It’s worse than we thought.
Just one day after disclosing a secret court order between the National Security Agency (NSA) and Verizon, The Guardian and The Washington Post both published secret presentation slides revealing a previously undisclosed massive surveillance program called PRISM. The program has the capability to collect data “directly from the servers” of major American tech companies, including Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo. (Dropbox is said to be “coming soon.”)
The newspapers describe the system as giving the National Security Agency and the FBI direct access to a huge number of online commercial services, capable of “extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.”
Andrew Cunningham / Aurich Lawson
A desktop PC used to need a lot of different chips to make it work. You had the big parts: the CPU that executed most of your code and the GPU that rendered your pretty 3D graphics. But there were a lot of smaller bits too: a chip called the northbridge handled all communication between the CPU, GPU, and RAM, while the southbridge handled communication between the northbridge and other interfaces like USB or SATA. Separate controller chips for things like USB ports, Ethernet ports, and audio were also often required if this functionality wasn't already integrated into the southbridge itself.
As chip manufacturing processes have improved, it's now possible to cram more and more of these previously separate components into a single chip. This not only reduces system complexity, cost, and power consumption, but it also saves space, making it possible to fit a high-end computer from yesteryear into a smartphone that can fit in your pocket. It's these technological advancements that have given rise to the system-on-a-chip (SoC), one monolithic chip that's home to all of the major components that make these devices tick.
The fact that every one of these chips includes what is essentially an entire computer can make keeping track of an individual chip's features and performance quite time-consuming. To help you keep things straight, we've assembled this handy guide that will walk you through the basics of how an SoC is put together. It will also serve as a guide to most of the current (and future, where applicable) chips available from the big players making SoCs today: Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia, Texas Instruments, Intel, and AMD. There's simply too much to talk about to fit everything into one article of reasonable length, but if you've been wondering what makes a Snapdragon different from a Tegra, here's a start.
Earlier today, Yahoo said it had acquired the trendy and decidedly stylish news reading app Summly, along with its telegenic and very young entrepreneur Nick D’Aloisio.
Yahoo said it plans to close down the actual app and use the algorithmic summation technology that the 17-year-old D’Aloisio built with a small team of five, along with a major assist from Silicon Valley research institute SRI International, throughout its products.
While Yahoo did not disclose the price, several sources told me that the company paid $30 million — 90 percent in cash and 10 percent in stock — to buy the London-based Apple smartphone app.
And despite its elegant delivery, that’s a very high price, especially since Summly has been downloaded slightly less than one million times since launch — after a quick start amid much publicity over its founder — with about 90 million “summaries” read. Of course, like many such apps, it also had no monetization plan as yet.
What Yahoo is getting, though, is perhaps more valuable — the ability to put the fresh-faced D’Aloisio front and center of its noisy efforts to make consumers see Yahoo as a mobile-first company. That has been the goal of CEO Marissa Mayer, who has bought up a range of small mobile startups since she took over nine months ago and who has talked about the need for Yahoo to focus on the mobile arena above all.
Mayer met with D’Aloisio, said sources, although the deal was struck by voluble M&A head Jackie Reses.
Said one person close to the deal, about the founder: “Nick will be a great person to put in front of the media and consumers with Mayer to make Yahoo seem like it is a place that loves both entrepreneurs and mobile experiences, which in turn will presumably attract others like him.”
Having met the young man in question, who was in San Francisco in the fall on a fundraising trip, I can see the appeal. He’s both well-spoken and adorkable, as well as very adept at charming cranky media types like me by radiating with the kinetic energy of someone born in the mobile world (you can see that in full force in the video below with actor and Summly investor Stephen Fry).
Still, D’Aloisio is very young and presumably has a lot of other entrepreneurial goals and that’s why he agreed as part of the deal to only officially stay 18 months at Yahoo, multiple sources told me. In many cases, startup founders strike such short-term employment deals with big companies, agreeing to stay for a certain determined time period.
He will also remain in England, where he lives with his parents, said sources. In addition, only two of Summly’s employees will go to Yahoo with D’Aloisio.
That’s $10 million each, along with a nifty app Yahoo will not be using as is (too bad, as it would up the hip and fun factor of Yahoo’s apps by a factor of a gazillion if it were maintained).
“It works out on a lot of levels,” said another person close to the situation. “Nick is a founder that will make Mayer and Yahoo look cutting edge.”
Cue the parade of PR profiles of the young genius made millionaire, helping Yahoo become relevant again.
I have an email for comment into the always friendly D’Aloisio. But I don’t expect a reply, since he has apparently been specifically instructed by the martinets of Yahoo PR not to talk to me any longer — well, for 18 months at least! (Don’t worry, Nick, I don’t blame you and will still listen to whatever you are pitching next, since you are so dang compelling and I enjoyed using Summly!)
Until then, here’s the faboo Summly video, with the best chairs ever:
iPhoneDevSDK—the site apparently responsible for the hacks at Facebook, Apple, and Twitter—says it was not aware it was being used to attack visitors until it read press reports this week. In a news post (do not click if you're wary of security breaches) on Wednesday, site admins said they had no knowledge of the breach and were not contacted by any of the affected companies. Though, iPhoneDevSDK is now working with Facebook's security team in order to share information about what happened.
"We were alerted through the press, via an AllThingsD article, which cited Facebook. Prior to this article, we had no knowledge of this breach and hadn't been contacted by Facebook, any other company, or any law enforcement about the potential breach," wrote iPhoneDevSDK admin iseff.
If I were to describe a country where the Internet contributes as much as a percentage of GDP as its health services, education and oil industries, and is growing at nearly twice the rate as in Europe — driven in large part by growth in private and corporate-backed entrepreneurship — where would you guess?
Looking forward, if such a country has the largest population of Internet and mobile users in its region with one of the largest youth populations in the world; is a large consumer market in the early days of e-commerce; is a global tourist destination where roughly only five percent of all travel revenue is booked online — might this be an intriguing investment opportunity?
Am I describing Germany? China? Brazil?
Two years after the Arab uprisings and in the midst of wrestling significant economic and political change, the Internet is quietly and increasingly growing as a central platform of economic development around the country as it is around the globe. And according to a new Google-commissioned study by The Boston Consulting Group — Egypt at a Crossroads: How the Internet is Transforming Egypt’s Economy — policy makers, executives and investors alike are poised at a central moment of opportunity to embrace this platform for economic growth, job creation and returns.
David Dean, Senior Partner and Managing Director at the Boston Consulting Group — and one of the authors of the study — told me that this is the latest of fifteen country-wide studies his company has done, and he was impressed by what he found. “I think the biggest positive surprise was that there are many entrepreneurial companies using the Internet to grow their businesses.” The report highlights a handful of among hundreds of recent Egyptian startups as diverse as the content portal Masrawy, which now reaches over eight million unique users per month; e-commerce destination Nefsak, which offers over 25,000 products; and Alexandria’s Vimov, whose paid weather app WeatherHD was the fourth-best seller in Apple’s App store after its recent release. It notes that Vodafone, among other global investors, is making serious commitments both to the infrastructure and to funding startups in the region. “The report makes clear that there is much uptapped potential for Egypt’s nascent Internet ecosystem,” Samir El Bahaie, Google’s Head of Policy in the Middle East and North Africa, said — adding that “there is also a great opportunity for investment, economic growth and job creation waiting to be seized.”
The study underscores that the opportunity is now. Egypt’s population of 31 million Internet users is the largest in the Middle East, and while mobile penetration exceeds 100 percent in many parts of the country, the big news is that smartphones — with real computing capabilities — are expected by some to reach 50 percent penetration in the next three to five years. Unmeasured in penetration and GDP figures are what the report calls “ripple effects” on the Egyptian economy and society: The ability to reach new markets, to have better informed consumers, to have greater work efficiencies in the knowledge economy, to have simplified access to government and social services for people to take more control of their lives. Egypt, with its mobile penetration, is especially poised to capture opportunities in mobile banking (as significant success has been seen in Africa) and to fully embrace all the opportunities offered for tourism. Dean notes, in fact, that travel and tourism is “possibly the largest short-term lever that the Internet can have in the country.”
If the opportunity is now, however, so is the potential for missed opportunities. While access to the Internet is growing, there is still a lack of Internet skills in the workforce, even as compared to other emerging markets. While business adoption of the Internet as an economic platform in Egypt is competitive among larger enterprises, small- and medium-sized businesses still rank lowest among emerging growth markets. More fundamentally, there remains significant question of the most appropriate, entrepreneurship-driving policies — areas such as rule of law, copyright protection, lessening bureaucracy in starting businesses. “Of course, these are clearly not just questions for Egypt,” Dean explained to me. “What would really be encouraging would be a commitment by the Government to the Internet as an economic factor — which would mean simplifying the process for opening businesses, encouraging investment, demonstrating the benefits of the Internet in the way the government operates, and using the Internet to address some of Egypt’s most pressing problems, such as youth unemployment.”
Google hopes to play a continued role in working with governments like Egypt’s. Studies like these are extremely useful as they provide factual economic data points around the value of the Internet, El Bahaie noted. “We hope to work with the government of Egypt to leverage these data points to unlock the potential of eCommerce and mCommerce and well-informedly create a more enabling business environment for Egyptian small- and medium-sized business, and to help the country reach its full economic potential.”
Christopher M. Schroeder is a leading U.S. Internet entrepreneur and venture investor, a member of the advisory boards of the American University of Cairo School of Business, the regional entrepreneurship portal Wamda.com and incubator Oasis500. He is the author of “Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution That’s Remaking the Middle East,” to be published September 2013 by Palgrave/MacMillan. He can be followed on Twitter @cmschroed.
We all know about the patent wars that have dominated the mobile industry over the last couple of years.
Apple and Samsung, Motorola and Microsoft, Oracle and Google — to name just a few. But there are also the patent disputes that you never hear about.
Many of these lawsuits are filed by little-known companies whose sole purpose in being is to bring patent actions and collect money for their owners. Often dubbed patent trolls, such non-practicing entities now make up the bulk of patent suits.
Within the broader category of non-practicing entities are different types of firms, including defensive patent collectors, start-ups as well as companies whose sole business is suing companies with products in the market. That last category now accounts for more than three-fifths of all patent action, according to a study by Santa Clara University Law School professor Colleen V. Chien.
Chien, who presented her findings at a Department of Justice/Federal Trade Commission event on Monday, said that while the economics of bringing suit help keep overall patent actions in check, the economies of scale have made patent trolling into a profitable business.
First of all, while companies that make goods are typically countersued for infringing on their target’s patents, non-practicing entities don’t make anything and therefore can’t be countersued.
Secondly, while big companies like Apple, Samsung and Google rack up huge legal fees in their battles, non-practicing entities have found a more cost-effective option. Much like injury victims, the patent firms often find lawyers willing to work on a contingency basis.
That leaves the companies with only the direct expenses related to their lawsuits, which are themselves often minimized by filing multiple similar suits against different companies. That spreads out the costs and lessens the impact of losing any one case.
As a result, the incentives that may be forcing deals such as Apple’s recent settlement with HTC aren’t having the same effect on the non-practicing entities.
“The assumption is that companies will eventually tire of the smartphone wars between operating companies,” Chien told AllThingsD. “Suits invite countersuits and are expensive, disruptive, and messy. These restraints don’t apply to companies that assert patents as a business model.”
And for every suit brought, there are dozens more that get settled before a court action is filed, in large part because the targets know it is cheaper to settle in many cases than to fight things out.
While many of these non-practicing entities have names few people have ever heard of, the field has spawned some big players, perhaps most notably Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures. (Several spinoff businesses have come out of Myhrvold’s firm, which touts its in-house invention capabilities in addition to its collection of acquired patents.)
Even start-ups, particularly well-funded ones, are finding themselves in the crosshairs, Chien said.
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.
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.
Having been witness to famine and catastrophe, Doug Menuez sought answers in a project that served a purpose and gave guidance, turning his camera on the tech boom occurring right in his Silicon Valley backyard.
Apple may be planning to add 2D fingerprint sensors to a future version of the iPhone, according to details revealed in a recent Securities & Exchange Commission filing. The PREM14A document (hat tip to TNW) was filed as a result of Apple's buyout of security chip firm AuthenTec, and it reveals more details about the agreement between the two companies, as well as hints about Apple's future engineering plans.
The SEC document reveals that Apple had been after biometric security company AuthenTec's unspecified "new technology" for almost a year ("late 2011") before it decided to go ahead and buy the company in July. At the time, AuthenTec had been approaching a number of consumer electronics companies—Apple included—to try to sell licenses for its unspecified technology. Apple was apparently the only company to try to move forward with an agreement—cost seemingly deterred others—but negotiations ended up falling apart in early 2012. That's when Apple began entertaining the idea of a buyout, offering AuthenTec $7 per share, for a total of $356 million.
According to the document, Apple tried to woo AuthenTec by arguing that its offer would allow the company to develop technology for just one platform instead of many.