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Article from GigaOm.

“Akamai said it purchased Canadian web site optimization company Blaze Wednesday, ahead of its financial results call. In acquiring Blaze, content-delivery network leader Akamai offers an excellent example of how the web is changing as we access it from more devices and as the nature of the web sites we visit changes. This small deal illustrates some big changes in the web.

Blaze, which was formed in 2010, offers a service that helps web sites load faster by optimizing the scripts running on the site. It also recommends clients add a content delivery network and complements the software and CDN mix with consulting services for folks that want to go further. The optimization happens on the backend on Blaze’s servers, so the consumer’s front end experience was faster and fitted to the device he was on at the time. Other companies in this space include Aptimize.

In buying Blaze, Akamai is acknowledging that web sites today are accessed in more places, something anyone who’s been in a Starbucks lately can tell you, but also that the sites themselves are different. They use richer media and offer links back to more applications. Things like sharing something on Twitter or liking it on Facebook via a simple button add seconds to load times and complexity to the overall site. Complicated CSS scripts and lagging ad networks don’t help either.

Blaze was a natural fit for Akamai in many ways as Akamai tries to take its CDN beyond the old days of static content delivery to delivering optimized advertising, helping bring content to mobile devices, and otherwise adapt to the application-heavy and real-time nature of the web. Where web sites were once comprised of fairly simple code optimized for one or two browsers, they’re now a mash up of many applications from different places being viewed on as many as 10 different browsers and platforms. Akamai is just trying to keep up.”

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Article from NYTimes.

When Barack Obama joined Silicon Valley’s top luminaries for dinner in Californialast February, each guest was asked to come with a question for the president.

  But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke, President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.

The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.

Apple has become one of the best-known, most admired and most imitated companies on earth, in part through an unrelenting mastery of global operations. Last year, it earned over $400,000 in profit per employee, more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google.

However, what has vexed Mr. Obama as well as economists and policy makers is that Apple — and many of its high-technology peers — are not nearly as avid in creating American jobs as other famous companies were in their heydays.

Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas, a small fraction of the over 400,000 American workers at General Motors in the 1950s, or the hundreds of thousands at General Electric in the 1980s. Many more people work for Apple’s contractors: an additional 700,000 people engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products. But almost none of them work in the United States. Instead, they work for foreign companies in Asia, Europe and elsewhere, at factories that almost all electronics designers rely upon to build their wares.

“Apple’s an example of why it’s so hard to create middle-class jobs in the U.S. now,” said Jared Bernstein, who until last year was an economic adviser to the White House.

“If it’s the pinnacle of capitalism, we should be worried.”

Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

Similar stories could be told about almost any electronics company — and outsourcing has also become common in hundreds of industries, including accounting, legal services, banking, auto manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.

But while Apple is far from alone, it offers a window into why the success of some prominent companies has not translated into large numbers of domestic jobs. What’s more, the company’s decisions pose broader questions about what corporate America owes Americans as the global and national economies are increasingly intertwined.

“Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn’t the best financial choice,” said Betsey Stevenson, the chief economist at the Labor Department until last September. “That’s disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.”

Companies and other economists say that notion is naïve. Though Americans are among the most educated workers in the world, the nation has stopped training enough people in the mid-level skills that factories need, executives say.

To thrive, companies argue they need to move work where it can generate enough profits to keep paying for innovation. Doing otherwise risks losing even more American jobs over time, as evidenced by the legions of once-proud domestic manufacturers — including G.M. and others — that have shrunk as nimble competitors have emerged.

Apple was provided with extensive summaries of The New York Times’s reporting for this article, but the company, which has a reputation for secrecy, declined to comment.

This article is based on interviews with more than three dozen current and former Apple employees and contractors — many of whom requested anonymity to protect their jobs — as well as economists, manufacturing experts, international trade specialists, technology analysts, academic researchers, employees at Apple’s suppliers, competitors and corporate partners, and government officials.

Privately, Apple executives say the world is now such a changed place that it is a mistake to measure a company’s contribution simply by tallying its employees — though they note that Apple employs more workers in the United States than ever before.

They say Apple’s success has benefited the economy by empowering entrepreneurs and creating jobs at companies like cellular providers and businesses shipping Apple products. And, ultimately, they say curing unemployment is not their job.

“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”

‘I Want a Glass Screen’

In 2007, a little over a month before the iPhone was scheduled to appear in stores, Mr. Jobs beckoned a handful of lieutenants into an office. For weeks, he had been carrying a prototype of the device in his pocket.

Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone, angling it so everyone could see the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen, according to someone who attended the meeting. He then pulled his keys from his jeans.

People will carry this phone in their pocket, he said. People also carry their keys in their pocket. “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”

After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.

For over two years, the company had been working on a project — code-named Purple 2 — that presented the same questions at every turn: how do you completely reimagine the cellphone? And how do you design it at the highest quality — with an unscratchable screen, for instance — while also ensuring that millions can be manufactured quickly and inexpensively enough to earn a significant profit?

The answers, almost every time, were found outside the United States. Though components differ between versions, all iPhones contain hundreds of parts, an estimated 90 percent of which are manufactured abroad. Advanced semiconductors have come from Germany and Taiwan, memory from Korea and Japan, display panels and circuitry from Korea and Taiwan, chipsets from Europe and rare metals from Africa and Asia. And all of it is put together in China.

In its early days, Apple usually didn’t look beyond its own backyard for manufacturing solutions. A few years after Apple began building the Macintosh in 1983, for instance, Mr. Jobs bragged that it was “a machine that is made in America.” In 1990, while Mr. Jobs was running NeXT, which was eventually bought by Apple, the executive told a reporter that “I’m as proud of the factory as I am of the computer.” As late as 2002, top Apple executives occasionally drove two hours northeast of their headquarters to visit the company’s iMac plant in Elk Grove, Calif.

But by 2004, Apple had largely turned to foreign manufacturing. Guiding that decision was Apple’s operations expert, Timothy D. Cook, who replaced Mr. Jobs as chief executive last August, six weeks before Mr. Jobs’s death. Most other American electronics companies had already gone abroad, and Apple, which at the time was struggling, felt it had to grasp every advantage.

In part, Asia was attractive because the semiskilled workers there were cheaper. But that wasn’t driving Apple. For technology companies, the cost of labor is minimal compared with the expense of buying parts and managing supply chains that bring together components and services from hundreds of companies.

For Mr. Cook, the focus on Asia “came down to two things,” said one former high-ranking Apple executive. Factories in Asia “can scale up and down faster” and “Asian supply chains have surpassed what’s in the U.S.” The result is that “we can’t compete at this point,” the executive said.

The impact of such advantages became obvious as soon as Mr. Jobs demanded glass screens in 2007.

For years, cellphone makers had avoided using glass because it required precision in cutting and grinding that was extremely difficult to achieve. Apple had already selected an American company, Corning Inc., to manufacture large panes of strengthened glass. But figuring out how to cut those panes into millions of iPhone screens required finding an empty cutting plant, hundreds of pieces of glass to use in experiments and an army of midlevel engineers. It would cost a fortune simply to prepare.”

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Article from SFGate.

“Google reported sales that beat estimates Thursday as businesses spent more on advertising to online consumers.

Third-quarter sales, excluding revenue passed on to partner sites, rose to $7.51 billion, Google said on its website. That topped the $7.23 billion average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Net income climbed 26 percent to $2.73 billion ($8.33 per share) from $2.17 billion ($6.72) a year earlier.

Google, despite concerns about the economy, is benefiting from growing demand for online advertising, including search-based marketing that makes up most of its sales. Search-based advertising should reach $37.7 billion this year globally, up 23 percent, while total Internet ad spending should climb 20 percent, according to media researcher MagnaGlobal.

“Search is good,” said Kerry Rice, an analyst at Needham & Co. in San Francisco who rates the stock a buy and doesn’t own shares. “Paid search is still the biggest component of online advertising, and Google’s obviously going to win the vast majority of that dollar.”

Google rose 1.9 percent to close at $558.99 on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The shares have dropped 5.9 percent this year.

Third-quarter profit, excluding some items, was $9.72 a share, exceeding the $8.76 average of analysts’ estimates.

Even with more competition from Microsoft, Google picked up market share in the United States, according to Efficient Frontier Inc., which helps companies promote products online. Google had 82 percent of spending on search advertising in the third quarter, up from 81 percent in the two previous quarters.

Microsoft, which provides search and ad services for Yahoo’s U.S. websites under a new agreement, had 18 percent, down from 19 percent in the previous two quarters, according to Efficient Frontier.”

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Article from SFGate.

“Google is shutting down Aardvark, the Q&A service it bought last year for about $50 million.

The founders just posted a goodbye letter saying that the project will be shut down in September.

This isn’t a total surprise: Aardvark was part of Google Labs, which new CEO Larry Page put on his hit list in July. The company is planning on putting similar Q&A features into Google+, and has reassigned most of the Aardvark team to that project.

Page has taken a sharp knife to a lot of Google appendages lately — last week, the company shut down Slide, the social-gaming company it bought for close to $200 million last year.”

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Article from GigaOM.

“Google chairman Eric Schmidt was on a diplomacy mission last week, reaching out to broadcasters in the UK and urging them to embrace changes in the way that viewers watch TV, as enabled by the Internet. Giving the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Schmidt provided a view into how TV is changing and made a plea for broadcasters to work with the search giant to enable that future.

Reading the transcript or watching a video of the lecture (Schmidt’s speech starts about 36 minutes in), you get the feeling that this is no less than a manifesto, not just on the way things will be but also on the way they should be. There’s a feeling of inevitability to it. The message to broadcasters, in light of this, seems to be that they can either get on board with technological change or risk being left behind.

“You ignore the Internet at your peril,” Schmidt told the audience. “The Internet is fundamental to the future of television for one simple reason: because it’s what people want.” For Schmidt, people want the experience that the Internet brings, because it enables things that traditional TV cannot: “It makes TV more personal, more participative, more pertinent.”

The future of choice

While TV programming is limited by time and the number of TV networks, the Internet provides the possibility of a near-infinite amount of content to choose from. And, given the on-demand way that viewers are increasingly viewing content — through prerecorded shows on their DVRs, video-on-demand selections through their cable provider or streaming on the Internet — there needs to be a way to sort through those content choices.

For years broadcasters have largely tried to control viewer choices with lead-ins and other editorial hooks, but the vast number of content choices calls for a new way of discovering content. We’ve long argued that personalized recommendations will be vital to the way that viewers discover video in the future, and it seems that Schmidt agrees with us:

Online, through a combination of algorithms and editorial nudges, suggestions could be individually crafted to suit your interests and needs. The more you watch and share, the more chances the system has to learn, and the better its predictions get. Taken to the ultimate, it would be like the perfect TV channel: always exciting, always relevant — sometimes serendipitous — always worth your time.

Schmidt cites the success of Netflix, which doesn’t have a lot of new content and yet has survived and even flourished through a robust recommendations engine. According to Schmidt, around 60 percent of Netflix views are a result of Netflix’s personalized recommendations, showing that the one-size-fits-all approach to linear TV programming might not be the best way to reach audiences in the future.

The future of interactivity

While viewing is destined to become more personal, it’s also becoming more social. That might seem like a bit of a paradox, but at the same time that viewers are watching content that is more relevant to them, they are also sharing what they’re viewing with others.

This interactivity is not being driven by the TV screen itself but through second screens that viewers are using while watching TV. That includes tapping into social networks on laptops and on mobile phones, commenting on blogs and forums, and even chatting with friends in real time. Schmidt pointed to Google+ Hangouts as one example of how viewers can socially interact while watching video together, and you can see how the same type of technology could be incorporated into future versions of Google TV devices for live video viewing.

While viewers clearly want social interactivity, it’s also good for broadcasters, Schmidt said. “Trending hashtags raise awareness of shows, helping boost ratings. It can be metric for viewer engagement, a vehicle for instant feedback, a channel for reaching people outside broadcast times. It can also provide a great incentive for watching live.”

The future of measurement and monetization

Broadcasters can benefit not only from the way the Internet allows viewers to discover and interact with content but also from vast new opportunities for monetization. That includes selling directly to viewers through digital downloads or the ability to more profitably sell ads against content.

Today there’s a huge premium spent on advertising against the first airing of a TV show, in part because that airing is most likely to aggregate the largest audience. But Schmidt argues that it shouldn’t matter when viewers first watch a show. “If it’s the first time you watch a show, it’s first run to you, no matter how many times it has been broadcast. As TV becomes more personalized, ad models should adjust accordingly.”

Note also that this shift means a change in the way that viewing and ad effectiveness is measured. Nielsen, which provides the ratings currency that is used for selling TV ads in the U.S., is investing heavily in multiscreen measurement, but Schmidt said that Google is trying to understand how to measure effectiveness across multiple platforms as well.

Will broadcasters get on board?

There’s no doubt that the TV industry is in the midst of some fundamental shifts in the way viewers find and interact with video content. And there’s a huge opportunity for broadcasters to use Internet technologies to enable new experiences and better reach a more engaged audience.

Schmidt gave many examples of how content industries fought change over the past century, from newspapers fighting with radio stations in the 1920s and ’30s to Hollywood and broadcasters arguing that technologies like the VCR and TiVo would destroy their businesses.

Although TV viewing will inevitably change as the Internet enables new habits, Schmidt argues that broadcasters should see the opportunity and not the danger that such a change brings. “History shows that in the face of new technology, those who adapt their business models don’t just survive, they prosper,” Schmidt said.

But how soon those businesses will adapt, and how Google fits into their plans, is still very much an open question.”

Read original post at http://gigaom.com/video/google-schmidt-tv/

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What About Me?

As I patiently wait for my invitation to join Spotify, I can’t help but think about the way social media and all of the newest online, must-join sites have used exclusivity to create buzz. I couldn’t help but feel “accepted” when I finally received the invite to join Google+. I relate it to getting a bid from a popular fraternity or even getting invited to a great party. Like the kids that stuffed themselves with chocolate with the hopes of visiting Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, there are millions of people staring at their inboxes waiting for their golden ticket to explore parts of the web that are new and uncharted.

Whether it be a new website or gadget, brands have us all waiting patiently to visit or play with them. I gave TechCrunch’s live blog feed during the unveiling of the iPad2 the same attention I gave the final episode of the Sopranos (but at least Apple gave me something to look forward to). Is it because Twitter and Facebook have become boring? Not really. It seems like Facebook comes out with a new feature monthly. I think it’s because we are all trying to stay ahead of the curve. In my case, I want to be able to share something new with a client, especially the “next big thing.” But a lot of these new offerings make life easier. Apple’s iCloud will be available in Fall. I have hundreds of apps and documents in addition to thousands of songs and pictures spread across five different devices in my home, office, and pocket. To me, iCloud equals organization and efficiency, something I am sure we could all use more of in our lives.

So be patient all, and if you’re looking for an invite to Google+, reach out to us on Facebook and we’ll hook you up. Also, check out some of the links below for a couple of shortcuts to getting an invite to Spotify.

http://www.spotify.com/us/coca-cola/

http://venturebeat.com/2011/07/14/spotify-invites-from-klout/

Don Middleberg
Middleberg Communications, LLC
317 Madison Avenue, 15th Fl.
(entrance on 42nd st)
New York, NY 10017
P:  212-812-5664
M: 914.629.3999
twitter.com/donmiddleberg

don@middlebergcommunications.com

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Article from SFGate.

“Just three weeks after its launch, Google+ is off to a strong start.

Google Inc.’s latest attempt to break into social networking circles attracted more than 20 million visitors in its first 21 days, according to the Internet measurement service comScore Inc. And there is a report that Google+ now has 25 million members.

To be sure, those numbers still don’t place Google+ in the same league as the more established social media stars, especially the current king, Facebook Inc., which has 750 million active users.

But Facebook has made enough mistakes in the past to leave the window wide open for Google+, which is still in its experimental stages, to barge through and become a serious contender for the crown, said Sam Hamadeh, CEO and founder of a Privco, a New York firm that monitors private companies like Facebook.

Facebook may have a big lead now, but the two has-been kings of social networking – Friendster and Myspace – are reminders that there’s no such thing as invincibility in the world of technology.

“People used to be on Myspace chatting all day, updating their pages,” said Hamadeh. “And before that, people were on Friendster nonstop. Before you knew it, the winds had shifted and once the winds shift, they shift very quickly.”

Officially, Mountain View’s Google hasn’t issued any updated Google+ numbers beyond those that CEO Larry Page revealed during a July 14 earnings call – 10 million members, more than 1 billion items shared and received in one day and 2.3 billion clicks of the “+1 button,” Google’s answer to Facebook’s “Like” button.

‘Just the beginning’

“We’ve learned a tremendous amount having just gone to field trial three weeks ago,” Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president for social, said in a statement. “The team has been listening to users and moving really quickly to launch dozens of new features and updates to the product. We realize this is just the beginning. And while we’re thrilled with the reaction so far, we have a long, exciting road ahead of us.”

Hamadeh, citing sources inside Google, said the fledgling social network hit the milestone 25 million user mark Thursday night.

And Andrew Lipsman, a comScore vice president, said the 20 million visitors to Google+ in the first 21 days was “an extraordinary number.”

Of that total, 5.3 million were in the United States and 2.8 million in India. And people from the Bay Area and Austin, Texas, two of the most tech-savvy markets, were three times as likely to be on Google+, Lipsman said.

Right now, the main users are the tech-savvy crowd that is always at the forefront of new and emerging technology.

Of the total Google+ audience, 63 percent were men and 58 percent were between the ages of 18 and 34, comScore said.

“It has clearly captured the attention of the technorati and as usage incubates among this crowd it will likely continue to proliferate to a more general audience,” Lipsman wrote in a blog post.

High marks

That technorati has generally given Google+ high marks for its design and privacy protections, especially compared to Facebook. Analysts say Google+ can be compelling.

“My usage has subtly changed as more and more of my personal network joins, and I’m commenting as much privately as publicly,” said Charlene Li, founder of the Altimeter Group, a San Mateo technology research and consulting firm.

One major feature in Google+ is the ability to create specific, private groups, called “circles,” of friends or people being followed.

“Google+ has the advantage of not requiring that people be a member of the network in order to share with them. They just get updates via e-mail,” Li said in an e-mail. But whether Google+ becomes a hit with more mainstream audiences is still a question.”

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