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Google Launches Program to Advertise Apps on Play Store

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Google Launches Program to Advertise Apps on Play Store

In a move that shouldn't surprise anyone but will almost certainly add more malware to unsuspecting users' smartphones Google is launching a new advertising platform for its Google Play Store. Be ready to call your parents and those you know who aren't so tech savvy to be careful what they start tapping on.

Rolling out to a small set of developers in the next few weeks, companies will be able to, much like the sponsored results on Google's searches, to pay for the top spot in the Google Play Store. The only notification will be a small orange square that says "Ad" which will be placed next to the developer's name. Currently, you can already advertise your app on a Google search, but now this places those apps into the prime position on the Play Store's homepage or search results.

This new programs comes with the good and the bad, as you would expect. The good is that independent and startup developers with some capital can advertise their app so it doesn't go unseen. This could give some great exposure to a talented team and reward them for their efforts. Google shelled out over $7 billion to developers last year, so why not reap the benefit of more downloads?

However, the big red flag staring me in the face is the amount of malicious and fake ads that will be advertised because of this. Google doesn't prevent these companies from hijacking top and common search queries on Google results, so what would make them put the clamp down on that fake Skype app on the Play Store? I can see more devices being infected with malware in the near future, as shady apps start being promoted on these search results.

The program is currently in a test phase, with only a certain number of users seeing a pilot group of advertisers who have chosen to advertise their app. Google will look to expand this to full-scale in the coming months.

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IKEA Embraces its Inner Qi, Will Launch the Tech-Infused Hardware Next Month

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

IKEA Embraces its Inner Qi, Will Launch the Tech-Infused Hardware Next Month

Long time subscribers of our content that includes our International CES coverage know that we're huge fans of the Qi wireless power standard, headed by the Wireless Power Consortium. For several years now, Qi has been implemented into phones, giving wireless charging capabilities to those devices. However its vision was to expand to common appliances, hardware and other applications in a household or business setting. Because of this, we've been waiting to see when major retailers would pick up the idea and place it into their own offerings. And while we've seen some companies serve up some Qi, it is with great excitement and happiness that I tell you that IKEA will be launching a full line of Qi-powered desks and furniture coming next month!

Beginning April 15, IKEA will be selling tables, work desks, nightstands, complete with Qi from the WPC. The company will be offering these products to European and North American stores for now.

This decision from the biggest furniture manufacturer is a pretty bold move. First, it puts IKEA on the leading edge of technology and innovation. Not many companies are currently offering tech-infused solutions into business and work furniture and this makes IKEA stand out even more, Swedish meatballs aside. Second, a nod from a company like IKEA proves that businesses see the need to carry this type of product for the consumer. Some of the items we talk about at CES are just vaporware - ideas and products that never make it to market for one reason or another. However with Qi, we're now seeing real-world application of the technology in dozens of different environments and use cases. Additionally, IKEA choosing Qi over the competition means that companies solidly believe in the WPC, instead of some of the other standards out there right now that are also powered by big name companies like Samsung and Qualcomm.

Now all we need to see is food chains switch from the other standards to Qi and we'd have a match made in heaven, especially if those brands grab their hardware from IKEA. IKEA has also announced that it will be selling a standalone kit that will bring wireless power to furniture that does not already have the feature. The company will be offering one or two full collections in their massive showrooms each year, with the idea to bring 10 total collections to their lineup in a few years.

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HBO Now Coming this Spring, Costs $15 Per Month

posted Saturday Mar 7, 2015 by Scott Ertz

HBO Now Coming this Spring, Costs $15 Per Month

After months of speculation, HBO kind of announced a standalone streaming service, in which no details were given. This week, though, International Business Times got word that the new service would come around very soon. In fact, the new service, known as HBO Now, could launch as soon as April, giving us only a month to wait before being able to watch shows like Game of Thrones without having to have cable and HBO service.

The service is expected to retail for around $15 per month - roughly the same price as purchasing standard HBO service from a cable provider. The big difference will be that you will not be required to have cable to make the purchase for the first time in HBO's history. This is a great addition to the world for those who are trying to get as far away from cable or telecom companies as they can.

The service will be available in a similar line as HBO Go, being available on a wide variety of portable devices and set-top style devices. As part of their launch plans, Time Warner, HBO's parent company, is in talks with Apple to have the service available on Apple TV at launch. It is also likely to be available on platforms that are used more than Apple TV, such as Xbox 360 and Xbox One, PlayStation, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, etc.

Though the April timeframe is speculative, it is based on information from inside the company. The release is trying to be timed to coincide with the premiere of the next season of Game of thrones, slated to release on April 12. While the company has shown pride in the fact that their show is the most pirated television program, being able to circumvent the piracy would certainly be better. Being able to provide legal programming to those without cable is a win-win for everyone involved, and timing it with this premiere is the best way to market the launch.

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Tampa Man Arrested in Middle East for Facebook Post in Florida

posted Saturday Mar 7, 2015 by Scott Ertz

In the United States, Facebook is filled with a collection of things, like 16 things you didn't know about a TV show, obligatory birthday wishes, photos of food and pets, selfie challenges and political debates. With all of this, the most common thing we find on Facebook is complaints, be it about friends, family, business or work. It is a great outlet for anger and insanity with little to no repercussions, unless your employer trolls Facebook pages.

The one thing you can guarantee is that no matter how much you complain about work from the comfort of your home, you will never be arrested for your complaints. That rule assumes that you stay within the confines of that home, or at least the confines of the country. Unfortunately, it turns out that rule goes right out the window as soon as you leave the country, especially if you are going to the Middle East for work.

A Tampa Bay area resident, Ryan Pete, found out this exemption the hard way after he left his Belleair Bluffs home, where he had posted about his anger at his employer. The post had been pretty scathing because of issues over leave because of a back injury which required he stay in Tampa longer than originally planned. He flew to the Middle East, where he is a helicopter mechanic, where he was promptly arrested.

As it turns out, in the United Arab Emirates it is illegal to complain about your employer. Now, this doesn't apply just to Facebook; in fact, the law prohibits anyone from slandering their employer at all, whether it be online or in print. Ryan Pete said in an interview after the arrest,

I just couldn't register it in my head because as an American growing up in the United States, the First Amendment right is just ingrained in my brain. I never even entertained the fact that I would wind up in prison out here for something I put on Facebook in the United States.

He has been released on bail, but faces a trial that will take place on March 17. If he is found guilty of the "crime" he faces up to 5 years in prison and a steep fine. His congressman, Rep. David Jolly, has intervened, getting the State Department and Emirates to agree to drop the case because the post took place on American soil.

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Iconic Maxis Emeryville Headquarters Closed

posted Saturday Mar 7, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Iconic Maxis Emeryville Headquarters Closed

Maxis, the iconic studio behind megahits like SimCity and The Sims, is being officially shutdown by owner Electronic Arts. It is important to note that the brand and its intellectual property will not be going away, only their Emeryville headquarters. This site was the original location of the studio before becoming part of EA, and the location where most of its globally known brands started.

An EA representative said in a statement,

Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to our studios in Redwood Shores, Salt Lake City, Helsinki and Melbourne locations as we close our Emeryville location.

Unfortunately, along with the closure comes layoffs. This is disappointing, as the team at Maxis is what makes the games so successful. Losing the people, talent and relationships found within that office will surely affect the future of Maxis-branded games. EA has promised that the schedule of Maxis content will not be affected, including the upcoming expansion for The Sims 4.

This comes at a very weird time: during the Game Developers Conference. Game developers from all over the world have come together in San Francisco to talk and trade ideas, so the end of an era like this is certainly unfortunate. Hopefully the developers from Maxis who will no longer be employed have found some new positions during the event.

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MWC Brings a Week of Mobile Payments

posted Friday Mar 6, 2015 by Scott Ertz

MWC Brings a Week of Mobile Payments

Within the week of Mobile World Congress, a major topic of conversation was mobile payments - both in and out of the show. Among the news was the revelation of two new services, one shutting down and one with major security issues. Let's talk about all the ups and downs for this new and emerging industry.

Samsung Pay

During the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event at MWC, the primary focus was on the newest members of the Galaxy family: Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. Among the announcements, however, was Samsung Pay, an improved implementation of the mobile payment concept. The system has all of the things you would expect: adding of credit, debit and rewards cards and the ability to make a payment or attach a reward through near field communication. It will also use biometric sensors to protect your data on the device.

One of the biggest issues with mobile payments, though, is the relatively limited number of places, especially small businesses that can accept those payments. With a divergent market it could possibly even become more difficult to find a store that accepts the particular payment system your phone supports. Samsung Pay has a feature that sets it apart from the other system, though: the ability to use it anywhere credit or debit cards can be used.

Using a special chip in the phone, Samsung Pay is capable of being used in place of a traditional magnetic stripe card. You choose the account you want to use, just like you would be paying via NFC, but instead of holding it up to an NFC receiver, you hold it up next to a card reader. It is capable of mimicking the stripe on the card, giving you the freedom of mobile payments without the hassle of figuring out if the store takes your phone.

Softcard

One of the early players in the mobile payment industry is Softcard. This organization was formed as a joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon as a way to guarantee cross-platform, cross-network payments. The brand has had a series of issues: some of its own making and some out of its control. The most notable issue was with their name; they were known as Isis and were forced to change their branding, for obvious reasons.

The issue that has caused them the most trouble has been acceptance. Despite being owned by the carriers, somehow the app was included on almost no phones. In addition, Google prevented the app from being listed in Google Play, meaning that you couldn't even get it on your Android phone afterwards.

Last month, in an attempt to try and recoup some of their costs, Softcard sold their technology to Google. As part of the technology transition, Softcard is shutting down operations, meaning that if you were able to use the platform on your Windows Phone or Android device, you will be losing it effective March 31, 2015.

Android Pay

As part of purchasing Softcard, Google announced that they will be bringing their own payment platform to market: Android Pay. Obviously this will be based on the Softcard technology purchased last week. However, it is not going to be available on Windows Phone, meaning that the overall market will be smaller than the original platform. However, as Google is fond of including their own services on their platform, it is likely that it will come pre-loaded on Android phones, making it easier to use.

The difference between Android Pay and Apple Pay or Samsung Pay is that Android Pay is a service, rather than an application. Google's Senior Vice President of Android, Chrome and Google Apps, Sundar Pichai, said,

We are doing it in a way so that anybody else can build a payments service on top of Android. In places like China and Africa, we hope that people will use Android Pay to build innovative services.

This platform will enable application developers to include NFC payment capabilities into their own Android apps. This would give retailers like Starbucks the ability to secure their data, which they have not been able to do on their own.

Apple Pay

As mobile payment technology is becoming more and more popular, a critical flaw in the way Apple Pay works has been revealed as a source of major credit card fraud. This is not Apple's first glance into Apple Pay security issues, but it is certainly the worst, as it is easy to implement and has already been taken advantage of.

The issue at hand is the lack of verification when adding a credit or debit card to an account. Because the service does not require the user to show the physical card like it would if you swiped a card, it means that you can use any valid card information in the system without in-store verification. So, if you are using a card that is not yours and does not match your personal identification, such as a driver's license, there is no way for the retailer to know.

When you add the card to the system, you are not required to provide any verification, either. In a well-planned system, you would have to provide verification of ownership for the card in question. For example, if you were adding a card issued by Chase, you would have to provide a verification number provided by Chase. This is similar to how you would log in to the same Chase account on a new computer.

The way this is being taken advantage of is through data retrieved through data breaches. For example, credit card information stolen from Target or Home Depot can be entered into an iPhone and used at a store without any verification. This fixes a common problem in getting items from a stolen credit card: delivery addresses. With the ability to walk in to a retailer, purchase a large collection of products and pay with a digitally manufactured credit card that requires no personal identification, it is a simple process to steal money from the banks.

Perhaps it is time for the credit card companies to prevent access to Apple Pay until Apple decides to fix this fairly obvious and serious security oversight.

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