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PluralSight Buys Digital-Tutors For $45 Million To Add Media Software Training

PluralSight, a purveyor of online training tools for software professionals, is expected to announce the acquisition of creative software training services company Digital-Tutors in a $45 million deal.

With the Digital-Tutors purchase, PluralSight adds a suite of 1,500 courses focused on media and design to its already formidable array of online training tools for professional developers. The company now boasts over 3,000 training modules in its catalog.

It’s the latest shot in the battle for dominance in the market for software training content – a sector that is increasingly consolidating around larger, better-funded companies.

Tech professionals face a constant struggle to keep up with the latest and greatest in software, so it’s no wonder that training and education services for information tech have become big businesses. In fact, Global Industry Analysts projects that spending on professional training for software and information technology will hit $107 billion by 2015.

And PluralSight isn’t the only e-learning company cutting checks. Earlier in April, Lynda.com announced the acquisition of Compilr in a roughly $20 million deal to add the Halifax, Canada-based company’s services for in-browser learning, writing and testing code to its own education offerings.

“The trends in the space are starting to really develop more clearly for investors as well as for customers in the market,” said PluralSight chief executive Aaron Skonnard. “The [massive open online courses]  have gotten a lot of attention but people are struggling to see how a lot of them make money. The companies that have a very solid financial grounding and good ideas are starting to group together.”

At PluralSight, the deal for Oklahoma City-based Digital-Tutors represents the company’s fourth acquisition in eight months. Digital-Tutors already counts some of the largest entertainment tech companies like Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Rockstar Games among its clientele of corporations, universities, and professionals.

In all, the company has spent under $100 million on acquisitions including PeepCode, which offers open-source developer courses; the screencast publisher for developers, Tekpub; and TrainSignal, an information technology training company PluralSight acquired in a $23.6 million deal.

Based in Salt Lake City, PluralSight began as a classroom-based training company in 2004 before establishing its online presence in 2008. Since then the company grew its user base and took a single, $27.5 million round from Insight Venture Partners in December 2012.

That round was the starting gun for PluralSight’s acquisition tear, and it also helped boost the company’s revenues from $16 million in 2012 to over $32 million in 2013, and the company is heading for another year of triple digit growth.

USA Today

As a result of the acquisition, customers of both Digital-Tutors and PluralSight will have access to both companies’ libraries at no additional charge, and the 30 employees on Digital-Tutors staff will join the PluralSight team. Additionally, Digital-Tutors chief executive and founder Piyush Patel will join PluralSight as senior vice president of creative operations.

“The whole online e-learning space is going to go through quite a period of consolidation over the next several years,” said Skonnard. “We can raise debt financing and we can pay for a lot of these deals with cash on the books. That’s why you’re seeing [consolidation] happen sooner in the skills oriented training before you’re seeing it happen elsewhere.”

More: PluralSight Buys Digital-Tutors For $45 Million To Add Media Software Training

The Sweet Irony Of Popcorn Time

So the big fun story of last week was this streaming movie app called Popcorn Time. Essentially, it aggregated torrent links and packaged them with artwork and a nice interface that allows one-click streaming of movies.

Popcorn Time is incredibly illegal almost anywhere, but it’s also almost impossible to stop people from using it without ISP intervention. Even though the original version of the app has been killed off, the project has already been forked and replicated by a new group. Now that the concept is out there I doubt it will ever go away completely — whatever iteration may come.

The absolutely lovely irony here is that Popcorn Time is doing for distribution of pirated movies exactly what the movie industry needs to do for itself.

Torrents are confusing and a mess. My mom could not download a torrent app, find a torrent that was not a virus and download a movie on her own with no help. But she could definitely download Popcorn Time. As fast and available as torrents are, they’re still fragmented, dangerous and complicated. They require a modicum of technical familiarity and engender some risk every time you place your trust in an un-verified link.

Popcorn Time unifies them under one roof — in exactly the agnostic, friendly way that the movie industry in aggregate has been so unable to do for its own products.

In contrast, streaming movies with one click is a much more complicated and tortuous affair. Titles are split across a strata that include a variety of creators, distributors, technologies and pay gateways. There is no such thing as a one-price-plan that offers unfettered access to any movie you want to watch, and even if you want to rent an item you’re going to have to have at least 2-3 accounts on services from Apple, Netflix, Amazon or half a dozen others in order to guarantee the flick you want to see will be available when and if you want to see it.

The torrent landscape — the illegal download market — has its own crumbling architecture of groups and sites risen and fallen. But the pirates are out-innovating the studios — and apps like Popcorn Time prove that the movie industry is not being held back because of technology, it’s the lawyers.

Because the technology exists to make this happen easily. Services like Ultraviolet are proof of that. Many main-stream companies have even turned to torrents for use in delivering updates. If you’ve played World Of Warcraft in the past few years you’ve likely utilized torrents to get updates, whether you realize it or not.

The other major media business — music — was struck by a very similar bombshell with Napster. Never before had the main stream been able to one-click download a song or album as easily — even if they wanted to pay.

The point isn’t that Popcorn Time marks the first time that you can download movies illegally — but it is drop-dead simple. It democratizes movie piracy in the same way Napster did for music.

Also, as my colleague Ryan Lawler pointed out to me when we were chatting about this, broadband connections have gotten a lot faster since Napster made its debut. Downloading a movie can take as little as 15 minutes, about the time it took to download an album back then.

The music industry underwent a series of changes as a result of Napster. Albums broke into singles, digital surpassed disc and that has all culminated in the rise of the subscription over the pay-per-play model.

Then Apple came along and essentially formalized the Napster model — throwing the labels a lifeline in their distressed and desperate hour.

Content deals in the media business are made on 5-10-year cycles, and always have been. These included fractured elements like video on demand windows, theatrical release, streaming rights and broadcast rights — all of which are promised to separate entities with their own ‘middle man’ businesses. And each of those businesses have lawyers whose job it is to negotiate those deals in the most binding, most profitable way.

Look at how technology has changed life in the last 10 years. Thanks to smartphones and easily available high-speed wireless internet, it’s unrecognizable. So we’re still beholden to content deals made for — quite literally — a different culture.

I don’t even have anything with a disc drive in it besides game consoles — and I only buy discs when I know I might play them once or twice through and then sell them.

Last night I was watching Shark Tank — and two young co-founders presented them with a business that rented e-textbooks, called Packback Books. College students are able to rent textbooks by the day when they need to reference them, adding up to a couple hundred dollars in savings per semester. These guys had exactly the kind of product we talk about every day on TechCrunch. 4/5 of the sharks 100% did not get it, at all. Kevin O’Leary especially was insistent in talking about why the powerful incumbent textbook publishers would never let this happen — largely informed by his years of negotiation and frustration with those publishers.

Which only served to make it that much more evident that those same publishers are ripe for someone to undermine their way of doing business, in a way that could change the industry.

I haven’t done any due diligence on Packback and or Popcorn Time, and this is not an endorsement.

But it strikes me that this is exactly the kind of thing that will need to happen for the movie industry to come to its senses. There will be no major shakeup of the back-room deals (though powerful people like Apple’s Eddy Cue have been at it for years). Instead, someone will find a way to make those deals obsolete entirely.

I’m not a piracy advocate, and never will be. I have friends in the movie and media business who are technicians, craftsmen — not high rollers. Their salary, like it or not, is directly related to you paying for a movie. It’s not the paying — it’s the way you pay. It’s not the renting — it’s the way you rent. It’s not the profits — it’s the greed. Something has to give.

It may start somewhat innocuously, with a revenue share rental model — or perhaps Netflix’s backdoor content creator strategy will tip the scales.

Or maybe an app will make it so easy to pirate films that  the aging carapace of a hundred years of the movie business will slough away for a new model.

But, sooner or later, it will happen.

See the rest here: The Sweet Irony Of Popcorn Time

Samsung drops a heavy hint that the Galaxy S5 will be announced on February 24

It looks like Samsung will announce its latest flagship phone on February 24 at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona. The device, which is almost certain to follow Samsung’s naming convention and be called the Galaxy S5, has been teased with some heavy hints and invites to a press event.

From Samsung’s global blog:

Samsung Unpacked Invitation SNS 730x486 Samsung drops a heavy hint that the Galaxy S5 will be announced on February 24

Mobile World Congress is the most significant event for the global mobile industry. There is always speculation about Samsung launching devices at the show, but it hasn’t announced a phone there since it unveiled the Galaxy S2 at the 2011 event.

Samsung unveils its flagship Galaxy devices at its ‘Unpacked’ events. This event is tagged ‘Episode 1,’ raises the possibility that the device itself *could* be announced at a later date too.

All will be revealed soon, and TNW will be in Barcelona to bring you the latest updates as they happen.

Image via ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/GettyImages

Original post: Samsung drops a heavy hint that the Galaxy S5 will be announced on February 24

Nest’s Tony Fadell Says Any Changes To Device User Privacy Policy Will Be Opt-In, Transparent

Nest CEO Tony Fadell was at DLD in Munich today, giving his first on-stage interview since his company was acquired by Google in a massive $3.2 billion deal last week. Fadell and Nest had already made clear that the acquisition wouldn’t change how Nest treats user data, but he went a step further today, assuring users (via TNW) if there were to be any changes in the privacy policy under Google, they’d be opt-in and made fully transparent to users.

Fadell is clearly seeking to reassure users who think that as part of the Nest deal, Google will be able to harvest data gathered by the thermostats to help power its efforts to compile a more complete profile of its users for the purposes of advertising and monetization. Fadell already spelled out that there would be no change in the current privacy policy for Nest, which mandates that info only be used to improve Nest products and services and not shared with anyone else.

Later, however, Fadell admitted that the policy was subject to change. Google has frequently altered its privacy policy and user agreements to give it greater access to and use of user information. A good recent example is when Google announced it would be using Google+ user profile pictures in ads unless people opted out of that program, hence Fadell’s emphasis on the opt-in nature of any data sharing arrangement between Google and its new subsidiary Nest.

The comments from Fadell today might reassure some users, but they’re also a pretty clear indication that Nest will eventually be changing its user policy, and that part of that change will be some kind of dialog that will ask if Google can user your data, in the same way that you’re prompted to do so when you sign in to Maps and other products. Transparency around the changes means only that they’ll spell out what’s happening, which is actually only what they’d be required to do in order not to cause a massive user furor.

Google and Nest have the potential to do great things together for users and consumers, but don’t expect that to happen without users giving up some more of their precious data to the search giant. All that remains to be seen is how that will happen, and what people get in exchange for that access.

The rest is here: Nest’s Tony Fadell Says Any Changes To Device User Privacy Policy Will Be Opt-In, Transparent

Viber Opens Lines Of Communication For Philippine Typhoon Victims

Rather than delay a product still in testing, Viber has rolled out a new feature called Viber Out to assist in the relief effort in the Philippines.

As the Philippines struggles to rebuild after the Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation, Viber is offering the users of the platform access to the outside world, including family members or friends who may not be using the VoIP platform.

The feature works almost identically to Skype Out, letting Viber users dial non-Viber users’ phone numbers. Viber is not the only service contributing to the relief effort.

CEO Talmon Marco explains to TechCrunch that this will eventually be a premium (paid) feature available to everyone, but to help with the relief effort in the recently devastated Philippines, Viber has made it a free feature available only in the Philippines.

Marco also expressed that this feature was still in development when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, killing 10,000 and displacing hundreds of thousands.

“Things happen, and since we’re the largest over-the-top provider there, we rushed something to market that isn’t far from readiness, but isn’t fully completed,” said Marco.

Viber is also working on letting non-Viber users outside of the Philippines call local residents who use Viber.

Marco says that Viber is rushing to get this new feature rolled out to everyone as quickly as possible given the updated timeframe. Viber Out will be one of the first revenue-generating features from Viber, including the forthcoming Sticker Market.

More here: Viber Opens Lines Of Communication For Philippine Typhoon Victims

Facebook apologizes for locking a ‘small portion’ of users out of their accounts

BXtR2vGIEAE7poY 220x391 Facebook apologizes for locking a small portion of users out of their accounts

On Monday afternoon, some Facebook users reported on Twitter and Hacker News that, for some unknown reason, they were locked out of their accounts. In the error message displayed, users were prompted to upload a photo ID in order to verify that they are the account holder. The company has issued a statement on the matter, saying:

Earlier this evening, we showed an account verification message to a very small portion of our users unnecessarily. We promptly removed the messages when we discovered the error. We’re sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused.

The issue has since been resolved.

If the statement is to be believed, it doesn’t appear to be a security issue that caused this issue, but could be just a mistake. Nevertheless, some may wonder that although it was a glitch that affected a small percentage of the social network’s 1.15 billion users, could this happen on a larger scale and is it necessary for the company to institute some additional security changes?

Of course some could say “accidents happen.”

Here’s a Tweet from someone affected by the issue:

Photo credits: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images and screenshot of Facebook error message via Gillian Murphy/Twitter

The rest is here: Facebook apologizes for locking a ‘small portion’ of users out of their accounts

CardFlight, The Stripe For Real-World Payments, Has Raised $1.6 Million From ff Venture Capital

CardFlight was founded to enable any developer to create his or her own branded app and take in-person credit card payments from it. To accomplish this, it’s raised $1.6 million in funding as it moves to support more customers with its card reader and mobile SDKs.

The company received $1.6 million in funding that was led by ff Venture Capital, with additional participation from Payment Ventures, Apostolos Apostolakis, Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, Plug & Play Ventures, and Great Oaks Venture Capital. Along with the funding, ffVC founding partner John Frankel will join the company’s board.

The team behind loyalty startup LocalBonus launched CardFlight earlier this year as a way to provide small businesses with their own way to build apps that accept in-person credit card payments. Just as Stripe provides an SDK for payments that happen online and through mobile apps, CardFlight provides tools enabling developers to take and process payments. The difference is that CardFlight focuses on the 90 percent of credit card transactions that still happen in the real world.

While other companies like Square and PayPal have provided businesses with the ability to collect payments with mobile credit card readers, businesses are reliant on the provider’s apps to process those payments. CardFlight provides its clients with card readers, and also gives them an SDK to build payment processing into their own branded apps.

CardFlight has SDKs available for both iOS and Android platforms, and connects with 23 different payment processors. The company’s gateway also allows clients to connect apps with their own internal CRM, inventory management, fulfillment, and reporting and analytics tools.

While it’s focused on helping businesses that want to create their own apps, CardFlight has also been used by several vertical solutions providers — that is, third-party developers who build apps for companies that don’t have the technical know-how to do so themselves. That extends the potential reach for CardFlight to provide white-labeled in-person payments for clients.

CardFlight has seen tremendous demand for its service since launch: It has hundreds of app developers signed up on its waiting list, according to CEO Derek Webster. The funding will be used to grow its team — currently at seven employees — to quickly ramp up and support more potential customers.

Growing the team will not only give it the ability to catch more clients, but also will enable it to diversify its own products and to expand its reach into new verticals. While it’s been particularly strong with event organizers like EventFarm, it sees opportunities in a wide range of use cases.

CardFlight connects mobile developers with payment processors. We bring the same developer‐friendly, transparent approach to payment processing as Stripe and Braintree. However, we focus on the ~90% of payment transactions that happen offline. Developers retain full control of their integrated app experience, and use our encrypted mag stripe reader and SDK/API so that they can safely and securely accept card present payments in their apps, with support for their existing merchant account.

→ Learn more

Originally posted here: CardFlight, The Stripe For Real-World Payments, Has Raised $1.6 Million From ff Venture Capital