Instagram Bought by Facebook for $1 billion… Another Tech Bubble?
Instagram has announced that it has been bought by Facebook in a deal worth an incredible $1 billion. Incredible because Instagram is only 2 years old, it makes no recorded profit, it has 13 employees and it was up until this month, just an iPhone app (now it is also on Android).
Instagram allows people to take pictures on their smartphone, edit and stylize them using different filters, then share with friends on other social networking sites such as twitter and facebook.
Instagram Camera Filters
Instagram is another company born out of the technology mecca that is California and Stanford University. It was founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Kriegar in 2010 out of a love of the old ‘instant’ Polaroid snapshots.
In March 2010 Systrom acquired $500,000 of seed investment and this was followed in February 2011 by another $7 million funding round valuing Instagram at around $25 million. Another funding round occurred this month just before the Facebook announcement.
Instagram managed to raise around $50 million giving it an approx. valuation of $500 million. The Facebook acquisition doubles that valuation, not bad for a weeks investment and perhaps another pointer towards a tech bubble?
In the past few weeks Instagram has launched on the Android platform instantly giving it access to millions of new users and markets.
Facebook obviously swooped in a strategic decision to purchase the company before someone else did. What they are getting for their money is a great app, a very strong userbase that loves the product, enourmous growth potential as other phone platforms are integrated and probably the most important thing for facebook, access to the skillset of the team behind the app.
Normally when Facebook get the chequebook out it is to take the talent over to their own site and shutdown their project. This time it will have to be different. 30 million people is alot of people to upset.
Lets just hope that all of those 13 employees were offered stock as part of their renumeration.
Pinterest grabs the headlines following phenomenal growth.
Pinterest was recently named as one of the top 50 websites to watch by Time magazine and since then has shown that it has the potential to become a big player, adding more users than many more established sites.
So whats all the Pinterest buzz about?
Pinterest is all about sharing photos, basically an online collection of pinboards.
So it’s a great to look at, driven as it is by photos, and it’s clean design compliments it’s reason for being. It follows all the best site design like Google and Facebook and keeps things simple.
It is also causing alot of buzz because of the type of person that is using the site. The overwhelming majority of users on the site are female even though the site was the brain child of a man.
Ben Silbermann. Why not pin it?
Based in Silicon Valley, Pinterest has some serious backers funding it and was launched in 2010 by founders Ben Silbermann, Paul Sciarra and Evan Sharp.
The site got some major publicity in the summer of 2011 when Time magazine named it as one of its top 50 websites and it grew from about half a million users to approx. 5 million in 6 months. According to website scoring service Comscore, it hit almost 18 million users in Feb 2012.
iBooks 2 launched by Apple in order to ‘reinvent’ the textbook.
Ahh yes the bane of every young students life, a bag full of text books each 500 pages thick and weighing more than they do.
I almost killed myself when I was 12 as the bag of books I was carrying swung from one side of my body, where it had been nicely balanced, over to the other side… where it was not.
The sudden shift in weight caused the bike I was riding to veer across the road in front of oncoming traffic. It all happened so fast I had no choice but to hang on and pray.
Thankfully, all I bruised was my ego and I got away with a few honks from shaken motorists. I had to pick up a cycling proficiency award later that day too, life’s funny that way sometimes isn’t it?
Anyway, I digress. Back to Apple.
I can certainly see where Apple are coming from with the launch of iBooks 2. They want todo away with such cumbersome things as a good old fashioned textbook and bring education into the 21st century.
With iBooks 2 they see a world where textbooks are interactive and fun (presumably with every student using an iPad). They demonstrated how iBooks 2 utilized the portrait position of an iPad to show a text led book and landscape mode to enter into a far more interactive experience.
Apple also launched a free app to make it easier for anyone to create an interactive textbook. It is called iBooks Author and it is described as being to ebooks creation as garageband is to music creation.
You can download iBooks Author for free at the app store here and it includes templates already made by Apple that you can use as a starting point.
The big educational publishers such as McGraw Hill and Pearson Education are already publishing their books for the iBook 2 app and more publishers are producing content as I write this.
Apple promised that iBooks 2 will offer books for every subject, grade level and student.
How schools will react to Apple’s plan for educational domination is not known.
A classroom full of kids playing with very expensive hardware worth many hundreds of copies of a textbook may be some teachers idea of hell.
Thats if they could raise the funds in the first place, add to that the cost of the ebooks themselves and you have a very large investment.
If parents are going to pay for such devices then their kid might suddenly become the most popular kid in the school, perhaps not for the right reasons.
Playstation 4 & Xbox 720 release date rumored for 2012.
If the rumors are true (and there is no way to verify, Sony and Microsoft are keeping tight lipped about any dates) then having both the Playstation 4 and the Xbox 720 release date at the same time could be very interesting.
Even if we have to take these rumors with a pince of salt, the mere fact that the Playstation 4 and the Xbox 720 are being talked about suggests that things are really happening behind the scenes. This in turn suggests that the hardware development may already be done.
One rumor that makes sense is that the Playstation 4 will have an upgrade to its move controller.
The move controller is a great device but Sony were basically playing catch up with the Wii controllers.
Microsoft on the other hand took it a whole stage further and produced the ground breaking kinect system.
It is rumored that the Playstation 4 will have similar whole body movement control available at launch.
I would also suggest that Sony were annoyed that Microsoft got the jump on them and launched early in the marketplace with the Xbox 360.
This allowed it to gain market traction by stealing Sony customers. The Playstation 3 didn’t come along until later.
I would make an educated guess that they won’t let this happen again and will be keen to steal a march on their competitors.
With the Xbox 720, expect major graphical and sound upgrades as well as a move into Playstation multi-media territory, for example with built in direct video recording.
Some of the biggest changes are coming in the next few years to the TV sector with Apple, Google and Sony all trying to get a piece of the pie. Don’t expect Microsoft to be any different with the Xbox 720.
Also expect some changes to Kinect, more than likely this will be integrated directly into the console.
One console already confirmed for the E3 trade show in 2012 is the new Nintendo Wii U which we featured last year.
What do you think about all the rumors? Do you believe the hype or not? What features do you think they will have? Let us know in the comments below.
Google music store launched in the US this week close on the heals of the Blackberry BBM music service UK launch.
The Google music store allows anyone running the Google Android operating system to buy and stream music files to their device.
Most of the major music labels are getting behind Googles music store including EMI, Sony and Universal. These music labels in conjunction with other smaller independents have allowed Google to build up a library of over 10 million songs.
Google are also taking the opportunity to integrate their Google+ social service into the music store allowing friends to listen to your track for free as a one time play.
Prices for songs are similar to the Apple iTunes store starting at $0.69 and will feature some exclusive content from the likes of Coldplay.
A step that the struggling artist will appreciate is the music stores new artist hub which allows artists to create their own page to sell music through for a small fee and 30% commission on any sales.
Google Music Store Promo Ad
Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic the Blackberry BBM music service was launched in the UK with a monthly subscription model.
Blackberrys music service is built around their social networking system with each of your BBM music friends able to share 50 tracks with you via the cloud. Omnifone are partnering with RIM to provide the Blackberry BBM music service.
All in all the online music world is hotting up with all the big online companies vying for their share of the market. Google, Amazon, Spotify, RIM, Nokia, Pandora and many others are all after Apples dominant share.
With Google owning the largest portion of the mobile market in the same way that Microsoft did with Windows, who would bet against them?
iPhone app development seems like a difficult thing todo, but is it really? With $millions being made in mobile applications development we thought we should find out how to make an app.
We reported the other day that the game that made it’s name on the iPhone, Angry Birds, has now hit 1/2 billion downloads.
Now the game is cheap, being an iPhone app, at less than a $1 (and could be considered an absolute bargain when you think how much console & PC games of a similar standard are), but at 1/2 billion downloads it’s easy to do the maths & come up with a figure of $kerching$.
Yes, there is a free version but there are also upgrade options & cross selling going on so which ever way you slice it it’s good business. The market agrees too, valuing the parent company at about $1 billion.
So, is it possible for mere mortals to enter this lucrative market? Can someone without ninja programming skills learn how to do it?
iPhone App Development without Programming?
We looked around locally for a course that might be able to do just that but the answer was always the same. All the courses we have checked out, including classroom led courses and books, all state that you have to have programming experience before you even start thinking about iPhone app development.
“iPhone app development? You need to know programming mate.” as one helpful instructor put it.
Then we came across Mike on the rather less local internet, he told us that it is possible and he teaches people just how todo iPhone app development the easy way. We were curious to find out more.
How to Make an App
Mike is a developer and in his presentation video he shows his developer account paid out $63,896 in September 2010 as well as $80 a day in earnings from ads within his apps.
Mike says that iPhone app development and mobile app development in general doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think. He started with no programming experience,
” [iPhone app development courses] assume you are at least expert in C++ before you start learning XCode and other iphone development stuff. I decided to change this approach completely.
You know I had no programming skills at all when I started out so I don’t expect you to know anything about programming. You don’t have to have any technical knowledge. If you can operate your iPhone and basic computer software – that’s all we need to start.”
Mike says that his iPhone app development course starts off with the basics and general app development. This moves on to specific iPhone app development tools and the ‘cheating’ tips and tricks that cut down development time and cuts out the need for any serious programming skills. There are even details for iphone development on windows.
In the final part of the course there are specifics about marketing your newly created app, probably the most important area that usually gets overlooked by most traditional courses. After all, if no one knows your app exists, how are you supposed to make your money?
There is also a useful case study of a space invaders game that Mike created. You may want to check the copyright on that one though Mike!
One of Mike’s customers said of his training course,
“Hey mike! You know I had no programming skills but I have been dreaming about creating my game since childhood! Your course was an eye opener for me! i not only created my first game but sold over 2500 copies last month!! thanks a lot man!
A $1 trial of his training course is available here.
The truth is that if you wanted to create something as polished as Angry Birds you will need some serious skills and a decent sized developer team.
But other iphone apps are not so complicated & could be the result of following a course such as Mikes. And at the end of the day, even Angry Birds is a very simple concept wrapped in some pretty packaging.
Overall it is an intriguing prospect, iPhone app development without being a programmer or graphics designer. Now where did I put that game design that I did when I was 13?
iPhone 4S, Siri, iMessaging, iOS 5 & iCloud launched by Apple with Tim Cook taking centre stage for the first time.
No iPhone 5 but instead an upgraded version of the iPhone 4, logically called the iPhone 4s (super? sensational? sanitised? sucks? make your own mind up).
iPhone 4S or iPhone 4, what is the difference?
Well the iPhone 4S comes with a some upgraded features including the dual-core A5 chip seen in other recent Apple products, a new camera which allows for full 1080p HD recording and a so-called intelligent assistant called Siri.
The iPhone 4S includes an 8 megapixel camera with a custom built lens allowing for a larger f/2.4 aperture opening. Both these features will mean much sharper images and should provide a noticeable improvement in quality over the iPhone 4.
The iPhone 4S is also able to record in full 1080p high definition and with built in image stabilization, your videos should also be watchable.
The new A5 dual core chip will mean apps and software will perform much faster, no more missing that photo moment while waiting for the camera software to start up.
Graphics will also be massively improved as we saw when the chip was introduced on the iPad 2. Apple say graphics run 7 times faster than on the standard iPhone 4.
It is also worth noting that the hiccup of the original iPhone 4 launch, the antenna, has once again been looked at. Apple claim that the dual antenna design now allows much faster download speeds as it uses intelligent switching for sending and receiving voice and data.
Siri Voice Control
Siri allows you to speak into the iPhone 4S and either get an answer back or an action accomplished. It also allows effective dictation ala ‘dragon speaking’ which is a welcome addition to the feature set for many people.
Siri will also, cleverly, understand context. So if you ask “Will I need an umbrella this weekend?”, it understands that you want to know the weather forecast for the weekend.
It’s a pretty clever addition for the iPhone 4S and not limited to any particular function. You can for example, tell Siri to remind you to call Dad when you get home. Siri will then look up Dad’s number in your address book, schedule a reminder and monitor your location for the right time to remind you.
You can use Siri for all iPhone 4S functions, making calls, getting directions, making appointments or meetings, email, internet browsing, calculations etc.
In my eyes, Siri appears to be a giant leap forward for how we interact with our devices. Although sadly it appears that the processing power needed for Siri means it is available on the iPhone 4S only.
iOS 5 with iMessage
Launched at the same time as the iPhone 4S is the latest version of the iPhone operating system called iOS 5. Claiming over 200 new features including the new iMessaging service and notification centre.
iOS 5 now has better integration with services such as twitter so you can share instantly a message or photo.
The new iMessage function allows for grouping of contacts, so sending items such as photos to certain people and not others becomes easy.
iCloud was touted a while back but with the launch of the iPhone 4S it really comes to the fore and should be considered it’s official unveiling.
It’s a free service for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Mac users that allows the storage and synchronisation of all your content across all your devices. This could be any content such as music or documents.
You can for instance, set up photo streaming. This means that you take a picture on you iPhone 4S and it instantly gets sent to the iCloud and then synchronised to your home computer.
iPhone 4S Summary
There has been alot of criticism in the media about the iPhone 4S launch and it appears that the main reason is that everyone was expecting a whole new redesigned iPhone 5.
While it is true that it is a little disappointing that the iPhone 4S is not the iPhone 5, if you are in the market for a new phone the it is still one of the very best. Perhaps if the iPhone 4S just had a new screen and new case, they could have called it the iPhone 5.
The speed improvements, full HD recording, image stabilization, Siri and all the other software updates really do make a difference and are just enough to keep the iPhone 4S ahead of the pack.
Personally I think it is easy to underestimate the importance of Siri.
For me it is the future of how we interact with our devices. We see in science fiction movies all the time the idea of devices that understand any voice command in the same way as a human. No more pre-programmed, rigid commands and voice training your device. Instead just a natural use of language.
If you already have an iPhone 4 there is more incentive to wait for the iPhone 5, it is debatable whether an upgrade to the iPhone 4S is worth it. If you can get a great trade in price for your old model then I would go for it, otherwise I would wait.
Introducing the iPhone 4S (Video by Apple)
Waiting for the iPhone 5?
p.s. Developing apps for the iphone is getting more popular, see here if you would like to find out how to make an app.
The space shuttle Atlantis has landed for the last time at the Kennedy Space Center after travelling countless space miles over 26 years.
The final flight for Atlantis brought to a close the 30 year space shuttle programme that has re-defined space travel and what could be achieved with a space craft. The space shuttles was used to build the international space and to maintain the hubble telescope amongst other projects.
The space shuttle Atlantis will spend it’s retirement at the Kennedy Space Center wowing people at the visitors center.
The shuttles are being retired mainly due to the cost involved in maintaining them and the end will mean that 3,000 people will lose their jobs this week.
They can be proud of what they achieved however and Charles Bolden, the Nasa Administrator said,
“I want everybody who was involved in this to feel incredibly proud of what you did and what your role was.”
Nasa will now be without it’s own transport into space and will have to rely on the Russians for a lift. They hope that the private sector will take up the slack and although there has been progress it is not thought that anything will be operational for 3 or 4 years.
The money saved from the programme is intended to be invested into new systems that will take humans further into space than they have ever been before, including Mars, the next great destination.
The other shuttles, Discovery and Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in LA and the Air and Space Museum in Virginia.
You can watch the landing coverage in it’s entirety from NASA below.