Microsoft’s bold new Android strategy

Watching the online stream of a news conference last week from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona brought to mind an old cliché: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

In this case it applies to Nokia, the once-mighty cellphone maker that soon will be part of Microsoft. Nokia just announced an Android phone.

Although Microsoft hasn’t yet taken the reigns of Nokia, it is expected to do so within months, so it’s highly unlikely that Nokia executives made this announcement without consulting their soon-to-be overlords.

And even if Nokia weren’t about to be a division of Microsoft, it would still be an extraordinary announcement because Nokia is the only major smartphone maker to have jumped on the Windows phone bandwagon in a big way. All of its recent smartphones, including its very well reviewed Lumia 1020 were running Microsoft’s Windows phone operating system long before the two companies announced they were getting married.

The initial line of Nokia Android phones — the Nokia X, X+ and XL — will be low-end devices aimed mostly at “emerging markets,” which is an industry euphemism for developing countries. Prices start at $122 without a carrier subsidy (the prices many Americans pay for phones are subsidized by carriers in exchange for being locked into a contract).

Like Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, which are also based on the Android operating system, the Nokia phones user interface won’t look like Android and users won’t download Android apps from the Google Play store, as do users of Android phones from LG, Sony, HTC and most other Android handset makers. Instead, Nokia is basing its new phones on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), which enables it to use the core Android operating system without necessarily using the Google-inspired interface or accessing Google services such as the app store or the typically bundled Google apps and features such as Gmail, Google Maps, Google search or Google storage options.

The new phones will run what Nokia is calling the “New Nokia X software platform,” which is basically its own user interface running on top of Android combined with its own app store.

Nokia has already issued a news release that “welcomes Android developers.” It claims that “the vast majority of Android apps can be published to the Nokia Store as is.” For those that can’t, the company will offer tools to make the transition easier.

From Microsoft’s standpoint, what’s most important is the applications and services that run on the phones, not who wrote the underlying code. As he introduced the new phones from Barcelona, Nokia’s former CEO and soon-to-be Microsoft Xbox chief, Stephen Elop, made it very clear these phones will be “introducing new customers around the world to popular Microsoft services like Skype. Microsoft OneDrive, and more to come.”

This could be a brilliant move. Even though Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system has been well received in certain markets, its third quarter 2013 global market share is only 4 percent, putting it in next to last place, just ahead of BlackBerry, whose share has shrunk to 2 percent. That compares to an 82-percent share for Android and a 12 percent share for Apple’s iOS, according to Gartner as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

This move fits in with Microsoft’s strategy to evolve into a “devices and services company,” as articulated by its recently retired CEO, Steve Ballmer. The company has made the bulk of its money selling software to corporations and end-users, and operating system licenses to PC makers. But with a shrinking PC market and a change in the software landscape, Microsoft is looking to “primarily monetize our high-value activities by leading with devices and enterprise services,” as Ballmer wrote in his final letter to shareholders.

Microsoft isn’t exactly copying its competitors, Apple and Google, but it is learning from them. Apple, for the most part, gives away its software and makes its money from devices. Even though the press likes to marvel at the latest hardware specs when Apple comes up with a new iPhone, iPad or Macintosh, the real value in these devices isn’t the hardware — lots of companies can build good hardware — but the software that you can get only by buying their hardware. And even though Google makes some hardware, the bulk of its revenue is the advertising revenue it earns from services that are accessible through the hardware that runs its operating systems, applications and services. Google makes money when people use their services on any phone, tablet or PC, but they do even better when people use Android or Chromebooks because the services are more tightly integrated into those devices.

Right now, these Android-based Nokia phones are aimed at the developing world, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they become part of Microsoft’s mainstream strategy as the 39-year-old company adapts itself to the new world of devices and services.

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Author danah boyd on why teens and social media is “complicated” (Podcast)

When it comes to understanding how teens use social media, there’s no-one more clued-in than Danah Boyd, except perhaps teens themselves. An ethnographer with a Ph.D in Information from the University of California, Berkeley, she has spent the last eight years speaking with and observing teens from all walks of life.

Read more at CNET

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Tivo Founders Launch QPlay For Internet TV

TiVo founders Mike Ramsay and Jim Barton revolutionized the way we watch TV by letting us pause and rewind live TV or watch it later without having to mess with a VCR.  Tivo-like devices are common today but now Ramsay and Barton have set their sites on Internet TV with a new iPad app called Qplay along with an accessory that lets you watch Internet programs on a high definition TV set.

There is nothing new about watching net programs on a TV. Roku has been at it for years and you can also do it with most game consoles, Google Chromecast, some Bluray players, newer Tivo boxes and  directly on some TV sets. But what sets Qplay about is the ability to create a queue of programs from a variety of sources using a single app.

The app runs on the iPad (the company will eventually port it to other devices) and allows you to find videos to watch either on the iPad or on your TV using a $49 adapter. Like Google Chrome, once you start watching, the app doesn’t have to be running  because the adapter is connected to QPlay’s servers through your Wi-Fi network.

The initial content for Qplay’s early release program is mostly publicly available content like YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Vimeo, Twitter and other public sources. In the future, said Ramsay “we intend to support additional content that would include premium content that requires a subscription.”  He said that the system is architected so to that the “queue themselves are content independent”

The multiple app problem

The app addresses a problem that’s been plaguing me ever since apps started appearing on phones and tablets. I remember that bad old days when you needed a different piece of software for each online service you used. If you wanted to access CompuServe, you ran the CompuServe program. The same was true for AOL, Prodigy, The Source and all the other online services. But then in the mid-90′s, along came the commercial Internet and browsers so we no longer needed multiple programs for multiple content sources. But the app world is a giant step backwards because each service requires us to download its own app. Qplay doesn’t entirely solve that problem but it does mitigate it as far as video is concerned, especially once company starts adding premium services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc.

In an interview, Qplay co-founder and CEO Mike Ramsay said “We used to complain in the Tivo days that there were 500 channels and nothing to watch. On the Internet instead of 500 channels instead of 500 apps.”

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Security experts at RSA decry government hacking

There’s an old expression, “I’ve met the enemy and he is us.” When it comes to cyber-security, “us” may just stand for “U.S.”

I’ve attended the RSA security conference for many years years and am accustomed to security professionals talking about the dangers from criminal hackers and hostile foreign governments. But this year there is a new Public Hacker #1, and its the U.S. Government.

The RSA conference is going on this week at Moscone Center in San Francisco.

I attended all but one of the keynotes Tuesday morning and every speaker I heard commented about the NSA’s role in reducing trust when it comes to the security of our digital communications.

Nawaf Bitar, Senior Vice President of Juniper Networks and head of its security unit, said that we should be outraged. He pointed to examples of real expressions of outrage like Nelson Mandela’s refusal to accept government conditions as the price for being released from prison or the anonymous man who put himself in front of Chinese military tanks during the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. In contrast, he referred to most of our objections to what our own government is doing with our information as #FirstWorldOutrage,” saying it’s not enough to sign a digital petition or “like” a page from someone who objects to what the NSA is doing.

“We now know with stunning clarity how our privacy is being invaded, he told the thousands in the audience. “We’re complicit. Standing by and watching a crime being committed without stopping that crimes can be a crime.”

Bitar’s keynote was followed by a panel of some of the world’s leading cryptologists – the people who create the algorithms designed to protect our information.

Cryptologists vs. government hackers

Whitfield Diffie, one of the fathers of public-key encryption, said it was “disturbing that the NSA would tamper with NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) security guidance for the U.S. government.  “Despite my conflicts with them (the NSA), I believed that they were 100% interested in security of American communications.”

Another panelist, Adi Shamir, Professor, Computer Science and Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel suggested that only a “very small percentage of the world population” cares about privacy but that he is worried about “my data being kept by the NSA” as well as “the phone company, Gmail and all the other could services which make life convenient.”

Former top spooks on spooking

In another session, “Understanding NSA Surveillance: The Washington View,” panelists Richard Clark, who advised President Bush, Clinton and Obama as Special Advisor to the President for Cyberspace and National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism, was critical of the NSA’s lack of transparency.  Speaking about the 215 program that collects cell phone metadata, he said “When you don’t have transparency, their claims about (surveillance) being useful and stopping terrorism were BS (he spelled it out).  He also questioned whether the program did any good, “If it hadn’t been there, the results would have been the same,” he said.

Another  panelist, former NSA and CIA director General Michael Hayden defended the 215 program. He said it was just like a “program that began under me, and we found it sometimes to be useful, sometimes for negative knowledge.” By negative knowledge he meant confirming that Americans may not be involved in an attack or a plot. It was asked “if there was North Americans nexus” in the Benghazi embassy attacks, he said and “they did not show up in a database which makes it easier for the President to confine his response to the Middle East.”

Clark questioned that logic. “I would never have said that I proved there is no threat if I sampled only 25% of the data. He earlier said 75% of U.S. phones are not monitored. Clark was one of five people on The President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, which issued its report in December.

Edward Snowden may be in exile  in Russia, but his presence is being felt among the security professionals gathered in San Francisco.


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Love new ride services, but hold them to same standards as legacy companies

by Larry Magid
This post is adapted from one that appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

The fact that the Internet has disrupted age-old businesses has become an old story. Just ask anyone in the record industry what happened to their profits now that there are legal and illegal ways for people to access just about any recording for free online. The Internet has also done a number on the newspaper industry and is starting to impact TV networks as well. It’s also put a lot travel agents out of business and — thanks to Airbnb, it’s even starting to have a small impact on the hotel business.


Uber app shows where driver is and gives you a fare quote

And, over the past couple of years, the Net and mobile technology is having an increasing impact on taxi and limousine services. Mobile phone apps like Uber and Lyft allow consumers to find a ride by using their fingers to touch their smartphone rather than lift their hand to hail a cab on the street or dial the company.

The apps take advantage of geolocation services (GPS and other technologies) to know where you are and where the drivers are. Based on proximity, the app tells you approximately how long it will take for the driver to reach you, and it handles calculating the fare and paying the bill and tip. You never have to shell out cash or swipe a credit card. That may not seem like a big deal, but having to take out your wallet, peel out bills and wonder if you’re getting the correct change can be a minor annoyance as you’re leaving a cab.

Also, because you’re using your cell phone and a registered debit or credit card, the driver knows who you are and vice versa, which makes it safer for both of you. And you have an electronic receipt, which would also make it easier to recover any items you might leave in the car.


Sidecar drivers compete on price, car and other factors

A new player called Sidecar has just entered the field. The service, which currently operates in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Austin, Texas, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., allows drivers to set their own prices and pitch customers with such things as what kind of car they drive or how well they know the area. Clearly there are well-heeled investors who believe in this concept. The company just raised a $10 million round of capitol from Union Square Ventures.

Needless to say, services like these are not popular among traditional taxi services. In many cities, taxi companies pay a lot of money for their “medallion,” which amounts to a license to operate a single cab. According to The New York Times, a taxi company paid $2.5 million at auction last fall for two medallions. It will take a lot of fares to pay that back, and that doesn’t cover the cost of buying and operating the vehicles.

The industry has been taking its complaints to taxi commissions and other regulators in city after city. The Detroit Free Press quoted a representative of a local taxi company claiming that “Uber drivers skirt rules that require vehicle inspections and registration and also sometimes charge beyond regulated rates.” Others claimed that Uber and Lyft drivers have failed to get proper licenses to offer rides for hire.

Uber is being sued by the family of a 6-year old girl who died in San Francisco after being struck by an Uber driver on New Year’s Eve. The driver was operating his personal car and didn’t have a passenger on board at the time of the accident. But the suit alleges he was logged into the company’s UberX app, which means he was available to pick up a fare. If this had been a Yellow Cab, I don’t think there would be any question as to whether the company could be held responsible for the accident. Uber carries insurance to cover injuries to passengers, but the person killed wasn’t a passenger and it’s debatable whether the driver was working for Uber at the time of the accident or just someone driving his personal car who happened to be logged into the Uber app.

Aop lets you "request a Lyft"

Aop lets you “request a Lyft”

While it’s hard to imagine how a taxi company might benefit from services like these, drivers can because it gives them another work option. There are plenty of cases of taxi or limo drivers switching over to Uber or Lyft because of more flexible work hours and — potentially — better pay.

I’m generally a big fan of disruptive technology because it creates more options for consumers and forces the industry being disrupted to either innovate or evolve. But I make exceptions when government is involved, such as with taxation or licensing. For example, I love, but I didn’t think it was fair when Amazon didn’t have to charge sales tax while local merchants did. Now that Amazon is collecting sales tax in California and several other states, it’s a more even playing field.

And while I love the idea that innovative apps allow us to find nearby drivers and “hail a cab” with a few clicks, I don’t think it’s right that the legacy part of the industry has to put up with regulations, taxes and licensing fees that its newer and perhaps hipper and more tech-savvy competitors get to avoid.

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34 more cities to get Google ultra-high speed Internet

Google’s high-speed fiber network is already available in Kansas City and Provo, Utah and will be coming to Austin later this year. But the company is now in talks with an additional 34 cities to bring its 1 gigabit per second service to their communities.  For more, visit this Google information page.

List of proposed cities

Atlanta, GA

  • Avondale Estates
  • Brookhaven
  • College Park
  • Decatur
  • East Point
  • Hapeville
  • Sandy Springs
  • Smyrna

Charlotte, NC

Nashville, TN

Salt Lake City, UT

San Antonio, TX

Phoenix, AZ

  • Scottsdale
  • Tempe

Portland, OR

  • Beaverton
  • Hillsboro
  • Gresham
  • Lake Oswego
  • Tigard

Raleigh-Durham, NC

  • Carrboro
  • Cary
  • Chapel Hill
  • Durham
  • Garner
  • Morrisville
  • Raleigh

San Jose, CA

  • Santa Clara
  • Mountain View
  • Sunnyvale
  • Palo Alto

Kansas City

  • Lenexa
  • Fairway
  • Mission Hills
  • Roeland Park
  • Merriam
  • Leawood
  • Prairie Village
  • Lee’s Summit
  • Raytown
  • Gladstone
  • Grandview
  • Shawnee
  • Olathe
  • Westwood Hills
  • Westwood
  • Mission
  • Mission Woods

Provo, UT

Austin, TX

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U.S. Safer Internet Day focused on potential, positives and problems too

Senator Charles Schumer with student panel at U.S. Safe

Senator Charles Schumer with student panel at U.S. Safer Internet Day (photo: Sarah Baker)

It was a great honor that, the non-profit Internet Safety organization where I serve as co-director, was selected to host the first official U.S. Safer Internet Day.  The day, which has been celebrated in Europe for the past 11 years, saw events across the world including a celebration in Washington D.C. Tuesday where Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke along with a panel of high school student leaders and another panel of social media executives.

I moderated the event along with co-director Anne Collier.

On a panel moderated by 17 year-old Aidan McDaniel of West Virginia, executives from Facebook (Instagram), Google (YouTube), Microsoft (Xbox Live), Twitter and Yahoo (Tumblr) talked about the way their companies deal with abuse reports, child pornography, bullying and other problems. But they all agreed that the overwhelming majority of their users are good online citizens.


Students attending Safer Internet Day U.S. (photo: Sarah Baker)

Just as cities and towns have to spend resources dealing with a small number of  trouble-makers, social media companies need to police their services so  users have mostly good experiences. All of these companies maintain close ties with law enforcement, which helps them deal with the most egregious problems. But in most cases when problems come up, they’re handled internally by warning the offending user or – if necessary – kicking them off the service.

Social reporting

Facebook now enlists its users to help each other with what they call “social reporting.” Instead of Facebook staff intervening in what are often relationship issues, they offer a tool that helps users work it out among themselves or seek help from a trusted third party.  The program, which is carried out with help from the Center for Emotional Intelligence at Yale, has been very effective, according to its developer, Facebook engineering Arturo Bejar. “We found when we were looking at reports that there were a lot of things getting reported that were really misunderstandings or disagreements among people who use the site,” he told me in an interview shortly after the company launched the program.

One Good Thing

While some of the day focused on problems encountered online, much of the discussion at the U.S. Safer Internet Day celebration focused on the positive things people are doing with connected technology. An important part of ConnectSafely’s program this year is the ‘One Good Thing” campaign that encourages people around the country to post positive short videos or blog posts positive things they have done or know about, using the Internet or mobile devices. The list ranges from high school kids using Facebook to promote a “Save the Pandas” campaign to a college student who spoke about the  online support given to him and friends  after the death of a fellow student. Others talk about their school’s “compliments page” or how they have gone online to support fellow students who have been cyberbullied. You can view and read these great things (and add your own) at

The youth student panel, moderated by Yahoo Tech “Modern Family” columnist Dan Tynan, included students from Washington DC, Chicago and Detroit. The young panelists talked about ways students can be “upstanders” rather than bystanders when someone they know is bullied online or off.  And, the kids pointed out that bullying is not as common as some adults may think. Most of their classmates treat each other with respect at school and online.

Senator Schumer on economic benefit of net

The final speaker at the Washington event was Senator Schumer, who quipped, “While I’ve probably never snapchatted with Senator Rand Paul, I do understand the great potential of the Internet.”

He said that it is now a very important part of New York’s economy, both in cities (New York city is giving Silicon Valley a run for its money) and in rural areas. He pointed out that it increases political engagement of youth and has resulted in far more young people wanting to work for elected officials. He also touched on the Internet’s role in education and telemedicine and reminded the audience that it’s “important for every family to talk about Internet safety and rules in their household.”

Safer Internet Day 2014 has come and gone, but every day is safer and better Internet day. This year’s theme, “Let’s create a better Internet together,” is a rallying call not for legislation, big pronouncements or major new products but ways that we can all contribute every day by remembering that the Internet isn’t really a network of machines but a network of people with aspirations and feelings. So, it’s really not about creating a better Internet but creating a better world.



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Safer Internet Day Comes to US – Tues Feb 11th

View the live webcast here from 9:00 AM to noon Eastern (6:00 to 9:00 PT)

Click TV to view live image

Click TV to view Safer Internet Day event 9 AM ET Tues

by Larry Magid
This column first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

For the past 11 years, the European Commission and InSafe, a Brussels-based nonprofit, have been coordinating Safer Internet Day celebrations across Europe and other parts of the world. It will be celebrated this year on Tuesday.

There have been sporadic Safer Internet events in the United States but, until now, it hasn’t been coordinated or official. But in late 2012, then Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and European Vice President Neelie Kroes signed a joint declaration to bring Safer Internet Day to the United States., the nonprofit Internet safety organization where I serve as co-director, was asked to host and coordinate U.S. events. We’re planning an event in Washington, D.C., featuring a talk by Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, a panel of high-school leaders from the across the country and a panel of executives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo. Kroes will address the gathering by video.

The event will be webcast live starting at 6 a.m. Pacific time at It will also be carried on Facebook Live and archived for later viewing.

The international theme of this year’s celebration is “Let’s create a better Internet together.” Rather than just focusing on all the negative things that can happen online, we’re focused on what’s good about how people, including kids and teens, are using connected technology and what we can all do to make things better.

In the United States, we’ve launched a “One Good Thing” campaign where people have contributed videos and short blog posts about things they done or witnessed that improve the Internet or use the Internet and mobile technology to make the world a better place. You can view those entries at

One Good Things

Some of those “good things” come from teens, including Esmi and Jessie, who said they post anonymous compliments to teens who have gotten hateful messages on Maddie and Monica talked about how they donated blood and used Instagram to encourages others to do likewise. Grant talked about posting to the compliments page on his high school’s website to “send out daily complements to brighten everyone’s day.” Emily talked about how her cousin had a friend who passed away but took solace in all the support he received from friends.

None of these examples are earth shattering, but that’s the point. They are little things that people of all ages do on a regular basis to make life better for other people.

Going positive

We started this campaign because we’re tired of all the negativity. Sure, there are bad things that happen online and it’s important to deal with cyberbullying, trolling, hate speech, unwanted sexual solicitations, sexting, unwanted porn and the risk to one’s security and privacy. It’s also important to remind both kids and adults that what they say online can stick around forever and come back to haunt them. That’s all part of Safer Internet Day, but it’s also a time to celebrate the positive and remind adults, including the Washington policy makers who will be at our event, that — like most adults — most kids are thoughtful in the way they use technology and try to respect themselves and others.

Yes, there are kids who bully online. But most kids don’t engage in that type of hurtful behavior and, when it does happen, it has a lot more to do with the relationships they have than the technology itself.

And, as Edward Snowden keeps reminding us, there are also reasons to worry about what our and other governments — as well as private companies — may be doing with all of the information that’s now available about us, thanks to our use of the Internet and mobile technology.

Change for the better

As I look back on my three decades as an active user of online services and the Internet, what I mostly recall are the ways they have changed our lives for the better. I was reminded of that last week as Facebook celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Even though Facebook has brought about some privacy issues we didn’t have before a billion people were posting personal information online, it has also contributed toward social movements all around the world and enabled individuals to stay in touch with families, rekindle old friendships and even make a few new ones.

The same is true for Twitter, Google Plus, Linked-In, Tumblr and just about every other forum where people are able to engage others online. For every post from a troll and bully, there are countless posts from people who want to enhance the lives of their online friends and use online tools to improve the world.

So, as we recognize Safer Internet Day, it’s also a time to recognize the fact that we are building a better Internet. It’s far from perfect, but it’s changing our lives and the lives of people all over the globe, mostly for the better.

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Artkick Turns TVs Into Picture Frames For Art

Click here to read the full post on and listen to 4 minute interview with Artkick CEO Sheldon Laube.


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Foundation invests $1 million in tech solutions to gun violence

Smart Tech Challenges Foundation website

CNET article about the foundation

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