Tuesday, 17 July 2012


South African glossy causes a stir after featuring a fake cover of the Duchess of Cambridge on the August issue


The Duchess of Cambridge is one of the most sought after cover stars in the world, with a horde offashion editors vying for her to feature on one of their issues.

But the trendsetting royal has so far turned down all offers of a glossy magazine photoshoot,– including one by fashion bible Vogue, so it came as quite a surprise to see Kate gracing the August issue of Marie Claire South Africa.

In order to create their dream cover with the Duchess, editors at the South African magazine did the next best thing they could do and photoshopped Kate’s head and hands on the body of another model.  
The cover headline reads: “Fashion’s New Royal Icon Wears SA’s Best Local Designs” but fully acknowledges the ‘fan-art’ aspect with a disclaimer at the bottom: “Of course she doesn't. But she should.”
On the cover Kate wears a gown created by local designer, Clive Rundle and inside the magazine she has been doctored into a series of five illustrations dressed in clothes from local designers.

“We were so inspired by her fairytale wedding and her life as a modern-day princess, which is why we elected Kate Middleton as our cover star for the August issue,” the magazine's editor Aspasia Karras told the Telegraph. “The cover is actually a hyper-real illustration of Kate, meant to be a fan art tribute to fashion's new royal icon.”

As the cover hit the press last night it generated plenty of buzz, but for all the wrong reasons. Disgruntled fans took to the magazine’s website to discuss the image.

“She didn’t actually pose for the cover?” asks one reader. “How is that a good thing? Aren’t you cheating your readers as well as your cover subject?”

“I'm not really a fan of this idea,” another reader commented. “Will not be buying this magazine!”

Some even took to Twitter where they mistakenly attacked the Marie Claire US account.

In response Marie Claire US tweeted: “To clear confusion the sketched Kate Middleton MC S. Africa cover isn’t ours, we have ‪#KristenWiig”

This cut-and-paste job is just one of many attempts by magazines to mock up what Kate might look like on a front cover. Last year Grazia landed in hot water for retouching an image of the Duchess in her wedding dress, making her waist significantly smaller than it already was. Most recently The New Republic caused a stir when Kate appeared on the magazine’s front cover with stained and rotting teeth.

Do you think it’s acceptable for magazines to fake their cover star?

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


 Google and Apple may still be at each others' throats -- remember Steve Jobs' threat to "go thermonuclear war" on the company he felt ripped off the iPhone -- but you wouldn't know it from the way Google was talking on Thursday.
At its I/O conference for developers, Google (GOOGFortune 500) announced that its Chrome browser will be available in iTunes App Store later on Thursday, as will Google Drive, the productivity app suite that includes Google Docs. The news drew cheers and applause from an excited crowd of software writers."People have been asking us for this for a long time, but we wanted to make sure we got it right," Sundar Pichai, Google's head of Chrome, said during his keynote presentation.
Chrome is now the most popular browser in the world by some metrics, including Google's own. It has 310 million active users, and a growing number of them are mobile. Google's Android mobile operating system began using Chrome as its primary built-in browser in its most recent version.
Chrome's portability and constant updates have made it a hit, but it hasn't been available on the world's most popular smartphone and tablet until today.
Apple's (AAPLFortune 500) restrictions on third-party software are legendary, but browsers in particular have had a difficult time making their way into the iTunes App Store. That's because Apple's doesn't approve apps that duplicate its core functionality.
If a browser gets approved, it has to render Web pages through an iOS software called UIWebView -- a tool that allows apps to display Web content without ever leaving an app. But it's slow and can't take advantage of some of the hardware capabilities that make browsing in Safari lightning-fast.
Just a small handful of third party browsers, including Dolphin, Opera and a few others, have received approval. Like those browsers, Chrome will take advantage of its giant server farm to load pages quickly, bypassing the need to use the hardware tools exclusive to Safari.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment on Chrome's entry into its market.
After a heavy load of Android announcements and updates on Wednesday, including a new tablet, it was slightly strange to see Google engineers proudly wielding an iPad and an iPhone on stage Thursday. But adding Chrome and Drive to the popular iOS platform will expand Google's user base and ecosystem.
Google's browser allows users to sync tabs, bookmarks and other settings across multiple devices. Once a user signs in to the browser on any computer or phone, they can view their opened tabs and browsing history.
That means that someone can search for and click on a restaurant's website on a Chrome browser on a PC, then open Chrome on an iPhone and instantly view the restaurant's page. The user can even hit the back button on the phone to go back to the search results, a feature Google showed off at its conference.
Google's Drive App is also making its way to iOS Thursday, and it comes with some new, long-awaited features.
Beginning Thursday, Google Docs users will be able to edit their documents when offline. The app will store the document in the device's cache, and it will automatically upload it to Google Drive when connected.
The company said offline mode for spreadsheets and presentations will follow soon. The ability to edit while disconnected has been one of the key differentiators between Microsoft Office and Google's productivity apps.
Perhaps the coolest new feature that Google unveiled Thursday was Google Drive's ability to search for photos without any captions or tags. For instance, a search for "pyramids" spat back a few photos that a keynote presenter had taken while in Giza. To top of page
This week, Jarrett learns that just because it's trending on Twitter doesn't mean it's actually listenable.On Monday afternoon, something called Kidz Bop was trending on Twitter. I had never heard of it, but was instantly amused by the word "Bop."
You see, when I was a kid, Nana lived with us at home in Arizona and she used to wield a giant cardboard wrapping paper roll that we affectionately called her Bopper. When our Great Dane, Shane, would annoy her, she'd promptly try to beat the crap out of him. And he loved it.
But Kidz Bop appeared to be far less amusing than Nana's cardboard bludgeoning stick. As one Twitterererer put it: "Kidz Bop can go die in a hole."
Whatever this Kidz Bop was people weren't happy, and I quickly pieced together from the cascade of angry tweets that it was a compilation children's music series that had just aired a rather annoying commercial on Nickelodeon for its new upcoming release, "Kidz Bop 22."
Which suggests, perhaps, that somewhere in America there's a parent who owns the other 21 disks and is slowly being talked off a ledge.
The Number: "Call Me Maybe" number 1?
"Ma'am, it's going to be OK. We brought you some Zeppelin."
The Kidz Bop people tout their CDs as "today's biggest hits sung by kids for kids," and this particular volume contains remakes of 16 pop songs that I've absolutely never heard.
Sure, you may say I'm old and unhip and completely out of touch, but, really, I just spend a lot of time watching "Matlock."
Anyway, one song in particular on the new album that seemed to be immediately tugging at the gag reflex of most people on Twitter was the Kidz Bop remake of "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen who, in 2007, finished third on "Canadian Idol." Which is exactly the same as "American Idol," except all the contestants have to sing while riding a moose.
The chorus of Jepsen's song goes: "Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy. But here's my number. So call me, maybe."
Moral: "Hey kids ... talk to strangers!"
Now, while I totally understand people finding this song annoying, especially sung by children, I have to admit that, sadly, it's also catchy as hell. And much better than my standard pickup line: "So, you ride Greyhound often?"
A while back, Justin Bieber actually praised "Call Me Maybe" on Twitter, which instantly made it popular, spawning video lip dub remakes by everyone from Katy Perry to the Harvard baseball team.
And now it's immortalized on "Kidz Bop 22." You're welcome.
The Kidz Bop music series is targeted to children aged 5 to 12, and, according to its website, has sold more than 11 million CDs. But I was curious as to just how "safe" they were making these songs.
Thus, I went all the way back to the beginning, the original Kidz Bop, and decided to examine their remake of Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca." I figured it would be a good test subject since, so far as I can tell, the song is basically about being drugged and taken advantage of by a sexy Latin hooker.
Which, coincidentally, is also No. 32 on my bucket list.
So, I purchased the Kidz Bop version off iTunes and found that, at least for this one song, not a single lyric had been changed:
"Woke up in New York City in a funky cheap hotel/
She took my heart and she took my money/
She must've slipped me a sleepin' pill."
See? This is why I have a dog. Because I have no idea how to explain "Livin' La Vida Loca" to a child.
"Look, sweetheart, it's complicated. So your mom and I rented you "Deuce Bigalow."
Close enough.
Hey, at least I actually know "Livin' La Vida Loca." At the moment, all of my co-workers are making fun of me for just now learning about "Call Me Maybe."
And I couldn't be more proud.
So, if you need me, I'll be at my desk listening to Zeppelin. Or maybe watching "Matlock."
 Google's new media device, the Nexus Q, is made in a factory in the United States.


 Forget the applications like video and audio streaming, or the built-in speakers. The most noteworthy feature of Google's new Nexus Q device may be this: It's made in the United States.
When Google rolled out the device at its developers conference in San Jose, California, on Wednesday, reporters noticed the words "Designed and Manufactured in the U.S.A." etched onto the bottom.
The gadget, about the size and shape of a Magic 8 Ball, is billed by Google as "the first social streaming player." It can be connected to a TV, has its own speakers, and can stream music and video from the cloud as well as connect an Android tablet or phone with home electronics.
Google hasn't played up its origin, even though the vast majority of electronics are manufactured in China or other countries where labor is cheaper than in the U.S. A Google spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment for this story.
But The New York Times reported Thursday that it had been given a brief tour of the plant, which it says is about 15 minutes from Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, and that "hundreds" of employees appear to work making the Nexus Q. The tour was given on condition that the Times not report the factory's exact location.
"We've been absent (from the U.S.) for so long, we decided, why don't we try it and see what happens?" Andy Rubin, Google's vice president in charge of the company's Android operating system, told the Times.
Electronics companies, like those in many other sectors, for years have flocked to China to take advantage of cheap labor costs and loose business regulations.
Most famously, Apple has appeared in headlines over its relationship with Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer that makes its iPads and iPhones. Foxconn has been accused of unsafe and unfair working conditions in recent years. Apple has announced it's working to improve conditions at its supply-chain plants, and CEO Tim Cook visited a Foxconn factory earlier this year.
But as wages and other costs begin to increase in China, a handful of mostly smaller companies has begun bringing those jobs back to the States. Late last year, an analysis by the Boston Consulting Group predicted that 2015 will be a "tipping point" when it will make more sense for many industries to keep their plants closer to home.
"A surprising amount of work that rushed to China over the past decade could soon start to come back -- and the economic impact could be significant," said Harold L. Sirkin, a senior partner and lead author of the analysis. "We're on record predicting a U.S. manufacturing renaissance starting by around 2015."
The analysis predicts lower-tech manufacturing like textiles and apparel will stay overseas, while more complex products, like electronics and automobiles, might be more likely to be made in the United States.
New mobile apps can collect social-media updates about natural disasters in real time


 "Uh-oh, I smell smoke again, hang on ..."
Robbie Trencheny, a 20-year-old programmer based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, walked away from our Skype video call to look at the billowing clouds of smoke outside. When he returned: "Yeah, it really smells like a bonfire out here now," he said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Waldo Canyon wildfire has burnedmore than 15,000 acres in the mountains just outside Colorado Springs. It's moving fast and doubled in size overnight. Several neighborhoods in the western part of the city, and part of the Air Force Academy, have been evacuated, and homes have been destroyed.
Trencheny lives about five miles east of the blaze. An avid Twitter user, he saw the flood of discussion about the fire there, and he decided to help make it easier to follow the action.
Colorado fire 'smacks you in the face'
Colorado residents evacuate before fire
Evacuee: 'Don't know how to start over'
Photos: Wildfires devastate Western statesPhotos: Wildfires devastate Western states
So in about 45 minutes of coding, Trencheny and fellow coder Scott Siebold built the Waldo Canyon Wildfire Tracker. This app collects all tweets containing#WaldoCanyonFire (the Twitter "hashtag" denoting this event) and displays them in a constantly updated stream. At the top is a photo gallery showing all the photos posted to Twitter with that hashtag.
"We wanted to help in some way," he said. "We figured we'd use our tech skills to help, since not many people in Colorado Springs have the skills to do this quickly. The pictures are the best part so far. They're really powerful."
Colorado Springs has a fairly small tech community, and most people there don't use social media much, aside from Facebook, Trencheny said. His online tool is something can can give anyone with Web access a window onto the public discourse about this emergency, whether or not they use Twitter.
Most people think of "apps" as programs that you download and install on a mobile device or computer. But this is a "Web app," delivered entirely through the Web browser.
"The first time you check it out, be prepared: This fire is moving fast!" Trencheny said. To make it less overwhelming, he suggests making sure the "retweets enabled" checkbox near the top is unchecked to eliminate duplicate tweets that occur as people interested in the fire copy updates to share with their own Twitter followers.
The information from Twitter comes from all sorts of places: from official agencies such as the Colorado Springs Fire Department to people in and near the city sharing what they're witnessing with other people around the state and the nation.
"Part of what makes this compelling is not so much reading every tweet but just getting a real-time sense of how fast this is moving," he said.
Trencheny could add Instagram photos to this app, since like Twitter, Instagram offers an open application programming interface. But he hasn't, because not many people in Colorado Springs appear to be using Instagram much. However, Instagram photos bearing the #WaldoCanyonFire hashtag and cross-posted to Twitter are appearing in the app.
"I can't add Facebook posts, of course, because that's a closed network," he said.
While this Web app can be viewed on a computer, it also works fairly well on smartphones and tablets. Trencheny says he will continue to improve the mobile interface Wednesday.
This project isn't just about Colorado Springs. People in other cities facing wildfires (or any type of emergency) can reuse Trencheny's code base, for free, to spin off their own iteration. He's posted thisopen source code to GitHub, a popular resource for programmers who like to share what they create.
In fact, Trencheny plans to spin off a version of the Web app to track other current wildfires in Colorado, such as the High Park Fireoutside Fort Collins, which has burned more than 87,000 acres, or the Flagstaff Fire burning just outside Boulder. And he'll explore adding more features, such as a map or integrating photos posted to Flickr.
Trencheny is part of the growing movement of "civic coders": programmers who enjoy building free tools and services to help communities. Sometimes these are solo efforts, but often civic coders collaborate, either online through resources like GitHub or in person at events called "hackathons" where coders self-organize into teams and compete to build software over the course of a day or a weekend.
The nonprofit Code for America initiative is helping accelerate civic coding by fostering collaboration between coders, local or state governments, and community groups to solve problems. Some of this happens by deploying teams of coders to help government agencies, but Code for America also supports civic hackathons around the nation.
Similarly, last year the Apps for Communities Challenge (a contest run jointly by the Federal Communications Commission and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation) awarded more than $100,000 in prizes to coders who built apps to "make local public information more personalized, usable, and accessible for all Americans." (See the winners.)
Trencheny, who hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, participated in Code for Oakland, a civic hackathon for Oakland, California, now entering its second year. And the company he works with,Momentum, is building a platform to make it easier for nonprofits, government agencies and relief organizations to accept online and mobile donations.
"We're currently reaching out to fire departments and other agencies helping to fight the Colorado wildfires and provide relief services," he said. "They all are seeking donations right now."
Trencheny also applauds local officials in Colorado Springs for doing an excellent job with communicating about the Waldo Canyon Fire via social media.
"They were on it right away. The declared a hashtag and encouraged people to adopt it. And they're being responsive to questions on social media and very open with the community there. That makes the content of the Waldo Canyon Fire Tracker so much more useful," he said.
<a href='http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-796779'>Karen Waldkirch</a> before and after her high-tech fitness kick with Fitocracy.


Summer is a time when people ritualistically hit the gym to trim down for swimsuit season, working out to look good in a bathing suit. But this time three years ago, all Kit Ooraikul wanted was to be able to move again.
He was struck with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the nervous system. He spent months lying in a hospital bed, watching his muscles deteriorate. Finally, his health started to improve enough for him to go into rehabilitation.
In rehab, he started running. It was his way of building back the muscle he'd lost. But after he was discharged, he needed something to keep him moving. That's when he turned to RunKeeper, a fitness application that tracks, maps and records the progress of its users' running activity.
"I couldn't see myself just running on my own without some motivation tool," the 37-year-old said.
Ooraikul is one of many people using fitness apps and sites to get in shape. More than 10 million people use RunKeeper, according to the company. It's just one example of the exponential growth of fitness apps available online and via mobile devices.
From social media networks to videogame-like interfaces to health resources, technologies like RunKeeper are transforming the way Ooraikul and others approach fitness.
Work out with your social network
You can be an athlete at any age. That's what Canadian Virginia Champoux said she learned from using a fitness app. Two months ago, a close friend introduced her to the app Fitocracy. It was then that she decided to be more than just active.
"I am 42 years old, I have kids and I work in retail, so I am on my feet all day. I am active. But in my 40s I told myself I was going to be fit," she said. "This is the new me."
Although always on the go, this busy mom logs her daily workouts consistently.
"It works as a way to reach my fitness goals, but it also is helping me on a deeper level," she said.
Champoux finds herself making more health-conscious decisions since starting Fitocracy. "Last night my husband was like, 'You don't look so good,' and I was like, 'Yeah, I am frustrated, I am going out for a run' at 8 in the evening. It was either wine or running, and I choose to go for a run," she said. "It's a life change."
It also keeps her diligent about her workouts. "It is motivational and it offers me support. It's the social aspect that helps," she said.
Fitocracy has more than a half-million users, the fitness app reports. Although that number is nowhere near those of other social networking sites, it's a dramatic growth for the niche app, which is geared toward bringing together users who share a common interest of increasing fitness and physical activity.
Fitocracy started off with only a few thousand users during its beta testing days in 2011. Now, it is growing in popularity with fitness enthusiasts who use the iPhone. The fitness app functions as a social networking site with a videogame-style interface that lets users "level up" based on their physical activities.
For Champoux, Fitocracy's social network makes the app an invaluable resource. "It is literally a social network for working out, like Facebook for fitness," she said. "It is very motivational because it allows me to work out with my social network." The application gives her the opportunity to build relationships with others trying to meet their fitness goals.
"I have friends on Fitocracy that I have never even met," she said. "People keep track of each other and it is very encouraging."
Be fit at any age
Middle age met the digital age for fitness enthusiast Karen Waldkirch. The 51-year-old Milwaukee resident was introduced to Fitocracy and Calorie Count by her son. At the time, she was on weight loss program Jenny Craig, and playing tennis occasionally, but she wanted to make sure she stayed on track.
"I knew I was going to lose the weight," she said. "But I didn't want to gain it back."
By combining Fitocracy and Calorie Count, Waldkirch found resources that filled the gaps in her diet and exercise plan. Calorie Count allows her to record and monitor what she is eating, while Fitocracy works as a fitness motivator.
"It is a little extra push," she said. "It is this weird dynamic that gets into your head. You are sitting on the couch, watching TV and you think, 'I better get off the couch and get some points.'"
Waldkirch says the apps she uses help her physically and mentally. "In a funny way, it kind of enriched my life. It gave me tools to help me. It happened to come along and it really raised my self-esteem."
Although she is a relatively active person, Waldkirch says it is easy for people her age to become complacent when it comes to fitness. "I wish people my age would look to tools like this and think, you don't have to accept your body is declining," she said.
"Technology doesn't have to make you lazier; it can do the opposite."
Get motivated to 'just do it'
One year ago, Jason Tolentino tipped the scale at 230 pounds. It was a combination of a poor diet and eating out every day that lead him down his weight-gaining path.
But one day Tolentino said to himself, "Just do it," and he strapped on a pair of sneakers and ran, jogged and walked a little over five miles.
"I think what got me going was anger and willpower. I was angry at myself, and I was motivated," he said.
He started using Nike+ as a way to monitor his physical activities.Nike+ is a fitness app that allows its users to track their physical activities, which it then displays using visually rich graphs. The app also lets users share their fitness progress with other users.
Monitoring progress is a big part of why the San Francisco resident uses Nike+ consistently.
"The Nike+ app was the greatest thing that happened because it kept me going," Tolentino said. "When you look at the app and you can see your progress and see that I started off at zero and I ran 700 miles, it is incredible."
But the app didn't instantly turn Tolentino's life around.
"When I first started running, I told myself and other people that if I am running I can keep eating, but that isn't how it works," he said. A year of complete diet change -- worked out through trial and error -- and increased fitness helped him drop the weight.
"It may sound cliché, but I want to live a healthier lifestyle and inspire others," he said with regard to why he decided to lose weight.
"I inspired a few friends to go with me on my runs and they are also living a healthier lifestyle. At the same time, I'm unemployed and it's the best way to improve myself," he said.
Work on a better life
The day David Eickelmann and his wife had their daughter Brianna, his life changed. His family was changing, and he wanted to change, too.
He was living a sedentary life, spending many hours on the couch watching television or surfing the Internet. His lifestyle led to overeating and it started to show around his waist. Curious about calculating body fat and increasing fitness, the Flensburg, Germany, resident discovered WeightTraining.com, a website aimed at tracking its users' weight training and fitness progress while also offering video and fitness tutorials.
"I had never considered using (a fitness site) before, but when I started doing the data entry to get my body fat percentage, I became really curious about the other aspects of the site, and that was what got me started," he said.
Easy data entry makes the site convenient for him, and it encourages him to set more personal fitness goals. His overall goal is to gain more energy for his family's sake.
"I think a large part of who we are is developed when we're young," said Eickelmann. "I think that if my wife and I do a good job of presenting ourselves as positive role models in all facets of life, as my daughter goes through her childhood, being fit will become a part of her life as well."
It's not only about you
Ooraikul admits he was never a runner. He's more concerned withkeeping up his endurance after GBS than becoming an athlete. And years after his hospitalization, Ooraikul says his fitness is not only about him anymore.
"It was not about returning to just a level of fitness. We just had a baby and I wanted to quickly get back to shape so that I can actively engage with her as she grows up," he said.
Even after three years, Ooraikul still uses RunKeeper because he knows how fast life can change.
"Experiencing GBS, you find out how quickly health can disappear," he said.
"You should try to keep up with your levels, because you don't know when you won't be able to do the things you want to do."
When he talks about using RunKeeper, he can't help but be reminded of his time spent in rehabilitation. "During rehab they group you with people with spinal cord injuries, and you think, 'I will get better,' because that is how GBS works, but they will not get better. They are just trying to get to a level where they can cope (with) what happened to them," he said.
"When you see something like that, you want to get healthier."


rim blackberry 10

 Is this the end of the road for Research in Motion and the once-loved "CrackBerry"?
RIM (RIMM) reported three pieces of awful news Thursday: 5,000 layoffs, a giant quarterly loss and -- worst of all -- another delay to its next BlackBerry system. Shares plunged 18% Friday on the news.


The company's BlackBerry 10 operating system -- meant to be the linchpin of RIM's turnaround -- won't hit the market until the first quarter of 2013.
The news is so concerning that some critics don't think the company will even survive long enough to launch the OS.
BlackBerry 10 (which RIM first announced in October as "BBX" before a lawsuit over the system's name) had previously been slated for release later this year.
CEO Thorsten Heins was somber on a post-earnings conference call Thursday, saying that developers have been making progress on BlackBerry 10 but implementation is "more challenging than anticipated."
Critics think that delay may be fatal. Brian White, an IT hardware analyst at Topeka Capital Markets, wrote in a report that it "may leave the company so vulnerable that the new platform may never see the light of day."
Amid the delays, RIM's device shipments are declining rapidly. Smartphone shipments fell 41% over the year to 7.8 million last quarter. And the company shipped a paltry 260,000 PlayBook tablets.
On the smartphone front, National Bank Financial analyst Kris Thompson wrote in a report that "investors should expect shipments to spiral downward unless the handsets are donations."
Oof.
RIM's uncertain future was crystallized in late March, when Heins, who took over the CEO role in January, said he was exploring all options for the company, including a sale. The company officially hired bankers a few weeks later.
Thompson praised management for "taking meaningful restructuring actions" -- namely, the 5,000 job cuts and its consideration of other "strategic" moves like putting the company on the block.
A total overhaul will certainly be a difficult task for Heins, a RIM insider who succeeded co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie. He inherited a laundry list of problems, which seems only to be growing.
RIM's chief problem is the loss of its stronghold in the corporate market, a market it once dominated. Rather than issuing company BlackBerries, many employers now have workers bring their own devices into work. And they are often Apple's (AAPLFortune 500) iPhone and Google's (GOOGFortune 500) Android devices.
As a result, RIM now trails Samsung, Apple and Nokia (NOK) in the smartphone market, according to a report from IDC last month.
Investors and other industry watchers are wondering whether RIM or Nokia will have the dishonor of being the next Palm, the smartphone maker that officially met its demise last fall after Hewlett-Packard (HPQFortune 500) bought it and then shut it down.
But despite RIM's many issues, the company still has 78 million subscribers and $2.2 billion in cash on hand. So you won't wake up in the next few months and suddenly find that your BlackBerry has become merely a fancy paperweight.
However, RIM certainly can't continue on this path. The writing may now be on the wall unless the company does find a buyer. To top of page
The staffers behind Google+ say that it shouldn't be referred to as a social network.


It's not engagement or the lack of a clear way to monetize itself. It's not those sometimes-unwieldy friend-organizing circles, or even the perception that no one other than nerds uses the service.
The problem, its creators believe, is that many people keep comparing it to Facebook -- or, more broadly, social networks. While social interaction is a key part of Google+, the project is much more ambitious. Google+ is nothing short of a wholesale upgrade to all of Google's products and services, but with the identity of the user incorporated.
Mashable sat down with Vic Gundotra, Google's senior vice president of social business, and Bradley Horowitz, Google+'s vice president of product, at the Google I/O developer conference. They were excited about the new Google+ features that were announced -- the Events feature and the new tablet app -- but they were also quick to downplay any comparisons to Facebook, or any suggestionthat many people aren't interested in joining Google+.
"Google+ is just an upgrade to Google," says Gundotra. "People have a hard time understanding that. I think they like to compare us with other social competitors, and they see us through that lens instead of really seeing what's happening: Google is taking its amazing products, and by bringing them together, they just become more awesome."
Gundotra and others have said this before, and you get the sense that they really believe in their recipe for Kool-Aid. Google also released some new statistics to parry any stabs at accusing the network of not having a large and engaged audience -- 250 million total users, with 150 million of them visiting every month, and half of those people signing in every day (if you're doing the math, that's 75 million daily active Plussers).
Wading Into Google+'s Stream
But with the definition of Google+ so broad, what constitutes "active daily use" becomes a little hazy. If I'm signed into Google+ and simply do a Google search or upload a photo to Picasa, does that count? As Google defines the service, it would appear so.
However, a user performing such basic Google tasks may never visit the Stream, Google+'s main social feature. That brings the question: Just how engaged are Google's users with the Stream? This week at I/O, Gundotra revealed that "active" users of Google+ spend an average of 12 minutes in the stream, up from 9 minutes three months ago.
Still, that's not quite on par with Facebook, which sees its users spend a grand total of 10.5 billion total minutes spent on the network every day, according to its IPO filing. While that becomes about the same 12 minutes if you divide by Facebook's 900 million users, remember that we're talking about active users here, so Facebook's actual engagement is actually much higher.
So since this area is actually where the comparison to Facebook is valid, how can Google both increase the proportion of active users as well as boost engagement on the Stream?
"That's a fair question," says Gundotra. "I think there we boost engagement by giving people ways to connect things that they care about and are exciting — that nobody else has. Like Google hangouts. Like Events. Like beautiful photos."
Horowitz believes as more users "upgrade" to Google+ — which essentially just means letting Google know who you are — it'll become clear to them that Google's many services become much more useful. And at some point they'll find the Stream.
"When Google knows that I'm a man, and I live in this zip code, and I went to this school, and I have these interests, my entire experience gets better," he explains. "You will discover our engagement is massive, and guess what? Your friends, family and loved ones are already here. It's not as if we need to acquire users. We just need to bring them into the light."
Money Money Money
The way Horowitz and Gundotra describe it, upgrading to Google+ is almost a religious conversion: You weren't really living (i.e. using Google) until you make the transition. Still, Google is a business, and it doesn't undertake massive projects like Google+ without some kind of plan to monetize them.
So far, Google+ doesn't have anything like Twitter's trending topics (although it has a "What's Hot" stream that's a click or tap away for users) or Facebook's sponsored stories. When asked if we might someday see similar features introduced in Google+, Gundotra wouldn't say, but his change in manner betrays a disdain for how Google's competitors incorporate advertising.
"Our business model is very different," he says. Some of our competitors are like going to a baseball stadium. If you have 90,000 people there, you're going to put up ads everywhere, and that's basically the core business model. You're looking at a picture of your daughter, we're going to show you an ad.
"We have a very different philosophy. We think the right time to show and ad is when you are at the moment of commercial intent. When iIm doing a house remodel, and I'm looking for a microwave oven, then I see Bradley's +1 on a GE appliance, that means a lot more to me."
Gundotra repeated a statistic that Google has released before — that when brands use Google+'s social extensions in their ads, the click-through rate (CTR) jumps by 5-10%. While some havequestioned that statistic, the fundamental idea of incorporating recommendations from friends into the ads they're seeing online makes a great deal of sense, and it's the business model of more than one company.
Still, Gundotra won't rule out the possibility of sponsored stories down the road.
"We don't serve ads [on Google+], but that doesn't mean we won't have sponsored stories," he says. "There may be more relevant forms of advertising that we do believe work."
The Business of Hangouts
There may be other sources of revenue for Google+, though. One of the much-touted advantages Google+ has over competitors (perceived or otherwise) is Hangouts — video chats you can have with multiple people, even through a mobile device and are absolutely free.
Hangouts have been a major differentiator for Google+ since the beginning, but until recently Google had positioned them as a casual, consumer-friendly feature, not a business tool (a new ad for Hangouts shows a work group having a meeting). Since their introduction, many businesses (including Mashable) have adopted Hangouts for collaboration, and it begs the question: why hasn't Google been more proactive about courting business users?
"We hear this so much," says Horowitz. "So many startups are running their business on Hangouts. Even big companies who would be embarrassed if I told you which ones. Their expansive camera units take longer to boot up than it takes to launch a hangout with commodity hardware and webcams in your laptop."
"There are lots of examples of great consumer tech coming into the enterprise," Gundotra adds, "because it's just so awesome. You could go back to 1991 with Windows. Enterprises really didn't want it, but it was just so great. If we can solve a problem for every human on earth, then businesses of course will use it."
So when will Google announce Hangouts for Business?
"We're very well aware of the opportunity in enterprise. We're not ignoring it. You should expect announcements from us in the future that add unique features that enterprises would need."
Google+'s Long Game
To some, Google+ made too many stumbles along the way to become a real Facebook competitor. As Gundotra and Horowitz see it, that's the wrong way of looking at it. Google+ is simply Google's way of taking its many disparate services — search, YouTube, Maps, etc. — and making them more relevant by incorporating the user's personal data. If some of those services then end up rubbing up against what Facebook offers, so be it.
In the bigger picture of platforms, though, the comparison is more than appropriate. Both Facebook and Google want you to spend your time on their site, not the other's. Facebook began with social interaction and spread to broader services such as messaging. Google's taking it the other way around — creating a suite of extremely popular products and then persuading users to get social with them.
Which approach is better? I don't think there's much question that Google's services improve greatly when you add in personal data, be it location, gender, interest or other factors. But the social component is incredibly powerful, and in that aspect Facebook is king (Facebook's engagement numbers are massive compared to Google+ — the stream, anyway). For the longest time, people have been trained to socialize there. It's difficult to imagine a world, even in the long term, where that activity shifts to Google.
But maybe it doesn't need to. Can Google+ still be considered a success even if the Stream never quite becomes as influential as Facebook's news feed? Google probably would like to think so, but it's clear that, for now at least, many perceive Google+ as a poor man's Facebook. And if perceptions are great enough, it has a way of become reality.
Yep, Google+ has a problem.
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