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Tag Archives: publisher

Bird hits 10 million scooter rides

Bird just announced 10 million scooter rides since launching about one year ago. If this story sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because Bird competitor Lime earlier today announced it surpassed 11.5 million rides across its shared bikes and scooters . Bird, which launched last September in Santa Monica, Calif., currently operates in 100 cities and has over two million unique riders, Bird founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden told TechCrunch. But Bird’s first year of operations has been full of ups and downs. Many of the downs have been around regulatory issues. Bird faced, and overcame them, in Santa Monica but failed in San Francisco. “I think anytime you’re doing something new that the cities haven’t contemplated before, there always seems to be gray area on where you fit in in the regulatory environment,” VanderZanden said. “Cities hadn’t thought about electric scooters and electric scooter sharing. We collaborated very closely with the cities we’re in now.” Although San Francisco did not grant an operating permit to Bird — the city gave them to Scoot and Skip — VanderZanden stressed that “San Francisco is one city. We’re in 100 cities.” He also said Bird is not looking to appeal the decision in San Francisco. Lime, however, is in engaging in the appeals process. As Bird enters its second year of operations, the name of the game is to double down on its efforts with cities and building out its government tech platform. Bird is also looking into manufacturing its own scooters to provide more durability to its customers and differentiate itself from other scooters on the market. “We’ve been investing heavily in that area,” VanderZanden said. “You’ll start to see new vehicles coming from us soon.” He added, “we want to keep building vehicles that are more ruggedized but also vehicles that have new features for the riders as well.” And Bird definitely has the funds to do that

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Microsoft launches new AI applications for customer service and sales

Like virtually every other major tech company, Microsoft is currently on a mission to bring machine learning to all of its applications. It’s no surprise then that it’s also bringing ‘AI’ to its highly profitable Dynamics 365 CRM products. A year ago, the company introduced its first Dynamics 365 AI solutions and today it’s expanding this portfolio with the launch of three new products: Dynamics 365 AI for Sales, Customer Service and Market Insights. “Many people, when they talk about CRM, or ERP of old, they referred to them as systems of oppression, they captured data,” said Alysa Taylor, Microsoft corporate VP for business applications and industry. “But they didn’t provide any value back to the end user — and what that end user really needs is a system of empowerment, not oppression.” It’s no secret that few people love their CRM systems (except for maybe a handful of Dreamforce attendees), but ‘system of oppression’ is far from the ideal choice of words here. Yet Taylor is right that early systems often kept data siloed. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft argues that Dynamics 365 does not do that, allowing it to now use all of this data to build machine learning-driven experiences for specific tasks. Dynamics 365 AI for Sales, unsurprisingly, is meant to help sales teams get deeper insights into their prospects using sentiment analysis. That’s obviously among the most basic of machine learning applications these days, but AI for Sales also helps these salespeople understand what actions they should take next and which prospects to prioritize. It’ll also help managers coach their individual sellers on the actions they should take. Similarly, the Customer Service app focuses on using natural language understanding to understand and predict customer service problems and leverage virtual agents to lower costs. Taylor used this part of the announcement to throw some shade at Microsoft’s competitor Salesforce. “Many, many vendors offer this, but they offer it in a way that is very cumbersome for organizations to adopt,” she said.

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Twitter is bringing back the chronological timeline

Your Twitter prayers are answered! Well, maybe not the prayers about harassment or the ones about an edit tweet button, but your other prayers. Today in a series of tweets, the company announced that it had heard the cries of its various disgruntled users and will bring back a form of the pure chronological timeline that users can opt into. Twitter first took an interest in a more algorithmic timeline three-ish years ago  and committed to it in 2016. 4/ So, we’re working on providing you with an easily accessible way to switch between a timeline of Tweets that are most relevant for you and a timeline of the latest Tweets. You’ll see us test this in the coming weeks. — Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) September 17, 2018 Some users were under the impression that they were living that algo-free life already by toggling off the “Show the best Tweets first” option in the account settings menu. Unfortunately for all of us, unchecking this box didn’t revert Twitter to ye olde pure chronological timeline so much as it removed some of the more prominent algorithmic bits that would otherwise be served to users first thing.  Users regularly observed non-chronological timeline behaviors even with the option toggled off. As Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour elaborated , “We’re working on making it easier for people to control their Twitter timeline, including providing an easy switch to see the most recent tweets.” Nostalgic users who want regular old Twitter back can expect to see the feature in testing “in the coming weeks.” We’re ready to pull the switch, just tell us when.

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Ericsson and T-Mobile ink $3.5 billion deal for 5G

New 5G networks are coming and big companies are spending big bucks to roll them out. Ericsson is going to be providing T-Mobile with its latest 5G new radio hardware and 3GPP for a cool $3.5 billion. As it moves from LTE Advanced networks to 5G, T-Mobile said it will use the Ericsson portfolio of products to expand its existing LTE capacity while readying the network for the 5G jump. Included in the deal are Ericsson’s digital services like dynamic orchestration, business support systems, and Ericsson cloud core, which will be used to help T-Mobile roll out 5G services to its customers. “We have recently decided to increase our investments in the US to be closer to our leading customers and better support them with their accelerated 5G deployments; thereby bringing 5G to life for consumers and enterprises across the country,” said Niklas Heuveldop, the president and head of Ericsson North America, said in a statement. “This agreement marks a major milestone for both companies. We are excited about our partnership with T-Mobile, supporting them to strengthen, expand and speed up the deployment of their nationwide 5G network.” As Mobile World Congress Americas gears up there will be several of these announcements coming down the pike. Already Nokia and Sprint announced that they’d be unveiling a demonstration of 5G new radio connections and the Nokia Massive MIMO (multiple input multiple output) technology. New 5G networking technology promises to deliver high speeds, high-reliability, energy efficient service in areas of high device density with extremely low latency. The partnership with Ericsson means that T-Mobile’s already installed base of Ericsson Radio System radios will be able to run 5G NR with a a remote software installation.

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WSJ reports that Theranos will finally dissolve

Theranos is reportedly finally closing down for good, nearly three years after a Wall Street Journal investigation called its blood testing technology into question . The WSJ said the company, whose dramatic downfall spawned a best-selling book that’s set to be filmed with Jennifer Lawrence starring as Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes , sent shareholders an email saying it will formally dissolve and seek to pay unsecured creditors its remaining cash in the coming months. Holmes resigned as CEO in June after she and Theranos’ former president, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, were charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud in June . Both Holmes and Balwani had already been charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission (the criminal charges are separate from the civil ones filed by the SEC). In its complaint, the SEC said the two engaged in “an elaborate, years-long fraud in which they exaggerated or made false statements about the company’s technology, business and financial performance,” which ultimately enabled them to raise more than $700 million from investors. Holmes and the SEC settled the charges by having Holmes agree to pay a $500,000 penalty and be barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for 10 years. She was also required to return the remaining 18.9 million shares she obtained while engaging in fraud and relinquish voting control of Theranos. TechCrunch has sent an email to Theranos’ public relations address asking for comment.

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Amazon opens its largest Amazon Go convenience store yet

Amazon is picking up the pace when it comes to unveiling its line of  “stores of the future,” today opening its second cashier-less Amazon Go convenience store in the last week.  More Amazon Go locations are  expected to land in other cities soon , though the company has yet to confirm any plans. The latest location is its third overall and third in Seattle, where it’s headquartered. The  2,100 square feet store sits on the corner of Boren Ave. and Thomas St. and is its largest yet. The first iteration of the Amazon Go store was 1,800 square feet; it opened its doors to the public in a surprise opening in December 2016. The second, measuring 1,450 square feet, began doing business last Monday . In case you’re unfa miliar, Amazon Go stores cut out the check-out process by charging customers for what the pick up in-store using the Amazon Go app. The company relies on cameras, which are mounted all over the stores, and weight sensors on the shelves to track what shoppers are picking up and to make sure they are charged correctly. Inside Amazon’s surveillance-powered, no-checkout convenience store The newest store will have breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options for sale, a stocked selection of foods, including bread, milk and locally made chocolates, as well as Amazon Meal Kits, a product the company launched in 2017 to go head-to-head with Blue Apron and other meal kit delivery services.

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Huge leak shows off the new iPhone XS

Get ready for a leaked look at the new iPhone XS. 9to5Mac has gotten its hands on an image of Apple’s next generation of iPhone hardware and the future looks pretty swanky. The leaked image showcases the new sizing of Apple’s soon-to-be-unveiled flagship bezel-less devices which will likely have 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch screens respectively. The two sizes of phones which will be called the iPhone XS according to the report. The pictured devices represent the higher-end OLED screen models, not the cheaper rumored notch LCD iPhone. The device will feature a new gold color shell. The iPhone X is currently available in space gray and silver. Image credit: 9to5mac A picture is worth a thousand words but there are still a lot of details we’re waiting on here obviously.  Apple is expected to show off the new phone hardware as well as a new version of the Apple Watch at a hardware event on September 12.

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SF and Santa Monica expected to award official permits to scooter companies today

The day has arrived. After more than two months of waiting,  the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency  (SFMTA) is poised to determine which of 12 companies will successfully procure one of the city’s five permits.  The permits are hot commodities for those competing for scooter market dominance, which includes Uber and Lyft, which applied for permits to operate e-scooters despite not yet having any. San Francisco is a key market for e-scooters; for some of these companies, failing to receive a permit could mean the end of the road. Santa Monica, where Bird is headquartered, is also expected to award four permits for its electric scooter and bike pilot program today. Bird is the most valuable scooter startup; it hit a $2 billion valuation in June after raising hundreds of millions in venture capital funding.  Bird, Lime and Spin  — all of which applied for permits — were the three original players in the San Francisco scooter game. They released their fleet of scooters in the city in March without permission. As a result, the SFMTA asked the companies to temporarily remove the scooters in late May and initiated a permit process as part of the 24-month pilot program. As part of the program, the city will allow only 2,500 scooters on the streets at once. Those chosen are required to provide user education and insurance, share the data of the trips with the city, have a privacy policy that protects user data and offer a low-income plan to their riders. The other companies that applied for permits are  Scoot , Ridecell , USSCooter, Skip , Ofo , Razor and Hopr (Cyclehop).

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DoorDash raises another $250M, nearly triples valuation to $4B

Food delivery startup DoorDash announced this afternoon that it has raised $250 million, just five months since the company announced a $535 million round . Why raise more money so soon? CEO Tony Xu told Axios that he wasn’t actively looking for additional investment, but was open to investor interest because it could help the company expand more quickly. (Maybe he’ll have more to say about those plans at Disrupt SF next month.) The new funding was led by Coatue Management and DST Global. It sounds like the terms were pretty appealing too, with the valuation growing from $1.4 billion to $4 billion. In a blog post , the company said it’s had a good 2018, with deliveries increasing 250 percent year-over-year, restaurant chains like Chipotle and IHOP signing up and last week’s launch of the DashPass subscription service , where you can pay $9.99 per month to get unlimited free deliveries. “As we grow, we will stay true to our values and our mission of connecting people with possibility  —  and, trust us, we’re just getting started,” DoorDash wrote.

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Google Search’s new featured snippet panel saves you more clicks

Google is introducing an additional format for featured snippets in its search results today. For years, these snippets have appeared at the top of the search results page and featured both images and text that Google thinks are relevant to your query. They are all about Google saving you a click. Today, Google is going beyond this single answer for some queries and introducing a panel that also features relevant subtopics, saving you even more clicks. Google’s canonical example for a query to trigger this new panel is “ Quartz Vs. Granite .” This query brings up the usual snippet, plus subtopics like cost, benefits, weight and durability. Those topics are automatically chosen based on what Google’s algorithms understand about this topic. You don’t need a vs. query to trigger this, though. If you look for something like “emergency funds,” you’ll also see a similar panel. For now, I was only able to trigger these new panels on mobile, but Google says it is rolling out this feature over the coming days, so it may be a while before you spot one in the wild. I was also unsuccessful in triggering them with any other query I tried, but maybe you are luckier than me. Google notes that today’s announcement is part of an ongoing effort to provide more comprehensive results to your questions. This February, for example, Google started showing multiple featured snippets when its systems think a query has multiple interpretations

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Tweetbot loses several key features ahead of Twitter’s API change

Twitter’s API changes won’t come out until tomorrow, but its ramifications are already being felt. Tapbots released an update today to Tweetbot for iOS that loses many of the Twitter client’s most popular or essential features. It also removed its Apple Watch app. In Tweetbot’s App Store release notes, Tapbots explained “on August 16th Twitter will disable parts of their public interface that we use in Tweetbot. Because Twitter has chosen not to provide alternatives to these interfaces we have been forced to disable or degrade certain features. We are sorry about this, but unfortunately this is totally out of our control.” The changes mean that Tweetbot’s timeline streaming is now disabled, so timelines will refresh every one to two minutes instead–a loss for people who want to see new tweets in real-time. Push notifications for Mentions and Direct Messages will also be delayed by a few minutes, while push notifications for Likes, Retweets, Follows and Quotes have been disabled altogether (Tapbots’ release notes say they are looking at how to reinstate some of those in the future). Tweetbot’s Activity and Stats tabs have been removed. As part of an effort to tighten control over how its services are used by third-party developers, Twitter announced in April 2017 that it will shut down User Streams, Site Streams and other APIs to prepare for the arrival of its new Account Activity API and other products. Other third-party Twitter clients that will likely be affected by the API changes include Twitterific, Tweetings and Talon, which along with Tweetbot protested in April that they hadn’t been given enough time or information to prepare for the release, which was originally schedule for June 19. In response, Twitter extended the deadline to August 16. Other apps that have already been impacted include Favstar, which went offline in June as a result of the API changes .

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Google One is now open to all

A few months ago, Google announced Google One , its new subscription program for getting more Google Drive storage and other perks. Over the course of the last few weeks, Google slowly rolled existing Drive subscribers over to a Google One membership and starting today , new users (at least in the U.S., with other countries coming soon) can now sign up for a One subscription, too. Google One plans start at 100 GB for $1.99. There’s also a 200 GB tier for $2.99 and a 2 TB option for $9.99. If you need even more storage space, Google will happily sell you 10 TB, 20 TB and 30 TB plans for between $99.99 and $299.99 per month. One nice feature of these new plans is that you can share your storage allotment with up to five family members. While storage is the main feature here, Google also promises additional perks. The most important of these may be access to live 24/7 support. These Google experts at the other end of the line will help you with figuring out any question you may have about a Google product. Another perk here is that you get deals on hotels when you search for them in Google Maps. Recently, Google also gave all One members credits on Google Play and the company today said that it’ll soon offer members deals for purchases in the Google Store and through Google Express, too. It’s worth noting that One is very much a consumer product. For businesses, Google’s G Suite remains the way to get additional service and features. For now, Google One is only available in the U.S., but it’ll roll out to more countries soon.

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MoviePass says those cancellation bugs have been fixed

MoviePass is about to roll out its new subscription plan , which will keep prices at $9.95 while imposing a new limit of three movies per month. But it seems that the transition hasn’t been going entirely smoothly. The Verge reports that several users have complained about previously canceling their plans, only to receive emails from the service suggesting that they were still subscribed. We reached out to a MoviePass spokesperson, who confirmed that there were “bugs” in the cancellation process, but said they’ve since been fixed: On Monday, August 13th, we learned that some members encountered difficulty with the cancellation process. We have fixed the bugs that were causing the issue and we have confirmed that none of our members have been opted-in or converted to the new plan without their express permission. In addition, all cancellation requests are being correctly processed and no members were being blocked from canceling their accounts. We apologize for the inconvenience and ask that any impacted members contact customer support via the MoviePass app. The company also said that all members are being given the option to either opt in to the new plan or cancel their memberships. If someone doesn’t respond by the end of their billing cycle, their subscription will be automatically canceled. The new plan is part of a broader effort at MoviePass to try to get the company to profitability. In addition to capping monthly tickets, the company is keeping big releases off the service for the first couple of weeks — and apparently, forcing subscribers to choose between only two movies at a given time .

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Zendesk introduces support bot for Discord gaming community

The Discord gaming community boasts 150 million members and 46 million active monthly users, who spend their days chatting about games, finding people to play with and looking for advice on how to resolve issues. Up until now, game publishers have had to monitor public discussions looking for people who need help or relied on expert users to assist them, but that’s about to change with Zendesk’s new Discord support bot. Zendesk VP of product and platform, Luke Behnke, says they count a fair number of gaming companies as customers, and they have been looking for a way to have more direct communication with Discord users right where they play. With the Zendesk-Discord integration, users can request help by typing /support, and then the nature of the problem. This activates the Zendesk bot and triggers the creation of a help ticket, paving the way for a customer service rep to work directly with a person having an issue. Calling the Zendesk bot in Discord. Screenshot: Zendesk Prior to this, the only way that the game publishers could use Zendesk to generate help tickets was through the traditional sources like email, texts or phone calls, which required their users to leave the flow of the game. This integration allows the publishers to let the customers come to them for help without leaving the community. Behnke says his company has been talking to Discord, whose members generate more than 530 million messages a day, about creating an integration that would work for their users. “We worked with Discord on this and they have been testing it internally and giving us feedback,” he said. Conversation with game publisher CSR using Zendesk-Discord bot. Screenshot: Zendesk Of course, it requires people know that you type /support to activate it, but Behnke believes that if the integration works well, word will get around that this is a useful way to get support directly from the publisher without leaving Discord. He says his company sees this as a unique approach to customer service, one that the gaming publishers, who tend to be innovative, are particularly open to. Future updates could include the ability to push messages to the community such as information on an outage, or for the bot to answer common questions without accessing a human CSR. For now, this integration is in early release.

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The NYT adds a personalized ‘news feed’ to its iOS app

The New York Times announced on Friday how it’s adding its own take on Facebook-style News Feed to its mobile app. Yes, literally a news feed. The publication says it will now allow its iOS app users to customize their reading experience through a new feature called “Your Feed,” which consists only of those channels readers choose to follow. Some of those channels will pull stories from existing New York Times sections and columns, like Modern Love, while others, like Gender & Society, At War, Pop Culture, and more will pull news from across the paper’s sections. And others will include commentary from reporters and editors, and will feature worthy reads from outside The Times. This additional context will only be found in this personalized Your Feed section, and is something the publication says is an experiment in terms of bringing another layer of insight to the news and stories. On the technical side, the commentary itself is actually pulled from The Times’ Slack, through the use of a bot built by backend engineer Brandon Hopkins. It basically turns Slack into the CMS for publishing these short posts to the Your Feed section of the app. The design team equates the Your Feed reading experience to the way people tend to peruse a printed newspaper. Beyond reading the front page news, people will often pull out the sections they want to read, and then thumb through them – coming across other stories they want to read. And different readers will gravitate towards different sections and articles. It says the idea for the feed came from its user research, where it found that many people wanted a separate place from the home page to follow a customized feed of content. With The NYT outputting around 160 articles per day, it’s very difficult to be a comprehensive reader of the paper in its entirety, of course

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