In-app purchases are coming to Facebook’s Instant Games on Android and the web

Facebook is adding support for in-app purchases to its Instant Games platform, the company announced during a session on gaming at its F8 developer conference this afternoon. The feature will allow game developers to add another form of monetization beyond advertising to their games on select platforms, but not on iOS.

Instead, support for in-app purchases will be available to Instant Games on Android and on on the web.

First launched in 2016, Facebook opened up Instant Games to all developers last month. The platform allows developers to build mobile-friendly games using HTML5 that work across both Facebook and Messenger. The idea is to give game developers access to another sizable platform for their work, in addition to the existing app stores run by Apple and Google.

Facebook has had in-app purchases on its roadmap for Instant Games for some time, and began testing the feature with select developers around six months ago.

Similar to the app stores, the revenue share model for Instant Games is 70/30 on However, on mobile, the games will follow the in-app billing terms from each platform, the company notes. That means purchases made in games running on Android devices, the 30 percent revenue share will apply after the standard mobile platform revenue share — aka Google’s own 70/30 cut.

That’s not ideal, of course. And all the hands in the pie may lead to game developers pricing their in-app purchases higher, as a result.

Facebook seems to acknowledge this concern in its blog post announcement, saying: “Our primary goal is to build [in-app purchases] in a way so that our developer partners can sustain and grow, and we’ll continue to evaluate rev/share with that goal in mind.”

Facebook wouldn’t confirm if or when support for in-app purchases is coming to iOS.

In addition to helping developers generate revenue outside of using ads in their games, in-app purchases in games could prove beneficial to Facebook as well. The company’s payment revenue has dwindled over the years, with things like Messenger payments never really seeing significant attention. Plus, Facebook made it possible for third-parties like PayPal to operate over Messenger, which signaled its disinterest in the payments space in general.

In-app purchases in games turns things around, a bit.

The submission process for in-app purchases will open up to developers on May 7, allowing them to implement the monetization features on Android and the web. In the meantime, Facebook is offering documentation about the feature here.

Cisco is acquiring business intelligence startup Accompany for $270M

Cisco just announced an agreement to acquire Accompany, which uses artificial intelligence to build databases of people and relationships at companies.

Founder and CEO Amy Chang has compared the product to a digital chief of staff or personal assistant, giving executives the context they need before conversations and meetings. Cisco plans to incorporate Accompany technology into its collaboration products, for example by introducing company and individual profiles into Webex meetings.

Cisco says it will pay $270 million in cash and stock in the deal.

The company probably didn’t have to search too hard to find Accompany, since Chang (who previously served as the head of product for Google’s ad measurement and reporting) has been on Cisco’s board of directors since October 2016. As part of the transaction, she’s resigning from the board, effective immediately.

In addition, Chang will be taking over the company’s Collaboration Technology Group. Rowan Trollope, who currently leads the collaboration group, is departing to become CEO at cloud software company Five9.

“Amy has proven to be an effective and innovative leader through her years as an entrepreneur, an engineer, and CEO, and I couldn’t be more pleased to have her and the Accompany team join Cisco,” said Cisco chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins in the announcement. “Together, we have a tremendous opportunity to further enhance AI and machine learning capabilities in our collaboration portfolio and continue to create amazing collaboration experiences for customers.”

According to Crunchbase, Accompany has raised around $40 million in funding from investors including CRV, Cowboy Ventures, Iconiq Capital and Ignition Partners.

Cisco also announced today that it’s selling off some of its NDS video assets.

Eliot Peper’s Bandwidth is a riveting novel exploring the dark side of feeds and geopolitics

The feed is the greatest psychological and mental manipulation tool that has ever been invented. Every day, billions of people open apps and scroll through algorithmically selected content designed to emotively engage us. Through the feed, we enter an intellectual stupor, downloading information to our brains without critical thought, without filters. Who ultimately controls those feeds, and can they use that control to change not just the emotions of their audience, but our very understanding of reality?

The feed and its discontents is the theme undergirding Bandwidth, the latest science fiction novel by Eliot Peper, released today by Amazon Publishing imprint 47North. The novel, the author’s sixth, is the story of Dag Calhoun, a lobbyist who gets caught up in a war over climate change and the world’s response to it. In this telling, activists fight not through picket signs and petitions, but instead with the modern weaponry of algorithms — controlling the feeds of global leaders to change their very understanding of the world.

The book is straight out of the Peper oeuvre, combining a thriller plot with a deeper introspection of technology and its effect on our actions and our futures. It’s an engaging, electric read, but also one that forces us to confront the state of the world today and our impact as an industry on politics.

The book is also the latest milestone in the entrepreneurial writing career of Peper, who migrated from the startup and VC worlds to pursue his creative passions full-time. He describes his background as “a bit of a pinball career path,” studying international environmental policy, working at a plasma arc startup in the clean energy space and then working at a venture firm.

Yet through all of those experiences, something was gnawing on him about the content that he was reading, particularly about business. “Folks don’t want to publicize some of their less overtly positive experiences,” Peper said. “They don’t want to throw shade on other people, so business books sometimes miss some of the human experiences.”

Peper, who has been a voracious reader his entire life, thought he could offer that missing link by writing speculative fiction. “Writing fiction, you have to synthesize your ideas about the world,” he explained, and “put that all in a story that is compelling and illuminates something about the world for readers.” That led to his first trilogy of novels called the Uncommon Stock series, which are thrillers set against the backdrop of a fast-growing startup and show the sorts of highs and lows (and danger!) you don’t get in the business shelves.

Over time though, Peper has grown more philosophical about technology and its role in society, using his plots to explore ever more complicated connections of accelerating technological change. “We live in this world where our institutions and the tools we use every day are changing fast,” he explains, arguing that “my grandparents wouldn’t understand many, many things about my life today.” Peper often gets ideas for novels from the news and general events happening, and uses the medium of the novel to explore their nuances in-depth.

That sort of thinking shows up in Cumulus, his fourth novel about an eponymous company that utilizes its vast user data to provide better transportation services called Fleet, but also uses that data to attempt to block criticism of the company. Peper, who is a native of Oakland, California, integrates the vast inequality that technology has created in Silicon Valley into the core of the plot.

For Bandwidth, Peper wanted to respond to the challenges of the 2016 election, and the challenges of managing one’s own media diet. “In 2016 with the presidential campaign running in full swing, it felt that there was so much news that it was almost hard to escape from,” he said. “I really wanted to take more agency in the ideas and the stories I was inviting into my own heart.”

That thinking led Peper to start speculating on what would happen if you controlled that intake. “If you could personally curate the media diet of someone else, could you control their thinking … could you change their world view? That was the seed of Bandwidth,” he said.

Bandwidth is the first work in a trilogy, although each novel will be independent, set in the same universe but with different characters and themes. The next book is called Borderless, and will focus on the decline of the nation-state, and comes out October 30th.

Canadians’ $2 Trillion Of Household Debt Casts Shadow Over Economy

Governor of the Bank of Canada Stephen Poloz speaks during a press conference on the Bank of Canada's interest rate announcement and Monetary Policy Report in Ottawa on April 18, 2018. Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says Canadians have amassed a $2-trillion mountain of household debt that is now casting a big shadow over the timing of his next interest rate hike.

OTTAWA — Canadians have amassed a $2-trillion mountain of household debt that’s casting a big shadow over the timing of the Bank of Canada’s next interest rate hike, governor Stephen Poloz said in a speech Tuesday in Yellowknife.

To Poloz, the “sheer size” of debt burden also means its associated risks to endure for a while, although he’s optimistic the economy can navigate them.

The debt pile, he said, has been growing for three decades in both absolute terms and when compared to the size of the economy — and about $1.5 trillion of it currently consists of mortgage debt.

The central bank has concerns about the ability of households to keep paying down their high levels of debt when interest rates continue their rise, as is widely expected over the coming months.

“This debt has increasing implications for monetary policy,” he said in his address to the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce.

Poloz has introduced three rate hikes since last July following an impressive economic run for Canada that began in late 2016.

But the central bank stuck with its benchmark rate of 1.25 per cent last month as it continued its careful process of determining the best juncture for its next hike. The bank’s next announcement is May 30, but many experts only expect Poloz’s next increase to come at July’s meeting.

This debt still poses risks to the economy and financial stability, and its sheer size means that its risks will be with us for some time.Stephen Poloz

Poloz said Tuesday that the volume of what Canadians owe is one of the key reasons why the bank has been taking a cautious approach to raising its trend-setting rate. He called it an important vulnerability for individuals and leaves the entire economy exposed to shocks.

“This debt still poses risks to the economy and financial stability, and its sheer size means that its risks will be with us for some time,” Poloz said.

“But there is good reason to think that we can continue to manage these risks successfully. The economic progress we have seen makes us more confident that higher interest rates will be warranted over time, although some monetary policy accommodation will still be needed.”

Poloz said debt is a natural consequence of several factors, including the combination of a strong demand for housing and the prolonged period of low interest rates maintained in recent years to stimulate the economy.

Next hike must be well-timed

The governor also provided detail on issues the bank is examining as it considers the timing of its next rate increase.

If it raises rates too quickly, the bank risks choking off economic growth, falling short of its ideal inflation target of two per cent and could lead to the type of financial stability risk it’s trying to avoid, he said.

But if the governing council lifts the rate too slowly, Poloz said it could intensify inflationary pressures to the point it overshoots the bank’s bull’s-eye. Poloz added that moving too gradually could also entice Canadians to add even more debt and further boost vulnerabilities.

These forces will not last forever.Stephen Poloz

In his speech, he also noted several other areas of concern the bank is monitoring closely as it considers future hikes. They include the economic impacts of stricter mortgage rules, the ongoing uncertainty about U.S. trade policy, the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and a number of competitiveness challenges faced by Canadian exporters.

“These forces will not last forever,” Poloz said.

Previously On HuffPost:

Apple’s Wearable Business is the Size of a Fortune 300 Company

Apple’s “Other Products” category, which includes AirPods, Apple TV, Apple Watch, HomePod, Beats products, iPod touch, and other Apple-branded and third-party accessories brought in nearly $4 billion in revenue, up an impressive 38 percent compared to the year-ago quarter that brought in $2.9 billion in revenue.

According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, the Apple Watch, one of the most lucrative products in the “Other” category, saw strong revenue growth “in the double digits” year-over-year, setting a March quarter revenue record. Apple does not break down “Other” product sales, so specific numbers on Apple Watch sales are unavailable.

Cook described AirPods, another popular “Other” product as a “runaway hit” that the company is still working to keep in stock.

Wearables saw a combined revenue increase of almost 50 percent year over year, which includes AirPods, Beats, and Apple Watch. Cook said that Apple’s wearables business is now the size of a Fortune 300 company.

Cook didn’t have much to say about the HomePod, which is also in the “Other” category, but he said that he believes it is a “breakthrough” speaker that will change the way we listen to music.

Apple is “looking forward” to adding new features to the HomePod and introducing it to more markets soon, but he gave no timeline for these updates.
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Apple Announces $100 Billion Share Repurchase Program

During today’s second quarter earnings release, Apple said that it is launching a new share repurchase authorization of $100 billion, with a 16 percent increase in quarterly dividend.

Apple expects the execution of its previous $210 billion share repurchase authorization to wrap up by the end of the current quarter, three quarters earlier than originally expected. From Apple CEO Tim Cook:

Recent corporate tax reform makes it possible for us to executive our program more efficiently. Given our strong confidence in Apple’s future, we’re announcing a significant update. Apple’s Board approved an additional $100 billion share repurchase authorization, as well as a 16 percent increase in quarterly dividends, effective with the next divided later this month.

Following tax reform in the United States that will allow Apple to repatriate its overseas cash at a lower tax rate, Apple has said that it wants to reduce its net cash balance to zero, a goal it will accomplish through share buybacks, increased dividend payouts, acquisitions, and investments into research and development.

Apple CFO Luca Maestri said that Apple wants to maintain the cash it needs to fund day to day operations, invest in the future, and provide the flexibility it needs to respond strategically to opportunities that arise.

Maestri also said that Apple plans to executive its share buyback program thoughtfully, efficiently, and at a fast pace. Apple will provide updates on the program at the end of every quarter.

After the news of Apple’s $100 billion share buyback program, Apple stock is up 4 percent in aftermarket trading.
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