Tag Archive: Gadget


Here we go. With new tablet season in full swing, we take an in-depth look at Apple’s flagship tablet, the iPad Air. Here’s how it compares to every single i…

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We get it: there’s a silly number of mobile messaging apps out there, and a great many of them are meant for you to share your banalities more easily. But a Philadelphia-based startup called Seratis is different.

Before Divya Dhar founded Seratis earlier this year, she was a practicing physician who had to use a work-issued pager to try to keep tabs on her patients and colleagues. That didn’t stop her fellow doctors from using smartphones to do the same thing – it’s the 21st century for heaven’s sake – but it turns out sharing that kind of information over insecure protocols isn’t exactly lawful.

Enter Seratis, a secure, HIPAA-compliant messaging app that may finally kill medical pagers dead.

Frankly, it’s sort of a surprise to hear that pagers are still widely used since they’ve all but disappeared from the public vernacular, but Dhar told me at Dreamit Ventures’ Philadelphia Health Demo Day that “90 percent of hospital communications still flows through pagers.” Turns out they’re pretty expensive, too.

“Everyone knows pagers need to go, and everyone is moving towards that,” she added.

Here’s how Seratis works: you log into the service as you would any other mobile messaging app, but the app organizes messages based on the patient they pertain to, so the entire team can see exactly what’s been going on with a particular person before they even check in for their shift. Even better, the app gives physicians direct access to colleagues they may rarely see, which makes for a much more fluid transfer of patient information.

After all, if you need clarification about a patient’s condition from a fellow doctor you haven’t run into before, imagine how long it would take to track down their contact info, reach out to them (assuming they’re not knee-deep in other work), and respond accordingly? That’s time that could be much better spent, and Dhar is frankly pretty sick of wasting it. Throw in support for read receipts and a quick, at-a-glance view of a patient’s entire medical team, and you’ve got a solid little smartphone app.

Turns out, the app is only part of the solution (data nerds may like where this is going). Hospitals and wards inside them will have access to important analytics from those conversations – some of the metrics like messaging volume and response time are pretty straightforward, but Seratis can also track specific words as they’re thrown around. Think of it as a lexicological early-warning system. If a slew of doctors working with multiple patients all repeatedly use the word “infection” on the same floor, something bad may be brewing. Seratis will be able to flag this so staffers and administrators can prepare and respond accordingly.

Of course, Seratis’ model isn’t exactly without its drawbacks. If you’re going to implement a crucial smartphone-centric messaging system in a hospital, you need to make sure every doctor who needs to use it actually has a smartphone. Considering smartphone penetration rates, there’s a solid chance that most physicians already have one, but Dhar conceded that some hospitals may need to offer incentives like data plan reimbursement to coax doctors into joining the BYOD bandwagon.

The team is also still trying to figure out the sweet spot, but Seratis plans to charge users per month so it can fit into small hospitals, as well as sprawling ones. Right now an alpha version of the iOS app (an Android version is in the pipeline, too) is being tested by Penn Medicine, but here’s hoping my doctors can more easily communicate about all my terrible miscellaneous ailments sooner rather than later.

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If you want a rangefinder-style camera with classic styling and relative affordability, Fujifilm’s X100, and its successor, the X100S are some of the very few options out there. But the X100 had quirks around autofocus that made a niche camera even more specialized. The X100S zaps some of those issues, resulting in a camera that, while still quirky, is much more lovably so, for amateurs and enthusiasts alike.

  • 16.3 megapixels, APS-C sensor
  • Fixed, F2 maximum aperture 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens
  • ISO 200 -6400 (100 to 25600 extended)
  • 6.0 FPS burst mode shooting
  • 1080p video recording
  • Hybrid electronic view finder
  • MSRP: $1,299.95
  • Product info page

The X100S retains almost exactly the same classic styling as its predecessor, which features a leatherette body with metal accents, and it looks excellent. This is a camera that you’re actually proud to wear around your neck, even if it does make you look slightly like a tourist, and one that resembles the Leicas that cost oodles more money.

The X100S might be a little bulky for a camera with a fixed lens that isn’t a DSLR, but it’s actually a good size. It won’t quite fit in a pocket as a result, but it gives photographers plenty to hold onto, and offers up lots of space for its ample buttons and physical controls without resulting in a cramped feeling. Plus the thing oozes quality; it’s a $1,300 camera, but it feels even more solid and well-designed than its tidy price tag would let on, and it’s durable to boot – I’ve carted it literally around the world with minimal protection and it’s as good as new.

Functionally, the control layout is the real star of the X100S. A physical dial for exposure compensation and for shutter speed, as well as an aperture ring on the lens and quick access to ISO settings programmable via the Fn button on the top of the camera make this a manual photographer’s dream – and possible an automatic photographer’s overburdened mess. But that’s part of the quirk, and the real appeal of this unique camera.

The X100S offers a lot in the way of features, including the excellent hybrid viewfinder that can switch instantly between optical and electronic modes thanks to a lever on the front of the camera within easy reach from shooting position. It’s the best of old and new, giving you a chance to frame with true fidelity optical quality and also with a preview akin to the one you’d see on the back of the camera via the LCD screen. You can preview exposure that way, and white balance as well as depth of field. The EVF also offers 100 percent coverage of the image, meaning what you see is what you get in the resulting photo.

Manual focusing also gets a big improvement with the X100S, which is great because focus-by-wire is traditionally a big weakness on non DSLR advanced cameras. It uses a new Digital Split Image method that works with phase detection to adjust focus with a high degree of accuracy, and it works remarkably well. To my eye, which is generally very bad at achieving consistently reliable level of focus accuracy on full manual lenses with my DSLR, the split image trick (along with the inclusion of existing focus peaking tech) works amazingly well.

The X100S is a much better camera in all respects than its predecessor, the X100, and that was a very good camera. Its “Intelligent Hybrid Auto Focus” that switches between phase and contract AF automatically to lock as quickly as possible works very well, though it does struggle somewhat in darker settings and at closer ranges still. It’s heaps and bounds better than the original, however, and makes this camera a great one for street shooting; a task which, to my mind, it seems almost perfectly designed for.

Combining a camera that looks suitably touristy, with a short, compact lens and a 35mm equivalent focal lens, with great low-light shooting capabilities and fast autofocus makes for a great street camera, so if that’s what you’re after I can’t recommend this enough. It performed less well as an indoor candid shooter, owing to some leftover weakness at achieving focus lock close up, but it’s still good at that job too. In general, the X100S is a great camera for shooting human subjects, in my opinion, thanks to its signature visual style that seems to compliment skin especially well.

The X100S is a photographer’s everyday camera. It might frustrate newcomers, unless they’re patient and willing to learn, but it’s a joy to use if you have any kind of familiarity with manual settings, and the fixed focal length is a creative constraint that produces some amazing results. This isn’t the camera for everybody, but it’s a more broadly appealing shooter than the X100 ever was, and it’s also even a steal at $1,300 – if, that is, you have that kind of disposable income to spend on photography tools. Know that if you do spend the cash, this is definitely a camera that will stay in your bag and/or around your neck for a long time to come, and a worthy upgrade for X100 fans, too.

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Smartphone companies have it pretty rough – they’ve got to sink millions into research and development every year, all in the hope of making their next shiny touchscreen gewgaw the fastest, slimmest, smartest, prettiest one ever. And every year we eat it all up, and take what we’re given.

But Canonical, the folks behind the incredibly popular Ubuntu Linux distro, isn’t your average phone smartphone company. It doesn’t have a huge production budget like Samsung or Apple, so it decided to crowdfund the creation of its first phone. Turns out that’s not the only thing they’re doing differently – Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth is currently fielding questions on Reddit, and he’s expressed interest in having backers of this current project getting some sort of say over what goes in future models.

And thus, Mark may have just come up with the coolest backer perk ever. Quoth Shuttleworth:

“This first version of the Edge is to prove the concept of crowdsourcing ideas for innovation, backed by crowdfunding. If it gets greenlighted, then I think we’ll have an annual process by which the previous generation backers get to vote on the spec for the next generation of Edge.”

In case you haven’t been following the story, the Edge is an awfully handsome concept for a phone that will run Ubuntu and Android and sport a sapphire glass-covered 4.5-inch 1280 720 display, along with the “fastest available” multi-core mobile processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The internet being what it is, Redditors couldn’t help but throw out bits of hardware for Shuttleworth and the Edge team to consider for the current model anyway. IR blaster? A “cool idea,” he says. Wireless charging? Probably not going to happen.

Shuttleworth was pretty forthcoming when it came to lingering questions about the Edge’s design and proposed rollout. As it happens, the team is still having trouble figuring out what sort of speaker system to throw into the thing (my two cents: the closer to HTC’s Boomsound setup the better), but it Canonical has asked potential carrier partners to agree to take note of a set of conditions that should minimize bloatware if the Edge is ever picked up and sold with long-term contracts.

Now this all hinges on the notion that Canonical was right in thinking that enough people would believe in a company that has never made a smartphone before to basically pre-order one for (at least) $675. In a way, this is a perfect move – if the project hits critical mass, everyone gets a phone. If it doesn’t, well, no harm no foul. The crowdfunding movement has given a software company a shot at really making a mark in an industry dominated by giants, some of which are already feeling the pinch because their pricey flagship devices perhaps aren’t selling in the astronomical numbers they were hoping for.

And so far, things appear to be going rather well. Canonical’s Indiegogo campaign only went live three days ago and Ubuntu fans have already chipped in just a hair under $6 million. Of course, there’s no guarantee that sort of traction will continue for any serious length of time – the company has already had to add some less expensive device pricing tiers to keep the campaign from flaming out too soon, and it’s still got a ways to go before it hits the $32 million goal.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, Shuttleworth seems to be tackling nearly every question being thrown at him – no Rampart shenanigans here.)

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Six years after selling Photobucket to News Corp. for $300 million, Alex Welch is launching a new way to share photos with your family and friends. Rather than making photos available on Instagram, Flickr, or any number of social networks according to privacy settings, Welch’s new venture, Lasso, lets friends ask for photos from each others’ camera rolls.

Welch, who left Photobucket in 2009, decided about a year ago that he wanted to build a better camera roll for iOS with a few friends. He says they ultimately decided that the biggest thing missing from their camera rolls was their friends’ photos.

If you look at the pictures people share publicly as the tip of the iceberg of total photos they have, Welch argues that many people would be willing to share a lot more of those moments.

“You’re probably okay with sharing those photos with select people, but there isn’t an easy way to do that,” he tells me.

I’ve played around with the app a bit and I like it. You simply swipe a contact’s name to the right to send them photos, and to the left to request photos. When they’ve added new photos, a little subtle icon pops up next to their name.

The speed of sharing will be huge for Lasso. If people can ask close friends what they’ve been up to in their new city or on vacation, and they can quickly shoot over a dozen photos, Lasso could start attracting a nice user base.

There are a ton of ways I currently share pictures with friends besides social networks-SMS, Snapchat, and email immediately come to mind. And yet, looking through my camera roll, I realize there are a ton of images that I haven’t shared that my friends might enjoy.

Lasso has raised a $1.25 million seed round from Welch, Jerry Murdock, Greylock Partners’ seed fund, and Trinity Ventures, which Welch says will mostly go toward more product development.

Lasso will expand beyond photos soon, explaining that the concept can be applied to “any piece of digital content,” from videos to documents to apps your friends are using.

“What are things that you do or that you have every day that you’d be okay sharing with me if I specifically ask for it,” he says.

The iOS app is live now, and Welch says the Android app should be released in the next couple of weeks.

canary

There are some 90 million homes in the U.S. without any security system whatsoever. Many of them are renters who don’t want to invest heavily in a place they don’t own, among hundreds of thousands of home owners who are simply priced out. There has never been a convenient, all-in-one system that could offer home security at an affordable rate, much less one you could pick up at the local Best Buy.

But that all changes with Canary, the latest crowd-funding sensation to hit Indiegogo. We caught up with NYC-based founder Adam Sager to discuss the project.

Canary is a little console, slightly smaller than the size of a paper towel roll, that’s packed with a host of sensors, a mic, and an HD camera.

For $200 down, this little guy will connect to the Wifi, sync with your phone, and constantly watch your home. I say watch, and not monitor, because Canary can only see as far as its sensors will allow, whereas most home security systems are wired in to monitor every crack and crevice of a home. Canary can only hear as far as the mic allows, or the camera sees, or the sensors can sense.

However, Sager believes that when you place the Canary in the central part of your home, near the front door perhaps or watching over the living room, that a real threat, like a burglar, will likely set off the Canary no matter where it enters from.

Plus, if you have a larger space or want added security, you can always link more than one Canary (up to four, Sager tells me).

Canary’s sensors include night vision, motion detection, temperature, air quality and humidity, along with a live feed to the HD camera at any given time. The phone will instantly alert the user whenever the home experiences a random change, like a temperature fluctuation or sudden movement.

But Canary is also smart enough to learn your home, sensing the difference between a burglary and a pet. It even understands when regularly scheduled events occur, like the arrival of a nanny or a dog walker at the same time each day, so that you don’t have a panic attack each time Rover needs to take a wizz.

Canary’s distribution model is different from any other home security system in that you will eventually be able to go pick one up at a local electronics store on the cheap. This has never really been available before, and the potential market is huge with 90 million homes completely unprotected and priced out of the alternatives.

Sager admits that margins on the hardware itself won’t be that high, but the plan is to offer value-added services like monitoring (delivered by a TBD third-party) for $10/month.

Canary has been on Indiegogo for four days, and has blown far beyond its $100k goal to be at $550k at the time of writing. It only took a few hours to reach $100k, according to Sager.

If you’d like to back the project, head on over to the Canary website or check out the Indiegogo campaign.

Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 12.51.04 PM

Facebook stunned yesterday with its report that mobile advertising represented 41 percent of its total ad revenue in the second quarter of 2013. In the first quarter of 2013, it totaled a then-hailed 30 percent, bumping that key ratio by more than a third in just a fourth of a year. On a dollar basis, Facebook’s mobile advertising grew more than four times as much as its desktop-sourced advertising incomes in the most recent quarter.

However, looking backwards, last quarter’s mobile ad growth is less astounding when placed into context. From the third to fourth quarter of 2012, Facebook juiced its ad revenue as a percentage of total ad income by 9 percent. From the last quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2013, growth was 7 percent. Taking into account the 11 percent gain reported yesterday, Facebook has averaged 9 percent growth in its mobile ad revenue as a component of its larger ad top line for the past few quarters.

This allows us the ability to make basic predictions. Facebook yesterday noted on its earnings call that mobile advertising revenues will eventually outstrip desktop ad income. But when? Well, we can predict. If mobile advertising revenues continue at their average rate of the past few quarters, Facebook should earn precisely as much from desktop and mobile advertising platforms in the current quarter.

The math is simple: Facebook ended the most recent quarter with a 41/59 split between mobile and desktop ad income. If mobile revenues are growing by 9 percent quarterly – again, on average – 41 and 9 make 50, leaving the remaining 50 percent for desktop ad revenues.

Adding another 9 percent to Facebook’s mobile ad revenue as a percentage of its total ad income, and we could wrap the year where the second quarter finished, but in reverse, with mobile revenues comprising 59 percent of total ad income, and desktop just 41 percent.

This feels, prima facie, optimistic. Are we being too generous?

There is always a risk in any form of prediction, as future market dynamics are outside of our vision, and will always remain so. That said, we can take mild refuge in the fact that our average rate of mobile ad growth, again as a percentage of Facebook’s total advertising top line, is under the most recent quarter’s rise; this means that we are anticipating Facebook to under-perform its most recent quarter moving forward.

This gives us some breathing room in our predictions. Here’s the chart:

If mobile revenue is so strong, where does that leave desktop advertising incomes? Well, as it turns out, Facebook’s desktop advertising business is all but not growing. We can deduce this by subtracting the percentage of Facebook’s mobile ad revenue from its total advertising income, leaving us with its desktop-sourced figure. Let’s have some fun:

  • Facebook’s total advertising revenue was $1.25 billion in the first quarter of 2013. Of that, 30 percent came from mobile. That means 70 percent came from desktop sources. Seventy percent of $1.25 billion is $875 million.
  • Facebook’s total advertising revenue was $1.60 billion in the second quarter of 2013. Of that, 41 percent came from mobile. That means 59 percent came from desktop sources. Fifty-nine of $1.60 billion is $944 million.
  • $944 million – $875 million = $69 million. That, assuming that Facebook has its numbers in place, is the delta between Q1 and Q2 for Facebook’s desktop advertising business.

That’s not much. Not only is Facebook sourcing a growing percentage of its revenue from mobile platforms, but its revenue growth is increasingly coming from a smartphone near you.

Let’s get to the bottom of the final number: In dollar figures, how much did Facebook’s mobile ad revenue grow from the first to second quarter? I’m glad you asked. Let’s find out:

  • Facebook’s total advertising revenue was $1.25 billion in the first quarter of 2013. Of that, 30 percent came from mobile. Thirty percent of $1.25 billion is $375 million.
  • Facebook’s total advertising revenue was $1.60 billion in the second quarter of 2013. Of that, 41 percent came from mobile. Forty-one percent of $1.60 billion is $656 million.
  • $656 million – $375 million = $282 million.

So, Facebook’s mobile revenue grew by a quarter billion dollars in the second quarter. Not bad, given that as a percentage gain it works out to around 75 percent. And, perhaps more importantly, the $282 million figure is more than four times our previous $69 million sum. Therefore, mobile ad revenues on a dollar basis grew four times as fast as desktop advertising incomes in the most recent quarter.

Mobile-first, indeed.

Top Image Credit: Randy Lemoine

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Amazon just reported second-quarter earnings, with sales increasing 22 percent to $15.7 billion in the second quarter, compared with $12.83 billion in second quarter 2012. Net loss was $7 million in the second quarter, or $0.02 per diluted share, compared with net income of $7 million, or $0.01 per diluted share, in second quarter 2012. Analysts expected $15.74 billion in revenue, and $0.05 on earnings per share.

Operating income decreased 26 percent to $79 million in the second quarter, compared with $107 million in second quarter 2012.

“We’re so grateful to our customers for their response to Kindle devices and our digital ecosystem. This past quarter, our top 10 selling items worldwide were all digital products – Kindles, Kindle Fire HDs, accessories and digital content,” said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, in a statement.

“The Kindle service keeps getting better. The Kindle Store now offers millions of titles including more than 350,000 exclusives that you won’t find anywhere else. Prime Instant Video has surpassed 40,000 titles, including many premium exclusives like Downton Abbey and Under the Dome. And we’ve added more than a thousand books, games, educational apps, movies and TV shows to Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, bringing together in one place all the types of content kids and parents love.”

Bezos didn’t address why Amazon missed on expectations for the quarter, but perhaps this will be revealed in the call. According to analyst estimates, the ecommerce giant was expected to post net income of $28.3 million.

It’s been an eventful quarter for Amazon. Towards the end of the first quarter, Amazon purchased social reading service Goodreads, which now has 20 million members. Amazon also expanded its international footprint, including expansion to India. Additionally the company bought screen technology company Liquavista from Samsung.

Other news included the expansion of its grocery delivery service to L.A. and San Francisco, a new Facebook-focused gifting product, an online store for 3D printers, and of course there were those smartphone rumors.

UPDATING

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Zynga’s revenues for the second quarter of 2013 declined 31% year-over-year to $231 million in the midst of a challenging transition that saw former CEO Mark Pincus hand over the reins to Don Mattrick.

The company had a net loss of $16 million compared to last year’s net loss of $22.8 million during the same quarter (which also had $95.5 million of stock-based compensation expenses). If you account for that then, the company’s net loss was $6.1 million compared to last year’s net loss of $4.6 million based on non-generally accepted accounting principles. Zynga said when it laid off nearly 20 percent of its staff last month that it expected to see a net loss of between $39 million to $28.5 million so this is actually a slight earnings beat.

“We need to get back to basics and take a longer term view on our products and business, develop more efficient processes and tighten up execution all across the company,” wrote Mattrick in the release. “We have a lot of hard work in front of us and as we reset, we expect to see more volatility in our business than we would like over the next two to four quarters.”

Last quarter, COO David Ko said the company was in the midst of a “pause” to re-evaluate its entire game slate and that this decision would be financially apparent in this quarter.

This quarter’s revenue is projected to be even lower in the range of $175 million to $200 million, with a net loss of $43 million to $14 million.

Through the company’s pivot onto iOS and Android, Zynga has had to compete against older and historically smaller rivals from the Facebook platform like King and Kabam. Both of those companies have fared well with King’s Candy Crush Saga bringing it the top grossing spot and numerous Kabam titles in the top 25.

In contrast, Zynga just has its longstanding Poker franchise in the U.S. top grossing 25. Even today, nearly 70 percent of the company’s monthly active users remain on the web.

The losses in Zynga’s user base from not being able to hold onto its core Facebook customers are staggering. The company’s level of daily active users is not much higher than half of where it was a year ago at 39 million this quarter compared to 72 million in 2012. It also saw 187 million monthly active users, down from 306 million users in the same time period a year before.

The company’s launches like Draw Something 2 have also underperformed without any slots in any of the top 100 charts and Zynga’s other big mobile launch, Running With Friends, remains in 45th place in the U.S. top grossing chart. Zynga had six major releases this quarter including War of the Fallen, Draw Something 2, Battlestone, Solstice Arena and Running With Friends.

But older franchises like FarmVille and FarmVille 2 continue to do well as both games have grown combined bookings by 29 percent year-over-year.

Zynga’s struggles in diversifying away from Facebook and missing the pivot to mobile ultimately convinced Pincus to give up the CEO role, although he remains chairman of the board and serves as chief product officer. It’s now Mattrick’s 15th day on the job.

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