Archive for the ‘potential’ tag
The market for platform-as-a-service (PaaS) companies will grow steadily in the next several years because of the potential for operational improvement and cost reduction, according to a just-released survey by Engine Yard.
Engine Yard competes heavily with Salesforce’s Force.com and Microsoft’s Azure to attract developers and companies to its platform-as-a-service. While Engine Yard does have a clear interest to say that the PaaS market will grow swiftly, it also has some authority in being a quickly growing PaaS startup that generated $28 million in revenue last year.
Mark Gaydos, Engine Yard’s SVP of marketing, told us that the biggest change in the market lately is that “enterprise is beginning to bite.” The many medium- and large-sized businesses investing in cloud services create an opening for PaaS companies, which deploy and host applications. (Click here to see what IaaS, PaaS and SaaS companies do.)
“It appears that most companies are looking to engage with the cloud to deploy more innovative customer-facing applications, such as SaaS, mobile, e-commerce, and social across a wide variety of languages,” the company writes in the conclusion of the survey. “While cost savings is a reason to consider using a PaaS, the desire to improve operational readiness and improve application functionality and uptime are more important to individuals responding to the survey.”
Check out the infographic below to see the major take-aways from the survey:
Top photo credit: Lightspring/Shutterstock
With Places, Payments Platform Dwolla Finally Lists Where It Works, Lets You Request Merchant Support
Mobile payments platform Dwolla has the potential to disrupt how money moves in the new, digital economy. It’s an idea of how a payments network should look, if one had been built today, as opposed to tacking on digital payments to the legacy system that is the current credit card network. But there has been one big problem for end users of Dwolla – no one had any clue where they could actually try the darned thing. That’s going to change starting today with the launch of Dwolla “Places.”
Believe it or not, until now, the company had not maintained a directory of its merchant partners, which includes both brick-and-mortar stores and online sellers. But there are 15,000 businesses in the U.S. where you can pay with Dwolla, and today’s launch aims to better highlight those merchants.
“For the first time, you can actually search for where you can use Dwolla,” says CEO Ben Milne. But he admits, “There are 25 million businesses [in the U.S.], and Dwolla isn’t everywhere you want to use it yet.” That’s why the new “Places” product allows customers to also request Dwolla support by clicking a “Want” button next to the merchant where they’re hoping to see the service implemented. Dwolla will then begin using these votes to better target which merchants it starts talking to next.
“That way, when a merchant comes online, they already have customers ready to go,” says Milne of how the change will impact Dwolla’s merchant outreach. “And then we have a mechanism for telling those customers that the merchant you want to use Dwolla with is now online,” he adds. He says customers will be alerted to their requests via email notification.
The new feature also comes with social sharing options, allowing Dwolla’s more rabid fan base to campaign for votes via Twitter and Facebook. You can also connect to Foursquare to see if your favorite check-in spots already support Dwolla. And merchants who discover they’re starting to get votes can “claim” their profile page following a short verification process.
Meanwhile, for existing Dwolla merchants – which Milne says are largely brick-and-mortar retailers – the “Places” feature means improved discovery through public profile pages. But users won’t have to just know the merchant by name – you can also search for generic terms like “coffee” or “auto body,” for example, if you want to support Dwolla-friendly businesses.
The feature is currently in beta, so it may be buggy, the company warns. It’s also currently available online online, but mobile app integration is in the works. However, Milne says that Dwolla is working on a larger update to its mobile apps which will include a redesign to support “Places,” among other things. “It’s likely that you’ll see some similar structure extended into the mobile apps,” he says. But that update may not come immediately. Internally, Milne says the thought process around mobile, where apps haven’t been updated in half a year or more, is: “let’s not do a marginal update, let’s do something meaningful here.” Stay tuned.
Education is undergoing an incredible and exciting transformation, but I can’t help but wonder if the “experts” can’t see the forest for the trees. We are continuing to see roiling debates from the likes of my colleagues such as Vivek Wadhwa and Peter Thiel over whether kids should go to college or not, administrations battling technologists over whether they need to flip the classroom, and politicians forcing us to pick sides as if there were only two options – all the while missing the extraordinary revolution taking place around us.
The education industry seems to be tracking similarly to every early stage tech industry or product with big potential – innovators are coming up with new products (check out Khan Academy, Udacity, or EdX), early adopters and investors (like Learn Capital, Apollo Group, Kapor Capital, and Education Growth Partners) enthusiastically take the initial risk, only some survive (rightfully so), and the good ones go mainstream or even viral.
Unfortunately, education is a uniquely complicated industry. Not only is there a long history of strife about spending, infrastructure, politics, (not to mention the pressures from a depressed economy), and the expectation that education is a universal right, but we also fashion ourselves as experts (don’t you?) on either what works or what doesn’t work. This creates a risky and challenging environment for innovators to dive into – not the “safe to fail” environment required for creativity and experimentation. Regardless of these challenges, entrepreneurs, educators, and students cannot resist the advantages that technology brings to the table, and thus technology is finally starting to bring about the transformation in education that we have all long hoped for.
If we want to hasten the transformation of education, we should not only acknowledge that we are in the awkward early growth stage but fully embrace it. We should be trying out every new concept and technology and helping education innovators evolve and iterate their products quickly.
And today, there are a lot of really cool new things to watch, try, and support. Here are four areas of technology that I fine particularly exciting:
Artificial intelligence and adaptive learning: Platforms such as IBM’s Watson (the winner of a special three-match series on “Jeopardy” in 2011) are demonstrating increasingly complex intelligence that is quickly being applied to education to provide ever adaptive learning environments (check out Knewton).
Sensors and feedback technologies: Cheaper, faster, and better-sensing technologies are also going to drive innovation. A number of tech companies are experimenting with recognizing whether a student is tuned in or tuned out through facial expression analysis. We will begin to see the work of companies like Hanson Robotics translate into educational tools in the near future.
Neuroscience and psychology: Ultimately, innovation in education is striving to create the optimal learning environment. Research in the fields of cognitive neuroscience and educational psychology is rapidly bringing new insight into how we learn and retain information and how these differences between individuals can be designed into education.
Bonus: If you aren’t convinced of the enormous potential technology can play in transforming education, be sure to watch Nicholas Negroponte’s ”One Tablet Per Child Project.” Earlier this year, he airdropped tablets into two remote villages in Ethiopia whose people are essentially illiterate. These were new tablets in boxes, loaded with education apps and powered by solar panels — and without any sort of instructions. In the first two weeks of this two-year experiment, over 57 of the apps were being used on a daily basis, and many of the children were reciting and competing over their knowledge of the alphabet.
If this doesn’t convince you of the power and potential of these new platforms and applications, hand a 2-year-old your iPad and watch what happens. The gestural interface of tablets nurtures a child’s natural curiosity and learning capacity.
We are witness to and able to participate in an extraordinary and empowering social transformation. Let’s not throw out a good idea by getting stuck on the debates about the “digital divide,” whether we need to force a “flipping classroom,” or whether we should stop sending our kids to college. We are still in the alpha and beta versions of these new education models, and so let’s have these debates, but let’s also stay open-minded and supportive of these visionary new technologies and educational models. Where they are taking us is nothing short of revolutionary.
This post is written by Singularity University CEO Rob Nail, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who loves to surf and surf the waves of accelerating change. The university, founded in 2008 and based at the NASA Research Center in Mountain View, California, aims to assemble, educate, and inspire a new generation of thinkers, scientists, and business executives looking to better the world through disruptive technologies.
Filed under: VentureBeat
A seemingly small change that Google quietly launched yesterday has the potential to transform +1 buttons from a simple I-like-this to a find-the-best-content-here experience … and generate more interaction with Google+.
+1 buttons serve as a recommendation engine to Google: This is good content. A click on one signifies that you think the website or page you’re surfing is valuable and worthwhile.
That click is not shared with other users by default, although there can be a public record of them on your Google+ profile page (depending on your Google+ preferences). Sharing your +1′s is a secondary step, which then places the recommendation into your Google+ activity stream … in just the same way that a liked website or article appears on your Facebook wall.
The new feature that Google added yesterday transforms the +1 experience from one that primarily impacts Google (as Google learns about valuable content) and your Google+ contacts (as users share what they are +1′ing) to an internet-wide discovery service that helps all web surfers find the best, most valuable content on any given website.
And it works whether they’ve signed up for Google+ or not:
Now, instead of just providing sharing features for other places, the +1 button reveals the most-recommended content on the website you are currently surfing. You find it simply by mousing over the +1 button — no Google+ account required, and you don’t need to be logged in to Google+.
VentureBeat reached out to Ryan Brack, Google’s manager of global communications, for a comment: “+1 recommendations, currently in platform preview, will help users discover content from the sites they love and gives publishers the opportunity to drive deeper engagement with their audience.”
All site owners need to do is add a +1 button to their website, which many have already done.
This accomplishes a number of things.
First, it has the potential to endear Google to website owners, as Google enables deeper discovery of their content. Perhaps more importantly, however, it helps Google+ nonbelievers get a taste of what the search giant’s social network is all about: content discovery.
For that reason, this change has the potential to grow Google+, as Google continues to try to build a social answer to Facebook.
Google says the feature is currently in testing and will go live in a few weeks.
Stuxnet showed us the potential for great damage with an attack on infrastructure. Now, a new piece of malware is taking the attack a step further: it’s stealing the plans for your infrastructure, maybe even before it’s built.
“I think every public organization should be concerned about this,” said ESET security intelligence program manager Pierre-Marc Bureau in an interview with VentureBeat. “When you’re starting to see some serious attempts at stealing intellectual property from one country to another, that’s something to be concerned about.”
Security firm ESET discovered the malware, now called ACAD/Medre.A, around February and noted it was “military-grade.” The worm attacks AutoCad, a popular piece of software used by architects and engineers to draw up blue prints and other infrastructure plans. It targets computers running the Windows operating system to steal and e-mail out AutoCad “drawings.” These drawings are then received by an e-mail that ESET found to be based in China.
Attacking infrastructures is the next great frontier for network security. Stuxnet, Duqu, Flame and others which have not yet discovered are developed to hit where it really hurts: our physical modes of operation. But as any company locked in a patent lawsuit can tell you, stealing intellectual property can be just as damaging. Especially when that IP includes blueprints and plans for the construction of bridges, secretive or government-owned complexes, or energy infrastructure.
The catch with this piece of malware is that it’s not heavily attacking the United States, Europe, or China, but rather in Peru. It’s an odd location, which leads Bureau to believe the malware was probably written by people who wanted to see what their competition was up to. It could be an attempt to one-up a competing agency for a new business pitch, or other similar situations.
He did stress, however, that this malware is too complex to be written by any old cyber criminal wannabe. According to him it isn’t as complex as say, Stuxnet, which shut down fuel to Iran’s nuclear program in 2010, but it does have the potential to spread faster and wider. Bureau says this is probably not a state sponsored attack, however, given that Peru is being hit the hardest with this.
“[The culprit is] either for somebody who wants to bid on public service contract, maybe know what their competition is doing, or they’re trying to find the system for building these things,” said Bureau.
Despite the fact that this malware could simply be an act of competition, the implications are obviously damaging and Bureau warns that governments and security teams should remain aware. He summed it up saying:
“I think this is pretty serious and a good example of a trend that is going to continue for the next months and years.”
Filed under: security
“This is the first time the world has seen this scale and quality of data about human communication” Cameron Marlow, Facebook
Social Networks are of-course giant data gathering machines, and Facebook is the bucket-wheel excavator of data. I wonder if we’re even coming close to imagining the potential of how it all might be applied.
This fascinating Technology Review piece by Tom Simonite at least hints at this potential in looking at the work of Facebook’s Data Science Team, a team that is not short of raw material to mine. Facebook, he says, has ’the most extensive data set ever assembled on human social behaviour’. If it were a country, it may be the 3rd largest in the world but it would also ‘far outstrip any regime past or present in how intimately it records the lives of its citizens’.
Facebook has not only the best mapping of human connections (over 125 Billion of them) we’ve ever had and the (sometimes in depth) profile data of almost a billion people, but data from the daily interactions and social activity of a large proportion of those users (and what Grant McCracken once called ‘exhaust data’), the (now more than) 30 Billion pieces of content shared each month, the 300 million photos uploaded per day, the facial recognition, the location tagging, the historical time lines, the gaming, the app store. Then there’s the 3.2 billion Likes and Comments generated by Facebook users every day and the huge distributed platform from the millions of Like buttons served up daily around the web (including, potentially, the capability to track the browsing history of Facebook users even when they’re not logged on). And the frictionless sharing apps that have neatly switched the sharing default from active to passive and dramatically increased the data potential in the process. When an Austrian law student asked facebook to send him all the data they have stored about him, he was sent a CD with 1222 PDF files on it.
So Facebook knows a lot. What I find most interesting though about studies that are conducted using Facebook data is their sheer scale. The University of Milan ‘four degrees of separation’ study for example, that concluded that any two people on Facebook are, on average, separated by no more than 4.74 connections, was based on analysis of 69 billion friend connections among 721 million active Facebook users. Similarly, the “Gross National Happiness” behavioural model developed by the Facebook data team analysed positive and negative words in status updates from hundreds of millions of people to estimate the happiness of people on Facebook in a wide variety of different countries, with some fascinating results. And the Infomation Diversity in Networks work (that considered the role of strong and weak ties in the spread of information) used a large scale field experiment involving over 250 million people.
Clearly a big part of this is about developing new revenue generating models for Facebook so it’s small wonder that the company is planning to double the headcount of the Data Science team over the next year. For me though, the really exciting potential around this unprecedented scale of data and Facebook’s capability to store, structure and interogate it, is not just around the development of new kinds of business and communications models, but about how it might help advance social science and what we know about human behaviour itself.
What do you do if you bought a $200 million baby that everyone thinks is ugly? Well, if you’re social games pioneer Zynga, you bring it to network TV.
Draw Something, the game that saved small studio OMGPOP and prompted a huge buyout from Zynga, is coming to CBS. Draw Something is the game in which you draw something and a friend guesses what it is. According to Variety, celebrities and everyday users will test their skills on live TV while audiences at home can join in to win prizes — including a chance to compete with the celebrities. A group including Sony and Ryan Seacrest is producing the show, but no date has yet been set for the first airing.
Of course, Zynga has been widely criticized for its purchase of OMGPOP, a one-hit studio. Draw Something has been an immense success but has tailed off sharply in the past few months, losing about seven million users in the past month alone.
This drop has paralleled Zynga’s own stock woes. The company has lost almost two-thirds of its value in the last few months:
All of this suggests that Zynga has to do something, anything, to make its exuberant $200 million purchase make cold, hard financial sense. A network TV deal has the potential to do this in two ways. One, the deal itself will be worth some money — how much was not released. But two, and perhaps more importantly, a popular TV show could reignite public interest in Draw Something.
It’s easy to be a little bit cynical about this deal, but all sarcasm and joking aside, this has the potential to be something very, very innovative. Zynga and CBA will be combining live game-show-style television with interactive audience engagement on smartphones and tablets. That’s interesting and, at the very least, should suggest some new twists in the future of entertainment.
Image credit: Draw Something Facebook page
There is a growing recognition that contextual advertising is one of the most powerful targeting technologies available to publishers and advertisers. Yet, what is not well understood is the important distinction between understanding content and understanding content plus context.
Understanding the content of a page is what most folks in the industry categorize as contextual advertising. Intuitively, it makes perfect sense that an ad for running shoes positioned next to an article about the Boston Marathon will perform better than if the same ad appeared next to an article about the presidential primaries. However, knowing the subject of an article is not sufficient. To truly fulfill the promise of contextual advertising, it is necessary to understand the context in which that subject is being discussed. There are many famous examples of contextual advertising gone wrong. While these examples point out the problem with current contextual advertising, they also point out the potential for a deeper understanding of the actual context.
An example of this can be seen below. Certainly placing an advertisement for vacations to Greece in the midst of an article about violent upheaval is not an effective use of advertising. In fact, it carries the double problem of not just being ineffectual, but also ends up creating a negative connotation for both the advertiser and the unsuspecting publisher.
However, imagine if the contextual technology understood not only that the article was about Greece, but also that it was about rioting and that rioting had a negative connotation. This could present the perfect opportunity to advertise a vacation to Italy. Enjoy the Mediterranean in peaceful, idyllic, and safe surroundings.
This second example shows much the same problem. Yes, the content is about coffee, but the context in which it is being used is decidedly negative. A consumer looking at this may be questioning, “Does Folgers really want to give me a heart attack?” Clearly, not the emotion the advertiser was hoping to evoke. However, this could present the perfect opportunity to promote the calming effects of green tea.
It is clear that contextual advertising offers the potential for a better, more relevant experience for publishers, advertisers, and consumers alike. However, it is also clear that in order to avoid mistakes like those above, and to fulfill that promise, we need to move beyond this current 1.0 deployment. We need to move beyond understanding just the content and move towards understanding the context in which that content is being used.
The easiest first step in this process, which surprisingly few companies take, is just a basic understanding of the type of site and the type of page the user is on. If I am on a food-related site and am looking at a page with a recipe, you can make a fairly safe assumption that any mention of “oil” is going to be in reference to cooking oil. Yet, we have many contextual advertising networks that misinterpret this mention of oil for ads about heating oil or motor oil.
The second step in the process is being able to distinguish between discreete words versus a string of words — again something very few contextual networks do. For instance, “cream cheese” is a single, distinct product, yet most often contextual networks view it as two separate items: “cream” and “cheese.” Or, consider the term “computer virus.” Ideally this would trigger an ad for anti-virus software, but most often we will see a corresponding ad for a new laptop computer or Purel antibacterial soap.
Finally, the last step in the quest for relevance is to look at all of the words in a title or URL string. “Violence in Greece as Rioters Firebomb Buildings” contains three words, any one of which should red-flag a Greek advertiser. “Violence,” “Rioters,” and “Firebomb” are all clearly negative key words, whereas “Priceless Greek Antiquities Returned” provides multiple positive key words. This is data that can be used not just to block the embarrassing or reputation-damaging ad, but also to identify the most positive and most valuable opportunities.
The technology required to deliver on the promise of contextual advertising is complex. However, deploying it to deliver relevant and meaningful content holds the promise of enhancing the publisher’s content, driving increased engagement for the advertiser, and providing a better user experience for the consumer.
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“Mistakes, behind you” image via shutterstock.
Always nipping at the edges of the game industry, Apple and Samsung have the means to exterminate the video game console makers. But for some reason, they have held back on pulling the trigger. Apple was rumored to be working on a television that could bring apps to the living room. Faced with free or 99 cent apps, would consumers still plunk down $60 for console games? Maybe not. But Apple didn’t announce its TV this week.
Samsung, meanwhile, announced its plans to become a cloud gaming service provider with the help of Gaikai and Nvidia. But Samsung said almost nothing to reinforce that diabolical plan. Gaikai’s chief executive, David Perry, had to carry that flag. It would have sounded more intimidating coming from Samsung. Instead, the company changed its chief executive.
It’s a little maddening, seeing the potential for disruption so clearly, but having to wait for it to happen in slow motion. So we were left watching the conventional ground war between the console makers:
Nintendo unveiled the first games for its Wii U video game console coming this fall. The company made some fatal mistakes with the Wii U. It put an under-powered processor and graphics chip in the machine, making it barely on par with the existing Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. And that system is already going to have a tough time displaying games on a TV. Now it also has to display images on a tablet. This task is so difficult for the under-powered system that Nintendo can’t easily add a second tablet controller — the most basic of game controller necessities — to the Wii U. The Wii U will be affordable, but not revolutionary. It’s a timid plan.
Microsoft and Sony held back on hardware announcements, presumably because they’re doing well enough to postpone the next-generation hardware that they have planned. It was business as usual in the console business.
Sony showed its love for gamers with the launch of alluring new titles such as The Last of Us, The Unfinished Swan, and Beyond: Two Souls. But Sony isn’t in the best of health, as it is losing money and laying off people. Sony didn’t offer much-needed price cuts on the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Vita, probably because it couldn’t afford to. That isn’t exactly the best argument for winning the console war.
Microsoft is coasting in a leadership role because it is still getting a payoff from its bold move in 2010, when it launched the Kinect motion-sensing system. It announced a sensible SmartGlass app that takes advantage of second screens, or mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. It also offered a $99 console with a monthly subscription fee, much like a discounted cell phone plan.
But it didn’t embrace cloud computing in a big way or deal with the threat from low-cost Apple apps. It showed off some games from existing franchises like Halo, but it had almost nothing to say about brand new games that are in the works. And it didn’t embrace free-to-play gaming on the console.
These companies were milking the existing market for profits. But they weren’t investing in getting new users in new markets. These are fine strategies for serving existing gamers. But they aren’t bold new grabs. Companies that aren’t innovating are sitting ducks for disruption by others. Nexon had very little to announce, so it just threw a gigantic party instead.
A few companies did make bold moves. Ubisoft announced an innovative game called Watch Dogs, but didn’t say when it was arriving. The French game publisher is working on eight titles for the Wii U, but its success with those titles will probably be muted because of Nintendo’s timidity.
Of all of the traditional video game companies, Electronic Arts was the most vocal about shifting into digital games. It announced a social version of SimCity, but compared to Zynga’s existing CityVille game, EA’s game might look like a copycat. EA also said it would create seamless experiences as players move from one platform to another. That would be great for consumers, but I would bet that a lot of platform owners will try to throw obstacles in EA’s way rather than encourage cross-platform capability.
Activision’s Treyarch fixed what wasn’t broken by completely changing the setting and weaponry for Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which I nicknamed the Attack of the Drones. Japan’s Gree stormed E3, taking out a huge booth that used to be THQ’s and turning it into a staging ground for its invasion of the U.S. mobile market. Zynga attended the show, hoping to snare developers away from the consoles. But it wasn’t about to create social games that run on the consoles.
I’d like to see more bold moves. This year, each company stayed in its comfort zone rather than crossing over into enemy territory to grab a new audience. Nor did anyone really try to get past the zero-sum game and seek out new users.
The gaming market isn’t for the timid. If you aren’t busy living, you’re dying. If Samsung and Apple wait too long to inflict their disruption, the new generation of game consoles will arrive. And then the console makers will have the high ground again.
Filed under: games
Pando Daily has a good piece about the great promise, and ultimate disappointment, of widgets. It’s good to go back and reflect on a thing they everyone was going to go one way and ended up going another:
Even Valley sage Marc Andreessen* told BusinessWeek in 2007, “The big widgets have the potential to become the new networks.” And I don’t mean to pick on Andreessen — Quincy Smith and Meg Whitman are both quoted in that article too, as is Vinod Khosla who said, “Widgets are a fundamentally important idea. I believe it has the potential to create big billion-dollar winners.” The smartest people in the Valley had plenty of company on this one.