Ballmer Throwing in the Towel at Microsoft

Everyone fails at some point in their lives, some more than others, but owning up to that failure is the most difficult part of being human. On Friday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that he will be retiring within the next 12 months and also owned up to one of Microsoft’s biggest failures.

After working as CEO for 13 years, Ballmer oversaw many operating systems, software launches and product releases. Through all the success, he admitted that he particularly regretted the launch of Windows Vista the most. In an interview with Mary Jo Foley, Ballmer states,

I would say probably the thing I regret most is the, what shall I call it, the loopedy-loo that we did that was sort of Longhorn to Vista. I would say that’s probably the thing I regret most. And, you know, there are side effects of that when you tie up a big team to do something that doesn’t prove out to be as valuable.”

The “loopedy-loo Ballmer describes was the thing most heavily criticized surrounding its launch. Vista’s high system requirements meant that many people, even those with new PCs, weren’t able to access all of the OS’ features. There were also many issues surrounding compatibility with pre-Vista hardware. User Account Control was also criticized for producing too many prompts, causing many users to simply disable the feature entirely. This caused more of a problem than a benefit for users.

It was not until two years later that Microsoft came up with another operating system, Windows 7, to correct the issues Vista was having and derived a whole new look that Windows users are now at ease with. Windows 8 was the last operating system released under Ballmer’s rein. Come October we will see what Bellmer’s plans are for Windows 8.1 and new management will have in store.

Overall, Ballmer is most proud of the impact Microsoft has had on peoples’ lives over the years. Being a part of “the birth of intelligent personal computing” was a significant part of his career. The future for Ballmer is unknown but he is ready for a change and for someone new to spruce up the Microsoft name for the better.

Posted in Microsoft, Tech News, technology

Google Chromecast: The Future of Streaming?

On July 24, 2013, Google not only announced Google Chromecast but also made it available for purchase at the affordable price of $35. Well, what exactly is Google’s new product? Google Chromecast is a physical device, a tad bigger than a USB stick, which allows users to stream content from your Google Chrome browser to any HDTV over a WIFI connection in three easy steps. Users connect the Chromecast to their HDTV in the HDMI port as well as a USB port or wall outlet for power, connect to the Chromecast via a WIFI connection, then stream your favorite shows to be watched on your television. Users can stream online games, Youtube, Netflix, and anything else that can be accessed through the Chrome browser to their HDTV. In fact, Google provided early adopters, who bought Chromecast on the launch day, with a free 3-month Netflix subscription.

Google Chromecast was launched to compete with the Apple TV, which sells for $99.00, at a fraction of the price. The launch was an instant hit selling out in all of the major online retailers. Furthermore, Google is frantically posting job listings for their Chromecast team in order to meet production and create betas for Chromecast.

Chromecast is able to stream in HD quality to your TV in both 720p and 1080p, though some users reported a little lag in the 1080p streaming. Fortunately though, Chromecast works crossplatform on any machine that can download Google Chrome. In addition, Google is working hard to bring more support and apps for Google Chromecast.

In order for Chromecast to continue to move forward from its successful launch, Google needs to act fast in an effort to make it widely available to consumers.

Posted in Gadgets, Innovation, Tech News, technology, Uncategorized, Website Tagged , , , , , ,

Does Blackberry still have Juice?

In 2003, BlackBerry introduced the first modern smart phone. This was a breakthrough device in the market that not only functioned as a telephone, but also allowed users to send and receive email and text messages. The need for mobile email access was clear, as email was a popular and vital means of communication in the business realm. People who frequently traveled needed a more efficient way to access their email without having to find a computer. Due to its early success, BlackBerry was widely referred to as “CrackBerry” in the United States, which alluded to its excessive use and obsession by its owners. Use of the term CrackBerry became so widespread, that in November 2006 Urban Dictionary, named “crackberry” the “Urban Word of the Day.” Although BlackBerry was the pioneer for the Smartphone industry, their future today is in jeopardy due to the recent success over the past few years of the iPhone, Windows and Android phones.

Blackberry is set to launch their new Blackberry Q5 handset on August 13th. The new device targets a more affordable audience than the high-end Z10 and Q10, and targets the legions of BlackBerry Curve owners who are approaching the end of their respective contracts. Blackberry plans to heavily target these consumers during the all-important back-to-school season.

Despite the emphasis on hardware, Blackberry’s future does not rely solely on the success of their new devices. Blackberry’s business model is changing with the launch of the Blackberry 10 platform. They are trying to be portrayed as a software company, and not just a device manufacturer. The company is focused on expanding the BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 deployments — including support for iOS and Android devices. In addition, Blackberry plans to extend its BBM social messaging service across multiple platforms and leverage its secure BlackBerry Global Data Network. The goal is allow Blackberry to be successful in the enterprise world regardless of which device a consumer has.

As of August 6, Samsung has announced their partnership with BlackBerry Messenger, BBM and is spreading the word quickly. They announced that BBM for Android will be available in Google Play and Samsung app store free of charge.

It has been 10 years since the BlackBerry Boom from the first Smartphones. In the beginning, BlackBerry was the hot commodity that everyone wanted to get their hands on. Now, 10 years later, BlackBerry is finding itself trying to reinvent their brand image as more than just a device maker by signing Blackberry 10 deals with the other device manufacturers.

Blackberry should continue to maintain some market share in the smartphone device segment, but they have lost a large portion of their users to other major platforms. Thus, Blackberry will need to continue to evolve as a software solution to stay relevant.

Last week, BGR shared the first picture of BBM for Android running on a handset and the app has reportedly been made available to early beta testers ahead of its public release. With group chat applications such as GroupMe and WhatsApp dominating the cross-platform group chat market, Blackberry is in desperate need for a successful launch of BBM. Time will tell what the future holds for Blackberry.

Posted in Apple, Gadgets, iPhone, Microsoft, Mobile trends, technology, Text messages, Uncategorized, Updates

Watch Out for Google Glass!

What do you get when you mix a pair of glasses with tech giant Google? The unprecedented combination known as Google Glass.  Google acquired its first patent for Glass in April of last year.  The company announced their patent along with a teaser video which projected Google’s ideas.

Well, how close did this all come to a reality?

Google Glass physically consists of a 5MP camera with a clear prism that is attached to a flexible metal frame.  Google is working to incorporate prescription lenses for those who need glasses. The product comes with built in WIFI and Bluetooth technology, but no gps chip. In addition, Google Glass comes with 16GB flash memory preinstalled.

Directly from the Google Glass “What It Does” page:

  • Take pictures, video, and live stream hands free
  • Turn by turn directions in front of you
  • Speak to send a message
  • Ask any question
  • Get translations for different languages
  • Get answers without asking

In fact, Google posted a video back in February demonstrating these features:

One of the most heavily debated aspects of the device surrounds the ability to discretely record video or use the device. Privacy is a big public concern as people are afraid of the capabilities and customization options to come. Moreover, Google Glass has not even fully launched yet and it is already being banned in public places such as casinos.

Currently, Google Glass is not available to everyone. If you are one of the lucky developer’s chosen by Google, you can purchase a pair for a whopping $1,500! The tech world is speculating a late 2013 or early 2014 widespread launch of Google Glass.

Posted in Gadgets, Innovation, Privacy, Tech News, technology, Uncategorized

FaceBook Strikes Back

In April 2012, FaceBook acquired Instagram for $1 billion. Originally, Instagram was developed for users to “capture, edit, and share the World’s Moments” via pictures, however, on June 21, 2013, Instagram unveiled its 4.0 update.  Among the small bug fixes, this update introduces a 15 second video recording feature allowing users to add videos to their profile. This new feature is FaceBook’s response to the recent success of Twitter’s Vine application. Vine allows users to post six second videos that loop on a Twitter-like feed and has amassed over 13 million users.  Therefore, FaceBook decided to delve into the video sharing market.  In addition to the longer video length, there are 13 new filters presented and user selected cover images for the video.

FaceBook’s move appears to have made a larger impact than many had predicted as Topsy’s Analytics show an increase in Instagram posts and a decline in Vine posts since the launch.

The Orbis Team decided to take a stab at it…

Posted in Mobile trends, social media, Tech News, technology, Uncategorized, Websites

A New Reach for Advertisements

Lenticular printing has become a bit of a buzzword this week, thanks to the way a particular organization has put it to good use.

Lenticular printing is a technology used in 3D displays to produce printed images with an illusion of depth, or the ability to change or move the image when viewed from different angles.

Here’s an example of Lenticular art to help give you a better picture. You can see that depending on your point of view, the image changes.

A Spanish organization ANAR, which aids children in distress has come up with a rather ingenious way to reach out to those who need help the most. Their use of lenticular printing in an advertisement has created a lot of conversation about the medium. Instead of simply trying to sell a product, it could quite possibly change someone’s life.

ANAR wanted to advertise their special hotline for minors at risk, but they faced a challenge in how to spread the word. If an adult, or potential aggressor could see the ad, it’s purpose would be defeated. Their solution was unique, and it allowed children and adults to be looking at the same advertisement, yet receive entirely different messages.

ANAR has used this technology to create a poster with a hidden message for people of different heights. Using the average height of a 10 year old, the ad was created so that children would see one message encouraging them to seek help, even if they were walking alongside an abuser.  The advertisement to those 4’ 5” and below is the face of an abused child with the message that reads, “if somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you,” alongside the organization’s help line number. People 4’ 5” and taller, on the other hand, see a different message highlighting awareness of child abuse. Check out the photo below for a visual explanation.

To see the ad in action, check out this short video.

Lenticular printing certainly isn’t new, but this ad certainly encourages everyone to think outside of the box on how it can be used. While this ad is used to help children, however, it may only be a matter of time until the process is used to advertise products directly to children, while parents are none the wiser.

Posted in Innovation, Safety, Tech News, technology

Vine and Tribeca Film Festival launch #6SecFilms Competition

This year’s Tribeca Film Festival will include a mini festival powered by Vine, Twitter’s app for creating six second looping films from your smartphone. To enter, just share your Vine on Twitter with the hashtag #6SECFILMS and the hashtag of the category in which you want to enter. Categories include #GENRE, #AUTEUR, #ANIMATE and #SERIES (for an explanation, go to the Tribeca Film Festival site). The panel of judges is still being assembled, but it will include director Penny Marshall and actor Adam Goldberg (“Vine’s first real auteur“).

If you’re not familiar with Vine, it’s a relatively new app from Twitter that allows you to record six second looping video clips (with audio) that you can share on Twitter, Facebook and Vine.  Since it’s launch in January, Vine has grown its monthly active users by 50% in the last month and is easily the most popular video sharing app out there. The super-short format has clearly inspired creativity in Vine’s users. I spent way too long watching this loop:

Posted in Uncategorized

StarStar Me – Forget About 10-digit Mobile Numbers

StarStar Me is an add-on service that allows you to use a name or nickname as your phone number. People can reach you by dialing ** then the selected keyword or phrase of your choosing. The service is designed to make contacting someone easier than remembering a 10-digit phone number.

The app serves more purposes than that, however, allowing you to manage incoming calls. If you’re unavailable, the app lets you choose to send callers an audio or text message letting them know you’ll return their call. You can also send out your contact info – including other numbers, website URLs, or links to your social media accounts – if you so desire. StarStar Me also allows you to block certain numbers.

StarStar numers work in tandem with your existing 10-digit mobile number – you don’t forfeit your current mobile number. That way your mom can still call your cell number, but your friends can call **BARTMAN or whatever you’ve picked for your StarStar number. When choosing a StarStar number, here are the parameters: The number must be at least 5 characters long with a max length of 9 characters. The number length does not include the ** characters at the beginning of the numbers. So hurry up and swipe **PhilsPhan if it’s still up for grabs.

StarStar Me isn’t available universally yet. It’s currently on the Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon networks, and will be available on other major carriers in the near future. Calls within the U.S. from Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T are currently supported, but calls from landlines, roaming calls, and calls from other mobile carriers are not at the moment. Sprint subscribers can have two StarStar numbers per mobile phone number, while T-Mobile and Verizon subscribers can get up to three. A recurring monthly fee is charged for each StarStar number.

The app is available for iPhone and Android. Callers using other mobile devices can reach you via your StarStar Me number, as long as they are on the carriers previously listed. SMS message cannot be sent to your StarStar number.

How to get it: iPhone and Android users on most mobile carriers can now sign up for StarStar Me service.iPhone and Android users can call **ME (**63) on their mobile phone to download the free StarStar Me app to get their StarStar number. Sprint customers can also sign up here, T-Mobile customers can sign here, Verizon customers can sign up here.  Alternatively, users can downloading the app from Google Play (Android) or the Apple App Store (iPhone).

Check out more info at their website.

Posted in Uncategorized

New Microsoft Ad for IE reaching out to a younger audience

As the new marketing for Windows 8 and IE10 starts to become more common, it is interesting to see how much Microsoft is trying to target younger users. Internet Explorer, which has seen it market share decrease in recent years with the increasing popularity of Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc. has made great improvements with IE10 and these ads hope to have users give IE another shot.

Time will tell if this “Child of the 90’s” can grow up into a successful modern browser.

Posted in Microsoft, Tech News, technology, Uncategorized, Websites Tagged , , , , , , ,

Less than one-quarter of the youth today turn to online or conventional newspapers each day

According to a study at the Jaume I University in Castellón, just under 29% of the population of people aged 16 – 30 read online or conventional newspapers daily. The study also found that three out of every four individuals within this age bracket turn to social networking sites for information, even more so than they go to the television for news.
In the past decade, there has been a large drop-off in readership of printed newspapers, especially among the younger demographics, which is rapidly decreasing. The study shows that almost 75% of those aged 16-30 use social networks to stay informed, a larger number than those even watching news on the television.
If the trends continue, newspapers face not only a lost audience, but also the inability to capture the next generation.
News outlets have turned to the Internet to get the word out, but that also comes at a cost. Even though study participants lived in different cities and had differing levels of education, they overwhelmingly refused to pay to access current news. Only 6.2% said they would be willing to subscribe to a media source. Furthermore, over 76% said they would visit a free website if their site of choice began to charge for content. Overall, only 17.1% said they would discontinue Internet use for news altogether if there were no free means.
These statistics show that even the new business model of offering content online at a charge will need to adapt in order to flourish in the digital age. The aforementioned age group does take an interest in staying informed, however, but the study just helps further the understanding that news is a public service that must always be available for free whenever the reader wants.
As far as gender goes, men lean towards journalistic information more than women. They tend to consult a high number of sources and are more inclined to pay for news content. Women put more value on the importance of being well-informed in order to be good citizens.
The researcher suggests that newspapers find strategies to reconnect with young people. While they are interested in news, they aren’t inclined to use information that doesn’t respond to their needs and interests. It also suggests that journalistic media heavily adopt social network use to reach out to the youth, especially since this is how most of them get their information. Without adapting strategies to meet the consumption habits or news conceptions of young people, journalistic media will see their business models fail in the near future, and will possibly disappear altogether.

Posted in social media, technology Tagged ,