Online Retailers Clock Sales Over $1 Billion Over Thanksgiving Weekend


Black Friday is a day of massive sales in the US. Over the last couple of years, online retailers have caught up to the one-day sale phenomenon which was previously a major game changer for only offline retail stores. More consumers are now opting to sit at home, or use their mobile devices to order while on the move.

This year, online retail sales went up by around 32% on Thanksgiving Day compared to around 26% last year, and this includes only the sales from personal computers. Adding up mobile devices will increase the number. Research firm comScore Inc. said online retail sales topped $1 billion for the first time ever.

comScore said that online sales from desktops were up by 15% on retail sites, and mobile device purchases would add another 1-2% to the whole figure. The numbers are based on the company’s research analysis from a consumer panel’s online activity. The company estimates that the overall spending this year was around $1.009 billion, compared to $766 million in 2013

Software company Adobe also reported online sales figures, based on its data set from around 4500 clients. The company declared that online sales jumped around 14% on Thanksgiving Day, and around 24% on Black Friday. Out of these, purchases from mobile devices were around 29% of the entire online store sales on Thanksgiving, and 27% on Black Friday sales.

Adobe’s report also highlighted a major trend, more iOS users drive revenue to online retailers than Android users in the US. The company said, in an official statement, “iOS users drove four times as much mobile sales revenue as Android users, 79 and 21 percent respectively.” Apple has used these figures time and again to highlight how important their devices are for the entire ecosystem.

Android devices may have a stronger market share simply because of more number of devices available to consumers. But these devices aren’t being accounted for actual web or online sales revenues. This is probably what drives developers to work harder on Apple’s mobile ecosystem than the fragmented Android.

Source: Various reports

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OneDrop Is An App For Diabetes Patients, Based On Apple’s ResearchKit


When Apple announced the ResearchKit SDK it received plenty of positive response from the medical industry. Now the first batch of apps based on ResearchKit are showing up. One of the new notable apps include One Drop, an app built for those who are suffering from diabetes. The aim is to make it easier for people with diabetes to track their data, and ultimately live a healthier life.

One Drop app offers a dashboard and an online community for diabetic people across the globe. The app is compatible with the iPhone and the Apple Watch. Users can track their glucose levels, food habits, insulin levels, and daily activity to keep their diabetes under control. The app is the electronic version of a journal most diabetics keep. The online community would enable users to share their data, and learnings with other people allowing them to manage their diabetes easily.

Users can manually log their insulin levels so that it can be easily referenced later on, or while visiting the doctor. The app also allows users to log their meals using photos and tags, apart from their current mood and user location. Users can also log their blood glucose levels during various intervals in a day or as prescribed by the doctor. Apart from all this, users can also keep a tab on meals, activities, and other important readings to allow them to make better decisions in the future.

One Drop also has a WatchKit companion app that will allow users to access important data quickly on their Apple Watch directly. The online community will enable millions of app users worldwide to share their most important insights and stories so that others can benefit from it. Given the sheer number of diabetes patients worldwide, it’s a no brainer that the community aspect of the app would be immensely appreciated.

In the coming few weeks we’ll see a lot more apps based on the ResearchKit API. Developers can also make use of WatchKit to extend their apps to Apple’s upcoming smartwatch to reach more users. ResearchKit also allows medical research labs to integrate several testing services on iPhones, based on user approval.

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Indian Cab Service App Ola Raises $400 Million, Valued At $2.5 Billion


App based cab service Ola, the biggest competitor to Uber, has announced that it has successfully managed to raise another $400 million in funding. The Series E round of funding would help the company expand its services to more than 200 cities in the country by the end of this year. Ola is currently present in over 100 cities while Uber currently serves 11 cities in India.

The latest funding round for Ola was led by DST Global, and included new investors such as Falcon Edge Capital and GIC apart from existing companies like SoftBank, Tiger Global, Steadview Capital, and Accel. Ola has so far raised around $600 million, bringing its current valuation to a whopping $2.5 billion. That’s the largest for any Indian app based cab service.

Back in October, the company had raised around $210 million in a funding round led by SoftBank, at a valuation of around $1 billion. That amount has more than doubled in just a few months. That’s mainly due to the massive growth the company has experienced during the last one year, as it continues to give Uber a run for its money in the apps based cab services market.

The company feels that Ola’s plans to reach smaller towns and cities in the country will fuel its next generation of growth. Ola wants to be in towns and cities where public transport is a major problem, and help people find a potential solution to their day to day problems when it comes to travelling.

But serving customers in smaller towns isn’t going to be as easy as tier 1 cities. For starters, hiring drivers in these areas would be the biggest issue. Till now, Ola has signed deals with car companies and finance providers to persuade potential drivers to become full-time Ola cabs drivers.

Ola had earlier acquired a similar service in India called TaxiForSure, and around $100 million from this round of funding will also go towards the company. TaxiForSure continues to operate as a separate brand for now, and Ola will work towards expanding its services to other major cities as well.

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Microsoft Releases Office 2016 for Mac In Preview Mode


Microsoft today announced the availability of its upcoming Office suite on the Mac in preview mode. Office 2016 for Mac can be downloaded, and installed alongside Office 2011 by users on Mac OS X. The preview mode will allow Microsoft to gather the feedback it needs to finalise the product. The company had earlier promised an update to the desktop version of the Office suite for Mac users.

Office 2016 will be powered by the cloud, allowing Microsoft to promote its cloud apps and services. Users will be able to store and access their documents via OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint. Office 2016 will make use of Mac’s native features including retina-optimised graphics.

Microsoft also mentioned that Office 2016 for Mac will include apps that offer support for full retina display on compatible machines. The apps will also offer a full-screen view for immersive experience. The suite will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook.

The company said, in an official statement, “We’ve modernised the user experience and made it easier to get things done. The redesigned ribbon intuitively organises features so you can quickly find what you need quickly. A refreshed task pane interface makes positioning, resizing, or rotating graphics easy so you can create exactly the layout you want.”

The preview edition apps in Office 2016 for Mac will be updated regularly during the introductory phase. The company wants to collect as much feedback as possible, allowing it to add the final touches to the documentation suite that would appeal to both general as well as enterprise consumers.

The new Microsoft, under its new CEO, has been consistently shipping apps no matter what platform. The company’s new ideology to create an array of apps that work consistently across all platforms will most probably pay off sooner rather than later. Once it starts acquiring and retaining new users with its apps that really work, the company will be able to gain a much stronger foothold in the market.


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Microsoft Brings Word, PowerPoint, and Excel To Android Smartphones


Microsoft today announced the launch of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel apps for Android smartphones. The apps were earlier available in preview but are now available in a stable release for everyone using Android 4.4 or higher. Users can download these apps from Google Play Store right away.

The company had announced its plans to launch mobile apps on platforms other than Windows Phone back in November last year. At that time, Microsoft made mobile editing free along with apps for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel for iOS and preview editions for Android tablets. This year in January, Microsoft released apps for Android tablets in stable version.

The preview variants of the apps were using to get user feedback, and iron out any kinks that were discovered. Bringing its major Office apps to Android smartphones is a major milestone for the company, and one that could bring more users since there is a large number of Android smartphone users out there.

In an official statement, the company’s corporate vice president for the Office Client Applications and Services team, Kirk Koenigsbauer said, “We are grateful to our preview users, and with their help we were able to test the apps on over 1,900 different Android phone models in 83 countries.” Just the size of that preview audience gives us a glimpse of how huge the eventual market for Office on Android smartphones is going to get.

Even though Microsoft had been offering the Office Mobile app for both iOS and Android devices, the company still decided it needed to offer standalone apps for separate Office apps. Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are three of the biggest, most widely used Office apps across the world. With Windows 10 just around the corner, it’ll be interesting to see how many Android smartphone users it is able to convert to Office customers.


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Nvidia Announces New Chip For Mobile Devices At CES 2015


Nvidia today announced its new member to the Tegra family — Tegra X1 — a processor that aims to bring the power of a gaming console chip to a mobile device. The company’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang announced the new product at a press conference right before Consumer Electronics Show 2015 kicks off in Las Vegas tonight.

The Tegra X1 makes use of an advanced PC architecture for graphics processing units known as Maxwell. It is powered by a 256-core GPU, sitting right on top of an 8-core central processing unit (CPU) which promise a computing power of around one teraflop.

According to the company, the Tegra X1 will offer an immense power, and will help bring desktop like graphics to mobile devices of the future. The company’s previous similar attempt at bringing PC quality performance to mobile was in the form of the Tegra K1 chip, a product that received mixed reviews mostly.

Huang claimed at the press conference that the X1 is two times more powerful as the Tegra K1 that the company announced last year. He also mentioned that users will be able to run any application that exploits the Maxwell architecture, including games that currently run on high-end PC configurations, as well as gaming consoles.

At the launch event, the company also demonstrated a video built using Unreal Engine 4. The video offered a clear demonstration of how serious Nvidia is about bringing top quality gaming performance to mobile devices this year.

Nvidia currently has a majority share when it comes to the PC graphic card market. The company has been successful in driving AMD away from the PC business, and instead focussing entirely on selling components to gaming console manufacturers. But then PC users are more prone to upgrading their systems when compared to gaming consoles, Nvidia ends up making more money.

But in the mobile space, Nvidia will have a much strong competition. Qualcomm is a major supplier of mobile chips to almost all major mobile manufacturers, and Nvidia will need more than just raw power to convince these companies. Currently almost all of Android flagship devices run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon based chipsets.

Source: webcast

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Nokia Announces New Tablet That Runs On Android 5.0


Nokia may have sold off its handset unit to Microsoft for good, but that’s not stopping the company from launching a consumer centric product. Nokia today announced a brand new tablet that runs on Google’s Android mobile operating system. The Nokia N1 is the company’s first consumer product launch after it sold its handset business to Microsoft.

The N1 is a Nokia-branded Android tablet that ships with the company’s Z Launcher interface. Nokia has built the tablet with an eye on simplicity, with the industrial design closely matching Apple’s iPad Mini. The N1 hits the crowded Chinese market in the first quarter of 2015, with other markets currently in anticipation of a launch.

Nokia will not be mass producing the tablet itself, but rather the company will use an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partner to take care of manufacturing, distribution, and sales. The end to end partnership will ensure Nokia focuses only on the product management part, and everything else will be done by the OEM.

The head of products division at Nokia Technologies, Sebastian Nystrom said in an official statement, “We are pleased to bring the Nokia brand back into consumers’ hands with the N1 Android tablet, and to help make sophisticated technologies simple. The N1 has a delightfully intuitive interface and an industrial design to match it. This is a great product for Nokia fans and everyone who has not found the right tablet for it.”

The Z Launcher on the Nokia N1 tablet will empower consumers to enjoy a number of apps on their devices without running into the phenomenon most commonly referred to ass app fatigue. This happens when consumers end up installing hundreds of apps on their devices, and managing all of them becomes a pain. Using the Z Launcher, users can simply scribble the first letter of their apps to access them. The launcher itself will learn which apps are most used, and present them to the user.

The Nokia N1 tablet features a one-piece aluminium design, with a soft finish in grey and natural aluminium colors. The display is a 7.9-inch laminated display on a 6.9mm thin and light design, making it easy to handle with just a single hand. The device runs on Intel’s 2.4GHz Atom quad-core processor, and Google’s Android 5.0 Lollypop mobile operating system.

Nokia will sell the tablet in China early next year at an estimated price of $249. Other countries may be added to the list depending on how well the tablet works for Nokia. As of now it seems like a partnership with a Chinese OEM could be a reason for the China-first launch of the N1 tablet.

Source: PR

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Google’s Gmail Replacement App Coming To Enterprise Accounts Soon


Late last year Google launched a new email app for mobile phones. Called Inbox, the app is an attempt to make reading and processing email a lot more productive than it normally is. Google is now looking at enterprises to adopt the Inbox app at their workplaces. The company today announced an invite program that will allow Google Apps for Work customers to use the app.

Inbox is still an invitation-only app for general users but invitations are now quite easy to grab. While Google hasn’t official confirmed it yet, Inbox is most likely to replace the default Gmail app depending on the feedback it generates over the next few months.

Alex Gawley, director of product management for Gmail and Inbox by Gmail said, in an official statement, “Even before the first invitations went out to use Inbox for your own email, Googlers have been using it to get more done at work. Whether it’s snoozing the expense report notification until after the big presentation, or adding a reminder to schedule lunch with a favourite client, Inbox helps put email your terms.”

Google will now allow Apps for Work administrators to request an early access to the app. It’ll be a deliberate attempt at a slow rollout since Google wants to quickly iterate on the app as it reaches more users. Gmail is an important product for the company, and it wants to leave no stone unturned to treat each feedback with the highest priority.

To access the app, Google Apps for Work administrators will need to apply for an invitation. Once they receive it, they will have Inbox enabled for the company’s email addresses. Fresh invitations will be sent out as early as next month.

Google will kick off the program with select companies initially, and then gradually accept more companies. Unlike general consumers, Apps for Work administrators or employees will not be able to invite other Apps for work users once they have access to the app.


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Nimbuzz Releases New Dialer App Targeted At Emerging Markets


Mobile messaging and calling app Nimbuzz today launched a dialer app for Android. The Indian company was acquired by a UK telecom company New Call a month ago for $250 million. The company’s latest announcement is its first ever after the acquisition.

Holaa is an Android app that is aimed at replacing the existing dialer app on Android smartphones. The free call management app will offer a smarter dialer option, bringing in new features to the existing vanilla dialer apps.

One of the biggest advantages of the app would be the ability to screen unwanted calls. Another app on the similar lines is TrueCaller which has experienced massive growth in India. Spam calls are a big problem in a country like India, and Nimbuzz claims that around 40% of all phone calls are spam calls.

The app will use a central database of crowdsourced numbers which have been marked as “spam callers” to notify users. Nimbuzz wants to differentiate its product from TrueCaller by adding additional features into the app. There’s a missed call action feature, Facebook and Google contacts merging, and photo and a location sharing option available on the dialer as well.

The company claims that its app is light on system resources consumption when relatively compared to existing apps in the market. Nimbuzz is aiming to target key emerging markets, and that’s probably one big reason for going Android-first. The company declined to comment on the availability for an iOS version of the app.

The app will be promoted on the existing Nimbuzz app, and the company is also going to partner with mobile service operators, and OEMs to bring this app to mass. Apart from India, the company’s other key markets are South Asia and Middle East.

This is just the beginning. Nimbuzz is planning more apps for emerging markets. The company has huge plans especially for India, in creating and monetising new apps. Parent company New Call is also expected to announce two fresh acquisitions in India very soon. The company is making all the smart moves in the messaging market, focussing on a different revenue platform and a target audience.

Source: PR

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Why Google’s New Nexus Product Line Up Is Its Most Exciting Ever


Google recently launched its new Nexus devices — Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 — the former being the company’s flagship smartphone, and the latter a new tablet in the family of Nexus devices. The current Nexus devices line up looks rather interesting to say the least. Google’s premier Nexus devices now include the Nexus 5, Nexus 6, and the Nexus 9.

The company now has a Nexus device at almost all prospective display sizes, and price points. The Nexus product line-up is now more exciting than ever — both in terms of developer outlook and consumer activities. Consumers now have a choice between last year’s well-sized Nexus 5, the premium large-sized Nexus 6, and a bigger tablet to choose from Nexus 7 — the Nexus 9.

Google partners with OEMS to bring Nexus devices to the market. It’s a business model based on a partnership that extends beyond software. When it comes to Nexus devices, Google has a bigger say both in terms of the hardware as well as the software. Nexus devices are known for offering a pure “Google experience” which is basically stock Android software, running on high-end specifications. All inside a package that is cost effective too.

This year Google broke the cost effectiveness pact with the Nexus 6 smartphone. The Nexus 6 is made by Motorola, is bigger in every aspect of the last year’s Nexus 5 smartphone, but is also costlier. A premium device, most probably because not everyone is going to want a 6-inch device in their hands or pockets.

So what is Google trying to do with the expensive Nexus 6 in its kitty? Nexus 6 is likely to be the first of many Nexus devices to come that will explore the premium segment of the market. Bigger phones are not new. Samsung, LG, and quite possibly every mobile manufacturer has had big-screen phones for a long time now. Google is looking to make its mark in this segment, with the trademark pure Google experience device.

One of challenges for Google, going forward, is going to be making people pay for content on Android devices. Low-end Android devices are not going to bring in a lot of revenue for app developers. It’s the high-end segment that is likely to keep the Android ecosystem balanced, and therefore keeping developers interested in the long term.

Android One is aimed at the lower segment of the market, where people are likely to be happy just to get a decent smartphone experience without burning a hole in their pocket. But there are people out there who would rather pay more to stand out of the crowd, not have silly apps with ads on them, and switch phones every alternate or next year.

Same goes for the new Nexus 9 tablet, even though it isn’t really a premium priced tablet, the Nexus 9 exists today because Google wants a tablet with the form factor of the iPad Air, and the iPad Air 2 in the market to keep developers ticking, and to keep users who want a tablet of this form factor happy with a choice.

As ecosystems grow, it’s going to be all the more crucial for platforms to keep customers, manufactures, and developers happy all the time. What works in some part of the world, doesn’t work in the other. But eventually things come to a point where it becomes common sense. A pure Google experience is all set to become a little premium soon.

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