22 September, 2016

Netflix wants 50% of its library to be original content

Netflix is looking to shift its content mix even further towards original TV and movies, with a goal of achieving a 50 percent mix between its own programming and stuff licensed for its use by outside studios. The 50-50 target was revealed by Netflix CFO David Wells at the Goldman Sach’s Communacopia conference on Tuesday (via Variety), and Wells added that they’d like to hit that mix sometime over the course of the next few years.
As for its progress so far, Wells said Netflix is already about “one-third to halfway” to that ratio, having launched 2015 hours of original programming in 2015, and with the intend of achieving a further 600 hours by the end of 2016.

The benefit for Netflix with a shift to self-generated content is that the licensing situation is much simpler, and the investment made represents a cost that continues to deliver value long after the initial spend. Licensing arrangements with outside TV and film distributors have a fixed term, and thus represent a recurring cost if you want to continue offering their content in your library. Original content is a one-and-done expense (though admittedly higher up-front), which then permanently continues to the breadth and size of your video catalog.

Not only is creating owned content a fixed, one-time cost for Netflix, but it’s also facing higher competition for licenses to Hollywood and TV rights, since there are more streaming players out there. And the service seems to be hitting somewhat of a growth plateau in the U.S., owing in part to a bump in service costs, which is leading to cancellations. Original content production means Netflix can address niche audiences as well as mainstream with targeted project production, which helps add more potential subscribers once the more mainstream audiences are all onboard.

Original content from Netflix has been pretty stellar so far (Stranger Things and all Marvel shows are my personal favori

New messaging platform Mobilize raises $6.5 million

Group messaging continues to be a problem that large organizations have trouble solving. And its an area where venture investors have spent millions.
While many people use Slack, or communications tools from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others, there’s no unified system for managing messaging.

That’s what Mobilize aims to be. The company raised $6.5 million in new financing from Trinity Ventures, Floodgate Ventures, Hillsven Capital, Array Ventures, Upwest Labs and a few angel investors.

“There are over a billion groups active today. Group communications solutions such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook have not evolved to meet their needs for situations where the communications are mission critical and not just casual chatter,” said Ajay Chopra, general partner at Trinity Ventures in a statement.  “Think of this as ‘Slack for external communications’ to actually get stuff done.”

The idea is that companies now rely on networks of loosely affiliated people to amplify their corporate or social campaigns. It’s kind of like the way political parties organize volunteers or large groups for campaigns.

“In the new economy, companies and organizations increasingly rely on large numbers of people outside their organization to achieve their missions. Groups have become business-critical and there is a growing need for group communication within every business,” said Sharon Savariego, chief executive and co-founder of Mobilize.

Savariego, who previously worked as a business development manager at uTest before raising millions from Trinity Ventures and others, has enlisted help from serial entrepreneur and tech executive Laura Yecies to help her manage the new business.

The crowd-sourced platform allows members to update their own profile information, and a communication system across email, text messages, calendars, and surveys.

“I have always been excited by the power and impact of new communication tools,” said Yecies in a statement.  “The time is perfect for a new category of Network Relationship Management products that we estimate to be over $65 billion in value.”

Car hackers found a way to trigger a Tesla's brakes from miles away

A group of security researchers have found a way to remotely hack into Tesla cars and play havoc with their settings - unlocking doors, adjusting chairs, triggering indicator lights, and even activating the brakes from miles away.

The Chinese research team, from the Keen Security Lab at Tencent, first privately disclosed their findings to Tesla, and are only publishing the details now it has been patched.

There's no evidence that anyone ever maliciously used this vulnerability to target Tesla cars - but it's still a terrifying reminder of the risks that face internet-connected vehicles.

How did it work? According to a statement Tesla provided to The Verge, the targeted vehicle needed to be connected to a malicious Wi-Fi network, and using the web browser. If it is, then the hacker can take control - no physical access to the vehicle required. It affected vehicles including the Model S, that used (then-)up-to-date firmware.

The range of things the researchers could do range from the annoying to the potentially deadly. For example, when the Tesla was parked they could open the sunroof, trigger the indicator lights, and move the driver's car seat. They could also unlock the car door without the key - every thief's dream.

While moving, meanwhile, it gets more serious. The Chinese researchers were able to open the trunk adjust wing mirrors, and control the windscreen wipers, all of which could be fatally distracting. And worst of all, they found a way to trigger the vehicle's brakes from miles away, doing it in a video from 12 miles away

And here's the full statement from Tesla,

"Within just 10 days of receiving this report, Tesla has already deployed an over-the-air software update (v7.1, 2.36.31) that addresses the potential security issues. The issue demonstrated is only triggered when the web browser is used, and also required the car to be physically near to and connected to a malicious wifi hotspot. Our realistic estimate is that the risk to our customers was very low, but this did not stop us from responding quickly.

"We engage with the security research community to test the security of our products so that we can fix potential vulnerabilities before they result in issues for our customers. We commend the research team behind today's demonstration and plan to reward them under our bug bounty program, which was set up to encourage this type of research.

21 September, 2016

Microsoft surprised everybody by announcing what's probably its last Nokia phone

Microsoft may be in the process of selling its feature phone (as in, not smartphone) business to Foxconn, but that apparently hasn't gotten in the way of the launch of the new Nokia 216 - making it likely the last Microsoft-made Nokia phone ever.

The Nokia 216, a super basic phone with a pair of lousy 0.3 megapixel cameras, a web browser, a 24-day battery(!) and not much else, isn't going to distract people away from the iPhone 7, nor is it meant to.

Instead, it's a last-minute play for developing nations like India, where smartphones are only still building up momentum, and where Microsoft has historically had its only real successes in the phone market. Instead of any of the Windows phone operating systems, it's a stripped-down, more old-school interface.

17 September, 2016

Apple CEO Tim Cook just hinted at what could be Apple's next big product

Apple CEO Tim Cook loves to talk about virtual reality and augmented reality - two emerging computer platforms that require the user to wear a headset consisting of a set of glasses.
He says "there's a lot of cool things there" in both fields but is personally more excited in augmented reality, which is more like Google Glass than Facebook's Oculus.

"There's virtual reality and there's augmented reality - both of these are incredibly interesting. But my own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far," Cook told ABC News in a interview published on Wednesday.

Augmented reality superimposes computer graphics onto the real world, either on a smartphone screen or through a dedicated headset.

AR "gives the capability for both of us to sit and be very present, talking to each other, but also have other things - visually - for both of us to see. Maybe it's something we're talking about, maybe it's someone else here who's not here present but who can be made to appear to be present," Cook said.

Ultimately, the advantage of augmented reality over virtual reality may be that it's less immersive, according to Cook. "Virtual reality sort of encloses and immerses the person into an experience that can be really cool, but probably has a lower commercial interest over time. Less people will be interested in that," he said.

This isn't the first time Cook has talked about augmented reality and virtual reality. The company reportedly has a team of hundreds working on headset prototypes.

"I think AR is extremely interesting and sort of a core technology. So, yes, it's something we're doing a lot of things on behind that curtain we talked about," Cook told the Washington Post in August.

And during Apple's most recent conference call, he suggested that AR can be huge, while praising Pokemon Go, one of the few mainstream AR apps.

"I know there are people who want to call [AR] a new computing platform and we'll see, I think there's a tendency in this industry to call everything new 'the next computer platform.' However, that said, I do think AR can be huge," Cook said

16 September, 2016

With over 100 million monthly players, this is officially the biggest game in the world

"League of Legends" is officially the biggest game in the world, boasting a staggering 100 million monthly active users, according to an interview with the game's creators on Polygon.
Made by Riot Games, "League of Legends" is classified as a MOBA - that's short for "multiplayer online battle arena." Players compete against each other in teams of five, attempting to destroy their opponents' base before they can do the same.

One of Riot Games' founders, Brandon Beck, said the following regarding its insane player numbers:

"It's hard to parse, but at the end of the day, those things don't even feel real," said Beck. "The coolest thing is actually when we're at the live events and get to meet fans face to face. Only then does it start to feel real. Otherwise, they're just numbers on a screen all over the world."

As a point of comparison, its closest competitor, "Dota 2," has just 13 million monthly players.

Box and IBM just rolled out the first product they built together since making last year's blockbuster deal

And after a little over a year, the first product they've built together is finally here.

Box rolled out a new product called Box Relay which helps users custom build workflows so they can automate and track their whole work process.

For example, a salesperson may have a work process that involves four or five steps, including approvals from the sales manager, finance and legal departments. Instead of having to pull up different documents through multiple software apps, Box Relay allows the user to automate everything within Box.

"Enterprises are really looking to change the way they work. Box Relay is all about dramatically simplifying workflow in a single place," said Box CEO Aaron Levie

Relay is the first of a series of announcements Box is set to make during Box Works, its annual user conference that will be held this week. The company is expected to roll out a completely redesigned product called All New Box as well.

Relay's launch is another sign that the Box-IBM mega deal is bearing real fruit.

Last week, Box disclosed that IBM helped close eight of the 45 six-figure deals in the quarter, including one contract that was worth more than $500,000. IBM's massive sales channel is particularly effective in expanding in overseas markets, as more than half of the deals from IBM partnership happened internationally, Levie said during the earnings call.

"The partnership was intended to co-design and build modern technology solutions together. We're very excited that we've been able to deliver the first product," Levie told