Tag Archive: News


The National Security Agency ended a program used to spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a number of other world leaders after an internal Obama administration review started this summer revealed to the White House the existence of the operations, U.S. officials said.

Officials said the internal review turned up NSA monitoring of some 35 world leaders, in the U.S. government’s first public acknowledgment that the U.S. government tapped the phones of world leaders.

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According to sources close to the situation, Twitter is planning on waiting until after its IPO – which is set to take place next week – to name its first woman to its board.

The move makes some level of sense, mostly because it would be difficult to have any new board member join the San Francisco-based social microblogging company now, given that that person would have to sign off on the public offering with little knowledge of its details.

Sources also added that while many are expecting Twitter to seek out a female director with media or tech experience – and there are many laudable candidates in both those areas – the company’s execs, especially CEO Dick Costolo, believe that one with international expertise is more important.

The reason is clear – Twitter is a global player, and runs into thorny issues all over the world around the proliferation of its open service. You might imagine that, in the future, as it grows, the company will face even more international conundrums that it will need a lot of mental heavy lifting to work out.

While the board had put former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the top of its overall list, she has not been contacted about joining as a director. She’s also likely to not be available, either, especially given that she is expected to run for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in the 2016 election.

(Sorry, but she’s busy, boys! While Twitter chairman and co-founder Jack Dorsey will be bummed, most there actually considered her a very long shot.)

The number of women with international experience is also long. But if I were to bet on whom Twitter is considering for its top picks, I would name only two: Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright.

Albright, among her many diplomatic roles, was the first woman to become the Secretary of State, named in the Clinton administration. She is now a professor of international relations at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service (disclosure: I went there), and is also chairman of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm.

Also – keep up, Peter Fenton! – she is fluent in French, Russian, Czech, Polish and Serbo-Croatian, serves on important boards such as the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board, and has written five books.

In addition – and this is just from my several encounters with her over the years – Albright takes no guff.

Neither does Rice, who also has some big cred in her corner. Along with other big government posts, she also served as Secretary of State under former President George W. Bush.

Rice also has some Silicon Valley links, both as a top administrator and professor at Stanford University, and her recent relationship with Khosla Ventures.

The VC firm signed a deal late last year with RiceHadleyGates, the international consulting firm that Rice runs, to “bring global and domestic insight to Khosla’s portfolio companies, helping them achieve their strategic goals in industries such as technology, energy, security and healthcare.”

No matter their gender – although that would also be a plus – either Rice or Albright would certainly be an asset for Twitter. The company has attracted not-undeserved scrutiny over not having a woman – or any diversity at all, really – on its board.

That board now includes: Former Netscape CFO and investor Peter Currie; former News Corp COO and Hollywood mogul Peter Chernin; Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Fenton, of Benchmark Capital; former DoubleClick CEO David Rosenblatt; Jack Dorsey (also CEO and founder of hot payments startup Square); co-founder and serial entrepreneur Evan Williams (now working on an innovative new publishing platform called Medium); and CEO Dick Costolo, who has already attracted controversy over the issue.

The lack of a woman on the board of a company is particularly glaring, given that numerous studies show that more women use Twitter than men, and that it is aiming to be a global company that represents, well, all of humanity.

Starting this June, Apple employees who have been working at the company for longer than 90 days will be able to buy a Mac and / or an iPad at a considerable discount, CEO Tim Cook has confirmed.

After reporting the stellar financial results for Q1 2012, Apple’s Chief Executive Officer, Tim Cook, scheduled a meeting yesterday in the Town Hall auditorium on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, CA.

Apple employees received the notice via email. Cook’s message suggested that staffers could either attend in person, or via the company’s web portal.

Addressing the entire Apple organization, Cook said “Thanks to everyone’s hard work, we’re off to a great start in 2012. Last week in New York we launched a groundbreaking initiative for education with iBooks textbooks, and today we reported the strongest quarter in Apple’s history.”

“Please join me tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. in Town Hall. We’ll review our record-setting results and discuss some exciting new things going on at Apple,” he added. “The meeting will be broadcast live to many sites in Cupertino and other Apple locations. Please check AppleWeb for details.”

The meeting yielded one particularly interesting announcement, according to people familiar with the matter.

Specifically, Cook confirmed that starting this June, people who have worked at Apple longer than three months will be able to purchase a new Macintosh computer or iPad tablet at a discount, and a substantial one at that.

Staffers will purchase their next Mac $500 cheaper, and the iPads will have $250 slashed off their price tags for Apple employees. Not too shabby, but the deal is only valid once every three years for every guy or gal on Apple’s payroll.

At the moment, all Apple employees have a 25% discount on Macintosh computers.

Apple is widely expected to unveil a new iPad in the coming months, and at least one of the many Macs Apple produces (MacBook Pro / Air / Mac Pro) will be refreshed by summer. This gives staffers the perfect opportunity to get the newest stuff at a huge discount.

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According to the latest report from Strategy Analytics, Apple has now overtaken Samsung to become the world’s largest smartphone vendor by volume. Apple achieved 23.9% market share during Q4 2011, narrowly beating out Samsung’s 23.5% share.

In addition, Apple shipped 37 million units in Q4, again going neck-and-neck with Samsung and its 36.5 million units shipped during the same time.

However, notes Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, “while Apple took the top spot in smartphones on a quarterly basis, Samsung became the market leader in annual terms for the first time with 20% global share during 2011.” Apple’s annual share, meanwhile, was 19%.

In other words, Apple won the quarter, not the year.

Smartphone global shipments reached nearly half a billion units in 2011 (488.5 million units), the firm found, turning the smartphone battle into a two-horse race between Apple and Samsung in terms of units shipped.

Nokia, the one-time smartphone leader, is still holding onto a top spot, in position #3, with 19.6 million units shipped during Q4 and 77.3 million shipped during 2011. But Nokia’s global share has been halved from 33% in 2010 to just 16% in 2011, indicating its ongoing decline.

Although Strategy’s numbers paint the Samsung vs. Apple battle as a tight race between mobile giants, there’s a big difference between the numbers being reported here. As MacRumors points out, Samsung no longer reports its mobile phone sales numbers, while Apple discloses its units sold each quarter. That means analysts are estimating Samsung’s numbers, but Apple’s numbers are provided by the company itself. It could be that Apple’s lead is even greater than what’s seen here.

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It was 2 years ago when Apple unveiled to the world its addition to their line of revolutionary mobile gadgets, the iPad. Most critics at that time immediately mocked and derided the potential of the new product to create new market.

With less than the blink of an eye, the critics were proved wrong. Apple’s new iPad sold out quickly becoming the fastest-selling mobile gadget of all time. The iPad instantly became an icon of the modern tablet market.

The iPad’s revolutionary technology has transformed media like no other person would have imagined. Its influence on education, entertainment and publishing reached new heights. It has become adopted widely across various types of people in different countries.

Apple’s iPad is considered to be the very first gadget that demonstrated what can happen when the TV and the computer is mashed together. Steve Jobs unveiling of the iPad two years ago was a commencement of the future!

Many have envisioned creating a product like Apple’s iPad however, no one was able to replicate or match the success. The Kindle Fire, Android, Windows 8, and the Metro UI all have eaten just a tiny part of the market. The iPad’s success will continue to become an industry by itself as tablet manufacturers still haven’t found a way to establish a tablet market.

Apple’s latest iOS update suggests the possibility for quad-core processing support on the next iPhones and iPads. While this is not a confirmation from Apple, sources from 9to5mac.com have uncovered evidence on Apple’s current testing for quad-core A6 chips.

Beneath the iOS 5.1 beta is a processing-core management software that explains support of the quad-core CPU chips. A hidden panel in the iOS software describes the cores being supported by the iOS device: “/cores/core.0” refers to single-core A4 chips and “cores/core.1” refers to dual-core A5 chips. Surprisingly, a new label surfaces which hints for a quad-core CPU.

/cores/core.3” appears on the iOS 5.1 beta core management. If you do the math based on Apple’s core management labeling, this translates to quad-core processing. The presence of a quad-core CPU in an iOS device is simply powerful. This would mean extra horsepower, operating system navigation enhancement, and faster execution of apps. Moreover, the potential to support extremely high-resolution displays as well as support for Final Cut Pro is promising.

Let’s just hope this will come be released as soon as possible. Even before iPhone 5 is released. This surely would take iPhone a mile ahead of its closest competitor, the Android.

Source

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and Chairman Reid Hoffman

Asa Mathat / AllThingsD.com LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and Chairman Reid Hoffman

LinkedIn posted its third-quarter earnings results on Tuesday, and it’s yet another big quarterly beat.

The company reported 39 cents in earnings per share on revenue of $393 million. That’s against analysts’ estimates of 32 cents per share on revenue of $385.41 million.

It was a good quarter for growth as well, as the company added another 21 million monthly active users to its base, bringing the total to 259 million overall. That’s 38 percent year-on-year overall growth for the company.

“Increased member growth and engagement helped drive strong financial results in the third quarter,” said LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner in a statement. “We continue to deliver value to professionals through investment in core products and strategic initiatives such as mobile, students, and the professional publishing platform.”

The company’s talent solutions product continues to be the main revenue driver, accounting for 57 percent of overall revenue at $224.7 million. Marketing solutions and Premium subscriptions followed at $88.5 million and $79.8 million, respectively.

The slightly downbeat point was LinkedIn’s lowered guidance for the fourth quarter coming in at about $420 million, short of the approximately $440 million analysts had expected.

Though, if you’ll recall from earlier this year, LinkedIn has consistently provided lowered guidance for coming quarters, a move some analysts think has been intended to manage future expectations – especially if the company doesn’t deliver consistently stellar results as it has in the past.

Shares dipped slightly on the news, trading down two percent at around $242.

On a conference call, Weiner highlighted the company’s mobile efforts over the past quarter, paying particular attention to the recent LinkedIn mobile product launch; along with a number of redesigns, LinkedIn introduced Intro, a way for the company to stick its data inside of the iOS email app.

Sponsored updates – the company’s version of a “native” mobile ad unit – drive two-thirds of mobile revenue. It’s certainly a significant amount, and one the company expects to grow in the future.

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According to sources close to the situation, Snapchat could announce its latest massive funding later this week.

Sources said the round being raised – up to $200 million – will come in part from China’s Internet giant Tencent and value the self-destructing mobile messaging startup from $3.6 billion to $4 billion. But, said sources, there are likely to be other new investors in the round.

AllThingsD broke the news of the possible funding last week.

The new funding comes only a few months after closing a Series B round of $60 million that valued Snapchat at $800 million.

While such a deal could still be delayed or even fall apart, sources said it was on track to be announced as early as this Thursday.

A spokeswoman for Snapchat did not as yet return an email and text requesting comment.

The move by the Los Angeles-based Snapchat is the second giant funding of late of a small Internet startup with little to no revenue.

Social scrapbooking company Pinterest announced earlier this week that it just raised $225 million at a $3.8 billion valuation.

But investors are piling on, hoping to grab an early hold on the next Twitter or Facebook.

Launched in 2011, Snapchat has grown wildly popular in a relatively short span of time, effectively creating an entirely new genre of messaging category with its “ephemeral” pictures and videos that last for only a matter of seconds.

Snapchat’s last round was led by Institutional Venture Partners, with participation from General Catalyst Partners and SV Angel. Previous investors Benchmark Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners also participated. With that round, the company had raised around $75 million in total.

At the time of the June funding, in an interview with AllThingsD, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel noted: “We’re excited about in-app transactions because of what we’ve seen in the Asian markets.”

He has called out Tencent specifically in a series of interviews as being an innovative player there.

The interest in investing is because the mobile Snapchat app has proved so popular and has become global. It has also become potentially worrisome to established social players – so much so that sources said when Spiegel continually rebuffed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s acquisition offers, Zuckerberg cloned the app outright with a service called Poke. Zuckerberg’s offering famously flopped, while Snapchat continues to grow.

Most recently, Snapchat has begun to experiment with features outside of its core ephemeral messaging service. The company launched its Stories product last month, essentially a long-form play on Facebook’s status update in the form of a picture or video. And recently, Spiegel has grown more keen on the idea of monetization, experimenting with bands and listening to music inside the app.

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Amazon is known for pouring the revenue it generates back into its business. Now, it’s ready to give a chunk away.

The Seattle-based retailer today announced a corporate philanthropy program called AmazonSmile, which allows Amazon shoppers to direct 0.5 percent of their purchase totals at the e-commerce giant toward a charitable organization of their choice. Amazon will then donate the money on behalf of its customers.

At launch, “basically every physical product is eligible” for the program, according to AmazonSmile general manager Ian McAllister.

But there are exceptions. Digital-media products such as Kindle e-books won’t be eligible for the program, although that could change, McAllister said. Purchases made through Amazon’s subscribe-and-save subscription program are also ineligible.

There will be no cap on donation amount.

The program will only be available to shoppers who visit Amazon via a special Web address – smile.amazon.com – instead of the normal Amazon.com homepage.

When customers enter through the new gateway, they will be prompted to select from one of a handful of featured charitable organizations, or to search a database of nearly a million 501(c)(3) organizations if they are looking to support a cause that isn’t featured. That breadth of choice pretty much matches up with the Amazon brand.

The shopping experience the customers encounter on the AmazonSmile landing page will otherwise be identical to the regular Amazon.com site – same selection, same prices – with the exception that eligible products will be marked as such on product detail pages, the company said.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company will market the program on Amazon.com, via email, and on its social network accounts.

A rep for Charity:Water, one of the organizations Amazon touts in its press release, said it will not do paid advertising of its own to promote AmazonSmile, but will publicize it to its social network followers.

Corporate charitable giving is nothing new, of course, and can take on varied forms. Google’s charitable initiatives include grants, free product handouts and an overall pledge of one percent of its profits toward its charitable organizations.

Last year, Walmart said it gave $1 billion in cash and in-kind contributions to U.S. organizations.

And Salesforce is known for donations and discounts to nonprofits of its customer-relationship-management software.

But the sheer size of Amazon’s customer base, the ease with which donations are made once someone becomes aware of the program and the charity choice given to shoppers make for a unique program. For those who end up making a routine out of shopping through smile.amazon.com, there will likely be the feeling that you’re doing good while shopping, which has the potential to be another powerful differentiator to set Amazon apart.

“At their scale, there’s potential to truly test whether &#8216cause’ affects buying decisions,” said Jeff Smith, chief innovation officer at Matter Unlimited, a boutique creative agency focused on social-responsibility campaigns. “It would be fascinating to really connect the dots.”

A side benefit of corporate-giving initiatives like this one are the tax deductions – and Amazon’s case is no different. The company, not Amazon shoppers, will receive the tax benefits for the donations. Donations will be made through an entity called AmazonSmile Foundation and will come out of Amazon’s pockets, not from any of its marketplace sellers.

McAllister, AmazonSmile’s GM, said tax benefits did not guide the decision to launch AmazonSmile. Nor did focus groups or customer surveys.

“We thought our customers would love it,” he said of the reason for the initiative.

When I asked a spokesperson whether Amazon cares about what Wall Street and its shareholders will think about a company that doesn’t frequently turn a profit creating such a charitable initiative, the response was similar.

“We think our customers will love it,” he said.

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