Microsoft has just spent the better part of an hour introducing the Xbox One, and the general feeling I’m walking away with is disappointment. Viewing Twitter that seems to be the general consensus…
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Crosswa.lk, a mobile application discovery which just over a year ago arrived on the iPhone as an improved version of Apple’s “Genius,” has been quietly building a new product over the past several months, as tides have turned against apps which serve to recommend or promote other apps. The new Crosswa.lk, instead of being a consumer-facing service, now offers tools to push apps from the web to mobile devices, similar to how users can wirelessly install apps from Google Play to their Android phones today.
The first example of this technology is rolling out today, in the form of a Google Chrome extension that detects when there are app links on a webpage, then allowing you to click and send them straight from the web to your device.
You may remember the consumer-facing version of Crosswa.lk, which was pulled down for good this past November, as one of the earlier players in the app discovery space. Part social network, the Crosswalk site and app previously allowed users to find and follow friends, view trending apps, receive personalized app recommendations, and more.
But, explains Crosswa.lk president Thomas McLeod, though that service worked well for heavy-duty app users, it never really gained mainstream appeal. “What we ran into is that nobody cared except for tech journalists, developers and super power users,” he says. “We had a lot of people telling us this great stuff, but we were – for lack of a better word – in the ‘Valley bubble.’ When we looked at returning user metrics, we found that the average person – like my mom – never went back to Crosswa.lk.”
Most people, McLeod’s mom included, were generally pretty happy with using Apple’s App Store to meet their needs, he says.
Meanwhile, Apple had begun cracking down on apps that recommend or promote other apps - a move which has caused its fair share of drama as of late, when app discovery platform AppGratis was kicked out of the App Store, accused of gaming the charts. And just this week, Apple tightened the noose even further, reportedly booting out apps that replicate App Store features like social sharing and search.
McLeod says that Apple’s decision did stop and make him think, even though he didn’t believe Crosswa.lk was in direct violation of the guidelines.
Back at the drawing board, the company took stock in what they had left, and realized that just as they once were able to pull down information from mobile devices, they could instead push apps to the phones, too. The product they ended up with was a developer API for web-to-mobile downloads.
The API powers a Crosswa.lk button, which can be placed on any website, as well as shortlinks that can be shared or tweeted. When clicked, the button or link will take users to a landing page where those clicks are converted to app downloads. On the backend, a suite of tools allows promoters to see how well an ad campaign has been doing, tracking things like the time, the referring site, and UTM tags for the separate marketing efforts.
This API, still in beta, is currently being tested with around 20 publishers, including Cosmopolitan.com, which had the button live during March and April before a site redesign. What they liked about the button was that it allowed for cross-promotion – that is, when end users downloaded the Cosmo app, Crosswa.lk could recommend apps for other publications, too. Other sites now testing the button include danielamitay.com/big-brother, bundlefoo.com (free app bundles), and frametastic.com, but the larger vision is to go after the big brands as well as the so-called “disposable” apps – like those associated with an upcoming movie, for instance.
The service offers something that fills a hole in the Apple universe. When clicked, a window pops up where you enter in your Apple username and password to authenticate, and then the app is sent over-the-air to your phone. (You need to have automatic app downloads enabled for this to work). The experience, as noted above, is a lot like when you send apps to your Android phone from Google Play’s app store, except that it also allows you to send multiple apps from one interface.
McLeod didn’t want to share the technical details regarding how this all works on the record, but says that he doesn’t believe it’s a violation of Apple’s Terms. “We’ll see how this all goes,” he says, on that note. He explains that it’s like “creating a long wire from a website to iTunes,” and it then initiates the download on your behalf. “We’re not changing the security protocols, we’re sending the same encrypted stuff they’re sending. We’re not storing anything, or doing anything dangerous. We’re just moving the box from where it is over there, to where it is over here.”
The new Chrome extension, available here, is the first public, consumer-facing example of the technology, outside of the button’s beta testers. Once installed, as you’re surfing the web, the button appears on any page which offers App Store links. When clicked, you can view a list of the apps that page offers, and then click “send to device” for the ones you want to download – no need to launch iTunes on the desktop.
At present, the extension only works with free apps, and only those on iOS, but Android is in the works.
The extension is free, and for now, the Crosswa.lk button is as well, though the plan is to offer tiered pricing on a subscription basis at some future point.
Those interested in beta testing the button can sign up here. Crosswa.lk is offering access to the button to the first 500 TechCrunch readers who sign up here: http://signup.crosswa.lk to join the beta.
Windows 8 launched to mixed reviews just over half a year ago, and Microsoft has dutifully pushed out nearly 740 tweaks and updates over the intervening months. Even so, rumblings of a sizable update (codenamed “Windows Blue”) have been making the rounds for months now, and we’ve finally got a firm idea of when to expect the first public preview.
Microsoft Windows chief Julie Larson-Green confirmed at the Wired Business Conference today that developers would be able to download and install the Windows Blue update preview in late June to coincide with the company’s BUILD developer conference.
The update will be “available to everyone that has Windows 8 in the Windows 8 store,” she noted to Wired senior editor Michael Copeland. “Just click on it like you would any app and it’ll update your system.” It’s hardly a shock considering that a June preview release date has been rumored for over a month now, but it’s likely welcome news for users who haven’t quite fallen with Windows 8 and its dramatic design changes.
At this point, many of Blue’s juiciest details are still shrouded in mystery — we don’t even know what the update will even be called. People are already bandying about the name Windows 8.1 and Larson-Green wouldn’t refer to it as anything the “update to Windows 8,” though she may have just been dodging the question as the onstage conversation was just about to wrap up. Microsoft seems content to keep most of Blue’s changelog under wraps for the time being too — CFO Tami Reller pointed to a slew of necessary (if vague) changes in a Q&A that was recently posted to Blogging Windows:
It will deliver the latest new innovations across an increasingly broad array of form factors of all sizes, display, battery life and performance, while creating new opportunities for our ecosystem. It will provide more options for businesses, and give consumers more options for work and play. The Windows Blue update is also an opportunity for us to respond to the customer feedback that we’ve been closely listening to since the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT.
That said, it seems very likely that at least two major Windows 8 sticking points will be addressed in the coming update. According to ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, the traditional Windows start button is expected to make its triumphant return, as is the ability to boot directly into the Desktop view rather than having to futz around with the UI-formerly-known-as-Metro.
As it happens, June is going to be a pretty busy month for Microsoft and its hardware partners –Larson-Green noted that the era of smaller Windows 8 devices is nearly upon us, and that portability mavens will be able to get their hands on the first such device in June as well.
When you’re spreading like wildfire, why douse the flames to make a few bucks? Facebook’s willingness to wait on advertising helped its site and mobile apps grow massive, and now it’s applying the same strategy to Instagram. Wall Street is clamoring for Facebook to earn back the $ 700+ million it spent buying the photo app, but Mark Zuckerberg refuses to trade tomorrow’s dollars for today’s dimes.
It took Facebook years to get serious about ads. That’s because it was serious about growth and the user experience from day one. Facebook’s first ads were actually called “flyers” and promoted on-campus events. They fit right in rather than detracting from the value of the social network. When Facebook started selling to more traditional advertisers, the units it offered were tiny, and relegated to the sidebar so organic content could stay front and center. Compared to the loud flash banners and pop-ups found elsewhere, Facebook seemed like a sanctuary. The strategy helped it quickly grow to hundreds of millions of users.
Facebook launched its iPhone app in July 2008. For over three years, not a single ad was shown. The world was starting to go mobile, and Facebook wanted to welcome it with open arms, not greed. In 2010 and 2011, Facebook’s smartphone apps were growing at a stunning pace to become the most popular things on mobile. Clogging them with ads could have stunted growth when it had the most momentum.
By the end of 2011, both Facebook for iOS and Android had over 57 million daily users, and almost twice as many monthly users. There was no guilt in telling a friend to go download the apps. They weren’t necessarily the fastest thanks to their reliance on HTML5, but they didn’t waste limited real estate on squeezing money out of advertisers.
It wasn’t until early 2012 that Facebook finally announced it would start showing ads on mobile and the desktop news feed. By then an overwhelming percentage of people in the developed world were already using its site and smartphone apps. User growth in its most important markets like the US, UK, and Canada had slowed to a trickle. Growth was predominantly coming from the developing world where people use Facebook’s feature phone apps.
When it finally started showing ads on the web feed, iOS, and Android, Facebook had a lot less to lose. It didn’t need its apps to be as viral and add as many users in the first-world any more. It just needed to make sure not to drive people away from them. Ads started appearing, slowly at first as Facebook gauged reactions, and faster as it saw people weren’t browsing the feed significantly less because there were a few ads in the middle.
Long story long, the strategy has worked. Facebook could surely have an extra billion in the bank if it monetized earlier. But it might have sacrificed millions of users and positive connotation to get that money. Still, it’s been a bit of a surprise that a year after acquiring Instagram, Facebook said on this week’s earnings call that there’s no plan yet to show ads on the photo app. That’s not for lack of demand, Zuckerberg said:
“Instagram, they’re really doing well and growing really quickly, and I think that that is the right focus for them. And they have this opportunity to capture and basically build off this huge community and I think that that should be 100% of the focus right now. I am really optimistic about the business opportunity there, too. You already have a lot of brand from folks who advertise with Facebook putting content into Instagram, getting huge engagement rates. So people are coming to us and asking for ways to make that even richer and it’s something that we’re thinking about. But right now, I think that – I’m just really proud of the team and excited about how quickly they’re growing. They’re growing a lot faster now and were faster to get to 100 million than Facebook even.”
Perhaps when Facebook’s given Instagram enough time to grow, and it figures out how it wants to the advertising experience to work, we’ll see it monetize the acquisition. It has plenty of options for how.
Instagram could show glossy photo brand ads in the feed, but might try to avoid forcing users to click out to a browser to follow the ads. That’s why I’d expect Instagram to start with ads that help businesses get more followers and keep users bouncing around the app.
Businesses might pay to get the photos they post to their accounts showed to people who don’t currently follow them. A social version of these follow ads might target friends of or people who follow people who follow a brand. Yes, that’s a mouthful. Another option would be allowing brands to amplify the reach of user posts that tag them using Instagram’s new photo tagging feature. If I tagged Nike in a photo of my shoes, Nike might pay to show that post at the top of my friends’ feeds or show it again a week after I originally posted it in hopes of attracting more followers.
Instagram could also try Suggested Accounts that ask people to follow certain brands similar to Twitter’s Promoted Accounts ad unit. App install ads which let developers pay to get their apps shown in the feed and downloaded have become Facebook’s new darling, so they could make their way to Instagram too.
Facebook and Instagram can afford this growth > ads strategy because its thinking long-term. Not long-term like Google with its moonshots, but Facebook is confident they’ll be dominant in their fields for at least a few years. Their large userbases and network effects luckily afford them a bit of a moat. It’s still a gamble, though. There’s always the risk that by the time Instagram starts advertising, something new in the media capture space will be stealing the attention of its users. It’s a tightrope to walk, but one that leads to a healthy community, quality experience, and a sustainable business model.
HTC’s revenue took a nosedive in the first quarter, but CEO Peter Chou, banking on the newly released One, called the quarter “pivotal.”
For more videos and related articles visit: http://www.itproportal.com Mark Yakabusi, Vice President for Hardware Security Module Business Unit at Safenet sp…
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Dr Steve Hodgkinson, Research Director, IT, Asia-Pacific
We believe it is time for governments to elevate their policy thinking about cloud services to confront their ICT strategy conundrum. They must address increasing fiscal constraints and disappointment with existing approaches to boosting ICT productivity with an approach that enables cross-agency sharing.
Mature enterprise cloud services are “capitalist economy” shared services that work. Cloud services break the cycle of agency investment in dedicated ICT solutions that are difficult or impossible to share. In contrast, each procurement of cloud services incrementally develops the capacity of the vendor to offer the same service to other agencies.
A policy position of “cloud services first” is a strategic commitment by government to the development of the next generation of shared services.
Let’s get realistic about government’s ICT strategy conundrum
Ovum believes it is time for government policy executives to start considering a more visionary …
Mohd Mudassir Ahmed Cse Asifia Colg of Engg and Tech.