Google revealed Hangouts, its unified text, video and multimedia messaging platform yesterday during its epic three-hour I/O keynote, but while the platform pulls in Google Talk, Google+ and other sources, it was apparently missing SMS integration. Incorporating texts from your carrier is on the way, however, according to Hangouts and Chat community manager Dori Storbeck, who said as much in a reply to a question (via 9to5Google)about SMS integration on Google+.
The integration will go a long way to truly unifying communications via the service, which is available on Gmail, Android, iOS and Chrome right now. SMS feeding into the Hangouts stream also means that it borrows a trick from what Facebook has added to Facebook Messenger with Chat Heads on select hardware devices, and it also provides Google with a fairly strong feature advantage over competitors including dedicated mobile messaging providers like WhatsApp and Kik, which don’t pull in content from SMS sources.
When SMS does arrive, expect it to make its way to Android only, as there’s not much developers can do to build in SMS on iOS, as those permissions are not open. Hangouts also dropped XMPP in Hangouts, which doesn’t bode well for Google IM on other platforms and in other apps, but it looks like the company is pretty open to building other protocols into its own service.
Read more from the original source: Google’s New Hangouts Chat And Messaging App To Incorporate SMS “Soon”
Dropbox is renaming Dropbox Teams to better reflect its change in business focus. The move comes in tandem with Dropbox’s new support for single sign on (SSO) and partnerships with Okta and other identity providers.
Dropbox for Business will replace the old name, reflecting the company’s change in focus to be more on larger business customers than teams within organizations.
In particular, this means support for Active Directory (AD), the traditional mechanism companies use to authenticate and manage an employee’s corporate identity. Businesses of any size demand built-in security, and AD has historically served as the standard as it eliminates the user name and password model for SSO.
Dropbox customers will get all the capabilities that come with AD, including setting permissions, revoking access or adding people from the IT admin panel.
Centrify CEO Tom Kemp said that Dropbox is different because of its massive install base and usage.
More and more users are bringing DropBox into work. But corporate IT/security is concerned that sensitive / confidential information is being stored in the cloud without proper security controls and access rights being applied, and they have no visibility into this. If they say no to dropbox, then users will just skirt IT. So having a solution such as Centrify integrate Dropbox with AD means that (a) users can use the solution they are comfortable with in terms of sharing docs etc.; (b) IT can put in the access control and security rights (who can access what) that they require; and (c) IT can leverage an existing mgmt tool / infrastructure they already own (AD) so they can implement this control / visibility without having to learn yet another tool. So Centrify + AD + Dropbox is a win – win for users/consumers and corporate IT.
Each of these identity providers are in a mad dash to bake in their SSO capabilities with big customers. Dropbox has some penetration into the business market, claiming it is in 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies. The company says it counts a customer when it has three or more people using the service. Is that credible? It’s tough to know without breaking down the numbers.
In the background of this is a land grab for the backend, something we are seeing a lot of as companies pull out of their long-time commitments to larger enterprise vendors. Companies like Dropbox eat around the edges of a large organization’s profit margins. The feeding is intensified by the presence of Google, Microsoft, Box and a host of others that want their own piece of the pie.
Perhaps the most interesting contrast comes from Salesforce.com, which last fall launched its own identity service and a competing product it calls Chatterbox, which takes its name from Chatter, the company’s activity-stream platform.
Dropbox is betting its future on consumer and business markets. To reach into the business market, the company has to have a security cornerstone, a must for most business customers, especially those that operate under regulatory and compliance requirements.
Dropbox took the first step toward its business-oriented branding with the launch of its administrative platform. Company executives say they will continue to build out its collaboration features. That will be a must in a market that has more than its share of collaboration providers.
Last November, Mozilla announced that it had worked with Facebook to launch a first preview of its Social API for Firefox by integrating Facebook Messenger into Firefox 17. The Social API allows social networks, blog networks or news sites to easily add persistent social sidebars, toolbar notifications and chat features to the browser, no matter which site a user is looking at. At the time, Mozilla wasn’t quite ready to announce any additional partners for this API. But today the organization announced that it will soon expand this effort with additional services in Firefox Nightly, including Japanese social network Mixi, Microsoft’s MSN Now, new site, CliqZ and the Chinese microblogging service Weibo.
“We are really excited about the possibilities that Social API brings to the future of browsing, including ways to integrate even more social providers, e-mail, finance, news and other applications and services into your Firefox experience,” Mozilla writes in today’s announcement.
When Mozilla launched the Facebook Messenger integration, Mozilla’s VP of Firefox Engineering Jonathan Nightingale told me that the organization wanted to see how it could marry the trend toward more social experiences on the web with the browser. Firefox’s App Tabs were a first attempt to solve this, but, as Nightingale told me, “people still had to work around the limitations of browsers because they were treating social just like any other sites.”
The current Facebook Messenger integration is pretty straightforward and adds a set of Messenger buttons to the toolbar and pops up a sidebar to start chats (see image above). Last November, the Firefox team wasn’t sure how to integrate more than one service yet, but that obviously wasn’t an issue at the time, given that only Facebook Messenger was integrated in the service so far. It’s not clear how the Firefox team has solved this issue, but we’ll surely see the solution once these new providers go live in one of the next Firefox Nightly releases.
An online database built by Google.org, the technology giant’s charitable division, to track unused TV white space spectrum has been approved for a 45-day public trial by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Electromagnetic spectrum is fast becoming a limited resource as billions of people try to access the Internet on their smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC. Parts of the existing radio spectrum are unused though, or could be used to better effect. The problem has always been keeping track of where these pockets are though, and relaying this information to the public or providers whose services would benefit from redistribution.
Google wants to promote dynamic spectrum sharing, which would allow another party to take advantage of some spectrum when it’s not being actively used by the owner. The new database, therefore, would allow regulators and industry stakeholders to oversee the amount of spectrum not in use and ensure it’s reallocated when appropriate.
To become certified as a TV White Spaces Database Administrator though, Google is entering a 45-day trial with the FCC starting today.
Anyone who signs up during this period will able to see the TV white spaces spectrum that is available in their location as of January 29, 2013. Google says that once the database is certified with the FCC, registered devices will able to check the database automatically and identify what spectrum is available in the nearby area.
That means Internet service providers – and perhaps even members of the public – will be able to take advantage of unused spectrum on the fly, improving the chances of finding a stronger and faster connection.
Google isn’t the only one trying to address the spectrum problem though. Earlier this year Microsoft gave an update on its spectrum observatory in Brussels, which is also examining how the existing radio spectrum can be better managed.
It follows a similar setup in Redmond and Washington that can track and analyze spectrum usage to determine where expansion plans should occur next.
Image Credit: Adam Berry/Getty Images
Originally posted here: Google database for tracking unused spectrum enters 45-day public trial with the FCC
If you’re not an aspiring musician, you may not be familiar with TakeLessons, but the San Diego-based startup is on a mission to change that. Today, TakeLessons announced that it has raised $4 million in follow-on series A financing, led by Palo Alto’s Triangle Peak Partners, to expand its online marketplace for music lessons into new new verticals — including tutoring and the performing arts.
Siemer Ventures, Pinterest Monetization Director Tim Kendall (who also held the same role at Facebook) and the startup’s existing investors, Crosslink Capital and SoftTech VC, also contributed to the round, which brings its total to over $12 million. To date, the startup has paid out over $10 million to music teachers who are now serving students in over 3,000 cities. Much of this growth has come in the past year, driven by the startup’s online lesson platform, which enables aspiring musicians to take lessons online (in addition to in-person), while allowing teachers to digitize their businesses.
Founded back in 2006, TakeLessons CEO Steven Cox tells us that he grew tired of the lack of available options for music lessons online — beyond the mess of content available on sites like YouTube — so he set out to create a marketplace for finding curated lessons and vetted lesson providers.
Today, students can search TakeLessons for a teacher that matches their needs with respect to location, time availability, background, age and instrument. If a student finds someone they want to work with in their area, they can schedule an in-person lesson or, if not, schedule one online. Once they schedule a lesson, students can pay for lessons online or through the platform’s call center — like an eHarmony for music lessons.
To that point, students set up profiles that describe their skill level, what they want to learn, what types of music they like and so on, which instructors can then review and use to develop a customized lesson plan. Today, Cox says, the majority of lessons occur in person, either in the student’s home or at the instructors’ studios, at which point TakeLessons verifies that students were satisfied with their teacher and then releases the payment to the instructor.
For instructors, the goal is to help them make a living doing what they love, without forcing them to spend their own time or money finding new students. TakeLessons also aims to take as much of their business operations out of the instructor’s hands as it can, becoming their payment system, booking engine, scheduling tool and communications platform. Or at least that’s the idea.
“We think that local services and local service providers are being underserved by technology,” Cox tells us, “so by developing a brand and a marketplace that consumers trust, we believe services will move to the Web just as SMBs, business owners and products have done in other local industries.”
To that point, Cox sees TakeLesson’s potential role as being similar to that of Uber, in that it intends to be a national company that becomes a hyper-local marketplace — yet instead of offering vetted drivers, it offers vetted lesson providers. While it would seem like services like Udemy and Skillshare would be natural competitors to the TakeLessons model, the CEO sees them as potential partners, instead looking at brick-and-mortar stores as the company’s main competition.
The CEO sees brick-and-mortar stores as the incumbents, which can only offer limited services in limited locations, while he says TakeLessons is currently offering service in over 100 locations in San Francisco alone. As of now, the startup covers all of the top metropolitan areas in the U.S. for in person lessons, offering an online product to those who don’t live in a city.
While its coverage, quality and prices can vary city-to-city — like any marketplace with coverage of this size — overall, it’s managed impressive penetration, albeit slowly. “It’s something that’s taken time to build,” the CEO says, as the company has chosen to expand its coverage on a market-by-market basis.
The other big challenge for services like this (and like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit and more) is maintaing quality. With a wide geographical reach and 7,500 teachers, it’s unlikely that bad eggs won’t slip through the cracks, but quality control is critical to a good user experience. To avoid crappy teachers, Cox says that the company screens and interviews each of its instructors, going through a “seven-step curation process” that is designed to weed out those who might be good musicians but aren’t so good at teaching. This includes interviews, background checks, reference checks and online training, he says.
Of course, building a local marketplace city-by-city with quality service providers ain’t easy, but because it’s spent six years making headway on the music providers front, the CEO thinks the service has now reached a point in which it can begin applying the model to other verticals. With its new capital in the bank, TakeLessons will continue building out its local music providers across the country but also plans to begin adding academic tutoring, dance, acting, art and language services as well.
Cox says that the startup plans to “be in over 100 cities with local tutors by June and over 1,000 cities by the end of the year. Going forward, the company also plans to step up its testing around international lessons and begin pushing service abroad at some point this year. There’s definitely some danger in attempting to port a model that works in a niche market to other niche markets, each of which has its own subtleties and nuances. Things can get complicated fast — and overall user experience can be diluted when a company tries to over-extend its service model too quickly.
To defend against this, TakeLessons will try to stick to verticals that are closely related to its core business, in which its current customers can begin using immediately. As long as it doesn’t get too big for its britches, so to speak, there’s good reason to believe its expansion plans can provide added value to its customers and bring in new ones. Building a local-by-local marketplace takes time, but it can create significant defensibility if the company gets it right.
It also helps that the average lesson price is $38, which while pricier than free, is cheaper than most. Students have taken 500,000 lessons to date, perhaps lower than one would expect for six years on the job, and if it’s paid out $10 million to teachers, that leaves about $9 million for the business and its 60+ person staff. The team didn’t say what revenue growth looks like currently, but as it expands into new verticals and new markets, there’s more room to grow. And $12 million from investors certainly doesn’t hurt either.
For more on TakeLessons, find it at home here.