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Instacart Bags $220 Million
January 14, 2015
Instacart on Tuesday announced it has raised $220 million, following a $44 million investment round in June of last year. The company uses a fleet of personal shoppers, who are independent contractors, to purchase and deliver items to customers. "The two main differentiators for Instacart are our focus on grocery and our strategy to partner with retailers," said Instacart's Nilam Ganenthiran.
Auto Insurance? Just Google It
January 12, 2015
Google reportedly is gearing up to launch a shopping and comparison site for auto insurance in the United States. The company has been operating such a site in the UK, dubbed "Google Compare," for the past two years. Although it apparently has been beset by delays, an entity called "Google Compare Auto Insurance Services Inc." now is licensed to do business in 26 states.
Google Joins Charlie Hebdo Solidarity Movement
January 09, 2015
Google has donated nearly $300,000 to help French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo make its largest print run ever, following Wednesday's massacre at the magazine's Paris office. Its normal production run numbers about 60,000 copies, but the surviving staff plan to print a million issues next week. A number of media outlets also have pledged to help keep the publication alive.
BlackBerry Jingles Its Keys to Recovery
January 08, 2015
BlackBerry has been hurting over the last several years, but recently it's starting to look like the stars may be lining up for recovery. If BlackBerry does make a comeback, it will be a very different company. This time, the focus will be on security -- plus one more important factor. BlackBerry succeeded years ago. It was the first successful smartphone maker.
Better and Better
January 07, 2015
James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds and business and finance columnist for The New Yorker, published an article in the magazine's Nov. 10, 2014, issue entitled, "Better All The Time." The piece connects the importance of culture-wide continuous incremental improvement using data and analytics -- what the Japanese call kaizen -- to business and employees.
Thieves Take $5M Bite Out of Bitcoin Exchange
January 07, 2015
An estimated $5.2 million was stolen over the weekend from Bitstamp, a digital currency exchange. It has suspended services pending an investigation. The company assured its customers that bitcoins held with Bitstamp prior to suspension of services were completely safe and would be honored in full. Bitstamp on Sunday discovered that some of its operational wallets had been compromised.
Gmail Struggles for Air in China
December 30, 2014
China last week apparently began blocking Gmail, and the outage was still in effect on Tuesday, although to a lesser degree, according to reports. A sharp drop in traffic from China to Google services began last Friday, according to its Transparency Report, and the company could find no explanation in its own systems. China's "Great Firewall" censorship program is to blame, according to GreatFire.
Staying on the Right Side of That Wiggly Clickbait Line
December 29, 2014
It's well known that certain second-rate media outlets use provocatively misleading headlines to attract viewers and parlay those figures into increased ad revenue, but some better known outlets appear to be resorting to clickbait as well. For example, a host of online headlines recently implied that Americans were more fearful of hacking than pretty much anything else, including murder.
The Untold Stories of 2014
December 22, 2014
It is time to look back at 2014, so I'll focus here on a series of stories I thought were interesting but didn't seem to catch much or any real air. Some, like what is really behind Sony's decision to pull The Interview still might take off. Hadoop analytics is one of the most powerful platforms to come to market, and one vendor stands out above all others: Cloudera.
Google Calls In Legal Eagles in MPAA Piracy Skirmish
December 19, 2014
Google has filed a lawsuit against Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, the latest salvo in its piracy battle with the Motion Picture Association of America. Hood targeted Google with an "unreasonable, retaliatory and burdensome" subpoena, the complaint says. The referenced subpoena likely is part of a coordinated campaign against Google known as "Project Goliath."
Retargeting May Work, but Pretargeting May Work Better
December 18, 2014
The practice of repeatedly serving up ads for products consumers previously viewed or asked about -- called "retargeting" -- not only works, but works so well that its use is spreading beyond simple marketing. So says a recent survey of marketers conducted by Adroll, which provides this type of ad technology. The company released the results this week.
Minecraft Players Will Get to Shape the Game's Story
December 18, 2014
Mojang has partnered with Telltale Games to create a brand new Minecraft game that will be narrative-driven. Dubbed "Minecraft: Story Mode," the series will be set in the world of Minecraft, but it will feature an original story that combines new characters with familiar themes and is driven by player choice. It will be a separate standalone product.
FIDO Pursues Vision of a Password-Free World
December 17, 2014
A group of some 150 companies last week moved closer to eliminating the bane of many an online user: the ubiquitous password. The FIDO Alliance, which counts among its members Microsoft, PayPal, Google, Bank of America, Visa and MasterCard, released version 1.0 of its open specifications for strong authentication on the Internet without the use of passwords.
Making Your CES Connections Count
December 17, 2014
It's that time of year again. CES will rock Las Vegas in early January. Companies are gearing up and hoping to do a good job of cutting through all the loud and distracting background noise to share their messages at the show. It's a tough job, since CES is full of industry analysts, media representatives, investors and customers -- and they all want something different.
Good, Bad and Ugly 'Pirate Bays' Spring Up in Torrent World
December 15, 2014
The torrent world is in turmoil following last week's shutdown of The Pirate Bay in a police raid. Other torrent sites have seen traffic spikes, while Pirate Bay clones -- set up both by file-sharing activists and cyberscamsters -- are emerging. Meanwhile, authorities around the world appear to be playing a game of whack-a-mole. There have been indications The Pirate Bay may stage a comeback.
Your Bitcoins Are Good at Microsoft
December 15, 2014
Microsoft last week began to accept bitcoins as payment for digital content purchases. Bitcoins can be credited to a Microsoft account by anyone in the United States at the currency's market value -- currently around US$352 per bitcoin -- and used to buy content at the Windows Store or stores that carry Xbox games, music and video.
Amazon Cries Foul Over FAA's Drone License Stalling
December 12, 2014
The FAA this week gave five licenses to four companies for UAS operations -- that is, flying drones. The drones will be used in aerial surveying, construction site monitoring, and inspecting oil rig flare stacks. The news led Amazon to launch a media blitz about its attempts to get a license and to renew threats to take more of its drone testing outside of the U.S.
2015: The IoT, Big Data and Cloud Come Together
December 12, 2014
Since December 'tis the season when industry prognosticators provide their predictions for the year to come, I'll offer my ideas about how three major tech forces -- cloud computing, big data the Internet of Things -- will converge in 2015, and four ways organizations can capitalize on this convergence. The various ways in which they will interact truly will be transformational.
No News Is Google Spain News
December 11, 2014
Google on Thursday said it will close Google News in Spain, as of Dec. 16. That's in reaction to a new law that will take effect in Spain in January. The law requires all Spanish publications to charge content aggregators for publishing any part of their content. Spain's new law is "a perverse policy," said Ronald Gruia, director of emerging telecoms at Frost & Sullivan.
Plundered Pirate Bay May Be Back in Business
December 11, 2014
The Pirate Bay, which was closed down following a raid by Swedish police on Tuesday, appears to have found safe haven on a Costa Rican domain. The site, which gained notoriety for hosting pirated movies and music files, has been raided repeatedly by the Swedish police. Its founders have been arrested and convicted of copyright infringement, and two are currently behind bars.
Facebook Search Tool Finds Posts in a Haystack
December 09, 2014
Facebook has made it possible for users to perform keyword searches for individual posts on the social network. "With a quick search, you can get back to a fun video from your graduation, a news article you've been meaning to read, or photos from your friend's wedding last summer," said Tom Stocky, Facebook's vice president of search. Users still have the option of using search phrases as well.
Sales and Marketing Aren't Aligned - but Their Problems Are
December 08, 2014
The numbers prove it: Sales and marketing just aren't playing well together in most organizations. A not-so-small industry has sprung up to attack the issue of sales/marketing alignment, but the problem is so deeply entrenched that it may never be fully eradicated. That's a little weird when you think about it. The two sides are confronting problems that parallel each other.
Google Sets Its Sights on the Under-12 Set
December 08, 2014
Google soon will begin targeting kids 12 and under with tailored versions of its products, likely including its search functionality, along with offerings such as YouTube and Chrome. The company is pushing to change make its products fun and safe for children, Pavni Diwanji, Google vice president of engineering, said last week. The new initiative reportedly will begin next year.
Apple Accused of Secretly Snuffing Non-iTunes Music Purchases
December 04, 2014
Apple for two years surreptitiously removed from iPods any music not purchased at its iTunes store, prosecutors charged Wednesday in federal court. The accusations surfaced during the trial of a 10-year-old class-action lawsuit claiming Apple violated federal and state laws when it issued iPod software updates that prevented the devices from playing songs not purchased on iTunes.

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