Archive for January 2, 2013

Bill Gates Is $7 Billion Richer Than He Was A Year Ago (MSFT)

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World Economic Forum via flickr

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After giving away $28 billion, Bill Gates is no longer the third-richest man in the world.

He’s the second-richest.

 You read that right. Despite his considerable, praiseworthy charity work, the Microsoft cofounder is getting wealthier.

In 2012, he wound up $7 billion ahead with a net worth of $63.4 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index published today.

That’s not to say that he isn’t giving a lot of money away. He is. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working with a $36.2 billion endowment, most of it from Gates.

But lately he’s been earning money faster than he can give it away.

His wealth in 2012 was helped by a 2% rise in Microsoft’s stock price. But he’s been slowly selling off chunks of his Microsoft stake. Microsoft stock now accounts for less than 20 percent of his fortune.

So if his wealth isn’t just from Microsoft, where does Bill Gates invest? He’s got a somewhat secretive investment company called Cascade Investment, according to documents filed with the SEC. From those filings we know that Gates owns stakes in companies like tractor maker Deere Co; garbage collector Republic Services; soft drink maker Coca-Cola; and auto retailer Auto Nation, among others.

Don’t miss: The 10 Billionaires Whose Net Worth Rose The Most In 2012

It Looks Like Microsoft Was Behind Slingbox Creator Blake Krikorian Quitting Amazon’s Board

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Blake Krikorian

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Blake Krikorian, the hardware entrepreneur, quit Amazon’s board of directors on Monday to join a mysterious competitor. We now know its name: Microsoft.

Microsoft reportedly bought Krikorian’s latest startup, a home-automation company called id8 Group R2 Studios.

Krikorian is best known as the guy behind Sling Media and the Slingbox, a device which rebroadcast signals from a TV in your living room to a laptop or smartphone.

When Krikorian gave notice that he was leaving Amazon, Amazon said it was due to the sale of his startup and that he was taking a role with the company that bought it. But it didn’t reveal who the mysterious buyer was.

Wall Street Journal reporters Jessica Lessin and Shira Ovide are now reporting that Microsoft bought R2 Studios for an undisclosed sum. In addition to getting Krikorian to join Microsoft, Redmond is also getting some patents. R2 Studios was working on some super secret tech around displaying digital content on TVs and doing mobile home automation. 

Last year, it released an app that let Android phones control home lightiing and heating, the Wall Street Journal reports.

R2 Studios also reportedly had lots of suitors besides Microsoft, including Google and Apple.

Home automation is becoming a hot area for tech companies. For instance, former Apple executive Tony Fadell made waves with his startup, Nest Labs. Nest produces a smart thermostat controlled with a mobile phone. 





AD OF THE DAY: How The Samsung Galaxy Note II Can Help You Cheat At Work And Get Away With It

Samsung was on a roll last year when it came to its ads, and from the looks of its newest spot for the Galaxy Note II, it looks like that trend will continue into the new year.

The commercial shows two coworkers playing with their new phones, pointing out all the possibilities that the new “do two things at once feature” provides. Like doing two work projects at the same time or watching puppy video and copying your colleague’s work.


AD OF THE DAY: Supermodel Gisele Bundchen Made Completely Out Of Salt

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Inside the guts of a tech blog: What the heck do we write about at TNW?

More than 40,000 posts into the project that is The Next Web, it’s a fine moment to look back and run some counts to see just what we have been writing about.

In the following charts, a keyword or phrase is listed, and to its right is the number of posts on this site that contain it. This loose analysis reveals that on these pages, Google is more popular than Apple, from a total post perspective. iPad and iPhone both edge out Microsoft in terms of total unique mentions in discrete posts, something that will surprise none and annoy many.

Enjoy. And keep reading, we love you guys.

2013 01 02 17h21 32 Inside the guts of a tech blog: What the heck do we write about at TNW?

If you want to drill further into the data and run searches of your own, feel free. It’s especially fun to dig into TNW’s use of profanity, something that we have all but wrapped up on, but was a touch more prevalent in our early days.

It’s fun to think of each category in terms of percentages: Google is in just about a quarter of all TNW posts, whereas Microsoft tips in at just over 10%. iPhone is a mentioned term in nearly 20% of all TNW content. That’s impressive.

What would be more fun would be to segment the above data by year, and chart the patterns to see topics rise and fall through time. However, WordPress search doesn’t exactly allow for such fun. Perhaps the kids over at Simply Measured will figure out how to do it.

2013 is going to be big. I fully expect the above charts to be laughably out of date come the end of the year.

Samsung announces new Series 7 15″ touchscreen laptop and 13″ ultrabook

Samsung has been staggering its CES announcements to arrive early, and it has just announced two Windows 8-based additions to its Series 7 laptop lineup – the Chronos and the Ultra.

The Chronos (pictured above) is a 15.6-inch laptop that comes standard with a multi-touch screen. It weighs 5.8 pounds and comes packed with a 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7 processor and an AMD Radeon HD 8870M GPU. It comes with 4 or 8GB of RAM, expandable up to 16GB, and a max 1TB hard drive.

The Ultra is the slimmer ultra book counterpart, with a 13.3-inch display. It weighs 3.2 pounds and is powered by an Intel Core i7/i5 ULV. RAM maxes out at 16GB and the SSD goes up to 256GB. Interestingly, Samsung will make a touch model with the option of 4G LTE connectivity. Both laptops have a full HD screen resolution of 1,920 by 1,080.

samsung series7ultra 730x486 Samsung announces new Series 7 15 touchscreen laptop and 13 ultrabook

Samsung’s Series 7 line already includes laptops ranging in size from 14 to 17 inches, priced $999 to $1,499. It also sells the high- end Series 7 Gamer for $1,899.

All these minor announcements from Samsung are whetting our appetites for the really juicy stuff bound to be announced at CES next week. The company has scheduled a press conference for Monday, January 7th and and a keynote on Wednesday, January 9th, with the theme “Mobilizing Possibility.” Wednesday’s event will also include remarks from former US president Bill Clinton.

See also: Samsung unveils its ‘future-proofing’ Evolution Kit to bring new features to its 2012 Smart TVs and Samsung teases innovative design for upcoming TV launch at CES

Google will reportedly settle with the FTC on Thursday over its alleged misuse of patents

US regulators could be close to ending its investigation against Google as early as this Thursday, according to Bloomberg. Amid allegations that the search engine giant had abused its patents and power when it came to mobile and search offerings, the Federal Trade Commission may be looking to settle the case.

After 20 months of probing through all of Google’s records, Bloomberg says that Google has agreed to make “voluntary changes to some of its business practices and settle allegations that it misused patents to thwart competitors in smartphone technology.” Back in June 2011, the FTC served civil subpoenas to Google that kickstarted a broad antitrust investigation into the company’s performance and alleged abuse regarding its web dominance.

Several months later, Microsoft filed a complaint with the FTC claiming that Google had illegally changed its advertising rates that affected the Redmond-based company. According to the complaint, Google had raised prices for ads Microsoft was paying for alongside queries such as ‘hotmail’ 50 fold. Bloomberg also reported at the time:

The Federal Trade Commission is probing the increase, along with other allegations against Google related to advertising, as a result of complaints from Microsoft, according to the person, who wasn’t authorized to publicly comment. The complaints are being examined as part of a larger antitrust probe into Google that began earlier this year, the person said.

Google had sought to have this case resolved earlier and even FTC Chairman Jon Leibwitz said he hoped to wrap up this lengthy investigation in December. Instead it got delayed, most likely as a result of the European Union’s parallel investigation that took a more hard line approach to Google.

The coalition, a group that includes Microsoft and Expedia, two companies that have filed complaints against the search engine, says that the potential settlement was unwise: “If the FTC fails to take decisive action to end Google’s anti-competitive practices, and locks itself out of any remedies to Google’s conduct that are offered in Europe later this month, the FTC will have acted prematurely and failed in its mission of protecting America’s consumers”

It is continuing to urge the FTC to investigate the complaint and says that the group “remains convinced that US consumers and innovators deserve the same protections that the European Commission may adopt in Europe. Consumers will fail to reap the benefits of a truly competitive online marketplace if Google is allowed to pick and choose where it biases its search results.”

It’s important to note that the any deal right now is not final and things could change over the next 24 hours. With the recent successful confirmation of a new FTC commissioner on Tuesday, things might get a bit interesting. As TNW’s Alex Wilhelm explained, Joshua Wright has been benched for two years with respect to all cases involving the search engine. Why? Because he has “received funding from Google for some of his academic research.” As a result of his recusal, the FTC now will have four commissioners overseeing the case and that could change things.

We’ll keep you updated as this story develops.

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Brazen Apple Store Robberies Bracket 2012

Brazen Apple Store Robberies Bracket 2012

Apple store robberies may not be the crimes of the century, but they should get consideration for crimes of the year. Especially the latest one in Paris on New Year’s Eve, which followed others at the beginning and middle of 2012.

A Dumb Beginning

On January 2, 2012, in Scottsdale Arizona, six teenagers smashed in through the front door of the Scottsdale Quarter Apple Store. The armed teens made off with around $80,000 worth of iPads, MacBooks and iPads. Well, three of them did anyway. A taxi driver witnessed the event and followed them. The robbers fired shots at the driver, but missed,and three of them were caught by police shortly after. 

A Dumberer Middle

In September, a video of a car smashing into the facade of an Apple Store in California surfaced as perhaps the lowest point of the year in Apple Store crime. At the Apple Store in the Promenade Mall in Temecula, a blue BMW SUV served as a battering ram to the plate glass window of the store. Three men snatched display models of iPhones. This happened a week before the release of the iPhone 5. While this may seem like a clever move, as the thieves rammed their way out of the store, they left one vital clue behind… the car’s license plate. 

We’ll Always Have Paris

This most recent robbery at an Apple Store in the Opera section of Paris on New Years Eve ranked much higher on the smart scale. Because police were busy monitoring the festivities on the Champs-Elysées, there weren’t a lot of eyes on the back door of the store at 9 pm, as four to five armed men forced their way in. They overpowered a janitor who was leaving for the night and made off with a little over 1 million worth of merchandise. Instead of taking individual items, the robbers grabbed boxes of stock and loaded them into a truck. The whole process took about 40 minutes. 

While it seems like the thieves were taking advantage of the light coverage of the Opera section of Paris, police officials were quick to tell The Telegraph that the New Years Eve party didn’t deter from the everyday security of other parts of Paris. They did admit, however, that the crew was well organized, adding “Since the essential bulk of police forces were mobilized to patrol the Champs-Elysées, the thieves clearly profited from the opportunity to make their move.” 

Not All Apple Robberies Happen At The Store

Numbers are still being calculated by officials at Apple, but this is likely the biggest Apple heist since November 2012, when $1.5 million worth of iPad minis were stolen in an inside job at JFK International Airport - reminiscent of the movie Goodfellas. 

Officials are viewing video of the robbery before releasing more specifics, according to an update from Le Figaro, the manager of the store will make a statement Wednesday afternoon. 

Image courtesy of pio3 /


The Top 8 Moments That Made Social Media Matter In 2012

The Top 8 Moments That Made Social Media Matter In 2012

From political uprisings to billion-dollar acquisitions, social media packed a bigger punch in 2012 than ever before. While that comes as no surprise considering that social is still snaking its way into every nook and cranny of our lives, it was a pretty fascinating year viewed through the lens of online networks that connect people the world over.

1. January 18, 2012: The Web Goes Dark To Halt SOPA

Future politicians take note: you do not want to be the target of the Web’s collective fury. To raise visibility for the cause against the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and its companion bill, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), social sites the web over blinked out in protest. Reddit, Tumblr and countless other sites went dark while the ones that stayed online were lit up with sentiment in opposition to the pieces of legislation, which was then delayed indefinitely.

2. May 18, 2012: Facebook Goes Public

In May, Facebook held its initial public offering, placing its value square in the hands of the masses. Opening at $38 a share with a valuation of $104.2 billion, Facebook’s IPO was the third biggest in U.S. history and the biggest ever for a tech company. The company’s stock dipped considerably thereafter, but has been inching upward as investors and users alike try to figure out how exactly to make sense of a social network in the stock market.


3. April 2012: Facebook Buys Instagram To The Tune Of $1 Billion

Speaking of billions, in April Facebook bought social photo sharing app Instagram for $1 billion — the social giant’s biggest acquisition to date. As the Web squabbles over how much the app is really worth (sound familiar?), Facebook neutralizes a threat and boosts its image by gobbling up one of the best-loved apps around… and promising not to mess it up.

4. April 2012: Pinterest Swells To #3 Most Visited Social Site

Pinterest surprised everyone in 2012 when it ascended to the third most-visited social network on the web, trailing only Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest’s explosion may not have lasting power, but with a (very) disproportionately female user base, its rise has big implications for both e-commerce and the fairer’s sex’s swagger on social networks. 

5. August 6, 2012: Curiosity Rover Lands On Mars As The World Looks On

The world collectively held its breath when NASA took to social channels to stream the touchdown of the Mars rover Curiosity. The high-stakes, $2.5 billion interplanetary recon mission landed with a perfect 10, announcing its safe arrival on the planet to the Twittersphere. The rover, with a little help from social media-savvy NASA, has continued to tweet up a storm about its Martian adventure ever since.

6. October 29, 2012: Superstorm Sandy’s Havoc Captured On (Mobile) Camera

When it comes to natural disasters, the scope of devastation can often only be expressed through images. As Hurricane Sandy barreled into the East Coast, Instagram conveyed the vast damage in real-time as the rest of the nation watched on and waited. Sandy was Instagram’s biggest moment to date – according to CEO Kevin Systrom, at its peak, users were uploading 10 Sandy-related images per second. 

7. Citizen Journalism Keeps Its Steam In Syria And Egypt

Embattled countries in the Middle East found a global voice in 2011 on sites like Twitter and Facebook, and that momentum carried well into 2012. In Syria, activists turned citizen journalists disseminated news and images of the ongoing conflict with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s violently oppressive government — even into a nationwide Internet blackout. In June, Egyptians followed the first election of the post-Mubarak era on Twitter with bated breath. And in November, both the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas weaponized tweets and blog entries into an escalating social media branding war as tensions hit a fever pitch. 

8. November 2012: Presidential Election Smashes Twitter Records

The 2012 U.S. Presidential election saw people bleeding red and blue on social networks in droves. But the spikes of activity stirred up during the party conventions and the debates between candidates were nothing compared to the election night surge. Obama’s simple victory tweet, attached to a picture of the second-term President and the First Lady, smashed retweet records and has since been shared over 800,000 times. On election night, Twitter-goers set a frenzied record of 327,452 tweets per minute with over 31 million sent over the course of the day. Whoa. 

Want more year-end nostalgia, packaged up all nice? Check out the 2012 retrospectives published by Facebook, Twitter and Google. 

Extraterrestrial Technology’s Veterinary Tricorder: The Weirdest Product Of CES 2013

Extraterrestrial Technology's Veterinary Tricorder: The Weirdest Product Of CES 2013

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) starts January 8, and as usual it, there will likely be all sorts of news about some truly unbelievable products: UltraHD televisions? Come on. 3D printers? Yeah, right. Like that will ever happen. 

But in 2013, you can forget all that. The most amazing news at this year’s CES will come from a company called Extraterrestrial Technology (no, really, that’s its name): Say hello to the QuantumVet TriCorder Plus, which promises to diagnose and heal your pet through the power of a “quantum computer” unlocked by your smartphone. Apparently, the device claims to downloads a cure to your pet’s brain.

No, really, that’s what it claims to do. 

The company has purchased booth space at CES to show off its wares. But ReadWrite has been unable to reach company executives for comment. According to Google, ET’s address maps to a Post Office branch in Honolulu: Calls to the company were picked up and presumably relayed by an answering service. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard back.

How Extraterrestrial Technology’s Tech “Works”

As described on its website, though, the company’s “technology” is a gold mine of pseudoscience. As best we can determine, Extraterrestrial Technology is a business that was formed by the Zurich Alpine Group (ZAG), a private humanitarian medical research group that has been working “cooperatively and quietly” around the world to develop a “radical new quantum information technology.” This technology, according to the company, has been developed to counteract the “toxicity” in which chemical-based medicines interact with the human body.

But here’s the real innovation:

“ZAG understands that quantum problems require a quantum solution and has found a way to transfer bioinformation from its quantum computer via quantum teleportation to the brain, also a quantum computer, to reprogram the brain to effect positive medical changes within the body and mind,” the company says. “These technological advancements have thus given birth to the world’s first downloadable medicines.”

So basically what happens is that the company’s technology connects your brain (or in this case, your pet’s brain) to a remote quantum computer owned by the company, which downloads the requisite medicine directly, reprogramming the target brain to heal itself – without any side effects.

Mind = Blown

One possible concern that leaps to mind is how patients can be assured that the information being downloaded is legitimate, and not the product of a malicious hacker armed with his own quantum computer. You can’t be too careful. ET itself warns that users should “beware of impostors.” (Good advice, we think.)

Fortunately, there is a solution. Extraterrestrial Technologies has developed a Portal Access Key, or PAK, that securely facilitates the transaction. This PAK is essentially a “dose” of the downloadable “drug.”

Normally, ET would download this information directly to your brain, allegedly curing all sorts of diseases. After all, the site mentions there are about 170 different possible cures in all, including a common cold vaccine, quantum weight-management control, as well as the unfortunately named “Heaven’s Gate” aphrodisiac. 

For your pet, however, you’ll need a special solution: your smartphone, tablet or PC. With the QuantumVet TriCorder Plus, ET promises that you can download PAKs to your portable device (prices start at $30 for six PAK doses).

ET even offers step-by-step instructions: 

  1. Open a portal with the purchase of one or more QuantumVET Portal Access Keys (PAK) via your cell phone (also PC, laptop or tablet) from the company’s
  2. Data then teleports from a remote quantum computer to your pet’s brain, also a quantum computer.
  3. QuantumVET then accesses your pet’s neural network to run a diagnostic of what is causing your pet’s symptoms.
  4. QuantumVET then accesses the necessary master programs to restore your pet’s health.
  5. QuantumVET repeatedly uploads these master programs to your pet over a 5 day period.

The best part is that you can’t overdose, meaning that you can download as many PAKs as you want!

Cats require 12 doses every 30 days of treatment (or every five days); dogs require 18 doses.

And here’s an important warning: “When dosing you must be directly touching the animal prior to, and during, clicking the ‘unlock and launch portal’ button and remain in contact with the animal until you are informed the upload dosing is ‘completed.’ ” God only knows what happens if the download is interrupted mid-stream.

We’re reasonably sure that no government or other medical agency has given the thumbs-up to the claims of this new-age technology. In fact, we’re pretty confident  that ET’s claims have not been verified by any reputable third party.  

But one thing is definitely true: If you’re looking for the weirdest product to be displayed at CES next week, the QuantumVET Tricorder has got to be at the top of your list. 

Ahead of CES: 4 questions to ask about the internet of things

The internet of things and connected devices are going to be a big topic at the Consumer Electronics Show next week in Las Vegas, as companies seek to wow the audience with connected fridges, iOS-based home automation products and dongles galore that will connect everything in your home to some wireless standard or another. But amid the excitement and heady rush over the internet of things and connected devices it’s worth understanding what the internet of things really is and how it will make money.

To that end here are a few handy questions about this developing technology: These aren’t exhaustive, but they are a start, and I find them especially useful as we see more and more projects on Kickstarter, hyped stories about cool devices and venture capital deals galore. Feel free to share your own questions or thoughts as well.

Fitbit ZipConnected devices are nothing without a service, so where is the service? There are plenty of connected devices out in the market today, from Fitbits (see disclosure) to garden sensors that use a home’s Wi-Fi network to tell you when to water your plants. But the key to building out a true internet of things experience isn’t in being able to connect devices to the web, but building a service based around that connectivity.

A connected fridge is worthless if it can’t help manage your grocery-list making. A connected pedometer that doesn’t link your calories burned to a service that also tracks the calories consumed isn’t much good. And those services are where one can find more revenue. For example, if you can match a connected pedometer and calorie-tracking product with a service that plans meals based on a person’s activity, that’s something many people would pay for. They might pay even more if you deliver those meals to them pre-cooked or as a cluster of pre-measured ingredients bought via subscription.

How many internets of things will we have? Many people think of the internet of things as some magic web of connected devices that will communicate with each other and act together, but the reality is probably closer to the vertical segmentation we already have in our lives. So while we might have an internet of electricity that combines elements of the smart grid with our thermostats, we may have to buy some kind of connector device that we plug our appliances into to get them connected to the internet of electricity. Likewise, our cars might be connected to our home entertainment networks via Wi-Fi or maybe a smartphone, but if we have self-driving cars they will also need to connect to an internet of vehicles or transportation that will include other cars and traffic signals.

Nest 2G_3-4_Dramatic_heatUIWhere will the intelligence in the internet of things live? Right now most connected devices are part of a limited ecosystem with only one or two devices, but as the sector matures, will they communicate all the way back to a server in the cloud? Or will there be some kind of in-home or in-car (or in-whatever) device that helps make decisions based on the information that the connected devices deliver? If you lose your connection to the internet, having on-site intelligence keeps your home or car network operational or at least communicating with each other as locally networked devices. It would suck if your door locks didn’t open when your broadband was out. The counter to this argument is that many of the in-environment devices are proprietary, so it’s impossible to connect them to everything or expensive to do so.

Where are the toll bridges in each ecosystem? Once you view the internet of things as many internets and think about standards for connectivity, software and even the clouds where data might be stored or processed, it becomes clear that each ecosystem will have different control points where it can make money. Sure, there’s money in selling the physical hardware if you’re Apple or maybe Nest, but there are also services, data and online processing or storage that could also provide revenue opportunities for companies playing in the internet of things. I could write an entire story about possible business models, but just to get you thinking, ponder the example of getting your fridge to buy your groceries.

In that use case, to build the service, the maker of the fridge or a third-party entity will have to make deals with grocery stores for access to their pricing and inventory APIs. That API would be a potential toll point. But does the grocery store have that API, or is there an opportunity for another companies to build it? Or even aggregate such data from a variety of stores and then offer it to those wanting to build such a service? Some startups such as GroceryServer, which has created an API that taps into store merchandising systems, are building up such databases of pricing information. The question then becomes does the builder of a service want to work with one provider or go-direct to the source and work with many?

Of course, if the connected device itself is popular (like an iPhone or an Xbox) then you can dictate the terms and means through which people could interact with your product. Or in the case of the fridge, all of the appliance makers might come up with a standard for grocery stores to label their your food and pricing and totally control the development of the entire ecosystem.

That’s probably enough of that examples, and enough questions for the time being. The point here is that while people spout a lot of information about the internet of things, as a business opportunity there are a lot of questions still unanswered. And until we start asking them and getting answers it’s hard to see how useful some of these cool projects on Kickstarter will be, or who will win in developing ecosystems.

Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

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