MediaFile

Exclusive: NYT expands tech blog

The New York Times is expanding its technology blog Bits to include more reporting and analysis about the enterprise portion of the tech sector.  The expanded coverage will encompass a broader range of  subjects like “big data,” “cloud computing” and security issues.

“It’s an area the Times has never had a lot of reporting,” said Damon Darlin, technology editor who oversees the site.

The Times recently hired three new reporters to its tech desk–Quentin Hardy, Nicole Perlroth and Brian X. Chen–to help beef up its coverage and contribute to the blog along with other Times tech reporters. The expansion also includes a new section called “Scuttlebot” that will aggregate tech stories of interest from across the Web.

Traditionally the Times’ tech coverage has had a more consumer-centric bent. But with hacking in the headlines and the term cloud computing popping up in TV commercials,  for example, these issues are becoming more mainstream.  “Whether they know it or not, it effects (consumers),” Darlin said.

Tech wrap: Can Nook tablet take on Kindle Fire?

Let the low-end tablet wars begin. Barnes & Noble unveiled a Nook-branded tablet on Monday, the company’s answer to Amazon.com’s recently announced Kindle Fire. At $249, the 7-inch Nook tablet is a bit pricier than the $199 Fire, but Barnes & Noble is betting that consumers will pay the extra $50 for the device because it offers faster processing speeds and 16 gigabytes of storage space compared to the Amazon tablet’s 8 gigabytes. Both devices hit shelves next week. Barnes & Noble, which operates a chain of 700 U.S. bookstores, also lowered the price on its Nook e-book devices in an effort to take on Amazon’s line of Kindle e-readers, which were recently reduced in price.

Early reaction to the device was varied. One analyst characterized it to Reuters as a “wow” product, while another said it will keep “Barnes & Noble shoppers loyal.” All Things D’s Peter Kafka called Barnes & Noble’s product pitch “a bit muddled” when it came to explaining how people will access content on the device: “Unlike Amazon and its Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble isn’t marketing its tablet with a proprietary cloud service that will get you access to music, movies and TV shows. Instead, the bookseller is leaving that up to other cloud-based services, like Netflix and Pandora. But make no mistake — these are cloud-based services,” he writes. Why then was the company so eager to play up the Nook Tablet’s extra storage capacity if it expects you’ll be streaming most content, not storing it, wonders Kafka.  Engadget takes the new tablet through its paces in a hands-on video.

Google+ expanded its circles to make room for businesses who are looking to reach out to customers on the social network. Called Google+ Pages, the new service will allow corporate brands and businesses to set up a special page within the social network . Google said that 20 businesses, including Toyota, Pepsi and retailer Macy’s, have set up special pages so far, and that any organization will soon be able to join as well. Until now, only individual users have been able to sign up for Google+. Businesses are increasingly using online social services, such as Facebook, to reach new customers and to cement relationships with loyal customers through special offers and promotions.

UPDATE-PayPal tries to lure retailers to mobile app

(Updates to explain “secure element” issue. Changes in bold in paragraphs 10, 11)

Online payments firm PayPal is so keen to get mobile payments off the ground it has taken the unusual step of opening a Manhattan dummy store that demos how the app can be used (pictured at right).

It’s  idea is to demonstrate the application to merchants at the “store” between now and February.

How to generate media value: Fire your CEO

Some outfit called General Sentiment has set about the task of evaluating the media value of top global brands and then ranking those companies accordingly. Some brands made their way up the list because they ousted their head honcho.

To compile the rankings General Sentiment monitors the news, blogs, tweets and other social media for a brand’s “buzz” — negative or positive — to calculate the estimated cost to generate the same media exposure through traditional advertising.

For the latest list, Google claims the spot as the “top brand” with $917 million worth of media value during the third quarter ahead of Apple

The good news & bad news about news consumption on tablets

There is some heartening data and some other data that should strike fear in the hearts of publishing executives about how people consume news on tablet devices, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Project in Excellence in Journalism and the Economist Group.

Let’s get to the rosy stuff first. The survey polled about 1,200 tablet users and 900 people  who use them to read the news. It turns out that consuming news — defined as skimming headlines to hunkering down and reading long-form articles –  is one of the most popular tablet activities (at 53%) nearly edging out sending emails (at 54%) but definitely whopping social media activity (39%), gaming (17%), reading books (17%) and watching videos (13%).

But the apps aren’t pulling in the most readers. Interestingly, while two-thirds of those surveyed have news apps, about 40% of those polled said they get their news through web browsers compared to only 21% who get their news through apps.  For newspapers this piece of information should be a wake up call to keep pricing consistent.  (Magazines would fit in this category though most don’t have a decent websites.)

Tech wrap: Netflix shares plummet

Shares of one-time Wall Street darling Netflix Inc plunged 34 percent in heavy trading, a day after the battered movie rental company warned of more subscriber defections and mounting costs.

Target Corp’s website crashed for the second time in six weeks, interrupting online shopping for the discount chain. The website also crashed on September 13, after an overwhelming rush to the site from shoppers interested in a new line of Missoni apparel and other goods.

The New York Times is reporting that a virus has infected the computers in Japan’s Parliament, prompting fears of the loss of sensitive information.

What’s in store for Dropbox after receiving a big pile of cash

Dropbox, one of the most watched companies in Silicon Valley, officially announced on Monday that it raised an astounding $250 million in a Series B round led by Index Ventures, reportedly valuing the virtual file cabinet company at a whopping $4 billion.  This massive round stands in contrast to the first bit of money raised — about  $7 million –  from early investors including Sequoia Partners, Accel Partners, and Hadi and Ali Partovi.*

Founded in 2007, Dropbox is virtual storage that allows consumers to access documents, photos and videos from several devices.  So if you happen to snap a picture on your Android operated phone and store it to your Dropbox, you can pull that same photo on your iPad or laptop, for example. It eliminates the need for thumb drives or even email as long as you download a storage box on each device.

The company has about 45 million users. Dropbox provides a certain amount of storage for free before charging people for extra capacity. People can also get more storage by referring friends. Dropbox won’t reveal revenue or profit figures.

Online education site raises $3 mil in a round led by Groupon founders

Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell have invested in online educational site (with one complicate name) Udemy through their venture capital fund Lightbank. Udemy just announced a $3 million Series A round of financing led by Lightbank that also includes funding from MHS Capital and 500 Startups.

Udemy plans to use the money for hiring and marketing and biz development.

Udemy “the academy of you” offers 6,000 courses covering all sorts of hobby-related subjects like social marketing, how to build a iPhone app, and Art 100 in addition to more traditional topics like intro to psychology. About 90 percent of Udemy’s courses are free.

Online education is a pretty hot sector now — just go ask the Washington Post and its Kaplan division which for the most part has been the driver of growth behind the company synoumous with Watergate and newspapers . Even News Corp is getting in on the act and set up an education unit focused on technology last year.

Care and feeding of your computer hacker

By Misha Glenny
The opinions expressed are his own.

Under a proposed new law, the Obama Administration is planning to throw the book at hackers convicted of organized criminal activity or endangering national security.

The maximum sentence for these crimes will be raised to 20 years to reflect how hackers have become “a key tool of organized crime,” with many hackers “tied to traditional Asian and Eastern European organized crime organizations.”

But while law enforcement and the criminal justice system seek to impose ever longer sentences on hackers, they are missing a trick – we need hackers. They are an invaluable asset in the fight against cyber crime and cyber espionage at a time when there is a dearth of IT Security professionals able to deal with this threat.

Nvidia chips in with world’s most powerful computer

Nvidia, which got its start making processors for computer game enthusiasts, has won another victory for parrallel computing with the inclusion of its graphics chips in what is expected to be the world’s fastest supercomputer.

The Titan computer being built for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn should boast a record 20 petaflops of peak performance — that’s about 20 million billion math operations per second.

By the time it is complete in 2013, the computer will be driven by 18,000 Nvidia graphic processor units, or GPUs, along with an equivalent number of central processors made by rival Advanced Micro Devices.