Swatch eyes double-digit growth in 2012: paper

ZURICH (Reuters) – The chairwoman of watchmaker Swatch Group hopes to see double-digit sales growth this year, she told a newspaper on Sunday.

Japan mourn; grapples with tsunami aftermath

OFUNATO, Japan (Reuters) – With a moment of silence, prayers and anti-nuclear rallies, Japan marked on Sunday one year since an earthquake and tsunami killed thousands and set off a radiation crisis that shattered public trust in atomic power and the nation’s leaders.

Nike To Open First-Ever API To Developers At Backplane’s SXSW Music Hackathon

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Last month, Jason wrote about the announcement that Backplane — the new interactive, visual platform that’s part Pinterest, part Tumblr and Ning — will be using its star power to stage an unusual event at SXSW: A music hackathon.

The startup, which is backed by Lady Gaga along with a host of Silicon Valley VCs, is hosting its so called “SXSW Managers Hack,” a unique event for SXSW and music tech. The hackathon will be judged by music industry veterans, like Scooter Braun (the guy who helped bring you The Bieber), President of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Jay Brown, and Lady Gaga’s manager (and Backplane Co-founder) Troy Carter, as well as reps from Spotify, Pandora, and SoundHound.

In addition, it seems that hackers will also be able to pair some fitness functionality to their music-related hacks during the event, as we’ve learned that Backplane has enlisted a somewhat unusual name when it comes to hacking: Nike.

Yes, we’ve learned that Nike will be joining the Managers Hack to open up a beta version of the NikeFuel API for the first time to developers interested in combining music with its FuelBand.

For a bit of background, Nike recently released its Jawbone and Fitbit competitor, the Nike FuelBand, which is a lightweight, LED-lit bracelet that uses so-called “NikeFuel” metrics to record biomedical data to your smartphone. In other words, it uses a three-axis accelerometer to measure all your sports-related exercices, syncing that data with an iPhone app so that you can set goals and track exercise while on the go.

This represents the first time that Nike has released an API of any kind, and naturally the first time it’s made its NikeFuel platform available to developers. So now, developers will be able to hack together apps, platforms, and technologies that can “advance the future of digital music distribution,” as Backplane puts it, while adding some cool Nike-backed fitness functionality to boot.

What’s more, this is exciting for developers, because they will be being judged by the people who have their fingers on the button that decide which apps and platforms artists actually use.

The event kicks off tomorrow, Sunday, March 11, and runs from 2 PM til 10 PM, with winners to be chosen at the end of the event. The event will be livestreamed by R to Z Studios, Randi Zuckerberg’s new social media firm. (Zuckerberg will be hosting the stream.) Readers can check it out here.

Backplane will also be broadcasting from Austin into Times Square via the NASDAQ screens.

For more on the event, check it out here. You can also learn more about Path’s new API and recent integration with Nike’s fitness platform here.

Porn site Digital Playground hacked, hackers say “too enticing to resist”

Yet another porn site was hacked this week, losing 73,000 e-mail addresses, user names, and passwords, and some 40,000 plain-text credit card numbers, including CCV numbers and expiration dates, according to SC Magazine. This comes just over two weeks after YouPorn, a popular adult-video site, suffered an information-grab at the hands of hackers, losing several thousand user names and plain-text e-mail addresses.

This time around, the hackers identified themselves as members of “The Consortium” and seem to be affiliated with Lulzsec and Anonymous. AVN confirmed the attack, and said while the hackers didn’t dump all the data, partially published lists correspond with Digital Playground’s customer list.

In a mirror image of Digital Playground’s compromise, the hackers said that they hadn’t set out to destroy the porn site, but that the lax credentials and shoddy security “made it too enticing to resist”. The hackers also claimed to have rooted four of the site’s servers, and listened in on the company’s conference calls.

On March 1, 2012, Digital Playground’s Website officially became a property of Manwin, a Luxembourg-based adult entertainment IT company that also owns the hacked YouPorn, and in an official statement to AVN, Digital Playground suggests that the breach may have occurred before that transfer, in February. The fee-based porn site is currently down, and says it will not charge customers while “management is supervising all aspects of this situation.”

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Paul Graham Wants You To Build A New Search Engine, Inbox, Or Be The Next Steve Jobs


As a founding partner at Y Combinator, Paul Graham has seen countless startup pitches. In a new essay, called “Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas,” Graham makes the case that the ideas with the most disruptive potential also happen to be frightening due to the sheer ambition that they would require from entrepreneurs to turn them into reality.

Yes, there is an amazing amount of talent in Silicon Valley; there has been for years, and there will be for many more to come. But, while the tech industry continues to produce world-changing hardware, software, and consumer web companies, there is a sense that the current landscape is lacking the kind of deep innovation that once defined the industry. Last September, at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, Max Levchin and Peter Thiel went so far as to say that innovation today is actually “between dire straights and dead.”

In his essay, Graham attributes this to the fact that “the best ideas are just on the right side of impossible.” And being so close to impossible, they are naturally both frightening and repelling — even if those ideas inherently represent billion-dollar businesses.

In the everyday work of journalists, investors, entrepreneurs and advisors, good ideas seem obvious and attractive. They immediately get us thinking, tweeting, writing, or thumbing through our check books. But, in truth, the great businesses aren’t really appealing at all. They suck.

Case in point: Building a new search engine. As Graham says:

That does not by itself mean there’s room for a new search engine, but lately when using Google search I’ve found myself nostalgic for the old days, when Google was true to its own slightly aspy self. Google used to give me a page of the right answers, fast, with no clutter. Now the results seem inspired by the Scientologist principle that what’s true is what’s true for you. And the pages don’t have the clean, sparse feel they used to. Google search results used to look like the output of a Unix utility. Now if I accidentally put the cursor in the wrong place, anything might happen.

Like how Microsoft confused itself worrying too much about Google and getting into the search game itself (Bing), Google has arguably become obsessed with Facebook’s growing share of the Web. Google+ is its answer to Facebook, and when it started incorporating social initiatives into search (with the so-called “Search Plus Your World”), a lot of people balked, saying, essentially, “Uh, yeah, that’s not ‘my world’ at all.”

Some might say Google is betting the farm on Google+, while in the meantime, we are left looking for alternatives to what used to be an awesome search engine. Blekko, for one, is trying. Graham suggests, in a way that sounds almost Jobs-ian, that hackers should build a new search engine, one that they and other hackers want to use — not for us, but for themselves. If that plucky entrepreneur could get the best 10K coders in the country using it, they’d be 10 percent of the way to an IPO, he says.

Graham’s next suggestion is one that many power users can relate: For the love of God, someone fix email. (My words, not his. Also, see MG’s on this subject.) He floats the idea of a totally new “todo” protocol, that would give the recipient more power than the current one allows. He even references a line from The Dark Knight in so doing:

This is one of those ideas that’s like an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. On one hand, entrenched protocols are impossible to replace. On the other, it seems unlikely that people in 100 years will still be living in the same email hell we do now. And if email is going to get replaced eventually, why not now?

If you do it right, you may be able to avoid the usual chicken and egg problem new protocols face, because some of the most powerful people in the world will be among the first to switch to it. They’re all at the mercy of email too.

Whatever you build, make it fast. GMail has become painfully slow. If you made something no better than GMail, but fast, that alone would let you start to pull users away from GMail.

The Y Combinator partner also touches on a big new trend in education tech — the flipping of the classroom, asking entrepreneurs to tackle the problem of universities — somethingPeter Thiel has been talking about for awhile now, and is attempting to address with his Thiel Fellowship.

There is a huge opportunity in making higher — or at least secondary — education remote. But the challenge is making that remote, digital experience high-quality, equivalent or better to that of an on-campus education.

He also touches on the need for new and better web TV, as well as the importance of finding a new Steve Jobs:

Now Steve is gone there’s a vacuum we can all feel. If a new company led boldly into the future of hardware, users would follow. The CEO of that company, the “next Steve Jobs,” might not measure up to Steve Jobs. But he wouldn’t have to. He’d just have to do a better job than Samsung and HP and Nokia, and that seems pretty doable.

Lastly, he says that we could all benefit from bringing back Moore’s Law, although with pieces of news like this, it seems there may be hope.

Although Paul may not have said it explicitly, let this be a challenge to startups and entrepreneurs. There are some big ideas here — enough to keep us all occupied for the next 20 years.

I think the way to use these big ideas is not to try to identify a precise point in the future and then ask yourself how to get from here to there, like the popular image of a visionary. You’ll be better off if you operate like Columbus and just head in a general westerly direction. Don’t try to construct the future like a building, because your current blueprint is almost certainly mistaken. Start with something you know works, and when you expand, expand westward.

I’ll leave off there, so that you can go read it yourself.

Santorum scores easy win at Kansas caucuses

TOPEKA, Kansas (Reuters) – Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum swept the Kansas caucuses on Saturday with 51 percent of the vote, giving him a boost going into crucial primary votes in the South next week.

Greece eyes elections after debt deal

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos formally submitted his candidacy to lead the Socialist PASOK party on Saturday, as the focus in Athens shifted to elections expected once an international bailout deal is cleared.