Pivoting Can Even Work for App Companies

Nokia Cell PhoneIn the long history of innovation, there have been some incredible instances of companies pivoting to a different niche. Perhaps the most startling pivot was Nokia, which despite being the leading mobile phone maker from 1998 to 2012, was originally a small-town Finnish paper and rubber manufacturer.

But while technology companies of today might not so drastically change their infrastructure, even one-beat smartphone apps have successfully overhauled their outlook to adjust to growing tech and mobile trends.

Arguably the most notable example of an app successfully pivoting, is Instagram. Instagram was originally conceived as “Burbn,” a check-in, location-based tool. Unlike Foursquare, its main competitor in this space, Burbn enabled users to share filter-enhanced photos. Co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger quickly realized that users were more intrigued by the photo sharing aspect of Burbn than the check-in function. It was from that insight that Instagram was born. With over 100 million active users, and its historical $1 billion acquisition by Facebook, Systrom and Krieger were wise to pivot.

When Feathr launched in 2012, many people had a similar reaction: I should have thought of that. The app’s original focus was to digitally re-invent the traditional, and archaic business card, while also implementing a social, share function. But co-founder Aidan Augustin decided to point Feathr in a different direction in 2013, repositioning it as an interactive tool for corporate conferences. With Feathr, users are quickly able to access cleanly designed profiles for conference speakers, exhibitors, and other attendees, while also seamlessly connecting via LinkedIn and Twitter. Suffice to say, Feathr has vastly improved its app, and in doing so, could potentially revolutionize the vCard in the process.

Even though Qwiki, which was essentially a “video meets Wikipedia” tool, had been a heralded iPhone app since its inception in 2010, founder Doug Imbruce wasn’t satisfied. Imbruce yearned to compete with video-based social apps, like the Twitter-backed Vine. But instead of implementing Vine’s 6-second, GIF-style approach into his app, the founder went in a slightly different direction. With the new Qwiki, users can create a quick video (or slideshow) sourcing photos from one’s iPhone camera roll, and without any prior editing software knowledge, turn a folder of cute nephew baby pictures into a short video. Users can then share the video with friends, family, and the world (if you really wanted to).

 

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Reeder App Might Become The Google Reader “Spinoff”

Sometimes spinoffs can be extremely successful. For instance, “Cheers” was one of the most popular television shows for twelve seasons before ending in 1993–but its spinoff, “Frasier,” matched its success, staying on-air until 2004.

Reeder, which is an iPhone and iPad app that was once used in conjunction with the soon-to-be-defunct Google Reader, will now attempt to go solo in an attempt to retain the plethora of shocked and saddened Google Reader users. While it isn’t a “spinoff” in the traditional sense of the word, for Reeder’s sake, the RSS feed-based app can only hope it doesn’t go the way of “Joanie Loves Chachi.”

What makes Reeder’s independence so noteworthy is that there doesn’t seem to be any precedent in app history. Even though it is common for an app or company to pivot, Reeder’s new outlook is more of an unorthodox expansion than a pivot. The near-future death of Google Reader (on July 1, officially) should have, in fact, put apps like Reeder out of business. But instead, developer Silvio Rizzi embraced the market-shattering development.

According to Reeder’s site, Rizzi stated:

“Unfortunately, it’s still too early to have answers to all questions I got the last couple weeks. Probably most importantly, one thing that’s clear: development of Reeder will continue after July 1st.”

Rizzi also mentioned that the updated Reeder app will look to integrate Feedbin as well as support for standalone/local RSS feeds. In addition, Reeder will soon “add more services [that users] can choose from in the next weeks and months.”

Despite the grandiose plans, Reeder’s potential to monopolize on the Google Reader void isn’t clinched quite yet. Even though the app might arguably be in the best position to cash in, they’re not the only tech company throwing their hat into the “Google Reader replacement” ring. Feedly, a similar news aggregation app, immediately saw their own base climb by three million new users within two weeks of Google’s announcement. In addition, Feedly, unlike Reeder, already has an Android app in place. Also, Digg, a popular social news website that averages hundreds of thousands of unique views per month, announced their legitimate plans to compete for displaced RSS-feeders.

Competition aside, if Silvio Rizzi and Reeder follow through on their promises, and turns its app into a the most user friendly, and viable Google Reader replacement, they will not only become a RSS mammoth, but also, become the gold standard for dependent-apps-turned-independent.

Reeder is now a free app for the iPad, but will cost $2.99 for the iPhone. Download Reeder at the iTunes Store.

 

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As Distance Learning Grows, Technology Follows

Online Education

Master Sergeant Eric Madden has been in the Air Force for 16 years. He’s currently stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey as a Health Service Manager in the Medical Group. With a job requiring frequent travel, Eric never thought it would be possible to perform his duties while also pursuing a college degree. But thanks to the technology of distance learning, he’s currently enrolled at Burlington County College.

“The only way I would be able to complete my degree is with distance learning,” Madden explained. “With how much military members move around it would almost be impossible to finish your degree without being able to take classes online. Distance learning makes it so you can stay in one school and meet all your requirements and not have to worry about transferring.”

Madden is hardly alone. According to the 2012 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group, the number of students taking at least one online course is now more than 6.7 million.

“The rate of growth in online enrollments remains extremely robust, even as overall higher education enrollments have shown a decline,” said study co-author Jeff Seaman, Co-Director of the Babson Survey Research Group.

As the demand for online learning increases, higher education publishing companies have been forced to keep up, creating new ideas and technology to make the distance learning process easier for both teachers and students.

Pearson Learning Solutions has created an Online Learning Exchange, which provides teachers shareable and editable course content and materials to use in distance education courses.

“Learning is no longer limited to four walls – learning can happen anywhere – and it already is happening everywhere, everyday,” said Todd Hitchcock, Senior Vice President of Online Solutions for Pearson Learning Solutions. ”The growth of online learning underscores this need for quality, flexible education programs that meet the demands of our 21st-century workforce.”

Now that he is able to get his degree, Madden feels as though it will help him become better prepared for his everyday duties. He also looks towards the future, and when he retires from the military the degree will make him much more marketable.

Madden encourages other members of the military–or anyone else in a situation where they cannot physically make it to a college campus–to consider distance learning. “This is a huge plus because it gives you education for your job and for your future,” he said. “It is also a big deal for the military. Distance Education helps individuals contribute at a higher level.”

 

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Technically Speaking: Stories of the Week – April 30

Each week we scour the internet to find the best stories on technology, digital living and news of note. This week features a bike with car-like lights, a juror jailed for texting in court, and a mind-reading tablet. All that and more in this edition of Mozy’s Technically Speaking.

The Tablet You Move with Your Mind

Control This Tablet With Your Mind

Samsung is planning some Jedi mind tricks with some of it’s new touchless tablet technology. According to Zachary Lutz of Engadget, the company is working with researchers at the University of Texas on brainwave technology. By using EEG caps, they can harnesses the power of the mind to control tablets and smartphones. Right now the technology is aimed to help people with disabilities, but the article suggests Samsung may eventually make it more mainstream.

Texting During Trial Lands Juror in Jail

In a story fit for both the police blotter and technology news, a 26-year-old juror in Oregon, was sent to jail by a judge after texting in the middle of an ongoing trial. Mike Flacy of Digital Trends reports that the judge had previously warned the jury that all electronic devices were forbidden during the trial. When the judge noticed Kohler’s bright screen during the viewing of a surveillance video related to the case, he sent the man to jail on contempt of court charges.

Voice-Activated Vacuum Does Your Cleaning on Command

The new Roboking by LG is a vacuum that takes voice commands and can tell which direction they are coming from. So, simply stand by a pile of dirt and demand the vacuum come over and clean it, says Amanda Kooser of CNET. This robo-vac also has a feature where it will pause when you clap twice. Going for about $735, the Roboking can last for 100 minutes before needing a charge.

Bike Wheels with Build-In LED Lights Designed for Rider Safety

Bike Wheels with Build-In LED Lights Designed for Rider Safety

Revolights City v2.0 bike wheels are sparking some interest among cycling enthusiasts. The wheels, which have built-in LED lights, have taillights and brake lights (just like a car) so riders can be seen at night. According to Mashable, the product has been created by the group Revolights, which in 2011 launched its original LED tires on Kickstarter with much success. However, the biggest complaint about the initial product was that the lights were difficult to put on the tires. So to combat that issue, the company has come back with version 2.0, which are tires with the lights already built in.

Viewers to Determine which Amazon Original Shows will Stick Around

Amazon isn’t just selling DVDs of television shows these days; they’re now airing pilots of 14 original shows on their website, and they’re allowing their customers to choose which ones will stick around. According to the Los Angeles Times, Amazon will post all 14 pilots online and ask viewers for their feedback. Based on the critiques, the company will decide which of the shows are developed into a full series. Among the shows featured are “Zombieland” (based on the movie), a musical office comedy set in Manhattan, and an action comedy about four senators living together in Washington D.C.

 

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Mozy at EMC World 2013

The Mozy team is excited to head to Las Vegas for EMC World 2013, May 6-9 at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. You can find us in booth #735 (right next to the EMC BRS booth). We’re looking forward to catching up with old friends and spreading the good word about Mozy. Stop by the booth for a free massage, and make sure to pick up one of the coveted “Back the F:/ Up” t-shirts.

Mozy will also be featured in two EMC World sessions:

We’ll also have a Partner Buzz session on May 7th at 11:30 am featuring a 20 minute Mozy presentation.

“Don’t Gamble With Your Data” Contest and Awesome Prizes

Mozy at EMC World 2013

You shouldn’t ever gamble with your business data by using a backup provider you can’t trust. However, Mozy is offering EMC World attendees a chance to win big by “gambling” for prizes in a giant poker game at our booth. Stop by booth #735 to pick up your cards. Get more information (including a rundown of the over $2,000 in prizes we’re giving away) and mention this blog post when you stop by the booth for an extra card.

EMC World

You can still register for EMC World. Find out more about EMC World 2013.

Technically Speaking: Stories of the Week – April 22

Each week we scour the internet to find the best stories on technology, digital living and news of note. This week features a coat that acts like a girlfriend, a bracelet that displays texts and social media updates, and futuristic dressing rooms. All that and more in this edition of Mozy’s Technically Speaking.

Say Goodbye to Dressing Rooms–New Technology Sizes Customers in Seconds

Say Goodbye to Dressing Rooms

Now showing up in more and more department stores throughout the United States, sizing stations use technology to determine what clothing will fit their customers. Customers walk into the round compartments with clear sides (normally located directly in the center of the floor near the racks of clothes and other displays) hold out their arms, and get scanned by a laser tracker. According to NDTV Gadgets it only takes about 10 seconds for the station to give the customer a personalized shopping guide with sizes, styles, and brands that would fit them best. Currently sizing stations are in 30 shopping malls in the U.S., with Bloomingdale’s being the first to use them.

Google’s High Speed Internet Coming to Austin, Texas

Google Fiber, a high-speed Internet that runs 100 times faster than the average broadband connection, is now coming to Austin, Texas, says Mashable’s Samantha Murphy.  This announcement comes a whole year after it was announced the service would first be available in Kansas City, Kansas. Google says it plans to have homes in Kansas City connected starting in mid-2014. What city will be next on Google’s list?

LED Smart Bracelet Displays Texts, Social Media Updates

Texts and social media messages can now appear right on a person’s wrist with new the new technology of LinkMe. Michael Seo of TechCrunch reports that LinkMe, a single chrome ring that slips around the wrist, connects to a users smartphone via bluetooth and incoming texts and social media updates scroll along the outside. The inventors are attempting to raise $100,000 on Kickstarter to fund their project. A LinkMe can be purchased on the site for $99.

Single? No Problem. This Coat Will Make You Feel Loved

Girlfriend Coat

A group of Japanese students have invented a coat that serves as a girlfriend substitute. Yes, you read that right. This coat hugs men who wear it and even whispers sweet nothings into their ear. According to CNET, the Riajyuu Coat features a belt around the midsection and motors on the back. The motors tighten the belt and squeeze the person wearing it so it feels like they are being hugged. A set of headphone lets the wearer listen to a woman’s whispers. It’s not being sold in stores, so for now lonely men might be stuck with the task of finding a human partner.

Twitter Working on New Music Feature

There’s been a lot of buzz this week about new music project being develop by Twitter. Clues around the web have led experts to believe that Twitter is introducing a music feature that will recommend songs and artists based on who each particular user follows, reported Ben Sisario of The New York Times. It’s still unclear, however, whether it will be accessible on the Twitter website, or if it’s a different website altogether. Right now, there’s a website set up with the Twitter logo and “#Music” appearing on the page. There is an area to login but it says “coming soon” next to it. For now music fans will just have to take a wait-and-see approach to finding out what Twitter has in the works.

 

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Food Trucks and Social Media

Whether they’re hawking donuts, tacos, Mexican food or fish, food trucks have started to become commonplace in many cities in the United States. Coinciding with the increase in the number of food trucks is the ubiquity of social media. Given that food trucks often move to multiple locations during the day, outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram are the perfect tools to help hungry customers find the meal they’re looking for. These apps also lend themselves to telling the stories of these trucks, with great pictures of food on the grill, check-ins from trucks that have just parked and are open for business, and posts with the schedule for the upcoming week. Without these tools, it’d be much more difficult for food trucks to connect with their audience, especially because they’re often open for business in different locations each week.

 

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Uninterrupted Work Flow in 3 Virtual Offices over 3 Different Continents

Working Around the WorldImagine working on your laptop in a coffee shop where the barista only speaks Mandarin.

Living in Shanghai, China is unlike any other experience. But working in a foreign country doesn’t necessarily have to be so different.

At least, if you can set up a virtual work station, you won’t ever have to worry about adapting to new office dynamics. Work whenever you want, however you want.

The must-haves are a comfortable work space, a reliable internet connection, and your data backed up to the cloud.

China. Argentina. Morocco.

At times, the air and noise pollution in Shanghai got to me. As did the communication barriers.

But whenever I needed to get some important work done, I just had to pay for a nice cup of coffee before I could begin pounding away at my keyboard, tuning out the foreign world around me while increasing my productivity.

When I lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, there was WiFi everywhere, and in some cases, it was free. WiFi was available in bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and even public parks and plazas.

Then, after a day’s worth of hard work, I’d gorge on empanadas baked in the shop around the corner, or several slices of “fugazetta” pizza from local gem, El Cuartito.

Around Morocco, you can find a strong connection at McDonald’s. But when the popular fast food chain is out of sight, the big telecom providers offer contract-free Internet connections. Meditel offers a portable USB key that lets you connect your computer to its 3G network all around the country. Best of all, it’s cheap and it’s prepaid.

Keeping Security in Mind

Whenever I was on the road, whether I was traveling between Shanghai and Beijing or crossing the border from Argentina to Uruguay, I always made sure my laptop was wiped clean of any sensitive data and that those critical files were only available in the cloud.

Bag, laptop, passport, and wallet stolen. 

I have been fortunate enough that I have never been robbed or pick-pocketed while traveling. Knock on wood. But a friend I was traveling with once had her bag stolen out from under her seat at a Starbucks in Buenos Aires. The worst part was that she had kept her laptop, passport, and wallet in that very bag.

Throughout my travels, for personal and professional purposes, I’ve made it a point to keep important documents and possessions in secure places (i.e. passport and credit cards in the hotel safe, or sensitive work documents in a reliable cloud server). So, if I was robbed or mugged, it wouldn’t be a total inconvenience. Or if my computing and mobile devices got damaged, at least my work would be safe.

 

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Technically Speaking: Stories of the Week – April 16

Each week we scour the internet to find the best stories on technology, digital living and news of note. This week features Facebook making waves on Android, an “invisible” bike helmet, and a new app to help keep teen drivers safe behind the wheel. All that and more in this edition of Mozy’s Technically Speaking.

The Bicycle Helmet You Don’t Wear on Your Head

The Bicycle Helmet You Don't Wear on Your Head

A bike helmet called Hövding that has been developed by two Swedish industrial design students is turning some heads, says Jeremy Bogaisky of Forbes. The “helmet” is really an airbag in a collar worn around the neck. If there is an accident it deploys to envelop a bicyclist’s head. The product has been approved, but its inventors are facing some challenges because of the device’s high price ($515) and some reservations about it’s effectiveness. The invention does solve the problem of people not wanting to wear conventional helmets because they aren’t stylish or will mess up their hair. Also, an electronics redesign is in the works and could help lower the cost of the product. Whether this invisible helmet will become a trend among cyclists remains to be seen.

New App Aims to Keep Teen Drivers Safe on the Road

A new app designed for the iPhone (and coming soon to Android) is attempting to help teen drivers be more alert and experienced behind the wheel, according to USA Today. The app, Time to Drive, was developed by the University of North Carolina and is geared for both teen drivers and their parents. Some of the features in Time to Drive include the ability to record the amount of driving the teen does and what conditions they’re in, tracking of hard stops, tips for parents, and goals for teens and parents to work on together. The app comes at a time where it’s much needed; teen driving deaths increased last year after being on the decline for several years prior. Statistics show that new drivers are at the highest risk when first getting their driver’s licenses. The creators of the app are hoping that by making practice more fun and easy they can help cut down the number of fatalities.

Could You Do Without Your Cable TV? 30 Percent of Americans Say Yes

Could You Do Without Your Cable TV? 30 Percent of Americans Say Yes

The popularity of Internet television and streaming shows on tablets and devices is allowing many people to keep up with their favorite shows without having to pay for cable television. Alexis Kleinman of The Huffington Post reports that a recent survey by Belkin and Harris Interactive found that 30 percent of Internet users in the United States would consider ditching their cable plans and primarily watch content online. Does this mean the end of television? It’s highly doubtful that would happen anytime soon, but statistics show a large increase in online viewers. Currently, 106.2 million American watch TV shows online at least once a month. And the survey predicts that by 2014 more than 50 percent of Internet users in the United States (130.7 million people) will be watching television online.

Facebook’s “Home” is the Talk of the Tech World This Week

Facebook is making headlines yet again, this time for it’s new “Home” on Android. Home is a series of apps that attempts to always keep mobile users on the social media platform’s network, according to CNET’s Jennifer Van Grove.  When using Home on Android, the phone’s home screen becomes a Facebook cover feed, or a visually rich and swipe-able version of the news feed. Home also includes a more picture-perfect version of messaging, complete with a Facebook-invented feature called “Chat Heads,” with colorful notifications that include friends’ pictures.

 

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Business, Marketing, and Big Data: 5 Key Tips for Bringing Them Together

Business Marketing DataThe explosion of social media and online/mobile commerce over the last few years has created a treasure trove of information. For many leading business people, deft analysis of this “big data” is the new key to making better business decisions.

Whether you’re a three-person shop or a sales force of dozens, one of the key benefits of big data is that its massive analytical potential can lead to the discovery of results-oriented patterns within massive sets of incoming information — exactly the kind of material that social media and commerce-based sites tend to generate.

But how to leverage it?

It’s not enough to simply amass the raw info.Strategists from small-business owners to large enterprises need to integrate that big data with the “on-the-ground” tactics.

To get a start on that, we turn to several experts who are working on the tools to effect just this kind of integration. They bring us five tips for better marketing, using big data as a primary approach.

Bringing Big Data to the Marketing Table

We turned to Mark Cerullo, senior manager of Campaigner email marketing, to help isolate the five basic principles to help owners achieve those goals in the big-data realm.

  1. Standardize Best Practices. Big data can give you a dynamic, real-time view into the behavior of prospective buyers. Use it to help discern content type, frequency, and sequences that yield the best results. For example, if your data reveals that a video demo followed by a personalized email yields the best results, standardize the practice.
  2. Segment for Success. Use big data to segment your audience into specific subgroups. You can combine a number of data factors — such as job title, location, items and services purchased, or pages viewed — to create an audience segment. You can then create highly targeted communications specific to each group. For example, you can deliver tips specific to CMOs in a specific industry or create a bundled offer to buyers who have purchased a specific product or service in the past.
  3. Up Your Game with Integration. Integrate information from different systems to capture, analyze, report, and then act upon the intelligence you have collected. Multi-channel information can be used to gain visibility into user behavior and help you tailor smarter strategies for reaching and engaging your audience. For example, your website, CRM data and e-mail campaigns all yield streams of information. By pooling these individual streams of information you gain greater insight into your customers’ behaviors, likes, dislikes, and buying patterns. You can use this to not only customize more relevant content but also to tailor the delivery channel and timing.
  4. Use This, and Then Use That. Use big data to create automated triggers based on user behavior. Develop specific follow-up actions prompted by customer behavior. For example, a visitor that reads a blog post on marketing may be prompted with a message that directs them to a marketing-software demo. An opt-in form may trigger an immediate follow-up call from a sales representative. An abandoned online shopping cart might prompt a follow-up e-mail with a special offer for completing the transaction.
  5. Data Strengthens Data. The inflow of big data can help you to become more efficient about what is captured, stored and used. You can identify the data that is most relevant for your business. You can save time in analysis but also store only what is important to your business needs, thus saving on data storage costs.

 

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