Considering that this is May, a surprising number of new
initiatives and unpredicted announcements have just been dropped by
several Tech companies.
) and Twitter both have ambitious new features.
) made yet another acquisition. And
)... well, Facebook got a big smack in the face, and took it rather
Twitter Aims to 'Amplify' TV Commercials
Twitter is beta testing a new service that allows its clients to
deliver advertising to just those people who are simultaneously
watching and tweeting about television programming the clients are
sponsoring. The company said the advertising is intended to
"complement and amplify"
the message of on-air commercials.
The ads on Twitter will be delivered while the program is still in
progress, with the help of new dashboard functions for the
advertisers' digital staff.
The company credits its own recent acquisition Bluefin Labs for the
Initial participants reportedly include Major League Baseball, BBC
Conversationally Speaking on Google
Google may occasionally shoot itself in the foot with that famously
minimalist design. It turns out that the little dingus on the far
right of the home page search field is a microphone icon, and if
you click on it you can just speak a question. The icon apparently
has been there for about two years now.
Anyway, there's a good reason to check it out now. With a new
upgrade, the conversation goes both ways, and it gets smarter. That
is, if a precise answer is found, rather than a selection of
possible matches, the answer is delivered by a pleasant little
voice while more extensive related information is displayed.
Most impressively, follow-up questions can be asked in natural
speech, without repeating the context. For instance, if you ask
about the best restaurants in Union Square, New York, you can
follow up by asking "How do I get there?"
The functionality is a bit hit or miss right now, but presumably
will improve over time. For starters, it's available only on
desktops, not on mobile, and only with the latest version of Google
Microsoft Kinect Will Do Windows
Voice and gesture sensors will be available for users of
(MSFT) Windows 8 operating system sometime next year, the company
said. The added functionality is based on the next generation of
the Kinect motion sensor, to be released later this year with the
company's new Xbox game console.
At this point, the company does not expect Kinect to replace or
even augment the mouse at home. The gadget for the PC will be
marketed to businesses
to add some interactive pizzazz to applications like in-store
At $250, the PC version is priced at $150 higher than the gamers'
version, which is discounted to boost content sales.
Japan Gets Square
The mobile payments service Square is expanding to Japan, its first
foray outside North America, with local partner
Sumitomo Mitsui Card Corp.
The company may have its work cut out for itself there, as
three-fourths of Japanese small businesses don't accept credit
cards at all, according to the
Wall Street Journal
(EBAY) PayPal mobile payments system is already available in Japan,
as are some local products.
Square will charge a 3.25% transaction fee in Japan, although it
charges 2.75% in the US PayPal's fee is 5%.
Facebook Stays Home
In the face of negative feedback from early users, Facebook has
announced it will delay the rollout of its Facebook Home mobile app
in the UK and France for several months. The company will retool
Considered critical to its strategy for mobile success, Facebook
Home replaces the phone's standard home screen with a Facebook
feed. It is pre-installed on some Android phones, and can be
downloaded from Google Play.
In fact, feedback on Google Play was an early sign that this launch
was not going well. More than half the 18,000-plus customer
reviewers awarded the feature the lowest one-star rating, and its
average rating works out to 2.3 out of five stars.
The company said it would incorporate "a lot of great feedback" to
retool the app. The company indicated a delay of a few months.
Yahoo Buys PlayScale
It's not quite as flashy as the Tumblr purchase, but Yahoo just
made yet another acquisition that could gain it a little
credibility among the techy crowd. It has purchased PlayerScale, a
fast-growing startup that provides tools for game developers.
PlayerScale claims to power games played by 150 million people, and
to be growing by 400,000 users a day.
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