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Verizon deal about to be approved
Verizon’s proposed acquisition of spectrum space from various cable TV companies is about to to go through, says the Wall Street Journal, among others. This is the deal where Verizon would drop several billion dollars on spectrum space that the cable companies aren’t using, Verizon would then use it to build out their network.
Citing people familiar with the matter, the Journal says the meat of the deal is going through but the ancillary agreements are getting dinged:
To clinch their deal with Verizon Wireless, the cable companies have agreed to limit the scope and duration of side agreements to sell each other's services, the people said. Consumer groups and other critics had said the joint marketing pacts were effectively agreements between the companies not to compete for customers seeking broadband Internet, television and phone services in their homes.
Guests we’ve talked to on Tech Report often cited the joint marketing agreement to be perhaps the most problematic part of this arrangement since it went further to quash competition than even the spectrum buy-up. Still, the whole thing is a big deal. It’s one of those tech stories that are a little hard to follow because issues around the broadcast spectrum are kind of hard to grasp at times. What it means for you and me is that Verizon is about to get a lot bigger and a lot more powerful. Wait, wasn’t Verizon already big and powerful? Exactly.
Groupon offers great new deal on multiple perspectives
Groupon, the official shopping service of spa treatments, had a pretty good quarter by some standards. Sales were up 45 percent over this time last year and sales came in at 568.3 million bucks. Neat, huh? Not only that, the company was profitable for the first time. And how did Wall Street react to these numbers? Well, it’s down 23 percent right now. Yikes! What the--?
It seems that analysts were hoping for higher revenues, something more like $574 million. Six million dollars, it seems, can make a big difference. Just ask Lee Majors.
There was more to gripe about also.
What's worse, the company's gross billings growth decelerated to just 47 percent, and dropped quarter-over-year for the first time ever, Citi analyst Mark Mahaney said in a research note to investors today. Mahaney also noted that the company's "core Daily Deal business is sharply slowing."
"All in, a sequential decline implies a rapidly deteriorating core business i.e. the Daily Deals business, and Groupon needs to act fast to fill up this hole with new initiatives such as Goods," Mahaney wrote. "Along similar lines, Groupon's Billings Per Active Customer have been declining sequentially for the past 3 quarters. This is an inherently negative trend as it implies that the core value proposition to consumers has been declining."
Strong words, if written a bit tediously. Sorry, Mahaney. Is group buying really just a fad? Is Groupon set up to be replaced by something newer and snazzier or is its space ready to be taken over by a Facebook or Google or something? Well, both those companies made a lot of noise when they entered the Deals space and then quietly slinked away from it.
Most importantly: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MY SPA TREATMENTS?
Tablets and phones: let’s do the numbers
In fact, let’s do them from Apple’s point of view. First, the tablets. (CUE “WE’RE IN THE MONEY”) Research firm IHS iSuppli says the iPad continued its dominance and expanded its lead, Usain Bolt-like, sprinting ahead of the field, possibly with Bolt’s unnerving look of nonchalance. It shipped 17 million iPads in the quarter, that’s an increase of 44% from the first quarter. Keep in mind, Apple dropped a new iPad in March. Apple now owns almost 70% of the tablet market. The big loser, the big Stormy Weather player in tablets was Amazon as Kindle shipments dropped 13 percent because there was no Christmas in that quarter, which is when everyone seems to give everyone else Kindles.
Don’t get too smug, Apple, because here comes the bad news in phones. (CUE “STORMY WEATHER”). Gartner analyst Anshul Gupta says people aren’t buying a whole lot of new smartphones right now but when they are buying them, they’re buying Samsung.
From the Washington Post:
Samsung extended its lead as the world’s top smartphone maker in the last quarter, up 29.5 percent from the first three months of the year, the firm found. On the other hand, sales of Apple’s iPhone — while up 47.4 percent from the same time last year — fell 12.6 percent from the previous quarter.
Of course, Apple does have We’re In The Money cued up and ready to go for next month when it’s expected to announce a new iPhone, which might be called the iPhone 5 or maybe just “the new iPhone”. It’s also expected to announce a new smaller iPad for the holiday season.
Google gets Frommer’s
Just another day, really, in a billion-dollar company’s life. Yesterday the Googs tapped a few coins out of the water jug where it saves pocket change and plunked down a reported $23 million for Frommer’s, the long-standing trusted name in travel guides. You might remember a similar amount ($22.5 million) Google was ordered to pay earlier this week by the Federal Trade Commission to settle a breach of privacy. The pizza party that Google honchos are planning to throw next week for co-founder Sergey Brin’s 39th birthday - that’s going to be bananas expensive. The next five generations of Chuck E. Cheese’s offspring will be going to college on Google’s dime. PARRRTAAAAY!
The deal will meld the 55-year-old travel publisher's deep database of hotels and sights into a search giant that is seeking to position its services across the entire trip-planning process, from searching for a holiday destination and looking up hotel reviews to booking tours and restaurants in far-flung cities.
Google hasn’t said yet how it plans to use Frommer’s, but one can see how incorporating the kind of reviews and travel information, which you used to have to pay for in book form, might attract advertisers.
Fairness concerns are already being raised by online travel sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. They’re worried that people looking into travel using a Google search might be directed to one of Google’s products, thus making the Big G more attractive to advertisers. Yelp has already been... well yelping about the purchase restaurant review stalwarts Zagat that Google made last year.
Dell kids ruin everything by tweeting
It might be a little harder to get motivated to come into work these days if you’re employed at Dell. First of all, you might not have known that your company spends $2.7 million a year to provide extra security for founder Michael Dell and his family. Then comes the news that Dell’s daughter Alexa, 18, was tweeting all sorts of information about where she was shopping and where she stayed while visiting New York. The tweets were also GPS enabled so one could tell exactly where she was. Her brother Zachary, 15, was shown on a blog about rich kids’ pictures on Instagram (who would RUN a blog like that? I mean... WHY?) at a buffet in Fiji and about to get on the family’s private jet. The photo was taken by his sister and set to public on Instagram.
The Dell kids have since been kicked off social media by their family.
Did someone just find ancient pyramids using Google Earth?
Maybe. Really? I don’t know. But you think so? Possibly! Google Earth lets you look at the planet from above and zoom down to a pretty remarkable degree of accuracy. Maybe not reading a license plate but possibly enough to detect the ruins of long ago pyramids in Egypt.
The two possible complexes are located about 90 miles apart from each other in Upper Egypt (the southern part of the country). Satellite archaeology researcher Angela Micol wrote on her website Google Earth Anomalies that the sites contain unusual mounds with noteworthy features.
“Upon closer examination of the formation, this mound appears to have a very flat top and a curiously symmetrical triangular shape that has been heavily eroded with time,” Micol said.
She says the images themselves don’t prove anything but they should be studied further by archaeologists.
By the way, “Satellite archaeology researcher” seems like a pretty great job if you’re interested in ancient civilizations but don’t really want to get dirty and would rather sit around on your computer in your pajamas.
Teens love watching music on YouTube. Wolfman Jack howls from his grave.
A new study from Nielson finds the under-18 set could care less about CDs. YouTube, it turns out, is the way the majority of kids listen to music. And don’t even talk to them about streaming sites like Spotify and Rhapsody. According to the study, in fact, don’t bother anybody with streams. The Wall Street Journal says:
… among adults, cassette tapes remain more popular than many online music services, or even vinyl records, despite the latter medium's purported comeback in recent years. Nine percent of adult respondents said they listen to cassettes, more than Spotify (7%), LP records (6%), or music services from Yahoo Inc. (2%),AOL Inc. (2%), eMusic.com Inc. (1%) or Rhapsody (1%).
Not only is this bad news for the next generation’s ability to focus on one thing for more than a couple minutes, but weren’t streaming services supposed to be the wave of the future (and the saving grace for record companies)?
Nielsen executives said that the listening patterns, particularly the massive popularity of YouTube, show that record companies will need to stay nimble in a changing world. "What is the revenue they're getting per stream?" said David Bakula, a senior executive in Nielsen's entertainment-measurement division. "It's not the $10 they got for a CD."
When I look at the results of the over 3,000 respondents, it seems that people don’t like too much choice. 67% of adults like to get their music programmed for them and listen to the radio - not much choice there. YouTube is similar - click on one video, and you’re headed off down the curated rabbit hole that makes up YouTubes algorithm. Even iTunes, if you think about it, with its splashy front pages and chart lists serves up content. And we seem to like it that way as that’s where 53% of kids ages 13-17 and 29% of adults like to get their music.
Spotify... Rhapsody... Mog et al? Maybe the sites are too overwhelming.
The case of Apple screws
When it comes to news about Apple, there’s a weird megalomaniacal game that bloggers and tech journalists like to play. People seem to have scorecards to notch whenever they can report new news about the company. Case in point: a story about an “asymmetric screw,” new hardware that Apple was reportedly creating for the new iPhone so people couldn’t open the backs of their phones. The whole story was fake made up by the Swedish advertising firm Day4 - a test, in fact, to turn a mirror towards salivating Apple junkies.
Here’s how a post on Day4’s site explains it:
One afternoon we sketched out a screw in our 3D program, a very strange screw where the head was neither a star, tracks, pentalobe or whatever, but a unique form, also very impractical. We rendered the image, put it in an email, sent it to ourselves, took a picture of the screen with the mail and anonymously uploaded the image to the forum Reddit with the text ”A friend took a photo a while ago at that fruit company, they are obviously even creating their own screws .”
Half a day later the “news item” started showing up on blogs but with a certain degree of skepticism. Comments on articles, however, tended to treat the news as legit. And when the average Joe decided to tweet or post something about the new screws to Facebook, they tended to be talking in facts. Day4 says it was trying to get a handle on the question: “How much of what we read on the Internet today is really true?”
Google to make pirates walk the plank
The “plank” in this case means search ranking on Google. The Googs announced a new policy on Friday that aims to penalize sites which continually post copyrighted material. Google isn’t actively searching for copyrights, but it is receiving over one million requests each week, mostly from recording industry folks and big media companies like NBCUniversal, asking to have sites blocked. So if a recidivist site doesn’t comply, its Google search ranking will go down, eventually pushing it into the nether-world of page three and beyond - face it, you rarely look past page one right?
The move comes as Google itself is attempting to become a major seller and distributor of professional video and music content through a variety of services, from its YouTube video site to the Google Play online-media store to its pay-TV service in Kansas City, which required deals with cable-channel networks. It is pursuing such initiatives partly in a bid to compete with Apple Inc. and Amazon Inc., among other tech companies that distribute media.
One big exception: YouTube, Google’s own service that sees users upload something like a half a ba-million videos that might could come into question. From Search Engine Land:
YouTube will let those who want to do a removal do so, but it also pitches a way to submit multiple notices more easily through a special Content Verification Program (a sign that YouTube gets lots of takedown requests), as well as the pretty cool Content ID system, which lets those who have infringement allegations decide to be mellow, let those videos stay up with ads and collect some income off of it.
App.net: a paid Twitter gets a lot of interest
Twitter has caught on. It’s no longer the wave of the future, it’s the wave of the present. And since this is technology we’re talking about, everyone is actively looking for the next big wave so that they can surf it or something.
Maybe that’s why App.net did so well in Kickstarter funding. Web developer Dalton Caldwell raised half a million dollars from 10,000 investors for a Twitter-like operation that people would pay to join. Caldwell’s pitch involves the complaint that Twitter was blocking access to its API (application programming interface) which blocked people from building on that platform.
From The Guardian:
As Twitter tries to generate revenues from its fast-growing user base, it has been putting more restrictions on what developers can do - leading to restlessness among those who have built apps for it.
"We believe that advertising-supported social services are so consistently and inextricably at odds with the interests of users and developers that something must be done," Caldwell wrote on the App.net signup page.
Speaking to Technology Review, he said that "Twitter created as fundamental a technical innovation as e-mail and HTML itself, and they totally blew it."
Yeah, but email and HTML tend to be free and a big part of the fun of Twitter is the critical mass of people using it. As annoying as ad-supported platforms are (Facebook is one), the price literally cannot be beat.
Then again, I would put a dollar value on not seeing the Fail Whale again.