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Biz Break: Tesla Motors expands in China, hits new stock high

Posted: 08/29/2014 02:10:02 PM PDT


Updated: 08/29/2014 02:47:24 PM PDT


Today: Tesla Motors signs a deal to build more than 400 new charging stations in China, and the company's stock makes another record-breaking drive. Also: Apple hits more new records despite reports that wearable offering won't appear until 2015.


The Lead: Tesla plans charging expansion in China


Tesla Motors announced a deal Friday with a wireless carrier that will nearly triple its number of charging stations in China, the world's largest auto market, and investors responded by again sending the Palo Alto electric-car maker's stock to record highs.



Tesla will install 400 charging stations across 120 cities as well as 20 of its supercharger stations, all at China Unicom retail outlets, Tesla spokeswoman Lis Jarvis-Shean confirmed in an email Friday.


'We have been working with China Unicom already -- China Unicom is our in-car 3G connectivity service provider of Tesla -- so we are deepening our cooperation with them,' Jarvis-Shean noted.


Tesla already has more than 200 charging stations in China, along with 13 superchargers, as it seeks to establish infrastructure in a critical market. China led the world with sales of 22 million automobiles in 2013, more than a quarter of the global market of 82.8 million, and the country has been seeking to encourage electric vehicles.


A Chinese state agency said Friday that the country will stop charging sales tax on sales of electric cars, adding to savings already provided by rebates from the government, which hopes electric and hybrid automobiles can help cut down on stultifying pollution in the country. An official with a Chinese electric-car manufacturer told the Wall Street Journal on Friday that the country is also considering a gasoline tax to fund more charging stations.


'While the government can't force consumers to buy electric vehicles, it can mandate the construction of charging stations,' BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu said.


Tesla has been building out its charging network in the U.S. and Europe quickly in the past two years. proclaiming it to be the fastest-growing charging network in the world. In China, CEO Elon Musk has said the company plans to spend several hundred million dollars on infrastructure to boost its chances of big sales in the country.


'My instructions to the team are to spend money as fast as they can spend it without wasting it,' Musk said in April while personally delivering the first eight Model S units to be sold in China.


Musk has predicted sales of about 5,000 Model S units in China this year, but admitted that was just a rough estimate. The company has not released any official sales numbers for the country thus far, but has spoken optimistically about its performance.


'Model S is off to a very encouraging start in China, especially considering that we are delivering cars only in the areas around Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and recently Hangzhou, where we can assure customers of service coverage,' Musk and Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja wrote to shareholders in a July letter detailing earnings.


Tesla was one of the fastest growing public companies in Silicon Valley last year, and its spiking share prices rose even faster: While sales grew 387 percent to more than $2 billion in 2013, Tesla's market cap jumped 492 percent. Gains have continued this year, with Tesla hitting a record share price of $272 before closing with a 2.2 percent gain at $269.70; the stock is now up more than 79 percent in 2014.


SV150 market report: Apple gains to yet another record high


Tesla isn't the only high-profile Silicon valley companies that seems to hit a record stock high daily: Apple increased to new all-time highs as well Friday, as Wall Street indexes closed out a strong month with gains.


Apple followed up Thursday's invitation to a mystery event in Cupertino and all-time stock highs with yet another increase, gaining 0.2 percent to $102.50. Expectations for a wearable debut soon after the Sept. 9 event took a hit, however, as Recode and the Financial Times reported that Apple will not offer its new gadget for sale until 2015. The device, which many expect to be a wristwatch-like device, would then not be available for the holiday shopping season, cutting into Apple's revenues in that important period. Seeking to cut into the revenues of a competitor, Apple made yet another attempt to ban Samsung products from being imported to the U.S., appealing a decision made earlier this week.


Oracle's appeal of a verdict in its big courtroom battle against competitor SAP didn't go its way, as the court decided it would not reinstitute a record $1.3 billion verdict in the Redwood City company's favor; the software giant's stock still gained 0.6 percent to $41.53. The biggest gain of the day in the SV150 belonged to Splunk, with the San Francisco big-data software company leaping 19.1 percent to $53.93 after revealing quarterly earnings that a host of analysts praised Friday. Omnivision, an Apple supplier that is being targeted for an acquisition, did not do as well after its earnings report, falling 0.2 percent to $27.11. Google gained 0.4 percent to $582.36 after revealing a secretive drone project late Thursday afternoon, but the Mountain View search giant may lose an important executive to the White House.


Up: Splunk, Workday, GoPro, Tesla, EA, Salesforce, Pandora, Applied Materials, Facebook, LinkedIn


Down: Ruckus Wireless, SanDisk, Intuit


The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Up 9.42, or 0.58 percent, to 1,628.83


The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 22.58, or 0.5 percent, to 4,580.27


The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 18.88, or 0.11 percent, to 17,098.45


And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 6.63, or 0.33 percent, to 2,003.37


Sign up for the 60-Second Business Break newsletter at http://ift.tt/zff6tj. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at http://ift.tt/1drGiGq.


Facebook tries to quell Messenger rumors

Facebook is going on the offensive, trying to do damage control for its Messenger app.


The social network is responding to a firestorm of user anger that erupted when it appeared that Facebook was forcing people to load its Messenger app in a veiled attempt to usurp their privacy.


Now Facebook is trying to set the record straight.


'You might have heard the rumors going around about the Messenger app,' Facebook said in a message to users that popped up on the network's mobile app. 'Some have claimed that the app is always using your phone's camera and microphone to see and hear what you're doing. These reports aren't true, and many have been corrected. Still, we want to address some concerns you might have.'


The message is one way Facebook is trying to spread the word about Messenger.


'We're testing ways of explaining Messenger to people, and as part of that, a percentage of people will receive this notice,' a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email to Computerworld. 'We felt it was important to offer more information, particularly in light of false reports that have spread over the last couple of weeks.'


The trouble started earlier this month when users first complained that Facebook was making them use a separate app to send messages, photos and videos to their friends via their mobile devices.


Matters heated up when reports surfaced alleging that Facebook could use the app to surreptitiously take over users' smartphones to take photos or even make phone calls.


Much of the confusion stemmed from reviews of the app in the Google Play store and Apple's App Store.


On Google Play, a user identified as Ty Owen wrote, 'Look very closely at the permissions before downloading. The permissions state they can make calls and send texts without you even knowing. By doing this it will cost you money and god noes [sic] what other info they are getting.'


The problem snowballed and the rumors spread, leading some users to either not download Messenger or to uninstall it.


According to Facebook, those comments do not reflect reality.


'If you want to send a selfie to a friend, the app needs permission to turn on your phone's camera and capture that photo,' the company said in its message to users. 'We don't turn on your camera or microphone when you aren't using the app.'


Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said Facebook is smart to try to get in front of the rumors and shut them down.


'I think the Facebook Messenger app is pretty innocent. At worst, it's not any more intrusive than any other communication application,' Olds said. 'What this hubbub really shows is how easy it is to stir up the villagers into a torch-lit mob with a single poorly-thought-out piece.'


Olds added that he hopes Facebook can quell the rumors and calm its users.


Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said he believes Facebook's efforts will work.


'I think people will start using Messenger,' he noted. 'The fact is that for most Facebook users, the Facebook directory is the most complete one of all the apps they use, so Facebook Messenger is the easiest way to stay in touch with your community.'



Sapphire's Durability Put to the Test Head

Repair experts at uBreakiFix have examined the impact resistance, scratch resistance and strength of sapphire glass in a series of tests that were published today. The tests were designed to determine whether sapphire is suitable for use as a smartphone display.



The repair technicians conducted three different tests -- a scratch resistance comparison using a tungsten carbide drill bit, a drop test with the sapphire display of the newly released Kyocera Brigadier, and a a four-point bend test to compare the failure stress and strain of sapphire glass with that of Gorilla Glass.


The results of uBreakiFix's tests show that sapphire is significantly more scratch resistant and 25 percent stronger than Gorilla Glass, but it is much more susceptible to impacts due to its brittleness. The glass is so brittle that it shattered the first time it was dropped face down from a height of only three feet. The technicians conclude that sapphire does not necessarily offer any advantage over Gorilla Glass, as the material's superior scratch resistance and strength is offset by its low impact resistance. Phone manufacturers that include a sapphire display may choose to employ other protective measures such as a raised bezel to help protect the phone during impact with other surfaces.

Apple is partnering with GT Advanced Technologies to produce sapphire for use in future products. The exact details on how Apple will use the material is not known, but the company is rumored to be using sapphire as a display cover in future iPhone models and possibly its iWatch wearable product.


US Open Tennis: 7 Technologies Power Game, Set, Match


The US Open upgrades its tech for 2014 with new data sets, improved analytics, and immersive mobile apps backed by IBM predictive cloud infrastructure.


Mobile, social, analytics, and cloud technologies have been part of the United States Tennis Association's game for some time, but, working with tech partner IBM, it's upping the ante for the 2014 US Open tennis tournament.



New mobile and social apps, big data sets, improved analytics, and predictive cloud infrastructure are among the capabilities USTA and IBM are bringing to this year's end-of-summer tourney. IBM also sponsors and provides the technology behind the three other big tournaments that make up the professional tennis Grand Slam: The Australian Open, The French Open, and Wimbledon. But each tournament has its own host organization, character, and tech-support needs.


As an example, IBM worked with USTA to develop a Trendcast social app that's unique to the US Open. The Web and mobile app aggregates and filters social media comments about the tournament, identifies key trends, tries to engage fans in the conversation, and provides a sponsorship opportunity for the USTA.


'Sponsorships are critical for the US Open, but they are less important at Wimbledon, where it's more about enjoying tennis in an English garden,' said John Kent, program manager of IBM Worldwide Sponsorship Marketing. USTA is a nonprofit organization that relies on the US Open as its primary funding source for tennis promotion and youth tennis programs in the US, whereas Wimbledon is run by the charitable arm of The All England Lawn Tennis Club.


IBM's SlamTracker match statistical-analysis app is used by all four Grand Slam tournaments, but this year's US Open version features an autopilot mode that pushes a steady stream of point-by-point insights during the course of a match.


'What's nice about the design of the new SlamTracker app is that it speaks to the more casual fan as well as avid fans who know exactly what stats they're looking for,' said Nicole Jeter West, USTA's senior director of ticketing and digital strategy.


New data sets, including ball and player position data, have added SlamTracker data visualizations for 2014, so in addition to stats such as forced and unforced errors, first services, and successful returns, fans can now see a serve-depth chart and corresponding percentages on winning and losing points.


Other nuances of the US Open 2014 tournament include IBM Watson Foundation technologies operating behind the scenes, predicting and constantly reforecasting site traffic loads so the tournament site never goes down even as Web and mobile visits fuel traffic spikes during the height of the tournament. Read on to see the new apps, new data visualizations, and fresh capabilities behind US Open 2014.


Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio


What New Sony Product Could Be just 6.4mm Thin?


In early 2011 I attended a secret meeting with Sony Ericsson. They were revealing their new Xperia Android handsets and I was able to play with them learn about their new features. At the time, HTC and Samsung were preparing their '11 flagships and we knew they'd have dual core processors. None of the Sony Ericsson handsets could match the HTC or Samsung specification, but when I handled the Xperia Arc you'd think the representative had just given me a box of kittens: I was smitten. The Arc was thin, had an interesting design, an amazing camera, beautiful screen and clean interface. It was the first Android 'phone that I would hold in my hand and admire.


In late 2011, Sony bought out the Ericsson share of Sony Ericsson and began to reimagine themselves as just Sony. 2012 saw the first of the Sony-branded products emerge using NXT design language, the Xperia S, but Sony had the excuse that it was made together with Sony Ericsson. I couldn't argue with the Xperia S on paper but it didn't feel as nice to handle as my cherished Xperia Arc. Sony and James Bond released the Xperia T six months later, which had design elements borrowed from the Arc plus it was one of the first handsets with a high speed 3G DC-HSPA radio. Unfortunately, it didn't have the same character. I bought one and my Uncle inherited it. He loves it!


Things started to turn around with the Xperia Z, released in early 2013. Here was a thin, flat slab of water-resistant smartphone with fine internals. The Xperia Z Tablet appeared, a beautifully made thin glass slate. We also saw one of my favourite 2013 devices, the Sony Z Ultra. Six months later the Xperia Z1 appeared with a similar design but boosted internals, followed by the Z1 Compact and Z1 Tablet. And six months later, the Xperia Z2 smartphone and Xperia Z2 Tablet appeared. Sony are on a roll with their aggressive six month flagship refresh policy.


IFA is right around the corner. Sony are announcing new products and are teasing the media too. Odds on are that we'll see a new Xperia Z3, perhaps a Z3 Compact and a Z3 Tablet Compact. The teaser image below was Tweeted asking us to guess the final dimension of a new product. That thickness of 6.4mm matches the Z2 Tablet, so logically we're going to see another amazingly thin tablet from Sony, right? Perhaps the smart money is going for the Z3 Tablet Compact, which is rumoured to be an 8-inch screen. The trouble with this is that 124mm is a little on the short size: the original Nexus 7 was 120mm wide and although the bezels weren't the thinnest, it's difficult to imagine how an 8-inch tablet is going to fit.


Maybe Sony will surprise us. Perhaps we'll be seeing a newer version of the Z Ultra?



This entry was posted in Android Manufacturer News, Android News.


About the author:


Google Prepares to Compete With Amazon Over the Drone Business

Now to a different race involving drones and the competition pong some of the world's tech giants to deliver products straight to your door in a whole new way. Check out this video from Google. Hot on... See More


California Requires Steering Wheel For Google Cars

Autonomous Cars




Dmitri Dolgov, one of the leading software engineers on the Google autonomous car project, told Reuters earlier this week that the cars had been reprogrammed to allow them to exceed the posted speed limit by up to 10 miles per hour. The change was made to allow the car to keep up with the driver operated cars around them, which are normally driven about 10 miles an hour above the posted limit. He said it was a matter of safety.


Ask any traffic engineer and you will find that speed is not the biggest factor in car accidents. It is the difference in speed that is dangerous. In other words, a car going 10 mph too slow is just as dangerous as one going 10 mph too fast.


But the State of California has reacted immediately, with new rules requiring any autonomous car operated within its borders to have a steering wheel, a brake pedal and an accelerator, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Google Car has none of these old fashioned devices, but will now be retrofitted with them to comply with the new rules.


On one hand, you can understand the concern of California officials. How would it look if a Google Car suddenly ran amok, like Hal in the movie '2001 - A Space Odyssey,' mowing down innocent women and children? Oh, the humanity!


On the other hand, a few years from now people will think of this as an example of techno-phobia. It reminds me that at the dawn of the motorcar, many cities required a person to walk in front of any horseless carriage ringing a bell to warn the populace of danger.


The bureaucratic mind is almost as scary as self driving cars. Maybe more so.



About the Author


Steve Hanley I have been a car nut since the days when articles by John R. Bond and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. I know every nut, bolt and bullet connector on an MGB from 20 years of ownership. I now drive a 94 Miata for fun and the occasional HPDE track day. If it moves on wheels, I am interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.


There's Still One Major Problem With Google's Self


While the idea of simply hopping into a car, pressing a button, and arriving at your destination sounds enticing, we're still far away from that type of simplicity.


Google has been showing off its new self-driving car models for the past several months, but there are still many unanswered questions when it comes to safety.


Although Google's self-driving cars have successfully driven more than 700,000 miles, mistakes on maps and unmapped areas can pose a big problem, as MIT Technology Review points out.


For example, MIT notes that if a self-driving car enountered a new traffic light that wasn't accounted for on a map, that car could potentially run the red light if there are no cars or pedestrians around.


Not only is this dangerous, but it could result in tickets and traffic citations for the owner of the car.


Chris Urmson, director of Google's car team, told MIT that the company is addressing the issue but didn't elaborate on how.


So far, maps have only been designed to handle a few thousand miles of roadway. Google would have to maintain and update millions of miles of roads across the country to truly make autonomous vehicles safe enough for everyday use.


Some officials may not be aware that these issues even exist. Bernard Soriano, the California DMV official responsible for autonomous vehicles in the state, told MIT that he wasn't aware Google's self-driving cars couldn't handle intersections and traffic lights that weren't mapped.


That's not to say there isn't a future for driverless vehicles. Once Google works out the kinks, driverless cars could easily prevent accidents caused by drunk driving. They could also potentially serve as a more flexible travel option for the visually impaired.


But there's no telling how long it will be until the technology is safe enough to become part of our everyday lives.


Refrain from posting comments that are obscene, libellous, slanderous or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks, name calling or inciting hatred against any community. Let's work together to keep the conversation civil.


Instagram briefly unreachable for some

Instagram, Facebook's popular photo sharing service, had a hiccup Thursday.


Nick Statt/CNET


It's rare, but it does happen: Instagram, the popular photo sharing service from Facebook, was briefly unreachable for some users on Thursday.


While this could be the case of a fat-fingered mistake by a programmer or an unexpectedly failed server, it also comes just days after the company unveiled a new app called Hyperlapse. The app, which is currently only available for devices made by Apple, helps users to take better looking time-lapsed videos.


Instagram's team sent a tweet acknowledging the issue and assuring users they're working on a fix.


Of course, the nature of the Internet is that some services and websites just do go offline from time to time.


Sometimes breathless coverage of such instances is often mocked by social media watchers. But it also serves as a good reminder that normal people use these services every day. Earlier this month, the last time Facebook suffered an outage, emergency response centers received calls from angry users. The calls got so bad that a Los Angeles County Sheriff issued a statement on Twitter, informing the public they didn't know when the service would go back online either.


RIP, MSN Messenger: Microsoft Kills Old


In news that is sure to make you feel old, Microsoft is officially killing its 15-year-old instant messaging program.


Windows Live Messenger - formerly MSN Messenger- will soon go the way of Friendster, Google Reader and Facebook Poke.


Microsoft first announced it would be closing Windows Live and pushing users over to Skype in 2012, but the service had stuck around in China - until now.


Microsoft began alerting Chinese users of Windows Live's imminent shutdown Thursday, and told users they would need to switch to Skype by October 31. The tech giant also promised free Skype credit to those who did, according to the BBC.


MSN Messenger first launched in 1999 as Microsoft's answer to the then-popular AOL Instant Messenger. Like so many messaging apps before and since, it started off simple, with basic IM functionality - but soon expanded with new features such as photo messaging, video chatting, games and much-loved emoji.


Following news of the closure, MSN Messenger alums took to Twitter to eulogize the instant messaging client that once ruled dial-up Internet.


MSN Messenger is shutting down at the end of October. Oh the memories


- l3ahpar (@l3ahpar) August 29, 2014


My favourite thing to do on MSN Messenger was appear offline until my crush logged on and then SERENDIPITOUSLY appear online a minute later.


- Rega Jha (@RegaJha) August 29, 2014


I had no idea MSN Messenger was ceasing to exist now, RIP to the good old days!


- Paul Smith (@PaulSmithhhhh) August 29, 2014


RIP MSN messenger


- paatt (@PattTanner10) August 29, 2014


Though the messaging platform currently has relatively few users, its official closure marks the end of an era, of sorts, for many millennials who came of age while chatting on MSN.


The BBC's Dave Lee waxed nostalgic in his obituary to MSN Messenger:


It touched the lives of millions of teenagers who, in an age before real social networking, were just getting accustomed to what it was like to live on the internet.


MSN Messenger heralded a new era: a time when chatting up a classmate no longer meant the terrifying prospect of actually having to say something to them.


It meant no longer would young teens have to endure the torture of ringing the landline number of their newest crush - knowing there was a high probability that dad would pick up.


Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Hyperlapse For iPhone Will Revolutionize Wildlife Films

Flowers of European ivy (CC BY-SA 2.0: Albert Bridge / Wikimedia)

As a biologist, my first thought after hearing about Hyperlapse - Instagram's new app for making time-lapse movies - was this: nature videos.


Hyperlapse records a film and shows frames at intervals so it looks like time has elapsed quickly. The app is simple to use. Tap a button to start and stop recording, swipe a slider to set the playback speed (up to x12 normal) then tap to save the clip to your phone and/or share it on Facebook or Instagram.


The promotional trailer focuses on how the app can be used to document our daily lives. But who wants to watch boring, self-obsessed humans? At 30 seconds into the trailer, you see seagulls on a beach, hinting at a far more interesting use for Hyperlapse - capturing wildlife.


I don't normally quote poetry, but time-lapse wildlife clips made me think of 'Leisure' by Welsh writer (and former hobo) WH Davies. Here's the first half of the poem:


What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare. No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows. No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.


We'll watch YouTube videos of cats doing cute and funny things for a few minutes (yeah, okay, hours), but rarely make time in our busy lives to stare at creatures going about their business in our own backyards - raccoons and foxes raiding garbage cans, birds feeding chicks, squirrels hiding their nuts.


Whereas detecting rapid movements is limited by the speed of our visual system, appreciating the slower things in life is limited by our attention span. Hyperlapse could help us better understand the bustling world around us by condensing the behaviour of animals and plants into short, easy-to-watch videos.


Filming time-lapse movies is also less hassle than the hours it might take a professional wildlife filmmaker to set-up expensive equipment. Simply pull out your smartphone and tap to start recording.


Hyperlapse does more than simply pull together film frames though, it actually captures motion time-lapse video using stabilisation technology. Record while moving and the app corrects for the shaky-cam effect.


Few would sit through a half-hour home movie of dolphins following your boat while on holiday, but speed it up x12 and people might happily spend 2 minutes 30 seconds watching the mammals as they repeatedly leap from the water.


Applications And Limitations

The potential number of time-lapse videos is enormous. For now, Hyperlapse is only available for iOS devices, which limits its user base to (at most) Apple's 12% market share for smartphones. Once the app becomes available for Android, you can add another 85%.


As well as creating millions of amateur wildlife filmmakers, biologists will gain an army of voluntary field assistants. Their time-lapse videos might even offer researchers new insights into animal and plant behaviour. In both cases, it won't be long before we see crowdsourced science and movie projects.


But there are limitations to filming nature's movements. Hyperlapse only captures up to 45 minutes of footage on an iPhone 5 (or 10 minutes on an iPhone 4). And even if you could record for longer, the length of videos is restricted by a phone's battery life or memory size. (Although Hyperlapse can be used on iPad too, I suspect that a squirrel would be more likely to notice you trying to film the location of their secret stash if you whip out a 10-inch tablet.)


While you won't be able to record your house plant growing, you could film its petals as they unfold. Flower opening can be quick: a mere five minutes in European Ivy, for example, or a 30-second time-lapse clip.


It's Hyperlapse's simplicity that will make it successful. One reason why Instagram became so popular is that users don't need to worry too much about composition or lighting - Instagram's filters create a good-looking photo. Hyperlapse saves people the hassle of pushing a recorded clip through another app. And it's free.


The most annoying missing feature in the app is that it currently doesn't give the option of saving both the original and time-lapsed video. It's one or the other. That might limit a clip's usefulness in science because if a researcher wanted to slow-down a video to normal speed to study something in detail, there would be few frames to study. Nonetheless, it's still better than the technology that's often used, webcams that periodically take pictures.


Phone, Camera, Action!

I hope that recording time-lapse nature videos becomes a new hobby for everyone, just like amateur wildlife photography.


This post, then, is a call to action: tag your clips with #hyperlife and I'll retweet them on Twitter and Instagram. Here's a video to inspire you:


JV Chamary is a biologist and writer - follow him on Google+ and Twitter

As relaunch hype subsides, will Foursquare survive?

Foursquare may be in trouble.


When Foursquare relaunched its self-titled app, the company managed to halt the long downward spiral it had seen on the app store charts since last year. But we cautioned at the time that the spike might not last. And it didn't.


Judging from app store metrics alone, Foursquare is back where it started; post-relaunch, the app peaked at #385 overall in the U.S. App Store - #448 in the Google Play store - and has since fallen to pre-launch levels: #1214 overall in the U.S. on iOS and out of the top 500 on Android, according to data from app tracking site App Annie.


Among U.S. travel apps, Foursquare peaked at #17 and now ranks #38 on iOS and dropped from #21 to #30 on Android.


Foursquare's new check-in app, Swarm, has met roughly the same fate; it currently ranks #997 overall in the U.S. App Store and is out of the top #500 in the Google Play store. At its peak, the app ranked #11 on iOS and #84 on Android. That's a frightening decline.


Without access to Foursquare's internal dashboard, it's quite difficult to understand exactly how sticky Foursquare's apps are. Google Trend data reinforces the idea that interest in Foursquare may be on the decline despite a relaunch, but this data is in no way definitive.


App Store ratings suggest users are somewhat happier with Foursquare today than they were a month ago. Prior to its relaunch, Foursquare users were furious with the upcoming changes and rated the app 1.5 stars in the App Store. The app now carries a 2.5-star rating.


What does Foursquare say?

Foursquare claims that it intended to target existing users with this initial relaunch and hints that a larger outreach plan is in the works. 'In the coming months [there will be] more consumer marketing efforts from Foursquare as we shift more of our focus to acquiring new users,' a Foursquare spokesperson told VentureBeat.


Official statistics that the company provided to VentureBeat paint a more optimistic picture. Foursquare claims its has migrated over 80 percent of its users to the new apps and that its users have added 7 million tips (i.e.: reviews of local businesses) this month. 'On our first day,' a Foursquare spokesperson told us three weeks ago, 'we had five times as many tips as our best day ever.'


Foursquare also says its users have added 40 million 'tastes,' the company's name for user-selected tags, which help fine-tune Foursquare's recommendation algorithm, since relaunch.


Foursquare has predictably kept numerous key metrics hidden, such as user-base growth, session times, daily active users, and revenue. Without that data, it's impossible to accurately predict Foursquare's fate. However, the data we have access to does not inspire a lot of confidence in Foursquare's future.


Mobile developer or publisher? VentureBeat is studying mobile app analytics. Fill out our 5-minute survey, and we'll share the data with you.


California Requires Steering Wheel For Google Cars

Autonomous Cars




Dmitri Dolgov, one of the leading software engineers on the Google autonomous car project, told Reuters earlier this week that the cars had been reprogrammed to allow them to exceed the posted speed limit by up to 10 miles per hour. The change was made to allow the car to keep up with the driver operated cars around them, which are normally driven about 10 miles an hour above the posted limit. He said it was a matter of safety.


Ask any traffic engineer and you will find that speed is not the biggest factor in car accidents. It is the difference in speed that is dangerous. In other words, a car going 10 mph too slow is just as dangerous as one going 10 mph too fast.


But the State of California has reacted immediately, with new rules requiring any autonomous car operated within its borders to have a steering wheel, a brake pedal and an accelerator, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Google Car has none of these old fashioned devices, but will now be retrofitted with them to comply with the new rules.


On one hand, you can understand the concern of California officials. How would it look if a Google Car suddenly ran amok, like Hal in the movie '2001 - A Space Odyssey,' mowing down innocent women and children? Oh, the humanity!


On the other hand, a few years from now people will think of this as an example of techno-phobia. It reminds me that at the dawn of the motorcar, many cities required a person to walk in front of any horseless carriage ringing a bell to warn the populace of danger.


The bureaucratic mind is almost as scary as self driving cars. Maybe more so.



About the Author


Steve Hanley I have been a car nut since the days when articles by John R. Bond and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. I know every nut, bolt and bullet connector on an MGB from 20 years of ownership. I now drive a 94 Miata for fun and the occasional HPDE track day. If it moves on wheels, I am interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.


Obama CTO Todd Park to be replaced by... Megan Smith?


Obamacare savior gets new role in Silly Valley

The White House's so-called chief technology officer is leaving. Todd Y. Park is going back to California, to spend more time with his family -- The President has plans for him there, too (he's not going to Chicago).


But who will fill his shoes? We bring news of three possible replacements.


In IT Blogwatch, bloggers lead a dirigible. Not to mention: If you don't know about Chicago...


Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.


If it keeps on raining, Steven Levy's gonna break (the news): [Groan -Ed.]


The White House confirmed today the rumors that Todd Park, the nation's [CTO] and the spiritual leader of its effort to reform the way the government uses technology, is leaving his post. ... He's moving back to the Bay Area he left when he began working for...Obama in 2009. ... Starting in September, he's assuming a new post...technology adviser to the White House...bringing a Silicon Valley sensibility to the public sector. ... America needs [it] badly. ... Achievements that Internet companies seem to pull off effortlessly-innovative, easy-to-use services embraced by hundreds of millions of people-are tougher than Mars probes for federal agencies to execute. ... Park knows the problem is systemic-a mindset that locks federal IT into obsolete practices...rooted in caution...and adherence to bureaucratic procedure...that doesn't just hamper innovation, it leaves government IT...unable to perform even the most basic functions. MORE

And Julian Hattem will have no place to stay:


Park will be responsible for bringing experienced programmers, innovators and developers into the fold to make government run more efficiently, the administration said. ... The move brings Park back to his home in Silicon Valley...in time for his children to start school [there]. Park is just the second person to hold the title of U.S. [CTO.] He rose to prominence by helping to fix the ObamaCare website after its disastrous rollout. MORE

But who could replace him? Mean ol' Brad Stone and Brian Womack taught me to weep and moan:


Google Inc. executive Megan Smith...ho was most recently a vice president at Google's X lab, is a top candidate...according to people with knowledge of the matter. ... Courtney Hohne, a spokeswoman at Mountain View, California-based Google, declined to comment. A White House official declined to comment and Smith didn't return requests for comment. ... Smith...oversaw many of [Google's] most important acquisitions, like Keyhole, the service that underlies Google Earth. She has led...Google.org, and served as a co-host for Google's Solve for X forum. ... Before joining Google, Smith was chief executive officer of Planet Out, a site for gay and lesbian [people]. MORE

Got what it takes to make Verne Kopytoff leave his home, Dan Primack? Oh well: [You're fired -Ed.]


U.S. chief technology officer, as the role is informally known, oversees the federal government's use of technology to create jobs, reduce costs and spur economic growth. Some refer to it as the White House's geek-in-residence. ... Google X [is] a skunk works of futuristic projects including self-driving cars, Internet-connected eye glasses and high altitude balloons that provide wireless Internet. ... In addition to Smith, the White House is considering Alex Macgillvray, a former executive at Twitter and Google, according to sources. ... A third finalist is also on the shortlist. MORE

Meanwhile, it don't make John Lilly feel bad:


We all owe [Todd] huge thanks. Profound changes from his time in DC. Huge hero of mine and incredible guy. MORE

And Finally... When the levée breaks, mamma, you got to move



Google exec Megan Smith is top contender to be US Chief Technology Officer


According to unidentified sources familiar with the developments at the White House, longtime Google executive Megan Smith, 49, is the top contender to be the US' next Chief Technology Officer --- a role created by President Barack Obama.


As per the sources, Smith is likely to succeed Todd Park who has recently resigned as the Chief Technology Officer. Park - who has had a two-year stint as the Chief Technology Officer - was preceded by Aneesh Chopra, the first person to be appointed for the job, which largely involves overseeing technology use by the federal government to create jobs, reducing costs, and spurring economic growth.


Smith, who is reportedly the finalist contender for the Chief Technology Officer's post after Park's resignation, is currently the Vice President of the Google X division --- the company's skunk works of futuristic projects like Google Glass and driverless cars, among others.


Sources have revealed that, other than Smith, there are two other finalists - one of them being Alex Macgillvray, a former executive at Twitter and Google - who are being considered by the White House for appointment as the next Chief technology Officer.


Meanwhile, about Park's contribution as the Chief Technology Officer, President Obama said in a statement: 'I thank Todd for his service as my chief technology officer, and look forward to his continuing to help us deploy the best people and ideas from the tech community in service of the American people.'


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