For the most part, the news about Windows 8 hasn’t been very positive for Microsoft, but the company today announced a major win. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) just signed a new three-year licensing agreement with Microsoft reseller Insight Public Sector to bring Windows 8, Office 2013, and SharePoint 2013 Enterprise to 75 percent of all DoD personnel. The DoD, Microsoft says, will “use Windows 8 to empower productivity from any location, and any supported device, while taking advantage of enhanced security.” It’s worth noting, of course, that the DoD was already a Microsoft customer.
Today’s announcement, says Microsoft, means the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) will now have access to “the latest Microsoft technologies in support of top IT priorities around datacenter consolidation, collaboration, cybersecurity, mobility, cloud computing and big data.” Microsoft also says that this is “the most comprehensive” agreement it has ever established with the DoD. The total worth of the deal is about $617 million, and the Army expects to save more than $70 million per year because of it.
“There’s a move afoot throughout the department to bring about efficiencies in the [information technology] world,” David L. DeVries, DOD deputy chief information officer, told American Forces Press Service. “We took a long, hard look at it … realizing that the Department of Defense relies upon the network and upon information technology to do its business.”
Microsoft will work closely with the U.S. Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command and the Air Force Program Executive Office for Business and Enterprise Systems to achieve “Army Golden Master and Air Force Standard Desktop Configuration compliance for Windows 8.”
Tagstand, the Y Combinator-backed startup intent on taking NFC mainstream, is announcing a partnership with mobile accessories maker TYLT in advance of this year’s CES in Las Vegas. The deal involves three new products, manufactured by TYLT, which use Tagstand’s NFC technology: TUNZ, a portable Bluetooth speaker; CAPIO, a universal smartphone mount for the car; and TAGZ, which are the NFC stickers you can program and place anywhere.
The products are designed to work with Tagstand’s Android application, NFC Task Launcher, which previously was made to work with NFC tags, like those Tagstand offers in its tag store. Users configure their NFC tags to perform particular tasks when tapped – like automatically activating Bluetooth, launching their navigation app or music app on their phone, connect to Wi-Fi networks, change ringer volumes, check-in on social networks, and more. The Task Launcher app has now been downloaded over 250,000 times, according to Tagstand co-founder Kulveer Taggar.
With the new products from TYLT, however, some of those use cases are now available built into the hardware devices themselves. For example, the CAPIO phone dock can now be configured to turn on your Bluetooth connection to sync with your car, launch your favorite mapping app or start playing music just by placing the phone in the mount.
The TUNZ speaker can be tapped to start playing music, and perform other tasks, like connecting to Wi-Fi, for example. So hopefully, a better alternative to the poorly received Nexus Q? (At least it looks like a speaker, not a ball.) The speaker includes a built-in noise canceling microphone that lets you switch from music to hands-free calling, and offers up to 20 hours of battery life. You can get 30 hours if you play the volume at half status, the company claims.
Although NFC doesn’t have widespread adoption in the U.S. at this point in terms of mobile payments – the technology it is often most associated with – Tagstand has been betting big that its integration into new Android phones will pave the way for startups that take advantage of the technology in other ways. TYLT is also investing in NFC, with plans to ship at least 100,000 NFC chips in six products in 2013. (In addition to the speaker and smartphone dock, they have four others on the roadmap. Some of the products were previously announced, but Tagstand’s partnership was not.)
Taggar adds that Tagstand’s NFC Task Launcher app has now seen over 10 million actions executed, which is up from the 1 million it was reporting back in June 2012. At the time, the company had just transitioned the app from a $2 paid version to a free offering, so the drop in price (to zero), has likely helped increase adoption.
It’s often said that the Crunchies are the Oscars of tech. It’s with great anticipation that we bring you the best of innovation in technology from the past year in an environment that’s fun and elegant. In an effort to continue to raise the bar each year, we are excited to announce John Oliver as our host for the 2012 Crunchies Awards.
John Oliver has been a writer and correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart since 2006, and he’s also had his own Comedy Central series, John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show, since 2009. He’s also had multiple Writers Guild and Emmy Nomination for his writing on The Daily Show and won the Emmy Award for Best Comedy Writing In A Comedy or Variety Series in both 2009 and 2011.
We invite all of you to come out on Jan 31st to participate in what’s one of the most exciting nights for all of us here at TechCrunch and for the tech community. You can get your tickets below!
So you couldn’t make it to our Greece meetup. No worries. Here’s a live video feed sponsored by Open Coffee and Microsoft Innovation Centre so you can catch all the action from Benaki Museum in Athens.
Events are all in local Athens time.
• 5.00pm – 5.15pm: Opening Remarks by Alexia Tsotsis, co-editor at TechCrunch and Niko Bonatsos, co-founder of SV Greeks & Greekamericans and VC at General Catalyst Partners.
To replicate this yourself, just head over to Google Translate and end a sentence with something like “end with,” “enraged with” or “filled with.”
Judging from this thread on Google’s Android bug tracker, the issue has actually been around since at least early October 2012. The issue only started to go viral yesterday, however, after the good folks over at Hacker News picked it up.
Of course, it would be great if this was an Easter egg that a mischievous developer added to Google’s text-to-speech systems after a few too many drinks, but the reality is probably a bit more prosaic. As the sleuths over on Hacker News found out, chances are this is just a badly trained algorithm.
Google’s systems likely looked at this story on MacNN. Here is the sentence that likely caused the bug: “Describing the negotiations last spring as being filled with “so much drama,” he now praises the iPad.” It’s not clear if this is an issue with Google’s algorithm or human error, but for some reason the system now thinks that it needs to complete sentences that end with the right sounds with “he now praises the iPad.”
Chances are Google will fix this bug soon, so if you want to have some fun with it, just head over to Google Translate and try it yourself.
Euclid, the new startup from the creators of Urchin, a company Google acquired which then became the basis of Google Analytics, first introduced its offline customer tracking solution – or “Google Analytics for the real world,” as the team calls it – just over a year ago. Today, Euclid is rolling out a new version of its solution called “Euclid Zero,” which is the first time businesses can use its cloud-based software without having to install a hardware sensor device in their stores.
Traditionally, retailers have used everything from basic door clickers to optical solutions like beams above a door or video cameras to track their customers’ comings and goings. But Euclid had a different idea – it could passively detect customers’ smartphones with Wi-Fi enabled and collect their phones’ MAC addresses. Because MAC addresses are unique to each device (although not personally identifiable info), Euclid hashes the MAC address before storing the number on its servers. It also contractually requires that its customers place signage in their stores informing customers of opt-out procedures.
The company’s flagship solution, launched in late 2011, uses preconfigured sensors which are connected to the switch in the network closet. This allows the business to track how many people walk by a store, enter, how long they stay, and more. “We’ve been very focused on providing Google Analytics for the real world, where instead of the clickstream, you get the footstream,” says Euclid CEO Will Smith, whose background in retail complements that of COO Scott Crosby, Urchin co-founder. (Brett Crosby, also an Urchin co-founder, sits on Euclid’s board.)
Today, the company is debuting Euclid Zero, which is being offered in partnership with several wireless access point providers including Aerohive Networks, Aruba Networks, Fortinet, Xirrus, and soon others. Since many retailers already have those devices in their stores, they can now forgo the sensor installation and configuration, and simply switch on the new Euclid feature in their Wi-Fi management console. The Xirrus partnership, in particular, will allow Euclid to go after a new market as well: event venues and conference centers.
Smith says the solution has a big appeal in an era when Amazon is crushing brick-and-mortar retailers left and right. ”The big advantage that Amazon has now is data,” he explains. “Data is what allows Amazon to acquire customers cheaply, and make sure they’re engaged and getting through the site seamlessly. We’ve been making the same pitch to offline retailers – ‘we’re going to give you the same tools that Amazon uses to compete with you.’”
When the Palo Alto-based company opened its doors to U.S. testers a little over a year ago, it had primarily been working with retailers in the San Francisco Bay Area, like Philz Coffee, but today it has dozens of national retailers using its software. While it does have some non-obvious locations – like a Western wear retailer with stores in Montana – most of its customers are in San Francisco, L.A., and New York.
That customer list will continue to grow, says Smith, as Euclid brought on Sandra Dolan, a founding team member at competitor ShopperTrack, to help it onboard new businesses. The majority of its customer base includes retailers in the top 100, and it will make additional announcements about customer base in the future, Smith says.
To give a picture of its traction, Smith noted that Euclid has grown from 1 million “events” per day (meaning the Wi-Fi pings it collects) to 3 billion. One smartphone could register multiple pings, however, so that’s not an indication of how many customers have been tracked using Euclid’s solution.
Euclid recently updated its customers’ dashboard, which now allows new views into the data, including bounce rates and ways to see how behaviorally similar groups act. It’s currently working to improve the export process to support integration with retailers’ own business-intelligence solutions as an alternative to having them download a CSV file.
There are other startups, like TechCrunch Disrupt 2011 finalist Prism Skylabs (which recently raised $7.5 million in Series A funding), working to innovate in the retail analytics sector, but Smith argues that his startup offers more relevant data for retailers. “These heatmap companies, these video companies are interesting, but as far as the metrics that drive a retail business, they’re not touching that many of them,” he says.
Google was cleared of anti-competitive accusations yesterday by the Federal Trade Commission, but a long-forgotten interview with Chairman Eric Schmidt reveals that the search giant may be on an inevitable road to monopoly anyways.
Microsoft and critics allege that when Google prominently displays its own predicted best answers above all search results, it unfairly favors its own services above other niche search engines, like travel and shopping websites. But, as Schmidt told Charlie Rose in 2005, Google searches do yield one perfect result:
When you use Google, do you get more than one answer? Of course you do. Well, that’s a bug. We have more bugs per second in the world. We should be able to give you the right answer just once. We should know what you meant. You should look for information. We should get it exactly right and we should give it to you in your language and we should never be wrong. That’s our challenge.
In other words, Google’s hyper-perfectionist ambitions are unlikely to leave much room for competitors. Today, the perfect search isn’t possible and highlighting good results doesn’t exclude competitors. Indeed, the FTC agreed, saying that favoring its own search results “could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google’s product and the experience of its users. It therefore has chosen to close the investigation.”
The rapid pace of computing genius is forcing us to test long-debated notions of the truth, choice, and the value of diversity. As consumers offload more decisions to computers, or as computers come to know more about us than we know about ourselves, the value of competition is diminished. This is not unique to Google, though it may be the lucky winner of a new form of monopoly by virtue of being first.
Read more in my Washington Post piece here and see a clip of the interview below:
There’s really no other way to slice it — Taiwanese smartphone OEM HTC has had a difficult 2012. More than a few people have already weighed in on the company’s spotty 2012, but CEO Peter Chou recently spoke to the Wall Street Journal to offer his take on the company’s rough patch.
So what the hell happened this year? According to Chou, failures in marketing were a big part of its weak year.
“Our competitors were too strong and very resourceful, pouring in lots of money into marketing. We haven’t done enough on the marketing front.” This is hardly the first time HTC has blamed its rivals for its lackluster annual performance, but HTC’s weaknesses when it comes to cultivating an image (any image, really) can’t be understated.
Meanwhile, larger rivals like Samsung have shown no qualms when it comes to throwing their marketing weight around — the company surely paid a premium crafting commercials for the London Olympics and the Super Bowl, and often got feisty by jabbing at Apple line-sitters (sorry Romain). Apple has arguably lost some of its luster with some of its recent ads, but really — people are going to buy Apple gewgaws no matter what. HTC has already started to work on its marketing and perception issues — it snagged itself a new CMO who previously led Motorola Asia’s marketing efforts,
It feels like an excuse from Chou has become something of an annual tradition. Going into 2012, HTC pegged some of its woes on its product line – the company pointedly revealed its intention to pare down the number of phones it would produce in favor of a smaller number of “hero devices.” A quick look at the company’s phone portfolio shows that they’ve done nicely on that front. The original One series devices raised plenty of eyebrows when they were officially unveiled at MWC 2012 while more recent releases like the J Butterfly/Droid DNA prove rather nicely that HTC is still capable of pushing the envelopes of design and performance.
It’s precisely that ability to push envelopes that Chou is banking on to turn things around, noting that “the most important thing is to have unique products that appeal to consumers.” Easier said than done, of course.
What seems most curious to me here is Chou’s tone — he sounds pragmatic almost to the point of being defeatist. Longtime readers may know that I’m generally very bullish on HTC and its hardware, but CEO Chou was very careful to couch himself when it came to his outlook on the new year. According to him, 2013 “will not be too bad,” and that the worst “has probably passed” — is it just me, or are these pretty chilling words coming from HTC’s head honcho? I see the benefits of cautious optimism, but surely a teensy bit of hubris couldn’t hurt to whip his employees into a innovation-centric frenzy?