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Bezos' "remote display" patent envisions tablets and e-readers that are just screens—power and processing is provided wirelessly by a central system.

US Patent & Trademark Office

It seems like everyone is trying to jump on the cloud computing bandwagon, but Amazon Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos wants to take it to a whole new level. GeekWire reports that he and Gregory Hart have filed a patent for "remote displays" that would get data and power from a centrally located "primary station." The tablets or e-readers would simply be screens, and the need for a large internal battery or significant local processing power would theoretically be obviated by the primary station.

The patent sees processors and large internal batteries as the next major roadblocks in the pursuit of thinner and lighter devices. "The ability to continue to reduce the form factor of many of today's devices is somewhat limited, however, as the devices typically include components such as processors and batteries that limit the minimum size and weight of the device. While the size of a battery is continuously getting smaller, the operational or functional time of these smaller batteries is often insufficient for many users."

The full patent is an interesting read, since it presents other potential use cases for these "remote displays" that wouldn't necessarily need to wait on this theoretical fully wireless future-tablet to come to pass. For example: a camera or sensor could detect when a hand is passed over an e-reader display and respond by turning the page. A touch-sensitive casing could detect when a child is handling a display by measuring things like the length and width of their fingers and then disable purchasing of new content or the ability to access "inappropriate" content.

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Speaking before a crowd of tech geeks at GigaOM’s Structure:Data conference in New York City, CTO Ira “Gus” Hunt said that the world is increasingly awash in information from text messages, tweets, and videos — and that the agency wants all of it.”The value of any piece of information is only known when you can connect it with something else that arrives at a future point in time,” Hunt said. “Since you can’t connect dots you don’t have, it drives us into a mode of, we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever.” Hunt’s comments come two days after Federal Computer Week reported that the CIA has committed to a massive, $600 million, 10-year deal with Amazon for cloud computing services.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/20/cia-gus-hunt-big-data_n_2917842...

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hal380The advent of Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Adobe Marketing Cloud demonstrates the need for enterprises to develop new ways of harnessing the vast potential of big data. Yet these marketing clouds beg the question of who will help marketers, the frontline of businesses, maximize marketing spending and ROI and help their brands win in the end. Simply moving software from onsite to hosted servers does not change the capabilities marketers require — real competitive advantage stems from intelligent use of big data.

Marc Benioff, who is famous for declaring that “Software Is Dead,” may face a similar fate with his recent bets on Buddy Media and Radian6. These applications provide data to people who must then analyze, prioritize and act — often at a pace much slower than the digital world. Data, content and platform insights are too massive for mere mortals to handle without costing a fortune. Solutions that leverage big data are poised to win — freeing up people to do the strategy and content creation that is best done by humans, not machines.

Big data is too big for humans to work with, at least in the all-important analytical construct of responding to opportunities in real time — formulating efficient and timely responses to opportunities generated from your marketing cloud, or pursuing the never-ending quest for perfecting search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). The volume, velocity and veracity of raw, unstructured data is overwhelming. Big data pioneers such as Facebook and eBay have moved to massive Hadoop clusters to process their petabytes of information.

In recent years, we’ve gone from analyzing megabytes of data to working with gigabytes, and then terabytes, and then petabytes and exabytes, and beyond. Two years ago, James Rogers, writing in The Street, wrote: “It’s estimated that 1 Petabyte is equal to 20 million four-door filing cabinets full of text.” We’ve become jaded to seeing such figures. But 20 million filing cabinets? If those filing cabinets were a standard 15 inches wide, you could line them up, side by side, all the way from Seattle to New York — and back again. One would need a lot of coffee to peruse so much information, one cabinet at a time. And, a lot of marketing staff.

Of course, we have computers that do the perusing for us, but as big data gets bigger, and as analysts, marketers and others seek to do more with the massive intelligence that can be pulled from big data, we risk running into a human bottleneck. Just how much can one person — or a cubicle farm of persons — accomplish in a timely manner from the dashboard of their marketing cloud? While marketing clouds do a fine job of gathering data, it still comes down to expecting analysts and marketers to interpret and act on it — often with data that has gone out of date by the time they work with it.

Hence, big data solutions leveraging machine learning, language models and prediction, in the form of self-learning solutions that go from using algorithms for harvesting information from big data, to using algorithms to initiate actions based on the data.

Yes, this may sound a bit frightful: Removing the human from the loop. Marketers indeed need to automate some decision-making. But the human touch will still be there, doing what only people can do — creating great content that evokes emotions from consumers — and then monitoring and fine-tuning the overall performance of a system designed to take actions on the basis of big data.

This isn’t a radical idea. Programmed trading algorithms already drive significant activity across stock markets. And, of course, Amazon, eBay and Facebook have become generators of — and consummate users of — big data. Others are jumping on the bandwagon as well. RocketFuel uses big data about consumers, sites, ads and prior ad performance to optimize display advertising. Turn.com uses big data from consumer Web behavior, on-site behaviors and publisher content to create, optimize and buy advertising across the Web for display advertisers.

The big data revolution is just beginning as it moves beyond analytics. If we were building CRM again, we wouldn’t just track sales-force productivity; we’d recommend how you’re doing versus your competitors based on data across the industry. If we were building marketing automation software, we wouldn’t just capture and nurture leads generated by our clients, we’d find and attract more leads for them from across the Web. If we were building a financial application, it wouldn’t just track the financials of your company, it would compare them to public filings in your category so you could benchmark yourself and act on best practices.

Benioff is correct that there’s an undeniable trend that most marketing budgets today are betting more on social and mobile. The ability to manage social, mobile and Web analysis for better marketing has quickly become a real focus — and a big data marketing cloud is needed to do it. However, the real value and ROI comes from the ability to turn big data analysis into action, automatically. There’s clearly big value in big data, but it’s not cost-effective for any company to interpret and act on it before the trend changes or is over. Some reports find that 70 percent of marketers are concerned with making sense of the data and more than 91 percent are concerned with extracting marketing ROI from it. Incorporating big data technologies that create action means that your organization’s marketing can get smarter even while you sleep.

Raj De Datta founded BloomReach with 10 years of enterprise and entrepreneurial experience behind him. Most recently, he was an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at Mohr-Davidow Ventures. Previously, he was a Director of Product Marketing at Cisco. Raj also worked in technology investment banking at Lazard Freres. He holds a BSE in Electrical Engineering from Princeton and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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Ten days ago, the social video app Cinemagram was hovering around No. 50 in the iOS U.S. photo and video category. The company needed about eight Amazon servers to keep itself running. It had a respectable number of downloads, but no real pop.

Then it released a new version that, among other tweaks, required users to create accounts in order to use the app  – effectively making Cinemagram a social network rather than just a GIF creation tool.

Temo Chalasani

The pickup was nearly instant. Cinemagram shot up to the top of the App Store — it went as high as No. 2, and is currently No. 4. The five-person company needed as many as 720 Amazon servers before figuring out how to be more efficient. They’re now at about 300.

Today, the app is nearing five million downloads, with hundreds of thousands of daily active users growing at a rate of 10 percent to 15 percent per day, according to internal metrics.

(Check out the App Annie charts to see how things shot up shortly after the new release on Oct. 10.)

I met Cinemagram founder Temo Chalasani for a hurried lunch amid Amazon outages on Monday, during which he described a bit more about how his company emerged from relative obscurity to madcap momentum.

To be sure, it’s entirely unclear what angle this particular growth event will look like in a few months. Will this be the beginning of the Cinemagram hockey stick? A spike that recedes back to normalcy? Will everyone get caught up in the “is-it-the-next-Instagram?” hype and then regret it?

Chalasani is the first to admit that there are many mobile social video apps. And many of them are trying various tricks to make video more snackable and mobile-friendly — for instance, Vine, which was recently bought by Twitter before even being released, promised to make it simple to make little video summary highlight reels.

And, actually, when I first talked to Chalasani in April, he wasn’t calling Cinemagram a video app. Rather, it was a GIF creation app. Basically, you could make a sort of hybrid photo-video where you animated one part of a photo while leaving the rest frozen by “masking” it. The effect can be really cool and mesmerizing when done right.

It turned out that people liked creating these nifty, artsy GIFs, but they also just liked making short, silent personal videos. A few months ago, Cinemagram started offering the option to post straight videos without doing the GIF animation trick. Today, 75 percent of Cinemagram videos have no masking effect.

Still, the original concept of animated GIFs provided some constraints for videos that actually work nicely on mobile phones. Cinemagram’s “cines” are limited to two seconds, and are silent. They’re so short that they’re basically just moving pictures. And they automatically repeat, so they’re easy to tune in and out of.

“This is not the kind of video you would find on YouTube,” said Chalasani.

Rather, it’s the kind of video that’s incredibly easy for people to make and watch on mobile phones.

Chalasani pointed out that two seconds is actually a normal limit for the length of a shot you’d see in a movie — only a professional editor would cobble tons of these little shots together.

A couple seconds is not enough for a plot, but you can maybe get across an emotion or a mood.

As such, cines tend to be quite personal. But like any other social network, Cinemagram benefits from the halo of celebrity users. Below is a popular cine of rapper Tyga’s brand-new son, from a few days ago.

So is that the lesson, then? Slap a social network onto a nifty video app and you’re done? Maybe, but it wasn’t just that, Chalasani said.

For instance, one other recent trick that helped boost Cinemagram growth was better social sharing. Of the major social networks, only Tumblr supports GIFs. So Cinemagram made a sort of widget that makes its videos play in Facebook news feeds.

TechCrunch’s Kim-Mai Cutler also notes that Cinemagram isn’t the only mobile social media iOS app that seems to be growing like a weed; Snapchat is another recent standout. (Super-secret tip: For more on Snapchat, come to our Dive Into Mobile conference next week.)

Cinemagram raised a $1 million convertible note over the summer, and much of the team is in the process of moving from Montreal to San Francisco. Currently, my Cinemagram feed is jam-packed with Silicon Valley investors giving it a whirl.

Besides the VC money, Chalasani and the team do have some semblance of a business plan. They already have a relationship with Red Bull to make highlight reels out of user-submitted cines.

But right now they’re just trying to keep up with hypergrowth.

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Amazon made back-to-back videogame announcements last week, showing its dedication to moving beyond music, video and e-books in the digital content space.

The first piece of news was Amazon’s new GameCircle, which allows gamers on the Kindle Fire to record and track their achievements and to save their game progress to the cloud — similar to features found in Apple’s Game Center.

The second addition is called Game Connect, an e-commerce distribution system that lets customers discover and download free-to-play PC games. Amazon is also handling some of the back-end features for the developers, such as selling virtual goods and subscriptions.

Take, for instance, Uber Entertainment, a 16-person development shop in Kirkland, Wash., that started distributing its game, Super Monday Night Combat, through Game Connect last week.

John Comes, creative director at Uber Entertainment, said that, until now, the company distributed its games only through Steam, the Valve-owned-and-operated digital game distribution platform on the PC. With Amazon, it now has two points of distribution.

“We’ve been working with them for six months. We were talking to various people about getting the game to more people, but for us, they can bring a lot of users,” he said.

Uber Entertainment’s Super Monday Night Combat game is a free PC download that makes money through the sale of virtual goods, similar to games distributed on Facebook. Uber does not have the infrastructure to charge customers directly, which makes a partnership with Amazon sensible. The retailer has millions of credit cards on file, enabling customers to quickly link their game play to their Amazon account.

Once games are linked to Amazon, users can pay and shop for virtual goods on Amazon’s homepage. For instance, Hippies in the game cost $9.99, a tank costs $4.49 and Captain Spark costs $7.49. Each character in the game has a landing page on Amazon’s site, enabling all the sorts of features you would normally associate with a product for sale on the site — such as the ability to add it to your cart or add it to your wish list.

The wish list capability appealed to Uber. “A kid can say ‘I really want this character for Super Monday,’ and parents can buy it for them,” he said.

This is not Amazon’s first foray into the digital distribution of videogames.

In October 2010, the company launched its digital games store, which offers customers more than 3,000 titles, including free-to-play and massively multiplayer online games. But with Game Connect, it makes shopping for virtual goods much easier. It also makes it much more comparable to the Steam service, though that targets a much more hardcore gaming demographic.

Amazon said terms of the store will be similar to industry standards used by Facebook and Apple’s App Store. It will share 70 percent of virtual good revenue with developers.

However, when it comes to price, Amazon will decide the cost of virtual goods, not the developer (although he or she will have some influence). Amazon will set a sales price for an app, and developers will set a list price. Amazon also uses this model on its Appstore for Android, where it distributes games and apps for developers.

It claims to have the resources to monitor sales across the board and come up with a strategy that will maximize sales much faster than a developer or publisher would normally be able to react.

In addition to helping with the payment process, Amazon says with Game Connect it will provide significant resources to the developer, including marketing, discovery, customer service and downloads. A spokesperson said in a statement, “We work hard to help customers find and discover great new games they never knew about and are focused on offering a great shopping experience along with fast and excellent customer service. We do provide a download service from the cloud for client-based games but provide a link to developer servers for browser-based games.”

The one situation where payment terms could get a little sticky is when a player originally discovers a game on Steam’s service, but then connects to Amazon to pay for the virtual goods. Amazon and Steam have likely figured out a way to compensate each other behind the scenes.

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Not everyone wants to run their applications on the public cloud. Their reasons can vary widely. Some companies don’t want the crown jewels of their intellectual property leaving the confines of their own premises. Some just like having things run on a server they can see and touch.

But there’s no denying the attraction of services like Amazon Web Services or Joyent or Rackspace, where you can spin up and configure a new virtual machine within minutes of figuring out that you need it. So, many companies seek to approximate the experience they would get from a public cloud provider on their own internal infrastructure.

It turns out that a start-up I had never heard of before this week is the most widely deployed platform for running these “private clouds,” and it’s not a bad business. Eucalyptus Systems essentially enables the same functionality on your own servers that you would expect from a cloud provider.

Eucalyptus said today that it has raised a $30 million Series C round of venture capital funding led by Institutional Venture Partners. Steve Harrick, general partner at IVP, will join the Eucalyptus board. Existing investors, including Benchmark Capital, BV Capital and New Enterprise Associates, are also in on the round. The funding brings Eucalyptus’ total capital raised to north of $50 million.

The company has an impressive roster of customers: Sony, Intercontinental Hotels, Raytheon, and the athletic-apparel group Puma. There are also several government customers, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, NASA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Defense.

In March, Eucalyptus signed a deal with Amazon to allow customers of both to migrate their workloads between the private and public environments. The point here is to give companies the flexibility they need to run their computing workloads in a mixed environment, or move them back and forth as needed. They could also operate them in tandem.

Key to this is a provision of the deal with Amazon that gives Eucalyptus access to Amazon’s APIs. What that means is that you can run processes on your own servers that are fully compatible with Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3), or its Elastic Compute cloud, known as EC2. “We’ve removed all the hurdles that might have been in the way of moving workloads,” Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos told me. The company has similar deals in place with Wipro Infotech in India and CETC32 in China.

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The venture capital firm funded by Google is building up its data sciences team to increase the capabilities inside its companies and to look for new investments in the area. The firm is extending a thesis that was developed inside Google about finding patterns in big collections of data, which it hopes will work in other industries.

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Amazon recommendation network

Whenever you look at an item on Amazon, the site recommends related items that you might be interested in. So in a way, these items are connected by how people buy. Artist and designer Christopher Warnow uses the metaphor to create a network of Amazon products, where each node represents an item, and connections, or edges, represent common bonds of recommendations. Simply enter an Amazon link, and Warnow's software generates a network.

For example, the image above is the network for Edward Tufte's Visual Display of Quantitative Information, although Stephen Few's Information Dashboard Design seems to have more connections for some reason. My quick guess is that book's that are less niche have more connections, because when I entered Visualize This, the network was pretty small. Although I would've thought that Tufte's book would have a larger network than Few's.

In any case, the application and Processing code is free to play with. Warnow uses Gephi for network connections and grouping. Or if you don't feel like downloading a 60mb file, you can just watch it in action in the video below.

You might also be interested in Yasiv. It's a web app with a similar idea, but not quite as slick of an implementation.

[Christopher Warnow via Datavisualization]

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