we’ll even see TouchId integrated into MacBook products later this year or next.

5. Xbox One and PS4 will blur the lines between entertainment and video gaming

The new gaming consoles (Xbox One and PS4) will increasingly integrate social media-like connectivity between players. Players could have followers, work together to achieve in-game goals, and new technology will allow for equally-skilled players to compete.

The PS4, slated to be released November 15th, will track both the controller and the player’s face and movements for more intuitive play.

Apart from great gaming, these systems will allow for a far more integrative entertainment experience. For instance, rather than switching between TV, gaming, music and sports, you’ll be able to do two or even three activities side-by-side, or by easily switching back and forth.

6. 3D Printing will begin to revolutionize production

We’ve seen a huge rise in the popularity of 3D printing this year, coupled with a dramatic fall in pricing. The ability to easily create multi-layered productsthat are actually usable – well, that’s pretty amazing.

I’ll be watching for a movement towards simple products being produced close to home, and to greater customization given the ease of manufacturing. I think it’s inevitable that manufacturing in countries such as China will become less appealing and lucrative for businesses given the high costs of shipping and managing overseas contracts.

I don’t expect these changes to reach their full effect in 2014, however I believe businesses will be starting to consider how this will affect their production plans for 2015 and beyond.

7. The movement towards natural language search will make search more accurate and intuitive

With the emergence of intelligent personal assistantslike Google Now and Apple’s Siri, the goal is to have information intuitively delivered to you, often before you even ask for it. The shift seems to be away from having to actively request data, and instead to have it passively delivered to your device.

Natural language search will continue to overtake keyword-based search, as seen by Google’s move towards longer, more natural searches in its recent release of Hummingbird, Google’s largest algorithm update thus far.

Is Google+ is future? At least Google believe it is !

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It’s common currency in internet punditry circles that Google won the battle to dominate search while Facebook won the battle for social, and that Google+ is just a failed competitor to Facebook. But Google hasn’t given up

It has been clear for a while now that, to make up for the fact that not very many people actively use Google+ as a social network, Google is turning it into a platformon which the rest of Google’s web services are evolving—something that has the effect of making people use Google+ by default. Results from Google+ already clutter search results. YouTube’s commenting system has been replaced by Google+. Chat and Talk, once stand-alone services, were combined into Hangouts and incorporated into Google+.

In a revealing interview with the Indian business newspaper Mint, Steve Grove, a Google+ exec who inks deals with content providers and influential figures, makes it clear that this is just the beginning. Grove tells Mint that “the reason for that is that Google+ is kind of like the next version of Google.”

Why? According to Grove:

There’s a lot of great value here, because Search also shows results from Google+ and this is going to bring more people into Google+; people are going to see that there’s a lot of value in logging into our services, before doing a search.

We’ve written before about how Facebook’s strategy for getting users in emerging markets is to convince people new to the internet that Facebook basically is the internet. Google’s strategy looks a bit like the obverse of this: convince people already on the internet that the internet runs on Google+

But when you look at it longer-term, Google’s strategy is actually very similar to Facebook’s. New internet users, such as the hundreds of millions expected to come online in India in the coming years, will find that being on Google’s social network is increasingly a prerequisite for using Google’s other services. Roping those new users into Google+ from the get-go is the company’s best chance for coming from behind and defeating Facebook’s dominance in social media. And that clearly seems to be Google’s goal, given how much effort it’s pouring into the network.“We focused a lot on Google+ here [in India], and it’s already very active, and people are getting on board on their own,” Grove said.

Big Data is here to stay !!

 

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The amount of data in our world has been exploding, and analyzing large data sets—so-called big data—will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus, according to research by MGI and McKinsey’s Business Technology Office. Leaders in every sector will have to grapple with the implications of big data, not just a few data-oriented managers. The increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises, the rise of multimedia, social media, and the Internet of Things will fuel exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future.

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Deep analytical talent: Where are they now?
Deep analytical talent: Where are they now?

Research by MGI and McKinsey’s Business Technology Office examines the state of digital data and documents the significant value that can potentially be unlocked.

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MGI studied big data in five domains—healthcare in the United States, the public sector in Europe, retail in the United States, and manufacturing and personal-location data globally. Big data can generate value in each. For example, a retailer using big data to the full could increase its operating margin by more than 60 percent. Harnessing big data in the public sector has enormous potential, too. If US healthcare were to use big data creatively and effectively to drive efficiency and quality, the sector could create more than $300 billion in value every year. Two-thirds of that would be in the form of reducing US healthcare expenditure by about 8 percent. In the developed economies of Europe, government administrators could save more than €100 billion ($149 billion) in operational efficiency improvements alone by using big data, not including using big data to reduce fraud and errors and boost the collection of tax revenues. And users of services enabled by personal-location data could capture $600 billion in consumer surplus. The research offers seven key insights.

1. Data have swept into every industry and business function and are now an important factor of production, alongside labor and capital. We estimate that, by 2009, nearly all sectors in the US economy had at least an average of 200 terabytes of stored data (twice the size of US retailer Wal-Mart’s data warehouse in 1999) per company with more than 1,000 employees.

2. There are five broad ways in which using big data can create value. First, big data can unlock significant value by making information transparent and usable at much higher frequency. Second, as organizations create and store more transactional data in digital form, they can collect more accurate and detailed performance information on everything from product inventories to sick days, and therefore expose variability and boost performance. Leading companies are using data collection and analysis to conduct controlled experiments to make better management decisions; others are using data for basic low-frequency forecasting to high-frequency nowcasting to adjust their business levers just in time. Third, big data allows ever-narrower segmentation of customers and therefore much more precisely tailored products or services. Fourth, sophisticated analytics can substantially improve decision-making. Finally, big data can be used to improve the development of the next generation of products and services. For instance, manufacturers are using data obtained from sensors embedded in products to create innovative after-sales service offerings such as proactive maintenance (preventive measures that take place before a failure occurs or is even noticed).

 

3. The use of big data will become a key basis of competition and growth for individual firms. From the standpoint of competitiveness and the potential capture of value, all companies need to take big data seriously. In most industries, established competitors and new entrants alike will leverage data-driven strategies to innovate, compete, and capture value from deep and up-to-real-time information. Indeed, we found early examples of such use of data in every sector we examined.

4. The use of big data will underpin new waves of productivity growth and consumer surplus. For example, we estimate that a retailer using big data to the full has the potential to increase its operating margin by more than 60 percent. Big data offers considerable benefits to consumers as well as to companies and organizations. For instance, services enabled by personal-location data can allow consumers to capture $600 billion in economic surplus.

5. While the use of big data will matter across sectors, some sectors are set for greater gains. We compared the historical productivity of sectors in the United States with the potential of these sectors to capture value from big data (using an index that combines several quantitative metrics), and found that the opportunities and challenges vary from sector to sector. The computer and electronic products and information sectors, as well as finance and insurance, and government are poised to gain substantially from the use of big data.

6. There will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data. By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.

7. Several issues will have to be addressed to capture the full potential of big data. Policies related to privacy, security, intellectual property, and even liability will need to be addressed in a big data world. Organizations need not only to put the right talent and technology in place but also structure workflows and incentives to optimize the use of big data. Access to data is critical—companies will increasingly need to integrate information from multiple data sources, often from third parties, and the incentives have to be in place to enable this.

Much waited PlayStation 4 is launched by Sony

 

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Sony has launched the PlayStation 4, its new gaming console in the Indian market for Rs 39,990. The console will be available in stores starting January 6, 2014.

Sony also said that the PlayStation camera will be retailed at Rs 4,990. The PS4 controller has also been priced at Rs 4,990 in India. PS4 exclusive titles Knack and Killzone: Shadow Fall would be available at a price point of Rs 3,999.
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The PlayStation 4 was released in November for $399 in the US market. The eagerly-awaited PlayStation 4 sold more than 2.1 million units after less than three weeks on the market after its November 15 debut in North America and Sony said it was on track to hit a worldwide target of 5 million units by March.
The PlayStation 4 is powered by an eight-core AMD Jaguar CPU, and features 500GB hard drive, 8GB of unified memory, built-in Blu Ray drive and the new DualShock 4 controller. The PlayStation 4 also features 802.11 b/g/n WiFi connectivity option, an Ethernet port, Bluetooth 2.1, and two USB 3.0 ports.
Sony has streamlined the PS4’s on-screen user interface, and the menu features large app and games icons in a horizontal bar with another line of smaller icons above it that let users connect with other gamers, tinker with system settings and access the PlayStation Store, to download new games and buy or rent multimedia content.
The launch lineup includes 22 games to attract fans of just about any genre, from military shooters to sports simulations to family-friendly adventures including “Killzone: Shadow Fall,” and “Drive Club.” It also offers media apps, including Hulu and Netflix.
The PlayStation 4 competes with the Xbox One, Microsoft’s next-generation console, that has been priced a $100 higher. Microsoft also claimed it sold 1 million units in in 24 hours following its November 22 release.

Top Video Ads and Brands making most of the Noise !!

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Which brands managed to take the most advantage of the burgeoning online video advertising space this year? A pair of new reports reveal the big winners this year: YouTube unveils this year’s Ads Leaderboard, while Unruly reveals the brands that scored the most shares of their ads. YouTube, recently forecast by eMarketer to generate $5.6 billion in ad revenues this year, puts Evian’s “baby & me” at the top of its leaderboard, which factors in paid views, organic views and audience retention when determining its rankings. Samsung, meanwhile, tops Unruly’s list.

The YouTube Ads Leaderboard tracks the most-viewed ads rather than branded content, measuring both paid and organic views. With more than 66 million views as of December 2, the Evian ad stood a significant distance from the second-placed ad, Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” (59.6 million) which also happened to be the most shared video ad of the year, according to Unruly.

The other ads making the leaderboard were (all view counts as of December 2):

Internet Explorer’s “Child of the 90s” (47.9 million);
Pepsi Max’s “Test Drive” (39.6 million);
PooPourri.com’s “Girls Don’t Poop” (20 million);
Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” (20 million);
GEICO’s “Hump Day” (18.6 million);
Ram Trucks’ “Farmer” (16.6 million);
Volkswagen’s “Get Happy” (14.7 million); and
Audi’s “Prom” (10.7 million).
Not too surprisingly, 6 of those ads landed on Unruly’s chart of the most-shared ads of the year. One more might have made it if not for a later launch: Volvo Trucks’ “The Epic Split feat. Van Damme” took the 6th spot in YouTube’s top 10 trending videos of the year. It joined 2 other branded videos to make the list: Evian’s commercial and the Carrie promotion “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise” were the others.

Top Social Video Brands of the Year

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Several of the above-mentioned ads were so successful that they drove the advertisers into an Unruly’s list of most-shared social video brands, which showed significant turnover from last year’s list.

Based on the number of video shares tracked between January 1st and November 18th, Unruly reveals that the top 10 brands were:

Samsung, with 7.3 million shares;
GEICO, with 4.93 million;
Dove, with 4.52 million;
Pepsi, with 4.02 million;
Budweiser, with 3.86 million;
Red Bull, with 3.75 million;
Evian, with 3.71 million;
Kmart, with 3.4 million;
Cornetto, with 3.39 million; and
EA, with 3.39 million.
Last year’s top viral video brand, Google, failed to make the list this year, coming in 12th. Unruly also notes that Nike, TNT Benelux, DC Shoes, P&G, Abercrombie & Fitch and Volkswagen also couldn’t repeat their successes from last year to make it into the top 10. The fairly high turnover from last year suggests that making the list is dependent on the virality of a limited number of ads: 6 of this year’s top 10 brands had a video ad make Unruly’s list of most-shared ads.